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Virginia Hemp Business Expands—and Includes Teenaged Cannabis Gamechanger Rylie Maedler


Rylie Maedler and her mother Janie have a hemp farm in Birdsnest, Virginia cultivating 25 acres of hemp. “This month, they oversaw the planting of Rylie’s first full field of hemp,” Salisbury Times’ Julie Rentsch reported. “The 4,884 plants that went in the ground on July 3 were donated by Front Range Biosciences, a Colorado agricultural biotech company, and will be used for research and to make CBD oil that will be donated to children in need.”

Maedler, who is 14, is CEO of for-profit Rylie’s Sunshine, a cannabis research and development company, and the founder of the nonprofit, Rylie’s Smile Foundation. Cannabis advocates likely remember Maedler’s name from her family’s work in Delaware a few years ago surrounding access to cannabis. When Maedler was seven years old, she was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease that could result in facial deformity and seizures. 

Rylie’s family began looking at cannabis oil’s potential for bone regeneration. At the time, medicinal cannabis had been accepted in Delaware since 2011, but it could not be legally administered to minors. The use of cannabis oil lead to bone regeneration and greatly reduced Maedler’s seizures and so the family was able to push the Delaware legislature to make it legal for cannabis to be provided to minors for certain “intractable diseases” and for children to be able to take medicinal cannabis on school grounds

“I want Rylie’s Law to be a federal law,” she said, referring to the Delaware law with her name on it that allowed medicinal cannabis to be administered to minors. “I don’t want children to be overlooked, and everyone deserves to have a medicine that helps them the best.”

The farm in Virginia will also increase access to safe and effective CBD for minors, Maedler told Cannabis Business Times, adding their goal is to learn “how to best grow these plants in our region and on our farm, so our medicine can reach its full potential.”

Maedler and her mother are working with Colorado-based Front Range Biosciences, an agricultural biotech company in an attempt to bolster local research on hemp.

“We will learn how well CBG and CBD hemp plants can grow in that region and how well they can adapt,” Maedler said. “It will also improve our understanding of how different cannabinoids and terpenes are affected by the Mid-Atlantic region and it will inform us for the growing season so we can provide the best oil possible.”

In other Virginia hemp news, the arrival of Blue Ribbon Extraction to South Boston, Virginia was announced and highlighted as “the first large-scale industrial hemp, CBD processing facility” last month. Coming to Halifax County with an investment of $3.26 million, the project was celebrated by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam at a press conference in the middle of June. According to Blue Ribbon Extraction, it will create 22 jobs, process 5,000 pounds of industrial hemp each day and buy 90% of that hemp from Virginia growers leading to an estimated $70 million going to Virginia farmers in its first three years.

“Encouraging the development of new markets for Virginia farmers is one of our top priorities for growing the Commonwealth’s agricultural economy,” Northam said back in June. “I am pleased to see that industrial hemp continues to create opportunity and economic vibrancy in rural Virginia, and I congratulate Halifax County, Blue Ribbon Extraction, and all other partners involved in bringing this important new processing capacity to our Commonwealth.”

One of the most interesting elements of the spread of the hemp and cannabis industries is how it has been framed as a resurrection of the industrialization that began leaving the United States in the ‘70s. As The Outlaw Report observed in April, the Maryland town of Hancock collaborated with a cannabis company to co-own a building and begin creating jobs for a small town that had lost 1,000 jobs since 2005. 

A few weeks after the June announcement regarding Blue Ribbon Extraction, Richmond Biz Sense focused on the involvement of a local developer in renovating a warehouse in South Boston where Blue Ribbon Extraction would operate. The developer, Rick Gregory of Lynx Ventures, framed Blue Ribbon Extraction’s arrival as a return to sunnier times for Virginia manufacturing—and the legalization of hemp due to the Farm Bill is what has made that possible.

“As I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, it was a very dynamic economy there, with tobacco, textiles and furniture,” Gregory told Richmond Biz Sense. “In the past 20 to 30 years all three have gone out of existence. It’s disappointing to see. I want to try to find another cash crop to replace tobacco.”

Image of Rylie Maedler via Facebook

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