As the CBD business negotiates its way around the image and regulatory challenges it faces, Boris Baňas, CSO at Czech-based CBDepot, would offer some strategies for reaching a normalized, fully developed market.
“Transparency, efficiency and diligence,” says Baňas, are the keys that have helped his firm maintain a steady course in the emerging sector since startup in 2014. “First, very few companies put real faces behind them,” said Baňas, aggressively marketing their sometimes dubious CBD formulations without identifying the actual people who run their companies – some of which often draw red flags from regulators and other governmental agencies, and in the process give the sector a black eye.
“We stay away from the ‘cowboy’ game and focus on working with professional buyers who are able to formulate safe products from the risk point of view,” Baňas said of his firm, one of Europe’s leading suppliers of natural cannabinoids and high quality cannabidiol-enriched products for the industrial and consumer markets.
CBDepot diligently adheres to a self-established internal credo that leans heavily on industry-leading science, all the while sticking to existing regulations even if they don’t always make a lot of sense.
“We’re über diligent in the potentially grey applications and avoid the black zones completely,” said Baňas. “Since we only work on a B2B basis, our clients are usually professional buyers from the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries,” firms with high expectations regarding the science and the laws that apply to CBD. “We work on a ‘tracked, tested and trusted’ basis,” Baňas said, making every effort to set market standards for corporate responsiblity.
That’s helped CBDepot maintain a solid position in the constellation of CBD producers around the globe. But in the relatively risky CBD market, management and strategy are also critical to staying on course.
“We have a clean and lean partner-based corporate structure in which we put all the focus on scientific proficiency,” said Baňas. That science is anchored in CBDepot’s affiliation with the Prague Institute of Chemical Process Fundamentals (ICPF) at the Czech Academy of Sciences, where Baňas’ partner, organic chemist Jan Storch leads a scientific team constantly probing the edges of cannabidiol. The focus on science and quality is also guided by the quality demands of CBDepot’s joint venture partners at Cannabis Pharma s.r.o., which is also affiliated with ICPF.
Science is everything
Storch, an organic chemist with more than 15 years’ experience, said the science is everything. “Our company believes that cannabinoid based products will contribute to future medical care in a broad and complex therapeutic range,” he said. “That’s why the science is so critical to our business.”
While Storch has been active in the CBD space since 2013, and in 2014 co-founded an R&D firm that developed the know-how which now underpins CBDepot operations, Baňas traces his hemp history to 1996.
That’s when, as a student working a summer job in Michigan, USA, he first came across “Industrial Hemp: Practical Products — Paper to Fabrics to Cosmetics” a booklet by John Roulac, who would go on to found the organic food company Nutiva three years later. “Up to then, my only experience with hemp was recreational,” Baňas said.
His initial enthusiasm led to the setting up of a foundation “Why Not Hemp” in 1998, which got funding to translate the Roulac booklet into his native Slovakian, eventually giving away 4,000 copies printed on hemp paper from Austria. The following year, Baňas started growing hemp for research under Slovak government licenses, and ultimately helped to push the Slovak government to adopt EU hemp-related farming rules in 2008.
In 2009 he teamed with partner Michal Tőzsér to found Hemp Seed Oil Europe, Ltd., focusing on large-scale distribution of Canadian hemp seed ingredients for the food, feed and cosmetics markets in Europe – where it’s now one of the continent’s biggest players in those sectors.
For the future, Baňas sees short-term challenges in developing proper regulations for CBD in foods. “The situation is still not clear about hemp extracts and its tinctures,” he noted. ”Several national food agencies interpret this listing in quite different ways.”
Also lacking is an EU-wide regulation on allowable levels of THC in foods. “Generally speaking, we live in a zero-tolerance region — meaning a less than 0.0001% parts per million level,” Baňas notes.
Mid-term, there’s a need to clarify the medicinal status of CBD, CBG and other cannabinoids, Baňas said. “CBD is already an Orphan Drug in Europe. Activities of medicinal agencies in Germany, UK and Finland may serve as a guide to where the use of isolated cannabinoids is heading,” he added.
Having just launched a new product according to the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regime, a pharmaceutical industry standard, CBDepot looks to stay a course that’s always leading edge.
“The only way for us is to stay ahead and be ready,” Baňas said.