Blake Butler, the executive director of the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Association says, as of Wed., Nov. 28, that 165 people have already signed up to attend the organization’s annual meeting in Pittsboro.

“Hopefully, we’ll have 200 members there,” he says.

The meeting will be held at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center.

[Click here for a Google Map to the venue.]

“I wanted to put the annual meeting right smack in the middle of the state,” says Butler, “so it’s accessible for everyone. But I also wanted to put it in a rural community because it’s the rural community that hemp can put to work. Not only can it create jobs and change lives, but it can put land to work that’s been sitting idle for years. So, Pittsboro is the perfect place.”

The Dec. 7 meeting is open to members of NCIHA. Membership is available at three tiers starting at $35, though joining at the $500 level ensures voting rights. Butler says people can join the association online or at the annual meeting.

The meeting will begin at 1 p.m., though Butler urges members to arrive at noon so they can register and network with other members.

Image: Blake Butler, executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association. Photo courtesy of the NCIHA.

Message from the president

“From my perspective, North Carolina has the ability to be the gold standard for industrial hemp and the only way, in my opinion, that is going to happen is if we get all oars rowing in the same direction,” says Marty Clemons, president of the NCIHA board.

“I’m not asking any members to disclose their secret sauce,” she continued, “but it’s in everyone’s best interest that we’re in agreement that we want to be the gold standard and that we need not compete with each other. We need to increase the level of transparency in the industry because there’s enough business for everyone.”

“We have the connections at the state level and at the city level,” she responded when asked why people should become members of the NCIHA, “We are the people who are out there constantly promoting the industry to economic developers.”

Image: Marty Clemons, president of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association board of directors. Photo courtesy of the NCIHA.

Clemons described NCIHA as being “in transition right now.”

The organization formed and raised $200,000 to fund the creation of the state’s hemp commission that oversees the state’s industrial hemp pilot program, as Butler explained in his podcast interview with Carolina Cannabis News earlier this month.

The group also lobbied for the passage of the state’s hemp laws that established the hemp pilot program.

“We’re transitioning from being primarily a lobbyist organization getting the law passed and raising money for the commission to an organization trying to grow our membership and provide value that benefits all of the members,” says Clemons.

“For the past year, everyone has had their head down, focused on building their own businesses. Now it’s time to lift our heads up and really look at the bigger picture of what we’re trying to create and work together to make that happen,” Clemons says.

What to expect at the NCIHA annual meeting

“Brad Todd is an expert grower,” says Butler of one of the day’s presenters, adding that Todd wants to “really share the good and the bad with the membership, the dos and the don’ts. Todd is the owner of AgGrist.

“I’m also bringing in Matt Spitzer and Chase Werner from Triangle Hemp who have become experts on the genetics for North Carolina and in providing our growers with new strains and genetics.” Both men are graduates of N.C. State University with degrees in business and horticulture.

“It’s exciting to be speaking at the association’s meeting. They are going to be a critical part of the industry going forward,” says Werner.

He and Spitzer are founding partners in Triangle Hemp which Werner describes as a high CBD nursery.

A representative for the N.C. Industrial Hemp Pilot Program “will give our folks an overview of how this year went and what to expect in 2019,” Butler says.

And, says Butler, “New members will have an opportunity to give an elevator stump speech.”

What’s up for a vote

The NCIHA voting members will vote on the organization’s officers at the annual meeting, though Butler’s role as executive director is not in the running; the board of directors votes on that position.

Every member is eligible to run for as an officer, though Butler offered a warning: “I’m proactive. Let people know that I’m going to be asking a lot of them.”

“And I do need help because things are moving so fast,” says Butler of North Carolina’s burgeoning hemp industry.

Butler also, and again, stated that he will ask the NCIHA membership to vote on a “Growers Assistance Fund” to help farmers who are affected by hurricanes and other detrimental situations.

[READ: N.C. hemp farmers applying for hurricane relief – deadline is Dec. 10, 2018]

“We can expect these things on an annual basis, so, even if it’s passing off a couple hundred dollars to a farmer’s that needs to rent a generator the association needs to have these value-added programs,” says Butler. “We want to be there and lend a helping hand to our growers.”

There will not be any vendors at this event which is expected to end by 5 p.m.

Carolina Cannabis News is a sponsor of the NCIHA annual meeting.

BY Rhiannon Fionn

BY Rhiannon Fionn

Editor & Publisher

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