Recently, I was walking to the L train on Wilson Ave in Bushwick when I practically injured myself doing a double take: I had just spotted a chalkboard sign advertising CBD and hemp products. The sign led me into Hemp Lab NYC, New York City’s first brick and mortar shop selling primarily CBD products, and perhaps the only spot in Brooklyn where you can buy hemp buds. Being somewhat ignorant about New York State laws regarding hemp products, I was surprised to see everything from beauty products to dog treats to hemp flowers. Fascinated and confused, I had to reach out to the minds behind the operation and learn more.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Hemp Lab NYC’s founders, Stephanie Diaz and Manos Lupassakis, who were super knowledgeable about the industry and the benefits of these products. Both native New Yorkers, they met in high school and have been working together in the hemp industry since. Stephanie explained, “We’ve been on this journey together for a while. After high school, Manos and I moved to Washington state and worked at dispensary. Eventually, we made our own grows.”
Though they originally left New York, the goal was always to return and bring back what they learned. “I always wanted to bring it back but the question was how. There are routes that you can take that aren’t legal, but I didn’t want to do that. I like to pay my taxes,” she joked.
While it may have been a long time coming, Hemp Lab NYC came together as a bit of an afterthought. “I found the space before we came up with the idea. I wanted to get back into the cannabis industry, I found this place, and it kind of clicked,” Stephanie said. After endless research and communication with the Department of Agriculture, the business was born.
The space has been open for under two months and so far reception has been warm. Manos explained, “Everyone is pretty welcoming. [The attitude toward] weed in the U.S. is changing, and especially when they learn its benefits, they’re open armed about it.”
So how is this legal? It’s all a matter of THC levels. While hemp comes from the same plant as other forms of cannabis, the hemp flowers and CBD products sold at Hemp Lab NYC contain less than 3% THC, which is the legal limit in New York State. Manos explained, “It’s the same plant. Hemp has been bred to have THC under 3% and was traditionally bred to be an industrial fiber. You’re not going to get the psychoactive head high that you get from THC.” The differences lie in the way the flower is grown, Stephanie elaborated: “Cannabis was bred to have a lot of THC. It wasn’t always like that. Before, it was like the hemp that we have. It was grown for the CBD and CBD resin that it produced.”
Hemp Lab carries a wide variety of product, including topical creams and oils, CBD energy drinks, edibles, bath bombs, and more. According to Stephanie: “The star of the show is the hemp flower. It’s hard to get quality hemp flower no matter where you are in the world, it’s a niche crop. What makes ours special is that it’s organic and it’s flush. We have a clean plant product.” I was able to sample their “Berry Exotic” hemp bud and I was sold: I experienced the physical benefits of CBD and none of the psychoactive side effects of high amounts of THC. “Our CBD products have anti-inflammatory benefits, anti-cancer benefits, anti-pain, anti-anxiety…” Stephanie listed. Hemp Lab NYC already has a large base of customers seeking health benefits specifically. Manos said, “I would say 50% of people are coming here for some type of health benefit.”
According to Manos, topicals are also in high demand for those who experience pain and inflammation. He explains from his experience, “When you’re taking cannabinoids topically, the benefit is anti-inflammatory. It’s being applied to a direct spot and getting absorbed through the skin, so topicals are a great way to get at that one spot that’s hurting.” Stephanie emphasized that while it may relieve pain, it’s not an actual treatment. “It’s not going to totally heal it, but it gets your body closer to where it has to be to start healing.”
It’s clear that Hemp Lab makes their clientele a priority, and though the business is young, their community is growing. The space itself is welcoming, with indoor seating and a large back patio which is the perfect place for gatherings. They’ve already thrown great events like open mics and vintage markets complete with dab bars, product sampling, and CBD cocktails. There will be many more events to come including musical performances, drag shows, and spoken word. Upcoming events are posted on their Instagram along with product info.
Stephanie and Manos both offer a wealth of knowledge about this industry, and I encourage you to stop by for an event or just out of curiosity. Whether you’re looking for information, CBD products, or just an awesome community, you’ll walk away with something interesting.
All photos by Adele Dever.