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AC Braddock, the CEO of Eden Labs, shares a preview of the talk she plans to give at Cannabis Science Conference West as well as other industry insights.
I recently spoke with 2022 Cannabis Science Conference West psychedelic science track speaker, AC Braddock to discuss her upcoming presentation entitled “Psychedelic Sustainability.” AC is an industry pioneer and CEO of Eden Labs, a trusted innovator of extraction and distillation technology for the cannabis and health products industries since 1994.
We’re really excited that you’re going to be joining us this year at our newly launched psychedelic science track. AC, you have been a friend of the show for many years and you typically have spoken in our analytical science track about the extraction process with cannabis products. We’re excited to switch it up a little bit this year and give you the chance to speak about one of your other fortes in the industry. If you don’t mind, would you share with the readers what initially got you involved in the cannabis and psychedelic industries?
AC Braddock: The initial push was in the ‘90’s, I was looking at triple A personality types who are really driven and stressed out and had lost connection with their health, their wellness, themselves, maybe even nature—I was looking at finding a way to use plant medicine and nature to help these individuals reconnect. That is the bottom-line and driver of everything I do - - it all has to do with all plants and plant medicine.
Can you share a little bit about your work with Eden Labs and exactly what Eden Labs does for those that might not be familiar?
Braddock: Eden Labs is a 27-year-old botanical extraction and distillation company and we work with a wide array of different botanicals. The founder, Fred Chester, started working with cannabis in the mid-90s and then brought commercial extraction to the cannabis industry in 1996.
My work with Eden Labs is trying to share, teach, and educate about plant medicine and bring botanical industries back around to the forefront - - because we have forgotten about the healing power of plants in our culture and it’s truly a loss. It’s sad for humans; we have lost this knowledge and we need to be reminded about the unbelievable benefit plants provide, but we’ve also lost that spiritual connection to our planet. I think that is very obvious in our world today.
As an example of how I try to teach and educate, specifically with Eden, before there were any conferences talking about extraction, I lobbied hard to have those conversations included. I’m sure I was quite annoying, but no one was talking about extractions and how to do them…. Now that is the primary thing people talk about.
You really have been a pioneer in this industry for many years. So, what was it like really being one of the first female leaders in this industry that was a pioneer in the early, early days and now cut to 2022? There’s a lot of different groups that are talking about inclusion, the LGBTQ community, people of color, unwriting the war on drugs. We’re seeing more women’s organizations now, but I’m talking back to a time where you would look around a room and you probably would feel alone. What was it like then? And what is it like now seeing a lot more women and minority involvement in general?
Braddock: There was definitely a time in the early days when there would be 100 guys in a room and two women. It was interesting, but it’s not really all that different from any other business industry. So, it was kind of on par. You learn as a woman and as a person of color how to deal with that inequality. And it’s never comfortable.
But as the industry grew, a lot more people started jumping in. This was before you had to have millions of dollars to be able to start a business. There was tremendous growth - - of people of color and women owning and running businesses. Then that switched and those numbers dropped. We talk about balance but it's not really balanced without equity. If there’s not equity, you’re off balance. There’s a loss of creativity and there’s a loss of stability and there’s a loss of vision. Unless you have all of these people at the table, we’re never going to develop into a truly wholesome industry.
It’s a cultural shift, obviously. In order to seek equality and equity in business there has to be a shift from businesses just focusing on money and profits, to businesses focusing on people and the solving of problems. And as science-based people, that’s what we do. I mean, we’re here to solve problems.
Ideally the business world catches up to the kind of philosophy in which it understands that it’s about health and wellness and happiness - - what’s more important here? What’s going to really push humanity forward? Or are we just going to accept a stalemate or go back completely?
Your talk at Cannabis Science Conference West is called “Psychedelic Sustainability.” Can you share a little preview of what people might hear in your talk? What are your thoughts on how quickly the psychedelic industry is emerging?
Braddock: Well, I think 2020 and 2021 were extremely painful for people, and we were stuck inside, which means we were inside ourselves. This period allowed us to slow down and take some time for reflection. While all of this crap was going on in the world that was, you know, really scary and really disturbing - - It also allowed some people to think, “Oh, I’m at home, I can experiment a little bit.” So, I think that that was really the push and the drive for it to happen faster.
I think people also couldn’t really connect with anybody during this time and psychedelics, traditionally, in a shamanistic practice, have always been centered on community connection. It’s how people gathered together. It’s how they shared how they’re going to treat each other, the vision for what they were going to be doing for the next year or two... What I want to talk about is that connection and the fact that psychedelics and ethnogens are always used ritualistically. It’s therapeutic. Therefore it has to be ongoing, which means you can’t keep flying to South America to do this because that’s just not environmentally conscious - - it’s not sustainable - - And you’re diluting those cultures, and overusing someone else’s methodologies to find what you really need…a community that you have at home or that already exists for you to tap into.
There are methodologies and rituals that have been historically in your area where you live, but these rituals have been denigrated to the point that they’re non-existent or on life-support. You…we…have to revive them - - then we have a consistent, sustainable, therapeutic way to reground and connect with ourselves and nature and community.
Obviously, we are the Cannabis Science Conference, so we have to feature all the great science and research. But with the psychedelic science track, it was also important to us to feature a number of indigenous voices who have been the gatekeepers of this knowledge of medicine for millennia.
Braddock: Indigenous voices should absolutely be involved. We have a lot to learn from indigenous communities because they are closer to those plant medicine connections - - culturally, Western society has lost it. But these communities are also asking that we be respectful and conservative and understand the primary points of why they developed and have this connection. And so our curiosity and desire to learn doesn’t become spiritual tourism.
We have had some really interesting conversations about one of the downfalls of certain psychedelic drugs can be the digestive issues. A lot of times if people are trying psilocybin, for instance, sometimes the way their body metabolizes it, they can tend to have upset stomachs and issues with that. What are your thoughts on this topic?
Braddock: Well, we, at Eden, are very interested in all of the plants and have come up with a way to concentrate and do a really beautiful extraction of psilocybin that removes the nausea. It additionally increases the onset and shortens duration a little bit, which I think is a benefit for a lot of people.
Then when you start to put it in products, it doesn’t taste like mushroom because a lot of people don’t like the flavor. I personally like the taste, but a whole lot of people don’t. So, we’re solving some problems (perceived problems) with it and increasing efficacy. It’s been really exciting and it’s ongoing. But right now, what we’ve come up with is pretty good. It’s pretty exciting.
Well, that’s so important because just like cannabis, even now, there’s a lot of products in the market that are not regulated and a lot of people that are extracting, however they’re doing it, putting it into chocolate bars, putting it into candy or whatever the case may be. So really having that science behind the extraction process and trying to get into a more regulated place with that is really a good place to be. Is your role at Eden Labs in the psychedelic science space centered around processing and extraction, just like in cannabis then?
Braddock: Yes. We’re constantly working on botanical extractions and finding safe ways to provide therapeutic plant medicine to people, so you can feel good about it. You can titrate it as it’s needed. But I’ve also been doing some sitting with people in some guided journeys for a few years, which has been very rewarding for me. It’s been lovely to see people really settle into themselves and lose some of their fears.
Everybody has these insecurities or fears—we all have them. And getting into these alternative states where you have more clarity, you’re thinking, “well, why am I worried about that? Why do I have that fear? I don’t need to.” It’s a really nice centering. I have just loved to be a part of seeing people find that strength within themselves.
What would you like to see for the cannabis industry in the next five years?
Braddock: We have learned so much of what not to do in the cannabis industry.
To answer the question, what I have always wanted to see—what I continue to want to see, which still hasn't happened—I want to see companies who understand that they are creating a market. And what an amazing opportunity that is to create an entirely new market, an entirely new industry, and do it right. To do it based on the science, to do it based on the genetics of the plant and the genetics of people, and use those marketing opportunities to educate consumers, which still isn't really happening. We're just seeing a lot of marginal products being introduced in every new industry.
As a company, we've seen every single new market come on, every single one of them, and they make so many of the same mistakes. I just would love to see it mature faster and have the companies come together, to have the cannabis industry lobbying with the natural products industry to create a much broader, bigger, stronger, and more powerful force around plant medicines of all kinds so that we can push through legislation and regulations that make sense and stop harming people and the industry.
It's challenging as an industry because the state regulations vary by state. So, it's interesting when we talk so much about legalization, we should also talk about federal regulation. Can you share your thoughts on that?
Braddock: Definitely. There are a lot of players in the ancillary world who are just taking advantage of the fact that they can just start making up rules and creating permits that just cost money and the industry is getting gouged right and left.
Once you take big money out of the picture, it's interesting what happens, because here in Washington state, they didn't allow vertical integration. You can compare this market, which has more than 200 brands where everybody has to be super competitive, to other markets that do allow vertical integration. It pushes the science. For example, we were the first people to isolate terpenes with our systems. There are companies here—which were some of the first companies to talk about CBG and other minor cannabinoids. Then you can go to a state that has it completely open, and there are three MSOs and there are something like five products, five concentrates and no real competition - - they're all trying to do a cookie cutter business model, there’s no drive for innovation...
They're not producing quality products. And so that whole money piece is very interesting in how it affects the market.
What do you see or what would you like to see within the next five years for the psychedelics science industry?
Braddock: I think we have to revamp our medical FDA clinical trial system. What I would love to see is a workaround on how clinical trials are actually done because, as it stands, it just locks out pretty much everybody who doesn't have millions and millions of dollars to do research. So, we have to find a different way to—for people to have access, then having to go through clinical trials for ten years or longer.
There are several entities out there who have been doing this research for several years - - and that’s not just collecting massive amounts of anecdotal evidence. I think there's something that could be done to help get this industry evolution further. But aside from that, I would just love to see the psychedelic industry really push people back to connecting truly with each other, and with nature, and understanding all of the amazing things that are just in your backyard - - plants that are food, that are medicine. We have to just take better care of what has been provided to us forever. Forever. Stop bastardizing what's there and what's already perfect. It's made for us.
I remember when the whole synthetic cannabinoid thing was big and I thought, “why are we synthesizing a natural plant from the earth?” It's political.
Braddock: That is the answer. It's all political. When we can get to the point where we're actually doing things based on science and not politics, we will have achieved something.
Obviously, we have the conference coming up in May. Are there any other talks that you’ve been able to see on the agenda that you’re excited to hear?
Braddock: My gosh. There’s so many of them. I really want to see Dr. Lakisha Jenkins, the Nurses Network panel, and Ashéninka Mino and Bernadette Torres. There’s just so many. The show is—it’s just really exciting. I’m going to sit through almost all of them. I’m actually thinking about bringing my own chair.
As I said before, you've been a longtime friend of the show. You've spoken for us many, many years. You followed us all over the country. What is the thing that keeps you coming back to Cannabis Science Conference year after year?
Braddock: I think it's the quality of the information, because I always get to learn new things. The people who you invite are always so real and passionate and educated and simply want to share and teach. It's just a lovely environment for open hearted, open minded learning and exchange.
Is there anything else you want to share with the readers, maybe where they can find more information about Eden and the work that you're doing?
Braddock: www.edenlabs.com, Eden Labs LinkedIn. It's pretty simple, I would really encourage you, if you haven't gotten your ticket yet, to come. There are a lot of different conferences but this one is unique. Come to the conference to really be in the know about what's going to happen next and to be on the cutting edge. It's always about the science and being around people who want to provide quality information in a way that's caring because it’s their passion. It’s not about showmanship. It's about education.
To watch the full video interview with AC Braddock, please visit: https://www.cannabissciencetech.com/view/psychedelic-sustainability-ac-braddock-shares-a-preview-of-her-cannabis-science-conference-west-talk
Josh Crossney is the columnist and editor of “Cannabis Crossroads” and a contributing editor to Cannabis Science and Technology® magazine. Crossney is also the founder of Cannabis Science Conference and now serves as Director of Cannabis Events at MJH Life SciencesTM. Direct correspondence to: JCrossney@mjhlifesciences.com.
J. Crossney, Cannabis Science and Technology® Vol. 5(4), 32-34 (2022).