How William Kleidon Is Using Cannabidiol Extract to Promote Human Health and a Triple Bottom Line
I first met Will Kleidon on the roof of the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas at a Julian Marley concert. His mane of blond dreadlocks swaying to the rhythm of Marley’s sounds, he yelled over the music, “Wanna dose of my CBD extract?”
Slightly skeptical of random people offering me drugs, I asked, “Is it going to get me really high?”
“It won’t get you high – there’s less than .3 percent THC in it – but it will balance your endocannabinoid system and elevate your body, mind and soul!” the enthusiastic hippie sang with a toothy grin. Not exactly sure what that meant, I accepted his offer.
Surprisingly, Will is the founder and CEO of Ojai Energetics, a Cannabidiol supplement company dedicated to creating quality medicines, conducting socially equitable business and cultivating ecologically regenerative supply chains. In 2011, he and his team were certified as the first Benefit Corporation in the Cannabidiol space.
The Tantalizing Benefits of CBD
As Will explained to me that night in Vegas, Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a chemical in marijuana responsible for many of its medicinal benefits. But it doesn’t get you high (Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, takes care of that).
There have been myriad testimonies about the benefits of CBD from patients with terrible illnesses like multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, arthritis and cancer. New York University’s Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is currently conducting a clinical trial of the effects of Epidiolex, a CBD-derived pharmaceutical, on patients with epilepsy. However, to date, there is a lack of clinical studies in the U.S.
“We don’t make any health claims around disease because we are a supplement company,” says Kleidon, “but there has been a lot of research in Israel and Spain, and there definitely needs to be more.”
Due to federal marijuana prohibition, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) holds restrictions on clinical trials of cannabis-based drugs. But this is changing. Even Alabama recently relaxed laws on the medical use of CBD extracts. “We can do it [research] on other health benefits,” Kleidon says, “trials show that CBD increases neurogenesis in multiple regions of the brain and that has been clinically proven.”
It can be difficult for patients to obtain or pay for CBD extracts. Insurance companies claim there is a lack of sound evidence to support medicinal benefits of the substance and don’t cover related expenses.
Pushback From the FDA
Ojai Energetics has sold thousands of bottles of water soluble CBD products at $75 an ounce. That’s not cheap, but the company has a sliding scale for people who could benefit from but are unable to afford the extracts, which is part of its socially responsible ethos.
On the production side, they also promote equitable working conditions. “We are constantly putting pressure on our supply chain to innovate and generate fair trade especially for ingredients like Acerola, which are grown in areas where that’s more of a concern,” says the dreadlocked CEO.
Despite the potential for CBD supplement companies like Ojai Energetics to increase accessibility to medicines that can help reduce seizures in epileptics, alleviate hardships for cancer and chemotherapy patients, and boost the immune system, pharmaceutical companies and some members of the government argue that CBD extracts should be solely for pharmaceutical distribution.
“On the legal front, there is an opinion at the FDA that CBD wasn’t legally marketed as a supplement before it was studied as a drug,” explains Kleidon. “The issue with that opinion is that there is a lot of counter evidence that demonstrates that’s actually not the case.”
The FDA recently warned several CBD supplement companies that their products, in their opinion, are not technically supplements as defined in section 201(ff) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(ff)(3)(B)(ii)], and the way in which they are marketing the supplements may infringe on the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies. “The law was designed to create an incentive for companies that spend $30 million on an IND [Investigational New Drug] for a novel compound or process of a compound,” Kleidon says. “They want to rest assured that a chemist won’t just come in and knock it off as supplement.”
Advocates of “open source” CBD argue that hemp, and its inherent CBD, has been used as a remedy for thousands of years, “way back in the day, before 201(ff),” says Kleidon. Pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t be able to “get exclusivity of sale over the compound,” he adds.
Will is not concerned about potential FDA restrictions. “You know what is gonna happen?” he says. “It will be like fish oil. You can get a prescription for fractionated 99 percent omega-3 fish oil and you can go to the health food store and get a supplement of fractionated omega-3 fish oil. It’s not like pharmaceutical companies invented fish oil or hemp… We’ve got the entire industry with a coalition and some great attorneys working on it and they’re confident about our position.”
Although there has been increasing interest in the health benefits of cannabis from pharmaceutical companies and almost half the States in America permit its medical use, marijuana is not federally legal. How can a company like Ojai Energetics ensure that they don’t cross any red tape and end up on the wrong side of the law?
As its founder explains, Ojai Energetics’ supplements are “not really in the medical cannabis space, we are in the nutraceutical and hemp industry.” Kleidon adds, “The CSA [Controlled Substance Act] clearly exempts hemp from the controlled substances list. So, legally, anything that is a derivative of something not on that list is not illegal.”
To be legally considered a hemp extract, the product must contain 0.3 percent or less THC and, until recently, come from the stock and stem of the cannabis plant.
“The Farm Bills of 2014 and 2015 actually redefined hemp as the whole plant and some people take that to mean domestic hemp-grows are now legal. However, our attorneys have not found that to mean a green light for interstate commerce of U.S. grown hemp,” Kleidon says. “So for the time being, we are sticking with hemp grown outside of the U.S., which has long been legal in all 50 states including the CBD within that.”
Ojai Energetics imports their CBD from Northern Europe. “The product is actually imported through customs, checked for THC content and then declared as CBD oil. So, there is definitely no federal controlled substance issue,” says Kleidon.
In addition to the CEO’s knowledge of the U.S. government’s hemp regulations, he is a seasoned green thumb. “I myself am a permaculture designer,” he says proudly. He is incorporating both his cultivation expertise and beliefs in environmental and social justice into his business.
“Monsanto has a GMO hemp strain and consumers definitely want to be aware… The genetics will terminate and become sterile. So, basically they will have control and monetization of that crop,” Will says with warning. “We have done our due diligence, it took a while to find a source that really was organically done.”
Growing organically is important, but Ojai Energetics wants to take it to the next level of sustainability. “We plan on implementing different practices like permaculture, vertical farming and advanced soil science to go beyond organic,” the eco-conscious CEO says. “It [hemp] is definitely a plant that can be part of a water smart, regenerative, sustainable polyculture, system in multiple climates all across the planet.
“We ensure that we are doing our best to minimize our impact in every single detail…from seed to extract, including our waste product, which we are going to distribute as a material to build hempcrete. Hempcrete is made of the stocks and stems of hemp mixed with lime and it’s a fire proof, waterproof, antimicrobial, antifungal, air-purifying, carbon sequestering building material that is as strong as concrete!”
Through his hemp-based business, Will Kleidon shares his passion for environmental sustainability, fair trade and helping people live happier healthier lives. “[Hemp] really provides this immense amount of abundance and harvest in multiple sections of living from health, to food, to clothing, to building materials,” he said. “We hope to inspire everyone in multiple spaces to take on the triple bottom line.”