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Jeff Greene is the Co-Founder of the Florida Hemp Council. In honor of this month’s National CBD Day, CBD World News contributor and cannabis journalist Heather Allman talked with Jeff about the state of the industry and Florida Hemp Council’s role within it.
CBD World News: Tell me your perspective on the current mainstream madness of CBD. Why do you think the CBD industry has grown so quickly and exponentially since the 2018 Farm Bill?
Jeff Greene: Mainstream madness is probably over-exaggerated, with social media and legacy traditional media preventing promotion, CBD manufacturers have largely succeeded based on word of mouth advertising. This strongly suggests that the anecdotal evidence of pain relief and inflammation reduction is real. The 2018 Farm Bill was widely reported and caused the USDA to normalize hemp as an agricultural commodity. While they are still working on that, progress is happening and supply has not been an issue. The one and done farmer may be the next issue as the price of hemp has dropped dramatically since 2018.
CWN: In your opinion, what are some of the ultimate benefits of the current CBD market’s rapid, expansive growth? Drawbacks?
JG: Benefits are widespread availability of products to consumers. Drawbacks are bad actors’ ease of integration and the oversupply issues related to going from illegal to legal overnight.
CWN: What’s the consumer appeal of CBD?
JG: As one of over 140 cannabinoids in the plant, CBD stood out to a lot of early players as the most useful cannabinoid when it addressed pain and inflammation. Research is still catching up with consumer use, and there is no doubt there is some placebo effect on some ailments. However, the massive acceptance of CBD as an alternative to opioids and other prescription medications has made this plant an enemy to the pharmaceutical industry and the tobacco industry. Two industries that have recently decided to join the industry when they realized they couldn’t beat it down.
CWN: What’s the business appeal, or why the CBD market?
JG: Even though there is a perceived craze in the CBD market, the reality is that the market has barely been touched. The amount of CBD users pales in comparison to opioid users and pain relief medication, add to that the anti-inflammation prescription and over-the-counter drug users and the number is even smaller in comparison. Add to that the relatively low barrier to market currently and no real 800-pound gorilla locking up the space.
CWN: What is the biggest challenge or barrier that remains in/concerning the CBD industry at large?
JG: The regulatory guidance will be an industry concern until the FDA figures out how to regulate the industry. Once that happens, it will be a race to market share. With most of your large players buying their way to get there. That is the real push for the small and medium manufacturers now: Are you preparing your company for acquisition, or are you going to try to compete and be one of the big players? It’s an interesting place to be, with so many trying to find their lane and always looking in their rearview mirror to see who is buying up the road.
CWN: What is the biggest obstacle that you’ve professionally encountered concerning the CBD market?
JG: As a lobbyist, educating legislators was empowering. Differentiating hemp from marijuana and emphasizing the lack of psychotropic properties allowed us to overcome that challenge.
As a trade association, trying to protect the good actors in the industry without being used by the bad actors is the daily challenge. Many bad actors see trade associations as a way to get instant credibility and our job is to make sure we don’t mistake over-exuberant entrepreneurs for bad actors. There is a fine line between that startup sharing a vision and a bad actor sharing a lie to try to scam someone.
As an entrepreneur, dealing with social media and media prohibition, dealing with banking and credit issues, dealing with logistic issues, and dealing with international exportation have been the shortlist of obstacles. They are getting better every month but there are always dozens of alligators out there waiting to pounce. Your job is to anticipate those and avoid them.
CWN: Give me an example of your company’s solution to that specific challenge?
JG: The simplest example is our trade association. To be a member of the Board of Directors, we require all companies to have at least a year as part of our leadership committees. This gives us a full year to vet the companies to make sure they warrant inclusion on our Board.
CWN: Describe your current—and emerging—CBD consumer/client demographic. Has your consumer or client base changed or pivoted since the pandemic?
JG: The client demographic for CBD is full spectrum. Young to old, racially diverse, and not discriminated against by sexuality. With the pandemic, research that it helps prevent or cure the virus has no doubt increased demand, add to that the stress and sedentary nature of those staying at home, and I believe the potential customer base has increased exponentially.
CWN: In our current climate, with Cannabis and thus CBD being deemed an essential service: what was one of your responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, or what responsibility do you feel you have to your current and prospective CBD consumers?
JG: Yes, in Florida hemp was considered food and thus essential. For stores that followed the rules and got their State hemp retail permit, they were allowed to remain open. We were notified of some municipalities down in Miami asking stores to close and we had to educate the police and the mayor that the stores were able to stay open. Each store has done its part to offer curbside pickup and online sales, protective face coverings, and shorter hours to sterilize the store.
CWN: What is one key element of your company’s plan to maintaining your existing high-caliber brand or ancillary service?
JG: Never rest on our laurels. In the last month, we have developed a cooperative, looked at more marketing options, and next week, we are workshopping an update to our bylaws. I think regardless of your industry, this is important; but in the hemp industry, if you stop, you will be passed.
CWN: Any additional comments?
JG: Hemp is a disruptor. The plant was feared by the timber and tobacco industries back in the 1930s and they were able to legislate it away, that ship has sailed, and now overcoming legacy barriers to industries and reaching competitive pricing with scale are going to be the differentiators between those that succeed and those that fail. Not every product made of hemp will be cheaper to produce so the next argument will fall on the environment. Are we ready to move away from petroleum-based plastics due to their global negative environmental impacts or are we going to remain blinded to the cheap earth crushing options?
The Florida Hemp Council
The Florida Hemp Council (FLHC), a non-profit organization, was established to bring necessary resources to the Florida hemp industry and work together to overcome challenging times and remain sustainable. The Florida Hemp Council’s mission is to create a thriving ecosystem aimed at catapulting the Florida hemp industry to the forefront as leaders in hemp and hemp product production.