The Legal Cannabis Industry: What Are Companies Doing to Develop New Products?

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Recently, TRĒ House President Amir Nezhad appeared on the Finding Genius Podcast to talk all things cannabis. Here’s a transcript of that interview.

Richard Jacobs: Hello, this is Richard Jacobs with the Finding Genius Podcast, now part of the Finding Genius Foundation. My guest today is Amir Nezhad. He’s the President of TRĒ House. So, their mission is to bring the best buzz from the finest THC products on the planet. So, we’re going to go into their products and his backstory. The website, for now, is Trehouse.com. So, Amir, welcome. 

Amir Nezhad: Hi, Richard. Thank you for having me.

Richard Jacobs: Yeah, tell me a bit about your background and how you got into this industry and formed this company.

Amir Nezhad: Yeah, I’d love it. It’s been an interesting ride for me. I’ve actually spent a little over 20-plus years in the sales background. One of my first jobs right out of high school was jumping into car sales, and I actually had quite a bit of success there, but it was a little bit of a wild industry that I didn’t really care for.

And since then, I’ve just been kind of bouncing around a little bit between different industries, from automotive through the cellphone industry, working with companies, corporate companies like AT&T and Verizon. And then, about 2011, a couple of my friends started an e-cigarette business at the same time that I was starting a small online startup. And I was just helping them out and getting stuff done in their garage while we just hung out and did a couple of things, like helping them put stickers on their displays, just trying to get them through their first five stores and just hanging out. And it started to pick up, and it was right during the time when e-cigarettes themselves were popping out. And there was a company called Blu Cigs that had sold for $130 million or something like that.

And it was, like, the first major e-cigarette buyout from a major tobacco company, and it really sparked my buddies and they said, “Hey, I think we got something here. We should come on board and do this together.” And so, I came on and helped them basically launch their sales platform. And we were able to grow within that first year. We ended up getting into almost 90 7-Elevens on the west coast and getting into Circle K corporate and getting through a whole bunch of different C-store channels, which was awesome. And then, we started to develop a vape side of the brand, because we saw, aside from the e-cigarettes, there was a huge vape, liquid, and e-juice market that was growing at a rapid rate. And we started to launch that into a couple of quick little lines of products.

And I was actually approached with an opportunity to get into the pharmaceutical industry for myself through some family contacts. And so, I took that opportunity. I left the company right at the peak of its growth, which was kind of a risky move, but it ended up working out well for me. I ended up spending about six and a half, seven years in the pharmaceutical industry, started off doing sales consulting, and really quickly realized that there were a couple of different gaps in the market in certain niche categories for topical pain management, for product development and brand development in the prescription space. Worked with a couple of manufacturers, developed products, and it was a very, very lucrative industry, and I was able to capitalize really well with a really great team behind me and grow that business, which was really cool. From that point, I was looking at legal cannabis in the California space, and it was something that wmy team and I were trying to bring any kind of circle into the pharmaceutical area.

There’s a drug called Epidiolex that had gotten approved with CBD as an ingredient for seizure diagnosis for children. So, we started looking at how we could take legal cannabis and incorporate it somehow into pharmaceutical products. So I began with my team building out a licensed California cannabis recreational and medicinal facility where we built it from the ground up. We actually bought land and just built our facility from scratch, machined it, got everything ready and fully licensed. And as it became operational, my friends who started the e-cigarette business years ago contacted me and they’d been doing really, really well in the hemp industry on the wellness side for many years now. They had transitioned and they called me and said, “We’ve got an idea on hemp-derived THC.” And I thought it was really cool to get involved. And within a matter of weeks, we met up, we’re together, and our TRĒ House was born.

Richard Jacobs: So what are some of your major product lines? What’s your top one?

Amir Nezhad: So, on the TRĒ House brand, our best-selling items are our disposable THC vape products. A huge category within the THC industry. Vape is a significant portion of the market, and we’re very, very versed in vape products, as far as devices and flavorings. But on the THC side, it’s very important, especially coming from a legal cannabis background, that it’s not filled with additives or flavorings or things of that nature, because those are just outside ingredients that are going to affect the quality of the product and the quality to the consumer for the use of it. A lot of people try to use THC products, of course, for recreational uses, but there’s a huge section of people that enjoy them for medicinal uses as well, for anyone that has any kind of difficulties with whatever they’re dealing with, ailments that they find help out of THC products. So, vaping is a great way to have it enter the bloodstream fairly quickly so that you feel the effects quickly. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s one of the biggest categories from what we’ve seen in the hemp space. 

When we launched TRĒ House, there were quite a few companies that had just started in the delta side, which is the alternative cannabinoid side of the hemp-derived products. Some people have heard of delta 8, as opposed to regular THC cannabis. That’s one of the most popular cannabinoids right now on the hemp-derived side, but it’s kind of really a stronger CBD. It has psychoactive properties, but it’s not as powerful as traditional legal cannabis, which has high potencies of delta 9 THC. So, what I saw with our team here was that rather than having a single cannabinoid, we could actually develop a blend of different psychoactive cannabinoids that fall within the federal regulations of the Farm Bill and stay under the 0.3 percent THC, delta 9 THC levels.

And we were able to develop these blends of products that were a way better-rounded product offering, as far as the effects of the product and the use of the product to the end consumer. And we saw tremendous success with those. So we just continued doing full blends and different kinds of blends for different types of effects, whether it’s a full-body effect or a full-mind effect. That’s kind of the philosophy that we use for all of our products moving forward.

Richard Jacobs: I’ve seen delta 8, delta 9, delta 10, HHC, THC-P … There’s tons of stuff. Can you do a quick rundown maybe on these different—I don’t even know what you call them—facets of THC or cannabinoids? What are their functions or what are their effects?

Amir Nezhad: Yeah, definitely so many. So, the most common that most people don’t recognize is delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, which is delta 9 THC. That is the most commonly found highly potent delta within marijuana, which is the high psychoactive ingredient that actually produces a “high” feeling in the consumers that use it. Delta 9 is also found in the hemp plant, aside from cannabis, it’s just in significantly lower quantities. In addition to delta 9, there are other cannabinoids: currently, I believe 113. Some studies have shown 113 different cannabinoids within the cannabis plant. Cannabis consists of marijuana, as well as hemp. It’s kind of like male and female, but the hemp plant does have delta 9. It’s just a significantly lower potency, and that’s why in the Farm Bill that we’ve seen with the Federal Farm Bill, the requirements of having Delta 9 THC at 0.3% or lower, so that it’s classified legally as a hemp-derived product, so that it’s not as psychoactive like a legal cannabis/legal marijuana would be. In addition to delta 9, there is delta 8, which is the most second commonly known and studied and popular at this time. 

Richard Jacobs: One question before we move on from delta 9. So what’s delta 9 THC versus regular THC? What’s different about them?

Amir Nezhad: So, regular THC—the most common form of THC—is actually delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol. It is what most people are unaware of when they mention THC. It is delta 9. That’s the highly psychoactive cannabinoid that actually gets you that head “high.” That body has high feelings, regardless of whether that’s from marijuana or cannabis, delta 9 is the most common form of what people say “THC.” That’s the specific OID.

Richard Jacobs: But if I buy, let’s say a delta 9 gummy or something, and I eat it, I’ll still feel the effects as if I had eaten a regular THC gummy, or what would be different about it because you mentioned a 0.3% limit, which sounds very low?

Amir Nezhad: Yeah, it sounds very low. But what’s interesting is through the specifics of the Farm Bill, it’s 0.3% based on the dry weight of the product. So, a gummy is a perfect example. A four-gram gummy is actually 4,000 milligrams in weight. So, when you’re looking at an 0.3% THC, you can actually go up to almost, I believe it’s close to 12 milligrams in a single gummy and still be following the guidelines on the 0.3% delta 9, which is kind of interesting. There are some gummies that you’ll see in legal dispensaries that can go 25 milligrams, 50 milligrams, or a hundred milligrams. Some states limit to 20 milligrams or 25 milligrams per serving of legal cannabis. But on the delta, on the hemp-derived delta side, we have to stay under that 0.3%. But on something like a gummy, that’s a four-gram or 4,000-milligram weight gummy, we can go as high as 12, 12-and-a-half milligrams of delta 9. 

Now, the difference between the delta 9 that’s derived from hemp versus marijuana, it’s less potent in the hemp plant. So, it does require more oil and more extraction process and more plant to be able to process down the same amount of oil you’d be able to get from a marijuana plant. But once you distill it down to just a single cannabinoid and just a distilled oil, it’s essentially the same oil. You just have your restrictions of 0.3%. Now, hemp-derived products, some people have reported the effects, maybe not lasting as long, but being extremely similar to a marijuana high. And the marijuana high also is a delta 9 high. It’s just delta 9 derived from marijuana as opposed to hemp.

Richard Jacobs: What about the extraction method? I do want to return to delta 8 and 10 and HHC and all that, but just a quick question. So, like a hemp-derived delta 9 or another cannabinoid that you said needs more processing. So, therefore, are people getting more remnants of other chemicals that were used to process [it]? Like what is the extraction method for hemp-derived versus marijuana-derived?

Amir Nezhad: There are a couple of different extraction methods, and when I said more processing, I meant more plant products in order for processing. So rather than extracting, let’s say just throwing random numbers out there, rather than extracting a liter of oil out of a hundred pounds of marijuana, we would get a liter of oil out of a thousand pounds of hemp, of pure delta 9. So, we would need to process a lot more plant products in order to reach the same final oil quantity as far as the sizing goes. But as far as the actual extraction process, they’re actually very similar processes. The most common forms of extraction for both marijuana and hemp are either CO2 extraction, where you use CO2 solvents to be able to break down the products and go through an extraction machine and extract the crude oil from the plant material. And then there’s also ethanol extraction, that uses ethanol to soak the dried, trimmed plant to squeeze out the oil through the extraction process and the machinery that we use.

Richard Jacobs: But would you say again, marijuana-derived is any healthier because of the extraction method versus hemp-derived?

Amir Nezhad: No, in most cases, from what I’ve seen, we don’t manufacture in-house. We use a lot of licensed and qualified experts within our field that do manufacturing for us and make sure that everything’s the top quality that can be. But from what I’ve seen from my background—because actually, my facility in legal cannabis was an extraction facility—[it’s] the same machinery for the most part. And it’s the same materials, same ingredients, same solvents that are used in some cases, some are solventless extraction, which can cost a lot more money. But ultimately what happens is, once you have the extracted crude oil on both the marijuana and the hemp side, machines also distill the oil down and remove toxins and remove any kind of things that could be harmful in both marijuana-extracted oil, as well as hemp-extracted oil.

So, it’s very, very easy to get to an extremely high-quality, very pure form of oil through some of the incredible machinery and processes that we’ve got going on with some of the expert engineers and things in this industry. It’s pretty amazing.

Richard Jacobs: So, we talked about delta 9 THC, which really is THC hemp derives versus marijuana derives. But now how about the whole other family? Delta 8, delta 10, HHC, THC-O, etcetera. 

Amir Nezhad: So starting with delta 8, which is the second most commonly known, well, I would say aside from CBD, CBD (cannabidiol) is actually also a cannabinoid. It’s just not a psychoactive one. And that’s one of the things that is extremely popular in the world today. CBD is one of the biggest categories in growing categories and wellness and overall use, whether it’s recreational, or medicinal type products in the world today.

But in addition to that, there’s delta 8, which is psychoactive. It is a form of THC, which is a tetrahydrocannabinol, similar to delta 9, tetrahydro: they’re considered THCs rather than CBDs. Delta 8 is not as psychoactively powerful as the delta 9 cannabinoid. And so, a lot of people, like myself, although it does give a mild psychoactive high at certain dosages, there’s no current restriction within the Farm Bill on delta 8 specifically. And so, we can use it at different higher milligrams than that 0.3% restriction within certain products. So, we can go with higher milligram dosages in order to get a better potency reaction or a better psychoactive reaction out of the product overall. But it is a milder form of THC, as we know it. Compared to delta 9, delta 8 is a little bit more of a body high rather than a mind psychoactive.

So, that’s one of the reasons it’s a little less powerful. Obviously, some people have different ways that they metabolize THC in their own bodies. Everybody individually has different ways. So, some people might have slightly different effects, but the overall consensus is that it’s milder and has a little bit more body. Delta 10, for example, is also a form of THC, and that is a little bit more of a euphoric psychoactive high, a little less body. It’s got a little bit more of that happy giddiness type of feel that you would get from more of a Sativa-type marijuana plant with more of a euphoric psychoactive high. And that’s one of the reasons why, originally, when we spoke about blends, if we were going to be limited on delta 9 being at a 0.3% maximum, then the best way to get the closest thing to a real traditional THC high that most people are familiar with is to combine these deltas.

As long as that works, we were able to formulate combinations of delta 8 and delta 10 to become a little bit more of a powerful blend, when it comes to producing an effect for the end user. And so, combining delta 8, which is mildly psychoactive with more body effect, combined with delta 10, which is also mildly psychoactive with more of a minded and euphoric effect combined together, it was actually a pretty powerful response and effect, very comparable to a traditional delta 9 THC, whether it’s marijuana or hemp-derived delta 9 THC. Very, very consistent and powerful blend that was on par with a traditional high.

Richard Jacobs: I agree with delta 8, some people, they don’t react well. I guess they may have heart palpitations or just feel a bit odd. Have you heard anything negative about delta 8 from anybody or any of these other OIDs, these extracts?

Amir Nezhad: We personally haven’t come across any of those issues. I haven’t had any. And we have a very robust customer service team and quality control team, as well. We personally haven’t come across any of those issues. We have seen certain things within the industry, and one of the things that we believe is that there are obviously in every industry, there are bad actors that operate on the black market side of things, and they produce low-quality levels of products that end users are just not familiar with and they’re not educated enough on. And so, I’m pretty positive that is the case, that some end users have been experiencing things, unfortunately, from products and brands that may not be doing the same high-quality standards or same quality practices, as far as extraction and quality control. But like I said, there are different variations in how different people metabolize all kinds of forms of THC, including CBD and different cannabinoids.

So, it is possible that some people might have certain reactions, which definitely we always recommend if you’re going to dabble in this type of product, it’s always best to consult with a physician. 

Richard Jacobs: What kind of processing have you seen that wasn’t good? Are you able to tell, or, I know you’re on the outside of all other companies, but, what do you guys do in terms of the processing that minimizes any problems that other companies may or may not do?

Amir Nezhad: So, one of the things that we do, as I mentioned, we don’t manufacture anything ourselves. We work with licensed facilities that have their regulatory standards up to par. They’ve got CGMP, good measures in practice, manufacturing practices on their facilities. They’ve got licensed facilities. A lot of the facilities that we use are FDA-registered facilities for nutraceuticals and topical products and ingestible products and things of that nature.

So, we like to work directly with the people that can prove on paper and through practice that they have the utmost quality available. There are people that approach us all the time at trade shows that want to try to take manufacturing business to them, and they don’t have those standards or those requirements, or even their facilities. They rented a warehouse somewhere and they bought a machine and they’re processing it. And unfortunately, there are a lot of things that we’ve seen early on in the industry. Thankfully, it’s consistently getting more regulated every day, which some brands may not like, but we do because if you’re working on the right side of the regulation, then it’s good to see all the bad actors drop off, and we can remain as one of the reliable sources of good products and quality products. So, that’s just some of the things that we’ve seen.

I’ve even heard of people operating extraction out of their own garages early on in this stuff. So it’s always very, very sketchy. And then, of course, you can have a lot of counterfeit products on the market, as we see with legal cannabis as well, that we have to be very careful and cautious of. It’s an ever-evolving, ever constantly changing landscape that we’ve got to be on top of. But we have a solid team here, and regulatory-wise, we’ve got in-house counsel, outside counsel that’s constantly on top of any kind of health regulations, licensing issues, anything like that. And we’re always on top of those things.

Richard Jacobs: Where do you see regulations going, coming down the pike?

Amir Nezhad: It’s interesting. We’re anticipating an update to the Farm Bill at the end of this year, which will most likely have some more clarity on the hemp-derived THC and hemp-derived psychoactive cannabinoids, as far as how they’ll be regulated.

Right now, we’re seeing different states changing their laws and regulations according to how they see fit. There are some states that don’t allow any hemp-derived

, some states that allow maybe just delta 8 and maybe not any other cannabinoids, and vice versa. It’s an ever-changing landscape at the moment, but thankfully, we have a great team, a great legal team, and an outside great regulatory compliance team that constantly stays on top of these things, so that we can try to do our best to be ahead of whatever we can. And my goal for the company is to always work above what we think regulations are going to be. So, if we think there’s going to be a restriction at this level, I want to be a level above that, just in case, because I’d like to operate significantly safer just in case, because it’s only better for longevity.

Richard Jacobs: I’ve tried different products over time. Some will say like 10 milligrams and you know, feel nothing. Some of them will say 10 milligrams, and it’s like, why is there such a difference? Have you noticed the same thing if you tried other products with other products?

Amir Nezhad: Yes, and there are quite a few products out there, that it really depends on the source of where you’re getting the products, and how consistent their lab reports are. There’s COA analysis, Certificate of Analysis, that comes along with all of our products to show potency and safety levels, so that we can test them. We actually go above and beyond any requirements on the hemp side. We’re required to have potency levels that we can show that there’s delta 9 under certain 0.3% restrictions, and also be able to show exactly what’s in the product, as far as the potency of the different deltas and cannabinoids that are in there, so that the consumer has great transparency.

If somebody says you have 10 milligrams, but the COA shows one, then there’s no real clean transparency there. Or maybe they don’t even have a COA, because they never went through that process. We go even a step further on ours. We put every product through a full safety panel, so we check for pesticides, heavy metals, carcinogens, toxins of all levels, microbiomes, and everything so that we can make sure it’s the safest product that’s available to put on the market and the most reliable to what’s actually being presented on the packaging. If we say it’s 10 milligrams, we’re going to be right there spot-on 10 milligrams, we might have 5% up and down, but that’s natural within the extraction process.

Richard Jacobs: Your customers, what products do they really like that are surprising, or which ones do they not like that are surprising? How would you characterize the response? Is it what you thought? What interesting things jump out at you from customer feedback?

Amir Nezhad: On the legal cannabis side that I was working on years ago was a huge, huge change away from flower and into edible products. There was a massive uptick in edible sales, especially once Covid kicked in. There was a massive case in edibles, and I think it’s a lot of people trying to help with, whether it’s their version of whether they were helping with their anxiety or their worries about their jobs or Covid in general, and it was a scary time for a lot of people. So, we saw a definite uptick in sales and demand for edible products, which tend to be newer users, because newer users of cannabis and marijuana tend not to smoke. Vape is a little bit more of an interesting intro product, but edibles, like THC gummies and candies and cookies, were a very easy, simple way to say, “Hey, let me try this. I’ve never done any cannabis or THC before, but this gummy looks attractive. I could try this and it tastes somewhat decent, and I don’t get this burning feeling in my throat,” and certain things like that. 

So, we saw a huge uptick in edibles, and I see that also on the hemp-derived side, but the hemp-derived side has a huge, huge vape category for it. And one of the reasons for that, in my opinion, is the majority of the businesses that are operating hemp-derived THC successfully in the space right now, were formally vape companies and not cannabis companies. So, you’ll see a lot of vape industry-experienced businesses that have entered into the hemp-derived alternative cannabinoid space and all of their vape expertise into their products. So, they’re creating great vape products just similar to what we did with our backgrounds, and it’s something that’s working really well. The quality’s there, especially when you’re working with the brands that really do a good focus on the quality of the device and the oil itself.

But from my background on the pharmaceutical side and then the legal cannabis coming into this space, I wanted to make sure that we had with our team a very well-rounded product portfolio. So, we offer things from gummies to mappable products, whether they’re disposable vapes or cartridges that you can twist onto your own batteries, some people have their own batteries that they could twist on a ridge and change the flavors and try something else. We also have products, like THC syrups, which are little mixers into your drinks. So if you have a soda that you’re, maybe you’re not an alcohol drinker, you don’t want to have a cocktail, but you can still have a mini THC mocktail by adding a teaspoon of syrup into your soda and getting a little bit of a THC milligram dose while you’re having a nightcap or being with friends and hanging out. But vape and gummies are the biggest categories by far.

Richard Jacobs: For listeners, do we have any codes for them or anything?

Amir Nezhad: Yeah, absolutely. I believe my team put together a coding GENIUS for our team, so they can use that in the coupon codes on our website, Trehouse.com. And that’s, I believe, a 30% off discount for your listeners and code GENIUS. As a matter of fact, I think we’re also doing free pre-rolls, as well, in addition to that code.

Richard Jacobs: That’s very generous. Thank you. All right, so Trehouse.com. Amir, thank you for coming on the podcast. I don’t know if there’s anything else to add, but I learned a lot of really interesting stuff, like the difference between marijuana-derived cannabinoids, so it’s been a great call, and thank you.



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