Hemp, more commonly known as the cannabis plant, has long been associated with recreational marijuana use, but the medical and agriculture benefits of this plant are becoming more and more known to Americans and citizens around the world.
To learn more, I spoke with Steve Sakala, CEO of Mana Artisan Botanics. The company focuses on education as well as the production of high grade cannabidiol-based products, infused with local Hawaiian products like macadamia nut oil and honey.
“Most people don’t realize that the cannabis they get at a dispensary or off the black market is heavily laced with pesticides and fungicides, grown in-organically with chemical fertilizers,” said Sakala. “Then we’re being told to use that as medicine.”
By contrast, Mana Artisan Botanics uses sustainable, organic and regenerative farming methods. Currently, the producing of CBD (cannabidiol) from hemp is illegal on Maui, so the company is using extracts from Colorado. Though with recent law changes, the hemp production permits are expected to be available here in Hawaii within a few months.
The way CBD works is that it sits in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system, like the respiratory and nervous systems, that’s present in all mammals. It helps regulate many functions in our body including cholesterol, blood pressure, our insulin system, our sleep, and all of our autoimmune functions.
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which means it doesn’t affect the mind or the mental state. This makes it different from the other commonly known cannabinoid, THC. Basically, cannabis rich in CBD can be used to strengthen our ECS without the mind-altering effects of other cannabinoids.
“Some scientists are saying that because of our modern-day toxins and stresses, we’re not producing enough of our internal cannabinoids,” said Sakala. “By strengthening our ECS, we are creating an environment [in our bodies] for balance.”
The topic of medicinal hemp has been a touchy one for years because cannabis is not FDA-approved, but Sakala believes the industry will change dramatically in as little as three years. As evidence, he cited a World Health Organization study that was released in December, which reported zero un-safe side effects of CBD.
The agriculture benefits of hemp might be just as astonishing. Hemp has been used as paper and clothing for years, though never in large production. The cannabis plant is also part of a family known as phytoremediators, meaning that it can be planted in toxic soil and over time will pull up the toxins from the ground and store them in its own plant tissue. It can then be removed to make way for healthy plant growth. Hemp fields have been used to help strengthen growing conditions in Eastern Europe around the infamous nuclear disaster site, Chernobyl. Sakala believes it could be used to help rejuvenate the toxic soil left over from the sugar cane fields here in Hawaii.
“The amount of people that it [CBD] is helping has far exceeded my expectations, and just about everybody I gave the CBD-rich medicine to, it made a difference in their life,” Sakala said. “Whether it was a better night’s sleep or pain reduction. And of course, over the years we have seen it help much more serious conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, brain injury and concussions.”
CBD products can be purchased throughout the country without the necessity of a “green card” due to a 2014 farm bill that allows state departments of agriculture and research institutions to start hemp programs. The local products that Sakala’s company make can be found at Manabotanics.com and at health food stores on the Big Island.
Photo courtesy Mana Artisan Botanics