Denise Lynch outside her new business, D. Hemp Shop on Market Street in Cootehill.

From hair to hemp

By Gemma Good

A former hairdresser, who used cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve her arthritis pain, was inspired to open a shop selling hemp products.

Denise Lynch opened D. Hemp shop in Cootehill around two months ago.

Her journey started when she was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) and psoriatic arthritis around five years ago. It affects her spine, hips and larger joints.

Denise took medication for the condition but says it “wasn’t even helping the pain” and causing other side effects, requiring further medication. As a hairdresser, she found standing on her feet all day a struggle.

“It was just a vicious circle,” she said. “It made life really hard.”

Denise decided to look for an alternative solution.

“I had heard about CBD products,” she recalled.

She headed off to Kama Hemp, a hemp farm in Clones, and spoke to the owners Marcus and Kate. She got a hemp powder and hasn’t looked back since, going off all other medication.

“I take my CBD every day and I just think it’s fantastic,” she beamed. “If I stopped taking it, the pain would flare back up again.”

Denise previously rated her pain an eight out of 10 but says it is now down to a two.

With the uncertainty in the hairdressing industry during the pandemic, Denise got “fed up” sitting at home and wondered if there was a market for an outlet selling hemp products.

“I just said, ‘Do you know what? I’m going to do something different!’ So here I am.”

She ran her hairdressing business ‘D. Salon’ from her home in Corfad in Cootehill, which is where the name D. (for Denise) Hemp Shop originated.

The business woman said the shop has been doing well since opening.

“Sales have been really good, it beats cutting hair,” she remarked.

The shop sells CBD and hemp products, which claim to provide pain relief, relieve stress and anxiety, aid sleep and build up the immune system, among other benefits.

Products include tea, coffee, chocolate, gin, lollipops, vape juices, protein and much more.

CBD is extracted from the hemp plant. The plant is cut off at a certain point before it starts budding and flowering. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive element of hemp, which does not get the opportunity to develop. Cannabis is derived from the hemp plant when it is fully matured, harvested and dried.

“You can’t get high from it, it’s not matured enough,” explained Denise.

The main product Denise sells is CBD oil, which comes in doses from three to 25% potency.

“Obviously 25% would be extremely strong,” she said, explaining those receiving Chemotherapy may opt for this.

The lower dosage is usually sold to those who suffer from stress or anxiety.

The entrepreneur has noticed “a serious amount” of people presenting with stress and anxiety after the pandemic.

D. Hemp Shop also provides a skincare range, which aids skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Denise said several of her customers are parents who “have done research” into CBD and believe it can help their children who have ADHD, autism or epilepsy. She supplies CBD jelly sweets, although she cannot recommend them to people under 18 years.

“There’s new stuff all the time,” she enthused.

Denise’s shop has been accepted well in the Cootehill community, and she revealed she was “shocked” at the amount of people who avail of the products in the locality.

“‘It’s surprising, when I went into business and decided to open up, the amount of people I started realising were actually taking it already.”

She acknowledges that starting the business was a “big risk” because she wasn’t sure if there would be a market for the products. She reported 90% of the community have been “fantastic,” coming in, making enquiries and sampling the products. However she said “you’ll always get that 10%” who don’t understand and associate it with marijuana.

“It’s not marijuana, they need to understand that it’s completely different,” said Denise.

To those who are worried about the after effects of taking CBD, Denise has the following advice: “If you had arthritis and your doctor told you, you needed to take anti-inflammatories for the rest of your life, would you doubt that?

“You can’t overdose on CBD but people have died from taking pain killers,” she argued.

“CBD is there to help you, it’s not there to affect any other part of your body,” Denise assured.

She explained the hemp industry was “massive” hundreds of years ago until it was banned due to the introduction of marijuana. She said it is “only starting to get up and running” in Ireland, having been introduced in 2016.

Since opening, Denise finds one to two farmers come in weekly enquiring about hemp growing. Ireland has the ideal climate for hemp growth with the “best of both worlds” when it comes to sunshine and rain. Despite the demand, Denise claims the government will not support hemp farmers, which she regards as “a crying shame”.

“People don’t realise what they can do with the hemp plant,” she said, explaining that building materials can be made from hemp fibre.

Denise gave an example of one of her producers from Clones who has made his entire house from hemp.

“His whole house,” she stressed.

She further outlined the wide variety of uses for the hemp plant.

One acre of the hemp plant can produce the same amount of paper as four acres of trees. It takes only four months for a hemp plant to grow, as opposed to 20-80 years for a tree to grow.

“You can produce it so much more quickly,” she said.

It is environmentally friendly to produce and no chemicals or pesticides are required.

She said hemp is cheap to purchase and, with government support, it could be even cheaper again. She called for grant aid to be given to farmers to grow hemp.

“If they [the government]genuinely want to help the environment, the wildlife and the people, they really should be moving forward with it.”

Banking challenge

Since opening, Denise claims she has been unable to open a business account or have a card machine installed, meaning she can only accept cash.

“Every bank in Ireland won’t give you a business account because you sell CBD products or hemp products,” she claimed.

An AIB customer all her life, Denise says the bank would not allow her to open a business account; other banks have also refused.

“Actually the words the lady said to me on the phone was, ‘No we don’t recognise that’.”

Denise felt annoyed at the refusal.

“It has made life very very difficult,” she said.

The business woman pointed out that pharmacies sell synthetic CBD products yet are not prevented from having business accounts or card facilities.

“It doesn’t make sense,” she complained, saying hemp farmers are in the same predicament.

The Anglo-Celt contacted AIB to ask them about the issue.

A spokesperson said: “While we cannot comment on individual customer cases, we are keen to support businesses looking to start up.

“However the bank does not currently provide banking services to businesses operating in the hemp industry. All requests for banking services are considered on a case by case basis.”

Denise is calling for the situation to be re-assessed.

“I’m not selling something illegal and yet I’m made to feel like I’m doing something wrong.”

Denise has been forced to use her personal current account for her business and praised her customers for their willingness to go to the ATM and take out cash.

She feels “very frustrated” asking people to do this during a pandemic, when people are being urged to use contactless payment where possible.

Denise thanked everybody who has supported D. Hemp Shop to date and looks forward to welcoming new faces in the future.