In the latest episode of the Cannacurio Podcast from Cannabiz Media, my co-host, Amanda Guerrero, and I discuss international licenses in Columbia and Canada as well as new point-of-sale and CRM data being added to the Cannabiz Media License Database. We also speak with Bill Owens and Todd Mock from Samson Extracts, a hemp extraction company located in Southeast Alabama.
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Cannacurio Podcast Episode 23 Transcript
Announcer: This is the Cannacurio podcast by Cannabiz Media, your source for cannabis and hemp license updates directly from the data vault. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Cannabiz Media newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to stay informed of future episodes and data releases.
Amanda Guerrero: Welcome to the Cannacurio podcast, powered by Cannabiz Media. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. We’ve got a great show for you guys today with some very interesting data highlights.
Today, we’re to be joined by Bill Owens and Todd Mock of Samson Extracts. Samson Extracts is an Alabama-based hemp license holder that is also a Cannabiz Media subscriber. As you all may recall, we’ve had quite a few hemp license updates over the last few months, this should make for an exciting show. As always though, let’s check in with Ed and see what he’s got for us from the data vault, Ed?
Ed Keating: Hi Amanda. We’ve been working on a number of initiatives since we last chatted. We’re finally getting Columbia into the app. It’s been a real challenge. The way they disseminate data is quite different than other international locations. They seem to combine the renewals with the new licenses themselves and they sort of almost show them as two licenses. It took us a while to get through that plus with the language barrier.
In addition, we actually just brought in a whole bunch of the Canadian licensed producers, so we added 41 and we updated about 436 of the licenses. Definitely a lot going on internationally.
Amanda Guerrero: Yeah, it sounds like it. And so regarding the Canadian licenses, are there any kind of new data groups or license holder groups that were noteworthy?
Ed Keating: You know what? None that I’ve seen yet, but once they get in the app, we’ll have a chance to sort of dig in and see how they compare to what we already have in there.
Amanda Guerrero: Very cool. Well, thanks for the update, Ed. When we come back, we will be joined by Bill Owens and Todd Mock of Samson Extracts. Stay tuned.
Welcome back everybody. As I mentioned, we’re joined by the team over at Samson Extracts. Bill, Todd, welcome to the show. How are you guys?
Bill Owens: We’re doing well. This is Bill.
Todd Mock: I’m Todd.
Amanda Guerrero: Hi guys. Welcome. Welcome. Bill, Todd, tell us a little bit more about Samson Extracts. Can you tell us more about the company? I was on the website and it said that you guys were Alabama’s largest and most diverse farms. That’s a pretty exciting title.
Bill Owens: That’s true. We are associated with one of the largest farms in Alabama. We’re located in South Alabama, in Geneva County. Our offices are in Geneva, Alabama. We purchase all of our hemp from a related farm and then process it here. We currently are in the process of the final tuning of our processor and expect to have it handed off to us by the end of next week and be ready for production.
Amanda Guerrero: Oh, that’s so exciting. Now, I understand that Alabama is a relatively newer hemp program. Did the Samson Extracts’ team always want to get involved with the hemp program?
Bill Owens: Yes, we did. We’re in our second crop year. We had our first license in 2019.
Amanda Guerrero: Congratulations.
Bill Owens: And grew a 140 acres last year.
Todd Mock: About a 160.
Bill Owens: 160 acres last year and this year we’ve got just over 300 acres that we’ve planted and are in the process of harvesting currently. The leaders of our farm and our team have been watching hemp in other states and have been following the legislation in Alabama, and when the legislation finally passed and of course the 2018 Farm Bill passed at the federal level, we were ready to go and we’re all in.
Amanda Guerrero: I love it. Now Todd, I understand that you are the extraction facility manager over at Samson Extracts. How long have you been with the team? And have you always focused on hemp extraction?
Todd Mock: I’ve been here for a little over a year. Hemp extraction is definitely not something I’ve been in for very long. I have more of a background in sales and I’m ex-military, but leadership management is something I’ve been in quite a bit of and that’s basically why I’m here.
Ed Keating: One of the things that I wanted to dig in was the licensing process because my data team really focuses on what’s happening there. I tend to look at all the documents that the state puts out to help me and my team get an understanding of what’s going on in the licensing field.
In looking at what the Department of Agriculture puts out in Alabama, I was a little shocked and surprised to see they have a document called, Am I Ready to be a Hemp Processor Handler? And then it says in quotation marks, “This is like taking your mortgage payments to the casino to gamble. Are you prepared to lose it!?” I’m just kind of curious as you all went through the licensing process, what was that like? Because I can’t say that I’ve ever seen that in any kind of public document that a state puts out to help folks get a license.
Bill Owens: Yeah. That particular statement came from a meeting that I attended at the state level. And when hemp first got introduced in Alabama, farmers were thinking that they were going to make 50, $60,000 an acre by growing hemp.
Ed Keating: Wow.
Bill Owens: And of course, if you look at the profit from the greenhouse all the way to the final consumer, there may be numbers that are relatively close to that in the whole continuum, but farmers saw that and thought, “Okay, I’m going to make 50 or $60,000.” That’s the reason the state of Alabama really put that out there saying, “If you don’t have money to lose, you shouldn’t invest it in this industry.”
And as far as the licensing process, it has been relatively easy with the state. The Department of Agriculture and Industries has a group focused on hemp. They are very user friendly, will help you work out your problems when you submit your application. If there’s a problem, they don’t just reject your application – they notify you what the problem is, give you a chance to fix it. And as far as I know, I don’t know of anybody that’s been rejected in the state in the last two years, Todd, do you?
Todd Mock: I’m not really sure, but I will say Miss Gail and her team have been outstanding. Even with all the COVID restrictions and all that craziness, they’ve done a great job in the confines that they had to work in, getting everybody settled and moving forward.
And back to your little quote you found. I’m not sure if they may have stolen that from me because last year I was telling people last year, I was like, because I had several people asking me, “Hey, what do you think about getting into hemp?” I said, “Look,” and this is exactly what I told people, “if you don’t have money in the bank to take down, about $15,000 per acre to take down to Biloxi and throw it on black and walk away losing it, you don’t need to get into hemp.” They may have revamped my statement from last year that I was telling some of my…
Ed Keating: All right, well, you heard it here first on our podcast. That’s great. One other thing that I did want to ask though, is since you all have been involved in other crops, what is this process been like in terms of being different? Because you here you got things like they’re doing background checks, fingerprinting, GPS coordinates of where your facilities are, cost per site in terms of licensing. Is it very different than the other compliance you’ve had to do for the Department of Agriculture?
Bill Owens: From a row crop perspective, I would say it’s like night and day. Obviously, we don’t have to turn in GPS coordinates for any of the row crop commodities that we grow and sell. The harvesting is different. The growth is different, and probably one of the bigger differences between hemp and our regular row crop commodities are the chemicals that we’re able to use because of major chemicals such as Macazia and some other chemicals that we might be able to do pre-emergent, we can’t use those because of the restrictions on hemp. We obviously have to stick to the state mandated OMRI approved chemicals. There’s a big difference there.
And as far as the harvesting goes, there’s a big difference there as well. We mechanically harvest pretty much everything as far as the row crop commodities, and hemp we’re still in the process of working out different methods and stuff. It’s just a work in progress. It takes time. It’s just one of those things you got to keep on moving forward, if you’re able to do so.
Ed Keating: And as you harvest this crop, obviously it has lots of different uses and as Cannabiz Media has been coming up to speed on hemp and sort of how it fits into our world, I’ve learned all sorts of new words like decortication and decortication machines, which apparently are expensive and prone to clogging and whatnot. Do you have to use stuff like that? Or rent it? Or how do you get that crop off the field and onto the next phase of the process?
Bill Owens: Well, to answer your decortication question, decortication is actually more geared toward your industrial hemp, which is actually different than what we grow. We grow what’s called, I guess the technical term is phytocannabinoid rich hemp, which is basically, marijuana with the THC bred out of it completely or down really low. Industrial hemp grows differently and is also planted differently and harvested differently.
Decortication is more geared toward your industrial hemp. We’re still trying to do different things with our stalks, which is what you decorticate. There’s some opportunities there, we’ve just got to research and find them. As far as harvesting, we kind of just do it the good old South Alabama way the best we can with hand harvesting right now.
Ed Keating: Yeah. Yeah. I was at an event in Connecticut probably about a year ago where they’re talking about the program and they were doing the same thing here. I was actually in the town I used to live in and this woman got up and talked about how they had sort of a small crop, they’re trying it out, but I guess they didn’t protect for pests really well. And she said a whole bunch of deer came in and pretty much ate the whole crop. She said if anybody wants to see CBD-enriched venison, they can go probably find it in her town in Connecticut.
Amanda Guerrero: Oh my goodness.
Ed Keating: Always a challenge there. But I want to dig back in on the licensing side a little bit. You said it was a good process of getting a license. Every state is different in terms of what they ask and what they dig into and looking through their documents. I thought they actually asked some good questions besides whether you were ready to throw your money down at the casino. One question, really an obvious one is, what do people want to process the hemp for? Is it CBD oil, CBG, CBN, distillate, crude oil isolate? How did you guys go through that kind of calculus to figure out what your product mix was going to be?
Bill Owens: Well, that’s a very interesting question because we, like the whole industry, are in the evolutionary process. Our initial focus is on CBD, but we’re evaluating CBG and CBN. We’re evaluating full spectrum products versus T-free products. And so right now we can produce a crude, which is CBD and THC combined and it’s very low in THC. We will, over time, we will be able to extract out the different components of that. Will we produce CBG or CBN? We very well may, but right now our focus is on CBD.
Ed Keating: Got it. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And in terms of extraction method, there’s obviously a number of choices here, which one did you choose and why?
Bill Owens: Well, we chose an ethanol or an alcohol extraction method. And it’s really, we went outside the cannabis world and got something from the citrus world. And we’ve had the engineers for that company here fine tuning our process.
We’re very excited about the process that we have. We will recapture at least 90% of the ethanol that we use so we won’t spend a ton of money on ethanol, but it is a cost that we have to incur and our extraction, if you use CO2 subcritical, you’re really only getting 55, 60% of the CBD into your crude, but we do better than that with alcohol. And so that’s the biggest reason we chose to do an alcoholic extraction versus a CO2, either subcritical or super critical.
Ed Keating: Excellent, excellent. The last question they had in their set of questions that jumped out at me was a very interesting one, which is simply, what is your motive for being a hemp processor handler? It sort of goes back to what Amanda is asking, what drew you into this?
Todd Mock: Honestly, I guess speaking for my boss, they actually care about the other farmers. They’ve been farming themselves, but they actually care about other people. And in the position they’re in, they want to be able to help this industry grow, but also at the same time, help local farmers to be able to get into this, to be able to subsidize what they already do. It’s really a heart thing in the long run, and that’s one of the biggest things.
Also, the benefits of this product, whether it be CBD, CBDVA, CBG, any of those cannabinoids, there’s so many benefits of this that has not been explored or that people shun away because of the stigma of this plant. And one other thing we’re wanting to do on the long-term is try to help get rid of that stigma through education. And so there’s a lot of things working. We’re moving forward, we’re doing a lot of things. I’m excited.
Bill Owens: And I am, as well. As everybody who’s in this industry knows, the whole CBD world is in an adjustment period. Last year was not a great year for CBD. And really, the farmer is this piece that’s getting hurt the worst right now. And our position, we go from the greenhouse well into the process so we can split up the profits however we want to, but the guy that’s just a farmer out there is really having a problem right now because he’s having to sell his product for a fraction of what it’s costing him to grow it.
And we don’t want farmers to give up on this crop because we believe that we can grow enough to keep our processor full, but we would rather grow some of it, but acquire some from farmers at a good price so that they can make money, more money than they make on their other products and grow a good solid crop here in South Alabama.
Ed Keating: Yeah, no, you bring up a good point. I was on a hemp panel a couple months ago and the moderator talked about how the rate of licensure had actually declined where I think fewer acres were being farmed this year because as you pointed out, last year was so tough. I guess in 14, 15, 16, 17, maybe part of 18, the money was pretty good. But then, I guess the latter half of 18 and 19, not so much.
One last supply and demand question I had is, in terms of processing, that often seems to be a good place to be where people are always looking for processors. Has there been any interest from out of state or people want to have their hemp processed within Alabama? Or is there really not much crossing state lines yet?
Bill Owens: We’ve had some inquiries from other states. We’re not ready to take anybody else’s crop yet. We really haven’t explored that option, but we will be and we will explore the option. Our facility sits five miles from Florida. We can obviously geographically handle the panhandle of Florida very well. We’re also not that far from the Georgia line. Georgia’s really just now getting into hemp and hemp growing. We could geographically handle the southwest corner of Georgia very well, but our focus is on Alabama and Alabamians. And we’re part of the Sweet Grow Alabama program with the Department of Agriculture and they’re trying to promote Alabama products and we are as well.
Ed Keating: Great.
Amanda Guerrero: Wonderful. Well, I really appreciate the altruistic message that’s coming from the Samson Extracts team, especially as it relates to kind of bringing awareness to a relatively profitable crop and kind of paving the way for farmers. Good on you guys for doing that and having some forward thinking towards processing out of state hemp.
Kind of along that same thought process I wanted to ask, right now, hemp is currently allowed in Alabama, but if cannabis was legal, is that something that you guys would be interested in pursuing and adding onto to your existing crops?
Bill Owens: I’m not really ready to discuss that. When cannabis may or may not be legal in Alabama, it’s a tricky question. And so we will explore it and we very well may be interested in it.
Todd Mock: I’d say, taking a guess on that, it’s worse than gambling on, taking your mortgage down to gamble.
Bill Owens: All options are open and we will explore that. And we have people involved in politics that keep us abreast of where it is going. I personally believe that medical marijuana will be legal in Alabama sometime in the next two or three years. And then I believe recreational use will follow within five years of medical marijuana, but that’s just a personal belief. That’s Bill Owens speaking for Bill Owens. It’s not Bill Owens speaking for Samson Extracts.
And will we take advantage of that? I can’t say. It makes sense for us to be able to use what we’ve built in that world, but we would have to redo it because if you run marijuana through our extraction machine, you can’t ever run hemp through it again, because you can’t get it clean enough not to have some residual THC link onto the CBD that you’re producing through it. It would require new capital expenditures and we will evaluate it based on the dollars and cents of that industry when it happens.
Todd Mock: I would just like to say this before we get done, I would keep an eye out for Sampson Extracts. There’s a lot of exciting things coming down the road. That’s samsonextracts.com. You can find us on there or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, any of those social media sites.
Amanda Guerrero: I love it. I love it. We’re definitely all about promotion here so definitely check you guys, check out the Samsung Extracts team. Now, one last question for me, just kind of given the messages that you guys have been sharing here today, is there any advice that you’d like to give new hemp farmers or hemp-preneurs about getting involved in the program or kind of dealing with the changes of the crops? Any advice you guys would like to go?
Bill Owens: Yeah. If you don’t have $15,000, no, I’m just kidding. In Alabama, we found problems that they haven’t had in Kentucky. Ants are a problem in Alabama.
Todd Mock: And they’re not in Kentucky.
Bill Owens: Ants were never a problem in Kentucky. Really you’ve got to evaluate the crop based on your circumstances and then do what you can in advance to prepare your field properly before you put your crop in the ground. Genetics are important. We’re still working on genetics at Samson Extracts to identify the right genetics for South Alabama, which are probably not the same genetics that are right for North Alabama or Tennessee or Kentucky.
Todd Mock: That’s what I tell people all the time, “Oh, I’m getting stuff from Colorado.” Just because it grows in Colorado well doesn’t mean it’s going to grow in our soil, our environment down here in Alabama. And that’s a great point. You got to watch that.
Bill Owens: And we’re still exploring our whole growing season here. Do we have a chance to grow two crops outside in Alabama? Could we do an auto flower crop early and then a full crop late? We don’t know that. We’re exploring all those things currently.
And the universities in Alabama are great to work with. All the major universities, our university partners with the state and we’ve had contact with most of them, and they are pursuing from their standpoint, the things that need to be done in Alabama to produce the highest quality hemp that can be produced.
Todd Mock: And in all fairness, whoever said it first, it doesn’t matter. Literally, I know it’s just cliche, but if you don’t have money to lose, this is not something you want to get into because it truly is a gamble. There’s a lot of things that can go awry. There’s a lot of things that can happen outside of your control. Just like the hurricane just came through, it did some damage to a lot of the crops around here. You can’t control every aspect of the growing process. It is a gamble. I know I made fun of that statement and we kind of made light of it, but it is kind of true. If you don’t have the money to invest in this and lose it possibly, it’s probably not for you.
Bill Owens: And you also have to evaluate the conditions you’re in. For example, in South Alabama, we have very sandy soil, which is great for growing hemp because hemp does not like wet feet. But when we started processing our hemp, we ended up with a lot of sand in our extractor.
Amanda Guerrero: Oh good point.
Bill Owens: We had to change things in our extractor to deal with the sand that was on our crop. What could be a positive in one part of the growing process might be negative in another part of the growing process. You really have to evaluate what you have and think forward into how’s that going to affect the next step?
Todd Mock: And a lot of people asked me questions like we’re experts. What I tell people most of the time, “What we learned last year is what not to do. A lot of it what not to do.” We did learn some good things to do, but we made a lot of mistakes to get to where we’re at. That’s why I say it’s very important that you make sure you have the investment money or the capital be able to get into this.
Bill Owens: Don’t ever forget, if your THC gets above 0.3%, they will destroy your crop.
Todd Mock: Or you have to destroy your own.
Bill Owens: Or you have to destroy your own. There’s no ifs ands and buts about it. That’s the law. It’s a federal law, it’s a state law and we have to abide by that. And there’s nothing we can really do to help as it starts to get up. As the CBD increases, as the plant matures, well, the THC is going to go up along with it. And so you have to make sure you get it tested and you harvest it in a timely manner so that it won’t ever test at above 0.3%.
Amanda Guerrero: Well, you guys have given us so much to think about throughout this podcast and just to end this part here, really, we appreciate the honesty and transparency and I know our listeners will too. Thank you both Bill and Todd for joining us on the show today. We look forward to continue working with you guys and seeing what the Samson Extracts team can do this year.
Bill Owens: Thank you for having us.
Amanda Guerrero: All right, Ed, what a great interview. Let’s take a look ahead here and see what license updates we have to look forward to from the Cannabiz Media team.
Ed Keating: Okay, well, we’re wrapping up the last of our point of sale data. The team is going to be calling through the end of September, probably right up until the very end and looks to be very interesting. I’m excited to see sort of what the data tells us once we’re actually able to wrap our arms around it.
And as I mentioned before, we’re also trying to find information on the CRM data that people use. In addition to that, we’ve got some other updates coming in, including Pennsylvania hemp, Montana cannabis, Louisiana CBD, as well as South Carolina hemp. Still a lot of information floating into the system and a lot on the hemp side really.
Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. That’s exciting. Clearly with the Samsung Extracts teams here, sharing kind of what they’ve been going through as a hemp processor, I’m sure we’ll have more exciting stories to share over the coming weeks, both through the data and the podcast.
Thank you everyone for joining us on today’s show. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. Stay tuned for more updates from the data vault.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to the Cannacurio podcast by Cannabiz Media. Stay up to date with the latest episodes of the podcast and get alerts on the latest licensing activity in the United States and Canada, as well as exclusive industry insights, by signing up for the Cannabiz Media licensing newsletter at cannabiz.media/newsletter.
Ed Keating is a co-founder and Chief Data Officer of Cannabiz Media and oversees our data research and government relations efforts. He has spent his whole career working with and advising information companies in the compliance space. Ed has overseen complex multijurisdictional product lines in the securities, corporate, UCC, safety, environmental and human resource markets and focuses on workflow products over the last twenty five years. During that time he has worked for both startup and established information companies where he has led marketing, product management and sales organizations. These companies include Wolters Kluwer/Commerce Clearing House, CT Corporation, EDGAR Online and Business & Legal Reports. At Cannabiz Media Ed enjoys the challenge of working with regulators across the globe as he and his team gather corporate, financial, and license information to track the people, products and businesses in the cannabis economy. Ed graduated from Hamilton College and received his MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.