By DAN ULLOA 

Garden State Hemp had its Grand Opening as a CBD store on Millburn’s main thoroughfare on Saturday, known as Small Business Saturday. 

Garden State Hemp is a subsidiary of Green Passion Industries (GPI) that is a partnership between Carl Burwell Jr. as CEO and Jonathan Rojas as Chief Operating Officer (COO) they both work at full-time.

“I’m excited there’s finally a safe, reliable place to learn about hemp or CBD. People Don’t just have to google it. It’s finally here,” Burwell said regarding the store’s opening.

The store is quite modern with a comfortable feel including a TV lounge and a Keurig machine with Colombian and Cuban coffee k-cups infused with CBD. A good crowd gathered to examine their wares amid holiday music and college football on TV.

Burwell and Rojas are old friends from middle school in Parsippany who started Green Passion Industries three years ago. As Green Passion Industries, they have been selling CBD products by tabling participating in events. They hosted the hemp market and NECANN afterparty in Atlantic City earlier this year. GPI also co-hosted the Maplewood hemp market last week with Parkside CBD.

Rojas is scientifically-inclined and went to college for microbiology. Being business-minded, he opened up pet shops in Livingston and Morris Plains. And Burwell was previously in banking at American Express and TD Bank before starting Green Passion Industries.

The store’s focus is hemp and its many benefits and products made from it including clothing, hats, dog collars, medicine for dogs, mineral supplements, infused water, tea, coffee from Willie Nelson’s company infused with CBD, among others.  

Rojas said that because the industry is so new, there is little infrastructure to produce clothes that are 100 percent hemp. Hemp is naturally coarse so it has to be combined with cotton to make clothing for now. Rojas is passionate about the many uses of hemp.

“Hemp can help us go in the right direction,” said Rojas regarding its environmental benefits. “We wouldn’t have to kill many trees.” He added it takes a hemp forest 70 days to grow a forest versus a wooden forest which takes decades. Hemp can also be planted to clean the soil of polluted sites. He added that almost all their products are domestically grown and made as organically as possible. 

They require all their products tested for heavy metals, residual solvents, pesticides, solvents along with cannabinoid testing. Because the market is so new and unregulated, Garden State Hemp will not sell CBD products to anyone under 18. Those who are 21 and over can buy smokable products. 

“We want to bring back hemp into the normal lifestyle,” said Rojas, emphasizing the need to educate the community on the issue to destigmatize it.

They sell a range of CBD products including broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, and isolates. Broad-spectrum CBD contains no THC but has the other cannabinoids. Full-spectrum contains .3 percent THC or less and the other cannabinoids which creates the entourage effect. Isolate is just CBD.

CBD Store as a Pillar of Small Business

Prior to opening, they looked at different towns, examined Morristown but didn’t work since some local businesses were not receptive. So because of their connection to Maplewood, they looked at the area and enjoyed the community in Millburn and its thriving small business sector and its reputation as a hub for young professionals.

Their store’s block has been revitalized in the last few years. It took a huge hit from Hurricane Irene in 2011 since it near a river.

Next Saturday there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Mayor of Millburn along with the Millburn Chamber of Commerce. 

Rojas has been passionate about cannabis reform thinking it was going to be legal when only smokers and activists that it possible and CBD was obscure.

“My personal philosophy is that all cannabis use is medical,” Rojas said. “This plant can help just about anybody and everybody.”

“There’s never been a moment in my life when an industry has been developed right in of my front of my eyes,” Burwell said, likening it to the beginning of the oil industry for John D. Rockafeller and steel for Andrew Carnegie. He is quite excited about that aspect of the industry and its business. In addition, he is also a big proponent of maintaining the cannabis culture and the grassroots community that nurtured it through the War on Drugs. 

“I don’t want it to be big business. It’s going to be big business already. It’s got a lot of space for everybody,” Burwell said. He added that small businesses can help preserve that culture. Burwell chided high price of entry into the dispensary market charged by the state governments and wished lawmakers would address that. 

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