INTERVIEW – Jennifer Adams is Chief Business Development Officer at the U.S.-based hemp consultancy Canna Markets Group, which offers expertise in infrastructure, supply chain management, production, and product development, and a diverse industrial hemp and environmental sciences knowledge base. She has done significant research into regulatory processes for soil remediation, building materials, animal feed and bedding as well as eco-driven supply chain solutions in the USA and globally. Adams has more than two decades of experience in the nonprofit and logistics sectors, including work in disaster recovery and community-building programs.
HempToday: What’s the pulse in the CBD sector now? What kind of companies do you see surviving the shakeout?
Jennifer Adams: Companies that have established themselves in the pre-existing nutraceutical framework within the U.S. have the best chance of avoiding negative impacts that may come from the FDA in the near future. For example, companies such as CV Sciences, which have set standards within CBD product sectors, are no longer selling some products to non-medically licensed distributors. Though frustrating to some wholesalers in the short term, actions like these show a level of pre-emptive shakeout survival.
HT: The CBD boom-and-bust was driven, in part by rosy projections that didn’t pan out. How much do you trust the market projections that are out there for the different hemp sectors?
JA: In short, I don’t. CMG focuses primarily on non-flower-based sectors. We consider the CBD boom to have been both a blessing and a curse to the hemp industry. As a nutraceutical product category that opened the door to education for hemp’s beneficial nature, CBD has been a blessing. As the flower-based markets normalize, opportunities for growth in the rest of the hemp plant’s product sectors will be able to come out from under that economic shadow.
HT: What information is the industry lacking in terms of market insight and transparency? What intelligence is still needed to give more comfort in business planning?
JA: There are holes everywhere in collecting accurate information. Basic reporting as in how much is being grown, where hemp is being grown and the variety grown is getting better and we are seeing great collaboration among individual farmers, institutional organizations, and companies. Improved and consistent reporting of supply chain contingencies and limitations, types of investment opportunities, and processing solutions will give farmers, processors and manufacturers more confidence in business planning.
HT: Where do you see hemp rising geographically around the world?
JA: As the U.S. has changed its regulatory prohibitions against cannabis, global policies that were initiated to be in compliance with the U.S. continue to fall. An identifiable trend is that long-term allies of the U.S. with various cannabis prohibitions are working diligently to catch up with the newly established regulations in the U.S. One is example is the Japanese market which is at a similar point to where the U.S. was in the 90s and early 2000s.
HT: CMG has observed that hemp agricultural, processing, and manufacturing infrastructures are still in their developmental infancy. What are the keys to getting to the next level?
JA: Communication among global stakeholders and coordination of federal, state, and regional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) resources will help to jump-start these infrastructures. Corporate politics aside, the hemp industry could use someone like an Elon Musk who can afford to take the upfront financial hit to shift resource usage, especially in the U.S. Investors that are well versed in the exponential benefits and not apprehensive of the cannabis industry are key.
HT: A corollary to that is management: How do you rate overall current management in the hemp industries? What’s needed there?
JA: It’s all connected to the absence of communication and consistent, accurate intel between management counterparts. We have a unique situation with this emerging hemp industry. Many of the management components have been tried and errored in other industries — from seed to supply chains (agriculture, building materials, etc.). There is much to copy and paste historically with some promising operational updates so, hopefully, management processes can be streamlined to prove both financially and ecologically profitable.
HT: How important is innovation to the advancement of the industries?
JA: Innovation is vital for the success of industrial advancement. From the technological perspective, there are many supply chain needs that could revolutionize many aspects of the overall industry (equipment, KPI/metrics software, etc.). To achieve real innovation, I would point to the question above regarding resources and infrastructure. It is the creation of a well-oiled and carefully planned supply chain that will promote innovation across the industry as a whole.
HT: How do you see hemp developing at the commodities level?
JA: I see a delicate balance needed between the various regulatory bodies, farmers, processors, and the rest of the supply chain to create a viable and sustainable commodities market. In the U.S., there is still confusion and undefined regulations between states regarding testing requirements, transport, zoning, etc. I will say that many states are working quickly to collaborate resolving these issues, knowing the future of the U.S. being a player in the hemp industry relies on it.
HT: Which hemp market sectors represent the next sweet spots?
JA: On a global level, hemp has the potential to work collaboratively with the wood products industry to strengthen ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) efforts in establishing sustainable production and supply chain practices by utilizing hemp for pulp and fiber in various wood product sectors. This is everything from animal bedding to lumber. As construction products are granted load-bearing certifications, there are numerous applications where hemp can be utilized as a supplemental and alternative material resource, giving additional scalability to the commodity.
HT: The corporate world gives a lot of lip service to “corporate social responsibility” with respect to the environment and sustainability. How can the hemp industry position itself vis a vis these critical issues in a meaningful way?
JA: I could go on for days about the lip service regarding CSR. If the hemp industry plays its cards right, we can position hemp into climate-healthy spaces such as carbon sequestering, soil remediation, fire retardant (forest management), and erosion prevention to name a few. Brownfield site restoration is a quick example. Developing key partnerships with research and regulatory bodies will help strengthen the chances to utilize hemp regarding ESG and sustainability issues in a truly powerful way.
HT: What’s your vision for how hemp fits into the circular economy model?
JA: This may be a broad and impossible vision, yet I feel the development of a sustainable hemp industry can only work by using this model. The hemp industry, in many ways, is circular. We are in a rare position by having very little supply chain infrastructure in place. By embracing the end-of-product lifecycle reclamation protocols at this phase of industrial development, we can ensure the principles of circular economy and sustainable practices are baked into our industry’s foundational DNA.
HT: What is front and center with CMG these days?
JA:Making friends, intel, investments, and partnerships. Identifying where and what these junction points are, globally and in the U.S. is a large part of our focus right now. Providing realistic analytics and guidance for our clients is reliant on these three factors. Also high in our peripheral would be research data collected from university programs. Due to the unique crossover between agriculture and technology, we can assess the potential for supply and demand by utilizing these studies.