Paul Botto Speaks Candidly with Forbes’ Warren Bobrow

Forbes Magazine

President Of Lucid Green Digs Into Five Revealing Questions

Lucid Green President & Co-Founder, Paul Botto

Warren Bobrow=WB: Why cannabis? What brought you to this path?

Paul Botto=PB: I had a catastrophic leg injury where I nearly had my leg amputated and was in the hospital for over two weeks. When I came out of the hospital, I was immediately put on 48mg of Dilaudid, which is 2.5x the clinical definition of “opiate dependency.” I heard you could treat pain and wean yourself off of opiates much faster through cannabis. With five surgeries, 23 screws, and three plates stacked up against me, I set out to learn about its benefits and experiment on myself to get off that killer cocktail as soon as humanly possible. This happened nearly three years ago, when the market was even more nascent than it is now. I was so impressed with my own recovery experience with cannabis that I was determined to turn it into  my next business. While I was raising capital for the new venture and building out a retail team, my business partner Larry Levy, who I worked with at my last company in supply chain data technology, called me and excitedly pitched his idea for us to go into business together. Coincidentally, he had the same idea to make the leap into the cannabis industry. After I told him what happened since we had last spoken, he yelled, “Brilliant! I mean, sorry about your leg, but it is an even better fit than I had hoped!”

Larry’s vision was to make cannabis more transparent for consumers and give them the knowledge they needed at the moment of truth (purchase and consumption) to have a safe, predictable, and enjoyable experience. Three years ago, I had to go through a series of trial and error to figure out which products were the right fit for my recovery. I also had to filter through a mountain of information and often misleading marketing schemes before I could buy with confidence. Larry and I both saw a need for trustworthy educational resources that provided clarity regarding product testing, dosages, and effects. It was a perfect match and we started the company just a few weeks later.

WB: Please tell me about what you do? What is your corporate six month and twelve month goals?

PB: As the President of Lucid Green, I handle sales, retail onboarding, partnerships, marketing, product application, and analytics. Honestly, all the way down to sweeping the floors if that’s what needs to be done. In six months, we want Lucid Green on 25% of cannabis products sold in every market we operate in. In twelve months, 40%.

WB: What obstacles do you face right now? How do you foresee removing those obstacles?  What new market do you want to capture? 

PB: The biggest obstacle is the nature of the industry itself. It is young, and thanks to Uncle Sam, margins are far lower than most people would expect. Regulatory hurdles have also led to a fragmented landscape for operations systems, technology infrastructure, sales/marketing strategies and even basic branding. Many processes remain analog and are difficult if not impossible to measure and improve. So while the experienced executives in the industry love to see a service like Lucid Green plugging in those holes, many companies are not structured to just flip a switch and integrate us into their operations.

Lucid Green channels Papa & Barkley

The way we move through these obstacles is to have patience and methodically work with each brand’s distinct internal systems and corporate structure. Lucid Green is set on proving the value of trust and transparency in the marketplace and providing retailers with the tools to deliver those values to their customers in concrete ways. We ultimately provide solutions to quantifiable retail questions like how do I hit my launch numbers for a new product? How do I bring on 200 new retailers? How do I expand month-over-month sales at the top retailers? How do I connect directly to consumers to build my brand loyalty? How do I inject life into a lagging product line?

The state-by-state regulatory markets are the obvious ones and they are truly the usual suspects since our brand partners are often asking us to help them penetrate growing state markets. As a result of our current and new brand partners, we are expanding into CBD reporting in the coming months as well.

WB: What opportunities do you see opening up in the current market?

PB: The opportunity is really coming from the consumer wallet. After recent safety concerns, they are demanding products where they can easily verify testing results, ingredient quality, and manufacturing practices. Customers are also asking for clearer guidance on dosage and ways to track and identify what really works for them since results can be so personal.Brands that speak to them, appreciate them, and reward them for their loyalty; they want educated budtenders that can deliver value to newbies and cannabis experts alike. The market has finally realized that delivering all of this essential knowledge and functionality right off the package itself is the right way to do it. You have customers holding your very own packaging at the moment of purchase and consumption and if they armed with all of the above, why not let it sell that last mile for you?

WB: What is your take on the recent vape crisis? How can Lucid Green help educate consumers?

PB: The vape crisis has certainly raised awareness that something needs to be done to protect and guide consumers in a more proactive, convenient, and attainable way. Many brands have statements about their vape products not containing vitamin E acetate, myclobutanil, and other compounds connected to some of these terrible outcomes.  The problem with this method of communication is that consumers generally do not have the time to jump through hoops and chase scattered pieces of information required to make a responsible buying decision, they just won’t buy it.

Educating the budtender, who interfaces with consumers more than any other representative of the cannabis industry, is a start, but giving the budtender an easy and measurable way to pass on that critical information is an essential, and often missing, component of the retail experience.  Finally, and maybe most importantly, allowing consumers access to that information easily either while browsing independently or when they are back at home alone with no one to guide them.

This article was originally featured in Forbes on October 31, 2019


Ionic uses Lucid Green technology to give consumers full insight into the safety of the product they’re using.

Bezinga

Cannabis Execs On Vaping Illnesses: Black Market To Blame

As of Oct. 1, 1,080 cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Forty-eight states and one U.S. territory have announced cases of lung disease associated with vaping, and there have been 19 confirmed deaths, with the latest being a 17-year-old boy in the Bronx, New York City whose death was reported Tuesday.

Although research has not yet found a specific chemicals responsible for the outbreak, the CDC is recommending a halt on all vaping consumption while an investigation is ongoing.

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While the Trump administration announced a plan to ban all flavored e-cigarettes from the market, some states like Massachusetts have banned vaping sales altogether in response to the public health concerns.

Of 578 patients with information on the substances they used, about 78% reported using THC-containing products, and 37% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products, the CDC said.

A recent NBC News investigation found toxic substances like hydrogen cyanide and vitamin E acetate in 13 out of 15 THC products purchased on the black market in California.

The same research found no toxic substances in three legal products that were also tested.

As the situation escalates and physicians remain in the dark as to the scientific reasons behind the epidemic, Benzinga reached out to two of the most prominent legal vaping brands for their take on the subject.

TILT Holdings COO: No Dramatic Effect On Sales

Tim Conder, COO of TILT Holdings (OTC: TLLTF) said his company has not seen a decrease in sales since the so-called “vaping crisis” became publicly known.

TILT owns and operates Jupiter Research, a brand that sells and develops vaping products, including THC-filled cartridges.

TILT generates over 70% of its revenue from vaping equipment and oils since the acquisition of Jupier in early 2019, according to a recent report by MJBizDaily.

This level of exposure to the vaping market puts it second only to Greenlane Holdings GNLN 2.48%, which reported $181 million in annual revenue, with 80% coming from the vaping industry, versus TILT’s $98 million.

“The most important thing is to continue to offer our highest standards from manufacturing on our end and then to provide transparency into that process for our customers,” Conder said.

Consumers should “demand transparency throughout the supply chain” and have an understanding of where the hardware is manufactured and under what guidelines the cannabis extracts have been produced, he said.

The company is not expecting these events to heavily affect the development of the cannabis vaping industry in the long term, the COO said.

“From our perspective, we foresee a very robust vaping industry from the cannabis end, and we look forward to the growth of that part of the market,” Conder said.

The biggest takeaway from the outbreak of lung illness will be the strengthening of brands and operators that have the tightest adherence to safe production practices, accompanied by an understanding of the importance of regulation to ensure consumer safety, he said.

Ionic Brands CEO: Pay Attention To Ingredients

The overall industry has seen a decrease of between 15% to 18% in sales of legal vaping products for recreational use since the outbreak of vaping related illnesses emerged in August, Ionic Brands Corp (OTC:IONKF) CEO and Chairman John Gorst told Benzinga.

The Headset platform is showing a decline of cannabis vape sales of 5.1% in California and 6.2% in Colorado.

Between 75% and 80% of the lost vape share is going to flower, which has seen sales increases of 3.8% and 5.1% in California and Colorado, respectively, according to MJBizDaily.

Ionic Brands has not yet seen these numbers reflected in its own sales in most of the states where it operates, Gorst said.

“The black market is probably going to be the one that’s impacted the most by this information,” he said, adding that an underregulated market is the main culprit of the lung disease outbreak.

“Anytime you have unregulated markets, you’re going to have a higher percentage of bad actors and people that are not following the rules.”

In order to ensure the safety of its products, Ionic has partnered with Lucid Green and other providers to supply customers with updated lab information on the chemical composition of each product, including ingredients, cannabinoids and possible toxicity. This gives consumers a full insight into the safety of the product they’re using, Gorst said.

“Inhaling any type of products in your lungs is not exactly healthy. But we believe that vaping with a reputable company is still safer than smoking flower,” the CEO said, adding that he is advising consumers to stay vigilant for black market products from unlicensed sellers.

Safeguarding In The Legal Industry

Both execs said they’re confident that buying legal products from reputable brands at licensed retailers should guarantee a safe vaping experience.

Cannalysis, a California testing lab, recently developed a new method for identifying vitamin E acetate, which is believed to be one of the main agents responsible for the vaping-related illnesses.

The response to the illnesses has been almost too reactionary and alarmist, said Swetha Kaul, Ph.D, Cannalysis’ chief scientific officer.

The California Department of Public Health recently issued a statement urging citizens to refrain from vaping altogether.

Legal brands are taking the right approach to the recent outbreak, Kaul said.

Many licensed operators showed immediate interest in testing for vitamin E acetate after the compound was identified in 55% of the initial cases, she said.

“The legal cannabis industry has extremely rigorous testing requirements. In California, we are required to test cannabis products for heavy metals, pesticides, residual solvents, microbial contamination, water activity, moisture content and foreign materials. These testing requirements mean that legal cannabis in California is safer to consume than some fruits and vegetables.”

This article was originally featured on Bezinga on October 8, 2019