Hemp history week ‘excitement’ challenged by wave of credit card shutoffs

Jennifer Tijou planned to celebrate next week with live music, happy customers and plenty of hemp-infused food and drinks.

Instead she’ll be figuring out how to celebrate one of the biggest weeks for hemp with a cash- and checks-only operation.

From June 3 to 9 this year, several Kentucky businesses will be celebrating hemp history week. For 10 years, participants in the week have learned about the plant and advocated for its legal acceptance.

In December 2018, the farm bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. This should make 2019 hemp history week a cause for participants to celebrate — but new regulations from big-name credit card processors are raining on the parade.

Tijou is the owner of Pleasanton Goods in Paris, Ky. On Tuesday, June 4, Tijou will host a historical hemp celebration there featuring a live performance by The Triplets and accompanied by hemp- and CBD-infused appetizers and cocktails.

But earlier this month, Tijou’s business was barred from credit card processing. She said that her provider, Square, may have booted her after realizing she served hemp-infused products.

Tijou said the sudden regulations may be a product of a stigma associating hemp with marijuana, although she said hemp is in fact “a completely different plant.”

Daddy Burt Hemp Co. in Lexington, Ky., is another affected business.

Earlier this year, CEO and owner Bob Estes received a written warning that his credit card processing capabilities would be shut off on May 15. When that date passed, Estes assumed Daddy Burt Hemp Co. might be safe.

But on the morning of May 31, Estes said the credit card processing company Elavon Merchant Services kicked the company from processing credit cards entirely.

Which means that now he’s scrambling to find a new credit card processor.

“For the past 90 years, big industry and the government have been trying to take away what we’ve worked so hard for,” Estes said. “We’re Kentucky-proud farmers though, and we’ll continue to persevere despite Elavon’s decision. We just feel bad for our customers who need these products to live healthy and active lives… Those people are the ones that Elavon is hurting.”

Estes said he was aware of several other hemp businesses that had been slapped with the same shutoffs at the same time. He described this as “growing pains of the CBD industry.”

Still, Estes said he is confident that Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Andy Barr are aware of the wave of new regulations, and hopeful they will combat them going forward.

Barr did address some of these shutoffs earlier this month.

“(Shutoffs that target hemp providers) conflict with congressional intent,” Barr said. “It would be helpful to have a unified statement from all of the regulators clarifying that industrial hemp is different than marijuana... These businesses should have access to financial services.”

The shutoff timing is ironic, but hope remains for those celebrating hemp history week.

“This is our opportunity to further illustrate that hemp is not just a counterculture novelty but a mainstream commodity. Our goal is to make sure that it is being utilized to its full potential,” said Colleen Lanier, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association.

The hemp industry enjoyed a recent victory in a USDA opinion that decriminalized possessing hemp while flying between states.

“The policy announcement from the United States Department of Agriculture confirms what Kentucky has been saying all along: The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp legal nationwide, and it is unlawful for any state agency to interfere in the transportation of lawfully produced hemp,” Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said in a press release.

With opinions like these, Tijou is trying to look on the bright side.

“The passage of the farm bill adds another layer of excitement to the whole thing — lots of hope for the future,” Tijou said.

Several Kentucky businesses and organizations will host hemp-related events and discounts during the week of June 3 to 9.

Some of those events include:

Guided two-mile hike hosted by Boone Creek Outdoors at the Cleveland-Rogers Mill on Tuesday, June 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Two-part historical tour of the Henry Clay Estate and the Hope-Morgan House in downtown Lexington on Wednesday, June 5 from 5:30 to 8 p.m., followed by an after party

Kentucky Hemp Days festival featuring vendors, music and food in Cynthiana on Wednesday, June 5; Thursday, June 6; and Sunday, June 9, all from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

CBD-infused yoga and meditation class at Waveland mansion on Friday, June 7 at 11 a.m.

“Hidden Harvest” program at the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Hemp history day featuring complimentary hemp samples and a tour at the Jack Jouett House in Versailles on Sunday, June 9 from 2 to 4 p.m.

A full list of events can be found on hemp history week’s official site.