New hemp store settles in Westport
WESTPORT — A second hemp-based product store made its introduction to Westport last weekend when the first northern franchise of Franny’s Farmacy opened for a preliminary two-day pop-up boutique on Church Lane.
Griff Conti, a Norwalk native and cannabis maven who has spent the last several years on the forefront of the industry in Colorado, is returning home to open the permanent store on June 17, just next door at the Bedford Square complex.
“Hemp has the possibility of doing so much more,” he said, than its popular recreational and medical reputations imply, “and hopefully it has less stigma.”
The store — the newest in a dozen or so in the franchise family spread largely through the southeast — offers a range of products derived from hemp, some of which offer the medicinal properties of the plant separate of its intoxicating qualities, Conti explained. Items include tea, honey, peanut butter, gummies, lotions and salves, hemp “joints,” health-related tinctures and even dog treats.
“There’s no marijuana,” said Conti, who lauded the economic opportunities hemp brought to Colorado. “Cannabis is the plant. Hemp is a species. Marijuana is a species,” but it’s not the same.
Conti said there are more than 50,000 known uses for hemp, everything from clothing to curative.
Still, farming hemp was illegal for decades in the United States, something Franny Tacy, owner of Franny’s Farmacy, passionately spoke out against.
“It’s always been about the farmer for me,” said Tacy, who was in Westport for the franchise christening.
Tacy feels strongly that the myriad uses for hemp, as well as its ease of growth in a range of terrains and climates, make it a crop ideal to help small farmers thrive.
The daughter of a farmer in her native Tennessee, she’s now at the center of a “seed to shelf” business engaged with seven different farms in her home near Ashville, N.C. She also continues to expand her role as a national spokesperson and pioneer on the subject — herself being the first female hemp farmer in the state since the ban 75 years ago.
“We’re the ones that are setting the standards and setting examples for how this business should be run,” she said, as regulations are still in their infancy.
The jury is still out on whether cannabidiol (CBD) has potential adverse physical effects, though the World Health Organization reports it does not contribute to a traditional “high” associated with marijuana. It’s currently legal for open sale in Connecticut, versus tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component in cannabis known to get people high.
“We’re staying ahead of it in terms of the regulatory (requirements),” Conti said, noting they’ll be taking care to not sell the smoking products to anyone under 18, though he said the CBD version they offer is technically legal to anyone.
Tacy spoke proudly of the fact all the products in her franchises are traceable back to those seven farms in her network.
She said Westport feels to her like a great place to anchor a store, owing to the care residents have about what they’re consuming — in particular, the sourcing — as well as interest in personal health.
“There are people very into their self-care,” she said. “It’s a community that really promotes health and wellness.”
Asked about combatting hemp stereotypes, Tacy said part of the mission is education, something else that makes Westport an easier sell given consumer curiosity and motivation.
“Everybody is looking at labels,” she said. “People are super interested.”
Brian Edmonds, co-founder of New England Hemp Farm, which opened earlier this year on Main Street, paid a visit to the new store to share welcome on Friday afternoon.
“We’re all in it together,” he said, owing to the infancy of the industry and the feeling that there is ample business available for everyone.
“The more the merrier,” he said.