In this edition of "Rising High," The Fly conducted an exclusive interview with Bruce Perlowin, chief executive officer of Hemp Inc. (HEMP), an industrial hemp company aiming to provide green solutions through a healthy, eco-friendly approach. Here are some of the highlights:
HEMP INC.: Hemp Inc. is a publicly-traded company founded in 2008 with footprints in North Carolina, Arizona and Oregon. “In North Carolina, we have the largest industrial hemp processing facility in the Western hemisphere,” Perlowin said. “The second footprint is an ecovillage called Veteran Village Kins Community and what that does is it rehabs veterans. It teaches them how to grow hemp as a living.” The CEO said the Arizona community has a holistic healing center to work with the veterans and has all the growing lands for a back to the land type of movement. “The big thing, the big I guess grand slam that we did, is a huge grow up in the Rogue Valley which is in Medford, Oregon,” he said. “The actual farm itself is in White City and that happens to be one of the richest best growing areas of the entire nation for hemp. Perlowin said the area is the Napa Valley of hemp because of its microclimate, incredibly rich soils and extremely experienced growers.
COMPETITIVE EDGE: When asked about the company’s competitive edge, the CEO said he believes Hemp Inc.’s key differentiator is the company’s niche of smokeable hemp. “This is an area that took everybody, including myself, by total surprise,” Perlowin said. “Nobody ever dreamed that people would start smoking hemp.” He said the industry started to develop strains of hemp that had high CBD and low THC as they became popular. “You want get as much CBD in that bud as possible so you get more money from the extractors and the extractors have a lot less work to do to extract the oil,” the CEO said. “But 10% and above you can smoke it. There’s so much CBD there and so little THC that you won’t get high but whatever condition you’re using the CBD for, it’s an immediate effect.” “We’ve decided to position ourselves at the forefront of the smokable market,” he said. “No one will touch us. We launched it last year in Arizona and picked the perfect cultivar for smoking. It’s below the threshold of 0.3% with THC and THCA added together and it’s got about a 17%-18% CBD content.” The CEO said the company is currently growing a million pounds to dry and cure it to end up with about 150,000 pounds of dry smokeable hemp.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Perlowin said he got into industrial hemp after thinking about the future and thinking about the benefits of hemp plastic. “Just that one division, of the 25,000 things you can make out of hemp, is bigger than all of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana put together,” he said. “That’s what I was looking for was just a much broader and larger industry than marijuana.” The CEO said he was tired of marijuana after being a west coast smuggler and making out with a million dollars from sales. “Hemp was new, hemp was the future, hemp could change the world,” he said. “Plastics, you’ve seen the catastrophe in our oceans, they’ll never stop that. They’ll never, ever clean up the oceans until they stop feeding the oceans the plastic. Hemp will biodegrade before it ever gets to the ocean.” Perlowin said Hemp Inc. is now part of a supply chain that’s making hemp bioplastics. “I’m thrilled about that, that changes everything, that changes the whole world of plastics,” he said. The CEO said the company grinds up hemp herd it gets from Europe at its North Carolina plants, which is then sent to a South Carolina plant to make hemp plant pellets. “By doing it once, you become like the guy that broke the four-minute mile,” he said. “For 200 years no one could break the four-minute mile, somebody broke it and all of sudden 20 people broke it in the next three years. That’s what I’m hoping will happen with the hemp plastics, they’ll see what I did, they’ll all build their own plants and start getting hemp plastics.”
SOCIAL MISSION: When asked about the company’s thinking behind the Veteran Village Kins Community, Perlowin cited a study which found 22 veterans are committing suicide every day. “That’s a national emergency,” he said. “That is horrible and that’s not the way you’re supposed to treat your veterans.” The CEO said the sense of unfairness led to him to want to help the veterans and he still aims to set up communities for other groups in need. “The next ecovillage I build is for abused women and children, the next one is for orphans, the next one is for the homeless and the next one is for the healers,” he said. “My job is to change the world and one of my rules is if you want to change the world, you better make a lot of people a lot of money or it’s not going to happen.” Perlowin added hemp accomplishes the mission as it is a fast-growing industry and it inspires people to move back to the land. “It helps for the small American farm to reemerge into the landscape because that’s what we lost in America,” he said.
EXPANSION: The CEO said Hemp Inc. will expand as the industry ramps up. “You cannot grow hemp anywhere in America without having a processing center,” he said, adding that experts have estimated that anywhere from 50%-75% of all hemp grown in America will never make it to market. Perlowin said that happens due to the lack of processing centers and Hemp Inc. plans to open centers all over America. “We have one here in Oregon and we’re going to add to our industrial plant in North Carolina to make that a processing center for CBD,” he said. “Wherever the farmers are starting to grow a lot of hemp, we’ll put in a local processing center so that they have a place to bring it and harvest it.”
CHALLENGES: When asked about the challenges facing the company and the industry, Perlowin said he sees the biggest obstacles as information and knowledge. “Basically it’s just a four to five year old industry and very few people know how to do anything in the industry,” he said. “Even the people that do know how to do something, they don’t know how to do it right…people are just making mistakes.” The CEO added that those who know how to grow hemp are people who grew marijuana, however they were mostly boutique farmers. “They knew how to grow 48 plants or whatever the legal limit was in their state, so they grew these giant 20 foot tall plants, 16 feet wide,” he said. “For smokeables you have to hand harvest it and you have to walk your field every day. You don’t have to walk corn every day or rye every day because you have to look for males. If you get one male it could pollinate and destroy your entire crop…there’s all these million dollar mistakes that are made over and over and over again.“
OPPORTUNITIES: The CEO said he sees numerous opportunities for hemp as CBD gains popularity. “Someone will get passionate about something, usually somebody has had a miraculous cure with CBD oil for their mother or their brother or another family member or themselves,” he said. Perlowin also noted opportunities in putting CBD in topical creams, make-up and lip balms and said clothing is also a big area in which hemp can be used. The CEO also said hemp is a super food with hemp oil, hemp seed and hemp protein providing more Omega fatty acids than almost any other plant in the world. He added construction materials like hemp wood and hempcrete also represent large areas of opportunity. “The list just keeps on going on and on and the opportunities are everywhere.”
OTHER CANNABIS STOCKS: Other publicly-traded companies in the space include Aleafia Health (ALEAF), Aphria (APHA), Aurora Cannabis (ACB), Canopy Growth (CGC), Canopy Rivers (CNPOF), Cronos Group (CRON), CV Sciences (CVSI), CannTrust Holdings (CTST), Cresco Labs (CRLBF), General Cannabis (CANN), Greenlane (GNLN), HEXO (HEXO), India Globalization Capital (IGC), Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR), ICC International Cannabis (KNHBF), Biome Grow (BIOIF), MedMen Enterprises (MMNFF), MediPharm Labs (MEDIF), Indiva (NDVAF), KushCo (KSHB), Elixinol Global (ELLXF), Planet 13 Holdings (PLNHF), Wayland Group (MRRCF), Khiron Life Sciences (KHRNF), Liberty Health Sciences (LHSIF), Organigram (OGI), Origin House (ORHOF), Sunniva (SNNVF), Sproutly (SRUTF), Tilray (TLRY), Trulieve (TCNNF), DionyMed Brands (HMDEF), GrowGeneration (GRWG), Harvest Health & Recreation (HRVSF), Zynerba (ZYNE), Delta 9 (VRNDF), Westleaf (WSLFF),Tetra Bio Pharma (TBPMF), Real Brands (RLDB) and Harborside (HSDEF).