Open minds, change of heart led Truloves to medical marijuana

Friday, August 30, 2019

By Scott Loftis

Arkansas voters approved the state’s medical marijuana amendment by a narrow margin in 2016.

Berryville’s Jay Trulove was among the 46.8 percent who voted against the proposal.

Fast forward a little less than three years later, however, and Trulove and his family are operating one of five medical marijuana cultivation facilities in Arkansas. Osage Creek Cultivation near Berryville is a family business, Trulove said at last week’s meeting of the Berryville Rotary Club, and he got involved only after keeping an open mind led him to a change of heart.

A pilot for Southwest Airlines, Trulove said he had separate conversations with two first officers about medical marijuana, telling them he had voted against it.

Both first officers told Trulove stories about relatives who had benefited from the use of cannabis.

“So I just opened up my mind a little bit and started doing my own research,” Trulove said.

Trulove said he talked to his wife, Mary, about the issue as well.

“That didn’t go very well at first,” he said. “Then she started the same thing, started doing her own research and talking to a minister she really trusts about it. …This was not an easy decision for us to make. I was really against this thing, strongly against it.”

Once the Truloves decided to get involved in the medical marijuana industry, however, they didn’t do it halfway.

“We tried to make it state-of-the-art,” Trulove said.

Once the facility is fully operational, Trulove said it will employ 40 to 50 people. All of those jobs will be filled by local residents, except for cultivation director Drew Wilmeth and an extractionist, Trulove said.

Wilmeth is a Seattle native and floriculturist who has worked in the medical marijuana field in several states.

“I specialize in growing flowers,” Wilmeth said. “I just happen to grow the flower that is the biggest cash crop in the world.”

Wilmeth said the Osage Creek facility is top-notch.

“We have built one of the most high-tech and the best facility I’ve ever worked in,” he said. “It is amazing. We have spared no expense for this building.”

Wilmeth said the entire operation takes place indoors. The facility can house 8,000 to 10,000 plants.

“Everything is closed off,” he said. “We create the climate, we create the atmosphere. We create everything for the plant. Everything we do is perfectly controlled around it, because we are growing a pharmaceutical-grade drug.”

Watering of the plants is automated, Wilmeth said.

“As we go into the future, we are automating as much stuff as we can,” he said.

Medical marijuana is a highly regulated industry, Wilmeth said — so much so that each individual plant is assigned an identification number.

“Nothing leaves that facility not tracked,” he said. “Nothing. Zero. If a leaf falls off this plant, we get out, we pick it up, and we weigh that leaf. We report to the state that that leaf fell off the plant and now we are disposing of it properly. … We are one of the most highly regulated industries in the world right now.”

Wilmeth praised the Truloves for their dedication.

“Jay and Mary are real farmers,” he said. “Jay has taken all of this stuff that he learned in chicken houses and he has, with me, started incorporating those things into cannabis. It’s a really great symbiotic relationship, because we’re really both farmers in the end. What we together is, farming is farming — whether you be farming cows and chickens, or if you be farming cannabis.”

In response to a question, Wilmeth explained the difference between THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).

“THC is the old-fashioned, we all know what THC does, right?” he said. “And if you don’t, you’ll just have to talk to your friends.”

More seriously, he said: “THC makes you forget, basically. We’re still studying it, because we weren’t allowed to for so long. That information is still coming out. But basically, what I can tell you is the reason why it works for PTSD, is to make you forget.”

CBD, on the other hand, reduces inflammation in the body without causing a “high,” Wilmeth said.

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