David Schmitt | Crain's Charlotte

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

David Schmitt

Background:  

Industrial Hemp Manufacturing, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hemp, Inc., which owns the largest commercial hemp processing facility in North America. Located in Spring Hope, N.C., Industrial Hemp Manufacturing manufactures and ships hemp and kenaf natural plant fiber products worldwide.

The Mistake:

Underestimating how much people don’t understand about hemp.

Years ago, I was asked by the North Carolina Hemp Association to help establish legislation that would benefit the hemp industry in North Carolina by allowing it to be grown in the state.

But when many people hear the word “hemp,” they think “marijuana” – even though they aren’t the same thing. While hemp is a cousin of marijuana, it doesn’t contain any THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you high. Unfortunately, not a lot of elected officials understood that.

I had no idea how much lobbying would be required on our part to educate people about what hemp was. Because of that, it took a while to get the legislation written and passed.

People generally don’t like change, and tend to fight it. But if they understand why it’s important or necessary, they’re more likely to buy into it.

The Lesson:

People generally don’t like change, and tend to fight it. But if they understand why it’s important or necessary, they’re more likely to buy into it. That’s why it’s important to educate people before you ask them to do something. I think we would have had the legislation in place sooner, had we known that.

Law enforcement initially opposed legislation that would allow it to be grown in our state, too, because they thought growers would see it as an opportunity to hide marijuana patches. This could not be further from the truth, because the hemp would pollinate the marijuana, and then they would have hemp – not marijuana.

We now have a sheriff and police chief on the commission that was formed to regulate and inform the rules. By educating them, they can now educate other sheriffs and police chiefs around the state. It really helps facilitate what we’re trying to do.

Follow Hemp, Inc. on Twitter at: @HempInc

Photo courtesy of Hemp, Inc.

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