How much is that hemp plant in the window?
At the new CBD shop Hemp 1848 on East Milwaukee Street downtown, operators are growing hemp plants in a room that can be seen from the sidewalk.
It’s a visible conversation piece that Hemp 1848‘s Brian Kettle and Jerry McCoy hope will draw customers off the street to learn more about the legal cannabis plant hemp and its oils and flowers.
Hemp 1848 opened late last week. Although it’s another player in a burgeoning local market for hemp and CBD products, Hemp 1848 is one of just two shops in Janesville dedicated to selling CBD products and nothing else.
The name “Hemp 1848” is a shout-out to the year of Wisconsin’s statehood. For decades before the 1937 federal prohibition of cannabis, including hemp, Wisconsin had been a hemp farming stronghold.
Now, under federal laws set in 2018 and galvanized last year by the Department of Agriculture, hemp products are legal to produce and sell in retail stores. They are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Dozens of local gas stations and other retailers have jumped on the bandwagon to sell products with cannabidiol, a nonintoxicating chemical known as CBD that some experts say helps with pain management and treatment of anxiety, among other maladies.
Two stores that sell locally grown and produced organic hemp products opened this month: Hemp Hut at 1521 Milton Ave. and Hemp 1848 at 111 E. Milwaukee St.
The downtown Janesville shop is Hemp 1848’s second Rock County retail shop. The company also operates storefronts in Edgerton and New Glarus in Green County.
The Janesville shop is the first store to house a grow room—complete with foil walls, LED lamps and little pans of baby hemp plants—that passersby can see.
“It’s pure visual advertising on the street level,” Kettle said. “You can look right in the window and see the plants growing. This is what it looks like, and it’s right here.”
Within weeks, the plants will be 3 feet tall with signature five-pointed leaves and a pungent odor that smells like leather, beer hops and fresh-cut grass.
McCoy, who grows acres of hemp in Lodi, said he was encouraged by the recent revitalization downtown and decided to lease a storefront on one of the main drags.
“There’s growing foot traffic downtown. It’s becoming popular. It’s what brought us here,” McCoy said. “We’ll get the foot traffic, but we want to take time to explain the benefits of the products we sell. At a gas station, they’re not set up to do that. They ain’t got time.”
McCoy has run Hemp 1848 in Edgerton for nine months. Since it opened, he has looked for a more convenient, central location in Rock County, and downtown Janesville offers that, he said.
Specialized shops like McCoy’s quickly figure out which products are the most popular in a given market. Favored products include CBD hemp oil concentrates and pills. Also popular are dried, smokable hemp flowers—plant tops that look and smell like hemp’s cousin, marijuana, except with little or none of the intoxicating drug THC.
McCoy said this month he’s running specials on hemp products for anyone with anxiety, attention and seizure problems.
In the future, McCoy said, specialty hemp stores could pivot quickly into medical marijuana products. Wisconsin has shown growing bipartisan support for varieties of medicinal marijuana that could be grown in-state, taxed and sold to people with medical conditions.
“CBD will be my main yacht. We could easily flip it and carry some medical marijuana because I think that there’s a market for people who need close-by access to clean-grown stuff,” he said.
Kettle, who runs the Janesville Hemp 1848 shop, said he gave CBD oil to a nervous dog, and the dog slept through the Fourth of July fireworks. For people who want help managing common ailments, Kettle said the shop has comfy chairs that people can sit in and consult with him.
“We say, ‘Don’t just listen to people talk.’ Do a little research so you can validate what you hear. We’re here to listen. We want to be as transparent as possible and let people make a good decision,” McCoy said.
“It’s about your health. It’s about you.”