New Age Hemp LLC of Hot Springs is pioneering the Arkansas agricultural market for hemp — a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant that was legalized nationwide by the 2018 Farm Bill.

The company's founders — including CEO Nick Landers — expect Arkansas farmers to commit thousands of acres to hemp, which lacks the intoxicating marijuana element, but contains legal CBD.

Use of CBD oil is growing — it's already used to ease pain, anxiety, insomnia and other maladies, though it's been little studied in the United States, where all cannabis products were strictly outlawed for decades.

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But those laws have loosened, and in Arkansas, New Age Hemp says it's now the first in Arkansas to take thick, black, raw hemp oil from the plant and turn into a pure distillation of CBD.

To keep the raw materials coming, New Age Hemp has secured a stock of hemp seeds and is working with the Arkansas State Plant Board to develop the best strains and growing practices for the state's soil and climate.

New Age sells the seeds to farmers — with the first lentil-sized seeds costing a dollar per seed.

It takes 10 pounds of hemp plant material to make one pound of CBD distillate — and more is lost in creating the final product. 

Final production takes place at New Age Hemp's laboratory in converted warehouse space near Lake Hamilton.

Jesse Trammel — the New Age Hemp's COO — is a Hot Springs native. 

He thinks hemp could become a replacement crop for soybeans, which is currently facing market and tariff pressures. 

But some farmers doubt hemp will ever be more than a specialty crop grown in 20-acre plots or so. Brett Dawson of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture said the state thinks hemp *will become a cash crop in Arkansas — the question, though, is how big it will be.

So far, Arkansas has licensed 101 farmers in 42 counties to grow hemp on about 32-hundred acres. The state modeling its program after one in Kentucky, where 1,000 farmers are growing hemp.

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In the end, New Age Hemp will market its finished CBD oil wholesale — focusing on in-state distribution and showcasing "Made in Arkansas" on the packaging, including dropper bottles and roll-ons. 

So far, New Age has invested about a million dollars on equipment — it expects to recover that investment next year.