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Medical cannabis patients and adult-use consumers alike are faced with an overwhelming amount of options when they first enter a dispensary. Across the industry, producers are looking for ways to simplify things for consumers. One company, Volunteer Botanicals, recently partnered with an investment group to create cannabidiol (CBD)-based tablets that also combine other cannabinoids and have the potential to create a unique consumer experience. In this interview, Jason Pickle, co-founder and chief sales officer for Volunteer Botanicals, sits down to discuss this recent product, the need for standardization throughout the cannabis industry, and more.
Can you tell us about Volunteer Botanicals and your partnership with Hempleton Investment Group?
Jason Pickle: Both companies met at the Medical Cannabis Summit in Atlanta, Georgia in 2019 and forged not only a business relationship, but friendship. With the understanding that more cannabinoids other than cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) would find their way into the hearts and bodies of consumers, we aligned a similar vision to create delivery systems that utilize pharmaceutical quality technology and combine different cannabinoids. As a result, we developed a first-of-its-kind instant release tablet compounding minor cannabinoids with CBD and terpenes. The goal was to create a deliverable that was familiar, effective, and easy to understand.
What are the Prolifera Instant Release Tablets?
Pickle: These tablets were designed to deliver specific combinations of different cannabinoids coupled with CBD. The backbone of the tablets come from the pharma space and the bioactive ingredients are cannabinoids and terpenes, in powder form.
How do “flowable powders” work?
Pickle: Flowable Powder is a term used to define how a solid particle moves or flows in a non-static state. The goal of moving cannabis oils into flowable powder is to remove the variables associated with different extracts, creating a “level playing field” of consistent particle size, density, and content uniformity. This conversion technique lends itself to the reconstitution of cannabinoids, compounding with different vitamins and nutraceuticals, and are designed for dynamic capsule and tablet formulas. Once cannabinoids and terpenes are consistent, they can easily move to high-speed tableting systems and high-speed encapsulation machines.
Can you tell us a little about the patent-pending Lipid Neutralization System?
Pickle: The current challenge for the industry is developing products that fit modern consumer preferences. As the cannabinoid market moves from dispensaries to mainstream retailers, customers will be seeking familiar delivery methods they feel comfortable using. The ability to provide these compounds in enjoyable form factors will set brands apart. But today, basic extracts like cannabis crude, distillate, and even isolates still require conversion before they can become an appropriate ingredient for most product formulators. The Lipid Neutralization System powderizes’ plant extracts and terpenes, creating pharmaceutical-quality powders directly from extracts. To date, we have converted more than 10 different cannabinoids to flowable powder and countless terpenes. By using “flowable powders,” it is possible to produce reliably consistent ingredients that can bring cannabinoids and terpenes to tablets and other traditional form factors without interfering with existing manufacturing processes.
Can the tablets be personalized by consumers to make the product to benefit their specific health needs?
Pickle: Prolifera offers a variety of tablet combinations to meet the needs of its customers. You can buy a 30-day supply of tablets, blister-packed with specific combinations, or pick three different 10-day blister-packs to experiment and find a regimen that works best for the specific customer. The goal is to allow a consumer to personalize their experience rather than providing a one-size-fits-all approach the industry is known for. Hempleton and Volunteer Botanicals share the belief that each cannabinoid holds a great deal of unknown potential. CBD was just the first example of this. But as any cannabinoid consumer already knows, everybody is different. Cannabinoids effect people in different ways. The safest way to provide options for consumers is in delivery forms that are consistent, convenient, and easy to take daily.
How many cannabinoids are used in the instant release tablets? Are there plans to expand to include other cannabinoids?
Pickle: Currently, the Prolifera Instant Release Tablet line include combinations of CBD + hemp terpenes, CBD + cannabinol (CBN), CBD + cannabigerol (CBG) and CBD + cannabichromene (CBC). As new data is provided about different cannabinoids, new formulations are inevitable. This is just the beginning of cannabinoid reconstitution for Volunteer Botanicals and Hempleton. The next line of products we will be co-launching are dynamic capsules. Blending cannabinoids and terpenes with well-known sleep supplements, inflammation supporting supplements, and wellness vitamins will give consumers a clear and easy path for a one-capsule approach. This line of products will be called Prolifera Plus and will act as a standalone supplement or can work in conjunction with the different capsules. You can take one in the morning as a natural mood and energy enhancer, one in the afternoon for aches and pains, and one before bed for a restful night sleep. Simplicity is key. Effectiveness is critical. By combining cannabinoids and terpenes with other effective ingredients, this is all possible.
Are the cannabinoids used in these tablets derived from cannabis or hemp? Or are they produced from synthetic cannabinoids? Can you tell us about the process of how they are made?
Pickle: All cannabinoids are derived from hemp strains. The difficulty of reconstituting these extracts is that they all have different consistencies, melting points, boiling points, viscosity, and tackiness. This means converting a sticky extract into a free-flowing powder takes a great deal of work. Each extract has a different standard operating procedure (SOP) to make the throughput consistent. All extracts in the Prolifera project either came directly from Hempleton or were sourced from licensed, vetted extraction partners in the United States. Minor cannabinoids are relatively new and finding pure and consistent extract isn’t always easy. Relationships are everything and understanding your suppliers is critical to a smooth supply chain. Our small role of converting those cannabinoids and terpenes into free-flowing powder is critical for compounding successfully, batch-to-batch.
What do you think consumers should know when looking into Volunteer Botanicals products?
Pickle: We are on the bleeding edge of new discoveries with not only cannabinoids and terpenes but many different botanical-based ingredients. We feel plant-based whole health is critical to the survival of humans and the planet. By combining specific pharma practices with pure extracts, we will begin to unlock new and novel ingredient combinations. We are working with botanical-based ingredients from all over the world and we are building our first combo capsule utilizing mushrooms, cannabinoids, terpenes, and ingredients with clinical trials. This is just the beginning.
Do you offer any education for novice cannabis consumers?
Pickle: Volunteer Botanicals and Prolifera both offer personal consultations. Volunteer offers it online and Prolifera offers it through their website and their brick-and-mortar stores called The Hemp Farmacy. Both companies have an open-door policy for communication, consultations, and phone calls.
Do you face any challenges in the industry as a result of the stigma surrounding cannabis?
Pickle: The main challenges for anyone in or entering the cannabinoid industry is the lack of clear regulation and policy. The negative stigma that has permeated the country for the last 80 years has created a huge amount of misunderstanding. Without Federal legalization and completely freeing the cannabis plant, we will continue to create piecemeal legislation that only addresses small concerns at state levels. The plant has well over 100 different cannabinoids and the stigma around specific parts of the plant only creates more confusion. For example, fiber plants often contain higher levels of Delta-9-THC, but it is difficult to access due to the makeup of the plant, which creates more confusion on regulating. Certain cannabinoids are bio-synthetically created so they too carry an entirely different set of regulations. If we could legalize and set standards in place across all 50 states, the stigma would immediately go away. We would have a clear path forward and consumers across the country and world would have an opportunity to understand and work with the plant.
What are your future plans for Volunteer Botanicals?
Pickle: Volunteer Botanicals just completed a research and development headquarters in Tennessee this month. The goal at the new facility is to provide conversion options to extraction labs and product creators utilizing our proprietary technology to compound and reconstitute cannabinoids and terpenes for robust ratios, unlocking the potential for the cannabis plant. In time, we believe that cannabinoids will become standard ingredients in millions of products.
Do you have any additional comments?
Pickle: We’re excited for the future and believe that our work with Hempleton is just the tip of the iceberg as we pursue the advancement of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds as unique, powerful ingredients for a variety of wellness products. The combination of various cannabinoids as well as other botanical extract will pave the way to a brand-new set of plant-based supplements. There has never been a better time to be working in this industry.