November 7th, 2020
One thing about the cannabis and CBD industry is that there is never a shortage of things to learn. With more research and product trials, more questions and ideas come up.
What legislation is needed for this growing yet challenging industry? Where do CBN, CBG, and terpenes fit in?
We spoke with Stacy and the High Falls Hemp NY team a few weeks back and they kindly offered an interview with their CEO Rick Weissman.
Of course we accepted and sent over the most pressing questions we had. High Falls Hemp NY is a vertically integrated CBD outfit. They own the farms and process final products for the retail market.
Rick is very insightful and he provided very thorough answers to everything we asked. CBD aficionados and industry professionals alike will enjoy this interview.
CBD.mg: You began manufacturing CBD in Colorado before moving the operation to New York state. Colorado is the leader in hemp-based CBD production. What were the most important lessons learned in Colorado that you took to New York?
Rick: In 2018 when we began operations at High Falls Hemp NY in both farming of CBD rich hemp and marketing CBD finished products, we tested many products on the market place, most of which came from Colorado, as Colorado was the leader of CBD products at that time.
Before coming up with specific products, we tried various tincture formulations for efficacy and for the best consumer experience. We learned the following things which have since guided us in our company’s mission and philosophy:
a. For all of our products, the consumer experience is critical. There were (and still are) many products out there which have unpleasant smells, bad tastes and are unsatisfactory. When CBD users cringed at the thought of another dose of the CBD product they were taking, it became obvious that it would only be a matter of time when the consumer would seek a new product.
High Falls Hemp NY decided to make customer experience a top priority.
As a result, we chose a tincture formulation that relied on a very refined hemp seed oil carrier agent blended with CBD which was clean and not bad tasting.
In contrast, many products had an off-tasting carrier agent and used CBD which was not refined to remove the impurities which could cause a bad taste. We also observed that many brands rely on flavorings to mask the undesirable taste of the CBD or carrier agent. Additionally, we observed that over time many of these flavored tinctures turned rancid.
b. Product efficacy was of equal importance to us as we needed to make a product that worked for our clientele. We tested various formulations with a beta test group of CBD users who were benefiting from CBD.
At issue was the formulation of tinctures made with full-spectrum CBD distillate, CBD isolate, as well as the extraction method used to take the CBD out of the hemp. In the end, we discovered that ethanol and CO2 extracted CBD was of equal value from an efficacy perspective.
We also discovered that both extraction methods removed most if not all the terpenes. High Falls Hemp NY wanted to create clean-tasting products and we decided to create a product which was not reliant on the hemp-derived terpenes for wellness benefits, as these tended to give the tinctures a hemp/pot like taste which was not universally appealing to our test group. As well, terpenes varied from cultivar to cultivar, which would create different wellness benefits, and until we settled on which cultivars would grow best in our environment, we decided that terpenes would not be part of our original formulation.
c. Another consideration that had to do with efficacy had us considering less refined CBD inputs into our finished product. Some of these products resulted in products which had a hemp or pot like flavor, which did not appeal to the broader universe of our testers. While some would argue that less refined CBD would have more of a whole plant experience for the consumer, with greater wellness benefits, it was not apparent from our trials that such was the case.
d. We also experimented with nano-technology CBD inputs and could not discern any notable difference between the nano-technology CBD inputs with the industry standards. This contrasts with all the studies, which were probably conducted in controlled environments which favored the results being sought. Since the price of CBD was 1000% more expensive in 2018 than it is now, and the nano CBD inputs were twice as expensive as the non-nano inputs, we chose to stick with the industry standards and avoid the nano CBD inputs.
e. Product safety was and remains of paramount importance to High Falls Hemp NY, so when we started, we made sure that the finished product passed all of the safety panels when tested by independent third-party labs, including tests for pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents and biologic contaminants. This remains one of High Falls Hemp NY’s guiding principles.
CBD.mg: High Falls Hemp NY has been very active in New York hemp/CBD legislation. When speaking with legislators, what are their main questions? What are the key pieces of legislation that you would like to see passed going forward?
Rick: Of primary interest is what legislators and government personnel can do to make up for the lack of guidance and rules which the FDA has been very slow to come forward with. They are also interested in what they can do to create a more favorable environment for hemp farmers.
NY state passed very pro-consumer laws, legislated and signed into law in 2019, for which proposed rules were released last week for public comment, which will establish uniformed standards for all CBD products sold in NY state, effectively raising the bar for the entire industry and will require licensing for extractors, finished product manufacturers and retail establishments that wish to sell CBD products. Of note, the rules will require conducting a full panel COA on each batch/lot which needs to be accessible via a QR code on each product label, something which High Falls Hemp NY has been doing since the middle of 2019.
High Falls Hemp NY advocates for consumer laws that provide cohesive guidelines that support both the manufacturer and protect the consumer from bad actors in the CBD space. As these rules were formulated, we were in discussions with the folks at the NY State Department of Health who were writing these rules.
Going forward, we would like to see rules like those being enacted in NY State to become adopted across the country. Aside from the obvious benefit to the consumer, adoption of such rules would force many products which are made in non-GMP facilities to either adapt to the new standards or go out of business, and would force retail establishments to carry only those products which meet the manufacturing and compliance protocols of these rules. This will shake out those imposter products which continue to create poor reviews of the CBD industry, something which legitimate products, such as High Falls Hemp NY seek to eliminate.
CBD.mg: We are seeing tinctures that focus on cannabinoids outside of CBD, primarily CBG and CBN. Have you experimented with CBG / CBN? Where do you see fit into the future of hemp-based cannabinoid extracts?
Rick: The real win will come from a combination of cannabinoid and plant inputs which create the best-defined wellness experiences. To the extent that terpenes or the other minor cannabinoids help support a wellness outcome, then we think it is a good idea to include them in our product formulations.
This year at High Falls Hemp NY we are growing a CBG dominant hemp strain and have been experimenting with test formulations with CBN isolate. Based on our own research, CBN has more promise in promoting sleep and relaxation than does other applications with CBG, although the research continues along with respect to CBG.
The current formulation which is in our on-deck circle is a tincture formulation with CBD/CBN and our proprietary “relax/restore” terpene blend, which should do wonders for those who are sleep deprived… we know that CBN works on its own and our terpene blend with CBD works well too, so the combination should be very effective.
There are currently many CBD products in the market which rely on various herbs and supplements which have wellness benefits, and while we do see a place for those inputs, right now we are taking a purist approach to the wellness products we offer. Part of the reason why is that it is difficult at best to attribute the wellness benefits being sought from our core product, which is CBD and related cannabinoids and terpenes.
The best example I can cite is topical formulations that have CBD and a heavy menthol additive. With these products, the dominant sensation to the user is from the menthol, which is not as effective as the CBD, but in many products, it is hard to discern if the CBD is having an impact, or if it is exclusively from the menthol. Accordingly, we do not want to lead our users to create false impressions from an additive unless it is complementary as opposed to masking the benefits of the CBD.
We do have on the drawing board to use other herbal inputs from plants that grow in our local environment, other than hemp as inputs into our products. This is on our roadmap for 2021.
CBD.mg: It is quite difficult for consumers to clearly understand the benefits of terpenes. There are many types of terpenes and they come from a variety of sources. How did you determine the terpene blend for the relax/restore tincture? How can consumers educate themselves on what terpenes may be helpful for them?
Rick: Prior to embarking on any terpene formulations, we undertook a comprehensive review of the dominant hemp terpenes and their wellness benefits, and we created a map for the terpenes found in hemp.
The relax/restore terpene blend comes from actual hemp derived terpenes from one of our growing partners in our NY state ecosystem. We looked at various terpene profiles but were most impressed by the high concentration of myrcene with a minor concentration of alpha and beta-pinene, limonene and beta-caryophyllene. In addition to the relax/restore and sedative properties of myrcene, the pinenes have decongestant properties that help ones’ sleep cycle as well. This formulation has worked so well that we decided to replicate it for one of two gummy formulations.
The other gummy terpene formulation was based on the lemon-soda cannabis strain and the terpenes in that strain, with a dominant limonene terpene, embody the “focus/empower” description we have added to the name of this gummy product. Limonene has an uplifting and positive outlook effect consistent with the focus/empower label we have attached to it. As a user of our products, I can attest that this terpene blend delivers what the name implies.
The best way consumers can educate themselves about terpenes and the wellness benefits of them is to look online, to find various articles on terpenes in general or specific terpenes. As part of our outreach, in our blog, we have published a few articles to help educate our visitors:
CBD.mg: Can you speak about the process of developing a topical CBD product? Compared to a tincture, which usually is a hemp extract combined with a carrier oil, the ingredient mix in a lotion or balm is quite complex. I’m also curious why you chose an isolate as opposed to a full spectrum extract?
Rick: When we were in R&D with our initial topical formulations, we tested many products and had labs formulating samples for us to beta-test. Based on the products in the marketplace, I would have thought we would have settled on a salve, but in the end, a lotion won the day due to the luscious feel of the formulation we have settled on, the ease of use and the fact that it is not a greasy formulation and is absorbed easily into your skin.
Salves were on average difficult to apply and the nature of a salve in a jar with an open surface to put one's fingers was not appealing due to the likelihood of contamination. As well, many salve formulations we considered were either too firm and difficult to remove from the container, were too greasy, or melted at modest temperatures (80-85 F).
The lotion delivery method we chose at High Falls Hemp NY is in an easy to squeeze tube so that it is possible to get all the lotion out of the tube.
When we started having lotions produced for us, the lab did not want to use our full spectrum distillate because it was THC non-compliant, even though the end product was going to be compliant. And since we did not notice any therapeutic difference between the use of isolate vs full-spectrum distillate, with or without terpenes, we settled on the isolate formulation.
Thanks so much for reading. If you found it useful, please spread the word. As a special bonus for getting to the end of this interview, use coupon code CBDMG for 20% off your first order on High Falls Hemp products.