Ep 13: How CBD Actually Works and How to Buy the Best with Evan Hunerberg
Evan Hunerberg is an old friend from my time in DC, marketing pro, and former cannabis entrepreneur. Evan’s former company found a way to extract THCA out of “crude” cannabis, or a low-quality hash. He and his partners saw an opportunity to introduce non-psychoactive cannabis products and psychoactive cannabis products at lower and more specific doses than are currently on the market. This conversation was so valuable because Hunerberg’s got the experience to give us the real deal on the cannabis industry and because he’s no longer in the business there’s no reason for him to hold back.
In our conversation we discussed:
Why he went into the cannabiz
How an afternoon with me in Dolores Park gave him the idea for one of his products
How CBD impacts inflammation
Appropriate CBD dosages
How to not get screwed when shopping for CBD
Why he got out of the business
One of my favorite topics: fecal transplants. Selected quote, “It’s very difficult to buy Amazonian poop.”
How CBD works
“There’s a shitload of different cannabinoids, and they all do slightly different things,” Hunerberg told me. “They all kind of interact with the endocannabinoid system in different ways. And a lot of them they basically get in the way, or disrupt somehow, inflammation pathways. You can see this in the COX-2 interaction. That’s kind of what has been anywhere close to clinically researched. They can actually see the cannabinoid getting in the way of this pathway so it’s disrupting what’s happening in terms of inflammation happening in a particular site. What’s kind of special about it is that for some reason it seems to be interrupting things where inflammation is already occurring, which makes it useful as a replacement for something that’s called a TNF blocker. Which is basically like an immunosuppressant.”
(Learn more about COX-2.)
We talked about he got an idea for one of this products from me when we were hanging out. “We were working on something that was 5 mg,” Hunerberg said. “There’s another company out there, Kiva, that does a lot of stuff in 5 mg. So it seemed to us that we just need to make it easier to take it. They’ve got their combined with espresso beans. We just wanted to simplify the hell out of it. So we were creating these tablets with just a tiny bit of sugar to make them palatable and a binder. It operated more like an altoid. So you’re consuming this thing not for the fun but just for the effects of it. And I gave it to you, and it was a 5 mg thing, and you broke it in half, and it was an eye-opening moment for me, realizing that, oh my God, it’s me and three other dudes, who are all like, 160 lbs plus, testing this stuff out. Half the population is under that weight, and will need a smaller dose to start out. Once we did take it to some conferences and trade events, that’s the stuff that took off, these 2 mg tablets.”
This story took us into dosage guidelines for CBD. Too much and it can tax your liver. Too little and you won’t see any effect. “In terms of dosages, anecdotally, we also saw that 5 mg, 10 mg of CBD is insignificant, and probably placebo effect a lot of the time. Have heard quite often from people who were using it topically that it was actually functioning. And that was one of the most surprising things to me. But if it’s going to absorb and it’s getting into your muscle tissue it does make sense that if you have some kind of arthritis at a joint site it’s going to hit that and do its thing if it is able to penetrate your skin membrane, which, through certain carriers, it’s able to do.”
How to use CBD
“When it comes to ingesting CBD, people are doing it in extremely high doses to get something of an anti-anxiety or anti-inflammatory effect. The other thing is that those can be short-lived. And you’re going to build up a tolerance to them as well. You’re body’s going to get used to the new thing. We always looked at it like a crutch, and not as a vitamin. If you have a specific thing that you’re dealing with, take some CBD, some THCA, whatever it is, but not so that that’s the way you treat your disease, but the way that you take on a healthier lifestyle in general so that you can really get to the roots of these problems. Because these are chemicals that your body is supposed to be making when you’re consuming healthy fats in an otherwise healthy lifestyle -- sleep, stress, food, exercise -- all that. So for us, this was really supposed to be a thing that would help people get back on their way.”
CBD is fat soluble, so Hunerberg recommends taking it with fat to make sure your CBD is bioavailable.
Marketing vs health
We talked about the tension between what your company needs as a Founder and what’s best for consumers. If you’re having chronic inflammation, that’s a sign that something’s broken and CBD should be seen as a Band-Aid and not a cure. But the incentives for the business are such that it’s most profitable to have people use the product like a vitamin. Even when you know it should be used like a crutch.
“I’m really glad we’re having this conversation with me as a post-entrepreneur in the space,” Hunerberg said. “Otherwise this question would be difficult to respond to. It came up as we were developing it. I was working on the marketing and that was already one of the challenges and stuff that my mom brought up with me when I started working on it. It’s a hard thing when you’re a small, new company because you’re trying to get off the ground. And it’s really fucking hard to do that. And so, at that stage, whatever it is, we need people to start buying the thing. There’s other competitors out there. We need to figure out how to create a base. The danger is that you end up setting up your company culture, the way that you speak about the product, the expectations around the product, when you’re in that phase, so there’s this really difficult tightrope to walk in terms of the ethical responsibility of it.”
Things to watch out for when buying CBD
CBD is one of the most regulated OTC products you can buy. Every part of it is tested from the ground to the shelves. However, “We found that there was a lot of problems with the testing facilities,” Hunerberg said. “So, we would get the same stuff tested by the same facility twice and see 20% deviations. What’s happening is that people are testing things a few times, and then just going with the highest number. This problem is not solved yet.”
Hunerberg warns against buying CBD products from states that haven’t yet fully legalized cannabis. “That stuff’s mostly horseshit,” Hunerberg said. “It’s like CBD, coming from a hemp plant. Hemp plants don’t make THC. They do make a little bit of CBD, but not a ton of it. You have to be growing specifically a CBD plant for that to happen. So, I think they’re playing with the language. They have some CBD in it. But it’s not coming from a really concentrated source. And they usually, in those states, don’t have the label the actual quantity. So people see CBD products, and they get excited, but it usually ends up getting cut with something that’s going to have some drowsy effect so that it seems like it has the expected effect. In California, when it says CBD it should be okay, except for those problems with the actual testing numbers that I was talking about. And there’s some CBDs that are cleaner than others too. So some of the extraction process can bring along heavy metals with it. Again, that should be coming out in the testing process. And there’s pretty stringent regulations on what can actually come through in terms of any by-products from the extraction process.”
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