By Douglas Karlson
In his earlier career as a head chef, Alan Batson built a reputation for fixing restaurants that had problems in the kitchen. He’s now proprietor of Great White Gallery and Smoke Shop in Hyannis, where he appears to have found the right recipe for succeeding as a cannabis pioneer.
Great White opened in September 2018, selling artwork as well as hand-blown glass pipes and bongs.
“Some of my best customers are the Woodstock crowd,” says Batson, referring to aging baby boomers who attended the famous music festival. He says they favor the artisan hand-blown pipes.
According to Batson, he originally wanted to get into the cannabis business, but decided instead to avoid the hurdles of that industry by selling related glass accessories, such as CBD oil, art and books.
Frustrated with the CBD oil available on the market, last March Batson launched a line of premium CBD oil products called Zane’s Organics, and he has plans to distribute it throughout New England.
The idea for Zane’s Organics came after Batson saw test results that showed many of the national CBD brands he was selling didn’t contain the amount of CBD as advertised on the label.
“I went ballistic,” recalls Batson.
He decided to formulate his own CBD oil, and Zane’s Organics was born. It’s named after his 16-year-old son, who is disabled, and who he says is responding well to CBD oil.
Batson partnered with Erik Hunter, a pioneer in the CBD oil industry and founder of the Cape Cod Industrial Hemp Initiative. They decided to form their own company. Still in its infancy until they can increase production, Zane’s Organics offers oils, salve and pet drops.
“It spawned off this place,” says Batson.
Batson is a big advocate of hemp, from which CBD oil is extracted. He describes it as a miracle plant with remarkable properties, and notes that even Henry Ford made a car out of hemp.
“If you didn’t grow hemp in the 1700s you were arrested,” says Batson.
But hemp was lumped in with marijuana and banned in 1938.
Batson is himself a user of CBD oil, and says it has helped his arthritis, and allowed him to eliminate many of his prescription medications – and their side effects.
“I’m pretty much pill free. I feel like a human being again,” he says, adding that his customers like it too. He notes they range from Navy SEALS to seniors in their 90s, who are often at their wit’s end when the doctor wants to give them a new prescription. “Customers say it changed their lives.”
Zane’s Organics has a license to grow hemp, and manufacture CBD oil and salve. Currently, Zane’s purchases the hemp from local farmers, both on and off-Cape. Batson describes Zane’s as a premium craft CBD oil, some of which is cranberry flavored. It’s currently available at White Shark and five other locations.
But Batson is holding back on promotion and expanding distribution until they have increased production.
To do that, Zane’s is in the process of finding a new space to serve as its manufacturing facility, preferably in Barnstable, though Batson is open to other options. He hopes to secure a facility next month. “We’d like to have the blessing of the town,” he says.
As a long-time veteran of the hospitality industry, including as head chef at India House on Nantucket, which was named best fine dining on the island, Batson well understands the negative aspects of a seasonal economy. He’d like the cannabis and CBD industries to grow and offer good year-round employment, to stimulate the rest of the economy, and make the Cape more of a year round destination.
Of hemp, he says, “It’s the fastest growing industry in the US.”
But last summer, the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources issued regulations banning the sale of certain hemp products and CBD oil. Despite the regulations, local health boards aren’t enforcing the ban, says Batson. In response to the crackdown, Batson co-founded the Massachusetts Hemp Coalition.
The coalition is promoting a bill in the State Legislature, H. 4001, which would eliminate the ban and require that CBD oil sold in Massachusetts be made from hemp grown in Massachusetts. According to Batson, the bill has strong support, including from State Sen. Julian Cyr and State Rep. Sarah Peake, who co-sponsored it.
If passed, he says the law will greatly benefit local suppliers and protect small start-ups that can’t compete against large national manufacturers. That will help the local economy, he says.
“Pretty much all the politicians are behind it for the jobs. We have overwhelming support,” says Batson, who wants CBD oil to be more strictly regulated and its distribution limited to stores like his.
Once the legislation passes, and a new manufacturing facility is established, he says the sky’s the limit.
“My goal is to be very well known in Massachusetts,” says Batson, who hopes to capture one percent of the national market. “If I can do that I’ll be a happy camper!” He adds that he wants his CBD oil to be available at Zane’s Organics retail outlets, as well as at other stores and online.
“We’re looking to be the fastest growing company on Cape Cod. We’re passionate about what we’re doing. You’ll see one of the premier businesses in the New England area a year from now,” he vows.
If all goes well, Batson says he hopes to set up a charitable foundation to support special needs programs in area schools and to help disabled veterans. “My dream in life would be to make enough money to set up a special needs resort for special needs people to come and get away from all their troubles.”
But his experience as a chef has taught him not to overpromise until he can deliver. “We’re a tiger that’s chained up. That’s how busy we could be if we wanted to be.”