The Man Behind All This Buzz

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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Senator McConnell, KY Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles. Tour of a processor and a research farm. Courtesy of KY Dept. of Ag.

In 2019, hemp-based products—and specifically anything related to cannabidiol (CBD)—dominated the news headlines, took over the Expo halls and was the hot topic at conferences. Legacy brands joined CBD pioneers in selling quality hemp-based products…and CBD also found its way into a dizzying array of goods (CBD-infused leggings? Yes, that’s a thing, and so are CBD-infused bed sheets, toilet paper and toothpicks—thanks to the writers at www.greenentrepreneur.com for cluing me in to “The 12 Weirdest CBD Products”).

People are being helped. A recent Gallup poll revealed that one in seven Americans say they personally use CBD or CBD-based products, according to a Gallup poll, with 40% turning to CBD for pain, 20% for anxiety and 11% for sleep/insomnia. And a lot of money is being made—according to a report from The Nielsen Company titled “Brace for Impact: U.S. CPG Cannabis sales to Rise by the Billions,” the market could grow from $8 billion in 2018 to over $40 billion by 2025.

It’s not all good news, of course—many experts on the pages of WholeFoods have commented on the “wild wild west” state of the CBD market in 2019, with bad actors threatening the positive momentum.

Related: NPA Poll: 51% of Americans Don’t Know CBD is Illegal

Given all that (the good, the bad, and the odd) it’s no wonder most of us in the industry have spent a great deal of time and energy in 2019 thinking about CBD—and in part, that’s due to the actions of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who planted the seeds of CBD’s growth in the U.S. market by introducing The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances. Senator McConnell likely did not have CBD toilet paper in mind when he did this, but here we are.

For these reasons and more (read the full story), we’ve selected Senator McConnell as our 2019 Person of the Year. The WholeFoods team didn’t come to agree on this selection without a bit of debate. We considered the fact that Senator McConnell certainly has his detractors—as a politician, he’s polarizing. And we carefully considered other nominations put forth by WholeFoods readers—there are many people who have supported the industry in 2019 and would be far less controversial than any politician could ever be. And while I could fill this page with the names of industry giants who are worthy of awards, the distinction of WholeFoods Magazine Person of the Year isn’t an award. It’s a recognition of the person (or group of people) who—for better or for worse or a mix of both—made the most substantial impact on this industry over the past year. And that, we feel, is Senator McConnell.

Related: CRN Commends Mitch McConnell For CBD-Related Additions to Ag Appropriations Bill

Read the feature for more of the reasons Senator McConnell is our Person of the Year—and read what industry leaders have to say about the selection. And I’d love to hear from you, too: How do you feel about our pick? Email me at editor@wfcinc.com to keep the conversation going.

Maggie Jaqua
Editor-in-Chief

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