Stop by Torrey Holistics on Thursday, 1/23 from 12-2pm to meet Nate Ferguson, “Master Extractor” and Co-Founder of Jetty Extracts. Nate is one of the industry’s most accomplished cannabis extractors and the creative force behind all of Jetty’s oils and concentrates. The former San Diegan will be on hand to answer your questions and share his wisdom about vape, cannabinoids, and all things cannabis.
TORREY: What sparked your interest in cannabis? What’s your history working in the cannabis industry?
NATE: I think one of the main things that sparked my interest in cannabis is, you know, it’s a medicinal herb. I’ve always been drawn to it even from a younger age, my mother was always quicker to give me willow bark than Aspirin if I had a headache. So just knowing and appreciating plants for what they can do medicinally and plant medicine is really something that’s always piqued my interest and something I’ve always believed in. And then obviously seeing cannabis and what it’s done in the counterculture movement and in society, where it’s been in history, it’s just a really interesting plant, it’s got a lot of really cool history behind it, too. So all of that is really what sparked my interest to get into the industry.
When I first moved to California, I would say over 10 years ago, I think in 2009, there was a big, I guess kind of “rush”—you know the Green Rush is happening, it was Prop 215, people were opening up dispensaries. When we first moved we had our medical recommendations and we ordered a medicated brownie and some flower and asked the delivery driver when he came to our house, “how would you start one of these, how would you do it?” and he’s like “I don’t know man, just do it.” So from there it was really just figuring it out and opening up a retail store in San Diego 10 years ago, and from that spawned different grows, delivery services, indoor grows, outdoor grows in Northern California, into the extract company and that all folded in Jetty Extracts eventually.
TORREY: Why was Jetty founded and what is its mission?
NATE: I think one of the main reasons again is because we appreciate the plant and plant medicine. When we first started the company, we saw the extract market growing. We saw—especially vaporizers—the hardware wasn’t that good. People were cutting their vaporizer pens with a lot of different cutting agents at that time and we didn’t really want to smoke it, we didn’t know what was in it so we just felt better if we did it ourselves. We knew the farmer sources and we figured out how to make oil and how to make a pure oil and put it into a vaporizer, so that’s the driving force to this day is to make a really pure, clean product that represents the plant truly and not add anything. The only things we take away are the impurities, but we want to highlight the good attributes and terpenes and cannabinoids the plant gives us.
TORREY: How has the industry changed since the pre-rec [recreational] days?
NATE: It’s changed a lot [laughs]. It was easier to operate in the pre-rec days. There wasn’t as much regulation, there wasn’t as much red tape, and things moved faster. We tested always at the beginning, but it didn’t have to move logistically through a licensed distribution into certain distribution paths, to the licensed retailers all over the state, the track and trace [system] all the way from the farmer essentially to the oil, to the manufacturer, to the retailer—none of that existed. Everything was a lot more free-flowing and easier to operate. And it brought competition that wasn’t really here so it made you be better because there was more competition. There were hundreds of manufacturers and concentrate brands at that point so we were all kind of figuring it out together and there was more cohesiveness and also a little more of like a friendly competitive edge as far as making a good, cleaner, purer product, and I think that made us better. But these days—you know, I don’t want to say completely soulless—but there’s bigger companies coming in that are more for the bottom line and don’t really understand cannabis, and just see it strictly as a profit-play. Seeing that different dynamic come into the industry now has been enlightening, too.
TORREY: So now that Prop 64 has passed, what sorts of challenges are you facing now? Is it the increased competition, or some of the regulations?
NATE: Yeah, it’s definitely regulations and it’s cost. It costs much more to do business and stay in business with a compliance officer, a METRC [Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance] person—all these people on staff that we didn’t really need that regulation has imposed on us and been a crazy headache. They don’t exactly know how to regulate cannabis, so we seem to get scrutinized whether it be from our local municipality all the way to the state. We seem to always get kind of the short end of the stick when it comes to leeway, where other industries that are more established—that maybe manufacture or refine different chemicals that are more dangerous—I don’t even think have the type of regulation we have. So, it’s definitely difficult but yeah, probably the biggest challenge is the financial challenges and the compliance challenges. It’s just a lot harder to be a company in the space these days.
TORREY: What makes Jetty’s vape cartridges and concentrates stand out from the rest? You mentioned them being free of those residual solvents and things like that, but is there anything about the terpenes, or design of the cartridge that is notable to Jetty?
NATE: We are one of the few, if not the only one that has the wood tip, which is sustainable sandalwood which we really like. In other industries when they’re using that wood there’s the little odd cuttings that actually get reused to make the tips which give it a little more natural feel, which we really like. So trying to be as sustainable as possible is definitely something that we take seriously and is a differentiator. And as far as our oils and concentrates in general, like I said it’s part of our ethos to always keep it as pure and only what the plant gives us as our main driver in our product, and that’s everything from the terpenes—and there’s more than just the terpenes that we find that we isolate—there’s all these other aromatics that are responsible for flavor and smell and the nose of the extract. There’s esters, there’s phenols, and all these other compounds that do a really good job and one of our main focuses since the start of the company is how do we preserve these terpenes and these other aromatics and really bring them out and make them better? So that’s a main driver, we have an R&D [Research & Development] department, a PhD chemist, and he’s pretty much solely dedicated to the flavor compounds and the terpenes of the plant. And beyond that, us extracting and isolating other minor cannabinoids is something that we do and do well. And something that makes us different is our THCV line, I don’t know of too many other companies that have a THCV line—and we have probably one of the best ratios in the world when it comes to THCV. These rare cannabinoids—we do Delta-8, we’re going to be doing CBN, things like that that give people a chance to try something different that makes them feel different and potentially makes them feel better. As far as the cartridge design goes we’re using CCELL which is top of the line, ceramic internal coils—obviously people have heard about the cartridges themselves being contaminated and ours are made in GMP [Good Manufacturing Practice] facilities. So the cartridges are really high end, really clean, and we’re constantly sourcing for better hardware that will not only preserve flavor, give you a better hit, but being safe as far as the hardware and knowing where they’re sourcing the components for the vape cartridges is really important to us as well. All that from cartridge design, we have the Dablicator which is something that we designed internally to get rid of the stigma when you’re dabbing with a syringe and a way to easily dab oil. You can use it under your tongue, you can use it for many things—you can put it on flower; you can put it on a joint. But a Dablicator is a really cool thing that’s proprietary to us and a really cool oil-dispensing device. And the sourcing of the input products, the biomass itself—I’m out there, if not our representatives are out on the farm making sure these farmers are doing everything compliant, but beyond that making sure everything is organic and there isn’t any pesticide that, say, isn’t on the California list that is being used up there. And we’re really working hand-in-hand with the farmers to make sure they share the same values and love for the plant that we do.
TORREY: Jetty has a lot of really awesome different types of products, can you speak a little to what sets the Gold Line apart from the rest?
NATE: The Gold Line is the same formulation for all the different form factors, so between PAX, the 510 CCELL and the Dablicator it’s the same formulation and it’s got cannabis-derived terpenes and triple-distilled cannabinoids so essentially we do a triple distillation process to ultra-purify our oil and get the potencies as high as we can and cleanse out any of the impurities that you don’t want in the oil. We do in-house terpene extraction—we do that cryogenically, so again I talk about preserving the terpenes and the other compounds that are responsible for the flavor, and that’s been again an R&D focus and a driver for us for many years.
TORREY: Can you tell me a little about the Shelter Project and why it was founded?
NATE: The Shelter Project was something that kind of just—like everything with us—grew organically. We had some friends that were sick. One of our co-founders, Ron, his friend had brain cancer and wanted something to alleviate the symptoms and possibly help out. And we had this great oil; we didn’t know if it would work for sure, but we were like hey, let’s give it a shot and that snowballed into us creating a program called the Shelter Project which was essentially modeled after Tom Hughes [?] in the pre-rec days where it was one for you, one for cancer we called it. For every gram we sold we would donate a gram, and we donated I think over a million dollars at retail [value] of cannabis oil. And there were people that were really dependent on that and the rec market kind of changed that, but yeah the Shelter Project’s been something that we’re very proud of and we’re happy that SB34 passed and hopefully open that back up to the state again very soon.
TORREY: How, in general, does Jetty incorporate social responsibility and sustainable practices into its company goals and business practices?
NATE: Again, that’s just part of our ethos and something we believe in. We always try to be as sustainable as possible and that is in the packaging side of things, in the hardware side of things, and we’re always thinking how to be as green as possible and the biodegradable packaging we have now is one of our solutions. We’ve ho-hummed back and forth, recyclable versus biodegradable—which one is better. Not everybody is going to recycle the package so biodegradable was the better answer to that. So yeah, the package is fully biodegradable and as far as the hardware goes, like I said we’re using that sandalwood tip and that’s being upcycled from the cut-off ends of other manufacturers. The vape cartridge itself has been challenging but we’re constantly looking for a solution to actually recycle or upcycle that vape cartridge, and the challenge would be that there’s residual amounts of THC oil so a lot of the standard recycling companies that would take a vape cartridge, won’t because of the residual amounts of THC. We’ve talked about trying to clean it but that’s a big pain-staking process. There’s a few companies that we’re in talks with that possibly it could happen sooner rather than later, but it really needs to happen in the industry. Everything is on our minds as far as lithium-based batteries—do we need them or is there a more sustainable way to ignite the cartridge and heat the cartridge? We’ve got some smart engineers that work with us and we’re always trying to figure out a way to help and be more sustainable.
TORREY: Are there any new types of products that Jetty is working on that you are excited about in particular?
NATE: Yeah, there’s a lot of new products for 2020 that we’re very excited about. Our main focus is live resin, there can be many products from live material. It’s kind of a win-win for the farmers because they don’t have to dry it and cure it, have a trim scene or send it out for trimming. So for them, they’re just cutting it down and doing a light trim, getting it off the stem and freezing it, so their post-processing is cut down. So for a lot of our small farmers, it helps them with the cost of post-processing and mitigates that cost a lot. That’s a win for them; for us, it extracts better, we get a better terpene content, better terpene preservation. Our chemist was saying recently that there’s over 50% more terpenes in the fresh cannabis than there is in dried and cured cannabis because you lose so much in the drying and curing process as far as flavor and aromatics. So for us it’s more flavorful product and there’s all these terpenes that you wouldn’t really get in dried, cured cannabis but are new to us. So that’s really exciting, on the R&D side. And the product—just for the consumer it makes a better product in the end and a tastier product. We’ll have live resin in PAX, Dablicators that are out now, more in concentrate jars, sauce, diamonds, live batter, and then we’re going to be having live resin 510s here very soon, along with a solventless line we’re going to be coming out within 2020 as well.
TORREY: Where do you see the industry in general going within the next year, and even further down the line, 5 years from now?
NATE: It’s been hard to have a long-term plan in this industry, it’s getting better and better but the next year is still going to be very challenging. Compliance is—we’re getting through it, but they’re still throwing more amended regs [regulations] at us, things are still kind of shaping up, we’re figuring out a lot of things so I think this next year is going to be hard for a lot of companies and we’re still fighting for survival just like a lot of other companies. We’ve been hearing a lot about layoffs in the industry, and the growth side of the market really slowing down. A lot of companies, including ourselves, have to tighten our belts and focus and put our heads down. So I think this next year is going to be tough for a lot of companies, you might see less at the end of the year than there are now and less new companies coming online so I think the industry is going to be smaller, I think you’re going to see more consolidation, whether it be at the retail side, retailers maybe merging—we’re seeing that on the distribution side, we’re seeing that in the manufacturing side, so I think a lot more consolidation in the industry we’ll see over the year and then that kind of goes into the next 5 years. Hopefully in the next 5 years I’d love to see federal legalization, that would be a dream come true.