Business

Consistency in the Mainstream Cannabis Market
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by Ben Owens

This year’s Marijuana Business Conference was held in Las Vegas in mid-November, just four months after Nevada legalized the sale of cannabis. Among the more than 17,000 attendees estimated to have participated in the industry’s largest conference, Ebbu positioned itself for something much larger.

Founded by Jon Cooper in 2013, ebbu LLC has been investing in multi-million-dollar pharmaceutical research and development efforts in Evergreen, Colorado for a singular purpose: deliver the exact same experience, every single time. This task isn’t an easy one. And it is the primary reason for the shift in focus of ebbu from consumer-facing products to technology-based formulations that deliver consistent and reliable experiences time after time. Ebbu, as Cooper puts it, has transitioned from a cannabis company to a cannabinoid company. And this transition is about to make big waves throughout the cannabis space with upcoming partnerships.

At a private party held in the gorgeous estate of Wayne Newton, big business was seated at the table, and they were hungry for more than the five-star meal being served. Green Table and ebbu hosted a private, invitation-only engagement for just under 200 attendees ranging from legislators and celebrities to influential cannabis business leaders and Wall Street investors. While enjoying a feast from Chef Randy Placeres, guests entertained business pitches and talked plans for future investments in the burgeoning industry.

“When I actually got into this business, I feared cannabis. I grew up supporting ‘Just Say No.’ We were told that all these drugs were bad, including marijuana,” Cooper offered at the close of the meal. After recounting his first experience with the plant in college — enjoying a 3-foot bong that “totally wrecked” him — Cooper continued that his experience with the plant could be described as inconsistent at best, with experiences ranging from awesome and euphoric, to horrific and anxious.

A beaker of oil at the Ebbu lab. photo by Ben Owens @cannabenoid

As an adult with a family, Cooper had little interest in the cannabis industry. This was largely related to his uneasiness to trust cannabis to deliver an experience that consumers could trust. “Why would I try something that I didn’t trust?” Cooper asked the audience. But after many stories and exchanges with people whose lives had been immeasurably changed or saved by the plant, he started to wonder if there was a way to isolate certain experiences. “What if I could grab those awesome experiences and capture that in a bottle, and it didn’t matter where I went, I could get that same exact experience every time?”

Ebbu developed an extraction machine, Zeus, that can isolate 18 compounds from the cannabis plant. This allows them to create specific combinations in a laboratory setting and experiment on in-house grown cells, like serotonin receptors, to identify the most ideal formulations for certain “feelings” with a variety of cannabinoid and terpene ratios. “We grow live human receptors in house,” Cooper explains, “which allow us to measure and understand how to fix things like anxiety and depression and create things like Chill and Energy sensations.” These formulations can be used in vapes, edibles, topicals and more to deliver a consistent experience. But before ebbu could bring its vast library of human sensations to market, the company was approached by others looking to invest in, or purchase, certain formulations for proprietary use.

While sipping medicated mocktails at the party crafted by Top Shelf Budtending’s Andrew Mieure, the comparison to alcoholic beverages comes up. Cooper posits that if you go anywhere in the world and you buy the same beer, you’ll have the same experience; why can’t people have the same sensation with cannabis? Working with Mieure, Cooper’s idea was that consumers would get a better sense of how many drinks they would require to acheive the desired state of mind if each drink offered the exact same cannabinoid combinations. Knowing how much cannabis you’re consuming becomes as important as knowing the ABV of your beverage, and many companies cannot yet deliver the same exact experience each and every time.

Ebbu’s partnerships efforts are being highlighted in a modest rebrand, moving toward the “ebbu Experience” as a whole, powered by ebbu’s cannabis innovations. These efforts are beginning to see the light of day in the public market, and large moves by global interests are reinforcing the optimism for the future of the industry. Large deals like the recent purchase of a portion of the multi-billion dollar Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth by liquor giant Constellation Brands have reinforced the possibility of mainstream, legalized cannabis. Constellation bet in a big way on the future of mainstream cannabis, but unless they can deliver on consistent, predictable experiences, similar to those that ebbu has already developed, Constellations products may never see the light of day.

If the Marijuana Business Conference revealed anything, it’s that there is a plenty of optimism about where the industry is going, what it will be able to deliver, and how soon it will be able to deliver it. Be on the lookout for products powered by ebbu in the next 8-12 months as partnership efforts become public and the mainstream cannabis industry gets a bit more consistent. ♦

FARMA TO TABLE: The world according to Portland's cannabis savant, Jeremy Plumb.
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by Gregory Daurer

Jeremy Plumb, photo by Gregory Daurer

One of Portland, Oregon's nicknames is “Bridgetown,” due to those numerous structures spanning the Willamette River – that body of water dividing the east side of the city from the west.

Through his work on numerous fronts, Portland resident Jeremy Plumb himself serves as a bridge within the cannabis world.

Plumb facilitates connections, furthering the exchange of ideas and the inclusion of participants. “I'm apparently a bit of a communitarian,” says Plumb, who co-founded one of the most celebrated dispensaries in the city, Farma. “I have a wide network of relationships.”

Plumb provides a link between Old School activists, who set in motion what he calls the “folk medicine revolution,” and newcomers to the field, who bring additional skills to the table. “I think wonderfully about all those people who did the early work,” Plumb says, before adding, “It's just we now have to go further.”

He seeks to gap geographical divides. Plumb wants to improve strained relations between growers in sunny Southern Oregon and dispensaries located in the often wet and overcast north, where the majority of Oregon's consumers — who predominantly prefer indoor-grown weed — live.

And while Plumb operates locally, he thinks globally: How can cannabis be produced and consumed in ways that benefits not only our health, but also our planet and its overall climate?

However, despite “always trying to bridge things,” there are areas in which opposing sides do not meet – Plumb's drawbridge raises, he sticks to his side's position. As the Executive Director of the Open Cannabis Project, Plumb decries the filing of utility patents for cannabis plants with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, endorsing an open source model for plant genetics. (More on that controversial subject later.)

And he encourages new ways of approaching cannabis, refuting the notion that categorizations such as indica or sativa, for instance, serve as accurate determinants of how cannabis will affect a person.

His speech is dense, weighty, scholarly, urgent. Listening to him talk is like attending a graduate-level university class. He spins off narratives that span disciplines like genetics, physiology, psychology, law, and computer science — like when he compares cannabis genetics to operating systems like Linux, Microsoft, and Apple. With his rounded glasses and clean-cut, authoritative presence, he could be a psychologist — which is fitting since he has a master’s degree in Jungian psychology and has worked as a counselor.

And just what is Oregon's gestalt? According to Plumb's analysis,which is very similar to impressions outlined by others, the state possesses a self-aware, environmental mindset, as well as notable culture of local beer, wine, coffee, farm-to-table restaurants and, especially in Portland, food carts. Plumb says, “Oregon is a tiny state with a relatively small population, and we are hell-bent — with religious devotion — on having the best damned craft products you can produce.” Of course, leave it to Plumb to bring that same sensibility to “the most phytochemically-complex plant on the planet.” Plumb says, “Hops, grapes, tea, coffee... none have the multifacetedness that cannabis does.”

From an early age, cannabis became his life's calling. Plumb says, “I love to serve the plant, itself and its vast potentials — and all of those people it can serve.”

Plumb was born in Denver, Colorado in 1977. He spent the first couple years of his life at 8,000 feet above sea level in Hilldale Pines, and then lived in Boulder. When he was eight, his mother and her husband relocated with Jeremy to Northern California. In fact, an article in Portland Monthly claimed that Plumb's stepfather was “a major marijuana trafficker.” Regarding his youth, Plumb simply states, “There had already been exposure to cannabis in my family.”

As a teen, Plumb says he lived “next door to a leading organic cannabis farmer in Sonoma County, and he took me under his wing.”

He soon discovered that cannabis soothed his nerves: “I was sensitive to alcohol, very rarely drank, and enjoyed cannabis and all the productive, creative, introverted states that it would evoke. And it balanced my anxiety. Generally, I've always been a high-anxiety person. And I was able to reduce that to a tolerable, creative threshold, which then allowed me to be a high-functioning person.”

Photo by Gregory Daurer

Publicly, he became a proponent for the plant in the early '90s, after reading Jack Herer's seminal book about hemp and marijuana, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Plumb began working with activists Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad, an editor of Herer's book, on an educational campaign called Shattered Lives, which spotlighted the tragedies of drug war prisoners.

Plumb began communing with cannabis movers and shakers in Northern California: ganja farmers in the Emerald Triangle; the San Francisco medical marijuana activists who would spearhead California's successful medical marijuana initiative in 1996; and the founders of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Santa Cruz, one of California's earliest dispensaries.

In 2000, Plumb moved to Oregon, a couple years after Oregon passed its own medical marijuana initiative. In fact, the state possesses a history of pioneering cannabis values, being the first to decriminalize marijuana in 1973.

In Portland, where the mayor had ordered the police to treat marijuana as the city's lowest law-enforcement priority, Plumb discovered a brand new world of informational exchange. He spent time at grow shops where “people would talk openly for the first time [about cannabis cultivation]...No one [in Northern California] talked openly about what was really going on, except to their very closest friends.”

In terms of his development, Oregon's spirit of openness and exploration served as a “rocket ship,” furthering Plumb's skills and education. One scientific acquaintance had been applying his laboratory analysis background towards “cracking the matrix of cannabis.” There were patient-growers who provided “open-source processing information for patients around the world.” Continuing that tradition today, Plumb says of Oregon's cannabis scene, “We're really on a mission to be a resource to everywhere [else].”

Plumb continued his studies of medical cannabis in earnest, eventually with the financial backing of a supportive cancer patient. He spent years doing research and development on different strains, different grow mediums, different set-ups, and even had his flower tested for cannabinoid and terpene content, all culminating with the “flower-forward” dispensary Farma, which Plumb co-founded in late 2014.

His onetime work as a counselor came in handy when he began budtending at the shop, necessitating the use of empathic listening skills, while serving severely ill people.

Plumb doesn't think budtenders should tell patients what strains to use for which ailments. Rather, he uses the term “curate” to describe Farma's approach: being able to share with customers the scientific analysis for every batch of flower, pointing out the unique properties of each. (If the customer so desires the information, that is. Not all do.) “To curate well, you have to be able to describe not just the THC and CBD, but the complex phytochemisry of the plant,” he says.

Rather than attributing overriding importance to a plant's genotype (specific strains or hybrids such as Chemdawg, Golden Goat or Harlequin), Plumb emphasizes the plant's chemotype: “The specific compounds in this particular batch of flower product, which will vary, even if it's the same producer and the same genotype, batch-to-batch, based on fluctuations in the environment (such as humidity, harvest date, lighting, watering, grow medium).” As an example, take the same Blue Dream genetics, Plumb says: “If we had twelve different growers producing this with all their unique environments, we'd still see twelve different chemotypes.”

Plumb dismisses review sites that “ascribe attributes to a particular strain.” By allowing customers to consider the lab results for the chemotypes themselves, he says, “It actually empowers patients and customers, who are consuming cannabis, to actually have a more intimate relationship with the chemistry [of the plant] and their [own] unique physiology.” Farma has most of its cannabis tested for 64 compounds. “We were the first dispensary in the world to publish all the terpene data,” asserts Plumb.

Based on test results or common lore or personal experience, many of Farma's consumers shy away from outdoor-grown cannabis because it usually doesn't pack as high levels of cannabinoids as indoor-grown weed does. Plumb, an experienced indoor grower, has suggested ways for outdoor growers in Southern Oregon to improve their results — although he acknowledges that some of them consider indoor-grown cannabis, and its producers like himself, to be “evil.” Plumb says, “I've been trying to help people in Southern Oregon to become more sophisticated with supplemental LED lighting and flower-forcing and living-soil regimens that can make a really competitive product.”

Plumb is no stranger to competition: He co-founded an Oregon-based judging event called the Cultivation Classic. Only cannabis entries grown organically in living soil, using integrative pest management (no pesticides added), are allowed to compete. Lab results for each winner show “all of the terpenes and minor cannabinoids,” as well as THC and CBD. Additionally, the entries' genetic backgrounds are established by Portland's Phylos Bioscience; the strains' genotypes can then be compared to one another thanks to a computer program that that creates a graphic visualization of the similarities or differences between each entry.

In order to promote a green agenda during cultivation, Plumb says, “We also had the very first carbon-footprint analysis.” Those results are shared in an open-source fashion, so growers throughout the world can learn how to minimize their contributions to global climate change.

Farma, photo by Gregory Daurer

Scientists such as Dr. Ethan Russo and Dr. Adie Poe have been keynote speakers at the event, and Plumb has been joined at the dais by prominent awards-presenter Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, one of the staunchest advocates for the cannabis industry in Washington, D.C.

The Cultivation Classic was inspired by a visit Plumb made to Blumenauer's office in D.C., during which the two discussed how to keep Oregon's presence in the national cannabis scene consistent with their state's values. “He knew Oregon is defined by craft and ecology,” Plumb says of Blumenauer. “Principally, that is our [state's] ethos.” According to Plumb, it's a positioning unlike Oregon's northern and southern neighbors, Washington and California,where, more often than in Oregon, corporations overshadow smaller craft growers.

One way Plumb hopes to protect the industry is through his work with the Open Cannabis Project. Plumb is the group's Executive Director; its Board of Directors includes Chris Conrad, Valerie Corral of WAMM, grow expert and author Jorge Cervantes, Teri Robnett of Colorado's Cannabis Patients Alliance, Rick Doblin of MAPS, and computer engineer and civil libertarian John Gilmore, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Open Cannabis Project is concerned about big corporations filing utility patents on plants, which they say will produce a specific chemotype – a chemotype that  can also exist within other breeders' strains. Plumb cites one of the entries at the Cultivation Classic as an example of what he's talking about: a plant with close to a one-to-one ratio of THC to CBD, and no noticeable level of one specific terpene. Plumb understands there's already been a patent granted by the United States Patent Office for just such a plant.

Plumb says, “It really stymies the 'folk medicine revolution' and the potentials we sit at the edge of, when one corporation could go 'Monsanto' on a lot of the rest of the industry and start ruthlessly suing — based on patent claims — companies that [have plants with] similar chemotypes ... And that just gives too much power to a couple of corporations.” Corporations, he notes, which are able to spend upwards of $100,000 to file a utility patent on each plant.

Through five of its partner labs, the Open Cannabis Project has been building a genotype database of existing plant strains. Legally, Plumb points out, anything that's been available publicly for over a year exists within the public domain – it can't be patented. (The project seeks to aggregate chemotype data for the plants, as well.)

To be clear, Plumb isn't against all plant patents for cannabis — just utility patents. The Open Cannabis Project states on its web site: “Breeders can protect plants that they have newly developed (within the last year.) New varieties can be protected by simple plant patents (through the USPTO) or Plant Variety Protection (through the USDA). These types of protection are narrow, they apply to only a single well-defined plant variety and they are affordable.”

As opposed to utility patents, Plumb adds, “Plant patents are very narrowly-applied to a unique, clonally-propagated cultivar that is the original work of breeders, and the reason we like those patents is [because] that actually supports breeding innovation.”

Ultimately, Plumb would prefer to see the distribution of plant genetics modeled on a Creative Commons type set-up. “We have to protect the fundamentals, and make sure that people have access to these building blocks of the therapeutic revolution that botanical medicine is offering — and [that] cannabis is the spearhead for,” he says.

Some longtime activists feel that Oregon's medical marijuana program has been decimated, since dispensaries have been forced to legally choose between serving either the medical or the recreational market, according to recent state rules. Through an upcoming project, which he says he can't presently reveal the details of, Plumb and a statewide network of other parties hope to remedy some of the inequities. He dangles a question: “How do you give away the most cannabis to the people who need it the most?”

At his shop Farma, not far from Portland's Hawthorne Bridge, Plumb says, “Anybody who's had a long-term relationship with cannabis, I believe, inherently learns, at some point in the process — if they've gone deep enough — that there's a part of this that's really about altruism. The best parts of the movement have always been based [on] really trying to do good.” ♦

Trash talk: Local Cannabusinesses Up Their Waste Management Game
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By Amanda Pampuro

 

When people talk trash about the cannabis industry, Amy Andrle, owner of L’Eagle Dispensary, talks trash right back.

“We have to show that this can be a responsible industry,” she said. “One of our biggest hurdles is educating — telling people who come into the shop what can be recycled. Just like anything else, (packaging) can be washed off and put in the recycle bin. It’s about getting people asking what can be recycled? What can be composted?”

For many dispensaries and retail stores, figuring out how to dispose of trash is easier said than done. To qualify for the dumpster, packaging has to be completely free of marijuana debris.

“For any of the material to leave the site, it has to be unrecognizable — usually it gets mixed with sawdust which adds about 50 percent more waste,” said Laurie Johnson, executive director for the Colorado Association for Recycling. “My biggest piece of advice initially is to do better recycling. Even outside of (marijuana) packaging, they have so much other material that can be recycled.”

Johnson also likes seeing packaging that is compostable, so that it can go into the same bin as green waste.

Still, the initial implementation of a composting plan can be tricky. Grant Parsons, sales manager for Alpine Waste, said only pesticide and chemical-free plants should be composted.

“I think the biggest thing is getting all the employees on the same page as far as what’s accepted and recycled,” he added. “If you have one person who doesn’t understand the program, it can be really easy to contaminate a whole dumpster full of compost.”

But, Parsons added, the challenge is worth it, “One major selling point for all of our customers is sustainability and compost. Now that the cannabis industry has started to grow, it lines up with what we do as far as recycling.”

In addition to traditional composting and recycling, Kind ReDesigned is advocating for pickled compost, or bokashi.

“Loosely translated, bokashi means, ‘fermented organic matter,’” explained Ren Gorbis, Kind ReDesigned’s compliance and operations manager. “It has been used for generations to reduce, reuse and recycle organic waste. Bokashi uses earth-friendly micro-organisms to quickly break down and effectively ‘pickle’ organic waste. … Liquid generated through the fermentation process may be used as a high quality probiotic plant food. The biopulp makes wonderful cannabis composts, soil conditioners, and recycled cannabis-based soils.”

While composting stems and recycling plastic may seem like small measures, each act adds up.

“We’re focused on the whole picture,” Andrle said. “Creating best practices is about living up to your philosophy. Someone’s going to call you out on it, so we want to be authentic and walk the walk.” ♦

Keeping the Cannabis Industry Green: Second Cannabis Sustainability Symposium Tuesday
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by Amanda Pampuro

 

How many gallons of water does it take to grow a joint? How many watts of electricity? How many man-hours go into the cultivation, trimming, and processing?

If you’re a concerned consumer about the way your food is grown and how much the farmers were paid for it, why would you tune out when you toke up?

That is the reason d’etre behind the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC), which is hosting the second annual Cannabis Sustainability Symposium from Oct. 17 to 18 at the Embassy Suites Denver.

“One of our biggest hurdles is educating, telling people who come into the shop what can be recycled — just like anything else, it can be washed off and put in the recycle bin,” said Amy Andrle, founder of L’Eagle Dispensary and a CCC board member. “It’s about getting people asking what can be recycled? What can be composted?”

In addition to talks from cannabis industry stakeholders, the conference will feature discussions from environmental science leaders, including Derek Smith, founder and executive director of the Resource Innovation Institute, Shelley Peterson, VP of lighting technologies at Urban-Gro, and Dr. Elizabeth A. Bennett, director of the political economy program at Lewis & Clark College.

The agenda includes panel discussions on sustainable packaging and waste diversion as well as energy management and the need to implement industry-wide standards.

“A little bit of investment on the side of the business can have a big impact to lessen your footprint,” Andrle said. “As far as low hanging fruit go, something very easy to implement is to look at waste management (and consider) what can you do to offset what you’re sending to the landfill.”

According to a press release, the event was planned “with in-kind support from Denver Environmental Health and sustaining sponsorship from Denver Relief Consulting.”

For Andrle, the much-touted buzzword, “sustainability,” simply means asking, “How are we managing our resources? As a business owner, I want to make sure I’m not spending more than I need to and that I’m not using any more than I need to. The other buzzword everyone is using is corporate social responsibilities.”


Tickets and agenda are available at www.cannabissustainability.org.

Sana Packaging: Packaging Cannabis with Cannabis
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by Matthew Van Deventer

One Denver company, expected to go into full-scale production in early 2018, is packaging cannabis with cannabis. 

“Our vision for this company is to be able to package cannabis with cannabis products and cannabis waste and really close the resource loop here and get rid of a lot of the waste we already have,” says Ron Basak-Smith, co-founder and CEO of Sana Packaging. 

Sana wanted to not only make a more environmentally friendly packaging option for the legal cannabis industry, but also upend the design completely. Their top product right now is an eighth-ounce container that will compete with the pill-bottle-like containers dispensaries sell flower in. Sana's containers looks more like Tupperware made out of bioplastics, which can easily be stacked, shipped and stored. 

James Eichner, Sana’s chief strategy officer, who helped found the company, estimates they can cut shipping costs by half with their containers because they stack into each other as opposed to the current cylindrical models, which are bulky and shipped loose. 

"We felt those were just very inefficient, not to mention it still has the connotation of a pill bottle. It’s sort of one degree removed from that,” Eichner says. They’ll be able to ship at least twice as many of their containers to clients in the same amount of space. “So we just wanted to take a wholesome approach to sustainability.”

Sana Packaging started when Basak-Smith approached Eichner in the 2016 summer of their MBA program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. They ran with the idea, using it for their internship project in the fall, creating their first prototype with a 3-D printer that uses hemp-based plastic. In February this year they were accepted into Canopy Boulder, a seed-stage business accelerator for cannabis start-ups, and began working out the details of their packaging with engineers and manufacturers. 

Eichner and Basak-Smith don’t deal with the actual material themselves but those that do often had a hard time grasping the legality of everything. Not every engineering company or product manufacturer was up to the challenge of sourcing or working with hemp because if the material they got was above the legal limit, they’d be violating federal law. Not only that, not everyone is aware of the differences between marijuana and hemp, still. 

Further, because the legal THC limit, .3 percent, is so low, farmers are hesitant to grow it, which keeps prices high, making some products like Sana Packaging’s difficult to make cost effective. It never stopped them though. The Sana duo found a plastic manufacturer out of North Dakota willing to work hemp into plastic pellets, which are then shipped just over 100 miles away to a manufacturer in Minnesota where the pellets are infused into a mold for the final product. 

Eichner and Basak-Smith pride themselves in being able to develop a solely domestic supply chain and still push out an affordable product that will only get cheaper as the number of production facilities increase and hemp prices decrease. 

“We tried really hard to set up a fully domestic supply chain from our manufacturing and production. And what’s been really great is that drove us to find a really great pellet supplier out of North Dakota and we will be manufacturing just over 100 miles away in Minnesota,” explains Eichner. “We’ve been able to keep it domestic and we’re able to support the U.S. hemp industry and we’re able to minimize the size of our footprint,”

Based off of industry projections, Basak-Smith and Eichner estimate the cannabis industry will toss out one billion pieces of single-use packaging annually by 2020, a number they use when talking with potential clients. 

The two toured the West Coast with their concept in June and received positive feedback. However, they were advised to have a presence there because of how fast the industry is transforming — Eichner is stationed in Los Angeles, setting up to catch the recreational wave when stores start popping up next year, while Basak-Smith is poised for the Colorado market. 

And seeing as the industry is still young, Eichner says they see this as an opportunity to “right the ship before we get too ingrained in the ways things are being done.” 

Their packaging is 100 percent plant-based, though for now only 30 percent of it is hemp — that’s all their engineers were able to get it to — the rest is made up of corn plastic. They are still ahead of the game, however. Many hemp plastic products in the industry max out at about 10 percent, according to Eichner. 

Photo courtesy of Sana Packaging

Their product molds should be ready this month, with product in-hand shortly thereafter, and they’ll be fully operational in January of 2018. Along with the eighth-ounce flagship container, Sana Packaging will make quarter-ounce, half-ounce, ounce sizes, and pre-rolled joint containers. Also available to Sana clients are graphic design services so retailers can have their logo on the packaging. They can do paper and cardboard packaging, but those can be prohibitively expensive due to the lack of paper mills in the country willing to work with hemp.

Basak-Smith anticipates costs going down as hemp becomes more widely accepted, more farmers grow it, and processing facilities move in. Eventually, their packages will be made entirely out of hemp plastic. It’s just another motivation for getting into the business — add to the supply and drive costs down. 

“The biggest pinpoint that we feel is the price of hemp,” says Basak-Smith. “We hope that by doing this on scale and seeing hemp take off as an agriculture crop we’ll see the prices drop as more people begin to farm [hemp] as we see regulations and the general culture around it change. So we hope to be able to make a mainstream consumer product cheap enough, made out of hemp, and we see the cannabis market as a good place to start doing that.” ♦

Dr. D's Easy Access to Medical Marijuana
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by Amanda Pampuro, photos courtesy of Dr. Donald Davidson

Dr D's Van advertising online cannabis cards

You usually don’t want to hear “doctor” and “virus” in the same sentence, but Dr. D. is taking medical marijuana viral. Earlier this year, Dr. Donald Davidson launched the first tele-medicine platform for cannabis. Now individuals in California with pre-existing conditions can apply for a medical marijuana card from anywhere with WiFi.

“There’s always this buzzword in medicine, which is access, right? And tele-medicine creates access for people that wouldn’t actually have it, whether it’s too big of an inconvenience or they’re elderly or immobile or whatever,” Davidson said. 

Since Davidson partnered with Ease, a California-based cannabis delivery company, his patients can be approved for a referral card and obtain medicine all from within the comfort of their home.

“The way it works is this is a specialized medicine. People are coming in with chronic conditions that have been going on for years and years … so they fill out an intake form and you ask them questions, so you already know what’s going on,” Davidson said. “Our job is to educate people and to screen out people who are unstable, have mental illnesses, and screen out people with new issues. So we wouldn’t give a recommendation just seeing someone online with a new onset, like knee-pain or redness or swelling over the last few weeks or months.”

Dr. D's fleet of smart cars

Harboring an entrepreneurial spirit, Davidson’s other business ventures have included the milk and cookie delivery service. Campus Cookies, running a fishing and kayaking tour service, and being a dating coach. Describing himself as a “typical smart guy,” Davidson was first exposed to the work of Dr. Sue Sisley — famous for her extended struggle to test the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of PTSD — during his residency at the University of Arizona where he studied emergency medicine.

“The far majority of these [cannabis] doctors [in LA] were total weirdos,” Davidson said. “They had horrible malpractice and were hiding in the cannabis industry, folks prescribing narcotics, over-prescribing Adderall, and giving out fake doctor’s notes. And once we saw that, we were like, ‘Wow, okay, we have a huge opportunity to create this portal to make it safe and normal.’”

“I always loved the business stuff, promoting it, building the business, running the ad campaign, social media, all that stuff,” Davidson said, adding that he personally vets all of the doctors he works with, ensuring his staff maintains both certification and professional appearance.

While he declined to disclose who is launching it, Davidson said, “The Dr. D product line, named in my honor for all my work in the field, is being launched by a friend of mine who has licensed and legal cultivation and manufacturing operations.” While Davidson said he has no financial interest in the product line, he is giving both his name and knowledge to its development.

Dr. Davidson vape pen

“I think the greatest challenge, but it’s also the most fun, is educating people about cannabis,” Davidson said, adding that cannabis is still off the radar for most medical schools. “So me, with an MD behind my name, anything I say publicly must have science behind it. You know, I’m not a stupid staff writer … or any of that bullshit where they fill up these big articles with a bunch of spammy links that’s all fluff, meant to drive traffic to their website. I’m a doctor. What I specialize in is taking massive amounts of information fed to me fire-hose style and finding the need-to-know take away points that people can actually use in a clinically relevant way.”

In addition to using his website as an educational resource for patients, Davidson is about to take a mobile clinic on a road trip across the Golden State to retirement homes and country clubs.

By “educating people that most of these budtenders are 18-year-olds who know nothing of [the] pharmacology of cannabis,” Dr. D. hopes his consultation services will keep the ethos of medical marijuana strong. ♦

Legacy of An Outlaw: Jason Cranford Pushes The Industry Forward While Pushing Boundaries
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by DJ Reetz

Jason Cranford in his greenhouse

“I’ve been growing weed since 1979,” Jason Cranford says nonchalantly.  It’s the kind of statement you’d expect from a grizzled baby boomer sporting a long, gray beard with his long, gray hair pulled back into a ponytail. But Cranford is a spry 40-something, and while his demeanor could be described as grizzled, an old hippy he most certainly is not.

Cranford belongs comfortably to Generation X, something evident from the Converse All-Stars he wears as he sits in the office of  the grow he runs in Park County. He’s been growing cannabis for longer than many of those counted as his senior, and he’s not shy to talk about it.  

Cranford’s  tenure as a cannabis cultivator  began when he was only eight, maintaining  the plants grown by his father. “He always told me it was corn. So around the time I was 12 and I got a hold of some real marijuana and we were getting ready to smoke it, I’m like, ‘This stuff smells like corn,’” he recalls with a chuckle.

In the decades since, cannabis has remained a consistent part of his life. Cranford has gained notoriety as a firebrand medical cannabis activist and breeder, advocating for patients while developing his own varieties of medicinal cannabis and applications for it. He’s the man behind Haleigh’s Hope, a high-CBD, low-THC cannabis strain named for Haleigh Cox, who came to Colorado as an infant in order to treat her intractable seizures.  Cranford is also the founder of the Flowering H.O.P.E. Foundation, an organization dedicated to expanding patient access to cannabis medicine. He’s fought against Colorado’s crackdown on the caregiver model, he was instrumental in passing medical cannabis legislation in his home state of Georgia, and he’s been the target of a $100 million lawsuit for his involvement in a saga that exposed the alleged contaminated product of an international CBD importer.

He’s been consistently involved with cannabis since those early days growing up in Macon, Georgia. After unknowingly assisting his father’s cannabis grow for several years, he was allowed in on the secret when he was 13, watering and tending plants. “I got to see him selling weed, growing weed, stuff like that,” says Cranford of his father; behavior that would land the elder Cranford in prison for much of son’s childhood.

His father rode with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, an organization most would describe as a biker gang. But while Cranford saw some of the rowdy behavior and drug use, he says he never saw his father as the kind of criminal that would intentionally do harm to others. Instead, Cranford describes a fun-loving party animal who once brought his six-year-old son to a biker party where he snuck beers and even fired off one party goer's .357.

Cranford says he’s never been sure what the exact charge was that sent his father to prison; neither of his parents has discussed the incident with him in detail. 

Listening to him recount these stories, one gets the distinct impression that the outlaw mentality of his father still resides somewhere inside him, explaining his need to push boundaries and court the ire of rule makers. “It’s something that gave me the balls to do what I do,” he says. “There’s no way I would have made it to where I’m at if I’d have listened to my lawyers.”

With an incarcerated father, growing up in a rough area of Macon was made all the more difficult, forcing Cranford  to rely on his mother and grandparents for guidance and supervision. In eighth grade, he was kicked out of his school’s gifted program after being caught smoking weed. At the age of 13 he was shot in the chest by a neighbor following a dispute over a bike handlebar pad. That .22 round is still lodged in his sternum to this day, and the wound is the centerpiece of a chest tattoo featuring dueling dragons circling a heart of gold. The incident highlights a chaotic childhood, though he blames the shooting on undiagnosed emotional and developmental issues rather than the shooter himself. “He’s my friend on Facebook now,” says Cranford, shrugging it off.

Coming out of a seemingly perilous childhood, Cranford  continued to dabble in underground cannabis growing, including during his tenure as an intern in the greenhouses of the University of Georgia’s horticulture department. Eventually, he was called to the Humboldt County area in 2006 to put his carpentry skills to work building grows for his friends in the area. He soon found himself schooling them on the finer points of horticulture, he says.

In 2008, Cranford  came across the works of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the venerated Israeli chemist who is considered the father of medical cannabis. Mechoulam’s work opened Cranford’s eyes to the potential of medical cannabis, specifically CBD. Cranford had watched his grandfather die a slow death due to cancer, and the idea that cannabis could have helped alleviate some of his pain in those final days affirmed Cranford’s path in medical cannabis, sending him to Colorado on a quest to create more medicinally beneficial strains.

By 2009, he found himself in a small, woodland cabin in the town of Ward in the hills west of Boulder. With no access to the electrical grid or running water, Cranford was reliant on the stream running through the 20-acre property to power a small generator and provide water for his plants, which he soon had growing in abundance. “We planted about 200 plants wide out in the open in the sunlight,” he recalls. 

Part of the "cigarette" rolling machine.

Cranford  quickly established himself as a caregiver under Colorado’s Amendment 20, growing for more than 100 patients. And when the state began issuing dispensary licenses in 2010, Cranford seized  the opportunity. “I’m like, ‘I gotta get one of those,’” says Cranford. “Basically we scrimped, we saved, drained my wife’s 401k, drained my savings and we rented a farm, built a couple of greenhouses and applied for one of the state licenses.”

The couple established a modest farm in Longmont where he continued to breed his plants for CBD. Cranford’s first break was in 2010 with a strain he named Cannatol, which had  seven percent CBD. 

While Cranford had read of CBD’s potential applications,  he says, his eyes were truly opened to its effects in 2011 when one of the trimmers working for him suffered a seizure on the job. Having none of the THC-heavy oil that he would have normally used as medicine on hand, Cranford offered some of the 1:1 CBD to THC oil extracted from his Cannatol plants. The trimmer’s girlfriend administered the oil, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. “She rubbed it on his gums while he was seizing and he snapped right out of it. He got back at the trim table and he was able to keep working the rest of the day,” says Cranford. “It almost felt like I witnessed a miracle.”

The experience solidified Cranford’s commitment to producing CBD medicine, and through several generations of selective breeding he was able to create the plants that would become Haleigh’s Hope, a high-CBD strain that tests low enough in THC to be legally considered industrial hemp.

Throughout Cranford’s breeding process, the hype around CBD medicine was growing thanks at least partially to Sanjay Gupta’s seminal CNN report. The report spurred an influx of desperate parents to Colorado seeking to treat their children’s intractable epilepsy with Charlotte’s Web, the strain highlighted in the report. The company behind the strain, Realm of Caring, soon found supply outpaced by demand and approached Cranford for assistance. When his offer to provide high-CBD oil was rebuffed in favor of access to his plants, Cranford set out to supply those on the lengthy Realm of Caring waiting list with medicine free of charge. By 2014, Cranford claims he had given away more than $150,000 worth of oil, though he confesses this wasn’t for purely altruistic reasons. “I would say that I’m just that good of a person, but I’m not that good of a person. What I was doing is I was breeding. I was trying to create a Haleigh’s Hope hemp strain without giving up my terpene profile, my ratio, all the stuff I loved about Haleigh’s Hope,” he admits. “I didn’t really want the plant material or the oil, I wanted the seeds.”

The process eventually paid off. After five years of breeding, Cranford had something that would maintain much of the profile of a marijuana plant yet was still low enough in THC to be cultivated and sold as hemp. “When they set the definition of hemp, they only defined it as .3 [percent] THC or below. They didn’t say anything about CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes,” he explains. “What we have with Haleigh’s Hope is we have a marijuana terpene profile, a marijuana CBD level, with a hemp THC level.”

The strain may highlight the absurdity of the legal distinction between hemp and marijuana, originating in the category of marijuana only to be bred into what is legally defined as hemp. This isn’t lost on Cranford, who sees the de facto .3 percent THC limit being codified into law around the country as arbitrary and harmful to hemp farmers. “Who the hell made up .3?” he asks. “I’ve never seen any basis for that number whatsoever.”

While some might consider the origins of the strain to amount to gaming the system, Cranford found himself with a consistent, reproducible plant. He was soon introduced to Janéa Cox, the mother of the girl who would give the strain would be named after.  At the time, Cox was attempting to drum up support for a medical cannabis law in Georgia, where she coincidentally lived just 20 minutes away from Cranford’s childhood home. The two were introduced through Georgia State Rep. Allen Peake, who knew about Cranford’s activity in Colorado thanks to Cranford’s uncle, a Macon City Council member. Peake, who had been working with Cox to create legislation that would allow people Georgians to possess small amounts of low-THC cannabis oil, flew the young Haleigh to Colorado on his private jet so that she could receive the medicine.

That union bore fruit, giving a name to both Cranford’s strain and the medical cannabis law that would pass in Georgia. Dubbed the Haleigh’s Hope Act, the law allows patients who are suffering from one of a short list of conditions or their caregivers to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil with no more than five percent THC content. While the act has been criticized for leaving patients with no method of obtaining their medicine other than smuggling it in from more progressive states, the allowable THC content is slightly higher than many other state CBD-only programs.

Haleigh’s Hope helped establish Cranford in the medical CBD field, and he was soon approached by a concerned mother who claimed that her child had gotten sick from consuming a CBD product bought online. Without delay, Cranford had the sample tested, showing it to contain an illegally high amount of THC, he alleges.

At the time, labs like the one Cranford had used were only capable of testing for potency. To test for contaminants, Cranford took the remaining sample to a lab that typically didn’t test cannabis. The results he was given showed unsafe levels of lead, and Cranford immediately set about broadcasting his findings on social media. Unfortunately, this would make him the target of a lawsuit filed by the Medical Marijuana Inc., the parent entity to the company that had imported and sold the allegedly tainted CBD product. Medical Marijuana Inc sought $100 million in damages from Cranford, the operators of both testing labs, and Project CBD, a non-profit advocacy group that published a report with Cranford’s findings. 

At the time of the lawsuit, Cranford had recently left Kannalife Sciences after the company’s acquisition by Medical Marijuana Inc., something he believes may have played a role in their lawsuit. “I had a funny feeling that lawsuit was [about] more than just me posting a lab report,” he says.

Following a hasty settlement by operators of the lab that produced the results showing lead contamination — a settlement that consisted of a video statement claiming that the results sent to Cranford were preliminary — Cranford reached his own agreement. Though he is barred from discussing the settlement, press releases from Medical Marijuana Inc. tout the company’s legal victory, but make no mention of financial recovery, only a similarly suspect recording of Cranford that was never made public.   

To this day, Cranford maintains that there was no indication that his initial lab results were in any way preliminary. 

Currently, Cranford has some 30,000 Haleigh’s Hope plants growing on a 30-acre farm in Larkspur. Because of their low THC content, the plants are monitored by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, rather than the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Adding to his legal footing is the fact that Cranford is listed as a professor at Clover Leaf University, the only cannabis training program in the state to receive accreditation from the Colorado Department of Education’s Private Occupational School Board.  This affiliation has given Cranford’s efforts an added layer of federal compliance, which he says has allowed him to export his CBD products to some 40 countries around the world and create efficacy studies in conjunction with Children’s Hospital.  

But while medical cannabis has been Cranford’s longstanding passion, he’s recently taken his expertise into the realm of adult-use. He’s now operating a wholesale grow in South Park, where a number of repurposed cigarette machines are producing a line of cannabis cigarettes sold as “Cranfords.” The accompanying ad campaign features Cranford doing his best Marlboro Man impersonation. “We’re waiting for the cease and desist,” he jokes.

While this seems like a natural extension of a lifelong cannabis farmer, it’s not hard to see that this foray into adult-use serves the purpose of supporting his other endeavors, rather than an effort to cash in on his years of experience. “[When] I got into this recreational thing, I wasn’t super excited about it; but it pays the bills,” says Cranford.

In fact, despite operating a licensed marijuana grow and medical hemp operation, he still maintains his caregiver status, serving some 150 patients; a process that is decidedly harder than it was when he first started signing up patients back in 2009.

Following recent efforts by lawmakers to crack down on the black and gray market, both at the state and municipal level, Cranford finds himself forced into precarious workarounds in order to provide medicine for those that rely on him. “It forces me to have little, small grows all over the place instead of just one big grow where I can regulate and quality control,” he says. “It’s ridiculous.”

“In their idiocracy in trying to eliminate the caregiver model, they’ve actually forced us into a model that’s harder for them to regulate,” he says. While some in the cannabis advocacy field have taken the crackdown with measured good faith, Cranford sees it as an effort to drive patients into dispensaries. But Cranford, who has previously dared the state board of health to have him arrested for providing cannabis medicine to sick kids, isn’t backing down. “I imagine the state would probably have a problem with the way I’m doing this, but they’ve forced me into this,” he says.

Statements like this demonstrate the subversive leanings that lie just under the surface of a man now fixed within the regulations of the state’s medical and adult-use cannabis programs as well as the international hemp marketplace. Cranford is a man willing to play by the rules, but it’s not where he came from, and it’s not what got him where he is today. His father, out of prison for many years now, still wears his Outlaws jacket to this day, says Cranford. And though he’s never made it out to Colorado to see the legal operation that his son has built, Cranford says he knows his old man is proud of him for turning those skills he started honing all those years ago into something real. ♦

 

Cannabis Certification Council Develops Industry Standards
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by Amanda Pampuro

Never before have cannabis consumers so thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of knowing how their cannabis was grown and by whom. When pot was (indisputably) illegal, scoring was scoring. But the Cannabis Certification Council is seeking to change this.

“Right now, at the retail level at dispensaries, most consumers don’t even think to ask the question about organic cannabis or fairly-produced cannabis, because they are just thrilled that they can buy cannabis. So [we are] educating consumers to start asking these questions,” said Ashley Preece, Executive Director of the newly formed CCC.

By establishing a system of standards and vetting, the CCC hopes that its seal will become a symbol of trust; ensuring products under its banner are both organically grown and ethically sourced.

Without trying to ring any alarms, Preece noted that some cannabis producers offer poor working conditions on rural farms, often lacking electricity or air conditioning. Preece accounts for this “because of where the industry has come from, where we’ve had to hide what we do, hide the money.”

By establishing a system of standards and vetting, the CCC hopes that its seal will become a symbol of trust; ensuring products under its banner are both organically grown and ethically sourced.

In Oregon, she specified, “During harvest, to manicure the cannabis before it goes to retail, a lot of these trim circles bring in a lot of younger women, because these are men on farms, in some rural farms, where they haven’t seen or spoken to people for a long time, so they will literally hire only women. These kinds of scenarios can create awkward living and working conditions.”

Another issue can be the lack of any work contract laying out terms and duration of employment.

On the horticultural side, the CCC’s adoption of organic standards will also give farmers an incentive to use living soils and avoid synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

The Cannabis Certification Council was formed in June when Portland-based Ethical Cannabis Alliance — founded by Preece — merged with Denver’s Organic Cannabis Association founded by Amy Andrle and Ben Gelt.

David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s All-One soaps, donated seed funding. “The CCC with its unique mission, is a perfect vessel for us to support our values in the cannabis space,” Bronner said in a press release. “We are committed to making socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and we are excited for the CCC to begin driving that ethos in the cannabis industry.”

This may also be a business opportunity for the artisanal market.

“As Operations Manager of Yerba Buena, this seal will help differentiate our brand from conventional producers, giving consumers a choice and an opportunity to establish a relationship with the farms they trust to grow clean products,” said Laura Rivero, who joined the CCC as Vice Chair. “The cannabis industry is growing rapidly without such standards, and it is incredibly important for this work to contribute to the education of consumers and provide a platform from which to elevate the legitimacy and integrity of the entire cannabis community.”

As a nonprofit, the CCC does not seek investors “because we don’t want people owning the direction of what we’re doing. We have a board of advisors to do that,” Preece clarified. As with any other agricultural standard, like Fair Trade or Organic, all applicants will be audited by a third party prior to being approved or denied certification.

Preece comes to the table with a background in horticulture and a BAS in horticultural sciences form Boise State University. Each standard is an opportunity for “multi-stakeholder engagement …[with] the community,” Preece said. “A standard is a written document and they should be available to the public, and that it is usually curated through a multi-stakeholder process where we engage with the communities nation-wide. So it’s not two people in a room writing the standards and making the decisions, it’s engaging the entire community and all facets of the community in order to write the standard.”

Individuals interested in joining the conversation or lending technical expertise to CCC can reach out to Preece via email at [email protected].

Once the CCC’s standards have been released, the organization will run a three-month pilot and Preece anticipates the seal will be ready to market January 2018. This time next year, she said, “we would like to see our seal on jars and bags and products going onto all those products on the shelves in every dispensary that is legal.”

WOMEN-OWNED CANNABIS BUSINESSES IN COLORADO HAVE ANOINTED AUGUST #BOSSWOMEN MONTH
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14 women-owned businesses are bringing recognition to the dispensaries, the brands and the services that are creating an industry

(Denver, CO) – 14 women-owned cannabis companies have come together to showcase the power of female entrepreneurship in the cannabis space. The 13 business owners are proclaiming August 2017 as #BossWomen Month!

“The owners of the cannabis businesses are promoting not just their businesses, but the tremendous amount of revenue, jobs, and taxes their stores, products, and services provide to the state of Colorado,” states Wanda James, owner and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary and the first black woman licensed in American to own a dispensary, an edible company, and grow facility.

A snapshot of the revenue power of the 13 Boss Women entrepreneurs shows not just the value of women led businesses in the cannabis space.  It also shows that women promote women, proving the importance of women in CEO and manger positions.

#BOSSWOMEN BUSINESS PROFILE

  • Combined Number of Employees: 118
  • 30 Female Managers
  • 50% of the Combined Management Teams are Female
  • 70% of the Combined Staffs are Women
  • Combined Monthly Sales Revenue: $1,149,839.00
  • Combined Monthly Mortgage / Rent / Lease amount: $62,750

The Boss Women businesses cover a wide range of cannabis products and services, infused teas, topicals, edibles and concentrates to business consulting to jewelry to greeting cards, the creativity and business acumen in this group is outstanding. Boss Women are not waiting for the world to change, they have made the decision to take action and be the change in the world, as women often do.

During the month of August, these products and services should be at the top of your shopping list. Together, the Boss Women will advertise numerous publications bringing attention to our August #BossWomen Month. The ladies have created a webpage that lists all the places these products and services are available. You can visit www.420BossWomen.com to find all the promotions, events, and discounts that will be offered during the month.

ABOUT BOSS WOMEN #BossWomen

Wanda James - Simply Pure Dispensary and Cannabis Global Initiative

Maureen McNamara - Cannabis Trainers  

Wy Livingston – Purple Monkey Teas

Olivia Mannix - Cannabrand 

Missy Bradley - Stillwater Brands  

Dahlia Mertens - Mary Jane’s Medicinals  

Julie Dooley - Julie’s Natural Edibles  

Ashley Picillo - Point 7 Consulting

Megan Solano - Canna Botica  

Genifer Murray, GENIFER M - Cannabis Inspired Jewelry

Morgan Iwersen - Canyon Cultivation  

Lauren Miele - KushKards 

Deloise Vaden - Better Baked

# # #

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