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Cleveland company among first to make hemp products, including a transdermal patch, under Ohio’s Hemp Program

Posted at 11:43 AM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 18:24:46-04

CLEVELAND — In the next few days, Cleveland-based First Necessity plans to bring one of the first products to market made under Ohio’s Hemp Program. It’s creating a transdermal patch that is applied directly to the skin to help with three different types of ailments:

  • MePatch: CBD dominate formulation with CBG for female discomfort
  • CalmCore: CBG dominate formulation with CBD for core related discomfort
  • Victory Patch: A formulation with equal parts CBD & CBG for athletes, weekend warriors or anyone one who wants to declare victory over discomfort in their bodies and get on with the day

Read-between-the-lines marketing

The phrasing First Necessity uses describing its products is carefully crafted make sure it doesn’t fun afoul of federal regulators. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp across the nation, but federal regulators are still figuring out how they’re going to oversee products that contain them.

Until then, the FDA isn’t running the same tests on hemp products like First Necessity’s that the agency runs on similar products that don’t have hemp. That prevents First Necessity from explicitly telling customers what its products are intended to do.

First Necessity's patch uses hemp, which comes from cannabis, setting it apart from other products.

“We can’t make any claims, that’s tightrope because of FDA approval being needed to do that,” said First Necessity Managing Member Jim Ickes.

Instead, all oversight is left to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), which runs Ohio’s Hemp Program after Senate Bill 57 created the program in 2019.

"Even though we don’t have FDA approval for our product, we do have the state government involved and that adds some validity to what we’re doing,” said Ickes.

"We believe that the cannabis plant and the hemp plant overall is a medical plant," said Ickes.

Instead, Ickes and his business partners rely on customers to spread information about their products through word of mouth.

“Anything that has anything to do with getting away from discomfort, I’ll try it,” said Patti Taylor, who has been using the Victory Patch for about two years while First Necessity was developing it.

She volunteers at funerals, supporting grieving friends and family. It’s a heavy emotional lift, but also requires her to be on her feet for long periods of time, taking a big physical toll too, and leading to a lot of knee pain.

"Anything that has anything to do with getting away from discomfort, I'll try it," said Taylor.

Before, her only treatment was rest, ice, a hot tub, and elevation. She says when she puts the Victory Patch on her knee, it feels much better in a few minutes.

“It takes that swelling stuff out so I can walk a little bit faster,” said Taylor.

Ickes says a product line like his patches can help introduce more people to hemp products, getting them comfortable with what the cannabis plant can do while breaking down the stigma that it carries.

“We call it ‘the iceberg under the water,” said Ickes. “Folks who are rule-followers or they just haven’t had any interest in medical cannabis but they could use a hemp-based product.”

Creating Cleveland jobs

First Necessity came together when Jim, who is also a lawyer representing businesses in the medical marijuana industry, decided he and his law partner wanted to get involved in the industry themselves. At the same time, Chad Zumkehr was interested in jumping into cannabis too, hoping to use his expertise as the president of a manufacturing business to help create some kind of patch for the skin.

Before the Farm Bill legalized hemp in 2018 and Ohio’s Hemp Program in 2019, both men thought they’d have to go out of state to get the business started. Zumkehr says he was looking to partner with companies in Colorado when Ohio’s program made it possible to stay in state.

Zumkehr says he was looking to jump into the cannabis field before joining First Necessity.

“We didn’t want to leave the state,” said Ickes. “We’re all Ohio through and through for the most part so the timing worked out that we didn’t have to go anywhere.”

Instead, Zumkehr and Ickes are now gearing up to produce the First Necessity patches in Cleveland. Zumkehr says he has plans to build out a 2,500 square feet clean room so that the operation can have the capacity to make thousands of patches a day and open the space up to other hemp entrepreneurs.

“Why not create jobs and make the patch right here,” said Zumkehr. “Our hope is that this is going be something that can really create some jobs.”

Eventually, Zumkehr says they’ll seek FDA approval for their operation once the FDA is willing to give it.

How it works

Limited research on cannabis, because it was illegal in the United States for so long, means that researchers like Dr. Anthony Giovengo are often learning new things about the plant while they formulate products that can use it.

“It is the ultimate wildcard because we have anecdotal evidence of it, more or less, doing anything you can imagine but because of the high barriers to scientific research, it hasn’t been vetted as rigorously as turmeric, curcumen, witch hazel, anything like that,” said Giovengo.

"It is the ultimate wild card because we have anecdotal evidence of it more or less doing anything you can imagine," said Dr. Giovengo.

Giovenco is a biochemist who studied natural products, making hemp research a natural transition. He says the product works well as a topical because human skin is a combination of oil and water, allowing hemp into the body in a way that isn’t as easy with other products.

“It is an ideal platform for this ideal compound,” said Giovengo. “Less of it goes a longer way, and it does so with fewer side effects, and it’s more potent."

Behind the name

Ickes says the business is named “First Necessity” because of a quote about hemp often tied to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”

He also admits the quote is likely misattributed. The Pointer Institute’s PolitiFact says the quote is actually from Gouverneur Morris, a less-well-known founding father who actually wrote, “A Fact well established in the System of Agriculture is that the best Hemp and the best Tobacco grow on the same Kind of Soil. The former Article is of first Necessity to the Commerce and Marine in other Words to the Wealth and Protection of the Country."

Still, Ickes points out that the quote highlights the prominent role hemp played in the United States around the time the nation was created.

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