A hemp cultivation-and-retail operation has taken root south of the river.
Old Manchester Hemp Co. launched earlier this year at 1308 Hull St., where it grows hemp that is sold in smokable forms at an on-site retail store.
The company primarily sells hemp buds and joints under its own brand, sourced from nearly 500 plants it grows in a 5,000-square-foot indoor growing facility.
Owner Anthony Mijares is betting there’s an opening for a hemp retailer focused on smokable plant products, also called flower. He said in Virginia hemp-based products are mostly oils and tinctures.
Mijares said pre-rolled joints are the most popular offering at the company’s 1,500-square-foot storefront, which is called River City Smoke Shop. It also sells hemp buds in a variety of weights.
“People like the convenience of just picking up the pre-roll and not having to roll anything,” he said.
A 4-gram bag of hemp bud runs about $25, while a 7.5-gram bag runs about $40. A two-pack of hemp joints is about $10.
In addition to retail sales, Old Manchester sells its hemp products wholesale to other companies who sell the hemp as a white-label or private-label product.
“We do a lot of B2B. That’s why we have products on our shelves so customers can test it before they buy it and turn it into their own label,” Mijares said.
Mijares said Old Manchester has about 15 wholesale clients across the country, and about five of them are located in Virginia.
To grow hemp in Virginia, one must get a license from the state department of agriculture. There isn’t a licensing requirement to sell hemp-based products.
Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis plants. The difference is that hemp contains very little THC, which is what gets a person high.
Kultivate Wellness, which has locations in Short Pump and Midlothian, also sells smokable hemp flower.
Looking forward, Mijares hopes to expand into recreational marijuana, as the market is expected to grow in the coming years as full legalization opens up in Virginia and the industry’s state governing authority takes shape.
The Richmond region’s medical cannabis operator, Green Leaf Medical, recently began to offer smokable marijuana products to its customers, who are patients registered with the state board of pharmacy.
Mijares, a military veteran, was introduced to hemp-based CBD by a friend as a way to self-medicate about six years ago. He became interested in the Virginia cannabis industry as he watched it develop in recent years.
“When I got out of the military, you go to the VA hospital and they give you a pill for just any problem you have. And then you start having side effects and you get pills for those,” he said. “I really wanted to get into the industry and saw the cannabis industry really start to explode.”
Mijares also owns Signscapes, a Lakeside-based sign design and installation company. Last year, he opened restaurants Gatsby’s Sports Bar and Grill and Burger Bros. He has since sold the former and shuttered the latter.