White River Junction Marijuana-Testing Event Helps Growers, Benefits Charity

  • White River Growpro co-owner Kendall Smith prepares a sample of hemp grown in his store to be tested for its cannabidiol (CBD) potency in a near-infrared light machine provided by Bill Porter, of Sage Analytics, top right, in White River Junction, Vt., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Matt Moore, of Sharon, back left, and Michael, who only gave his first name, back right, took advantage of the free THC and CBD potency testing offered at the store in exchange for donated non-perishable food items for the Upper Valley Haven. Smith's sample was shown to have a potential of 14 percent CBD. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Customers look over a marijuana bud brought to be tested for its potency at White River Growpro in White River Junction, Vt., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, October 27, 2018

White River Junction — Like many first-time marijuana growers, John Farrell had a natural curiosity about how potent his pot is.

One of Farrell’s yields tested on Saturday at White River Growpro registered an 18.1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level, about average for the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. That his product isn’t more potent didn’t bother Farrell, who prefers to keep things mellow.

“I don’t want to be a zombie,” said Farrell, of Norwich. “I look at it the same as wine or beer. If you start drinking some of these beers that are 11 percent alcohol, it’s like taking a shot of whiskey. One is OK. Two or more sometimes isn’t.”

Farrell was one of many whose plants were tested via infrared technology as part of Saturday’s Buds, Beer & BBQ Harvest Celebration & Food Drive, a collaboration between neighboring merchants on South Main Street. Those who brought a food item to donate to the Upper Valley Haven got a free potency testing of their plants, as well as free food sampling at Big Fatty’s BBQ and free beer samples at River Roost Brewery.

According to store co-owner Stephanie Waterman, customer traffic and sales have nearly tripled in 2018 compared with last year at White River Growpro, which sells lighting and gardening tools that many customers use to grow pot, along with numerous hemp-infused supplements and topical products. Saturday’s event was a way to commemorate the Green Mountain State’s first legal harvest season while benefiting the Haven, she said.

“Whether you’re an indoor or outdoor grower, it’s something to celebrate,” said Waterman, who runs the store with her husband, Kendall Smith. “And it’s a great time of year to be giving back.”

Bill Porter, the east territory manager for potency measurement company Sage Analytics, used a desktop-style digital tool that incorporates infrared technology to detect overall THC content as well as levels of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that is valued medicinally for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

Jonah Kasper, also of Norwich, was equally, if not more, interested in the CBD levels of his plants as he was in their THC content. That’s because Kasper, 28, sees marijuana cultivation as much more than a means to get high.

“It’s a very diverse and utilitarian crop,” he said. “It has a lot of active compounds that can be used for food and fiber, and the plant itself sequesters carbon from the atmosphere at a higher rate than forests. It also helps replenish depleted topsoil.”

Other attendees on Saturday were mostly interested in THC content, especially now that pot is legal to grow and possess under state law. Sue Misslbeck, of Weathersfield, is a first-time grower who was surprised her plant, using a seed containing a genetic strain known as “72 virgins,” yielded a THC content of just 13.5 percent. “It’s really good; I would have thought it would be higher,” Misslbeck said. “It’s awesome to be able to grow it. It’s been a long time coming.”

Quechee resident Aaron Gross brought in a plant from a strain known as “cherry kush” that registered at 23.5 percent THC, the second-highest potency of the day to that point. Gross’s second plant, derived from the “midnight oil” strain, showed 15.7 percent. “I have legitimate medicinal needs for marijuana, and it works a heck of a lot better than opioids,” said Gross, who said he grew outdoors for the first time this year. “I’ve had opioids that don’t work at all and ones that work at everything else but pain relief. A plant (like cannabis), with so many medicinal benefits, should not be outlawed.”

Patrons unequivocally felt Vermont should implement a tax-and-regulate system for the retail sale of pot, which neighboring Canada, Massachusetts and Maine have all incorporated into their marijuana legislation. However, most at White River Growpro were OK with the state’s cautious approach to doing so.

“Gov. (Phil) Scott wants a roadside test in place, which I can understand,” said Farrell, 75. “Not wanting people to be driving impaired is a legitimate concern, just like it is with alcohol.”

Smith, the store co-owner, said he hopes there will be regulations in place to limit the scale of production in order to protect small farming operations.

“You’d want to have craft growers and small-scale licenses,” he said. “You don’t want to see big companies coming in and tearing up the landscape for large wholesale production, turning fields into piles of rocks. The infrastructure is already in place.”

Some of those who had their plants tested on Saturday could be found a bit later across the parking lot at Big Fatty’s, or next door at River Roost. Those companies’ proprietors were happy to be part of the event.

“It’s so cool that Stephanie and Kendall came up with this idea to help out the Haven,” Big Fatty’s GM and owner Brandon Fox said. “We donate a lot of the stuff we can’t use to them anyway, so this helps that cause even more.”

Mark Babson, owner and brewer at River Roost, said it was a fine way to start gearing toward the upcoming holiday season. “This time of year is when everyone starts thinking about getting together and the spirit of giving,” Babson said. “That’s what we’re doing today.”

White River Growpro collected 325 food items and tested 107 samples of cannabis, Waterman said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.