Matt and Crystal Grayson are growing their Broussard hemp farm into what they hope will one day become the Amazon of the cannabis world.
The husband-wife duo sold their house just before the pandemic and moved into a more rural Broussard property to pursue their dream of growing and selling cannabis. Their goal for Zorrillo Cannabis Co. is to create a reputable operation that connects growers, producers and customers.
“He came to me one day, and he said to me, ‘What if we got these farmers to partner with us? We help them grow. We process and help them package and help them sell on our platform. We help them get in the stores. Basically, we’d be the Amazon of the cannabis world,'” Crystal Grayson said.
Now, with a sizeable growing operation in place, the Graysons are preparing to open the manufacturing side of Zorrillo.
The Graysons are currently renovating and moving into a warehouse at 103 Row 1 in Lafayette that previously housed Acme Freight Logistics. The space will be more like an Amazon fulfillment center than a traditional storefront in that it will primarily serve growers and producers before commercial products are sold online or in a retail environment, the Graysons said.
“We sell processors products that they use to make their products,” Matt Grayson said. “We also sell to the consumer through the website and do custom orders, so they’ll be able to come pick that up, but most of the traffic coming through that store is going to be my farmers and processors coming to pick up orders for different things.”
Matt Grayson smells a jar of CBD flower grown on his hemp farm on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Broussard.
Louisiana’s industrial hemp plan was approved in December 2019 by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Industrial hemp is a plant in the cannabis family that is low in THC, the compound that gives marijuana its high. Hemp is frequently grown to extract CBD, a chemical that does not cause a high and is often used in personal care products or as a dietary supplement.
Louisiana hemp growers and producers are frequently inspected to ensure plants and products contain no more than the federal limit of 0.3% total THC. Zorrillo has permits from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, including ones for contract carriers, growers, seed producers and processors.
Packaged CBD flower that was grown on Matt Grayson’s hemp farm is seen on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Broussard.
Matt Grayson said he became interested in cannabis while recovering from alcoholism. He said the products have helped him overcome addiction, and his customers have reported improvement in a wide range of medical conditions.
“Our goal is to educate the public,” Matt Grayson said. “If you take the outlaw aspects away, the stigma away, it’d be uncool. It’s more medicine. That’s what we’re trying to work for is to get that stigma gone so that people aren’t scared of it.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the cannabis plant for any medical use, although the FDA has approved several drugs that contain individual cannabinoids.
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There is some evidence that products containing cannabis compounds may be helpful in treating certain health conditions, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Research suggests products containing cannabis compounds could be helpful in treating certain rare forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, loss of appetite and weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis symptoms, according to the NCCIH. Studies have been inconsistent in determining whether cannabis products help manage pain, ease anxiety, improve sleep quality, treat glaucoma, reduce symptoms of irritable bowel disease, relieve symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and decrease opioid use.
Plants grow beneath LED lights at Matt Grayson’s hemp farm on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Broussard.
Dwayne Dugas, a hemp grower based in Carencro, said he overcame opioid addiction with the help of CBD products.
“I started trying CBD for my pain,” Dugas said. “I’m a recovering opioid addict, and CBD has helped with pain management.”
Dugas, who also owns a construction business, initially started growing hemp for his own use.
He now has about 700 cannabis plants at his indoor operation and is one of the growers working with the Graysons through Zorrillo.
“What I’ve found in this industry is not everyone is honest and has character,” Dugas said. “I was with a different company before, but Matt’s business plan and vision for the market stood out to me as well as his honesty and character.”
Salves and oils made from CBD grown on Matt Grayson’s hemp farm are seen on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Broussard.
As they grow their business, Crystal Grayson continues to work full time and Matt Grayson has scaled back his lawncare and landscaping business. Their children also help with the growing process.
Dugas and the Graysons said they would one day like to grow marijuana if it is approved by Louisiana lawmakers for recreational use. To successfully do that, they said it’s important to follow existing regulations for hemp growing.
The effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Louisiana got further than ever before this year after an unexpected bipartisan push.
“I wouldn’t call this a stepping stone,” Dugas said. “Our end game is to grow marijuana, but we’re not going to stop growing CBD once we can grow marijuana. They both have different medicinal benefits.”
Learn more about Zorrillo, which is named after the Spanish word for skunk, at zorrillo.com.