Saturday, May 8, 2021

Kristen Nichols

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Editor’s Notebook: Is hemp as green as we think it is?

Hemp sequesters carbon, presents low water and nutrient needs and is so versatile that many in the business have stopped counting the number of uses for the plant’s components. This is all great news, right? So imagine my surprise when a prominent figure in the sustainability space gave a lackluster assessment of hemp as a climate solution at a university symposium. Asked whether hemp could stop climate change, Ross Macfarlane, vice president of the Sierra Club called the answer “a big ‘it depends.’” Excuse me? This from a global thought leader on energy and a top executive at the Clean Energy Transition Institute?

Washington to license hemp manufacturing for the first time

Washington state is licensing hemp manufacturers for the first time, boosting opportunities for processors and extractors who want to sell out of state. A law signed Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee establishes a new hemp processor registration and hemp extract certification under the state Department of Agriculture. Washington will continue to ban hemp extracts in food, but the new license allows Washington processors to sell extracts to out-of-state buyers.

MJBizCon wins awards for growth from Trade Show Executive

Hemp Industry Daily‘s flagship cannabis industry event, MJBizCon, has won two awards from trade show industry publication Trade Show Executive.

Get ready for the big leagues with GMP certification

(This is the third installment in an ongoing series offering tips and advice for marijuana and hemp extraction companies. The second installment is available here.) Legalization is coming. Time to airlock the doors. Marijuana and hemp cultivators and manufacturers are preparing to compete when legal changes clear the way for national and global THC and CBD sales by making big investments in things like microbial monitoring and airflow analysis (and airlocking doors). The pricey prepwork mirrors the kinds of safety protocols required of anyone making products consumed by the public. “In order for this industry to mature … it’s imperative that facilities adhere to what is coming,” said AC Braddock, CEO of Eden Labs, an extraction firm in Seattle. And what’s coming is called GMP, short for Good Manufacturing Practices, a lengthy set of cleanliness and safety protocols required of all kinds of manufacturers making consumer packaged goods, from commercial bread factories to pharmaceutical firms making high-tech medical treatments and devices. The rules (often called cGMP, with the c meaning “current” because the rules change over time) aren’t cheap or simple.Companies can expect to spend six figures making their facilities GMP-compliant, and more to get a credible certifying company to verify GMP is followed.

Hemp beverage maker acquires alkaline water manufacturer

A North Carolina company that makes carbonated drinks with hemp seed oil has acquired a company that bottles high-alkaline water. Good Hemp of Cornelius, North Carolina, says it has acquired Diamond Creek Group, which will become a wholly owned subsidiary. Diamond Creek is based in Charlotte and makes high-alkaline natural spring water sourced from springs in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

The Soul of a Store: How to recruit and retain the right retail staffers

This story sappers in the April issue of Marijuana Business Magazine. You’ve found the perfect location and designed your dream dispensary—now it’s time to recruit the staff who will bring your store to life. Exact strategies will vary based on a retailer’s size and resources, the local labor pool and available time. But a few basic tips can help you find the employees your store needs to succeed. Finding Your First Employees Recruitment can be time-consuming even in the age of online job boards, said Alison McMahon, CEO of Cannabis At Work, a marijuana human-resources and recruitment company based in Edmonton, Alberta. “Usually, people are reaching out to us because they have a lot of different priorities, and something has to give somewhere,” she said. “They’re willing to assign a piece of their budget to a recruitment firm to help them get some of that key talent in the door.” McMahon said retailers often seek Cannabis At Work’s help for key hires such as general managers, even if they’re not using the recruitment agency to fill all their positions.

Startup raises $5.3 million to boost drones for hemp production

An Irish startup looking to see more farmers growing hemp and using drones to do so has locked down $5.3 million (4.5 million euros) to get going. Greenheart CBD says it is looking to expand its supply chain and find more hemp to turn into CBD. The company grew hemp on 10 acres last year but is looking to contract with more producers, sending them seeds and drones to help cultivate them the hemp, co-founder Paul Walsh told Irish Times.

5 strategies to fight overly restrictive hemp regulations

(Editor’s note: This story is part of a recurring series of commentaries from professionals connected to the hemp industry. Beth Collins and Chris Guillen are attorneys with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Santa Barbara, California.) Hemp cultivation is a burgeoning industry in California with huge potential. However, many local agencies in the nation’s largest marijuana economy have squelched the industry’s development by adopting outsized buffers and other strict cultivation restrictions. Other crops and agricultural land-related uses can yield similar and in some cases greater impacts. But this crop has been targeted because it is new and because people confuse it with marijuana. The good news – there are strategies that the hemp industry can use to counter anti-hemp zoning restrictions since often there are win-win scenarios to be found. Restricting hemp hampers not only the hemp industry but also agricultural communities at large. Here are 5 effective strategies that we employed while representing an alliance of agricultural organizations in Ventura County in their successful effort to enact a hemp ordinance that reasonably allows hemp cultivation in the county while protecting other existing land uses:

Idaho lawmakers agree to allow hemp cultivation, marking 50th state

Idaho, the only state that still bans hemp cultivation, could join its neighbors under a hemp-authorization measure that awaits the governor’s signature. Idaho lawmakers agreed this week to a bill allowing the production, processing, transportation and research of hemp.

3 ways cannabis extraction equipment makers are innovating

This is the second installment in an ongoing series offering tips and advice for hemp and marijuana extraction companies. The first installment is available here. Cannabis extraction equipment represents one of the most innovative sectors in the industry, with new products and constantly evolving techniques for processing raw plant material. Among other areas, marijuana and hemp companies are developing: Ways to combine extraction solvents. Novel winterization methods. Tools to refine the extraction process that have roots in the pharmaceutical industry.

Report: PepsiCo launches hemp beverage in Germany

Rockstar Energy, a drink brand owned by PepsiCo, has launched a line of hemp-infused drinks in Germany. Just-Drinks reports that Rockstar Energy + Hemp was released Saturday in three flavors. The drinks contain hempseed extract, caffeine and taurine.

DEA extraction rule driving hemp processors out of business, Congressmen warn

Some hemp processors are closing rather than navigate rules issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration about elevated THC levels, two members of Congress told the agency in opposing the rules. House Agriculture Chairman David Scott and Rep. Sanford Bishop, both Georgia Democrats, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversees the DEA.

NY marijuana law makes sweeping changes to hemp rules, too

New York’s new marijuana law includes a dramatic overhaul of how the state’s hemp industry is regulated. The change could potentially send a flood of hemp operators to the high-THC side of the industry. But it also leaves some big questions about the future of hemp extracts such as CBD. The law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week makes a first-in-the-nation attempt to regulate hemp operators working with flower and cannabinoid products the same way the state oversees marijuana operators, designating a new category for “cannabinoid hemp” that will be governed by a new Office of Cannabis Management. That agency’s new cannabis control board will set rules for both cannabinoid hemp and marijuana. “It’s one-stop shopping,” said Geoff Whaling of the National Hemp Association. Whaling praised New York’s plan to centralize regulations for all cannabinoid extracts such as CBD and THC. “We all have to currently deal with departments of health and departments of ag and departments of justice and attorneys general, on and on and on,” he said.

Intellectual property takes on growing role in cannabis deals

This story first appeared at Marijuana Business Daily. Intellectual property is playing an increasingly important role in cannabis industry acquisitions and other deals as businesses look to get a leg up on rivals by purchasing or investing in companies holding valuable patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks. This comes as hemp and marijuana companies seek to increase their value through IP by differentiating themselves from their competitors and making their businesses more attractive for acquisitions and other transactions, according to experts. The importance of IP was highlighted in two recent deals:

Closely watched Colorado CBD patent lawsuit dropped

This story first appeared at Marijuana Business Daily. Colorado-based United Cannabis (UCANN) dropped a landmark CBD-related patent lawsuit against Pure Hemp Collective, leaving the legal issue unresolved.

Remove THC or degrade it? Cannabis extractors say there’s room for both

One is quick but expensive. The other is economical but slow – and tricky to get just right. Extractors looking to isolate certain cannabinoids have long relied on chromatography to dial up or down the many cannabinoids in hemp and marijuana plants. But a technique formerly derided as the mark of inferior product – degradation – is getting new attention. Cannabis extractors are experimenting with better ways to use light, heat and pressure to hasten the way THC degrades into CBN, a minor cannabinoid gathering interest for its therapeutic potential. Long considered an unwanted waste product of “stale” cannabis, CBN is created when THC-A is exposed to light or oxidized. Some cannabis product manufacturers say the degraded THC has sleep and anti-inflammation benefits worth exploring. At Extract Labs in Boulder, Colorado, a team of university engineering students is spending the semester experimenting on degradation techniques. The goal: To speed up THC degradation to create distillate rich in CBD but also in CBN. “It takes months or years if you let nature take its course,” explained Extract Labs CEO Craig Henderson. “We’re trying to figure out ways to do it in days.” Savings drive innovations Hemp extractors are especially interested in degradation methods to remove THC. Rather than use large quantities of chemical solvent to remove THC that must then be thrown away, degradation offers a path to keep more CBD and terpenes intact and replace THC content with a valuable, nonintoxicating minor cannabinoid. “It’s definitely more cost-effective to degrade rather than to go through chromatography,” said Alex Goff, COO of Gemini Extraction in Erie, Colorado. “Chromatography has issues with mass loss and expensive solvent. Degradation does take more time than chromatography, but on a net-cost basis, the savings are significant.” Deepank Utkhede, COO of Vantage Hemp in Greeley, Colorado, said the price difference makes degradation impossible to ignore. “With the chromatography, you’re taking (cannabis) and you’re putting it down a chromatography column and you’re using vast amounts of solvent,” Utkhede said “Then you have to remove that solvent and then do a drying process to remove any residual solvents. “With the degradation path, you basically just take that material, you mix it and you heat it and you apply a slight vacuum and that’s all you do. There’s no drying step. There’s no solvent-removal step.” Not for everyone Despite degradation’s benefits, no one is writing off chromatography extraction. That’s because chromatography’s speed makes it necessary for large-scale production. CBN’s legal murkiness is another point in favor of chromatography. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, expressly prohibit CBN. The United States has legalized hemp and its byproducts but also maintains that THC — even if it comes from hemp — is a controlled substance, potentially making CBN an illicit “analog” of THC. As with delta-8 THC, the confusion about CBN’s legal status in the U.S. hasn’t been thoroughly vetted in court. It’s enough for some CBD customers to want even degraded THC removed from the product. “Chromatography allows us to actually remove the THC, which is beneficial for international markets,” said Arthur Jaffee, CEO of ECS Brands in Boulder, Colorado. “Particularly in the UK, CBN is classified and categorized and treated the same as THC. So you can’t sell anything with CBN internationally.” At River Organics in Gloucester, Virginia, domestic customers clamor for THC-free products, too, though the company is still working on organic ways to remove all THC from its extracts, operations manager Ryan Cross said. “Our goal is to use remediation to be able to provide our customers with products that meet either their personal beliefs around THC, or their job requirements just don’t make it compatible,” Cross said. Still, the expense of chromatography makes Cross pause. “The CBD industry is transitioning from chromatography,” he said. “The market for CBD distillate and isolates has gone down dramatically since they became legal. … So cost is really the driving factor in profitability for this industry.” Customers will decide Extractors say the end users of cannabis extracts will ultimately determine how common THC degradation or remediation through chromatography is used. Utkhede said that U.S. and international markets are headed in different directions. “There are two categories of what people are looking for. There are the people who are interested in the full-spectrum oil and, for North American markets, they’re more interested in being THC-compliant. So basically getting that THC level below the 0.3%. But they also want the entourage effect and some of the terpenes, Utkhede said. “But if you’re looking for a more global expansion like Europe or Brazil or Latin America, those jurisdictions aren’t looking for compliance, they’re looking for non-detectable THC.” On the other side are customers looking for ever-higher quantities of expensive minor cannabinoids. “Our customers want oil with more minor (cannabinoids) in it, say 10% to 20% minors,” Goff said. “And since CBN is so expensive, it’s nice to be able to convert THC into CBN and then spend less money on a CBN isolate.” Kristen Nichols can be reached at [email protected].

Delta-8 THC confusion snags South Carolina retailer

A vape shop owner in South Carolina is challenging police over $5,000 worth of delta-8 THC products confiscated from his store. Robert Oggenfuss, owner of TSR Vape Shop in Clinton, says the products were derived from legal hemp. Authorities have not charged him with a crime pending lab analysis.

UK deadline for CBD approvals nears

CBD edibles in the United Kingdom could be ripped from shelves unless manufacturers submit product-safety applications by Wednesday. Starting April 1, no CBD product on the U.K. market will be allowed to stay there without validation by food-safety authorities.

How to cut costs and achieve efficiencies when extracting cannabis

This story first appeared at Marijuana Business Daily and is the first in a new series offering tips and advice for hemp and marijuana extraction companies. For cannabis extraction companies, becoming more efficient and more productive goes hand in hand with expansion and scaling up. Hemp-extraction firms looking to cut costs and boost efficiencies can do so in several ways, including: Adding automated solutions to extraction equipment. Sourcing high-quality starting material. Designing the facility to streamline the process and improve workflow. Automation Automating certain parts of the extraction process can dramatically reduce labor costs and increase throughput time. At Copperstate Farms, a vertically integrated marijuana company in Snowflake, Arizona, Director of Extraction Zach Brown is using ethanol to produce bulk distillate.

Editor’s Notebook: States must take the lead in researching cannabis pollen transfer

Kristen Nichols This column appears in the March edition of Marijuana Business Magazine. Hemp entrepreneurs have made an art of talking up the plant to people who hate high-THC marijuana. They’re great at explaining how hemp is nonintoxicating and can accomplish great things for the planet, winning over even the biggest cannabis critics.  But the hemp industry needs a little help when it comes to communicating with state-legal marijuana operators. It’s a challenge that threatens to derail hemp’s renaissance before it really gets going.  We all know that new states join the marijuana industry every year. That’s great news for those looking to cash in on business opportunities in new markets and climates.  But the growth of cannabis production at all THC levels—both marijuana and hemp—is causing an increasing number of conflicts that only states can solve. 

Losses narrow for Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte’s Web Holdings Inc. lost $15 million last quarter, a narrower loss than the same period in 2019, as the company trimmed operating expenses and posted gains in both direct-to-consumer sales and B2B sales over the fourth quarter of 2019.

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