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College students take ‘educational tour’ of cannabis farm

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Their field trip comes just days after President Joe Biden announced he’s pardoning people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana.

OTSEGO, Minn. — At first glance, it looks like a regular Minnesota farm. But NorthStar Hemp is one of only a couple hundred farms statewide that can legally grow cannabis.

Monday, as some of the final crops were harvested before winter, a group of Macalester College students got a close look at the plants and the CBD products they become. Junior Ishan Rayen also got to experience what it’s like to chop down a sturdy hemp bush.

“I felt like this would be a great opportunity for me to come out and learn what’s going on behind the scenes instead of just the narratives being told,” he said.

The students went on the field trip not through school but with Aeterna Media, a creative marketing agency in the Twin Cities.

“We’re not endorsing legalizing marijuana,” Aeterna founder Tayo Daniel said. “We’re working with youth to educate them. That’s what we do at Aeterna Media with all different types of topics. You know, from graphic design to NFTs to crypto market. I mean, these are all innovative new industries that are really starting to take over everyday life so we want to make sure the youth … understand the risk and rewards in this type of industry.”

Aeterna CEO Will Preble said the goal of giving students a firsthand look at the cannabis farm was to get them thinking about the economic impacts of the industry, like job creation.

“How they’re thinking about the development of our business industry around THC,” Preble explained, “tax benefits.”

“So what better way to do that than to go speak to the experts themselves?” Tayo added.

Ben Lipkin and Neil Hultgren started the farm in 2019.

“We love having people up to the farm, especially the younger generation,” Lipkin said. “Our biggest thing is educating the community. We know there’s a huge disconnect and stigma over the words THC. We want to educate people on the words CBD.”

Perhaps the Star Tribune put it best: “Minnesota’s cannabis industry is going through an awkward phase.” The state legalized THC edibles and drinks last summer without targeted taxation or funding for enforcement. The Legislature will likely take on such issues next year, with a new makeup of lawmakers following November’s election. 

For Rayen, who’s double majoring in physics and economics, says he now feels better prepared to vote.

“It was a fully new side that I’m seeing because of this, especially just seeing how organic it is,” he said. “It definitely changed my outlook.”

Educational tours of the NorthStar Hemp farm are now over for the season, but will be back in August next year.

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