Cullen Farrell gently tips the edge of a plastic container filled with a dark brown liquid hemp extract into a glass of water. It instantly dissolves and becomes as transparent as the water in the glass.
Farrell, co-founder and co-owner of Rijuice, the Lancaster-based cold-pressed juice company, is demonstrating the key component of a new line of hemp-infused beverages called Hemp Infusions.
Rijuice is working with a Canadian-based company paired with hemp farmers in New Jersey on a novel new extraction process that utilizes the entire plant without the use of any harsh chemicals.
Water-soluble whole plant extract used in the manufacture of the hemp-based drink. Wednesday, March 4, 2020
DAN MARSCHKA | Staff Photographer
“The water-soluble hemp extract infused into our beverages is derived from a patent-pending phytorecovery process that uses custom reagents, which are recognized as safe and approved by the FDA. No artificial chemicals or harsh physical treatments are applied at any time during this process. Our hemp infusions are truly unique, and unlike the myriad of products in the market that employ questionable techniques, are clean and completely natural,” Farrell later wrote in an email.
This process differs from other extraction methods like carbon dioxide or ethanol extractions, and since it’s water-soluble, it blends into beverages like water rather than like an oil. This also makes it easier for your body to process. It can be in your system in 10 minutes and out of your system in 90 minutes, Farrell says.
“If you’re using CO2 or (ethanol extraction method), you’re using harsh chemicals,” says Farrell, 30, of Lancaster. “You’re destroying the plant to get that stuff. It’s so hard because there are all these products already on the market, so as a consumer you’ve really got to do your homework on that company. How transparent are they with where they’re getting their extract from? How is it being extracted? Where are the farms? We want to be hyper transparent with ours.”
Lancaster Farmacy herbs are a locally grown and supplied component of the beverage. Rijuice, a hemp-based drink. Wednesday, March 4, 2020
DAN MARSCHKA | Staff Photographer
In a competitive market, where all sorts of products on the shelves are infused with CBD, Rijuice has taken a more intentional approach using the full plant instead of isolating just the CBD cannabinoid. The plant has more than 100 cannabinoids, which are the chemical compounds found in cannabis.
“One of the ways we’ve differentiated ourselves is we don’t say CBD anywhere on the packaging,” Farrell says. “This is a full-plant extract. It has CBD in it. But it has everything else too. … The full-spectrum of cannabinoids means that there’s an entourage effect. They’re all working together.”
Some studies support the idea that this “entourage effect” has benefits; others, like a 2019 study by Macquarie University and the University of Sydney, Australia, doubted the presence of such an effect.
Rijuice’s Hemp Infusions come in three different flavors: Strawberry Hibiscus, Mandarin Tranquility and Lifting Lemon Ginger. Each juice has fresh fruit, as well as herbs such as lemon balm, turmeric and chamomile, which are sourced from Lancaster Farmacy — a local business specializing in certified organic medicinal herbs — in addition to the hemp extract.
“It’s just a natural evolution for us,” Farrell says. “We think this is a really cool product because we’re championing the local system. Especially with the herbal components, we’re working with Lancaster Farmacy.”
Since the beginning, Farrell has been dedicated to providing juice utilizing nutrient-rich plants.
“I’m a believer that plants have the ability to help people with their health and well-being, and I’ve read so much about hemp,” Farrell says. “We’re working with farmers on spinach, kale, chard and now here’s this other plant that has all these other incredibly medicinal compounds in it that sounds like it would go perfectly in juice.”
Rijuice’s hemp-based drink. Wednesday, March 4, 2020
DAN MARSCHKA | Staff Photographer
The drinks are now available at a few locations in the region including Zoetropolis in Lancaster HMAC in Harrisburg, and Tellus360 — where Farrell says Rijuice first began work as a company in the pub’s basement — plans to stock their bar with the juice.
“I think these drinks go really well as a nonalcoholic option at these venues,” says Farrell. “They also serve as great mixers if you do want to make them into a cocktail.”
Farrell, who was one of the first people in the state to obtain a permit to grow the crop in 2018, worked with a Hempfield-based farmer to grow a small male crop for fiber that year and the next year a slightly larger female crop to be used for CBD.
The CBD from those plants eventually found their way into hemp apple shots that were briefly sold at Central Market and also for a cocktail that Jimmy Vega, bartender at 551 West, used to create an award-winning cocktail.
“That was cool,” Farrell says. “Because you’re tasting hemp juice. It has this really rich, like umami, kind of nutty flavor. It was just something we did for like three weeks, because we didn’t have that much crop.”
Farrell recognizes that hemp is a trend right now, but it’s a trend that he can get behind.
“I think just the concept of hemp is a good thing,” Farrell says. “A peace and love kind of thing. That’s kind of why we went with this hippie chic packaging.”
But Farrell says his work goes beyond the trendiness of the product. He see the hemp industry as something that could revolutionize agriculture and the environment.
“Not only is it good for human consumption,” Farrell says. “It’s good for our soil. It remediates toxins from the soil, it soaks everything up so if you have farmland or potential farmland and it has toxic chemicals in it from the environment and you plant hemp there after the season the soil is healthy and clean.”
Farrell hasn’t renewed his growing permit, but hopes to eventually use local hemp farmers for the Rijuice Hemp Infusion line once the infrastructure is in place.
“This used to be the hemp mecca of the country,” says Farrell. “And it’s going to be again I think.”
For now, Farrell and Rijuice are doing their due diligence and learning as much as they can about the plant and how to incorporate it into healthy beverages. They’ll continue to do so as the less-reputable businesses eventually get, pardon the pun, weeded out.
“Having ethical business practices and being transparent about what you’re doing is the secret to success,” Farrell says. “If you do that people will find you and talk about you and share your stuff.”