1995: “We’re trying to de-demonize cannabis in general, and certainly hemp in particular”

We hit the national media jackpot this year: Details, Rolling Stone, the Sunday New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and High Times magazine. How do you Normalize Hemp in an era of stigma? Like this.
Richard Rose

Eyewitness, Details magazine, April 1995, by Sarah Ferguson.
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For all the new start-ups, there are also seasoned entrepreneurs venturing into hemp. Richard Rose is one of the founders of Sharon’s Finest, a natural-foods company that makes TofuRella and VeganRella, popular soy- and nut-based cheese alternatives. With a reported $4 million in sales, the firm made Inc. magazine’s list of the five hundred fastest-growing firms in 1993. Rose hopes to use his company’s clout to gain acceptance for hemp-based foods. 

“We were pioneers in soy food in the ‘80s,” says Rose, a bouncy thirty-eight-year-old Californian with bushy blond hair. “Now we’re trying to do the same thing with hemp. We found out that hemp seeds are in many ways a better source of protein than soy, and they don’t make you fart all day.”

Made from sterilized hempseed to satisfy the DEA, his trademark HempRella cheese comes in a Jamaica Jack flavor and has a curiously meaty taste. It’s marketed with the phrase “Barely Legal” and has a cannabis leaf on every package. But so far the nation’s largest natural-foods distributor and retailer have refused to carry it for fear of appearing pro-dope. That doesn’t daunt Rose, who can remember when most Americans thought tofu was a martial art. His company has also developed the Hempeh Burger and plans to introduce a hemp-based beverage and ice cream.

“We’re trying to de- demonize cannabis in general, and certainly hemp in particular. No one’s ever gonna say that if you eat our cheese you’ll be out buying heroin tomorrow.”

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