Damien Johnson, co-owner of The Hemp Professors (3714 N. 92nd St.) had long appreciated the medicinal benefits of the hemp plant. He was an athlete throughout school and had used tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to relieve pain and calm his anxiety, noting that cannabis had worked better than any medication he had ever tried. Then, he discovered cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive derivative of the cannabis plant known for its ability to relieve pain, calm anxiety and help children suffering from seizures.
“With CBD, I found out you can get those same medicinal benefits without that psychoactive high,” he says. “It allowed me to be more functional, productive and focused, and it helped with pain.” Damien is also aware of the stigma behind marijuana and how some people associate it with recreational use but don’t appreciate its medicinal value. He began researching CBD and tried multiple CBD products.
Damien decided to put CBD’s pain-relieving abilities to the true test on two former football players—his brother, Dee, and Dee’s friend from college, Darrell Reid, who played in the National Football League and is a Super Bowl XLI Champion with the Indianapolis Colts. Dee also played high school and college football. “They were the guinea pigs; they have real ailments and injuries, and clean bodies, so they were good to experiment with,” Damien says. “They tried CBD and have been using it ever since. It’s helped them in numerous ways.”
Damien had initiated discussions about opening a CBD retail store, and The Hemp Professors opened Feb. 2, 2019. Owned by Reid, the Johnson brothers, their sister Zeeland Walsh and friends Gilbert Green II and Jerrett Werner-Powell, The Hemp Professor carries a broad array of products including CBD tinctures, capsules, vapes, pre-rolls, gummies, syrup, topical creams, health and beauty items and pet products. Brands include Charlotte’s Web, Wild Hemp, Select and Hemp Lucid.
“Damien is The Hemp Professor,” Darrell emphasizes. “The store has that name because of his knowledge and background of the benefits of CBD, and how different products affect the body.” The group concurs that The Hemp Professors is more than just a CBD retail store, it is also a comprehensive wellness center where customers can come in and thoroughly learn about CBD before making any decisions or purchases.
Despite launching a business in a newer industry that has no blueprint, The Hemp Professors team has crafted a clear vision of being a resource for the community by hosting educational seminars led by hemp industry experts and partnering with other wellness practitioners. In addition to the retail space, The Hemp Professors has an adjoining lounge where they hold events. They recently partnered with MKE Yoga Social to host a yoga class. They plan to host patient support groups for people using CBD for various health ailments.
“We’re always collaborating with non-competing businesses that can provide services that our customer base can benefit from, and vice versa,” Darrell says. The Johnsons’ brother-in-law is a retired police lieutenant and teaches concealed carry classes. They plan to partner with a massage therapist for a class, and they recently held a Halloween Social. There’s also a customer rewards program.
When Wisconsin eventually does further legalize cannabis—and Damien believes it’s inevitable, especially when financial gains are seen in neighboring states will full legalization such as Michigan and now Illinois—he’s positive the CBD market will remain strong, since it can provide relief without the psychoactive high of THC.