Boulder, Colorado (R&D in Longmont and production farm in Pueblo)
Industry: Bioscience & Medical
Products: CBD wellness products
CEO Tim Gordon's company is making cannabis-based wellness products available to consumers on a mass scale.
Legally growing and processing USDA-certified industrial hemp in Colorado, CBDRx manufactures herbal wellness products, which contain high amounts of the much-lauded cannabinoid CBD -- but are relatively devoid of the "high"-producing THC.
Over the past several years, Colorado has become famous, due to its cannabis laws, for hosting scores of families who have moved to the state, because of children suffering from severe forms of epilepsy -- a condition that appears to be relieved by CBD (as noted on TV by Dr. Sanjay Gupta). Gordon develops crossbreeds of the famous, CBD-heavy cannabis strain called Charlotte's Web, as well as host of others, on a research and development farm in Longmont (a onetime organic chicken farm, complete with a rustic red barn, near the town's airport).
Once the plants are acclimatized to Colorado, they are grown on a larger scale on a 132-acre farm in Pueblo. "We regularly have about 70,000 to 90,000 pounds of hemp come out of the farm," says Gordon, whose plants contain, roughly, 19 to 22 percent CBD and only 0.1 percent THC (well below the legal limit of 0.3 percent THC).
Using that bulk hemp in its own manufacturing, CBDRx retails its own line of products -- gel capsules, tinctures, salves -- through retail stores such as Alfalfa's in Boulder. (There's no need to visit a medical marijuana dispensary with doctor's recommendation in hand: The products fall under the category of hemp, not marijuana.) CBDRx also sells its hemp oil, extractions, and crystal distillate to third-party companies, which use those base essences in their own product brands: e.g., vape-pen cartridges, nanotech-based powders, even pet products.
Gordon says that all the hemp is third-party tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and fungal infections: "Our clients can actually see our batch records, just for their peace of mind."
In a lab where its extractions take place, Gordon points out a jar of capsules containing a lipid (coconut oil-based) extraction -- a deep, greenish-yellow oil that smells of dank, vegetal material. It's a "whole plant" formula, derived from the stems, leaves, and flowers of the plant. CBDRx prepares the capsules in different formulations, with an overall content of either 10, 25, or 50 milligrams of CBD.
But even though there's the "CBD" right there in the company's name, Gordon says, "Right now, CBD is just a mainstream word, in my opinion. It should be 'cannabinoids' and not CBD." Gordon believes that the benefits to be derived from cannabis lies in an "entourage effect" that occurs when CBD is combined and interacts with the plants' other components: "You have the beneficials of the terpenes, the flavonoids, the omegas, the cannabinoids. When you have all those working together, I mean, that's cannabis health. That's what our [body's] endocannabinioid system is designed to intake and work [with] in systematic harmony, there."
The endocannabinioid system is important for homeostasis, the body's self-regulation, says Gordon, and CBD helps counter inflammation, even on a neurological level. "I'm confident to say that most U.S. citizens are cannabinoid-deficient," adds Gordon.
But Gordon isn't just breeding plants that will produce high levels of CBD. He wants to create strains that will also provide a multitude of products, all from the same plant.
"I'm trying to achieve the best cultivar for U.S. production," says Gordon. "I want to create something that is low-hanging fruit for farmers: They can make money from CBD; they can make money from the grain, because it produces a ton of seed -- very high omega seeds, very, very rich, big seeds, compared with the other ones I've seen; and this cultivar actually grows four to six feet, and it grows very straight, linear -- it would be an excellent crop to use for non-woven textiles [such as paper]."
CBDRx has become a name known throughout the industry. When the Hemp Industries Association held its national conference in Colorado, CBDRx's Longmont farm played host to around 70 people visiting from across the country -- and from around the globe (e.g., from Finland, Morocco, China, Japan, and Bulgaria).
The next week, Gordon says that the Colorado Department of Agriculture brought state representatives from 32 different states to the farm, as they discussed how to regulate the hemp industry at the state level across the nation. Gordon gives kudos to the agency for "leading the way," even instituting a seed certification program.
The company has utilized interns from Colorado State University's agricultural school, hiring on four full time.
And Gordon says CBDRx is assisting scientific research: "Our company is the provider of cannabinoids for the largest autism study being done in the world, right now [in Brazil]."
Although Gordon carefully avoids saying that the company markets pharmaceutical-grade products, he notes, "We're working on defining that with a few universities: What is pharmaceutical-grade hemp for research studies?"
Gordon, 42, came up within the cannabis world -- and he's passing on that heritage to his offspring. Gordon, originally from Ontario, says his dad supplemented the family's income with an illegal marijuana grow while they were living in Ohio. Much later, Gordon opened one of the first cannabis dispensaries in the state, in Fort Collins in 2005. "I have a degree in horticultural science [from CSU], and I have this plant to thank for that," he says. "My son is going to be an official, second-generation hemp farmer, now."
Gordon says, "This plant has taken such a positive role in my life -- and many others'. It's still an honor just to be associated with it, in this way."
Challenges: "Education. On down from understanding the plant, all the way up to federal understanding, and legislation there. Now, I have a fortunate responsibility of being one of the industry representatives for a large, Washington group that [spends time] lobbying and talking to senators . . . and helping them understand. . . . So education is the big umbrella that's needed for better understanding and the legitimacy of the hemp industry."
Opportunities: "We're at the tip of the iceberg, right now, as this industry is kind of growing -- and the tip of the iceberg is still small. So, I see huge economic opportunities for our country. . . . We have farmers not making it on subsidized crops. Here's something with international high value in the international markets, as far as agriculture and as far as manufacturing."
Gordon also says that CBDRx is moving its current R&D component to a new location in Longmont. There'll be a buildout of greenhouses, in addition to increased, automated lines of production at its new 6,500-square-foot facility.
Needs: "We need standards for a regulatory operation," says Gordon. "I guess this goes beyond our business -- because we hold ourselves [to] high standards. For the industry, we need . . . regulatory organizations [which help] decipher costs, decipher laws of stuff. We almost need to create within the industry a self-regulatory organization, so we aren't regulated by Big Government and Big Pharma and the FDA."