Skip to main content

Author: Rachel Nelson

Texas hemp news

Owner of Gulf Coast Hemp Farms Works to Redeem Family Legacy

By Rachel Nelson

Frank Rodriguez and his family have paid the ultimate price for farming marijuana. Collectively, Rodriguez said his father, his brothers and himself have spent decades in federal prison for their crimes. But today, Rodriguez is redeeming his family legacy through his legal business, Gulf Coast Hemp Farms in Harlingen, Texas. 

“I spent 10 years in federal prison for doing what I’m doing now,” he said. “This is very, very important to me. … It means the world to me. I’m very passionate about what I do. I love my job. I love the scientific part of the plant. I love to research the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavanoids.”

When it comes to his farm, Rodriguez said there’s no place on Earth he’d rather be. 

“I live here on my farm. I don’t really leave too much from my farm. I’m here 20 hours a day, every day. I really don’t sleep. I’m just kind of vibing with my plants.”

Flourishing fields

When he launched his current business, Rodriguez said he tested seven different seed strains from Halcyon Seed Company in Colorado to see which would work best in the South Texas drought-prone climate. 

“Out of my seven strains, four did well,” he said. 

According to Rodriguez, planting 2,500 plants per acre is a widespread best practice in hemp farming. However, he said he came up with a way to plant 9,000-10,000 plants on a one-acre plot of land. 

“Everyone was telling me I was crazy and wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said. “I have a beautiful field right now. I don’t have patches or dead plants. My field is complete.”

While there are concerns about the lack of essential air flow in overcrowded fields — which can lead to root rot — Rodriguez engineered a way to make it work. In late September, he began harvesting 85,000 plants from his 10-acre farm. 

He also nurtures his plants with plenty of TLC, even playing music for them.

“Whatever I’m vibing to, whatever I’m feeling, I just play something that makes me feel good,” Rodriguez said. “I figured plants are alive, so they work off the vibration. So, you just put some good vibration for them, and they’ll be fine.”

Rodriguez said the yields from his hemp farming operation in Harlingen are used to create CBD-infused oils, and he works with a business partner in Oklahoma to grow cannabis.

“I have 10 greenhouses and a 6,000 square-foot warehouse, and I grow all my high-quality flower up there,” he said. 

Plants over pills

Rodriguez said his nephew’s journey with post-traumatic stress disorder ignited a passion for exploring hemp’s medicinal benefits. He said his nephew served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is haunted by horrific wartime experiences.

“He spazes out a lot, and the medicine I make really calms him down and makes him a totally different person. The VA prescribed him so many different pills, and he was a zombie.”

Lately, Rodriguez said he has been working with a few doctors and cancer specialists to develop products for patients.

“The sky is the limit as we’re discovering what all the different cannabinoids do. I just want to keep pushing and keep discovering and see how I can make existing medicine better or create a new medicine from my plants.”

When he was shopping around for land to start his business, Rodriguez said he experienced a special synchronicity when he learned that a prospective piece of property was owned by Dr. Nadeel Sarhill, a medical oncologist. The pair worked out a lease-to-own agreement in a seemingly meant-to-be transaction.

“This is God’s plan. I can not see it any other way,” he said. “I’m growing a CBG strain, and it’s doing very well. It’s known to help with brain cell reproduction and chronic pain.”

Rodriguez noted that there are many cannabinoids inside the hemp plant, but only a few have been researched.

“I just want to push forward and continue to grow and to help move our industry to a better spot,” Rodriguez said. 

An evolving legacy

For Rodriguez, his passion for farming hemp and cannabis stretch much further than providing a quality product to customers. 

“My mom’s really sick. She had a heart attack last year. She’s felt her whole life was a failure because my dad, brothers and I did so much time in prison, but she didn’t fail. She didn’t do anything wrong. It was us; it was the laws.”

Looking back, Rodriguez said he tries to put himself in his mother’s shoes. 

“I could just imagine what my mom went through as a mother,” he said. “Imagine always having to defend your kids, your husband, your whole family. Eveyrone’s talking down. Just imagine what it was like for a single parent. I just couldn’t even imagine being in her shoes and what she went through, and I just want to bust ass and make things better for her. 

All photos courtesy Gulf Coast Hemp Farms

“I want to make her proud. I want to make her feel like what she went through wasn’t for nothing. To make the remainder of her years as joyful as possible — that’s all I care about.”

Mr. Nice Guys: Not Your Average Smoke Shop

If you’re looking for an eclectic mix of local glass, CBD products, delta strains and more, check out Mr. Nice Guys in north Austin.

Located at 13201 Pond Springs Road, Suite 105-A, Mr. Nice Guys is far from your run-of-the-mill smoke shop, according to owner Kelly Gartzke.

”We have an amazing selection of local glass as well as work from artists around the country,” he said. “We try to be the shop that carries something for everybody, and we always have a friendly, knowledgeable person working.”

The shop takes its name from the 1998 movie Half Baked — the popular marijuana culture comedy. Through the years, it has grown a loyal customer base.

“When new customers come in, we hear them say, ‘I found my new smoke shop’ all the time,” Gartzke said. 

Gartzke first opened the shop in south Austin with his business partner, Jeff Turner, in 2006, but it wasn’t their first business venture. They also own Chief’s BBQ on South 1st Street. Four years ago, Mr. Nice Guys moved into its north Austin location — close to The Local Outpost Saloon and Shenanigans Nightclub. In addition to its broad selection of products, the shop strives to provide top-notch customer service. 

“We want every customer to leave with a smile,” Gartzke said. “We take really good care of our customers. One of the things we do that most shops don’t is that if you come in and ask for an item we’re out of or we don’t carry, we put you on a list and call you as soon as the item comes in.”

Gartske calls the store a “one-stop-shop” for CBD, vapes, glass and more. In addition to hand-blown smoking accessories, Mr. Nice Guys carries glass jewelry, marbles and millefiori (decorative glass pieces with distinct, intricate patterns). It also carries CBD treats for dogs and humans, as well as a unique collection of apparel and backpacks. They are also planning for an 1,800-square-foot expansion. Be sure to follow them on Instagram (@mr_nice_guys_austin) for emerging details

Gartzke said business is good and that the shop’s sales have doubled since the pandemic struck in 2020. “We’re headed for another record year this year,” he added. 

Navarro County and the Case of the Missing Hemp: Sky & Hobbs

For nearly a year, Hunter Robinson had felony drug charges looming over him after he says he grew hemp legally in Navarro County.

“It’s been quite rough on my family, myself, everything. You name it — it’s impacted me. It’s been terrible,” he said.

Robinson, a 27-year-old disabled U.S. Navy veteran who said he greatly benefitted from using CBD products, received a hemp producer license from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) in 2021. He and his business partner, 28-year-old Skyler Purcell, said compliance was at the top of their priority list when they launched Sky & Hobbs Organics, LLC with the intention of producing CBD flower and oil.

“We spent hours upon hours going through every single genetic variety that was on the TDA’s approved variety list,” Robinson said. 

Rather than selecting the coolest-looking varieties or strands with the catchiest names, the pair said they picked the lowest testing varieties they could get their hands on. Each time the TDA tested samples of Sky & Hobbs’ products, they passed all criteria.

“All of our product had already been tested previously and deemed by the state of Texas and Texas Department of Agriculture as approved, compliant hemp.” Purcell said. Purcell, who was a 50% co-owner of the business, was never charged with a crime.

“They were trying to produce the best legal quality product they could find, and they took extraordinary steps to do that,” defense attorney David Sergi said. 

Robinson and Purcell said they were stunned when their indoor growing facility was raided on June 10, 2021, by the Navarro County Sherriff’s Department, which had a search warrant signed by Navarro County District Judge James E. Lagomarsino. When nobody answered the door, officers used forced entry and seized three product varieties. 

Robinson and Purcell said they provided the officers on scene with documentation that proved they were operating a legal business, but that didn’t stop them. For more than two months, the property remained an active crime scene that Robinson and Purcell were not allowed to access. 

Law enforcement officers returned to Sky & Hobbs Organics on Aug. 25 with an arrest warrant for Robinson — also signed by Judge Lagomarsino — that alleged he knowingly and intentionally possessed “a usable quantity of marijuana against the peace and dignity of the state.” According to the sheriff’s office, two of the company’s samples contained 0.378% and 0.468% of delta-9 THC by dry weight, which is over the legal limit of .3%.

Robinson was arrested and charged with felony posession of marijuana. He spent 30 hours in jail before bonding out. 

The Texas Hemp Program was launched after the U.S. Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of cannabis in 2018. According to the law, if the THC level falls above 0.3% but below 1%, the crop must be destroyed. If a product tests for higher than 1% THC levels, the grower can be cited with negligence by the TDA. If the TDA determines that a grower deliberately produced a crop with 1% of THC or higher, they can face criminal charges. This provision allows for natural variations in THC levels, Sergi said. 

“From our point of view, the product was within legal limits and all the testing showed that it was under .03% Delta-9 THC, and at worst there is a reason why there is a negligence factor built into the code, and this is exactly where this falls in,” Sergi said. 

The legal battle ahead

In May, the state dismissed the case against Robinson, stating there was not enough evidence to prove he was in possession of marijuana. 

“I’m on cloud 9. I’m celebrating every day,” Robinson said. “I’m at work, and I’m celebrating. I’m outside last night, it’s getting reaedy to pour down, the wind is coming through … a storm is coming through, and I’m outside with a cigar and a glass of whiskey just celebrating. I mean, it’s been a year. We’ve been dealing with this for so long.”

Currently, Purcell and Robinson are asking for the public’s help to raise funds for their ongoing legal costs. Those who want to contribute can visit and click on the “Donate” button on the home page. 

According to Jay Maguire, executive director of the Texas Hemp Federation, everything the organization raises will support this cause until their goal is met. 

“We just want everyone involved in this industry to understand what’s taking place is possible, and if they see this as a problem, hopefully they would feel how we’re feeling and contribute,” Robinson said. 

People can also help by sharing the story to raise awareness about the fact that — while hemp farming is legal in Texas with the proper licensure — there is an apparent disconnect when it comes to educating jurisdictions about hemp farming laws. 

“The Sky and Hobbs case also points to a deficiency in Texas regulations about how to even out, or remediate a crop, which can vary in THC levels from plant to plant,” Maguire said. “It’s a bit like blending different varietals of wine.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, remediation can be achieved by separating and destroying non-compliant flowers while retaining stalks, leaves, and seeds, or by shredding the entire hemp plant to create a homogenous biomass that can be retested for THC compliance. So, even if one batch is a bit over the limit, by mixing it in with lower-THC, compliant biomass, the resulting batch would fall at or below the legal limit. 

“My understanding is police here simply took samples from plants that weren’t even in the stream of commerce yet, and which could have been remediated or destroyed according to the current regulations,” Maguire said.

Also questionable, Purcell said, is the fact that the Navarro County Sherriff’s Office never filed an administrative report about the incident with the TDA as protocol states.

“Before there’s any accountability you have to go through the steps,” Sergi said. 

Shattered dreams

As childhood friends, Robinson and Purcell dreamed of one day starting a business venture together. 

“We wanted to do the right business at the right time and take advantage of a situation,” Robinson said. “We realized that cannabis was coming sooner rather than later and that hemp was the starting point.”

Robinson and Purcell invested $75,000-$100,000 into Sky & Hobbs Organics and continued working full-time jobs while pouring a majority of their spare time into the business.

“We wanted to be able to say we were producing the cleanest, the best legal product that Texas had to offer. Every dollar we got went back into our business. In our five-year plan, me and Sky weren’t going to be taking any money for a long time,” Robinson said.

Now, rather than building a lucrative revenue stream, Robinson and Purcell are scrambling to get back on track financially. 

“We had to close our business, our business account, our website,” Robinson said. “We’ve relaunched our website and we’re actually going to start doing stickers and see if people are willing to do a $5 donation for a sticker.”

Throughout the process, Robinson said he feared what a felony conviction would interfere with his job as a mechanical engineer. He also relocated to be closer to his wife’s family so she and their children will have support in case anything happened to him. In addition, both men say they are devastated about what’s been lost. 

“We put everything into this — life savings. I’ll never get that time back. We were doing it with something in mind. We wanted to build something for our families, and it’s a shame that there are no protections for us. I have contacted the TDA. There’s no one to help us.”

Robinson and Purcell both say they were robbed of a chance a pursuing the American dream.

“And not only that, I got taken to jail for following the American dream,” Robinson said. “I loved doing what we were doing, but the only way I would ever participate in this industry again is if I knew that the state or the feds would protect the people participating in this legally.”

Ripple Fest coming soon….

California-based record label Ripple Music is known for promoting retro 70’s heavy rock, stoner, heavy psych, sludge and doom bands. Texas got a full dose of it’s glory hosting one of their famous worldwide marquee events – Ripplefest – in 2021 and is returning to Austin this July for a four-day string of heavy riffs at Far Out Lounge. THR met with Ryan Garney of Lick of My Spoon Productions – the show’s promoter and organizer, as well as frontman of Texas Desert Rock band High Desert Queen to get the scoop on this year’s festival.

Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us, especially on the heels of your own European tour which sums up right before Ripplefest. Tell us about the origin of this festival on Texas soil and your involvement with it.

First of all thank you so much for having me.  RippleFest Texas was spawned when my band High Desert Queen was signed to Ripple Music in early 2020.  I talked to Todd Severin (CEO of Ripple) about the possibility of doing a show with all Ripple bands to showcase the bands he had signed from Texas.  He gave me the full endorsement to do so, and also mentioned that every “RippleFest” that had every happened across the globe was always put together by the bands themselves.  So I got to work and it quickly grew from a show with a few bands, to a show with 15 great Ripple bands in just the first year (July 2021).  This year we decided to go all in, and are bringing bands across all kinds of labels from all over the world.  One of the things I love about Todd and all the people at Ripple, is that they are all about the scene and don’t care about only having bands from their label.  This festival is 100% all about the love of music and people getting together.  We know it’s not about making money which is why our 4 day passes are the cheapest you’ll find for a music festival of this size.  It’s all about getting the people together to enjoy these incredible bands, and growing our “musical family.”

This year brings 4 days of music to the stages of Far Out Lounge. What all can concert goers expect and how did you go about choosing the lineup?

I”m EXTREMELY proud of the lineup we’ve put together.  I brought my brother Shay on board this year to help me organize it and we’ve hand selected each band that’s playing.  Many of these bands are some of our favorites and that we’ve never seen in the same lineup before.  We go to music festivals all the time and we sat down and made lists of all the things we love about festivals and what don’t we love.  One of our biggest complaints about large festivals is having to make a decision which bands you’re going to see and which ones you’re going to miss because their sets overlap or they are at a different venue.  We made sure to find a venue that could be large enough to host all the bands and allow us to have absolutely zero band overlapping so that people who buy a ticket, will actually have an opportunity to see every minute of every band.  Then we came up with a list of all the bands we would love to see at a music festival, and be sure to include bands that people need to see and don’t get an opportunity to.  We didn’t get every band we wanted, but every band we got we are thrilled to have.  Then we wanted it to look a certain way so we’ve hired the best stage lighting company in the business in The Mad Alchemist Liquid Light Show.  Lance is an absolute artist and he will be lighting up the entire grounds to make it a unique visual experience as well.

We also wanted a festival that would have art, food, vendors, games and all the things we love about some of the music festivals we’ve gone to.  There will be plenty of all of that, and we actually still have room for more sponsors and vendors that we’d love to add to help enhance the experience of RippleFest.

How would you best describe the music that Ripple supports and the culture surrounding the genre? Are all of the bands on the bill signed to the label?

Ripple supports ALL music!  Now as far as the bands they sign, they typically sign Heavy Rock, Psych Rock and Metal.  We have all of all of that and more.  We’ve got everything from the Desert Rock sounds of Fatso Jetson, to the punishing metal of Crowbar and Spirit Adrift, to Stoner rock legends Eagles of Death Metal and The Sword, and even some banjo fingerpicking by JD Pinkus of Butthole Surfers and Melvins fame.  We also have some acoustic sets from Wino and Nick Oliveri.  There are jam sessions planned and even an improvised music and puppet show from desert legend Sean Wheeler and his super group of musicians called Dryheat.  So we plan on having all kinds of variety as well as one of kind performances that may never happen again.  RippleFest Texas has 55 artists performing and about half of them are on the Ripple Music label.  The rest are all family and there to share their love with us.

What is the background of Lick of My Spoon productions and what all does it do for the local music scene?

LOMS came about during the lockdown in 2020 when artists and musicians were really feeling the pain of not being able to share their creativity at a live show.  I became very proactive at organizing events even when the world was closed because I knew that the world would open again and people would need to see live music right away. I’ve never had any interest in making money with it and it’s all about the bands and the venues that I can help.  Being in a band myself I understand the struggles of getting your music heard and being compensated for your art, so we try and take care of the artist first and foremost.  The rest will hopefully take care of itself.

There will be no shortage of pre-parties for Ripplefest – where should we look out for those?

We have just started announcing some shows in surrounding cities like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio that are official RippleFest Texas sponsored events with artists that will be at the fest.  As it gets closer to the festival you can anticipate others to be announced, as well as some parties around the weekend of the festival.

Where can everyone follow updates and information on the festival?

The best way to stay updated is to follow RippleFest Texas on Instagram and Facebook.  Also will have information about the festival and showcases going on around the event.  Plus the venue The Far Out Lounge does an amazing job themselves of sending out information or answering any questions anyone has.  We really hope to see everyone there!  If we can make this a success we will hope to keep making it bigger and bigger every year!  Thanks again for having me and much love goes out to everyone who supports live music and the art these incredible musicians make.  Cheers!

Meet The Dread Head Chef

Michael Weinstein is tapping into hemp’s healing power by crafting savory CBD-infused concoctions

After spending more than a quarter-century as a chef in the Dallas area, Michael Weinstein is making a name for himself as an award-winning hemp chef. 

“When my dog got diagnosed with arthritis in both of his back legs, I infused (CBD) into some oil for my dog,” he said. “I started noticing a difference in him getting up and down and thought, ‘Maybe I could use my food knowledge in other ways.’”

His belief in the healing power of CBD was strengthened after his mother used a topical on her back. 

“The first time she put it on, the pain subsided on her back,” he said. “Stuff like that makes you go, ‘Hmmm … maybe there is something going on with this.’”

Weinstein said he attended several Cannabis Cup events, and when Texas legalized hemp in 2019, he decided to monetize his knowledge of hemp-infused cuisine. Currently, his product line includes a variety of dessert salsas and caramels, as well as an edible intimacy serum that he said helps to ease menstrual cramps. 

“I didn’t want to make gummies because they’re too trendy. I personally don’t even like gummies,” he said. 

Weinstein uses a commercial kitchen to create all of his products and gets them third-party tested. He said takes pride in the quality and cleanliness of his concoctions, as they do not contain preservatives, food coloring or high fructose corn syrup. 

“You can read the ingredients without using a dictionary,” he said. “High fructose corn syrup has led to the obesity of America because it’s a cheap sweetener. Why not use real sweeteners like sugar and honey?”

Currently, Weinstein is educating people at cooking classes, where he teaches attendees how to make specialty items — like CBD-infused deviled eggs.

“What I’m trying to teach people is if they want to go to the shows and buy flower, and they don’t want to smoke it, how can they infuse it and turn it into a food product? I try to keep it pretty simple and not over-complicated, as we chefs can get complicated with some of the recipes we make. I’m trying to gear (the classes) for the home cook.”

As far as upcoming products, Weinstein didn’t want to give too much away about what’s in the pipeline, but he offered a few hints. 

“It’s kind of like a cracker or vanilla wafer, and it’s savory as far as texture. But there’s also cheese involved,” he said. 

Keep checking for updates.


  • 1
  • 2