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Hemp snack shop offers an energy boost that's legal
Plant Kingdom snacks are high in protein but very low in THC
This story is part of a special series.

Vivian Goodman
This 2.5 ounce bag of toasted hemp seeds has 15 grams of protein and a portrait of George Washington who grew hemp on his plantation.
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
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In The Region:
Crunchy, nutty, and gooey snacks at a new Lyndhurst shop are made from a strain of cannabis.

It's hemp, a plant prized by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, that's now illegal to grow.

WKSU's Vivian Goodman enters Plant Kingdom for this week's Quick Bite.

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Two unconventional businesses operate under one roof on a busy stretch of Mayfield Road.

A new sign above the door says they’re the “Snaction Heroes.”

No Whey! Chocolates makes vegan candy, and Plant Kingdom makes hemp treats.

They share a commercial kitchen, retail space and what Plant Kingdom’s Jeremy Koosed calls a common mission: health benefits to customers.

 “The benefits to getting strengthening whole  plant foods in your diet or good omega fats instead of dairy or trans fats or saturated fats or cholesterol.”  

Like the milk-free milk chocolates his partners make.  

No Whey Chocolatier Ethel Warnick says she and her daughter Stacy started making it 5 years ago.

 “Stacy’s brother became vegan and missed milk chocolate so I decided that if I could I would try to recreate   it vegan.”

It was a vegan restaurant in Akron, Ms. Julie’s Kitchen, that helped launch Jeremy Koosed’s hemp-based pastries 5 years ago. The Lyndhurst shop that opened in November is Plant Kingdom’s first Cleveland-area retail headquarters, but area coffee shops also carry his snacks.

Forced to import
Koosed has to import his key ingredient from Canada, because hemp, a versatile crop grown for millennia in Asia and the Middle East and prized by the Puritans as well as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, is illegal to grow under federal law.

You can produce it as food, buy it, and sell it, but under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, you can’t plant it.

Hemp is cannabis, but it’s not marijuana. It contains a .3%  trace of THC compared to up to 20% in pot.

Koosed finds most people understand the difference, but he recalls having to calm down a man at a Medina farmers’ market.

 “He’s like  ‘You’re selling marijuana cookies?’ And I was like ‘No these are not marijuana. This is not drug-valuable. This is not ganja brownies here.'” 

You could eat hemp all day and it wouldn’t make you the least bit high, but Koosed says it might make you healthier.

“Hemp seed is one of the most nutrient-dense seed sources of protein. By that I mean protein density is as high in hemp seeds as it is in soy or ground beef, especially with the shell removed.”  

Hemp has the 9 essential amino acids and hulled hemp seeds contain all the essential fatty acids.

 Koosed sells whole hemp nuts you can munch on right out of the bag, but he uses hulled hemp seeds in most of his energy bars.

 “So the nice thing about hemp seeds with the shell is that they’re snappy crunchy so they’re more snacky.”  

Easier to digest than most snack foods
Some of Koosed’s customers have special dietary needs. They can’t munch on typical processed snack foods, but find hemp easily digestible.

Koosed’s customers include bikers, hikers, and runners who prefer hemp to trail mix and late-shift workers who like it better than what’s in the vending machine.

 “The best feedback that we get from snackers is how like long-lasting the energy has been,” he says. “Whether it be like an afternoon snack, just like kind of get you through the day, breakfast on the go thing.”  

Koosed’s on the go a lot himself, sourcing his organic grains from Amish country, selling his wares at farmers’ markets and community events, stocking his shelves and hand-making energy bars from scratch three times a week.

Jeremy Koosed is 31. His interest in healthy eating dates to his college days in Athens where he discovered goo balls, a no-bake energy booster that’s become one of his most popular products.

He tweaked the recipe.

 “First with granola, then as I found the Ohio-grown spelt cereal I switched to that and organic cornflakes. And really as like a protein-packed snack it’s got the most protein density from hemp seeds, peanut butter, and almond butter. It’s over 400 calories in a goo ball because you’re getting straight nut butters and plenty of the hemp seeds, chia seeds, cherries and chocolate chips.” 

New hope for legalization of industrial hemp
Koosed just wishes he could get the hemp seeds as easily as the other ingredients. But he takes heart from the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington.

“It’s really reminded people that this is a valuable resource. I’m always keen to distinguish between uses of cannabis, the variety, and assure everybody that like medical marijuana or their recreational marijuana that we’re not producing those. We’re a law-abiding bakery.” 

But Koosed wants the law changed. He petitioned Northeast Ohio’s congressional delegation to back an amendment to the farm bill that would pry open the door by letting universities grow hemp for research. Representative Tim Ryan of Niles supported it. Cleveland-area Congresswoman Marcia Fudge voted against it but says she’s open to reconsideration. So far, like the farm bill itself, the amendment’s going nowhere.

And although 10 states have established protocols for growing industrial hemp farmers aren’t planting it.  They worry agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration would just confiscate it.

China’s the world’s biggest hemp producer and most industrialized nations allow the cultivation for uses including paper, fabrics, rope, building materials, and food.

But until the U.S. joins the club, Jeremy Koosed will keep importing it from Canada.

And that’s this week’s Quick Bite.

Next week the topic is aquaponics. We’ll meet a couple in Ashtabula growing specialty greens in their basement with the help of a hundred goldfish.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Touching no Drug testing is really important because it's the TOP FAQ people have. Although .3% THC sounds like something, that's the legal threshold that the seedstock has to meet when it's issued to a licensed hemp farmer (and not indicative of THC content in Hemp Seeds) The Actual THC content in the whole toasted hemp seeds is less than 1 part per million, According to independent lab test results sent to me by the canadian hemp processors. No one has actually failed, At least not in the past decade plus of standardization in canada and under the test pledge program

Posted by: Jeremy Koosed (Akron) on August 24, 2013 11:08AM
Mark expressed concern about failing a drug test - hemp seeds will not bring about a failed drug test. Please see for further information.
So you can enjoy the energy and deliciousness found in Plant Kingdom Bakery and Snackery goods without concern. See for a description of the goods, and snack on nutritiously!

Posted by: Marge Koosed (South Euclid) on August 20, 2013 8:08AM
What I wish they would have investigated is whether or not the 0.3% THC would be enough to show as positive on a drug test. Many employers have random screening, and if you test positive, you are gone, no appeal. It would be a real shame for someone clean and using a "safe" / non-mind altering product to test positive for Marijuana use because of this application.

Posted by: Mark Snyder (Bolivar, OH) on August 19, 2013 10:08AM
I think this is a great idea. We need to legalize hemp for our farmers here in Tn to grow. It would really help the econamy.

Posted by: karen woods (tennessee) on August 18, 2013 10:08AM
Great interview! Jeremy you have a second career!!!
Good luck!

Posted by: joyce emrich on August 18, 2013 6:08AM
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