EmeraldRose Grows offers cannabis seeds, grow advice and tools

BRISTOL — Over the last five months Emeraldrose Grows in downtown Bristol has sparked quite a bit of curiosity.
Indeed, a visitor recently observed a pair of cautious browsers enter the shop, where a Grateful Dead–themed doormat marked the threshold and reggae music played near the register. They stepped carefully past the napping shop dog, Bowser, and with warm encouragement from owner Greg Newman, explored the store. Walking past the books, soil amendments and organic gardening supplies, they stopped with a sense of wonder before a grow tent near the back, where plant starts reflected the wild hot pink of a grow lamp.
“Curiosity is good,” said Newman, who opened the organic gardening shop at 11 Main St. last November. “It’s part of my mission. People come in, they want to see what it’s all about. I’m always happy to talk with them.”
The “it” is cannabis (also known as marijuana) and hemp. Or, more precisely: cannabis seeds, hemp seeds, hemp starts and a wide range of supplies for the home grower.
When Vermont’s legal and cultural landscape around hemp and cannabis began to change recently, Newman, who with his wife, Jennifer Adams, also owns Emeraldrose Gifts across the street, asked himself where he could fit in.
“I totally wanted to be part of the coming hemp and cannabis industry, and I was trying to find a place where I can do my best work,” he said.
Vermont passed medical marijuana laws in 2004, 2007 and 2011, then in 2013 legalized the cultivation of marijuana’s non-psychotropic cousin hemp, which has dozens of agricultral, industrial and medicinal uses. Last July, Vermont became the ninth state to legalize recreational cannabis.
Instead of the regulated marketplace enacted by other states, however, Vermont’s 2018 marijuana/cannabis law legalizes only limited possession and growth of the plant — selling it remains illegal. The law stipulates that adults age 21 or older may possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to two “mature” (flowering) and four “immature” (vegetating) plants in a space within their own home, screened from public view.
HEMP STARTS GROW lush and green at Bristol’s Emeraldrose Grows, which also sells cannabis seeds, hemp seeds and a wide range of supplies for the home grower.
Independent photo/Christopher Ross
Though there is currently no way to legally purchase recreational marijuana in Vermont, there are bills under consideration in both the House and the Senate that could change that. One bill, H.196, would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling to the general public in 2020.
Emeraldrose Grows is not about to become a dispensary, however.
“I have no desire to sell cannabis in a retail manner,” Newman said.
He’d rather empower his customers instead.
“I have tons of information,” he said. “I’d like to ‘overgrow the government’ by providing all that information to the public, so they can do their thing.”
In its book section, Emeraldrose Grows stocks an assortment of free pamphlets — not just about cannabis or hemp, but about all sorts of organic gardening topics.
“I try to find out what people’s intentions are,” Newman explained. “Do you want to grow your own veggies? Do you want to make your own salves?”
When Newman matches customers with the appropriate pamphlets, he encourages them to go home and read them with two highlighters, one pink and one yellow.
“With the pink one they should highlight anything they think is a great idea. With the yellow one, anything they might not understand.”
When they’re finished, Newman invites them back to the shop to chat.
“It’s teaching as a subversive activity,” he said with a grin. “It’s my own little part of going against the grain.”
In addition to products related to hemp and cannabis production, Emeraldrose Grows sells a wide range of organic gardening supplies: raised beds, vegetable seeds, plant nutrients, rice hulls, compost and worm castings.
“When I get caught up, I’ll be carrying houseplants and cacti, too,” he said.
After more than 20 years of organic farming and entrepreneurial adventures, Newman has developed a holistic vision for Emeraldrose Grows.
“You have to be humble,” he said. “You need to be able to read your plants. They have their own way of talking, and if you tune in you can begin to understand it.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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