We had the chance to chat with John Sedillo about his company Family Hemp Brands and what makes New Mexico such a unique region for growing the cannabis plant. John also plans to expand into the adult-use cannabis market with cultivation and retail. We believe John Sedillo is one of the leading experts in craft hemp and cannabis products coming out of New Mexico.
How would you describe your relationship with the cannabis plant?
When you have a long relationship with any belief, practice or person it adds to the complexity of the relationship. My relationship with cannabis is both long and complex as well. Over the span of 32 years in working with the cannabis plant, I have felt intrigued, inspired, empowered, enlightened, challenged, disappointed, defeated, frustrated, crushed, humbled, renewed, and so on but always passionate in my pursuit to know more, to experience more. To distill the experience down, I would have to say that as I was growing cannabis, I too was growing, because of cannabis. Our relationships and experiences in life give us all that we need as we go. Cannabis truly is the plant that keeps on giving, this is something I share because this is what I know.
What prompted you to start Family Hemp Brands?
Several things inspired me to start Family Hemp Brands. In the early wave of CBD products, I was actually skeptical of many of the products hitting the market. In fact, I had at one point even said out loud to my Dad and my brother that I think most of these products are just snake oil. We were discussing CBD and the potential for it to offer some relief to my Dad with some of his physical pain issues left behind from being a combat veteran with the Marine Corps during Vietnam. In true brotherly fashion, my brother said “with how much you know about cannabis, why don’t you start a company and make products that you know will work”. With that, the seed was planted. Fast forward a couple of years to 2018, after the New Mexico State Supreme Court ruled that the previous governor vetoes of proposed bills to legalize hemp production was unconstitutional, the wheels were set in motion for New Mexicans to obtain licensure through NMDA and then begin growing hemp in 2019. This turn of events presented a renewed opportunity for me to work with cannabis in a commercial and legal capacity. Years before 2018, back in 2010, I had consulted and collaborated with a group to seek licensure for Medical Cannabis production but by the time the license application had been submitted, New Mexico had elected a new governor who not only did not support the medical cannabis program but was ready to do whatever she could to prevent it from growing and fulfilling its intended purpose. The position of that administration also prevented the review or approval of our application. When hemp production in New Mexico was given a green light, I saw an opportunity to not only grow cannabis but grow at a scale that far exceeded the restrictive medical cannabis plant limits. In addition, I saw the opportunity to produce a wellness product that could be sold across state lines and therefore offer relief to many of those living in New Mexico and beyond.
What are the brands under FHB and what makes them unique?
The brands under Family Hemp Brands are Honey Bee Select, Phyto Pro Select, and Family Reserve. Quality and consistency are truly foundational in each of our branded products. Formulate a top-quality product and remember that not all inputs are created equal.
While developing the business of Family Hemp Brands, we were also developing the products in tandem. It felt kinda like building your race car as you are entering the race.
At that time I definitely didn’t have the same depth of knowledge in producing CPG wellness products as I did with cultivation and extraction. Resultantly, product development took many months more than I had anticipated. There were simply so many important considerations that needed to be addressed and in looking around at other companies that were producing CBD products, I definitely learned a lot about what not to do. One of the things I saw immediately that I felt needed to be improved upon was formulation development. Even though I didn’t have much experience formulating CBD products, I understood that if you change the source of the CBD oil that is used in a formulation, you are in fact, changing the formulation itself. I reflected back on hearing about so many hit-or-miss consumer experiences when using CBD products. My conclusion was to use specific cultivars of hemp for specific formulations in order to ensure product consistency and efficacy. If I owned a company that produced an artisan Tea beverage or a fine wine, I would not use whatever leaves or grapes I could buy when I needed them. I would formulate my product with specific cultivars or varietals and use only those to maintain consistency at a minimum. I also focused on using ingredients that have been used in local wellness products for literally hundreds of years. Our formulations contain ingredients that have been proven effective and delivered relief for generations of New Mexicans and natives of the southwest.
Rumor has it you are considering launching a CBD pet line?
Let the rumors roar or purr or bark. Yes, I am excited to launch another product line that is close to my heart. Those of us that are fortunate enough to have our beautiful fur babies, know that they sometimes need relief as well. Phyto & Jane pet products will launch at the end of 2021. Phyto and Jane are Plant-Based Pet Love.
Can I get a WOOF WOOF!
New Mexico is soon to be releasing adult use/recreational cannabis licenses, do you plan on getting a license?
Taking diligent steps in that direction.
What types of products will you produce and carry in your retail store?
We will offer products for both medical cannabis patients as well as adult use customers. Premium cannabis flower and solventless concentrates will be our regenerative New Mexico grown fire and ice. Only our house-made solventless concentrates will be used in a variety of our edibles, topicals, and vapeable products to make for a complete selection available to those who visit our stores.
When someone comes into your dispensary for the first time what type of experience will they have?
Well, to say life-changing might be a bit ambitious. So, I’ll just say hopefully nothing short of amazing. As a pretty discerning individual myself, I want to have the best experience that I can no matter where I go or what I do. Why settle? For me, best doesn’t mean the biggest, brightest, most fancy, or whatever. It’s much less than that and much more than that at the same time. If we do our job right, a customer or patient will always feel welcome, in fact, invited. I want to see our customers have a fully engaging experience from the moment they enter. Don’t just have them sitting there waiting like another number in a line. Customers will be met with an inviting setting and an engaging staff. Our spaces will be a balance of clean and character. Authentic, often reclaimed interior finishes and smart space planning will offer an approachable environment without feeling overdone. Educational and operational background marketing will be integrated into our overall interior designs. A one-on-one, not rushed, balanced experience with our staff is a must. We have a process designed that will help consumers and patients select from our generous menu in a way that allows them to feel like they have a broad selection to choose from but not exhaust too much time in doing so or feel overwhelmed by too many options. How we do that is top secret though. You will have to visit us once we open to experience that secret.
Why do you think you are qualified to be a cannabis license holder in New Mexico?
We only know what we have experienced therefore I feel qualified and terrified!
Honestly, the more one knows the more one will realize how many challenges and unexpected obstacles are ever-present in life, much less any business endeavor. Especially in a fast-paced, hyperdynamic business like adult-use cannabis in a new market. Growing premium quality smokable hemp at a noticeably greater scale than any of the NM medical cannabis producers have traditionally operated at, has added to my bank of experience in a convenient and unexpected way. If I would have been operating as a medical cannabis producer alongside those producers currently in operation, I may have been doing so equipped only with the experience that I had at the time. Consequently, I would have likely been cultivating in a similar way that those producers today are still using and would not have the experience of how to maintain a balance between premium quality and commercial scale. Instead, my experience as a hemp farmer adjusted my lens on how to best cultivate at scale while maintaining cost and quality concerns. When you scale your cultivation process to a certain point, you simply need a different process. Additionally, my many years of true artisan craft quality cultivation positions me well for understanding how to achieve top-quality results from genetic selection best practices for harvesting and post-harvest processing. Lastly, my lifelong status as an entrepreneur has given me a few tools for navigating the landscape of being a business owner.
What makes New Mexico such a unique region for growing cannabis?
I love this question. Certainly, many people are familiar with the idea that certain regions are better suited than other regions for certain crops. I am not saying that there is only one best region, however, over 20 years ago I identified that in terms of favorable conditions for cannabis cultivation, Northern New Mexico is quite literally the Hindu Kush Region of the United States of America. We share a number of environmental and topographical characteristics as well as the same range of sweet spots of 33. to 35.5 degrees latitude. I call this the specific collection of conditions, kind of like the terroir for cannabis. We have over 300 days of high elevation sunshine. Some of the areas used for cultivation are over 8000 feet above sea level. With that high elevation comes some of the cleanest air in the country and some of the most intense sunlight as well. We rarely experience weather or environmental conditions that are often responsible for mold and mildew in cannabis crops. We also battle far fewer harmful insects and as a result, rarely have crops seriously threatened or requiring significant pesticide use. We will often have a delta or difference in day and night time air temperatures during the flowering phases of the plant’s life cycle that are perfect stress factors for the further development of cannabis compounds such as Terpenes, Cannabinoids, Flavonoids, Esters. You can replicate many things, good genetics, good growers, and practices but it’s virtually impossible to replicate a region.
Any final words for our readers on what to expect from your brands and the New Mexico cannabis market in the years to come?
There is something truly unique about New Mexico. Remember, we only know what we experience, if you come to New Mexico, expect to experience and be enchanted by New Mexico True. To experience our brands look for Family Hemp Brands for all your CBD needs or look for Ziawanna for all your adult-use cannabis desires. Say high 😉 when you stop by