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Entrepreneur Howard Lee On CBD Quality, Pot's Necessity During Pandemic

Entrepreneur Howard Lee On CBD Quality, Pot's Necessity During Pandemic

For Howard Lee, not all CBD-infused products are created equally.

Every day, various pot products and cannabis companies are touted in press releases with the latest good-for-you jargon. But the benefits of these products is often debatable. 

At the Seattle-based startup SōRSE Technology, where Lee is CEO, products undergo "the same comprehensive Risk Analysis and Food Safety Plans that are common in the food industry," he said. 

"For the sake of the customer, innovation should be focused on testing and validating that products are safe for use and accurately dosed," Lee told me. "SōRSE has been ahead of the curve in that sense since we first formulated the emulsion."

Lee's expertise goes far beyond pot. Before launching SōRSE, he founded two successful startups, served as CEO for Photo Works, a NASDAQ-listed company, and was a senior vice president at Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS). 

Lee took some time to discuss his latest innovations, patnering with Pascal Biosciences, whether SōRSE Technology is hiring and why the coronavirus pandemic may jolt government officials in states where cannabis is not recreationally legal into rethinking their stance.

SoRSE recently did a deal with Pascal Biosciences Inc. Walk us through the agreement and why it's important. How did it come about?

The researchers at Pascal initially reached out to us after reading an article about SōRSE in Geekwire.

Pascal was interested in working with us because of our safe, highly bioavailable water-soluble technology. Currently, most research studies’ ingestion methods are through oil consumed orally or inhalation, both of which are difficult to dose and accurately track bioavailability, making the results inconclusive when it comes to efficacy and treatment application.

Lack of research and data is holding back the cannabis industry as a whole, with the benefits of CBD, THC and other cannabinoids being categorized as “anecdotal.” At our core, we’re a technology company that believes in science, quality, analytics and research studies — so we’re investing in that foundation by working with world-class medical researchers at Pascal Biosciences.

Our goal is to participate in medical research studies to prove the efficacy of these cannabinoids, and arguably more important, the delivery method.

The first step for SōRSE moving into medical research applications is our investment in and financial support of Pascal’s research.

There seems to be CBD-infused everything. Beverages, oils, creams Where does innovation go from here? What is SoRSE doing to stay ahead of the curve?

CBD does seem to be in everything these days — but not all CBD products are created equally.

For the sake of the customer, innovation should be focused on testing and validating that products are safe for use and accurately dosed. SōRSE has been ahead of the curve in that sense since we first formulated the emulsion. We have comprehensive risk analysis and food safety plans that are common in the food industry.

These plans ensure that we meet top quality standards at every single step of the way as it goes through our system. Once the production process is completed, the emulsion goes through final testing to ensure it meets our specifications for quality and safety. Innovation and our data-driven foundation have also led us to the medical space and into the partnership with Pascal to progress the industry beyond the “anecdotal” phase and demonstrate true success in tried applications. There are 564 ongoing clinical trials that involve cannabis. Of these 564, 343 are being done in the U.S. These studies have the real potential to improve lives, and we want to be part of that.

The company is reportedly profitable. What's helping this company remain in the green? What's generating revenue? Also, what's SoRSE's biggest expense?

The company’s revenue is generated by sales of the emulsion and from licensing our technology with our partners in the U.S. and in Canada. We've had a healthy first quarter to the year. Our biggest expense is our payroll, as we have the largest R&D and product development team in the industry.

In December, you said the SoRSE team is about 40-plus. Is the company hiring?

We have over 50 employees. We will be adding another 15 with the Pascal acquisition. We are not currently hiring, but we would like to add a few people to our sales team later in the year.

Our team has 150-plus years of experience working in the food and beverage industry, with over 30-plus employees in R&D, quality assurance and product development.

Which cannabis companies were hit the hardest due to the COVID19 pandemic?

Because of the financial market’s current volatility given the global pandemic, cannabis companies that may be hit the hardest are the ones who might be looking for new investors to either get a business off the ground or keep a business afloat. Financing has run dry for many companies.

Can cannabis be considered recession-proof?

In cities where cannabis is legal recreationally and medicinally, dispensaries are seeing an unprecedented amount of customer traffic.

In San Francisco, after declaring a “shelter in place” order, the mayor deemed dispensaries an essential business. Other businesses deemed essential include grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations.

In Seattle, dispensaries are hiring. In other states, dispensaries are offering curbside delivery to their customers. Many consumers see cannabis as an essential, so they don’t want to risk losing access during this time of uncertainty.

In some cases, our THC partners are tripling their daily orders. One positive outcome of this is that government officials from states where cannabis is not recreationally legal may rethink their stance on the plant and give their constituents the freedom to use cannabis medicinally or recreationally.

Photo courtesy of SōRSE Technology. 


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