In the Limelight with Clarissa Burt interviews Autumn Shelton: Founder of Autumn Brands
You are in the limelight yet again! I have an extraordinary woman entrepreneur and for the very first time, I'm going to be doing an interview on a product I know very little about.
Clarissa: I'm really thrilled to learn more about it because there seems to be a lot of questions going on about what it is and where it's legal. I'm talking to Autumn Shelton from Autumn Brands. Welcome Autumn Shelton and the world of cannabis.
Autumn Shelton: Thank you for having me.
Clarissa: Someone said, “That sounds really like a great interview. What do you know about this?” I said I don't know a lot. But that could be what the interview is about, me asking a lot of questions so she can answer all the knowhow around cannabis. I know lately, there's a lot of brouhaha around cannabis and CBD oil. I was on board with that three, four years ago when it first started to break, before it went mainstream. Now it's in Target and Wal-Mart. I thought it was awesome. I think for those that don't know much about it, the world of cannabis is an enigma.
I'm hoping Autumn can shed some light for us. Tell us more, what are the differences? I understand that you package things differently. Can you send it? Do people have to come to you? How does that all work?
Autumn Shelton: Autumn Brands is essentially a California state-licensed cannabis cultivator. We are 50% women-owned. We focus on health and wellness. All our products are 100% pesticide-free, so you're getting the best product possible. Two families own and operate this company and we're dedicated to creating the highest quality. Today's market for a product that is cannabis, not hemp, can only be sold in the state it is regulated, you cannot cross state lines. Hemp is different. It's not as regulated, you can buy it on the internet and a lot of it comes from other countries. There's a lot of unknowns with hemp.
Clarissa: Is hemp smokeable?
Autumn Shelton: Hemp is smokeable but its primary use is the CBD in it. Whereas with cannabis, it's all about the cannabinoids. The cannabis plant has over 100 cannabinoids, CBD, and THC. THC is the one that can give you a euphoric high. Those are only two of the main ones. There are hundreds that give different benefits. Cannabis also has terpenes, they are what gives it the unique smell every single strain may have. Terpenes are also lavender, citrus, basil, or oregano, things you smell and provide unique health benefits. In school, we learned about the 11 organs, but we didn't learn about the endocannabinoid system we have in our bodies because they didn't figure it out until the early 1990s. Our bodies actually have receptors to THC and CBD. They regulate our bodies when something is out of balance. That's why you see so many benefits with anti-inflammatory, pain relief, seizures, you name it.
Clarissa: I know people speak highly of it. They use it for medicinal purposes and there has been documentation behind this. Is there a difference between top quality, indoor, sun-grown cannabis as opposed to being grown differently.
Autumn Shelton: Cannabis can be grown either outdoors in the ground or in pots. We grow in greenhouses, which is more of a hydroponic system also in pots. There's indoor, which is Like a warehouse. All three can produce great products. It's consumers' preference for the taste, smell and how it's produced. Typically, an indoor product is going to be a little denser, maybe higher in THC because it's always under lights. Whereas a greenhouse is the perfect blend of both because you're getting outdoor natural sunlight creating a natural product. It's better protected than being out in the elements.
Clarissa: Are there different strains? Are there different potencies in the cannabis world?
Autumn Shelton: There are hundreds of different, unique strains all with there own terpenes, smells, tastes, and smoke-ability. You may get a high CBD plant with low THC or vice versa. THC can range anywhere from 12% to above 30%. 18% to 22% is going to give you a mellow high, below 18% you're not going to feel, above 22% you're going to feel the effects.
Clarissa: Tell me the difference between cannabis and hash. Back in the day, hash was known to be really potent. Am I right?
Autumn Shelton: Yes, because it's the residues left of the cannabis plant. So, it's not the flower it's more of a concentrated form of it. Today you see multiple concentrated forms, oils, sauces, and dab-ables, which are actually really good. You're seeing a lot of products out there that are extracting the CBD or THC, losing all benefits of other cannabinoids and terpenes. You would want to see whole-plant extraction.
Clarissa: Can you talk about the edibles and what goes into an edible? Is every strain good or is it a lighter high?
Autumn Shelton: Edible companies are all going to be different. You'll find some that will make it strain specific. Most companies use cannabis oil that is added to the chocolate, gummy, or whatever it might be. You're just going to get a natural high. Now, edibles are better than they ever were because it's done in a commercial kitchen and better regulated. You can microdose and know how much you're getting in every single piece. The problem with edibles is it takes a while to affect you. Oftentimes, people will say, “Maybe I should just have a little bit more and a little bit more.” You can certainly take too many and overdo it.
Autumn Shelton: You can't overdose but you're certainly going to zonk yourself out and lose the purpose. There are different ways to consume cannabis, whether it's tinctures, edibles, smoking the flower, or topical. Topical is a great way for medical purposes, especially if you have any type of pain or inflammation. You're not going to get high from it unless it's a transdermal one like a patch. Those can certainly get into your bloodstream. The majority give you the benefits without the high. As a mom, I'm constantly picking up my almost 4-year-old while currently pregnant and I get neck pain from being on a computer all day. So, I use a one to one ratio of THC to CBD. 100 to 150 milligrams each with lotion and I'll use that. It takes away the pain right away.
Clarissa: Do you feel any alteration from that at all? Is that just for the pain or is it mind-altering?
Autumn Shelton: No, the topicals aren't strong enough. The THC is what gives you pain relief. Our systems don't actually have a direct receptor to CBD, so you need THC to provide extra benefits.
Clarissa: Help me understand the regulation around cannabis. It's legal in some places and it's illegal in other places. I'm truly confused about that.
Autumn Shelton: Yeah, cannabis is definitely very complicated. California put the regulations into place in January of 2018, went through a year of changing the regulations and interpretations continue to get changed. That becomes very frustrating, at the local level we're also going through that. Regulations didn't get put into place until the end of the year. Every state is different, some only allow for medical, some allow for adult use, others have banned it altogether. New states are coming online every single day. The regulations in place are important. A cultivator can't sell to anybody, they have to sell through a distributor. The distributor has to lab test it. The lab test has to test for pesticides, heavy metals, and numerous other things that could be harmful to you. You have to pass that test in order for it to reach the retailer, which is a dispensary or a delivery service.
Autumn Shelton: It's an important chain of command that it has to go through to ensure it doesn't fall into the hands of our children but into the hands of adults.
Clarissa: I see you have vaping cartridges, which I guess is healthier vaping.
Autumn Shelton: Vape cartridges are definitely the hot topic in the news there are issues for nicotine and cannabis as well. The problem is a lot of black-market cartridges or companies aren't using proper hardware. We use hardware that is C cell, that way there are no heavy metals reaching into the oil, which some companies have seen. This has caused people issues, they've cut their THC in their oils with vitamin E or different things that have caused issues. Ours is 100% THC oil and natural terpenes.
Clarissa: Then is your product considered organic?
Autumn Shelton: We can't use the word organic because it's federally illegal but California is working out a program
Clarissa: I'm winging this one, I really want to know. It's one of those things I keep asking people and I never get a straight answer. It's OK here but not there. There are people in other states doing a bunch of time in jail for it. It must feel like the wild, wild west to you.
Autumn Shelton: It's in this limbo of transition. It's going to take a number of years for us to get through it. When alcohol came out of prohibition, it was every state at one time, whereas the states have taken upon themselves to slowly get out of cannabis prohibition. You're seeing issues at different levels and not everybody is on the same page. It will take time, unfortunately. People in states that don't have it legal are frustrated and have to travel or move to another state in order to get their medicine.
Clarissa: There is the frustration of not being able to get medicinal cannabis from another state. If they want to come in from Arizona to California and bring it back over state lines, that's illegal?
Autumn Shelton: Yes. Even if those states are legal, you cannot take California cannabis across a state line because of the federal prohibition. Once that opens up, perhaps the states will allow for it, but that's still unknown as well.
Clarissa: Is that a crime you can get time for?
Autumn Shelton: I don't know exactly, it's more of a federal issue. So, yes, you can. It's not a state issue, it really comes down to federal
Clarissa: Listening to you in the last 15 minutes, it sounds like this is a phenomenal place to be, but a challenging place to be from an entrepreneurial perspective, right?
Autumn Shelton: I always say growing an agricultural product is tough, growing a federally illegal product, that's where most can't get banking. We, fortunately, do have banking. There's a tax code because it's federally illegal we can't write off normal expenses. You can only write off your cost of goods sold. You have to be very smart with your money and prepare and hoard dollars that you have because you're going to pay more taxes than anybody else. On top of that, you're limited to your one state and then you can be a brand. You're limited to retailers within that state that are licensed and are also having to go through the regulatory process. There are many challenges in this industry that are unique to anything else. This is by far not for the light of heart. This is definitely a long term plan.
Clarissa: What keeps you doing it? Is it a passion project for you? Is it because at the end of the day, there is some great money to be made?
Autumn Shelton: Just a little bit of all that. I'm very passionate about this plant. We get endless e-mails from people on how it's changed their lives. To be a part of that is incredible. To be part of a new and emerging industry that's always changing, as difficult as that is. It's also an opportunity to create a stable life for my family doing something I'm really proud of.
Clarissa: In all of this, you told us you're pregnant! Congratulations! When are you due?
Autumn Shelton: Thank you! I'm due in eight weeks.
Clarissa: How do you juggle it all? There is no real balance because I don't believe in balance. You may not believe in it either, but do you have help? I mean, that's a lot. It's a lot to run this business and then have little ones running around the house, plus a newborn.
Autumn Shelton: It is a lot. I do feel quite balanced when I'm not pregnant. Being pregnant, I'm all out of whack for sure. It's much harder to be pregnant, chasing after an almost-four-year-old, than it was just being pregnant the first time. It's stressful. It's hard to find ways to decompress when things like drinking wine, having a joint or exercising can't be done. It is hard to find that balance. But, doing things that you love, that are helping other people, you find a way to enjoy the whole process and know it's, again, a long term plan that will benefit.
Clarissa: Is your farm open to the public and can people come to visit you or you do you not encourage that? How can people find you? And let's tell everybody what your Website is.
Autumn Shelton: Our farm does invite-only tours. We do love to share what we do and be an open book. Our Website is AutumnBrands.com and we have a store locator on there. You can find where we are at any dispensary throughout the state of California. You can find our products. We sell a flower line, a premium line, and a big cartridge.
Clarissa: That's just amazing stuff. When I get back to Santa Barbara, I'm going to look you up and check this out for myself, because I'd love to see it if you'll have me. Honestly, I didn't know much, now I know a lot more than I did before. Thanks for being In The Limelight. Autumn, I really enjoyed having you on.
Autumn Shelton: Thank you so much for having me.
Clarissa: We'll talk to you again soon. ✧