The view from inside the emerging cannabis industry

Bradford Beckerman was a 22-year-old rising business star when a near-fatal accident left him with Traumatic Brain Injury, reliant on 17 drugs to keep him from seizing and to manage debilitating pain.

Fueled with a desire to break his dependency on pharmaceuticals, Bradford began a successful journey to find natural methods of healing and wellness for himself and others. That included creating a thriving business at the forefront of the functional-beverage category, sold nationally by Whole Foods.  

In 2002, Bradford’s journey led him to discover the power of hemp to provide healing and improved health. He became immersed in the cannabis industry. With hemp, he weaned off all man-made pharmaceuticals. He became seizure- and pain-free, and was determined to help others seeking organic solutions.

As a natural-born entrepreneur, Bradford quickly turned his passion for hemp into a professional life as a cannabis broker, dealer and distributor.

Most recently, he became the CEO of the start-up company Hemp and Humanity. It’s a hub for raw hemp materials and hemp-infused consumer goods, with a focus on sustainability and social responsibility. With a personal story that offers inspiration and hope, Bradford’s experience and expertise led him to become one of the cannabis industry’s leading authorities.

Trends Journal Executive Editor Derek Osenenko sat down with Bradford to get his insights into Reefer Money Madness. Here’s a recap of that question-and-answer:

From inside the cannabis industry, what is your thinking about legalized marijuana’s future with Donald Trump as president?

The momentum still moves forward, especially for medical-marijuana legalization, but there are some concerns. In particular, there’s a fear about how banking regulations could be affected. Federally regulated banks are not permitted to manage the funds of, or make loans to, cannabis businesses. Those laws could be tightened or enforced more.

There’s also concern about how people who want to invest in cannabis businesses might find the regulations and oversight difficult if the new administration further enforces SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) rules.

What are the emerging markets for medical marijuana?

Auto-immune-based diseases. It’s a wide range. But those who are inside the industry, who have been working with people who treat patients with these diseases, know how effective this treatment is. From multiple sclerosis to epilepsy, to a number of cancers, the compounds being produced today are very effective. We also know that for pain and nausea, marijuana is very effective.

I think Western science is coming around to understand what has been more common knowledge in Eastern medicine about the effectiveness.
The healthiest way, they say, to use medical cannabis is transdermal, which means patches or lotions.

The natural healing, naturopathic community, in particular, is open to medical marijuana. It will grow in popularity and use even faster in these circles. I would say transdermal and edible is the coolest, most emerging area in this industry because it takes the stigma away from it, meaning you don’t have to smoke it. Smoking carries a stigma. People don’t, in 2017, attribute smoking to health. So smoking your medicine is kind of oxymoronic.

So, eating your medicine is OK. Putting a patch on has been deemed OK because people stop smoking cigarettes with nicotine patches. So a THC patch or a CBD patch is perfectly reasonable. It doesn’t affect other people. Smoking in public affects other people.

The biggest concern with medical marijuana is how fast and effectively states implement the guidelines and regulations for writing the scripts.

What are the emerging markets for recreational marijuana?

Transdermal, edibles, oils and beverages. That’s it. That’s where the industry grows. Just like with medical uses, the stigma of smoking is lifted with these types of products. Eat it, drink it, rub it on, wear a patch and vapor it — these are all strong markets because they appeal to a wide variety of preferences and lifestyles.
I think that transdermal and edible are the way to the future because it gives people accessibility for reasons like, “I’m an old lady and I don’t want to smoke” to “I’m a 42-year-old man and I don’t want to smell like weed.” So, totally different people perspectives can utilize it.

How does the industry evolve in the near future, over the next couple of years or so?

Cannabis-based products can replace a lot of things; they can replace just about everything. I call it the Cannabis Replacement Index. If I’m talking, say, a onesie for 15-month-old babies, a hemp-made onesie is perfect. Organic. Well-made. American-made. Fast and easy to produce. You know, could we replace Yankees hats with hemp hats?

Addicted to opioids? Cannabis is a better alternative for pain. Opioid addiction goes down 25 percent in every state that has legalized marijuana. That’s a fact. So imagine a state where it’s recreationally legal or a country where it’s federally legal… What would happen to opiate sales? What would happen to heroin production?

One of the ways that we’re betting is that we’re going into an industry that is technically federally illegal in all 50 states. But the hemp industry, industrial hemp, is legal in all 50 states. So hemp products are high on the Cannabis Replacement Index. There are certain states that signed on to the Industrial Hemp Act in 2014 under President Obama that makes it very legal. New York is one of them. Massachusetts is another; Colorado is another. So within those specific states, I think hemp growth is going to go crazy. I think it has to, unless the federal legalization changes.

But I think the first place that can dominate on a national level is the hemp, with medical and recreational marijuana behind it, because it’s not illegal to possess hemp products. So, if and when people like me are doing what we say we’re going to do in the next six months to a year, there should be a hemp explosion.

Does hemp momentum build general marijuana-legalization momentum?
Yes. The cousin of it should come next. It’s become unpopular to be negative against marijuana and cannabis. So the world is really changing its view on it.
As hemp becomes more popular, so does legalized marijuana in all its forms, shapes, sizes and products.

When does Big Pharma and big industry enter the picture?

When legalization becomes more widespread. There are companies out there — industries out there — that own food, cosmetic and drug products and distribution for which the possibilities in cannabis are endless. If Bayer and Monsanto joined forces, there was only one reason for that. It’s called marijuana. It’s called hemp. You’re talking about a drug-dealing company joining with the biggest food production company to do marijuana and hemp and deal it.

For the immediate future, though, the cannabis industry can join with the organic-health-food industry and basically make this an Us vs. The Feds and Big Pharma. It’s a great fit. The natural-health and well-being world is already welcoming of cannabis.

What demographic has the biggest market-share potential?
There’s packaging and products for all demographics; that’s what so promising about this as a growing industry. There is now packaging for people that are, you know, 40 and 50 and above. There’s packaging: there’s the millennial product and packaging; the frat packaging; there’s all that stuff.

While in this industry, you’re not allowed to make a structured function claim on food and beverage products. You can tell potential c
onsumers what different strains are noted for, if you’re careful and fact-based in the wording. But since so many blends create different effects and address different needs, there’s a lot to work with.

If the federal government were to clamp down on legalized marijuana, what would be the response?

With millions of women taking to the streets marching — which I’m very happy about; I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime; I’ve never seen people take to the streets like that — that tells me protest is in the air.

So I’m happy about that. I’m unhappy there’s a reason why people would be doing this, but they’re doing it. And I think that if women are taking to the streets, that’s a sign that if they try to do something with this… all those women will be back, and with all their dudes.

This is like the 1960s, the ’70s. I wasn’t alive for that, but I’ve heard all about it and I’ve been wanting it since the ’80s when I was a small child growing up in New York City. I want the people to come out and just say “No!” And do it. And like, it’s the ladies that started it.

This industry is 34 percent female-owned. That’s a higher percentage than any industry in the United States of America. So, what does that say? They’re smart; they have the money now; they have the access; and they’re going for it.

With acceptance of pot at 60 percent levels, it’s not just women who protest against any scaling back of the laws.

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