Friday, March 5, 2021

Kristen Nichols

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CBD giant Charlotte’s Web positions to enter THC market

Hemp-derived CBD giant Charlotte’s Web Holdings is positioning itself to enter THC and marijuana markets. The Boulder, Colorado, company says it has signed a five-year, $8 million purchase agreement option with a marijuana company started by its founders, Stanley Brothers USA Holdings Inc. The deal allows Charlotte’s Web to take over the marijuana business after the U.S.  legalizes marijuana nationwide for a total price to be determined based upon revenue and EBITDA figures. Charlotte’s Web CEO Deanie Elsner says the company made the deal because of signs that federal marijuana reform is nearing. “Consumer attitudes, market trends and laws surrounding cannabis and its role within the wellness category continue to trend positively,” Elsner said in a statement. Stanley Brothers founders Jared and Joel Stanley are also members of CW’s board of directors but will step away from those positions to oversee the future acquisition. Stanley Brothers USA Holdings makes cannabis products that don’t qualify as legal hemp but are lower in THC than many formulations in adult-use cannabis markets.  The company has operations in Colorado, California and Florida. Charlotte’s Web trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange as CWEB.

Sleep and stress worries create opportunities for CBD and marijuana brands

(Editor’s note: This story is part of a recurring series of commentaries from professionals connected to the hemp industry. Jackie Berg is co-founder of CBD Marketing Hub, a digital-to-door agency focused on CBD and cannabis marketing.) Sleep is valued commodity and something many Americans are increasingly bereft of. Many health experts see sleep issues as a looming health crisis. Forty percent or more Americans don’t get enough sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is worse among people of color. Such sleep insufficiency, which health experts classify as less than seven hours of sleep nightly, leads to long-term health issues from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to mental-health issues. Jackie Berg The trends have led to late-night internet searches and seismic increases in overall digital consumption, which — while good for digital commerce — are detrimental to sleep. The word “insomnia” was Googled more in 2020 than ever before. A record 2.77 million searches were clocked in the first five months of 2020 alone, according to researcher Kirsi-Marja Zitting, an instructor and associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who studied the trend. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates 20 million to 30 million Americans suffer from intermittent sleep problems every year. Opprtunities for hemp and cannabis: Meaning, not money Although the sleep market represents a significant growth opportunity, many CBD and cannabis brand are looking beyond the category’s profit potential at something far different: a chance to make a difference. That aim is a part of the DNA of many CBD and cannabis brands, where 6 in 10 company founders see the industry’s momentum as a part of a greater mission to do good, according to the 2019 CBD & Cannabis confidence survey conducted by the Insyght Institute, the nonprofit arm of the market research firm Target Insyght. The continuous drive for improvement is more important than ever, said PureKana CEO Kathy Casey, who reports sleep product sales growth of 14% over the last half of 2020. “Families are really struggling to manage additional pandemic-related stressors and are becoming more and open to non-pharmaceutical sleep aides, particularly the more natural and non-addictive alternatives,” Casey said. Together with Gen Z consumers, stressed-out millennials accounted for 48% of the U.S. CBD market in the fourth quarter last year, according to marketing analytics firm High Yield Insights. THC products are another alternative growing in popularity. One California-based dispensary and delivery service, Ganja Goddess, reports a 635% increase in its cannabis sleep product sales. Nearly 70% of its customers use its cannabis products to support sleep, according to its CEO Zachary Pitts. “The pandemic and its extended duration has taken the lid off some of the stigmas surrounding the importance of mental health and its place in our overall well-being,” Casey said. Education is more important than ever, according to Josh Richman, CMO of Receptra Naturals, which makes gummies and a tincture for sleep. “Consumers need education about our products,” Richman said. “We need to promote the overall importance of sleep, not just our own product lines.” Coping conversation The pandemic has revealed how closely tied sleep and stress are. Stress levels among U.S. adults are higher now than the early days of the pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association’s recent Stress in America survey, which revealed that 80% report emotions with prolonged stress.People are talking about stress, anxiety and related sleep issues more openly than they ever have, according to Casey. “These issues are front and center in the majority of conversations taking place in people’s homes, communities and workplaces,” Casey said. “Everyone is talking about how to cope, from new exercise and meditation routines to more natural alternatives.” That openness is a part of what’s driving up sleep-market growth, which Market Data Forecast estimates will grow 5.9% annually from $34.9 billion in 2020 to an estimated $46.5 billion by 2025. Melatonin supplements were among category drivers that drew $825 million in consumer spending, according to market analytics firm Nielsen, representing a 42.6% increase. Prescriptions for sleep-related issues are at an all-time high, according to a report from Express Scripts, which reports a 14.8% increase in prescription sleep medications between mid-February and mid-March of 2020. “The pandemic has helped to elevate awareness of the importance of good sleep and has softened the momentum of ‘Sleep is for Suckers’ messaging,” adds Richman, who reports a shift in interest around better sleep, particularly among moms 40 to 50 years of age and 25-to-35-year-old millennials, Receptra Naturals’ largest growth segment. “Consumers definitely have a preference for plant-based solutions,” says Richman, who says that interest is particularly high in ‘paired’ products like CBN (an alternative to synthetic melatonin) which shows promise for enhancing sleep. What works Employers’ workplace policies, practices and protocols are shifting in concert with consumer and market trends. “Employers formerly focused almost primarily on physical health programs and benefits are seeing the need to extend their focus and are changing the way they address benefit programs and policies … understanding that it is incumbent on them to offer more and better mental health solutions,” Casey said. With alcohol consumption up and consumers increasingly turning to addictive remedies to keep themselves together throughout this pandemic, there are new worries that many remote workers will be returning to the workplace with substance misuse disorders. Although the cannabis industry must comply with challenging marketing restrictions, there are legal and effective ways to position sleep products. Here’s our top four: Content Marketing. Like many CPG companies, more CBD and cannabis brands are moving their ad budgets to content marketing buys, working directly with publishers able and willing to create custom marketing campaigns. This move allows brands to leverage user consent-driven segmentation and attribution controls and to encourage a personalized brand experience. Keyword Marketing. Other digital solutions utilize a legal form of keyword marketing, which allows brands to serve up ads to bottom funnel buyers in the search process. Although program capabilities vary, most allow brands to competitively blunt (including competitive product names in their targeting), leverage key consumer demos and CBD and cannabis search terms in their targeting. Strategic Partnerships. Foundations and nonprofit partners are also becoming more willing to partner with cannabis brands as a result of shifting consumer acceptance and legalization of cannabis. Educational Posts. Education is key. Brands should responsibly educate consumers about the importance of sleep, irrespective of product messaging. “We need to support and applaud lifestyle changes beyond CBD that people are making to be and stay well,” Richman said. “If the outcome of our efforts is good, it is good for us all.” Jackie Berg can be reached at [email protected] To be considered for publication as a guest columnist, please submit your request to [email protected] with the subject line “Guest Column.”

Alberta fiber processor resumes expansion after COVID delay

Canadian Rockies Hemp Corp., a decorticator and processor near Edmonton, Alberta, says its expansion plans to become the largest hemp processing facility in North America are back on track after a $14 million (CAD$18 million) infusion from Merida Capital Holdings, a private equity cannabis investment fund. The loan will be used to help the processor finish expansion plans to 60,000 square feet that were put on hold for nine months last year after the processor’s original financing fell through, the Alberta Farmer newspaper reported. The company’s CEO, Aaron Barr, told Hemp Industry Daily by email the financing glitch was related to the COVID-19 pandemic. With construction resuming, he said, the company has some 5,000 acres of hemp in Alberta growing under contract from 20 to 30 farmers. CRHC harvests, bales and transports the hemp to the processing site. The expansion should be complete by summer. CRHC is privately held and sells hemp hurd and pellets for animal bedding and cat litter and fiber for textile processing. Barr says the area’s arid climate allows outdoor hemp storage for two to four years without decay, a competitive advantage compared to processors in humid climates who must store bales indoors.

Chart: Despite buzz around delta-8 THC, cannabinoid cultivation dominated by CBD, CBG

The entire cannabis industry is buzzing about delta-8 THC and other cannabinoids found rarely in the plant but gaining favor among growers and consumers. Indeed, there has been a noticeable shift toward so-called novel cannabinoids among hemp producers surveyed by Hemp Industry Daily. But CBD still rules the roost. Cannabidiol, by far, continues to be the cannabinoid most growers strive to produce. But one of the lesser-known cannabinoids, CBG, is gaining prominence. In 2019, 19% of hemp grown for cannabinoid extraction was for CBG; in 2020, that number grew to 43%. The percentage of hemp grown for CBD dropped from 96% in 2019 to 80% in 2020.  The shift is likely stems from due in part to growing research and public interest in the novel cannabinoids, even though CBD is still the most profitable cannabinoid in the hemp market.    Hemp cultivated for CBN remained nearly the same from 2019 to 2020, at 10% and 12%, respectively. About 3% of growers were cultivating hemp for delta-8 THC, a category that has only gained traction only over the past last year.   Hemp processors have been buying up excess flower and distillate on the market to make delta-8 THC, an edible and smokable extract that has become popular among consumers. The market for delta-8 THC has helped both growers and extractors keep their doors open as the industry struggles with low wholesale prices due to an oversupply of hemp on the market and regulatory uncertainty, which have caused a bottleneck for CBD brands. In August 2020, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration published an interim final rule that hemp industry opponents argue would make certain extracts, such as delta-8 THC, a Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, the product’s legality may depend on whether it is made synthetically or derived organically. The Hemp Industries Association and a South Carolina CBD manufacturer currently have a lawsuit pending over their interpretation of the DEA rule. Read more about the race to find stable THC-V genetics here. Find more exclusive intelligence about the hemp industry in the Hemp & CBD Industry Factbook 2021 Edition, on sale here.

MJBizCon announces return to Las Vegas Oct. 20-22

MJBizCon will return as a live, in-person event in Las Vegas this October, barring any unforeseen developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, Marijuana Business Daily announced Monday. The 10th annual cannabis trade show, the largest in the industry, is scheduled to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and will include an online component starting the week of Oct. 18. The live expo will be held Oct. 20-22, 2021. “We’re gearing up for a triumphant return to a live MJBizCon in Las Vegas this fall,” said Chris Walsh, CEO and president of Marijuana Business Daily and Hemp Industry Daily. “After a year of uncertainty, turmoil and isolation, the need for the industry to get together is perhaps stronger than ever,” he added. “One thing we’ve all learned through the pandemic is that cannabis businesses thrive on face-to-face connections.” Walsh went on to say the industry is poised to come “roaring out of the pandemic.” “We can’t wait to bring the entire cannabis ecosystem together so we can propel the industry forward.” MJBizCon organizers will take all necessary and appropriate COVID-related precautions to ensure the health and safety of attendees. “We are eager to get back to Vegas as soon as it is safe to convene again – and we believe that will be this October,” said Jess Tyler, senior vice president of events and strategic development for MJBizDaily and Hemp Industry Daily. Tyler said her team has been researching health and safety practices and is working closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, state and county officials “so we can welcome you to the show with confidence and provide you with peace of mind.” “The safety of the entire MJBizCon community is our top priority while we prepare for us all to get together once again.” Prospective attendees are invited to sign up at mjbizcon.com to get regular alerts as registration opens and speakers are announced. The application form to be an MJBizCon speaker also is available. The application deadline is June 1. The 2020 MJBizCon was an entirely virtual event in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Registration will begin in April. Watch MJBizDailthis space for more details about keynote speakers, session topics and more.

MJBizCon announces return to Las Vegas Oct. 20-22

MJBizCon will return as a live, in-person event in Las Vegas this October, barring any unforeseen developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, Marijuana Business Daily announced Monday. The 10th annual cannabis trade show, the largest in the industry, is scheduled to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and will include an online component starting the week of Oct. 18. The live expo will be held Oct. 20-22, 2021. “We’re gearing up for a triumphant return to a live MJBizCon in Las Vegas this fall,” said Chris Walsh, CEO and president of Marijuana Business Daily and Hemp Industry Daily. “After a year of uncertainty, turmoil and isolation, the need for the industry to get together is perhaps stronger than ever,” he added. “One thing we’ve all learned through the pandemic is that cannabis businesses thrive on face-to-face connections.” Walsh went on to say the industry is poised to come “roaring out of the pandemic.” “We can’t wait to bring the entire cannabis ecosystem together so we can propel the industry forward.” MJBizCon organizers will take all necessary and appropriate COVID-related precautions to ensure the health and safety of attendees. “We are eager to get back to Vegas as soon as it is safe to convene again – and we believe that will be this October,” said Jess Tyler, senior vice president of events and strategic development for MJBizDaily and Hemp Industry Daily. Tyler said her team has been researching health and safety practices and is working closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, state and county officials “so we can welcome you to the show with confidence and provide you with peace of mind.” “The safety of the entire MJBizCon community is our top priority while we prepare for us all to get together once again.” Prospective attendees are invited to sign up at mjbizcon.com to get regular alerts as registration opens and speakers are announced. The application form to be an MJBizCon speaker also is available. The application deadline is June 1. The 2020 MJBizCon was an entirely virtual event in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Registration will begin in April. Watch MJBizDailthis space for more details about keynote speakers, session topics and more.

State ag departments join call for 1% THC in hemp

The nation’s state agriculture departments have joined the call for raising the THC limit in hemp from 0.3% to a full 1%. But the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture did not say in its policy statement how states propose making that change. The platform was adopted Thursday during the group’s winter meeting. The Hemp Industries Association and other advocates have called a 1% THC limit a necessary change to encourage participation in the hemp sector. “The 1% threshold will help give growers all across the country, especially those growing for CBD, some greater flexibility with variety selection and maximizing CBD percentages before a crop goes hot,” said Rob Richard, president of the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has insisted that it can’t raise the THC limit on its own. NASDA’s policy statement does not take a position on whether the Controlled Substances Act should be changed in Congress. RJ Karney, NASDA’s senior director of public policy, said the group is simply looking to promote more breathing room for hemp producers. “This is still an upcoming industry that can benefit from greater flexibility to thrive,” he said in an email. “By expanding the federal definition to less than or equal to 1% THC in dry-matter hemp, we can give farmers more certainty that their crops will be able to make it to market.”

‘People expected me to fail’: Black female hemp farmers discuss disparity in the industry

Jillian Hishaw (Editor’s note: This story is part of a recurring series of commentaries from professionals connected to the hemp industry. Jillian Hishaw is an agricultural strategist and former U.S. Department of Agriculture Adjudicator of the Office to the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights. She’s now Founder & CEO of Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.) and author of “Systematic Land Theft” and “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid.”) Disparities in the hemp industry, just like the field of agriculture, are apparent. Many top hemp companies are run by white men supported by an executive staff and board that are seldom diverse. It’s a similar landscape at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since the USDA was established in 1862, just one white woman (Ann Veneman) and one Black man (Mike Espy) have been secretary. There was some speculation President Joe Biden would choose the first Black female to lead the agency. Instead, Biden chose Tom Vilsack, a white man and a former Agriculture Secretary under President Barack Obama. Vilsack has a record of ineffective race relations matching the history of USDA. This history has led to the drafting of the Justice for Black Farmers Act — legislation sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand — providing Black farmers with debt relief and more. The USDA’s record on Black farmers and landowners is shameful, and the disparities continue. Black farmers were foreclosed on at a 13% rate between 2006 to 2016 but made up less than 3% of USDA’s direct-loan recipients. Currently, whites own 98% of U.S. farmland while Black, indigenous and people of color own the remaining 2%. These statistics are even more dismal in the hemp and cannabis industry. Black farmers’ approval of hemp licenses is extremely minimal. And even after acquiring their licenses, many cannot afford to grow due to lack of capital and infrastructure. “The lack of capital and the historic system of being forced to compete in the good-ole-boys network locks many Black farmers out of the industry,” said Gagan Hunter, CEO of Mother Earth Bounty, a seller of natural cannabis products that’s been in business for nearly 20 years. No social equity in hemp The term “social equity” is often tossed around as an application requirement to secure a cannabis license. But the term has become words on paper. The 10-year restriction on getting a hemp license for anyone with a drug felony conviction is just another example of Congress allowing USDA to lock Black Americans out of the industry. “If equity was really in place, we would be put in the front of the line,” Hunter said. The challenges of living in the Southeast and being a Black farmer are far too familiar — but the work it keeps getting done by farmers on a shoestring budget. I recently spoke with Dreu VanHoose, CEO of VanHoose Co., a hemp farming company in Alabama. She’s a first-generation farmer growing on her grandfather’s land. Dreu VanHoose on her farm in Alabama “I expected challenges, but I learned about resilience and failing forward,” she said. VanHoose’s grandfather was one of the first Black pharmacists in Washington DC. “And now I am happy to continue in his footsteps of growing natural hemp products ” for medicinal and industrial purposes, she said. VanHoose experienced a setback at the beginning of the planting season last year when she purchased “organic” fertilizer that was not so organic. After her transplants were either burned up by the fertilizer or eaten by the bugs, VanHoose replanted a late crop, which resulted in a successful harvest. But VanHoose did have her share of challenges during her first year of being a rural Black farmer. “Relocating from DC to Alabama was an adjustment period, you can say– realizing things you can do in the city cannot be done down here.” VanHoose said the key to her success this year was the guidance she received from neighboring older Black farmers and the support from organizations like F.A.R.M.S. and Tricolla Farms located in Upstate New York. Lonely profession Other farmers did not fare as well this past season. Ali Tannur (photo courtesy Javetta Sabra) Tannur Ali, CEO of iLogic at Solomon’s Garden, located in Alabama, is a Black produce farmer and aspiring hemp farmer who has experienced many of the challenges Hunter saw. Like Hunter, Ali moved from the Northeast. “My first couple of years of farming were spent proving myself. People expected me to fail and move back home,” she said. Last year Ali secured her hemp license but was unable to plant. “It took me getting my license to identify the full costs associated with growing hemp, and it wasn’t something I could afford. It was either take out a loan to plant hemp or just not plant, and I chose the latter.” The isolation she felt made things worse. “The most challenging thing (about) being a woman farmer is the loneliness, because women farmers are so few and far between,” she said. Despite these challenges, Ali said, “I remain optimistic about the whole process. I knew there would be difficulties I didn’t see coming. “In my mind, the process speaks for itself — first you build the soil, then you expect the plants to grow.” Her background in administrative and community work gave her an advantage, she says. “Following the law is an essential part of farming.” As we end Black History month and enter Women History’s month, the words and work of VanHoose and Ali will resonate with future women farmers who plant behind them. The barrier of discrimination in the agricultural industry, no matter what the crop, is historically apparent. Unlike VanHoose and Ali forging a new path for Black women in hemp, Biden missed an opportunity to appoint the first Black woman Agriculture Secretary. As more women enter the field of agriculture, the demographics in the field will ensure an accomplished woman of color will be Agriculture Secretary one day. Jillian Hishaw can be reached at [email protected] To be considered for publication as a guest columnist, please submit your request to [email protected] with the subject line “Guest Column.”

Customs and Border Patrol accused of wrongly blocking trimmer components

A Canadian manufacturing company that makes agricultural equipment for the marijuana and hemp industries is accusing the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol of wrongly blocking imports needed by its Washington state subsidiary to build a hemp-trimming machine. Keirton USA says that Customs agents seized last month in Blaine, Washington, calling the equipment “drug paraphernalia.” The seizure took components the company needed to make vacuums and trimmers. The company says its Washington location imports components from Canada, China, Taiwan and Japan. Keirton filed suit Tuesday, seeking the return of its equipment, plus a court order requiring Customs to allow Keirton’s shipments. “Keirton has taken appropriate steps to ensure that its merchandise is used only for lawful purposes,” the company said in its lawsuit. Keirton USA also sued Customs last year, resulting in a settlement. Keirton says the agency broke that agreement in continuing to seize imports. Keirton is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its subsidiary Keirton USA is based in Ferndale,Washington. Law360 first reported the Keirton lawsuit.

Federal judge hands Indiana producers a setback on smokable-hemp challenge

A federal judge in Indiana is reversing course on a state law banning smokable hemp, handing growers and processors another defeat as they seek to find a path to market for the most profitable part of the plant. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker told the Midwest Hemp Council and several hemp businesses challenging Indiana’s 2019 ban that she would not put the ban on hold pending their legal challenge. Barker had earlier placed an injunction on Indiana’s smokable hemp ban. At the time, she ruled that Indiana’s prohibition on growing, selling or possessing smokable hemp was likely unconstitutional because it violated national interstate commerce protections. Barker’s 2019 injunction was overturned by a federal appeals court in Chicago, which said her order “sweeps too broadly” and that Indiana should be allowed to ban smokable hemp until the question is settled in court. The appeals court then sent the injunction request back to Barker for review. The judge’s latest ruling comes days after the Indiana House of Representatives voted to change the law to allow smokable hemp. But the bill to allow “craft hemp flower” still must pass the state Senate and be signed into law by the governor in order to allow smokable-hemp flower in Indiana. The challengers of the ban don’t yet have a court date for hashing out the dispute. But they say Indiana is trying to supersede the federal law that legalizes hemp and all its components. Justin Swanson Justin Swanson, president of the Midwest Hemp Council and owner of Heartland Harvest Confections, a CBD chocolate maker in Indianapolis, said the state’s 256 licensed hemp growers are wrongly being cut out of the boom in smokable flower. “These bans do nothing to curb demand for the product,” Swanson told Hemp Industry Daily. “Instead, it shifts (smokable-hemp buyers) to out-of-state farmers and out-of-state online retailers,” he said. “This is a federally legal product that is free to be shipped.” Another smokable-hemp ban is on hold in Texas pending a legal challenge. California is considering a ban, too. Analytics firm Nielsen Global Connect predicts that by 2025, the U.S. smokable-hemp market could reach $300 million to $400 million, representing roughly 5% of the potential $6 billion to $7 billion hemp-derived CBD consumer products category. Read more about the U.S. smokable-hemp market in this free report, “Sector Snapshot: Opportunities & Challenges in Smokable Hemp.” Kristen Nichols can be reached at [email protected].

Genetic editing offers hemp and marijuana companies a way to improve plant strains

This story first appeared at Marijuana Business Daily. The development of new genetic-editing technology offers cannabis companies a cost-effective way to make specific changes to marijuana and hemp plants – such as more disease resistance – without creating a genetically modified organism. The technology, known as Crispr-Cas9, will allow the cannabis industry to build new, improved plants that promise to introduce hardiness and efficiencies into cultivation. That, in turn, could boost profits. Developed by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna, the Crispr-Cas9 gene-editing technique revolutionizes genetic engineering in many fields, including medicine and agriculture. They were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work. In the case of cannabis, Crispr gene editing can produce new testable strains within a matter of weeks – unlike previous, more manual techniques. Some possible changes to the cannabis genome include: Disease resistance: Large-scale agriculture is susceptible to various pests and diseases. The technique should provide a way to quickly create resistant plants. Climate tolerance: Climate change will alter how cannabis is grown in the coming decades. Plants that can withstand a wider range of temperature and daylight will be valuable as that occurs. Increased trichomes: Researchers are trying to increase the trichome density on the plants as a way to boost the production of terpenes and cannabinoids. Terpene manipulation: Changing the terpene makeup of a plant could provide a way to create distinctive and brandable cannabis products. CBD-to-THC ratio: Hemp producers use the gene-editing technique to inhibit or eliminate the production of THC in the plants. It can also be used to manipulate the creation of CBD. Biomass improvements: The ability to create specific traits and improvements to non-THC and CBD producing biomass of plants could help increase cultivator profits by minimizing plant waste. Plant-wide THC production: In the vein of biomass improvements, work has already begun on the development of marijuana plants that produce THC in more parts of the plant. Novel cannabinoid production: As the industry begins to understand cannabinoids other than THC and CBD, look for gene editing to be at the forefront of manipulating plants to produce them. The Crispr-Cas9 process creates new DNA but technically does not create a genetically modified organism (GMO) because it does not introduce foreign DNA to the plant. The process works by removing the section of the DNA the cultivator is hoping to change. In addition, a guide piece of RNA is created and attached to an enzyme called Cas9. Together, these two elements make up the Crispr tool. The tool finds the targeted section of DNA while the enzyme cuts out the section as scissors would. New genetic material is introduced and attaches to the missing segment. Companies are already using the technique to manipulate hemp and marijuana plants. Evergreen, Colorado-based Ebbu, which was acquired by Canada-based Canopy Growth Corp. in 2018, was an early adopter of gene-editing techniques to try to produce single-cannabinoid strains, among other traits. CanBreed, an Israeli company focused on developing genetically stable seeds, licensed the Crispr technology to enhance the traits of those seeds. In late 2020, CanBreed announced the purchase of a 3.5-acre farm in San Diego.

Levi’s teams with Danish fashion brand to roll out hemp denim

Levi’s is teaming with a Danish fashion brand, GANNI, to offer denim jeans, jackets, dresses and tops made of cottonized hemp. The collection promotes the items as more sustainable than cotton-based denim. “The hemp used to make the fabric is all rain-fed with a proven lower footprint than conventional denim, traditionally made from cotton,” Ditte Reffstrup, creative director of GANNI, told Teen Vogue. The cottonized hemp is so soft and luxurious in feeling, you honestly can’t tell it’s not conventional denim.” Levi’s already has a limited selection of cottonized hemp offerings in its WellThread line. The American denim maker’s Levi’s x GANNI collaboration goes on sale Wednesday. “This collaboration was an opportunity to [use] next level sustainable materials with cottonized hemp,” Karyn Hillman, chief product officer at Levi’s, said in a press release.

Cannabinoids can improve skin, study says

This story first appeared at Marijuana Business Daily. The development and extensive marketing of cosmetics containing cannabinoids—primarily CBD—has occurred in the absence of solid scientific evidence of their efficacy. Can cannabinoids even be absorbed into skin and, if so, can they have beneficial health effects? A recently published study suggests they can. Researchers in Poland have demonstrated the positive effects of hemp extracts on skin cells, including antioxidant activity, the ability to hydrate skin, enhanced viability of skin cells, and inhibition of the aging process. Hemp extracts were tested in a number of in vitro and cell-based assays. The water-ethanol extracts contained 15 percent CBDA, 3.1 percent CBD, and minor amounts of other cannabinoids. First, the authors found significant antioxidant activity of hemp extracts using in vitro chemical assays. The extracts were also shown to lack toxicity to the keratinocyte and fibroblast cell lines tested. Extract-containing hydrogels applied to the forearms of healthy volunteers improved hydration compared to hydrogels without extracts, suggesting hemp-containing cosmetics might act as natural moisturizers. Combined, these results show promising protective effects of CBD-rich hemp extracts. While it is known cannabinoid receptors are present on skin cells, absorption across the aqueous layer of the skin is difficult because cannabinoids are hydrophobic. In fact, there is a lack of clinical evidence that absorption through the layers of the skin occurs at all. Despite this, the number of creams and topicals containing CBD continues to increase with the CBD skin care market projected to be worth $1.8 billion by 2025, according to Nielsen Global Connect. This is in large part due to health claims made for CBD-infused products, making it imperative that clinical research is undertaken to determine the effects of cannabinoids on human skin — and whether they are even adequately absorbed. Meanwhile, the FDA has acted against a number of companies for making misleading health claims about the use of CBD skin care products to treat conditions such as acne and psoriasis. Read more about the size of the CBD skincare market in our free report, “How to Navigate the Complicated World of CBD in Retail.”

Indiana House signs off on smokable hemp

The Indiana state House has overwhelmingly voted to reverse a smokable hemp ban being challenged in federal court. A bill approved 69-28 last week would remove references to “smokable hemp” from the state’s 2019 law setting up hemp regulations. Those regulations banned the production and sale of hemp flower products. The bill also repeals a law that requires that a hemp bud or a hemp flower be sold only to a processor licensed in Indiana. The measure now heads to the Indiana Senate. The Midwest Hemp Council and several businesses have challenged Indiana’s smokable hemp ban; the matter is pending in a federal court.  California and New York are currently considering smokable hemp bans. Smokable hemp is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the hemp industry. Analytics firm Nielsen Global Connect predicts that by 2025, the market cold to reach $300 million to $400 million, representing roughly 5% of the potential $6 billion to $7 billion hemp-derived CBD consumer products category. Read more about the U.S. smokable hemp market in this free report, “Sector Snapshot: Opportunities & Challenges in Smokable Hemp.”

Editor’s Notebook: Make the press your secret branding weapon

(This opinion column appears in the February issue of Marijuana Business Magazine.) Everyone in the hemp industry knows the story of Charlotte’s Web: A group of well-meaning brothers working under Colorado’s medical marijuana system developed a cannabis strain that worked miracles on a sick little girl named Charlotte. Word spread about the awe-inspiring results of this low-THC, high-CBD extract. CNN paid Charlotte and the Stanley brothers a visit in 2013, and the story made the brothers rich and changed minds around the world about the value of a plant formerly sneered at by mainstream medicine. It’s an inspiring story. But what many folks in the hemp industry don’t know is how it happened, or how those well-meaning caregivers spread word of their product’s healing properties without inviting class-action lawsuits or the wrath of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which reminds CBD entrepreneurs at every turn that they can’t make medical claims. Media Might The secret behind the shocking business success of the company that became Charlotte’s Web Holdings is available to every creator in the hemp industry. It’s free and as close as your local newspaper. I’m talking about the press. As we examine liability concerns in the cannabis industry, I want to share how the press can be your secret weapon in gaining global recognition without spending a dollar on advertising or hiring a lawyer to shield you from FDA sanctions. The story of Charlotte Figi is a great example. Charlotte and her caregivers didn’t start sharing their CBD story on prime-time television. Instead, a local newspaper reporter in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was the first to tell their story. The caregivers and Charlotte’s family were completely honest about the girl’s disease and her treatment at a time when many parents would be considered criminals for giving their children an illegal drug. And in an age when people guard their medical privacy and look at the media with suspicion, Charlotte’s advocates invited a local reporter and photographer to come see her progress firsthand. What happened next was no surprise to folks who work in journalism. Free To Tell It Like It Is The local newspaper report about Charlotte Figi caught the attention of larger newspapers in Denver. More reporters started inquiring about this little girl, and they were again welcomed to find out more and share the story. Media attention grew until the Denver correspondent for The New York Times wrote a piece about the Figis. That’s when CNN sent a team to Colorado Springs. CNN does great work, but the network doesn’t have the manpower to discover every sick child experiencing a shocking medical outcome. Global media outlets read about those cases in newspapers. You can review every news story ever written about Charlotte Figi. None of them tiptoes around CBD’s effects on the girl or use vague, lawyer-approved language like “may help support a healthy lifestyle.” And none of the stories mentions any scary-sounding side effects of taking huge quantities of CBD (and yes, there can be some, even if they are rare). Charlotte’s Lesson The story of Charlotte’s Web should inspire everyone making healing products from cannabis. Forget the slow-moving FDA. Forget the constant vigilance of label language and making sure customer testimonials don’t pop up on your site. Instead, find out the names of your local newspaper reporters. Read their work and share it on social media. That gets a reporter’s attention faster than the fanciest news release. And when you have a patient or a client finding amazing results from your products, get those folks in touch with a local reporter. You can’t make medical claims. But reporters can share the story of your experience with no chance of government sanction. Sometimes those local newspaper stories turn into priceless global media exposure. Just ask the Charlotte’s Web pioneers. As you may know, Charlotte died last year. Let her story inspire you to keep seeking the healing properties of the cannabis plant — and let the Stanley brothers’ experience show you how to avoid liability concerns while still letting everyone know how miraculous this plant can be. Kristen Nichols is editor of Hemp Industry Daily. She can be reached at [email protected].

Lucky Strike’s parent company now selling CBD vapes

British American Tobacco is selling flavored CBD vapes in the United Kingdom as it eyes new products beyond tobacco and nicotine. But the parent company of Lucky Strike says it is not ready to enter the THC market yet. The company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kingsley Wheaton, told CNBC this week that CBD is an “exciting growth area for our business for the future.” Last month the company launched a CBD vaping product called Vuse in England. Wheaton called the launch a testing and learning experience but did not disclose sales. Wheaton said the tobacco company is holding off on THC inhalables because of limited market access. “It’s a very different regulatory landscape as you go around the world, and many markets remain currently inaccessible for regulatory reasons,” he said. British American Tobacco trades on the NYSE as BAT.

NFL requesting research on CBD for pain management

The National Football League and its players’ union have requested industry research on CBD and other cannabinoids for pain management. The NFL says it is looking for information about “alternatives to opioids in routine pain management.” The request mentions CBD but is open to research on other cannabinoids. The request issued Wednesday also mentions research on the “impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance.” The memo comes five months after the NFL Players Association updated its policy to discourage athletes from endorsing products that contain CBD or other cannabinoids. The research is requested by March 31. The NFL asks submitters to label proprietary information and that no compensation is offered for the information.

Canadian hemp, marijuana producer Tilray reports $271 million loss for year

Canadian hemp and marijuana producer Tilray cut its annual loss to $271 million for 2020 — an improvement from the Nanaimo, British Columbia company’s $321 million loss in 2019, according to the full-year and fourth-quarter results released Wednesday. Tilray, which is on the verge of being merged with Canadian peer Aphria, lost only $3 million in its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2020. Adjusted EBITDA was $2.2 million. Tilray reports its financials in U.S. dollars. Overall revenue rose to $56.6 million in the quarter, up from $51.4 million for the July-September period. Revenue attributed to cannabis was $41.2 million, up from the previous quarter’s $31.4 million. Hemp revenue, on the other hand, fell 23% quarter-over-quarter to $15.3 million. Tilray shares trade as TLRY on the Nasdaq exchange, and Aphria shares trade as APHA on the Nasdaq and Toronto Stock Exchange. Read more about Tilray’s financials at and the merger at Marijuana Business Daily.

H&M-owned clothing company debuts hemp denim

A denim maker owned by the H&M Group has debuted a line of hemp denim dyed with avocados and red onions. Weekday, a sustainable fashion brand based in Sweden, highlighted its first items made from hemp textiles at Stockholm Fashion Week last week, Sourcing Journal reported. The garments are dyed with food waste including avocados and red onions for the brand’s first plant-based denim collection. The hemp jeans built on the company’s previous sustainable material experiments, including a line made from a regenerated textile fiber called Infinna. The unisex denim line launches March 4 in Sweden, according to Sourcing Journal. Weekday has been part of H&M Group since 2008.

CBD exec’s blank-check effort nets $115 million

A blank-check investment company led by the co-CEO of North Carolina CBD maker cbdMD Inc. has raised $115 million to invest in consumer goods. The new blank-check company, Adara, did not mention cannabinoid products in its November filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Instead the company says it plans to invest in “companies in the consumer products industry and related sectors.” One of Adara’s backers is Martin A. Sumichrast, who is co-CEO and chairman of the board for cbdMD, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and makes and distributes CBD products. Other backers include a private-equity firm in Charlotte, Blystone & Donaldson. Adara trades on the NYSE American as ADRA.U. cbdMD Inc. trades on the NYSE American as YCBD.

How to head off partnership disputes before they happen

(This story appears in the February issue of Marijuana Business Magazine.) Partnership disputes — whether between business partners or owners and investors — continue to...

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