“I feel like if I had known the difficulties before going into it, I may not have begun the company. But given that I’m already in the space, I thrive on adapting and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The cannabidiol (CBD) industry has grown exponentially since 2018 when hemp was legalized federally. There are all indications that the trend will persist: going by recent statistics the industry is gunning for a staggering $47 billion by 2028.
Hemp-derived CBD has particularly taken the self-care industry by storm. As Melanie Kossan puts it, the industry has become quite saturated and CBD provides a window of opportunity to add that little extra oomph to make self-care products stand out. Hemp-derived CBD products are proving to be quite popular among consumers seeking relaxation and relief from anxiety, pain, insomnia, and stress among other reasons.
With the market threatening to burst at the seams, there's no better time to get an insider perspective from an industry stalwart, Melanie Kossan. Melanie, CEO of Stillwater hemp, is very much vested in the hemp industry both as an entrepreneur and passionate advocate. In this brief interview, she sheds light on the growth of the industry, prevailing trends, and “CBD second-timers.”
Can you briefly tell us how your career path led to the cannabis industry?
I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. So in 2017 when I began making body butter and general self-care products, I knew that I was going to have to do something with my products that made a statement and made it stand out from the rest of the saturated self-care market. Adding CBD was the perfect fit.
Briefly introduce Stillwater Hemp and the unique role that the company is playing in moving the hemp industry in California forward.
Stillwater Hemp is a subsidiary of Mtn Mama, LLC. There are currently 3 subsidiaries under Mtn Mama, LLC: Stillwater Hemp, Stillwater Topicals, and Stillwater Distributors. Stillwater Hemp retails organic, high potency CBD products locally in our storefront and nationwide via e-commerce. Stillwater Topicals is an e-commerce site (allnaturaltopicals.com) which is digitally advertised, and Stillwater Distributors offers a passive income opportunity through licensed distributorship. Mtn Mama, LLC manufactures the products for the subsidiaries as well as for wholesalers and private label clients.
We’ve also established the first and only CBD Distributors Association. That website, cbdda.org, was created to educate, inform, and connect CBD retailers and distributors across the country. The Association is also committed to helping to create a solid and robust infrastructure for the hemp industry.
Despite hemp being legal at the federal level, CBD still faces stigma, especially among the older demographics. What can be done to completely destigmatize CBD and the hemp industry generally?
With the CBD Distributors Association, part of what we are doing is establishing and normalizing the “Cannabinoid Industry” as a separate industry from the Cannabis Industry. While the association has no negative opinion on the cannabis industry, the US 2018 Farm Bill defines Hemp as a cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% THC, and any cannabis plant containing more than 0.3% THC as non-hemp cannabis. The Bill also authorized the production of hemp in the US and removed hemp and its derivatives from the DEA’s list of controlled substances. Non-hemp cannabis, however, remains a Schedule I controlled substance. But CBD is still largely classified as part of the cannabis industry. Many banks, national corporations, and other entities have policies against working with cannabis companies. None of these take into account the legal definition of hemp vs non-hemp cannabis. Thus, CBD enterprises that fall under the federal definition of Hemp continue to be limited by the constraints of federal laws regarding marijuana, or “non-hemp cannabis”.
Marketing hemp-derived CBD is complicated by strict rules and regulations. What should be done to make it easier for hemp businesses to market their products?
I believe the only way to solve this issue is through continued education and the establishment of the Cannabinoid Industry.
Can you furnish us with some insights on recent consumer spending patterns in the CBD industry in California? Which products are flying off the shelves?
Recently, we are seeing a huge amount of interest in products for pets. Treats, Tinctures, and even rubs for pets have become extremely popular over the last couple of years. For people, CBD oils for stress and sleep would be a very close second. Everyone is stressed out and tired. CBD is a great way to help with that.
The hemp industry is evolving at an unprecedented rate. At the same time, competition is at an all-time high. How is Stillwater Hemp planning to maintain market dominance in the next phase?
Stillwater Hemp has always been different in the fact that our products are more potent than the others you find on the market elsewhere. I have written about CBD Second Timers, an article which points out that 9 out of 10 times when I meet someone who has tried CBD before and it “didn’t work for them”, they do find relief when trying my more potent products. They simply weren’t getting a high enough dose of cannabinoids into their system to make a difference.
We also make our products to contain no THC. Many people are subject to drug testing for various reasons. I feel they should be able to go to work feeling healthy and refreshed. Prescription painkillers and sleep aids are not going to provide that. Ultimately it benefits everyone – the employee, the company they work for, and the economy to have workers who are well and not in pain. Productivity and morale increase, thus having a positive effect on the rest of the variables. Many people think you have to have a full-spectrum product to get the “entourage effect” from your CBD. This is not the case. What creates the entourage effect is how multiple cannabinoids work together with terpenes to increase the interaction of the cannabinoids with the body’s endocannabinoid system, and the efficacy of the product.
Vertical integration versus specialization (horizontal integration), which trend best suits the cannabis industry?
For the cannabinoid side of the hemp industry, I think complete vertical integration is key. My dream is “Seed to Sale”. If I can be involved in every aspect of the product’s production, from growing the plant to harvest, production, extraction, and manufacture, I know exactly what is going into that product and I think the customer will glean that confidence as well.
As for the Hemp Industry as a whole, there are so many ways we can benefit from the hemp plant beside the cannabinoids. We can use it for textiles, building materials, livestock feed, eco-friendly packaging, etc. This requires a much more robust foundation for the hemp industry. There are major manufacturing companies who are willing and able to switch their materials to hemp-derived materials, but the US cannot supply the volume necessary to meet the demand. We need to work on building out the foundation of the industry before we can have a true impact with hemp. Growers, processors, etc. are needed in order to do that.
What's the one thing that you wish you knew before venturing into the hemp- CBD market?
I feel like if I had known the difficulties before going into it, I may not have begun the company. But given that I’m already in the space, I thrive on adapting and wouldn’t have it any other way.
What's next for Still Water Hemp?
I’ve had a “Seed to Sale” dream for years. That is my next goal. Attention to detail is a big deal for me. I do have a fabulous partnership with a great grower in Alberton, Mt. But I’d like very much to grow the hemp that ultimately goes into my product. My company’s motto is “Mtn Mama, LLC and its family of companies work together to help people feel better with no THC and no narcotics.
It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Melanie Kossan, founder and CEO of Stillwater Hemp. Readers who wish to keep up with the company are more than welcome to visit their website.