But business sure is booming for the 42-year-old entrepreneur.
Less than nine months after opening the business’ first location, in downtown Jonesborough, East Tennessee Hemp Company opened a second location on Friday at 221 E. Main St. in downtown Johnson City.
“I’m very excited about Johnson City. We’ve been wanting to be a part of the downtown movement. We’re really excited about seeing the downtown growth and being part of what’s going on down here,” Cooper said.
Inside the store, almost every product — whether edibles, oils, topicals, clothing, pet treats or just raw flowers — is derived from the Cannabis sativa L plant, otherwise known as hemp.
“We wanted to be versatile as a hemp store. We didn’t want to only be a CBD store. We are a hemp store. With that being said, we want to carry all the different hemp products, and be able to educate about all the different things and benefits hemp has to offer, besides just CBD oil,” Cooper said.
But Cooper doesn’t just sell hemp products in his stores: he grows, harvests, processes and markets it all himself.
“I don’t know of any of the other stores around that are actually making and selling their own products. From my understanding, they’re all outsourcing. We grow, we process and we brick-and-mortar our own hemp,” Cooper said. “We have several hundred acres registered this year. We plan on producing a half a million (hemp) clones.”
Cooper has also been wholesaling hemp to buyers in other states, such as Mississippi, Maryland and Michigan, and even to other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Nigeria.
While he certainly enjoys the business side of it, Cooper is also adamant about educating the public about growing hemp, its history and its variety of uses, from industrial to medicinal.
Sitting on a couch Friday inside his newly opened store, Cooper couldn’t help but smile as he reminisced about the expansion of his business.
“Things have really moved in the last year, things I thought would take two years happened in six months,” he said. “It feels good. I’m dreaming. This is my dream.”
This time last year, Cooper was still growing hemp on the side while working as a construction contractor. It was on April 20, “4/20” of all days, that Cooper said he finished up at the job site, gathered his tools for the last time and went home to start his enterprise.
“I walked out to my field and said, ‘God, this is in your hands.’ I’ve been on a magic carpet ride ever since,” he said.
It’s important to note that, while hemp is classified in the same family (Cannabis) as marijuana, it’s a completely different plant containing very low concentrations of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound known as THC, which induces psychoactive effects or the “high.”
Under current law, hemp products have to contain less than 0.3 percent concentration of THC. However, it’s the CBD, or cannabidiol, contained in hemp that has become popular for a number of purported uses. While hemp is no longer classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, the FDA is still grappling with ways to regulate hemp CBD as a dietary ingredient.
East Tennessee Hemp Company is open daily except Monday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the winter and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer.
Next, Cooper said he’s looking at the possibility of opening a third location in Kingsport.