Collaborating women find higher purpose for hemp

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Sativa Health Products owner Cynthia Groff displays some of the various CBD products she offers. DEAN ROWLAND

Local entrepreneurs Cynthia Groff and Jennifer Pfuhl have been friends for a while - since meeting at a cannabis conference. They now share a business connection.

Groff's company, Sativa Health Products on Hilton Head, markets and sells CBD products.

Pfuhl's company, Blue Sky in northern Beaufort County, processes hemp grown by area farmers and can develop bulk wholesale CBD products and packaging.

Groff introduced her own private-label brand called Statera on Sept. 1, which is processed, produced, labeled and bottled by Blue Sky Processing. (By the way, "statera" means "balance" in Latin.)

Four new, private-label products will join her current inventory of 103 products that she sells at prices ranging from $14 to $170.

"Cynthia is amazing with her deep experience with clients who have used products with positive results," said Pfuhl, Blue Sky president and co-owner. "She brings a wealth of knowledge related to health and wellness to the table. She's an amazing and passionate woman. ... She was an ideal client to work with in one of our first white-labeling products."

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural derivative of hemp that produces no high or psychoactive effects, because the compound THC has been removed in processing. The processing also removes pollutants and toxins in the plants from the earth's soil.

Groff's company, which sells CBD oils, topicals, balms, lotions and edibles, carries four brands that contain pure CBD derived from organic American-grown hemp plants and are backed by a third-party certificate of analysis.

Benefits of CBD use include relief from chronic conditions, such as inflammation, anxiety and depression, pain, and insomnia, and can improve digestion and heart health.

"Some people say, 'It's snake oil because it cures everything,'" the Pennsylvania native said. "Think about aspirin. You get a headache, you take an aspirin. You need to thin your blood, you take an aspirin. It's the same thing with CBD: It works with two receptors in our body, our endocavanode system. We have a fito cavenode that is a plant-based. We produce these cavenodes in our system and when they are out of balance, a CBD product will bring it back in balance."

Groff has no retail storefront. She routinely does business at farmers' markets and conferences, and in private consultations, emails and phone calls.

Groff's background in the medical healthcare field has stretched over the past 27 years. A certified clinical medical assistant, she has worked in pain management, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine and with pediatricians and eye doctors.

Groff became educated about homeopathic remedies growing up on a horse farm and showing cats. The turning point was a study that showed cats suffered tumors in the injection points for vaccines. That changed the administration of vaccine inoculations in further studies.

"That led me down the path to homeopathy," she said. "You learn all the great benefits you can have with animals doing things naturally; my own children were raised doing things the natural way. We used holistic medication."

She spent two years researching, studying and gleaning information from people who knew more than her about CBD, and then opened her business Sept. 1, 2018.

Pfuhl opened her new hemp processing plant in May. The company invested $2.5 million in its 15,000-square-foot facility in the town of Seabrook. She also owns Maptech Packaging on Hilton Head.

Pfuhl decided to locate her new company in the area because she, her engineers and her management team "all love the Lowcountry" and because generous incentives were offered by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, such as property tax relief, tax credits for job creation and a small construction grant.

Prior to making the commitment, she worked closely with Beaufort County Economic Development Corp. leaders who were highly supportive of her plans, she said.

"The general business atmosphere here in South Carolina is very attractive, and we wanted to make a positive economic development impact in a place close to home that would benefit the rural communities around us," she said. She expects to hire 16 employees within three years.

Blue Sky is not the first hemp processing facility in the state, but it does possess the only industrial-scale automated hydrocarbon extraction system in the market, called Delta-9, which Pfuhl co-owns.

New laws enacted by the state now allow 110 farmers to cultivate industrial hemp, up from 40 in 2018, on 3,400 acres statewide.

"It's clear that agribusiness is as important to South Carolina's present and future as it has been to our past," Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement. "I'm proud to welcome this great company to our robust business community and look forward to seeing how it will continue to grow and thrive in the Lowcountry."

"Because there's such a huge clamor for folks to cultivate more hemp ... we're constantly looking for ways to increase our capacity," Pfuhl said.

She expects Blue Sky to double its production of 300 kilos of CBD oil per month by the end of the year.

Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.

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