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In 2021, the Alabama state legislature passed a medical marijuana legalization bill, raising eyebrows among many who see legalization as a much safer bet in more liberal states. 

But while adult-use cannabis legalization may still be years away, Kyle Neathery, the CEO of Samson Extracts in Samson Alabama said that many people in Alabama see the benefits that legalization can bring to the state. 

“Alabama is a more capitalist-friendly state and that’s kind of how it does things so it really feels to me like people are happy to have it [cannabis grow companies].”

He added that Samson Extracts is based “in a smaller, I would say semi-economically-depressed area so I think people are very welcoming of the jobs we’re creating.

As a native of the southeast, Neathery said he finds it rather surprising how far Deep South states like Alabama or Louisiana are in terms of legalization, despite the conservative politics of the region. 

Kyle Neathery - Headshot

Speaking to Rootwurks, Neathery said that there can be a sort of “pioneer” aspect to working in cannabis in a state like Alabama that doesn’t have the cultural or political DNA of early adopter states like California or Oregon. 

Cannabis: Not always easier in a blue state 

Neathery spoke about his time as the Director of Operations and General Manager for the cannabis company High Life Farms in Michigan. The company grows cannabis on a combined 250,000 square feet of cannabis space and counts big-name cannabis brands Wana and Kiva as affiliates. 

“I ran a large facility in central Michigan and I actually had tougher challenges there from the local community than I do here,” Neathery said. 

He described issues dealing with the odor produced by the greenhouses as well as fear-mongering by some in the community regarding recreational cannabis. 

He said it could just boil down to economics more than politics or culture.  

Not the easiest crop

Samson Extracts is an Alabama-owned and operated, GMP-certified manufacturer of CBD products. The company produces full-spectrum CBD distillate for a wide range of products and works off the know-how, experience, and industrial infrastructure that the company has accrued working with a wide variety of crops. 

The company states that “GMP-certified Samson Extracts, along with its farming and greenhouse partners, is a collaborative dedicated to aiding the hemp industry to thrive in the South by helping southern farmers find a new cash crop.” 

The Samson Extracts team “consists of well-established row crop farmers with over 200 years of combined experience, alongside skilled laboratory technicians, extraction experts, and an operational team trained in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) techniques,” according to the company website. 

Neathery said the company is “trying to develop a more trustworthy relationship” between agricultural workers and hemp, simply because it's not a familiar crop in Alabama. 

But those who think growing hemp will be the same as growing row crops like corn are mistaken, Neathery said. 

“It’s a very much more high maintenance, heavy cost plant. You have to scout it regularly and you’re not going to have those even fields like you would with seeded corn from major agricultural companies and the harvest costs are tremendous.”

Neathery said that other more traditional crops don’t include the same costs or labor demands that are associated with hemp farming. Also, crops like corn don’t require trim rooms or curing rooms like hemp. 

He added that with hemp you often get “real monster plants”' that can be difficult to farm and also have a tendency to blow over and break, creating a need for more labor. 

Two other issues in Alabama that aren't as common in cannabis cultivation centers like Northern California are the sandy soil and the humidity. 

Focusing on core competency

Neathery said the company isn’t interested in jumping into the intoxicating hemp products industry or chasing the next big thing in cannabinoids. 

“Our main purpose here is manufacturing CBD. That’s a core competency and we don't focus on other cannabinoids like CBN or CBG and we don’t do Delta 8.”

He explained that “we really champion the principle of trying to perfect one thing before trying to do 100 different things. I think if you were to ask me what the problem is with cannabis companies across the country it's that they try to do everything.”

Neathery said the company is very bullish on hemp and has the clear goal of eventually becoming the biggest processor of hemp biomass in the U.S. 

Why GMP and cleanliness matters 

When asked why his company puts a big emphasis on GMP, Nethery said that the most important aspect by far of good manufacturing processes is how they can help in the event of a customer safety or recall event. He said these practices help the company track the processes that products went through and the entire chain of custody with the products. 

But Neathery also highlighted the importance of cleanliness and having a culture of cleanliness. 

“It’s just good to have a general culture of cleanliness for product safety but also for equipment resilience,” adding “If you don't have a system for cleaning and maintaining your equipment with good manufacturing practices, that actually creates issues where equipment breaks down quicker.”

Will the Deep South fully legalize?

While Neathery does paint a picture of acceptance in the Deep South for cannabis, he notes that recreational marijuana is a different story. 

“I would say that [recreational cannabis legalization] isn’t even being contemplated right now. I would say I think their focus is mainly just getting licensing for the medical cannabis side. I would say if it ever does happen it's years and years away.”

He added “but I think that’s good. It’s important to have a mature medical cannabis program so you can establish parameters, and guidelines, understand user bases, serve patients with immediate needs, and then contemplate what will happen further down the road.”

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Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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