John Friess is the CEO and founder of Metolius Hemp Company, a vertically-integrated company that works alongside family farmers to plant, grow, harvest, cure & craft all of their organic hemp flower & consumable products on their four acre regenerative farm just outside of Bend, Oregon.
Could you share the story of how you initially discovered CBD when researching treatment options for your son?
I originally looked into CBD years ago to better understand this new approach to general health and how it could possibly benefit our son with autism, help with my personal anxiety, and provide a holistic wellness approach to my family’s way of life.
Researching peer-reviewed articles, I came across a researcher in Israel who was discovering major cannabinoids in the last century. Israel as a nation had been backing cannabinoid research much earlier than other countries. There were a number of families who got authorization from the government to utilize CBD for their families. Decreased outbursts, better sleep, more advanced appetites without limited palates, an improved level of calm and less anxiety than their peers.
I was inspired to adopt and implement this for our son, who was around 6 years old at the time. We were being suggested anti-psychotics, sleep medications and so many pharmaceutical drugs to help with his autism. I understand they’re well accepted and approved, but we wanted a more holistic approach. We bought cold pressed CBD oil in Portland (for $165) and administered it using a tincture dropper. He didn't like the taste, so we mixed it with his favorite cream cheese and since then, we noticed his improved behavior and sleep patterns. Currently, he uses our brand’s CBD lip dips.
Could you share the genesis story behind Metolius Hemp Company?
We’ve been farming for over 3 seasons now in a partnership with landowners of another company that runs 7 other farms, one of which my brother, Rion Friess, had managed. We farm 4 acres to cover all our projective needs for the year, and we’re fortunate enough to be one of the 11 test farms for the Oregon CBD Company. It's a massive amount of labor and time, and in the end all the crops were rapidly becoming commoditized. People were just making money off our flower, selling it however they pleased. We wanted to enrich it to offer consumers an elevated product line.
Tapping into the rare cannabinoids that will further lead the hemp wellness movement, we can now launch CBG and CBDv. Using our own CBD Distillate & Isolate, two types of flower, and kief, we made prototypes of our products, put in capital, raised more capital, and officially launched in April of 2020.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in launching the Metolius brand?
The biggest hurdles out of the gate have been dealing with licensing, the ability to bank and take payments (evolving policies in this industry, both state and federally, can make this difficult), and building an online presence. We now work with a local credit union that is helping us. It took 4-6 months getting the ability just to take payment transactions online, while ensuring they’re federally compliant and legal. The last hurdle was getting a space in central Oregon. There are specific real estate regions where one can have this type of business. You have to obtain the license, building codes, etc. We spent 3 months willing to take any space we could get and, fortunately, we landed our current space.
Some of the core products offered at Metolius Hemp Company are designed to help tobacco users kick the habit, when did you initially discover that this was a market opportunity?
In November of 2020, we had customers of ours calling to share that they smoked less cigarettes and cigars by using our products. It quickly became increasingly common among our customer base. With the pandemic at large, many were looking to adopt healthier vices. Some would either quit completely or just significantly scale back from nicotine and vape usage. One customer was spending two-to-three thousand dollars a month on cigars alone. He welcomed me to send him 30 of our Cannagars (hemp cigars) a month, so he could smoke one a day and give his feedback. He and his colleagues ended up signing on to be our first batch of Metolius Club customers. We took this approach to structure our respective club memberships that we offer now, and we are happy to say we’ve retained the majority of our original club customer base to this day.
Why are cannabis solutions a viable alternative to other solutions that are offered to quit tobacco?
Our products don't require smokers to fully change their habit, which is a big factor to our success. From a psychological, habit forming perspective, smoking CBD is a more effective approach than resorting to nicotine mints or patches, which does not give consumers the same experience or fixation they get when they indulge in recreational and social smoking. We find more success with users that can siphon products like ours into their lifestyle, then eventually reduce or replace their tobacco use entirely with hemp. It’s an approachable transition.
Impact of the cannabinoids comes into play here, as well. Cannabis, and non-psychoactive CBD/CBG in particular, impact the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which help regulate appetite, inflammation, nervous system function and many more biological responses. Many users testify that they desire nicotine less, so they are less likely to smoke cigarettes. Additionally, and unlike tobacco, there is no official data proving any physical addiction to cannabis.
Could you discuss some of the tobacco cessation products that are offered and what differentiates them from regular cannabis products?
Our tobacco cessation product line includes a CBD and CBG blend of flower that is used in our hemp cigars and pre-rolls. It is also sold in whole flower form for those who like to roll their own. The flower is enhanced with CBD isolate, distillate and CBG kief, which makes it quite different from most other brands on the market. Customers rave about its potency, flavor and quality. We even put a scannable QR code on the label of each individual product that takes customers to a digital Certificate of Analysis (COA), issued by an accredited third-party lab, which transparently tests and lists all of the detectable cannabinoids, terpenes, and microbiological levels, including amount and percentages. It is the most reliable way to ensure the quality, safety, and efficacy of any CBD or cannabigerol (CBG) hemp products. These are also necessary to remain federally compliant, as the total THC content is listed on every COA, (Metolius Hemp is always below .3% for the federal legal limit.) For those who enjoy chewing tobacco/dip, we offer CBD:CBG lip dips that one can put underneath their lip or simply drop into a beverage for an infusion. We just recently launched our River Dreams, a Cannabinol (CBN)-based sleep aid formula, and our River Caps enhanced CBD capsules.
Can you share some details on what the Metolius Canna Clubs are and the benefits that are offered to consumers?
The Metolius Canna Clubs are a series of monthly subscription services we provide to assist customers in saving up to 75% by getting our products directly to their door and at the most affordable price. All six versions of the Canna Clubs include amazing starter kits to keep the products fresh and ready for use. Compared to the monthly cost of cigarette packs a month, this is a great structure for those attempting smoking/tobacco cessation
What is your vision for the future of the Metolius Hemp Company?
Our vision and mission is to give consumers the ability to reduce or replace their unhealthy vices and take a healthier hit with zero toxicity and non-habit forming, organic hemp wellness. Right now, the world is riddled with anxiety and complexities. Sleep patterns have been disrupted since the onset of the pandemic around the globe. All this can be addressed and treated with healthier vices on the market, and we are happy to provide a product line that does just that.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Metolius Hemp Company.