Fate, serendipity, luck? My hemp journey started through a combination of all three, and of all the journeys I have embarked on throughout my career, this has been by far the most challenging, exciting and satisfying, of that, I am sure!
Back in 2014, I was European MD of a meat-free business, selling a range of vegetarian burgers, mince, balls and so on. We had achieved some nice distribution with listings in the Co-operative supermarket, Holland & Barrett, and a major own-label supply contract with Tesco. Ironically, for a number of reasons, I wasn’t a particular fan of soya (the main ingredient) and started to explore alternative plant proteins.
One morning over breakfast, for some reason my wife said “what about hemp?” Now at the time, like most people, I had of course heard of hemp but (again like many people) I had a limited understanding of its incredible range of applications. This is best defined by the three statements I was to hear many times in the months to come.
“It’s a good fishing bait, isn’t it?” – yes is it! “We used to make rope from it didn’t we?” – yes we did! And perhaps the most common misconception: “Can’t you smoke it (followed often by a knowing wink)” – not if you are looking for the effect that I think you are!
On day one of my research, I found this nice guy in Phoenix who had a patent for the extraction of protein from hemp seed – and this was the launch of my ‘hemp journey’ proper, as he put me in touch with some equally nice people in Vancouver who, it appears, had started the Canadian hemp seed industry some 15 years earlier. This family business was called ‘Hempco’ but later become part of ‘Aurora Cannabis’ and was renamed ‘Aurora Hemp.’ After several conversations and several months, I met with the family and was so impressed by their passion, mission and the opportunities represented by this amazing plant that I joined them with responsibility for the European expansion.
| already had lots of contacts and great relationships across the commercial sector, so getting meetings at a senior level was not a problem. However, I soon discovered that the level of understanding around hemp and its benefits was similar to mine at the start of my journey, i.e. tending towards zero (if you discount the aforementioned cliches!). So, I had now become a ‘hemp educator/evangelist’ not through design but through necessity!
Later, through another stroke of luck, I met another nice guy (lots of these in our industry as I have discovered) called Jacek Kramarz, who introduced me to CBD – now I was aware of it (and suitably impressed by it), but I was so busy lecturing anyone who would listen on the nutritional benefits of hemp seed and its derivatives that I had done little research on this aspect. Next day (not really, but it felt like it!) | was on a plane to Poland and my passion/obsession with CBD began – and has been developing ever since!
Events soon accelerated, I become part of EIHA’s Advisory team, began representing the industry (with Catherine Wilson) to UK regulators including the FSA, the Home Office and notably helped shift the MHRA position away from would have been a de-facto ‘ban’ on CBD supplements back in 2016. At the European level contributed to the production of various papers and was part of the EIHA delegation to Brussels – this was a presentation to the PAFF Committee on the subject of Novel Foods.
Over the last few years, my passion for the plant and my dedication to the industry has only intensified to the point that it feels like a moral duty to contribute – let’s face it, the people, the planet and the economy need it like never before!
In previous lives I was a government scientist, ran my own laboratory business and was marketing director for one of Europe’s leading Food & Drink research associations; one of the many things I love about the hemp industry is that it allows me to combine my scientific and business background to best affect – a perfect marriage!
Currently, I am particularly involved in all things CBD and increasingly the minor cannabinoids such as CBG. I am still closely engaged with the FSA and the Home Office and have built some good relationships with parliamentarians and Whitehall. I am a member of the UKAS-led ‘CBD Food Product Approval Expert Group’ the Food & Drink Federations CBD Working Group’ and consultant with several UK, European and North American organisations including THG (market cap £3.9bn).
So, my hemp journey was never planned, but once started, the road ahead was brightly lit, and I am absolutely sure the most exciting part of the story is yet to be written – and I hope to be one of the co-authors!
Cannaray: “We aim to become the leading medical cannabis player in Europe”
Cannaray recently closed a £10 million funding round to expand its medical cannabis arm.
Cannabis Wealth caught up with Cannaray CEO Scott Macguire to hear about the company’s plans to expand its medical cannabis division following a £10 million funding round earlier this year.
In April this year, Cannaray closed a £10 million funding round that included a significant investment from Channel 4 Ventures. Cannaray believes the investment was a first of its kind in Europe for a major TV broadcaster.
“We were delighted to close on an amount above our initial targets, considering the difficult capital markets,” Cannaray CEO Scott Macguire told Cannabis Wealth.
“It was a great sign of confidence in the company to see existing investors come back in for this round as well as welcoming major new investors such as Channel 4 Ventures. TV advertising has taken Cannaray to new heights, so we’re thrilled to be able to partner with Channel 4 to continue to drive rapid growth of the brand.”
Other participants in the round include Three Bridges Private Capital, Alpha Blue Ocean and a mix of new and follow-on private investors.
Cannaray’s group of companies spans both medical cannabis and CBD wellness brands. Its CBD brand is already well-established in the UK. In the summer of 2021, Cannaray launched the UK’s first major brand campaign for CBD on TV. In addition to a high-performing B2C site, the brand is also stocked on Amazon and in over 1500 retail outlets across the UK including Tesco, Superdrug, ASDA, Waitrose and Harrods.
Now, the company is turning its focus to medical cannabis. The majority of the recent raise will be channelled into Cannaray’s medical division Therismos as it seeks to scale and expand its footprint in Germany and the UK.
“Our aim is to become the leading medical cannabis player in Europe,” Macguire said. “We have significantly strengthened our position over the last year to cover supply, distribution and prescription of cannabis-based medical products (CBMP) across Europe.”
In Germany, Cannaray recently embarked on a “transformational” partnership with Alliance Healthcare Deutschland – a division of Walgreens Boots Alliance – to help establish the brand’s presence in the German market.
The German federal government announced it would be putting plans in motion to legalise adult-use cannabis in November 2021. After a number of delays, Germany’s health minister Karl Lauterbach announced that the legal process for cannabis legalisation would begin this summer.
“[Germany] is the largest CBMP market in Europe and where AHG has a significant footprint,” Macguire added.
“Our medical cannabis division Therismos will be activating the partnership with AHG with the aim of becoming one of the leading providers of CBPM in a market growing at 13 per cent year-on-year.
“Our pipeline plans include product innovation, new presentations [and] galenic forms and novel technologies that will step change a market that is in its creation phase.”
Cannaray is also looking to tap into the medical cannabis sector in the UK. While only 30,000 patients have access to a medical cannabis prescription currently, there is huge potential for growth with an estimated 1.4 million people self-medicating with illicit cannabis, according to YouGov statistics.
The firm will soon be opening a medical cannabis clinic with the help of leading pain specialists in the UK.
“The UK is our second priority since this market represents the greatest growth opportunity in Europe,” Macguire said. “The UK is a small market relative to Germany and even smaller still when compared to North America.
“The prevailing challenge in the UK is the cost of the medication, as the NHS does not cover the cost of the medication. Estimates put the cost per patient per year at over £3,500. There will be a cap on the growth of CBPM in the UK until the NHS covers the cost and GPs are allowed to prescribe.
Macguire said Cannaray is now exploring additional acquisitions in its efforts to position the company as a leader in the European medical cannabis market.
Curaleaf appoints new chief people officer
Tyneeha Rivers will take on the role.
Curaleaf Holdings has appointed Tyneeha Rivers to the role of chief people officer (CPO) – a new position within the company.
Rivers will be taking on the role following the announcement of Matt Darin being named CEO. Darin will be replacing Joe Bayern, who will be launching a new CPG-focused division of the company.
CEO of Curaleaf, Darin, commented: “This is an incredibly exciting time for Tyneeha to join us and I am thrilled to welcome her to my executive leadership team.
“With over twenty years of global Human Resources expertise in senior positions for distinguished organisations, Tyneeha has a proven track record of building winning team cultures that positively impact business results.
“This is a critical focus for us at Curaleaf as we move the company forward. My goal is not only to be the leading global cannabis company, but also the place to be for the most talented, motivated, and passionate team members in the industry, bar none.”
Rivers will lead the Curaleaf’s Human Resources department and help advance strategic HR operations, talent acquisition, talent management, diversity, equity and inclusion, leadership development, training programmes, employee relationship management, compensation and benefits, job design and succession planning.
Rivers stated: “I am honoured to join the Curaleaf team at this exciting time in the company’s evolution and rapid growth.
“Curaleaf has established itself as a leader in the cannabis space, not just in revenue or retail footprint, but in talent and commitment. I look forward to partnering with the entire Curaleaf team to continue focusing on strategic HR operations and the investment in the Company’s people, without whom this exponential growth would not be possible.”
Rivers brings over 20 years of experience in corporate human resources, leading HR for various prominent organisations such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Properties, The Galman Group, Philadelphia 76ers, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Greater Philadelphia YMCA, and most recently, CPO at Curio Wellness.
Rivers currently serves as board president of Second Chance Mission, an organisation established to help survivors of substance abuse, domestic violence, bullying, life-altering illness and other hardships.
Kendra Mark appointed as director of product at Tenacious Labs
Mark has a passion for health and wellness.
Kendra Mark is joining UK-based CBD company Tenacious Labs as its new director of product.
International consumer products group championing emerging plant-based ingredients, including CBD and Psilocybin, Tenacious Labs, has welcomed Mark to its team.
Mark joins Tenacious Labs with industry-leading expertise in new product development, significant experience in the CBD and hemp sector, and a passion for health and wellness.
COO of Tenacious Labs, Susie MacArthur, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Kendra to the Group. With considerable industry experience, both in senior leadership and new product development roles, her expertise will be invaluable as we look to scale up, launch our brands around the world, and become a leading consumer products group globally.
“We believe this is the start of a really exciting period for Tenacious Labs, and we’re pleased to have Kendra join us on our journey.”
Director of product at Tenacious Labs, Mark, commented: “I am hugely excited to join Tenacious Labs, a Group which I have admired for some time.
“Like me, the team have fantastic ambitions to create an industry-leading Group that harnesses the natural power of CBD and other emerging ingredients. I am looking forward to getting stuck in and doing what I love most: creating natural products that support the day-to-day wellbeing of consumers around the world.”
Mark most recently co-founded natureofthings, a wellness brand focusing on natural ingredients, minerals and elements, including hemp. She has also served as VP of product development at Hemp Depot, a specialist hemp wholesaler, and led 2Rise Naturals, a consumer brand specialising in high-quality CBD.
In her role at Tenacious Labs, Kendra will be responsible for creating unique and differentiated products across the Group’s portfolio of brands, such as Press Pause and HOO RAA.
Mark will also work closely with TL Manufacturing — Tenacious Labs’ wholly-owned production facility based out of Colorado, USA — to launch products in new and emerging categories. This will support the group’s broader strategic goal of becoming a leading consumer products group globally.
Kendra, who is based in Arizona, joins Tenacious Labs’ predominantly female management team, which includes its chief operations officer, Susie MacArthur; chief financial officer, Sally Hayes; and head of lifestyle brands, Dawn Fable, at the start of its next growth phase.
In addition to Mark’s role, the Group is also actively hiring for several new roles as it looks to scale up and launch its brands around the world.