Originally appeared in Leaf Nation - August 2019 - The Women’s Issue
Story by Wes Abney, Northwest Leaf Magazine
NW Leaf: HOW DID CANNABIS FIRST COME INTO YOUR LIFE?
AC Braddock: The quintessential teenage experience. Skipping school to try it out and then playing frisbee.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START EDEN LABS?
Eden Labs was Founded by Fritz Chess in about 1994. He was inspired by wide variety of plant medicines and that knowledge base is constantly building. The number of botanicals he knows how to extract for varying components is staggering and exciting. I was inspired by what I saw him doing in 1999, as we shared a strong interest in bettering human health through naturally occuring medicinal plants and lifestyle choices. Because of this shared interest and the success in my career at the time, he asked me to come run the company in 2004. However, I loved the luxury Built Green project I was working on and declined, so I could have a couple more years to complete it. In the meantime, I actively advised Eden until 2008, when I took a more active role and then became a full partner and CEO in 2009. It's been a wild ride since and with providing solutions for the hemp industry and further medical research, it's not slowing down anytime soon.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON CO2 AND ETHANOL EXTRACTION?
Okay, this is not a short answer, but this is industry history based on Eden's 25 years in Cannabis extraction. First and foremost, Eden is an R&D company that works with many industries and solvents. Eden innovated CO2 technology for Cannabis and kava kava, installed the first commercial ethanol systems in the mid-90s and developed the first closed-loop systems. Around the time Colorado and Washington legalized for more than medical (I like to use conscious consumption or lifestyle use), we simply stopped promoting the fact that our CO2 systems could be used with co-solvents. Why? About 2011, it became perfectly clear to me that all concentrates were under attack from mainstream media and we were at a tipping point for the slow roll or fast track to medical legalization. At this time, the media was having a field day with "dirty and dangerous drug operations" that were exploding up and down the West Coast, from open blasting in the unregulated market. This was a significant problem because the media was lumping all concentrates into their frighteningly effective messaging. Concentrates were seen as "druggy" and so were the people who made and consumed them. On top of that, there were some greedy, uneducated early players who knew nothing about proper purging and didn't care when provided proper post-processing techniques.
So we asked ourselves, how on earth were we going to fast track legalization with that kind of propaganda and lack of desire for self-regulation from these bad players? How do we help create a pathway that is unquestionably safe in production and consumption? We used our experience in the production of nutraceuticals, food, biofuels, essential oils, etc, knowing that the industry would eventually need to establish a self-regulated platform for facilities from the viewpoint of fire departments, police, OSHA, GMP, C1D1, etc. At the time, most of the unregulated industry just wasn't ready to implement and/or could not afford these kinds of SOPs and facilities, so we provided immediate alternatives that no one outside of the industry could argue against. And they tried, believe me, they tried. It was fun telling a fire department that CO2 is not explosive, you actually use it to put out fires. As far as ethanol goes, it has been utilized for thousands of years in medicinal use, and while it was unpopular for a number of years, we knew it would come back and come back it has! We also knew that building this industry would lead to the need for industrial scale systems, and both CO2 and ethanol are proven solutions for efficiencies in large scale production.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A CANNABIS BUSINESS OWNER THAT CONSUMES THE PLANT?
It means I support and understand its use and potential. It means I can call BS on misinformation and disinformation on the plant and how it is produced and why. The underlying dedication to what I do stems from the science of one system treating another system. It stems from the desire to recreate our medical system. What we are doing in this industry is treating illness and promoting health and wellbeing through the endocannabinoid system, as well as curing political and social ills around prohibition and the mechanisms that create such horrible and destructive cultural biases.
HAS IT BEEN HARD TO BE A WOMAN IN THE INDUSTRY?
It’s complex. In some ways it's easier because it is a health and wellness industry, and because social issues like sexism are constant topics. We went from an industry that was exclusively marketed to men, and in particular men under 30, to an industry that calls out companies that abuse the use of women and sex to sell what is essentially a health product. We had the highest number of women owned businesses and C Suite in any U.S. industry in 2014. The downside is the slide since from health and wellness based business to same old, same old business, and we have lost that momentum. It's harder for women in business in any sector, period. An example - it was easier in the beginning of the regulated market because no one had access to funding. Entry into craft industry is more accessible. Now there is a significant decline in women owned business because data says for every $58 million men get in funding, women get $1 million - according to the NY Times. It's very difficult for anyone to compete with big business coming into the industry, but especially difficult for women and people of color.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AND FAVORITE PART ABOUT OWNING A CANNABIS BUSINESS?
My favorite part is knowing we are helping sick people, helping change social bias and adding to the political power of the wave of consumers who want to buy from organic, sustainable, mission driven, small business. I enjoy the political work I have done in NICA, The Cannabis Alliance, Stewardship Partners, Women of Weed, etc. Being a part of political action and market development alleviates the frustration of watching bad regulation, stigma, racism, sexism and prohibition - which is still very much alive and kicking.
WHAT KIND OF CHANGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE FOR THE INDUSTRY OVERALL?
We need to diversify. We need legal pathways to medical, nutraceutical, food, building materials, textiles, etc. As Dr. Ethan Russo likes to point out, if you had to take one plant to a desert island, this would be the one that could sustain, clothe and shelter you. If we allow the molecularization of the plant to be the only pathway to legal use - and I mean legal personal use - we have failed on so many levels and as humans we will pay a significant and devastating price in this lost opportunity.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STRAIN AND WAY TO CONSUME?
LOL. I don't have any favorites for multiple reasons. The biggest reason is I am currently going through 45 concentrate entries from the Terpestival! I am not looking at strains, but rather combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids. I am making my way through them with my nose and other senses. It's fantastic. I strongly believe we should be cultivating and extracting specific cultivars for our individual endocannabinoid needs. It's a very personal journey that I am enjoying. As far as consumption, I was just gifted a Puffco Peak, which has been a delight. And I like full spectrum tinctures and vaping.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Anything that consumes my awareness and is nature oriented, but especially yoga, gardening, surfing, skiing, music and spending time with my feisty as hell friends and colleagues. So good. All of it.