57 | Travis Merchant, Artemis

“This is one of the only times in modern times where we’re going to see the creation of an entire industry in a very short period of time, we’re seeing that. And I think that is tremendously exciting from from an economic or a business standpoint, and from a personal standpoint.”

— Travis Merchant

Humans have been growing cannabis for thousands of years — and on the down low for the last century. As the prohibition era winds down and cannabis cultivation comes out of the shadows, what, 57 | Travis Merchant, Artemis practices are farmers following? How can technology help increase crop yields? How can consumers be sure they are getting good clean cannabis? We discuss all this and more with Travis Merchant, head of global industry for Artemis. Listen and learn why:

    • Access to data and technology are rapidly making cannabis cultivation more efficient.
    • In the broad hemp / cannabis market, farmers must choose a niche and have clarity of purpose.
    • ‘Unimpeachable’ compliance is critical to hemp / cannabis farmers.
    • Hemp and craft cannabis farmers are transitioning from the legacy market to the post-prohibition era.

Transcript Of Kannaboom Podcast #57 with Travis Merchant

Copyright 2020 © Kannaboom

Kannaboom (00:00): Hello, and welcome back to Kannaboom, the podcast. You know, people have been growing cannabis for thousands of years, but for the last century, much of what we knew about growing cannabis was underground folklore, more or less whispered about and never written down. Today's guest is Travis Merchant. He works for Artemis, a company that provides a software platform to help cannabis cultivators around the world work smarter. We discuss a lot in this episode from how you can protect yourself from substandard cannabis and CBD products to how legacy growers are making the pivot from underground smugglers to legit, out in the open businesses. We touched on a lot of aspects of cannabis cultivation and went deep on a few. Travis really knows the business. So stay tuned and get ready to learn a lot more about the business of growing weed. This podcast, my website, Kannaboom with a k.com and my weekly newsletter five boom Friday are all focused on how cannabis and CBD can help you achieve better wellness and how to find CBD that's trusted and reliable. Subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you enjoy the show, please do leave a review and help us expand our reach. Thanks again to our producer in Danny Milwaukee here now is Travis Merchant.

Kannaboom (01:13): Cannabis is booming and Kannaboom is on it. Welcome to the Kannaboom podcast where we interview experts on the changing story of humans, health and hemp. From San Diego, here's your host, Tom Stacey. It's Tom we're back with the cannabis and podcast today. We have Travis Merchant, global head of industry for Artemis, Travis Merchant. Travis how are you?

Travis Merchant (01:32): I'm outstanding, Tom. Thanks for having me today. How are you?

Kannaboom (01:35): I'm doing good. You know, we're all hunkered down for much longer than we want to be, but you know, here we are.

Travis Merchant (01:41): Yeah, exactly.

Kannaboom (01:43): Where are you today?

Travis Merchant (01:44): I am actually in Austin, Texas at the moment. I split time between my home in Denver in my home in Austin. And it just so happened most of the time I'm actually traveling pre COVID. So I was, I think I was traveling from mid November, basically through till March. And then when COVID had I happen to be in Austin and at that moment, everything kind of went and locked down. So I've been hunkered down here in Austin, Texas,

Kannaboom (02:10): Not a bad place to be good music, good food from what I hear.

Travis Merchant (02:13): Absolutely. And lots of sunshine. And I'm, I'm definitely somebody who is solar powered.

Kannaboom (02:19): You are deeply involved in the business of cultivating cannabis. Tell us what you do there.

Travis Merchant (02:24): Yeah, absolutely. So as you said earlier my, my, my role as the global head of industry with Artemis and I'll give you a little bit about my background. I have been in the, what I refer to or a lot of folks are starting to refer to as the legacy market for many, many years came to the legal market six, six or seven years ago, and started working in the world of kind of cultivation RNV research and development and really around technology. And we can talk about that a little bit more in depth as we go along. But when I came to Artemis back in 2018 and my role with Artemis is to help really do several different things. One is to work with a lot of the more complex kind of growing systems and things like that. When you talk about cultivation around cannabis and helping our growers and our partners to understand how they can utilize their data, to make better, better decisions around creating a more uniform kind of plant how they can manage their people, their plants, their processes, things like that. And then ultimately to remain having a level of compliance that is really unimpeachable.

Kannaboom (03:35): Lots to unpack there. First I'm intrigued by the legacy market, basically when it was illegal, you were involved in sort of the underground aspects of it.

Travis Merchant (03:43): Yeah. for, for many years, I think I planted my first plant back in 1989. So it's, it's been a long journey. But yeah in, in being with that, you know, I saw you got Andrew DeAngelo out a couple of weeks ago and Andrew Andrew's obviously somebody who's from that original cast you know, for many, many years, but it's, it's been a long process of kind of seeing how our markets have evolved over the course of the 20 or 30 years that I've, I've kind of been in the industry. And it's a, you know, it's been a lot as far as where we've gone, where we're going and kind of where the future is leading to. But yeah, for certain,

Kannaboom (04:24): I don't know of any other industry that's gone so fast from illicit underground to above ground in rapidly evolving. So that must be a really interesting space to be in, especially when you talk about data and bringing in real science to what had been an art of growing cannabis and scaling it up. Right.

Travis Merchant (04:44): Absolutely. And it's, it's something that is very, you know, you touch you, you really hit the nail on the head. When you talk about the lightning speed at which our industry is kind of evolving at least in certain ways, certain ways we're still dealing with the, you know, a lot of old world thinking. And it's, it's been a challenge obviously for federal legalization, but one of the biggest challenges when you talk about the data and the science and this is again, one of the things that really got me excited about it when I started kind of working in this industry years ago in, in the, in the legal industry years ago, was that prior to legalization in a lot of states, there was no data. People couldn't keep that information because if you had, you know, a documented process or all this type of information around there, ultimately that would end up being, you know, could, could conceivably end up being evidence against you you know, in the legacy market. So a lot of the concepts, a lot of the processes that have, that have come to play and the successes as far as creating kind of craft product have been passed, you know, passed verbally, or, or really has been kind of an oral history or oral process between growers. So now, like I said, in the past several years, that started to change, people are really diving into the science and really looking at the data and the analytics around how to grow plants are cannabis plants specifically. And you're seeing just massive advances in cultivation both with everything, from quality to process, things like that. So, yeah, it's, it's, it's just a rocket ship as far as speed when it comes to advancements like that

Kannaboom (06:11): Going from essentially kind of folklore, like you said, nothing was written down because it was evidence, you know, you had outliers, Lester Grinspoon who passed away fairly recently, Jack Herer's book.

Travis Merchant (06:24): The Emperor Has No Clothes. Absolutely. Yeah.

Kannaboom (06:26): Yeah. I mean, some of that stuff on the cultural side, but as far as cultivation and the science of growing it, yeah. I mean, there's so much catching up to do and now not just catching up, but advancing as you know, minor cannabinoids are a thing now. Right. So,

Travis Merchant (06:44): Yeah, that's, what's going on there. That's a, that's a great question. That's, that's actually, again, a big passion of mine is understanding, you know, the, the difference between simply looking at THC, which is what some or even CBD, which is what a lot of folks have been focused on. And realizing that I think last I checked there's 113 or 114 discovered cannabinoids thus far and understanding what that full spectrum effect really can be when you have all these different commingled cannabinoids and, and even, you know, just as important as what we're discovering and, and starting to see as the terpenes that are involved and the terpenes are those wonderful components that create flavor and aroma but have tremendous you know therapeutic effects. And so, yeah, I mean, we, we really are, I kind of related to the concept of the big bang, we're just in the first few seconds of the big bang proverbially speaking, when it comes to you know, our knowledge of the plant and our knowledge of those things. And as we're doing additional research and discovering the power of some of these different cannabinoids and the interactions that they have, it is so exciting. I mean, there's been tremendous research in Israel for a long time. And in other places throughout the world and in the U.S. You know, it's really starting to open up. So it's pretty exciting.

Kannaboom (08:03): And there's lots of aspects from seed to shelf along the way. Where do you get involved in cultivation? Obviously we were talking about the basic elements of soil and water and seed and stuff. What's your piece of the picture there?

Travis Merchant (08:17): Great question. So we look at Artemis, the concept that we look at is that there are risks in growing plants in any type of agriculture. Okay. So, I mean, we've seen you know, you, you, if anybody's ever grown a plant at home planted home, you know, of any type of plant, you know, you pull it, you put a seed in, you hope it lives, it's your own plant and you kind of go from there. And you know, when you, when you talk about something, that's a consumable product like cannabis, there's a whole aspect of it that is a lot more complicated in a, in a regulated market than just simply putting a seed in, or putting a clone into a pot, growing a plant. So you use a lot of risk when you talk about it from a business standpoint, you know, your plants can get sick. You know, you're going to have, I guess, for example pathogens or a disease that could kill, you know, kill your plants. You can have a human error that a, you know, conceivably a misapplied chemical at the wrong time could cause issues with your plants. There's so many different moving parts that come to play when you're talking about creating something that is, that is you know, on a, on a scale it's for consumers. So we, our team is really focused on four major what I'd call risk buckets, and that's, you know, in a grow it's around the people, you know, human error can happen around processes. So making sure that your processes are consistent and uniform obviously optimizing plants making sure that your plants are healthy. And then the last component where all that ties into is really that compliance, that traceability that goes through from the moment, or even before you start growing a plant to after it's been packaged or after it's been harvested, dried, cured, and packaged. And it's something where we've, we've created a tools that help the growers to be optimized and really succeed in what they're doing so that they don't, you know, they can be proactive versus reactive to problems, but ultimately the goal is at the end to create a safe safe effective, consistent product for whatever the consumer would be.

Kannaboom (10:17): So I imagine you guys have outlines of best practices. I mean, this is how you do this. This is how you do that. If you're talking about people and processes around the plant itself. And then of course the compliance piece is huge because in the end consumers need to have confidence in the product they're purchasing. And again, the vast distance we've come from the legacy market, where you had a dealer who would provide whatever he had. And now you have people walking into dispensaries with a multitude of choices. It's an interesting place for you to be in the middle of all that.

Travis Merchant (10:50): Absolutely. And yeah, I mean, we, we actually work our system is, it is a software just so everybody's aware. And what we do is, again, people can put in, we have all sorts of different partners that are in cultivation consultants and manufacturing and things like that, that we work with. But also a lot of the growers they have their SOP is what's your standard operating procedures. And they're able to take that information and put it into our, into our software system. And what happens is, is like when they start a batch of plants, every single task that goes along with that, that group of plants for, you know, a hundred days, 120 days, 180 days, depending on what they're growing every single day, there's different tasks that need to go along. So we automate that and make sure that the right people on the team are assigned the tasks that they know what to do so that they have every day that that kind of kind of comes running through and where it really comes into play, where it really is important is when you talk about those processes is that you're able to look at what your processes are doing. Ultimately at the end to say, this is what, as an example, like this is what the yield was. Why was the yield of this batch 3% more than the previous batch? And you can look through and see all of the activities related to that batch and your process and say, Oh, this was a way we can optimize, or this is something we can do that actually gets a, a more consistent flower across a canopy. So it's got, yeah, like you said, there's so much capability with what data can do for a grower. And it's exciting to see the growers starting to kind of realize this and realize the power of their data and the power of my analyzing their processes to really make sure, again, in such as, as the market becomes more and more competitive, it really becomes key and focused on optimizing, minding those pennies of near the pints and quarts are pennies and quarters. And making sure that you're doing everything in such a way that lid allows you to basically guarantee your growing future and be successful.

Kannaboom (12:41): What gets measured gets managed. Right? So, I mean, there are artists and farmers, people have been cultivating this crop for thousands of years. Again, there's a ton of folklore and common sense that there are farmers with green thumbs. I know some of them who are just fantastic agriculturists, but if you are able to manage all that, and there is a dashboard that tells them, okay, my water is good. My fertilizers are good. The light is good, all that kind of stuff.

Travis Merchant (13:08): Yeah. That's a great question. So yeah, you've got capability to look at data in a lot of different ways. So I could look at information around, like you said, environmental, environmental factors, so I can have information around what are my temperatures looking like in a specific room, or I can see a, you know, what my tank readings around, you know, pH or my water information like that, all that can be recorded in our system. But really where it comes into a lot of excitement is during the process of plants growing, you know, you even a small grower could have, you know, you might have five or 10 different cultivars or different strains that you're running well. Each one of those typically has different processes that are involved with it. And when you start having multiple batches going and multiple tasks going on every day and all these kinds of things, things can fall through the cracks. So making sure again, that you're taking those readings and having the ability to do that. So you have the ability with our system to be able to do that on a laptop or desktop. We also have a mobile app that people are able to actually walk through their facility. And unlike previous lives where you had to write something on a clipboard and do your things, and then run somewhere else and hand up to somebody and have them look at it and try and discern handwriting or things. This actually allows you to take data readings or information or accomplish tasks and checkoff information right. In real time. So all of a sudden now, and when you think about your employees, instead of having them have to do just running across a facility multiple times an hour, trying to put in information, you're saving a huge amount of labor hours. You're saving a huge amount on the team. Feeling like information is easy to collect and we gather, but when you talk about data integrity, that's a real important thing. When it comes to information is that one bad piece of data can throw off all your calculations and being able to actually collect that the real time with something that isn't, again, a scribble or a hand Mark or something where water gets poured on a piece of paper. It's, it's just, it's priceless. It's absolutely priceless for growers.

Kannaboom (15:00): I can imagine. I mean, just the ability to document all of that stuff and then know that your logistics are in line and then taking it to the next level. I'm sure that as we've talked about the lightening speed at which everything is happening, there's discoveries being made about how best to do things. Tell me about, you know, the Farm Bill of 2018 is kind of cited as a pivotal moment where the wraps came off and were able to start growing that you know, we're still waiting for federal legalization of cannabis, but state by state it's happening. Does that sort of patchwork stuff affect you guys? I mean, the compliance picture must be a nightmare when you look at it, the different states.

Travis Merchant (15:39): Yeah. That can be a real challenge for growers. And even on the federal level with a lot of the you know, the standards, the regulations are in place, but they're, they're changing, you know, it's a flux there, the government's figuring it out. The industry is figuring it out. And you know, the farm bill of 2018, like you said, really did open up a tremendous amount of opportunity in our country. And you know, both for you know, growing hemp for, for medicinal purposes, but also growing hemp for things like fiber and looking at different things like that. And when it can, when it comes to us, what really becomes tremendously valuable for us like our hemp, our hemp growers that utilize us is that there, there are large little, you know, there are a lot of farmers that transition to happen. Um and they obviously have some, some agricultural experience and things like that, but there's also a lot of people that are brand new to the market that have wanted to get in or felt a passion for it. And when you start growing a, you know, a product that is regulated you know, by the, by the FDA or the USDA, there are certain things like as an example, a GAP, which is good agricultural practices or things like throw some other alphabet soup that you think is something called HASSOP or FISMA, these are government regulations that have to do with how products are grown. And there are specific requirements of specific regulations around things like what type of chemical applications you can apply to a crop, things like as many of your listeners probably know limits on THC or, or specifically, you know, trying to, you know, manage. And like you said, traceability to make certain that if a product is going from field to somebody's family, that, that traceability is there to really understand, is this a safe product? Are there other ingredients coming to play? And one of the biggest things that the the Farm Bill had allowed in legitimizing and legalizing hemp across the industry is that it allowed the manufacturing, the capabilities to start going towards something that is GMP and GMP is something that is referred to you, are the, it stands for Good Manufacturing Practices up until six or eight months ago. Hemp processors were not able to be certified as a GMP entity. Well what, actually one of our partners, Allay Consulting Kim Stuck, who's the founder, she and her team worked very heavily with a lot of the certifying bodies, things like NSF and ANSI and stuff. Um and now all in the last six months now you're seeing facilities that are growing are vertically integrated facilities that are actually getting certified as a GMP facility. So that is a tremendous accomplishment. When you talk about safety and efficacy set up by the FDA. And what growers are starting to realize is that these processing facilities that are making oil or making products, if they are buying raw materials from a grower, the level of traceability has amplified. And now you're looking at needing to be able to deliver a much stronger, point by point kind of touch around how those plants were grown you know, and ultimately harvest it. So that once something goes into a facility that's processing in and doing oil or into a consumable that they have they have the, the standards of the certifications taking that, that product into their, into their facility, their GMP facility to process. So it's been a fantastic growth in the last year, year and a half around upping the standards of the CBD industry. But again, because CBD is still still FDA still has not worked out. You know, a lot of the specifics around you know, consumable oils and consumable products, there's still some challenges there. So the most important thing that a grower can do or a cultivator can do is get themselves set up in a place and get themselves in a, in a, in a position where their compliance is. I use the term unimpeachable where they're not just doing the bare minimum of what the current market is asking, but actually you've looking at other established verticals that the FDA managers like food or supplements or things like that, it actually starting to achieve and reach for those levels of compliance that are most likely going to come rolling down the hill, a colleague that uses the term, this is picturing a large gorilla, walking down the hallway towards you, this compliance gorilla that's coming. Everybody needs to be in place and be in a proactive position where they're able to make sure that they handle, and they're able to process these changes that are going to happen with USDA and FDA as they move along.

Kannaboom (20:24): I was working for a while in the banking industry, and they feel like they're over-regulated and cannabis and hemp, there's been no regulation. And people are kind of impatient with the FDA, like when are they going to get it together? But as we see every day, our government is broken in so many ways. I don't know if that is the issue, or if there's just so much machinery that has to be turned on an effective regulatory response to begin to take effect. But tell me what it looks like when you talk about unimpeachable compliance, is the seed that goes in the ground, is there a bar code attached to that or something that is documented? How does somebody know that the particular cultivar they want to grow that that's the right seed in sapling and all the way through to them?

Travis Merchant (21:11): Great question. The way we might go around it and in a few different areas, one of the, one of the things, when you talk about being able to trace a seed is there, the seeds are typically registered and you're going to have a seed lot, a seed lot number. And that basically is an identifier that says, this seed came from this you know, this, this general traceability. So it could be from a specific piece of genetics and that, that would be a seed lot number, and also typically a COA COA or CMA which is a Certificate of Authenticity or Certificate of Analysis. That is the first kind of component that a grower is going to start to examine. One of the biggest things, and this has happened in the hemp industry prolifically is that people you know, unscrupulous seed sellers will, you know, promise a different type of seed or promise a certain standard of quality of a seed. And there've been lots of different farmers that have bought that trusted what they've been told about seed and, you know, in a month into growing realize that you know, they've bought something that wasn't what they expected. So it's, it's very important as a grower to not only you know, look at research and, and read those cos and read the, you know, understand the numbers, but also do research around who you're working with. You know, ask for references, you know, do some validation. It's very easy to do on the internet, very easy to do in general in the industry, but ask around about the people that you're sitting there you're considering buying seed from and to get that information. And then obviously for the sake of traceability, absolutely make sure you have the backup paperwork around what those genetics are, make certain that you have, you know, your, your your literacy lot numbers documented Webster when you start growing a batch and really focusing on that. And like you said, it starts out, it starts out with making sure that you have all of your all of your ducks in a row to start with before plants are even getting on the ground. And yeah, like you said, focusing on understanding what your genetics are, what is the quality of my genetics? That's a, that's a tremendously important aspect. When you start before a seed ever even touches the ground, it has to understand what you're working with, and also to realize when you're trying to source out and decide what genetics you want to think for yourself, what is your end goal? Are you growing a product as an example that you really want to have beautiful smokable flower that's something that's very important and you need to look back at your cultivar or your, or your strain. You're going to be working with, if you're looking for something that is going to be used for processing biomass, you may be looking at a different type of genetic to make sure that you have tremendous amount of you know, a biomass being grown versus a focus necessarily on the flower itself or ultimately again, looking at things like if you're growing for fiber, knowing that you're growing something that you know, there, there are fiber strings now that are being developed. Uh I've been working on a project. That's very exciting. But they're actually, they've developed a strain that has basically turned off the gene that can create THC. So it being able to do that with a fiber plant would, would ensure that farmers that would utilize something like that would never have the risk of having, having a field go hot and the large amounts of fiber that would be needed in order to do things like hempcrete, or create clothing or textiles that that's a massive, a massive win for the industry, seeing things like that, that are happening. So yeah, back to, you know, down, down to the point, looking at those genetics and understanding how you kind of find that, how you process that, how you look at doing a what's called a pheno hunt you know, those are those all go back to really understanding what those trace documentation of who you're working with us.

Kannaboom (24:55): So obviously the farmer on the front end needs to have a strategy in terms of what niche am I working with here? Am I creating some fiber or something for hempcrete, or do I want, you know, a high-CBG strain or whatever who are your clients, are they family farmers? Are they corporate? Are they all the way in, in between?

Travis Merchant (25:18): That's a great question too. We, we, we work with all you know, we started out our, our company started a little over five years ago, actually. And we're, we're, it's, it's, it's kind of funny when you're talking about in the tech industry, but we're, we're one of the founders of the concept of what is, what is now referred to as a cultivation management platform. And we started out working initially five years ago with small growers and worked very heavily to make sure that we were able to support them and be able to do that. And currently, we work with both the small or craft farmer, you know, micro growers into, you know, the enterprise level growers that are growing for large production. And there there's, they're completely different needs within the markets. And I think that there's space. Definitely. I think we're seeing it both in the cannabis and the hemp world there's space for both to exist. They are, they're creating really different processes and different products at the end. But yeah, we, we work across the board.

Kannaboom (26:17): So along that whole supply chain, maybe the last, I don't know if you would call it a commodity, but at the end of it, the consumer needs to have confidence in, you know, we remember the UL sticker on a lamp, so you could know that it's not going to blow up when you turn it on. You know, we remember the Good Housekeeping seal. So what should consumers be looking for when they're shopping for hemp or cannabis products?

Travis Merchant (26:39): That's a great, that's a wonderful question. I think it's one of the most important one of the first things that people should do it, at least in my opinion, is self-educate and understand what, you know, first off learning about cannabinoids, because one of the things that I think people need to do is be able to, when they go onto a website or they go into a dispensary, is re reading a label or understanding, being able to look at that CMA of the final product and understanding what they're looking at. So you can have some, some companies will create a document that shows all of the potency numbers. So you'd be able to see how much THC or CBD or CBDA CBG, things like that are in there. Other companies go to the next level where they show that information and they also will do heavy metal residual tests to make sure that there are things like lead of arsenic other than other companies, additionally, you can actually do testing around solvents. So making sure that there's not things like ethanol or anything like that, that are unhealthy. But the, the really the, the most important thing, I think again, I think that a consumer needs to first off self-educate and understand what they're reading when it comes to those things. The next thing too is much like the farmer that's looking at seeds. The consumer needs to do some research around who they are considering buying the product from? And, you know, there are wonderful companies out there that are doing great things, and we've seen lots of, lots of issues, examples of FDA doing investigation or a false advertising or false claims or things like that. You know, as a lot of the love of the industry refers to it as gas station CBD you know, it's something where again, the consumer really needs to focus and get educated first. And then when they understand what are the cannabinoids as they're looking at, then it becomes something where they start to realize how these cannabinoids affect me personally, because they're different. Everybody can have a different, different experience from, you know, a specific specific cannabinoid or specific terpene. So when they experience that, then they can hone in and start to realize that maybe I, you know, I personally, as an example, I really enjoy products that have strong limonene, which is a terpene or miracene. But I stay away from things that have alpha pinene or beta pinene. And because for most people that gives them a real big uplift for me, pinene, as an example, gives me a good amount of anxiety. So I'm able to now, you know, from years of being experienced, I can actually smell you know a bud or something like that, and if I smell a strong pine scent for myself, I know that's probably just not the right product for me. I'll look for something that smells a little bit more lemony or something like that. So yeah, it really comes down to there's so many resources out there, and I think it's very important that people take that time as a consumer to educate yourself well, the FDA and while the USDA is getting themselves in position to start setting those standards, I think is really important that the industry do that for themselves in the end, the, through that for themselves right now,

Kannaboom (29:42): You know, gas station CBD. I keep telling my readers, I don't know how many times I said, just don't, don't do it.

Travis Merchant (29:48): You don't buy your sushi at a gas station, and don't buy your CBD and a gas station. Right?

Kannaboom (29:54): Absolutely. You would think it would be common sense, but I don't, you know, people are out on the road and they see it on a, on a rack and they go, okay, I'll try that stuff. But we all look for shortcuts on things. And I know that's another theme in a lot of my shows is this is a test and learn thing. We have different genetics. You know, some of us are biphasic. It'd be, have one effect for you. And another, for me, there are many different cultivars. There're different brands, even within the same plant within the same, you're gonna maybe have a different reaction, but in general, what I've tried to look for, there are industry groups now kind of self policing, the industry, and you can become certified by a group like the U.S. Hemp Authority. I don't know that they're the end-all be-all, but I'm telling my readers to look for that seal, because it does mean that you've done Good Manufacturing Practices, that there is some documentation that you're trying to jump through the quality control hoops.

Travis Merchant (30:57): Yeah. I think, I think, you know, some of those private organizations, certifications are, are good to have. And like you said, it shows that the companies are making efforts. And again, I still, but even, even in those situations where it's self-governed private organizations, there are still products that have slipped through you know, and hit the market. And that's again, where it's as always [inaudible] for the time being, it does lie on the consumer to really make sure, like you said, you're doing the best that you can. You're finding the products that are working towards those standards you know, U.S. Hemp Authority or otherwise, and those folks that are really doing that. Another, another key thing is that people, what they found is that people will print claims on labels saying that they are GM they're GMP certified, or they'll use a false advertising on ads and things. And that again is where the consumer has to go. Okay. I appreciate it. That they've that they say this on their website going that next step and saying, checking with us and having authority. Are these folks actually certified or checking with NSF and making sure this is really a GMP facility? Cause again, some people will use fancy terms. Like there was between GMP certified or GMP compliant and you can have lots of times people will say, yeah, we're GMP compliant. Well, that really doesn't mean anything. That, that means that you're trying to hit the standards of that kind of thing, but there really is no check and balance. When you talk about GMP certified first facility, that is an organization that has actually gone through a full certification with the government they've been inspected, they've been run through, they had to show all of their SOPs how they operate and they have to keep meticulous records of data. And so that's again where a consumer really needs to understand those little language things like as an example, GMP certified or GMP compliant. They're two different they're, they're, they're two different worlds when it comes to that. So yeah, I, I appreciate Tom that you and the cannabis purpose is really to help educate the consumers around understanding those things. I think that's such an important thing. And I just want to take a moment and give appreciation to you.

Kannaboom (33:01): Oh, thanks. I appreciate that. But that's a great point. I, myself would be fooled if I looked at a label and it said, Oh, GMP compliant. Okay. That sounds like they made an effort, but all they're doing is using the GMP terminology to kind of pull the wool over your eyes someday. We'll get to the point where it's like, if you go into Ralph's and you buy a six pack, you have confidence that it's not going to make you go blind. Right,

Travis Merchant (33:28): Exactly. Right. Yeah. That's there, the alcohol is a great example of standardizing and setting those regulations for an industry that makes sure you have a safe product at the end a hundred percent.

Kannaboom (33:37): Do you have a sense for the timetable of that? Does the FDA move at a glacial speed or do you think this heats up at some point?

Travis Merchant (33:47): I think, I mean, there's tremendous pressure on the FDA to get this component of the market regulated and to get this component of the market where the standards are established. You know, I, I definitely do not think anything's going to happen prior to our election. I think that the election is going to have a lot of impact on a billion, different aspects of our society. In addition to obviously the, the process for what that is, I would love to see the FDA, you know, as, as many would make those decisions and make those, those regulations in, in 2021, I would love to see it you know, but I think it's going to come sooner than later. I don't think it's going to be something where we wait 10 years by any means. But it's, it's so hard to tell if that's going to happen in the next year? I would love to see it, but I just don't have the lens for that. I wish I had my, I wish my crystal ball was working better than that.

Kannaboom (34:42): Unfortunately, there are still political aspects to this. I mean, the stigma has really receded, but it hasn't totally disappeared. I mean, we had an attorney general who believed that only bad people smoke cannabis not very long ago. And there's, there's still a lot of people who think that way the progress is being made and we're getting there. So that's helpful.

Travis Merchant (35:03): It is. And annually, even if we go, if we jump back to the Farm Bill of 2018, that's still had to be re you know, in, in each state, it still gave the ability for the states themselves to decide. And, and if they wanted to align with that or not allow hemp to be grown. And we're talking about hemp you know, where South Dakota literally would not allow a cultivation. We had major challenges in Texas during the legislation, a legislative session in 2019 to make sure that we aligned with the 20, with the Farm Bill of 2018, where they almost were not able to, to legalize in the state of Texas. And that was based off of one person that was the, you know, the Lieutenant Governor had, had really put his foot down that he just did not want that that plant or this, this cannabis plant or concept in, in the state of Texas and that there was 70 or 80% support on both sides of the fence and the, in the, in legislature. But there's one gentleman who really tried to stop that. And it took the entire community of Texas to really lobby and force that through the legislation to, to again, support something that the federal government has legalized. So yeah, it's, it's, it is our country operating in a real wacky way when it comes to navigating the cannabis you know, both high THC in the end, the low, the high CBD components, as far as hemp and the high-THC marijuana.

Kannaboom (36:27): State by state, I think we're 33 or 34 states now where it's medicinally legal, but California made mistakes. A lot of people here, companies spent tons of money on childproof packaging. And then all of a sudden it was like, well, we don't need that. I don't know if I have that absolutely accurate, but there's been a lot of upside down kind of stuff where the little guy kind of got behind the eight ball in a lot of ways. And the legacy market is still thriving because of the tax structure. So, you know, other states can look at that and learn, certainly Canada was ahead of us, but they had some really bizarre rules around edibles

Travis Merchant (37:01): You have to package each one separately, I think. Yeah. They have some definitely they've shown you know, in the last year there there's, there's been a lot of just industry change in Canada here. You're spot on. Yeah. It's been a, it's been a real challenge up there too.

Kannaboom (37:18): Did you guys do business up there too?

Travis Merchant (37:20): We actually work globally. So we work in many different countries. And yeah, seeing, seeing the Canadian market evolve, you know, in lots of different ways you know, from first legalization, if we just talk about cultivation, everybody built indoor facilities. And then in doing that, you know, there's a little bit more expense to create something like that, that people started looking at well, is this capable of doing this in a greenhouse? And now you're actually seeing outdoor, fully outdoor grows of cannabis happening in Canada. And it never, you know, years ago, nobody would have thought that Canada, Canada would be the place where there'd be, you know, the optimal weather for being able to grow outdoors, but they're figuring those things out. But the regulation, when you saw a lot of the large producers Canopy and Aphria and different companies that got big for the sake of being big versus being strategic about growing a high quality product that the market wanted. And this is something that you touched on where, where the black market is thriving is that there have been challenges in Canada, in the U.S., in, in many different countries that have legalized where the, the legacy grower the person, these people that are the artisans that have that understand and have spent decades growing. These plants have not been able to enter the market due to any number of things from obstacles, from you know, cost of entry to potentially having, you know criminal records and things like that. But it is really blocked out. A lot of the hour had previously really blocked out a lot of the expertise of this industry. And now I, in the last year, I think you know, California is a great example, but you're seeing that a lot of the larger producers that they, that the consumer rejects have rejected a lot of the product that's been put on the market. And they said, this is not as good as what I want. And now you're seeing these larger producers realizing that they need to go back to scaling back down a little bit and getting good at what they do, and then focusing on getting big. And I think that's where right now I started seeing a lot of excitement in last fall around the craft growers that were starting to get a lot of recognition. And people were really starting to acknowledge the beauty of what their products are. It's, it's, it's, it's like, you know, if you look at the wine industry, there's three buck Chuck, and then there's wonderful bottles of wine. And for some people three buck Chuck's fine. But for the people that are out there, they want to buy a quality bottle or, you know, quality bottle of wine. That is really something, something special, something wonderful. And that's not just about a label on a package that is about how you, how you create that product. And the cannabis industry has had in the legacy market, these amazing craft growers and these artists, those that have done it. And now starting to be able to take their knowledge and be able to slowly or effectively be able to scale what they do and get larger and larger. I'm not talking about creating, you know, a gigantic corporation, but being able to maybe double the size of their farm or being able to triple the size of their production so that they can meet the needs of the consumers in the market when they're coming in. You know, when, when when a legacy grower comes into the legal side, that's, that's one of the biggest things that they, that they, they get challenged with is taking their, their you know, folklore practices and actually creating a process around that so that they can duplicate over and over and over again, what they're doing. And, you know, our, our legacy market is one of the biggest values that the cannabis and hemp industries house is, is those people that have been in there and fought and worked and helped to bring us to where we are now. And the biggest thing that I want to see, and I, you know, I, I'm a big proponent of things like the Last Prisoner Project and things, but helping to level the playing field for those growers or those, those players in the market that want to come to the legal market and help really bring that to the next level so that we do have a successful industry, and it keeps continuing to grow and grow and grow. Like we all, like, we all see him doing and what it's going to do

Kannaboom (41:15): Just last week, 60 Minutes updated a story that they first aired last October about California and up near Humboldt. And a lot of cannabis products from there are still being trucked east, to the legacy market. And you mentioned, I think it's an apt metaphor, very apt to kind of compare this to the wine where there's varietals and, you know, there's some strategy on the front end by the farmer, by the provider to say, I'm going to bring this product to this market. Do you guys work with legacy operations that want to go?

Travis Merchant (41:47): Yeah, actually there are there, there, I talked with quite a few legacy growers that are in process of doing that, and they're kind of, you know they're, they're an application or they're working towards getting that, and they're looking at how do I make sure that my facility or that my farm is up to you know, part of the thing is making sure that they have all the ducks in place for when licensing comes through for them. So that's a lot of what they do. Most of the legacy growers, again, are still in that position where they're not you know, there's not a lot of documentation on their end they're, they're, they're where they're operating outside of the system. And in that case you know, that that's something where they, you know, until they get into that legalized area it's a challenge for them, because again, they're not necessarily thinking maybe in terms of you know, business science or data science and things like that. So helping, helping those folks once they kind of make that decision to come in is something that I have a lot of conversations around.

Kannaboom (42:42): It's a big flip to go from, okay, this is all on the down low, and I'm going to grow this so nobody can see it. And then I'm going to load it onto a truck and have it smuggled back to somebody who's going to pay me what I want for it. And I don't want anybody to know, so there's no record and then I go into a mindset that says, okay, we need to keep track of everything from seed to shelf, and I'm growing it for this purpose. So that's a huge flip to make.

Travis Merchant (43:08): And you just, you said a term there that I think is really important for people to think about. I'll just say this out for, for growers or anybody that's creating a product is really understanding what is your purpose? Who are you? Who are you in business to delight and you know, or why are you in business and who are you trying to delight? And that's again, where you talk about those craft growers or the production growers, all the different things. One of our key factors in the industry is that a lot of people just think cannabis is cannabis, and it's this issue of the black market or the legacy market of black market versus the legal market. And it isn't, these are different consumer categories really. Cause I mean, you have people, like I said, that are just looking for a certain type of product and that can be wonderful. Or if somebody is looking for a specific strain or something like that, that maybe has been living in the legacy market that, you know, might come to the, to the legal market, those are all different aspects. And like I said, when a grower wants to go in either to the legal market or a grower that's already in the legal market, instead of just trying to grow for the sake of growing is hone in on that idea of who am I in a, in business to delight as far as my end consumer, and then guiding your business towards that purpose. I think that's, that's a really important strategic question to ask yourself when you're in that position of, of either starting to grow, running, to grow or trying to grow, you know, scale out your grill.

Kannaboom (44:34): Well, and that's part of the evolution of this too. I mean, the people in the legacy market may have had a passion for the plant, and maybe they were very clear about you. I want to develop a high THC product that people are going to love. But when you talk about a market, you have to think about what's your brand, who is my customer. And like you said, how am I going to delight them? Farmers aren't probably used to thinking about their brand. They get their hands dirty and they grow it. But that's part of the evolution they're looking at. I think.

Travis Merchant (45:03): It is. And it's, you know, one of the, one of the big differentiators that, again, we're seeing, and this, this actually ties back to something that Artemis has been really successful at helping our growers with is that when a grower, you know, they, I, I have not yet met a grower that said like, you just touched on, they have a passion for the plant, but typically it's not a passion for the process. It's not about nobody getting into it because they want to track data on an Excel sheet. That's never, 'I can't wait to grow plants cause I'm going to do Excel documents,' but what they do, what one of the things that we really helped with is being able to help them articulate the differentiation of the quality of their product when they go to a buyer. So, you know, everybody uses the term craft quite a bit, everybody in there and their mother in the real world says, yeah, I grow craft products. Um but actually being able to go into a wholesale buyer, you know, at a dispensary level or something like that and saying, okay, here's my product, it's a craft product. And it costs X amount of dollars. You know, a buyer typically in the past has gone, well, I appreciate you say this, but there's another person who says they have just as craft a product and they'll do it for half the price. Well now, because like, again, utilizing a tool like Artemis is actually, you've documented every single touch to your plant. You know that in order to grow this product, it, yeah, we have 123 different points, touch points of excellence that we have developed that crew, this craft product and being able to go to a buyer. And when we talk about that unimpeachable traceability and that unimpeachable component of, how do I make sure that my product is differentiated the market? And then it really is reviewed as, or looked at as a craft product. That's how you do it. And now our growers are able to go in and say, I appreciate that. You know Johnny, Johnny, Johnny Jones down the street is saying that he's got the same quality product as I do, but here's my product here is how confident we are in the fact that we know that we've done all of these different things to make sure we, we, we are from the moment that this plant was conceived until the moment that it was harvested and packaged. We know every single thing that's happened with them. That's a huge piece of safety for a wholesale buyer. When you're talking about the bud tenders that are getting into the ability to once they're selling to a consumer. And they're saying, you know, they're looking at the shelf and saying, your consumer says, well, why is that one $20 more than this one? Well, now all of a sudden you've got the ability to say, well, that's a great question, mr. Consumer, mrs. Consumer, this product was actually grown utilizing some, you know, as an, as an example, this was Artemis grown. So it has full traceability all the way back. The growers have taken intense purpose and passion for making sure that their product is traceable, that it's grown safely. And that is why, what you're paying for, what you're seeing here is a higher quality product with a lot more, more you know, focus around the safety and the efficacy of the product. And so you're helping, when you talk about that, that's, that's the, the, the chain of events that occurs from a grower is simply making a decision to utilize something that validates their growing process and their pride in their product. All of a sudden they start seeing without having to be an expert in marketing or without having to be somebody who is you know, somebody creating content. They've got a powerful tool in their pocket when they go to bring their product to market there. And then also not only ensures that they are more profitable, but also helps the wholesale buyer or buyer feel competent with the product. It helps the wholesale buyer educate their bud tenders at the retail level and ultimately helps the consumer to understand why, you know, what, why is this a higher quality product? And what is the purpose? Why should I not maybe buy this one? And why should I definitely buy those ones? So it really does help to kind of draw that entire chain and help educate kind of all aspects of, of the supply chain. Well, and again,

Kannaboom (48:44): Akin to the wind industry, you know, it's like, these are, these grapes are from the sun-kissed slopes of Bordeaux, this cannabis... Had an organic fertilizer on the third week, and it had this much water and everything is documented. Travis, what really excites you most about the cannabis industry right now?

Travis Merchant (49:07): Oh goodness. I think there's a lot of things. I think being part of being part of, like you said, an industry that is every like a it's it's its own ecosystem, really every single thing that you can think of that exists in, in a, in an economy from janitor janitorial services to marketing services, to transportation, to creation, it's all happening within this thing that we call the cannabis industry. And it's one of the, this didn't happen at the advent of computers. This didn't happen at the advent of you know, necessarily the internet. This is one of the, one of the only times in, in, in modern times where we're going to see the creation of an entire industry in a very short period of time, what we're seeing is that. And I think that is tremendously exciting from an economic or a business standpoint, from a personal standpoint. You know, I am an absolute advocate of the plant for decades. And I think what excites me, literally, it's giving me goosebumps, as I talk about it is seeing the betterment of, of those people that need this plant for medicine, for recreational purposes, things like that. It is, it is just simply seeing something become undemonized that has been unjustly demonized and really creating a change for people's health. I've, I've been witness to in person seeing people try certain types of oils or things, you know, with, with intractable tremors as an example. And I was with a woman who was in her seventies. She tried this and within two minutes she stopped shaking. And again, it brought me to tears at the moment, but she came back the next day and it was still in, it was still effective. And she came back and said, I, this is the first time in 30 years that my neck didn't hurt because my head wasn't bobbing around. She goes, I've never, I never in my life thought this would. And she was somebody who had never even, would never have considered, you know, a CBD product or a cannabis product, tried it and saw amazing effects that changed her life. And they, in the matter of minutes and seeing those types of things, seeing children that, you know, with CDL K five or heavy seizure disorders and seeing the quality of life change, seeing the ability for those people that have been on opioids for pain relief, being able to transition off, seeing people be able to manage themselves from, you know, especially in this day and age with COVID and the amount of just absolute craziness and stress that's in the world. Being able to see that people can, can do something to better their lives or quality of life that's safe. That is natural. That is something like that I think is just one of the most exciting possibilities that there possibly is just from, from my own human aspect.

Kannaboom (51:56): Yeah. I'm with you totally. On, on that. We, I mean, we all have stories about it early on. I interviewed Mara Gordon who's a great advocate, a process engineer, but she talked about, she had some pain issues. She was on, I think 28 different pharmaceuticals. She hadn't smoked since college, it had been a long time and her friend took her out in the garage and gave her a hit on a joint, and she found relief. And her first, her first response was anger. "Why, Why didn't anybody tell me this?"

Travis Merchant (52:22): Exactly.

Kannaboom (52:25): I think we all, we all have to process that and I'm not there myself yet, but a hundred years of prohibition and propaganda still just kind of piss me off. And that's part of my motivation is yeah, there's so much education needed because we told so many lies. Right?

Travis Merchant (52:41): Yeah.

Kannaboom (52:42): The government line was, you know, this is a demon weed that we'll send you down the road to ruin. So that hasn't been totally undone. I mean, we, we continue to work on that, but yeah, the, the upside, as you say, is so phenomenal where, where you see somebody stop suffering immediately and the outlook is so much better. And I don't want to pin too much hope on this, but yeah, as we come out of this pandemic, there's going to be a lot of need for medicine, for jobs, for many things that cannabis can provide. And it's exciting to be part of that.

Travis Merchant (53:12): It is. And I, you, you bring up a really important thing. That's, I'm going to side note on there, but the, the vulnerability of our supply chain in this world with has really been shown and when pharmaceuticals and, and like that medicines are being made overseas and all of a sudden those, the, the availability or the access to those, those medicines disappear we've seen, you know, we've seen it across our country and in food and medicine and materials all those kinds of things, quietly paper, there you go. Cannabis is one of the things, I mean, the Emerald triangle is, you know, in California is viewed globally as one of the most respected and powerfully knowledgeable cannabis centers in the world. As far as the quality of product, the knowledge of the growers that have been there, all of those kinds of things. We've got such a powerful, powerful asset in our country. When you talk about our ability to self create and develop and grow cannabis, where we aren't dependent on other countries where we aren't dependent on doing those kinds of things. And this is something that when you talk about it, it's not something that's, that's, I do not believe there's anything that is good for everybody other than air, air water. You know, those are, those are things that everybody needs, but for those people that cannabis can be used as a medication, or, or is there their quality of life enhancer. This is one of those industries that we can, we are one of the areas where we can as a country create ourselves and, and, and create some real safety around our ability to have supply chain insurance and making sure that products and the necessary things for our, for our citizens are available. And that, that, again is a big pressure that goes onto our federal government, that, that things need to change, and they need to change now. And if, if coven showed us nothing else, is that the vulnerabilities of us being able to take care of our citizens and the people in it and maintain their quality of life is pretty fragile. And then this is, this is a powerful way for us to be able to take some of that fragility.

Kannaboom (55:17): Travis, is there anything we haven't covered that we should,

Travis Merchant (55:20): You know I think we've covered a great amount. Again, I think it's just really important as people, as people go out in the end, the consumers are looking there. You know, it, it, you, you touched on some things, the demonization of this product is propaganda. It's something that has had a hundred years of false information being put forward. And I'm so excited again, that your listeners are realizing that, and they're, and they're expanding their minds beyond that. And I think, again, just read as much as you can learn as much as you can about what this plant does, what these compounds do and educate yourself and realize that you know, Willie, Willie Nelson said it great;, the only way a, the only way weed is going to kill you is if a bale falls on you understanding the safety and the power of it. And then just realizing that that there are people you can talk to there, there's a lot of knowledge out there where you can, you know, as a consumer, if you're wanting to get into it, or you want to try CBD talk, speak to some people that are experts in that, that most likely again is not the the gentleman at the counter at the gas station. You're going to want to talk to a, you know, folks who listen to the Kannaboom podcast or reach out to those entities that are, that are really advocating for this and learn about that.

Kannaboom (56:40): Yeah. That's a great message. I feel like we did cover a lot of ground. I mean, we, we skipped across some topics, but we went deep on some, cause there's so much to talk about that you are involved in. So maybe we can have you back again sometime. I mean, we took a kind of a snapshot of what's happening, as we said, it's going to continue to evolve. So there'll be lots to talk about in the future too.

Travis Merchant (56:59): I would love that, Tom. I think that would be wonderful.

Kannaboom (57:01): Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us from Austin. Not a bad place to be and stay safe. And hopefully you can do this again.

Travis Merchant (57:09): You do the same, and I want to thank everybody for listening today. I really, really appreciate the Kannaboom.

Speaker 2 (57:15): You've been listening to the cannabis podcast with host Tom Stacey, if you like the show and want to know more, please check us out@cannibalwithak.com and please leave us a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen, see you next week.

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