Cannabis company revitalizes a local economy

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Humboldt County, California is world renowned for producing some of the top tier cannabis strains. Socially conscious cannabis company Papa and Barkley, based in Eureka, is stimulating the local economy while utilizing locally grown strains in their product line.

The population of Humboldt is approximately 300,000, with about 28,000 people in Eureka. The town and the surrounding area has fallen on hard times since the logging industry, shipping and lumber companies have left the area. P&B is poised to become a significant employer in Humboldt along with Coast Seafoods and Fox Farms. The company is aware that hiring employees locally makes a positive impact.

Papa and Barkley began as a passion project, explains the company's congenial founder Adam Grossman, in his loft in Eureka, over oysters from Humboldt Bay, while a bartender mixes cannabis-infused cocktails.

"My father, Morton, was bedridden with debilitating back pain. After experimenting with adding various elixirs to high-grade cannabis oil that I purchased from producers in the Emerald Triangle, I eventually concocted what would evolve into Papa & Barkley’s  Releaf Balm," he says. After trying it on himself first, he convinced his father to try it. Within a few months, his father was home from hospice and able to play with his adored, red-nosed pit bull Barkley.

“Barkley and my dad were inseparable. Barkley slept in bed with my dad, under the covers, every night,” Grossman said. “He was a powerful source of love and comfort to my dad.”

Papa Grossman lived for another couple of years. His legacy lives on in the company his son named after him and his best friend. These days, the younger Grossman has a loveable, super snuggly pit bull who embodies the spirit of Barkley and is a bit of a celebrity mascot in his own right.

What started as a way to alleviate his ailing father's pain has grown, according to Economic Development Director Rob Humlund, into the top manufacturing employer in Eureka.

The factory features a seamless mix of human and machinery. In one corner, two young adults work in tandem, harnessing their OCD to perfectly align small plastic squares on a baking tray with a pair of tweezers. Next, 3D printing technology ensures a precision dose of THC squirts onto each of the little pieces of plastic.

The tray then goes into a laminator and creates Papa and Barkley transdermal pain Releaf Patches. Other employees slide the finished plates into a catering dolly and transport them to the packaging area. Elsewhere, attractive hipsters are hand labeling jars of balm; Ice Hash is cooling; peppermint is squirting into an assembly line of salves, and cannabis trim is bubbling in a cauldron.

Drew Highland, the marketing director of Papa and Barkley has lived in Eureka for the past six years. "Very few employers in Humboldt County offer the pay, health care and benefits like P&B. We are now also recruiting professionals to Eureka from out of the area. Bringing new talent and families to the area, as well and hiring and promoting from within, is beneficial to the economy and company morale," he says.

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"We put in a 401(k) plan with matching, early on. Lots of employees are also company shareholders," says Grossman.

Concerning expansion, the company plans to launch Papa & Barkley Essentials, a CBD-only product line, in Colorado this Autumn. Grossman explains in MG, "Essentials will sell a CBD-only formulation subset of our products that can be sold online and in other states. This will give us a chance to build an online presence and sales capability, and extend the brand to folks in states that don’t yet have safe access."

Regarding revenue, there were some bumps in the road for the company, mainly due to regulatory changes. Otherwise, Grossman reports his company is steadily growing at a monthly median rate of 15%.

The legalization movement and flux in compliance regulations has put many small cannabis farms in jeopardy. As mega-growers are starting to take over the industry, legacy small farmers are getting shut out. Generational farmers are getting pushed out by compliance issues, compounded by the devastating forest fires that have raged uncontrollably in Northern California.

When businesses like Papa and Barkley source their cannabis from the smaller, local estate-grown cannabis farms including Sunrise Mountain, it helps to keep them afloat and operational.

The relationship between Papa and Barkley and Sunrise Mountain's owners, Lorelie and Dave Sandomeno is a symbiotic one. You can sense the warmth, genuine friendship and good vibes between them, Grossman, his partner and extraction wizard Guy Rocourt and Highland.

Like Jamaican cannabis, Humboldt cannabis is world-renowned, similarly in part due to its unique microclimate, which is ideally suited for outdoor, sun-grown cannabis cultivation. Sunrise Mountain is situated in the northeastern mountains of Humboldt County, at an elevation of 2500', bordered by national forest.

The nearby Redwood trees are a phenomenal force of nature. The location of the farm contributes to remarkable terpene expression. Their 2018 strain selection includes Sensi Star, Sour Patch Kids and Blueberry Muffin.

P&B contend that most manufacturers on their scale are not sourcing across multiple small farms from one region. Terra from the Humboldt County Growers Alliance explains, "The regions make a difference. Our quality and effectiveness start with quality inputs. With 600 lbs of trim needed each week, that requires a lot of outdoor farms, who predominately grow on small to mid-size scales in Humboldt.

Without manufacturers to distribute, the farmers that took the financial risk to go legal would have a much harder time going to market and surviving this volatile transition."

In addition to helping to preserve heritage farms, this year Papa and Barkley, along with Tilray are silver sponsors of the CannMed conference, which is one sponsorship tier below Tikun Olam and one level above Charlotte's Web.

They also donated to the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, the Sequoia Park Zoo and Food for People, the food bank for Humboldt County. The company also participated in a coastal cleanup with Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), in nearby Arcata, in partnership with Surf Rider at King Salmon Beach, just south of Eureka.

According to NPR, the cleanup removed half a million pounds of trash from California beaches alone, which is the most extensive international beach cleanup to date.

Tourism is the primary industry in Humboldt, with over 2.5 million visitors coming to see the redwoods annually. Therefore, helping to beautify the corridor helps with visitor retention.

Papa and Barkley harvesting the healing power of trees rather than profiting from deforestation is an uplifting boon to the area.

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