When we formed GenCanna in 2014, we were a small group with minimal resources and big dreams. We understood the power of our goal in making low-THC cannabis widely accessible. On the heels of CNN and Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Weed I and Weed II documentaries, it was clear that the world had a broad interest in CBD. What the world didn’t have at that time was a supplier to fulfill the need that seemingly emerged overnight.
While telling Charlotte and Zaki’s story was meaningful, it still felt incomplete. Matty, Chris, and the team were energized by the demand they created, and yet disappointed that they lacked the supply to fulfill that demand. We could have pushed forward in building a brand on the buzz of unfulfilled demand, but we thought it would be more responsible to build a business that began to meet the clear need that existed. Thus, GenCanna.
Many do not know, but we searched the world for destinations to build a safe, sustainable, scalable supply of CBD. We ultimately chose Kentucky because of our Kentucky roots and Kentucky’s roots.
Like us, Kentucky has an independent spirit and a penchant for what’s possible. The folks in this commonwealth believe in the power of personal responsibility. They do not subscribe to formulaic approaches to problem solving. Neither do we. When our co-founders built the CBD market in Colorado, few imagined a path for CBD outside of medical marijuana. The prevailing wisdom of the time was that the potential of cannabis could only be unlocked once marijuana was federally legal. But, a new path was being forged for those who had the mental flexibility to imagine it.
The 2014 Farm Bill created a federally-legal architecture for low-THC cannabis. The potential of the other 100+ cannabinoids could be realized on the fields of American farmers. Instead of expensive indoor facilities that damage our environment, we thought the practical approach fared better. Instead of being dependent on real-estate owners, we thought American farmers should have a say. At that time folks thought we were crazy, including many of the companies that classify themselves as hemp-CBD producers today. But again, we do not believe in formulaic approaches to problem solving — even those protected by the prevailing wisdom of the day. Fast forward six years and our approach has been validated by a host of companies and brands built on the hemp supply chain.
This approach to life and business has been repeated in our decision making many times over the last six years. While many of our competitors find power in fighting, we have always advised that cooperation is more powerful than competition in the early stages of creating an industry. That’s why we co-founded the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry organization first conceptualized in a Winchester backyard over a BBQ by Steve, Matty, Alex and others. Today we can thank that organization and the efforts of its Chair and our President, Steve Bevan, for advancing hemp legislation, culminating in full federal legalization. Even now we are criticized for our efforts by the old hemp guard and marijuana activists who seem to believe that legalization only matters as a binary option between none or all. But, we all know that is not true. Social progress—like making money, like comedy—is all about the timing.
Let’s fast forward to recent press coverage about our Mayfield development. We announced that we are in the midst of redesigning our Mayfield facility and will open next harvest. Contractors have filed liens. The press is covering these developments. Many are relishing what they believe to be our downfall.
THIS NARRATIVE IS FABRICATED AND WE WOULD LIKE TO MAKE THINGS VERY CLEAR
Mayfield is a three-stage design build. As such, it is a fully customized facility that we always expected to be a multi-year endeavor.
Since breaking ground we have discovered new technologies that we have decided to onboard, leading to a significant change in the design and layout of the facility.
This new disruptive suite of technologies does not require the same linear process layout that we initially contemplated.
We expect that we will be able to resolve the current dispute with builders and contractors and anticipate having a positive announcement in that regard shortly.
These changes do not impact our 2019 harvest and 2020 production, as Mayfield has always been a long-term growth facility and was not a dependency for 2019 operations.
Our vision for our Mayfield facility is to bring agriculture and federally-legal cannabis together for the first time at a large scale in the U.S. Located in the Delta Region bordering six states, this facility will allow for processing capacity that can help generate systemic change that rural and urban economies both desperately need. That we have an adjustment to our initial plan is not a surprise to us. This is the nature of aspiring to accomplish meaningful things.
We also demonstrate this with our recently announced partnership in South Carolina. This new approach to re-using existing agricultural infrastructure means that capacity to process the 2019 harvest is greatly increased. We look forward to working with Kentucky farmers that have been abandoned by their processing partners because this exciting technology can handle their excess biomass. As our partners ready the facility, we look first to assisting hemp farmers in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Beyond Mayfield and South Carolina, we have a lot to be excited about, including the world’s leading investment bank taking its first step into the hemp industry with GenCanna as its partner.
But somehow we’re suspicious that the facts won’t be enough. Our young industry is fueled by speculation and gossip, often forwarded by folks believing the only road to success is the low road.
We are here to tell you it is not.
We are also here to tell you that as an industry we cannot continue this pattern of behavior and expect public trust and goodwill to continue. Consider what this past year has done to the CBD marketplace and the several meaningful injuries caused from within our ranks. This year alone we have had financial constructs presenting themselves as companies, fraudulent managers presenting themselves as sound fiduciary operators, and industry iconoclasts cashing out shortly after selling investors on the long-term viability of their public security. Events like these have brought down overall confidence in the sector and scared traditional financial institutions from putting the full strength of their institutions behind our industry. That results in siphoning the ability of good companies producing good products that many are convinced are good for people. When you act badly, it doesn’t just hurt you and those you have derided. It hurts all of us.
We built GenCanna to be a business that does well by doing good, and we remain committed to doing so. The GenCanna difference is based principally in our people. Look around the halls of GenCanna and you see leadership of all types. Walk onto our farmers’ fields and you see the power of partnership, the impact of hard work. All of the promise of cannabis can come from a farmer’s field. Enabling the infrastructure necessary for true systemic change starts on the farm.
Kentucky serves as that proof. Our Certified Farming Network has grown at a healthy pace in the state, now stretching from Central to West Kentucky across nearly 60 family farms. And these farms are not large farms with thousands of acres, these are small and mid-size farmers that big companies often ignore. Our average farming partner this year is less than 100 acres. This widespread access for Kentucky farmers to a lucrative crop is by design. And though this can be a challenging business model to operate, its success cannot be doubted. GenCanna has been an economic change agent: employing hundreds of Kentuckians, distributing millions of profits to family farming partners, and bringing nearly $300 million of economic impact to the state. This was the plan from the beginning, to make cannabinoids widely available while delivering social, economic and environmental good to the communities that make all of this possible. And we are bringing our model to the world with farming partners in New York, Alabama, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, South Carolina and Uruguay.
This is not easy. This business requires the best of us to give our best, especially in the most challenging circumstances. Our business like all businesses has its challenges and hiccups. We are committed to overcoming them in the same way all champions do — with class, grace and dedication to a cause greater than ourselves. To the many that support us and our mission: we thank you.
Rumors run rampant regularly and we have chosen this singular instance to respond because of its meaningfulness in the present context. We do not like to forward narratives created to injure, slander and interfere; and at times speaking out is necessary. This is one of those times. It is our hope that our outspokenness can build bridges of understanding, cooperation and partnership.
As Thomas Edison is credited for saying, “The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” We continue that work. We continue our charge. We continue our steadfast belief in purpose over profit.