Industrial hemp farm in Franklin expects years of growth in cannabis industry

(Photo: WKRN)

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – On a 500-acre farm in Franklin, there’s a budding business. Four years ago, Joshua Camp decided to parlay his career in media, technology, and marketing into growing and manufacturing products derived from industrial hemp, and thus the company LabCanna was born.

“I think this is something that is going to continue to explode,” Camp said. “We’ve got another five to 10 years of explosive growth in the industry in cannabis all together.”

Camp and his business partners took part in Tennessee’s Industrial Hemp Research program offered by the state under the 2014 Federal Farm Bill, and LabCanna was awarded Tennessee’s first-ever hemp processing license in 2016.

Joshua Camp (Photo: WKRN)

Although they’re both cannabis plants, industrial hemp is not the same as marijuana.

“Industrial hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC, has no psychoactive effect; it won’t get you high,” Camp explained.

Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated crops and is used in hundreds of products including building materials, renewable plastics, food and fuel. It also has high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical compound that acts on cell receptors and alters neurotransmitter release in the brain.

“The calls that I get are typically inflammation, children with epilepsy, Chron’s disease, MS,” Camp told News 2.

Studies have shown CBD to have a positive effect on people with those conditions. Although these claims have not been substantiated by the Food and Drug Administration, Camp said his customers report feeling better after taking TenneCBD Oil produced by LabCanna and sold in more than 60 retail stores, including at Herban Market in Franklin.

“I’ve witnessed first-hand people who call me on a daily basis and say, ‘Thank you for giving life back to my children or mother, grandmother, grandfather,'” Camp said.

(Photo: WKRN)

CBD oil, with no THC, is legal in Tennessee. In January, two Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize oil-based medical marijuana products. It would not allow for raw cannabis, but these pills or lotions would contain THC.

“I’m an addiction psychiatrist, so I’m, by definition, quite leery about medications that make people feel better without necessarily treating a problem,” said Peter Martin, M.D., professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Martin said medical marijuana doesn’t stop pain but rather changes how your brain perceives it.

“It puts your attention elsewhere,” Martin said. “They may say, ‘I know the pain is there, but it’s not bothering me.'”

Martin explained that marijuana changes the firing rates of nerve cells in the brain.

“That affects the way your brain learns and affects the way it perceives the world around you,” he said.

While Martin worries about medical marijuana’s effects on the brain, Camp sees the positives.

“We’re very optimistic. We’re going to keep pushing forward regardless of what the laws look like,” he told News 2. “We’ll keep working and advocating in our favor, and we’ll keep fighting tooth-and-nail to so we can continue to help people.”

LabCanna also grows hemp for food and fiber on a 1,500 acre farm in Lobelville. The company is hiring and its products will soon be sold in 300 additional retail stores, including LabCanna’s own storefront location opening in East Nashville.