In the early days of legal cannabis edibles, it was hard to find anything that seemed “healthy.” Most products were full of sugar, dyed with synthetic colors, and prone to leaving their consumers completely incapacitated.
This is why Gillian Levy, the President of Humboldt Apothecary, set out to change things. She holds a degree in biology and botany from Humboldt State University and advocates for healthy lifestyles rooted in good food, exercise, and holistic use of plant-based medicines. She’s a foodie and a mixologist with a deep understanding of not just traditional cocktail ingredients, but less traditional nonalcoholic and herbal drinks.
Today, Gillian joins the podcast to share the story of how her dreams of being a doctor led her to a career in plant-based medicine, creating a product portfolio that walks a line between wellness and lifestyle, and what it means to be one of a small number of fully female-owned cannabis companies working today.
- How Gillian launched her apothecary business to help represent cannabis in the way she thought it deserved.
- Why cannabinoids have so much unique healing potential.
- How sun-grown, small-batch craft cannabis reduces the crop’s ecological footprint.
- Why the cannabis industry remains so male-dominated – and the advantages and disadvantages of operating a female-owned cannabis business.
- The significant challenges of selling mixed drinks containing alcohol and CBD or THC.
- Why Gillian believes federal legalization won’t happen until each state individually legalizes.
“Cannabis does seem to cure everything from a hangnail to cancer.” – Gillian Levy
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Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Green Repeal. I am your co-host, Rick Kiley. I am joined, as always, by Jeffrey Boedges. Hello, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Boedges: Hello and greetings from snowy New York, where it is very snowy.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. We got two feet on the ground over here and Manhattan’s already sloshing up a little bit. It’s really lovely to see.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. A lot of it melted today.
Rick Kiley: I think hopefully out on the West Coast, our guest, Gillian Levy, who is the President of Humboldt Apothecary, has some nicer weather. She is a cannabis entrepreneur with a degree in biology and botany from Humboldt State University. She is a leading advocate for health and healthy lifestyle that features healthy food, exercise, and holistic use of plant-based medicines. She is also a foodie, a mixologist, equally capable with traditional cocktail ingredients or with less traditional nonalcoholic and herbal cocktails. Holy moly, Gillian, welcome to the show. Is there anything we missed here? Please tell us more about yourself.
Gillian Levy: Thank you so much for the very flattering introduction. I’m so honored and pleased to be here with you today. I think you kind of covered it. You did a great job with the intro. So, won’t take away from that.
Jeffrey Boedges: All right. Excellent. We can make some stuff up for you.
Rick Kiley: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: She also repairs motorcycles in their spare time and is a world-class disco instructor.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. What did you pretend to want to be when you were little, I wonder?
Gillian Levy: Oh gosh, so many things. I don’t have an interesting story to tell there. My sister had a better story. She wanted to be both a cheerleader and a paleontologist, and she didn’t become either of it. I think I wanted to be like a lawyer or doctor, a little more boring.
Rick Kiley: Well, those are good. The cheerleader paleontologist sounds like a TV series that could be out there right now. Which one are you, a cheerleader or paleontologist?
Jeffrey Boedges: Both. It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Rick Kiley: Cool. So, we read you studied biology and botany. It was originally you were going for on a premed track. You were going to be a doctor. What happened? How did you change that? Now, you own a Humboldt’s Apothecary, so talk to us a little bit about how you arrive there and the winding road that took you there.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. That is not a turn that I anticipated either. From a very young age, I was strangely drawn to plant medicine. I just thought that it was a really neat concept. I had some early experiences using herbs and found them to be really effective. So, from the time I was in high school, I was captivated by that notion. And I came to Humboldt State, not because of my draw to the cannabis industry at all, but because Humboldt County was such a wild and rugged place, just full of natural beauty and a lot of medicinal plants in the woods and by the ocean. So, I did intend to go on to medical school and I still think I would have been a darn good doctor but I went and falling in love like so many young people do, both with a man and the area and it kept me here. And Humboldt County is one of those places. It’s sort of like a vortex. A lot of people don’t take to it because it’s extremely remote and at times difficult to access. It’s got a little tiny airport and some pretty dangerous winding roads to get in and out of. But for the people that love this place, it just has a strange magnetism. People really love it and I happen to be one of those people that came here to study and just never left.
Jeffrey Boedges: You grew up in Seattle, though. I mean, it’s not exactly – I don’t really think of Seattle as being ugly or being industrial really. You came from a pretty beautiful place.
Gillian Levy: It’s a beautiful place. And my parents still live there and I live there and I love to go visit but Seattle, as you know, changed a lot from the time that I was a kid there in the 80s and 90s, which is a really great time to grow.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, after grunge, you said, I’m out?
Rick Kiley: Yeah. No flannel for me, please.
Jeffrey Boedges: No. I think she went through the flannel phase.
Gillian Levy: Oh, I did that. I did that for sure and I finally got out of it. But, yeah, I think, you know, it just I love the wildness that Humboldt County has to offer. It’s just, you know, it’s hard to describe if you haven’t been here, but there are a lot of places that are really off the beaten path and I just found that just exciting. I did a lot of backpacking when I was younger and exploring like the backcountry. There’s just a lot of room to spread out here and explore.
Rick Kiley: Got it.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, I like that type of thing myself, so it totally makes sense to me.
Rick Kiley: So, when you were talking about developing love for herbs and plant medicine, did you sort of start from the past path of maybe like more Eastern medicine? Like how did you get from that affection into the cannabis plant? Like was there something along the way that sort of brought you there?
Gillian Levy: Well, like I said, I had first-hand experience using medicinal herbs, mostly Western plants. I really always liked the idea that you could, you know, even like harvest dandelions from your yard and use that as plant medicine so incorporating the plants in your community into your lifestyle and your diet. I have always been really captivated by Eastern medicine, but to tell you the truth, I don’t know nearly that much or as much about it. And I have so much respect for that Eastern philosophy of medicine but it’s so complex that I just don’t really know enough about it to wrap my mind around it. But I think that seeing the way that culturally people have incorporated medicinal plants into their diet and into their medicine for thousands of years, and there are so many ancient cultures in the East that have good stories around that, I think that has always captivated me. So, that was kind of it sparked my initial interest and when I came to Humboldt County, I wound up studying botany because they have great botany department there, great program. I was drawn initially because I just like plants but it actually became a career for me for a while as well. So, yeah, I don’t know. I guess I’ve just always been really kind of fascinated with plants in general and medicinal plants are just kind of like an added benefit. And it’s neat to be able to find them in the wild and just kind of walk around and identify them and use them.
Jeffrey Boedges: Right. Yeah. So, are there a lot of botany schools out there? It wasn’t what I majored in, so it wasn’t like one of the best botany schools out there. And how many of them are there? I’m from the Midwest and there’s a lot of agro degrees that you can get, but not a lot of botany degrees that I’m aware of.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. There aren’t actually that many botany programs. And I just heard recently that they are considering turning Humboldt State University into a polytechnic university, which is kind of neat. They have a lot of because we’re kind of at the heart of what was really the flourishing timber industry for decades, we have a lot of great programs that supported the timber and forestry industries. So, like an amazing forestry program, great natural resources programs, a great fisheries department, and then botany goes along with all of that. So, it’s kind of a dying science. There are probably a handful of universities that have botany degrees in the US.
Jeffrey Boedges: I feel like it’s a science that is probably going to come back though with a lot of awareness around the need for reforestation, around the need for plant-based foods and plant-based diets. I feel like it may be at its native, but I feel like it could go back up. You don’t see that. You can kind of feel like people are really kind of moving more towards the industrial side of it. Is that why you feel like it’s not growing?
Gillian Levy: Yeah. I just think that it’s not a career where they’re like there’s a prolific number of jobs in the field, but botanists are always needed. In fact, for any project where there’s development, you always have a botanist that’s going to come in and do weird plant surveys and look at indicator species that are going to dictate the viability of a project for development. So, a botanist is always needed there.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. And then Matt Damon was a botanist in that movie, The Martian. He grew potatoes on Mars. So, there’s always that.
Gillian Levy: Botanists are like an aura like an agrarian. What’s the word for?
Rick Kiley: His line was, “I’m a botanist,” like threw it down when he grew potatoes out of his own poop on Mars. It was great.
Gillian Levy: That’s pretty cool.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. That’s good. It’s a good book.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s the first time we’ve ever said that sentence on this show.
Rick Kiley: Probably won’t be the last.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: So, did you start experimenting and becoming active with the cannabis plant early pre-legal days? I think we have a note here that that did happen.
Jeffrey Boedges: Just like you didn’t say that in anything I read. I was just sort of doing the timeline here. You had some experience with cannabis and its properties, both from the CBD side and THC side, but it seemed to be probably before it became legal in California and I was just curious if you had some experience prior.
Gillian Levy: Absolutely. I mean, I grew up, I was a teenager smoking indoor BC Bud up in Seattle back in the 90s and it really wasn’t for me. It got me too high. I’m not a big smoker. I have really sensitive lung. So, I had sort of like a relationship, a rocky relationship with it at that point. But then I came to Humboldt and believe it or not, I did not come here for the weed industry in any way. But when you walk into Humboldt County, when I did in the late 90s, you can’t miss it. It’s a pretty prominent part of the culture here and commerce. So, yeah, I was very familiar early on and when I jumped in, it was really after Prop 215 had already been established. That was in 1995. And for those of you that don’t know, that was California’s version of like a medicinal use early proposition in California that provided a legal pathway and protection for medical users of cannabis. So, I was here for that whole kind of movement and when I saw adult-use was on the table and California was going to be moving in that direction, I decided it was kind of time to jump in and try my hat as an entrepreneur in this developing new industry.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. So, tell us about starting the apothecary. How did the idea come to be and tell us the story about how you got it launched.
Gillian Levy: Yeah, sure. So, my business partner and I, Susan Cleverdon, she’s a wonderful business partner, we both are really passionate about medicinal plants and we’re nerdy enough that we actually have all of these like old medical textbooks from like the 1800s about different plants and their uses, like therapeutic uses in medicine. And we’d be poring over these books and cannabis is just one of many plants in there. And we always thought cannabis more as like an herb than something that should be separated out and just worship for its THC content. We really love that like as herbalists, you’re always kind of esteeming like this full spectrum of compounds that are in a plant so with cannabis, all of the different constituents in there and not just the THC. And we did not really see cannabis represented in the market in the way that we felt it deserved to be represented, I guess, you could say. It was oftentimes in edibles with just tons of sugar, maybe a lot of like synthetic colors and it really didn’t align with kind of like our values and how we wanted to use cannabis. So, we wanted to create a product that really highlighted kind of like the full spectrum capacity of the plant. We combine it a lot of times with other medicinal plants to help support the intended benefits more. And we went with a lot lower dose than what we were seeing because we wanted a product that we would want to take and recommend to our friends and family members, something that could be functional for use throughout the day without causing total incapacitation like you’re on the couch and you’re not moving. That’s not the effect we were looking for. So, we wanted to create a product that we saw – we didn’t see that product represented in the market and so we kind of sought out to create it.
Jeffrey Boedges: Cool. You talked a little bit about the component parts, and it’s certainly not news to us and a lot of people are discussing terpenes and entourage effect and things of that nature. But I have to ask, are there other herbs or are there other things out there that have anything as close to the variety and the sheer amount of different compounds that cannabis has? You know, I mean, could I take those dandelions from the front yard like you were talking about earlier, and get anything close to the different types of or the spectrum of effects that you can get from a cannabis plant?
Gillian Levy: Yeah. I mean, as far as like the plant chemistry, I can’t speak to whether there are other plants that have such a diversity of compounds. Yeah. That’s a really good question. But what I can say is that, no, you will not get the same therapeutic benefits from a dandelion and part of the really remarkable…
Jeffrey Boedges: All right. Kids, go stop with the dandelions back there.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. Sorry. Don’t go smoking dandelions. You’ll be disappointed. But I think what is just so remarkable and fascinating about cannabis is just that you have a plant that has these cannabinoids that fit directly into this central physiological system that we have in our bodies, the endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoids fit into that system like lock and key, and it’s really remarkable. So, that really truly is why cannabis does seem to cure everything from a hangnail to cancer. You know, it’s pretty unique.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s the first time anybody said it.
Rick Kiley: No. From a hangnail to cancer.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. I mean, I’m not making any claims about it.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s better than from seed to sale. I think everybody says that. No one says from hangnails to cancer.
Gillian Levy: I don’t make that claim on my labels.
Rick Kiley: That’s great. And I saw the product offerings that you have. I saw a lot of tinctures and also a lot of and some that are THC products and some that don’t have the psychoactive ingredient as well. Do you want to talk a little bit about just the product offering that you guys have at the apothecary?
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s a pretty massive spectrum of products. You guys have a big portfolio.
Gillian Levy: We really do. I mean, to be quite honest, we jumped in to being entrepreneurs and business owners, but neither of us have that background. So, probably like a smart and efficient business person would say like, “We’re going to design three SKUs and sell those products,” and we were like, “No. We’re going to design 14 tinctures because that’s how much we love them.” So, it’s really a passion project and we have a real range of products that include all THC to predominantly CBD. We have a hemp offering that is trace amounts of THC but basically hemp-derived CBD, and then we have many different ratios. And I guess we’re just passionate about the products that we make and so we kind of decided early on that we wanted to design a product for just about everyone. And I think we’ve successfully done that. People ask all the time, like, “Which product is best for me?” and we just point to trends a lot of times. There’s so little like really good data out there still about cannabis so a lot of it is anecdotal anyway. And if people come to us and they’re asking what might be a good product to point to, what helps one person sometimes is very different than what helps the next. So, you can say generally a high CBD, low THC formula might be very nice for anxiety and maybe a one-to-one or a more THC dominant product might be better for pain or appetite stimulation. But those are just very general rules and everybody responds so differently. It’s nice to have a lot of different options to offer people. And we do actually get a lot of customers reaching out that have their doctors recommending our products to us. That is, I mean, there’s nothing that makes us feel better like that is just so near and dear to our hearts because for doctors to have enough trust in our company to be recommending them to their patients, really like we take a lot of pride in that.
Rick Kiley: Now, that’s great. I was going to ask about that because I think when we start looking at brands that are in the adult-use space, you know, sort of medicinal brands look very medicinal, adult-use brands are looking very not, and you’ve created, I think, a package and a product line that looks like it can kind of live a little bit in both worlds, and I mean that in the best way possible. It feels like recreational but lifestyle and wellness-focused and it’s a delicate balance. So, I was curious if your patients, sorry, not patients, if your customers were skewing more towards medical patients or towards recreational users.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. Well, thank you for the high compliment, first off. Yeah. You know, I want to say that I think we kind of sit at the nexus really between adult-use and medicinal, like I think a lot of people take our products because they make them feel good. And so, if you’re in a good mood, then you’re going to enjoy your setting and your life more. So, in that sense, it’s adult-use, but it’s also therapeutic. And so, I don’t know. I think it’s really kind of a little bit of both like just like you say.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I mean, I was just curious, what percentage I guess are medical patients do you think are coming to you of your business? I was just curious.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. That’s data that I just don’t have at this point because we have a license type that allows us to sell both adult-use and medical. And so, it’s really determined at the dispensary. When people walk in there, if they have their medical card in California, then they’re not subjected to the excise tax but that does not really bear like we don’t distribute for our own company and so we don’t really have any good data about that.
Rick Kiley: Got it. Okay.
Gillian Levy: I hope I can answer that better.
Rick Kiley: All right. Just curious.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s a business opportunity for us. I think now we need to go out and provide that service.
Rick Kiley: Absolutely. So, in terms of your production where, and this has come up actually with a few of our past guests and we’re starting to talk about it more, the sort of is there a difference? There seems to be a difference between sort of growing indoor or through hydroponic or controlled means or sort of a more sun-grown or wild approach to it. Do you have an approach to the products that you guys use? It seems like you maybe take a more sun-grown approach. Do you have a position on sort of the production methodology on what’s better or what’s not?
Gillian Levy: Yeah. You know, for us, we’re big environmentalists and so if you look at the carbon footprint of indoor growing and also greenhouse growing, which does require supplementation of light and a lot of electricity, sun-grown is by far the most environmentally-friendly and sustainable way to produce cannabis.
Rick Kiley: Got it.
Gillian Levy: And part of the identity of our brand really was kind of built around this idea of supporting our county, our community, because Humboldt County has been such a legacy location of the original growers in California. And many people have felt excited and also very nervous about legalization of cannabis in the state and then hopefully federally down the line because we’re very craft boutique growers in Humboldt. The landscape here for those that don’t know is extremely rugged and mountainous and steep, and there’s not a ton of like big open agricultural fields or anything. That’s a very small percentage of the total land cover of Humboldt County. So, a lot of people have really small grows here. And we don’t grow mostly with tractors and like big, industrialized equipment. It’s a lot of hand-done. So, we believe in our community. We want to support the growth and economic viability of the industry in this county and so we really support like the Humboldt County sun-grown cannabis. It’s in all of our products. It’s the only thing that we use because it’s really important to us. It was a long answer too but…
Rick Kiley: Sun-grown. Yeah. I think we’re seeing the birth of craft cannabis like I think that’s what’s starting to happen.
Gillian Levy: Yes.
Rick Kiley: And that makes sense.
Jeffrey Boedges: I made this joke recently on another podcast, but I think the California raisins was all this idea about California being the best place because of the best sunshine and things like that. I think there’s going to be at some point it’s going to be a stamp and maybe even something that’s like you would have in wine or you would have in spirits where there’s an AOC or recognition.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Somebody said Humboldt is going to be potentially like the Napa Valley. What Napa is to wine, that’ll be for cannabis.
Jeffrey Boedges: I cannot wait to go on a tour. That’s all I’m saying.
Gillian Levy: Right. There’s a little bit of that already and it is headed in that direction. And actually, to speak to that, there is legislation in place in California and a massive effort right now to designate appellations for cannabis in the same way that appellations have been designated for wine. So, we’re headed in that direction and it’s a really difficult process. You can look at the struggles that they went through with developing that for wine, the criteria, and farmers are passionate about their craft and their trade, and they a lot of times have strong opinions that differ and it’s not easy to…
Jeffrey Boedges: No. Craft people? No.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. Because appellation can be really dictated by a lot of different factors. We don’t have to get into that now, but it is really fascinating.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s our bread and butter. We’ve been dealing with different wine and spirit companies for our entire career. It’s not unique to California. I mean, you go to Europe and you start to really get into it. Even South America, Mexico, places like that where tequila’s grown. They’re very, very, very protective of their appellation.
Rick Kiley: And it’s a brand and champagne being ripped off and being called champagne when it’s not from the champagne region in France has been just one of the big things they did.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s [A&E 00:25:04], Rick. It’s totally different.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. It’s the champagne of beers I believe you’re talking about.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, for sure.
Rick Kiley: Well, I want to want to switch gears for a second, but actually, I do believe and, Jeff, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think your company is the first fully female-owned cannabis company that we’ve had on our podcast.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. We’ve had other females, but I don’t think anyone ever that it was only-female owned.
Rick Kiley: Fully female-owned company. And I’m just curious, which we’re thrilled that you’re here and thrilled to be talking about it and I’m just wondering if you have any, if there are aspects you think that being female-owned has made it more challenging or easier in this regard. And one to sort of the second question is when we look at your excellent website and beautiful Instagram feed, we see a lot of, I’d say, more feminine imagery on there. And so, perhaps there’s an easier accessibility and connection to that clientele or that customer base but just curious if you might be able to talk about that experience at all.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. Well, it’s an honor to be the first all-female cannabis brand on your show so thank you very much for that opportunity.
Jeffrey Boedges: Which is ironic because the buds are all female.
Rick Kiley: Oh, yeah, that’s good. That’s good.
Gillian Levy: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: And we have had a lot of women on the show, but just not a fully female-owned company and I just think it’s great. Congratulations also.
Gillian Levy: Well, thank you. It seems kind of strange to me that in 2021 it’s such an accomplishment even to just be a female and have a business, right? I mean, still, why is there so much inequity there? I don’t know.
Jeffrey Boedges: You could talk to our wives for hours.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. Right.
Rick Kiley: It’s mystifying but to still even this is I think a very progressive industry as a whole but still the facts say, the data says, what the data says.
Gillian Levy: Heavily dominated. And I think I have heard that there are more female CEOs in cannabis than in any other industry.
Rick Kiley: Which is great.
Gillian Levy: So, I think that’s promising but you’re absolutely right that predominantly it’s males that are the executives in these businesses. So, okay, now I got sidetracked. So, your question was kind of the advantages and disadvantages that I perceive, I’ve experienced.
Rick Kiley: We don’t have that perspective. I’m curious if you might be able to share with our listeners.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. I get asked this question probably more than any other question when I get interviewed. I would say that in a lot of ways people have been really supportive of us because we’re women and maybe they don’t perceive us as a threat so they want to see us thrive. And so, in that way, I think we’ve had a lot of encouragement from female and male colleagues and customers and different support networks alike. That being said, we’ve just recently kind of jumped into needing to raise capital. We actually built this brand without a single dollar raised. We put all our own money into it and grew it very organically. But we now really do need to raise capital and looking at the data out there for the huge disparity in the amount of money that women-owned businesses raise versus men, that’s really where I see we’re going to come up against some trouble there. And I think it just comes back to investors are more inclined to want to put their money behind a male-owned business, whether it’s a subconscious or conscious choice.
Jeffrey Boedges: That I guess it sort of stands to reason but I’m like if I was investing, I would much rather invest with a female because I know they’re going to be more meticulous and, well, I suspect they would be more meticulous and I would suspect that they would be more responsible.
Rick Kiley: But I think the private equity business and the investment capital business itself is heavily male-dominated and I think it’s just like it’s bros who know bros a lot and I’m willing to bet that just plays out just, you know, we defer to what’s familiar and that’s unfortunate. But it’s great that Jeff and I start our own business. We also bootstrapped. We didn’t raise money at that point.
Jeffrey Boedges: We tried.
Rick Kiley: We tried. It didn’t work. My mom said no. But it’s really, again, it’s a big accomplishment to get to where you are, to where you can raise money. And when we get to the end, we’ll make sure to find out where people who want to get your investor package can go and contact you to do that because that would be great. So, your style and approach to your marketing does then seem to sort of fall in what I would call like a for us by us kind of like an attitude and vibe.
Jeffrey Boedges: Is that intentional? Are you trying to appeal more to women or is it just a manifestation of your own sort of worldview? That was…
Gillian Levy: I think it’s kind of a manifestation of our world view. Like I said before, we didn’t come from, you know, we were not like successful entrepreneurs before this. And so, we didn’t have enough of like a preconceived strategy of like we’re going to build our brand identity and our brand voice to be this way and appeal to this demographic. It was more like a lot of what you see is probably an extension of who we are. You know, we really are the faces of our brand and we’re, yeah, so it was not intentional. I think we were just kind of drawn to a more kind of feminine esthetic in the brand that obviously translates and is more feminine. We have definitely worked to build out like color palettes that are a little less intimidating to men maybe and more appealing, a little more gender-neutral because we realized that we’re so heavily speaking to just the women that we did not want to scare the men away. So, we’ve made some adjustments.
Rick Kiley: Men don’t buy pastels or something.
Gillian Levy: Yeah, they don’t. They don’t feel that pinks and peaches really represent products that are for them.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. But, look, I think your approach is great because the values or your values and you’re being authentic to your values with your brand and I think today that’s what people are always looking for. They’re looking to connect with brands in an authentic way. So, that’s awesome.
Jeffrey Boedges: Absolutely. Look, I mean, there are worse problems to have. If you guys cornered the X chromosome side of the market…
Rick Kiley: It’s 50% of the world, right?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. That’s a pretty good marketplace.
Rick Kiley: It’ll be just fine.
Gillian Levy: It is. And a lot of women are the ones that shop for their household and determine which products they want to buy for their families to care for them. It’s just something that women tend to gravitate towards. And so, because our products are so health and wellness-focused, I think probably, if women are buying those products for their husbands or for grandma or whoever needs them in the family, then great. I’d love to help facilitate that.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I also think and this is, again, we come from the spirit side and when you see the data on like men versus women drinking, for instance, like the percentage of people that are binge drinkers that will drink to get drunk, men are far more heavily skewed in that camp than women like that’s what the data bears out. And I wonder, you know, I wonder with the way your brand is positioned, which is for lack of a better word, about balance, about being sort of functional but functional pleasure, if that just jives more with just the approach that women take to life versus men take to life where I think most men have more self-destructive tendencies. I’m trying to say it’s nice to…
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s from maturity, yeah.
Rick Kiley: No. And I think without even saying it’s more of a feminine product or whatever, I just think that idea is probably going to connect more with women in their approach to using something like this than men. I don’t know a lot of men who are like, you know, adult-use, recreational users for balance like that’s just not – maybe a mom.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. You’d be surprised.
Rick Kiley: If a small sample size but I think on average, I’d be curious by it.
Gillian Levy: I mean, I was just sort of like updating my pitch deck for 2021 and looking at some of the latest consumer trends. And if you look, females are one of the fastest-growing demographics across cannabis right now. So, that’s exciting and there’s definitely I think flowers and concentrates continue to win out as the most popular products but women are much more inclined to buy products that are more geared toward health and wellness, and they have a much greater interest in CBD based products as well. So, that’s another indication that women are finding products that they think are going to benefit some aspect of their health and that’s probably why they are more often turning to cannabis. But I think recreationally, that market is growing across the board too but I think women do have a stronger interest. And you know, what surprised me is over the years, I’ve spent a lot of times in dispensaries interacting with customers and I find that most of the time the reason that men are using cannabis is for similar reasons. So, I think you’re right, they don’t moderate in quite the same way. I think men want their heroic dose of whatever it is they’re after, I guess. I don’t know. So, for instance, a lot of times they’re dealing with anxiety or they’re dealing with insomnia or they’re dealing with pain. Those are the top three reasons that people buy cannabis products for medicinal use but they’re just not seeking out the same products to remedy those kinds of situations.
Rick Kiley: You know, that’s good. That’s good insight. Jeff, you’re going to ask about yoga? Jeff’s our yoga guy.
Jeffrey Boedges: Freshly minted. So, I’d like to say that I’m like a yoga guy is a bit of an overstatement. But since lockdown started, I was introduced to yoga as a way to deal with my stress as a healthier release and I noticed that your Instagram feed for sure is pretty laden with yoga poses. So, I guess my first question was like, is that a deliberate thing? Are you guys really kind of leaning into that as a space? I do think I’d like to go to a yoga studio that also sold tinctures. I think that’d be pretty cool.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. Well, first of all. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.
Jeffrey Boedges: No. My question’s sort of vague. It’s just like, you know, what’s…
Rick Kiley: He’s like, “Yoga, should we talk about that a little bit, please?”
Gillian Levy: Well, congratulations on your newfound practice. Yoga is a passion, a long, lifelong passion of my business partner and myself. So, again, I think that comes across in our brand and we happen to have some friends. Humboldt County happens to be like a Mecca for amazing yoga teachers and a lot of really incredible people that have a really beautiful long-term practice. So, we happen to know a couple of people that have just really beautiful yoga practices that we took a bunch of pictures of, and that’s been all over our feed. There are friends and it was fun to do but I do think that yoga and exercise and cannabis all really go hand in hand. And so, we’re always looking for ways to just promote that as a really simple way to take charge of your health and try to moderate your stress and try to be proactive in your pursuit for some level of balance in your health and your mental state and physical state. And cannabis is a great tool for that. So, we don’t facilitate any cannabis in yoga experiences. It’s not covered by our license types so we have to be very careful about what we put out there.
Jeffrey Boedges: Can you even get that kind of license?
Gillian Levy: There are cannabis event licenses in California and so I think you could actually put something together where maybe you could gift the cannabis. I don’t know the legal nuances of it or you would have like a delivery service show up.
Jeffrey Boedges: And frankly, people are going to bring their own.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. But yeah, I mean, I love personally to take our tinctures and go into the yoga practice. I find that in my own personal experience, it really allows me to kind of just be very centered to really go deeply into that, to breathe a little deeper and just be really focused in the moment, which is just so much about what yoga is really about is kind of like stopping your busy mind and just being present in the moment and taking some deep breaths and stretching, right? I mean, if you can find tools that help you do that and I think cannabis is a great one, then you’re in good shape.
Jeffrey Boedges: Can I ask a personal question? Do you think the THC or CBD is the better way to go? Because I got to be honest, I mean, often, as I’ve done yoga, which is a hell of a lot in the last year, I’ve never actually mixed the two.
Gillian Levy: You have to try.
Jeffrey Boedges: But I’m going to try so I’m asking specifically how to do it.
Rick Kiley: A little advice here.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. I mean, I would say again that it’s kind of different for everybody. I like a good one-to-one ratio between CBD and THC or like we have a product that we call inflammation soother that has a bunch of really anti-inflammatory herbs, and that’s a three-to-one.
Jeffrey Boedges: Your smoothie.
Gillian Levy: It’s very mildly psychoactive, but enough so. CBD And THC together really are, you know, there’s some synergy there. And so, the CBD often can really mitigate any kind of, you know, THC you can kind of cause some paranoia for some people. I’m one of those people if I’m already under major stress.
Jeffrey Boedges: The other people on this call is very paranoid.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. So, that’s where CBD is a really great moderator of that experience so the two together, I think are kind of a beautiful combination where you can have mild psychoactivity but still be very capable of just like going into your yoga practice or going about your day however you need to without being incapacitated.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s so funny because the person who introduced me to yoga this year, I introduced to cannabis. So, it’s kind of been our trade-off. Yeah. So, I introduced my yoga instructor to cannabis. I’m sure she’ll listen to this and find this very entertaining. I’ll leave her name so she doesn’t get in trouble.
Rick Kiley: It’s funny. So, I want to ask one thing and I think you mentioned your own, you said something about your lungs earlier, but I think we saw a lot of your product offering tablets, tinctures, topicals, but not flower. Is that purposeful or do you have plans to get into that space?
Jeffrey Boedges: Not much if it’s only to plant medicine because you guys are kind of making these blends of different things. So, what’s the story behind no flower?
Gillian Levy: Yeah. You know, we thought about that. That is a good question. We’ve really thought about putting out prerolls under our brand because we know so many incredible farmers in Humboldt that just have such remarkable flower that it would be fun to share it but, quite honestly, I don’t want to down talk. I have a lot of friends that sell concentrates and flowers, so I don’t want to speak badly. I think that there have been a number of studies that have shown that the effects of cannabis on the lungs. Cannabis itself is protective but we all know that smoke is an irritant, right? So, as like the ambassador and owner of this health and wellness brand, we didn’t know that it was really appropriate to put a smokable product in our line. We’ve kind of gone round and round about that and what we decided is that it’s not really a health and wellness product. So, California is an extremely competitive market and there are so many brands that are doing flower and prerolls really, really well right now, to even step into that ring and try to compete is not likely to come – we’re not going to dominate that market anyway. So, we’ve just really kind of tried to stay in our lane and be more health and wellness-focused because that’s really what we’re passionate about.
Rick Kiley: Cool. So, can we ask about your spirits and mixology background because we come from that space?
Gillian Levy: Yes.
Jeffrey Boedges: You’re very shy about it.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. We’ll just ask a little bit but, you know, tinctures, you have bitters. There’s a little bit of like synergy there.
Jeffrey Boedges: You have 47 cocktail recipes on your website.
Gillian Levy: Really? Did you count them?
Jeffrey Boedges: No. That is a just-tastic guesstimation, also known as craptastic.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. For those of you who know Jeff, that means 12.
Jeffrey Boedges: Thank you. Thank you for translating, Rick.
Rick Kiley: But talk about your affection for spirits, mixology, how it relates to your business, anything about that?
Gillian Levy: Yeah. Well, I think it’s really fascinating. Actually, if you look at a lot of kind of the old-timey drinks that have remained popular over the years, a lot of them have bitters and different botanical components in them. And what I read and what I understand is that during prohibition, that was kind of like the birth of a lot of those drinks, and it was because alcohol was so hard to come by but medicinal tinctures, which were actually a very common form of medicine, were more readily available. And so, you see a lot of those botanical compounds appear in drinks around that era. And so, I just think that whole nexus of like plants as medicine and the medicinal components being infused into alcoholic drinks is really cool. I actually thought about before I started this company starting like a really cool bar with a really diverse and, you know, what’s the word, innovative combinations of liquors and infusions of these different botanical extracts but I actually…
Jeffrey Boedges: I don’t hate that idea now.
Gillian Levy: Right? Well, it’s so funny because my best friend actually did start that bar. She bought a historic hotel in Eureka and she’s built that bar and the drinks are phenomenal.
Jeffrey Boedges: And she’s killing it.
Gillian Levy: Well, she was before COVID. It’s a tough time to run a business like that right now but she will be when things start to return to normal, whenever that is.
Jeffrey Boedges: When I come up for the tour, I’m going to stay there.
Rick Kiley: I think that bartenders, mixologists would be interested in bitters that were CBD or even potentially THC-infused. I don’t know what the sort of legal ramifications are on that. I’m curious if you’ve ever been thinking like I just want to maybe make something that is intended for consumption in a beverage.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. I mean, that is an area, it’s legally there is no marriage of those products together. There’s a big separation. And so, that’s kind of…
Rick Kiley: Even CBD. Yeah.
Gillian Levy: Well, the thing that’s funny about CBD is that GW Pharma patented the drug. What do they have? They have a couple of them. There’s Sativex and then there’s Epidiolex and they actually patented, I believe, CBD specifically for that. And so, because of that, it’s a federally recognized drug substance. There’s a lot of like legal gray area around putting CBD into food products. And I don’t know if you would call alcohol a food product or where that kind of falls out, it’s really got to be more of like, you know, you can market nutritional supplements that have CBD in them, but you’re not even really supposed to say CBD. If you’re a big company, you can take some heat for that. So, because of that, I have to be super careful about the way that I put products out. Like in California, the only way that you can even have alcohol in a product is if it’s in a container that’s less than two ounces and it’s got a calibrated dropper. And the state feels like if you use those, you know, if it kind of adheres to that, then it’s clearly and distinctly like a medicinal product. But it’s no, you know, you can’t just put an alcoholic product out that has THC or CBD in it. So, I really steer clear. The reason that we focus so heavily on what we call mocktails but that being said, I mean, in my experience, like some cannabis-infused bitters goes really great into some whiskey. We call it like we make like the Elevated Manhattan and it’s beautiful. But, yeah, that’s more for like home use. We try to impart a sense of excitement around the ways that you can use tinctures because many people still don’t. It’s not a very relatable form of consuming cannabis to a lot of people. And so, for those that are coming into the market and looking for new products to try, drinks are something that we all get excited about, right? It’s kind of like a universal experience and so we’re looking for ways to incorporate our cannabis products into this ritual that is like a very communal and everybody is relatable. So, yeah, just a more fun way to take the products.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, it’s a social way to take the product, and that’s the thing that we struggle with. I mean, this show is really about the parallels between wine and spirits and the cannabis industry but the intake is so vastly different from the two industries that the time that it takes for the actual psychoactive part of it to sort of take root within the human is so different. The way that it’s actually ingested is often different. But tinctures are slow to come on. It’s not like taking a toke on a joint where you can feel the effects almost instantly. But if you’re consuming it orally, the effect is much more in line with how long it would take for an alcohol to kick in.
Gillian Levy: Yeah. We actually. Oh, sorry.
Jeffrey Boedges: No, no. It’s okay. I think it’s just a really I think it’s an underserved element in the industry and I think you’re onto something that might be bigger than maybe you are giving it credit for currently.
Gillian Levy: Well, thank you. We actually have the only alcohol-based tinctures in California cannabis as well. And what’s really unique about that is that the uptake into your bloodstream, the onset of effects, is much more rapid than with the oil-based tinctures. So, you’ll start to feel effects in maybe 30 minutes or something. So, it is more in line with consuming alcoholic beverages. And we have hosted and throw in some really great or been part of events where we were able to do like a cannabar and we made these like really beautiful craft drinks with the different cannabis tinctures in them, and the experience is remarkably nice. People really dig it.
Jeffrey Boedges: I’m super excited actually to try it. So, rec just went legal in New Jersey. So, all you people out there listening who might be in a regulatory agency, I would never do anything illegal.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. And hopefully, we can figure out how to get some of this product in California there but we got some other laws we got to change.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. And we’re going to run out of time before we get to ask that question.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, we’re coming to the end here. But I’m envisioning an event here where we have a tincture, a yoga, then followed by sort of like a sunset mocktail situation going on.
Gillian Levy: Yes.
Rick Kiley: Be a nice experience. I think we should focus on bringing one of those to life.
Gillian Levy: Absolutely.
Jeffrey Boedges: At your friend’s hotel.
Gillian Levy: That’s right. Just come to California.
Rick Kiley: Nice.
Jeffrey Boedges: The only reason I don’t come is because I’ll never leave and that would just be my wife would get very upset.
Gillian Levy: You have to bring her with you.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s the kids she’s worried about.
Rick Kiley: Leave them at home.
Jeffrey Boedges: Exactly.
Rick Kiley: That’s the good point. So, we are getting close to the end here and so we tend to end this podcast the same way every time. We do call this The Green Repeal for a reason. We are bullish on the fact that eventually cannabis will be legalized federally. That’s our belief and we ask everybody to put their name like up on the big board if they believe it’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and we’re just curious about your thoughts based on what you know, the scoop. We’ve just had a change in the administration, so maybe that might impact how people think about it. Do you have any thoughts? Do you have a…
Gillian Levy: This is not my area of expertise, but obviously, I watch it closely. What I can glean from this is that the current administration just inherited like such an absolute catastrophe between the pandemic and the economy that they’re pretty busy trying to run triage on all of that and attend to the immediate orders of business that are more important. But Kamala spoke in her vice-presidential debate with Mike Pence and clearly said that she wanted to decriminalize cannabis I think she said. You know, I think what I hear a lot of people say as a more likely path is to decriminalize and then allow the states to make their own choices about whether they allow for adult-use. I know there are already people working on bills to figure out how to be able to export cannabis from state-to-state. So, I think it’s going to be more of a grassroots movement that goes state-by-state and that this administration might put something in like Obama had in place that would prohibit federal criminalization of activities within a state that are designated as legal within that state. So, that might be the more likely approach to start with. I don’t know. What do you guys think?
Jeffrey Boedges: You’re the first person to ask us I think.
Rick Kiley: Thursday. No. So, New Jersey just became legal here and we think and with Massachusetts being legal and New York being in between, we imagine New York is going to have to follow suit just from the fact that these states all need taxable revenue.
Jeffrey Boedges: All those dollars will simply leave the state so it’s not like people aren’t going to go across the bridge to New Jersey, Connecticut.
Rick Kiley: And I think we feel if the northeast corridor kind of goes legal, there’ll be that I think there’s a suggestion that there would be some interstate commerce allowed within like a cluster of states out here in the northeast, which would kind of be like a little bit of trial for a more broader federal sort of initiative that will happen. But I think most people believe like you do, that the federal decriminalization will happen hopefully pretty quickly, I would expect within the first year of the Biden administration.
Jeffrey Boedges: I agree. And I think when New York goes legal, I think basically then you’re going to have the most populous states on the West Coast and the most populous states on the East Coast are going to be legal. And they’re going to be, you know, our debt is just spiraling out of control as we try to get to float the impacts of everything you’ve already mentioned. I have a feeling that they’re going to be looking for ways to make money on a federal excise tax. So, they’re going to have to recognize it. My prediction, Gillian, is that it’ll be within before Biden leaves office.
Gillian Levy: Yeah, We’d really love to see that and you’re right, the revenue that would be generated for states alone, I mean, California cannabis, I think in the legal market was $3.2 billion in 2020 and that was on a really weird, hard year. And their projections by BDS Analytics, it’s kind of like one of the main players in collecting and analyzing cannabis data, I think they’re projecting like a $40 billion industry globally by just for cannabis, not even hemp CBD by 2024. So, it would be really foolish to suppress this industry because people are going to keep using cannabis, whether states are regulating and providing a legal safe pathway or not. So, they might as well be collecting some taxes from it.
Jeffrey Boedges: For sure.
Rick Kiley: Cool.
Jeffrey Boedges: And then it’ll be a lot easier for me to get your products here.
Rick Kiley: Exactly. That’s the whole point. That’s what we’re just trying to make happen.
Gillian Levy: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: But it’s true. I mean, it’s true. We do want, I mean, look, nothing against my home state and where things are grown and stuff, but I wouldn’t mind having some Humboldt-certified grade A, whatever.
Gillian Levy: And we would love to share our product because that’s what we love here and that’s one of the things that we do best. So, we certainly would love to be sharing it with you out there.
Rick Kiley: Awesome. Gillian, well, thank you so much for joining us today. Before we go, if there are investors or just interested consumers or anyone else out there who wants to get in touch with you, try your products, find you, what should they do?
Gillian Levy: You can check us out. We’ve got a website, Humboldt-Apothecary.com. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and there’s a contact page on our website. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram at Humboldt Apothecary. And yeah, just we’ve got a long, extensive blog page. You can read all about us and what we’re working on and we’d love to be in touch, so feel free to reach out. We’re good about answering our emails.
Rick Kiley: Cool. Cool. Again, thank you so much. Thanks for joining us on this episode.
Gillian Levy: Thank you so much for this opportunity. It was really fun.
Rick Kiley: Yahoo!
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, that’s one thing we do right maybe.
Rick Kiley: Anyway, all right. See you soon.
Gillian Levy: Okay.