Given hemp is estimated to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2022, it was likely a measure to legalize it would be passed within the next few years. That time came recently, as President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law on Dec. 20, 2018, part of which legalized hemp. The bill defined hemp as any Cannabis Sativa plant that has THC below 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Hemp is also a source of CBD, which is a chemical produced by cannabis, but doesn’t get people high. The potential benefits include treatments for pain-relief, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety. CBD is legal in some form in 47 states — with Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota excluded.

Marie Paredes, owner of GreenPharms Dispensaries.

We spoke to Marie Paredes, owner of GreenPharms Dispensaries that opened its Flagstaff location in 2013 and Mesa location in 2016, about how the Farm Bill will impact the business and the cannabis industry in Arizona. Paredes said her husband’s car accident in 2008 led her to cannabis and opening GreenPharms Dispensaries in 2013.

“We have our own cultivation site that is state licensed and we grow our own cannabis,” Paredes said. “We also have a licensed extraction facility where we can extract the THC out of the cannabis and put it into edible, tincture, shatter, or oil formats.” GreenPharms Dispensaries has an array of items from Indica, Sativa, tinctures, edibles including soda and candy, shatter, lotions and bath bombs.

Paredes said now that hemp is legal in the U.S., there are a lot more possibilities to help patients. “It’s very exciting not just for me as a business owner, but the potential that opens up for the patients. Now that means that we have a new avenue that we can explore to potentially find a treatment for a patient that we haven’t found just yet. I was waiting for a while for this to happen and we as a company are really excited to be able to now have hemp as one of our uses, something we can use to help patients.”

Given the perceived negative nature of the cannabis industry, Paredes said she thinks the legalization of hemp will contribute to people viewing GreenPharms as a legitimate business.

“Cannabis is going to help open more doors and change people’s perceptions of what it is and this industry,” Paredes said. “And for patients who haven’t wanted to try cannabis yet because they’ve heard about the psychedelic effects and don’t want that…now that we can extract from hemp, which is an option that won’t give them those effects and we hope it will help attract more patients.”

Customers’ input has given GreenPharms the opportunity to create new and tailored products based on customers’ requests and helps them continue to innovate and expand the boundaries of what can be done with cannabis.

“Feedback is extremely important to us at GreenPharms, since we are family-based, so customers’ input really matters in the progress in the whole company itself,” Paredes said. “So if I hear that people would like to see more of a certain array of Indica, I take that information back and we see what we can do. We do tailor to the patient-base we have, and we’re always looking for the next big thing, because that next big thing might help somebody out. So we’re all into trying to figure out new stuff for the patients and that’s the exciting thing about cannabis that not everything is figured it out just yet, so there’s a lot of discoveries of what we can do with this medicinal plant.”

As part of her goals for 2019, Paredes has already begun implementing the use of hemp at GreenPharms, starting with setting aside part of their land at their cultivation site for development and research in hemp.

“We’re getting set up so we can grow the hemp and come out with new hemp-based products, so we will have something to offer to people who did not want to use cannabis in the past,” Paredes said. In addition, she said she hopes if people discover and use cannabis for ailments, it could possibly decrease the usage of prescription pills.

“I want to help more people, and if I can help one person, they can spread the word about cannabis and that’s how the industry is going to grow; it will take time, but I think this is a step in the right direction for the whole industry and here in Arizona, it’s going to help us a lot.”