When a sales representative from the Asheville Radio Group approached Franny Tacy about advertising her new store’s grand opening on The River radio station, 98.1 FM WOXL, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Everything was going smoothly ahead of the grand opening of Franny’s Farmacy, “Then,” Tacy says, “we got an apologetic message saying that their parent company – because they’re federally regulated – does not allow them to do any promotions at all for anything that has anything to do with hemp or CBD.”

Now Tacy is scrambling to get the word out about the launch of her new store.

Farmer Franny and Nikki Allen of Franny’s Farmacy take a break during the lead up to the store’s grand opening.

[Image courtesy Franny’s Farmacy]

This week, “Farmer Franny,” as she’s known to many, is opening her first retail location for Franny’s Farmacy. Her staff has celebratory events planned for several days, beginning on Wed., Oct. 10, at 4 p.m., with an official ribbon cutting ceremony.

The store is offering free Hemperor Beer, from New Belgium, CBD mocktails and appetizers to anyone who would like to join them for the ribbon cutting at 211 Merrimon Ave, in Asheville.

“That’ll be the big blow out,” says Tacy.

The store’s grand opening is a big deal for her and her staff as Tacy is well known in the N.C. hemp industry as someone eager to embrace the community and help educate the greater public about hemp.

[More information on Franny’s Farmacy grand opening events are below.]

Franny needs your help
Tacy says local independent radio stations later offered similar responses when asked about advertising.

“That is why we’re building our reputation on word of mouth advertising,” says Tacy. She says she needs her customers to galvanize and help her spread the word about her store’s grand opening.

“This is the people taking control,” says Tacy, adding, “The government is far behind the people. So, the people have to take the power and spread the news about hemp far and wide. We have to be the ones who want it and make it happen.”

Franny’s Farmacy customer Colleen Byrd is happy to help.

“There’s a lot of hemp fever going around,” says Byrd, “but I buy from Franny’s because it’s locally grown – it’s farm to farmacy; it’s a natural, organic product from our community. And Franny is like a revolutionary of our day in that she’s trying to put the land back to work, and I respect that.”

” … I buy from Franny’s because it’s locally grown – it’s farm to farmacy; it’s a natural, organic product from our community. And Franny is like a revolutionary of our day in that she’s trying to put the land back to work, and I respect that.”
Hemp and hemp products are legal
Hemp is legal in North Carolina, and Tacy is the state’s first female hemp farmer to plant a seed as a licensee of the state’s industrial hemp pilot program. Under the 2014 Farm Act, that makes her hemp crops and the products she produces from them legal to sell and possess.

“It is legal in every single state to buy and consume hemp and CBD products,” says Tacy. “It is federally illegal, though, to grow hemp without permits.”

“There are over thirty states that allow research and university partners to grow hemp,” says Tacy, “but only 11 states that have actual farmers growing hemp.”

Carolina Cannabis News confirmed with the N.C. Department of Agriculture that Tacy is a state-licensed hemp farmer.

Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that contains little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that gives people a “high” feeling.

According to North Carolina law, any hemp testing over 0.3 percent THC must be destroyed. Hemp farmers statewide submit numerous samples throughout the growing and harvesting processes to ensure their crops do not exceed the legal limit. The hemp grown on Franny’s Farm is within the legal limits.

For hemp farmers in North Carolina it’s cannabidiol, or CBD, that they want their hemp plants to produce.

Byrd says hemp products aid her with several health concerns. “I’m off all medications. I take CBD oil daily. I can’t speak highly enough about it,” she says.

Radio waves federally regulated
The message Tacy received from The River sales rep states, in part, “My parent company, SAGA Communications, just issued a policy nationwide that we cannot promote any business with a focus on hemp products. Apparently, they are concerned with our governing body the [U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)]. We unsuccessfully lost the argument locally.”

While there is little information about FCC policy as it pertains to legal hemp farms and products, there is plenty of confusion when it comes to cannabis products overall.

According to communications lawyer Gregg Skall, it’s the federal government that’s confusing the issue.

Skall points out that what really mucked up the issue was U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding the Obama-era “Cole Memo” that instructed U.S. Attorneys to lay off cannabis prosecutions in states that had legalized cannabis, whether for medical or recreational use.

Facebook message from a sales representative for The Asheville Radio Group as received by Frances “Franny” Tacy and forwarded to Carolina Cannabis News. The radio station’s general manager confirmed the message is authentic.

At the time, it was thought the Cole Memo was a nod to states’ rights where cannabis is concerned.

Neither the Cole Memo nor Sessions’ recantation on behalf of the U.S. Dept. of Justice mention hemp which is already federally legal when regulated through state programs.

However, as Skall points out:

Some broadcasters took comfort in the fact that prosecutions have nearly always been of the advertiser business and not the advertising medium. Yet, as I have written before, taking cannabis advertising is at most a calculated bet and that bet just got a lot worse.

Should it pass, the 2018 Farm Act, which includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 is expected to offer clarity regarding hemp’s legal status. The bill’s main proponent is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a staunch supporter of the bourgeoning hemp industry in his home state of Kentucky.

The Asheville Radio Group, and its parent company, Michigan-based SAGA Communications, declined to comment for this story, though station manager Chris Hoffman did confirm the text message apology Tacy received is from their sales representative.

Carolina Cannabis News also contacted the FCC inquiring about the agency’s official take on hemp-related radio advertising. The FCC’s media representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Update: The FCC did eventually respond. Their comment? “No comment.”

No secret: Farmer Franny grows hemp
Given that Tacy is such a vocal supporter of hemp farming and the hemp industry in general, it is unclear why the radio station approached her about advertising her new hemp store when ads for hemp are against company policy. Hoffman says the company’s policy isn’t new.

The Asheville Radio Group’s media kit doesn’t include terms and conditions that might have tipped Tacy off either. Hoffman says the station advertises for other events at Franny’s Farm, though not for any of the hemp-related events.

An organic farmer based in Leicester, Franny’s Farm is host to weddings in addition to events like the Barnaroo music festival. Every visitor to the farm can see and smell the hemp field when they arrive – it’s not hidden; Tacy is a proud hemp farmer.

And she has every reason to be. Tacy is the first female hemp farmer in North Carolina. She is also the face of Hemp History Week this year, celebrated at her farm during the Hemp Hootenany this summer.

Also this summer, Tacy presented at TEDxAsheville on the topic of hemp. (That video is expected to be published online within a couple weeks.)

Grand opening fun
In addition to the “big blow out” following Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, the staff at Franny’s Farmacy has specials in store for customers throughout the rest of the week.

Thursday, customers can enjoy free CBD chair massages courtesy of Massage on Wheels. On Friday, customers can watch Max Trainque demonstrate glass blowing while sipping more free beer, this time from One World Brewing. Both Wednesday and Friday live DJs will be on hand, too.

Saturday is family day. There will be baby farm animals, face painting and “Farmer Franny” story time. On Sunday, expect more mocktails and CBD chocolate from Silvermoon Chocolate.

While most of the events begin in the afternoon the store is open during regular business hours, 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

In addition to special events and freebies, customers can check out the store’s line of CBD-infused bath products and even hemp flower that’s fresh from the farm, including some that is ready to consume. Franny’s Grammy’s are one-gram pre-filled smokable cones with custom designs made from hemp kief.

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Blake Butler, the executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association, will be on hand to make opening remarks. He is also the organizer of HempX, a weekend-long educational conference for those focused on North Carolina’s new industrial hemp pilot program, that was hosted at Franny’s Farm during its four-year run.

Franny’s Farmacy Franny’s Grammys pre-roll hemp smokables.

[Image courtesy Franny’s Farmacy]

Franny’s Farmacy video: Franny talks to Dr. Jeanine Davis about new hemp crop development. Dr. Jeanine is professor at N.C. State and paving the way for future industrial hemp farmers here in North Carolina.

BY Rhiannon Fionn

BY Rhiannon Fionn

Editor & Publisher

Rhiannon Fionn is an award-winning journalist based in Charlotte, N.C.