Open Minded Organics Growing Hemp, Making CBD Oil

A closeup of industrial hemp plants grown by Dave Falkowski. Jason Nower photo

Farmer David Falkowski remembers a time when his sleeplessness, degenerated disks, chronic pain, frequent colds and other health issues kept him down. That has changed since he started using cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, although he can’t officially claim it has specific medical applications.

“At 40 years old, I am physically, emotionally and mentally working the longest hours I ever have worked,” he said this week. “It’s … profound.”

After a yearlong application process, Mr. Falkowski’s Bridgehampton farm, Open Minded Organics (OMO), received a New York State license to grow industrial hemp at an undisclosed location and process and sell CBD oil as a therapeutic dietary supplement. Many believe the oil can benefit people with arthritis, depression, epilepsy and other ailments.

OMO is one of about 100 growers in New York approved to grow hemp; of those, just 50 have been licensed to produce CBD oil from their crop. Mr. Falkowski has joined a growing movement across the nation that recognizes the many benefits of hemp. It has also been a boon to farmers because it brings in much more revenue, he said, which farmers can then use to subsidize other crops.

“I see, for the first time ever, a viable path to a generational business,” he said. “Just because I’m on family land now doesn’t mean they’re just going to give it to me. This is creating an opportunity that was previously not there.”

He called hemp a crop that is “for the farmers, by the farmers, for the people,” and said he has a future vision for a collaborative group of growers that coordinate crops and products to optimize what’s available to customers.

The state licenses hemp growers because the plant, Cannabis sativa, is a variety of the same species that yields marijuana. Mr. Falkowski compares the types of cannabis to varieties of vegetables — “they’re like tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes versus beefsteak tomatoes,” he said. Hemp has only a tiny fraction of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in greater quantities in marijuana. Those using CBD oil won’t get high from it, but Mr. Falkowski advises those whose jobs are subject to drug screening that THC may show up on those tests.

He said the language of CBD oil and marijuana should be clearly distinguished because of public perception. In April, Senator Mitch McConnell introduced a farm bill that would legalize the growing of industrial hemp but not marijuana.

“That’s what we’re eagerly anticipating,” Mr. Falkowski said, “but there’s volatility in emerging markets.”

Dori Elliot of Southampton has been using OMO’s CBD oil under the supervision of a doctor since April, when she had a grand mal seizure after reducing her intake of Xanax. She said using the oil helps ease the impact that Tourette syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety have on her.

“I feel more at peace, I feel more ‘me,’ and I don’t feel controlled by Big Pharma,” Ms. Elliot said. “Dave and his wife, Ashley, they are personable and they care. They call and say, ‘How are you?’ They follow up. It isn’t a business; it’s a movement and a family. They give me hope.”

For people who are interested in exploring the therapeutic properties of CBD oil, he recommended using an alcohol-extracted CBD product that can be consumed orally or used topically, rather than a distillate or an isolate that people might try using, for instance, to vape.

“I feel alcohol is the gentlest of all current extraction processes that yields the fullest-spectrum product,” he said. “It’s called the ‘entourage effect.’ The sum of all the parts seems to be greater than the effects of individual parts separately.”

A 1-ounce bottle of CBD oil retails for $165 at OMO. It contains 1,800 milligrams of CBD and comes with a graduated dropper marked with volume levels, so people can measure how much oil they are using. Mr. Falkowski said he uses 15 milligrams of CBD oil once or twice a day, but not necessarily every day.

“This can improve human conditions, change family dynamics. Growing hemp can heal the farming community,” he said. “This is a chance to move humanity forward.”