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June 19, 2019

The Honorable Michael Barrett

State House, Room 416

24 Beacon Street

Boston, MA 02133

Re: Policy Statement Regarding the Sale of Hemp-Derived Products in the Commonwealth


Dear Senator Barrett:

Thursday morning, June 13, 2019, we awoke to the news that a policy statement regarding the sale of hemp-derived products in the Commonwealth had been issued by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR).

It scared the wits out of us.  For us, there are three issues at stake: the right to use CBD (cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid found, in this discussion, in agricultural hemp); the right to grow hemp CBD in Massachusetts; and the right to sell it.  We feel that the policy statement opens the door to a ban on hemp-derived CBD, though that’s not for sure.  The policy statement is poorly written and unclear.

We carry CBD in our nationally recognized and award-winning shop in West Concord because it’s safe and effective.  Our customers tell us CBD works.  They believe scientists have only begun to scratch the surface of all that CBD can do for our health.  What we do know is that CBD is being used for everything from managing stress and sleep issues, to helping alleviate pain, and support performance.

We are enclosing an article on CBD that appeared in our store newsletter last October.

We are told, and hopeful, that CBD helps in the opioid crisis.  CBD has been found to reduce cravings and anxiety in individuals with heroin use disorder when compared with placebo.  The effects are said long-term without adverse events.  This story is continuing to get coverage in the press.

Back to the three issues:  Our Massachusetts farmers should be able to grow and produce a local hemp CBD.  Right now, the hemp CBD we sell comes from places such as Colorado, Vermont, and the Netherlands.

Secondly, our business sells supplements like CBD.  We want to continue to sell hemp CBD.  Thirdly, our customers want the right to continue to use supplements like hemp CBD.

We take those supplements ourselves, and we and our customers help lower the health care costs in this country because self-care works!

We’re sure you know that CBD is sold in independent natural food retailers in the Commonwealth, whom you represent.  It’s sold in stores like ours around the country, and now is sold in CVS, on Amazon, in an increasing number of supermarkets in the US.

We need your help safeguarding our right to sell hemp-CBD.  Marijuana, which can get people high, is now being licensed and openly sold.  Why are we even discussing throwing up barriers to growing, selling, using hemp CBD, which does not get one high?

We are not a pot shop.  We employ 54 hardworking people in our shop who range in ages from 14-84.  We sell everything from soup to nuts, organic produce, local grass-fed meats, and arnica cream for bumps and bruises.  We have a take-out kitchen and do catering.  We have shampoos and dish detergents that are environmentally safe, and we have a strong dietary supplement and herb department.  You would like us!

We tried to reach out to the MDAR (they don’t pick up, and extension zero for the operator leads to VM for a pesticide program).

The language in the policy statement is vague and inconsistent.  “Food” cannot contain “CBD.”  But “supplements” cannot contain “hemp.”  But then previously, the policy statement explicitly says hemp seed, hemp protein, and hemp seed oil are all allowed.  And obviously, many of these are dietary supplements.

We need your help standing for the conscientious farmers who want to grow hemp and produce CBD in the Commonwealth.  Let’s keep some more money in our state!

We need your vigilance so we and our customers, your constituents, will continue to have the right to sell and use CBD (we take it ourselves), all the while remembering that hemp has been used medicinally since ancient times in China and Rome.

Yes, our staff from Concord, Acton, Somerville, Hudson, Maynard, and some more towns, voted for you and we look forward to doing so again!


Debra Stark, Founder & Co-Owner, Debra’s Natural Gourmet, debra@debrasnaturalgourmet.com

Adam Stark, 2nd-Generation Co-Owner adam@debrasnaturalgourmet.com

I’m writing a book.  The title is The Little Shop that Could: a retailer’s love of food and community.  My self-imposed deadline for the first draft is the end of August, and I’d love your help.  If you have a memory about our shop you’d like to share, please send that memory to me via email.  If you have a funny story about something you heard or saw, or that happened to you, I’d love to hear that as well.  My email is Debra@debrasnaturalgourmet.com.

Correction, our first cookbook, If Kallimos Had a Chef, is not out of print.  I was completely wrong, and we will get it back in our store shortly.  Also, starting in September, I’ll be offering store tours!  Stay tuned for details…