Papa & Barkley's Dogged Pursuit of Wellness Through Pot Potions

Sometimes the best of intentions start a business.

The Papa & Barkley origin story is not a totally uncommon genesis for businesses in the burgeoning legal cannabis industry, which is one thing that makes the legal weed space so appealing. Papa & Barkley is a Humboldt County, California-based manufacturer of pot-infused medicinal topical products. The company's web-site is home to soothing balms, pain patches, soaking solutions, and skin-care lotions.

Founder Adam Grossman was drawn to topical cannabis treatments while caring for his critically ill father, Morton. As his father's condition deteriorated, Grossman was inspired by a friend in California who had benefited from a pain-relief products purchased in a medical marijuana dispensary. Grossman doggedly began researching and mixing cannabis pain-relief formulas and concocted his first balm. 

To the delight of both Papa and son, the concoction provided immediate physical comfort to the elder Grossman, who gained mobility and within months was off hospice care and back at home, reunited with his beloved dog, Barkley.

'Our mission at Papa & Barkley is to unlock the potential for cannabis to improve peoples' lives. '

Love and inspiration at the inception are not enough to propel a business to thriving maturity. Papa & Barkley has built upon its foundation of passion with applied science and painstaking artistry. The result is a going concern that has both a grand vision and a down-to-earth mission.

KINDLAND spoke with Papa & Barkley COO Boris Shcharansky about the company's guiding light and grounded principles.

KINDLAND: What keeps you concentrating on topical oils and balms rather than combustible products?
Boris Shcharansky: One of the unique identifiers of Papa & Barkley is that we were founded by caring for the ones we love. Adam's journey with his father led him to many people in his circle of friends and family who were also dealing with chronic aches and pains, but who were hesitant or fearful to try THC-based combustible cannabis. Because of the incredible results experienced with his father, Adam set the foundation for Papa & Barkley to be a wellness brand focused on bringing pain relief to users who were initially hesitant to try cannabis. We focus on high potency topicals. We saw too many novelty products in the market offering as little as 1 mg/mL of potency. This is just not enough for transdermal pain relief. We recognized there was a gap in quality in the topicals market.

We are believers in and beneficiaries of the power of medical cannabis.

To be fair, we are rolling out a vape product under our R&D brand, P&B Labs, but we felt strongly that our first go-to-market product line should be wellness-focused and non-psychoactive. We are believers in and beneficiaries of the power of medical cannabis. Our mission at Papa & Barkley is to unlock the potential for cannabis to improve peoples' lives. We felt that having a topical, non-psychoactive wellness line that was efficacious for new and old cannabis users alike was the proper way to convey our mission and stay true to our foundation.

We want people to achieve the benefits of cannabis without being scared away by psychoactivity. Applying THC transdermally will achieve that end: It avoids being a CBD-only product, and is whole-plant, while maintaining non-psychoactivity.

KINDLAND: How much more difficult is it to create balms, soaks, and transdermal patches than salable flower?
Boris Shcharansky: Both cultivation and manufacturing have their challenges. With flower, many people are looking to achieve only psychoactivity. If that is the goal, then a $35 eighth will do the trick. We want people to spend $60 on a product. That involves patient education to understand the power of transdermal cannabis. That's a harder sell. Our brand ambassadors spend hours speaking with patients about our process, formulation, and the efficacy of our products.

Before we can reach patients, we must educate budtenders and dispensary owners on why our topicals are better than others. Flower salesmen do this as well, but a dispensary sells nearly 30 to 50 percent of its daily sales in flowers. Topicals account for 5 to 15 percent of sales at any given dispensary. We are competing for a smaller part of the market. Topicals tend to sell out slower; so the decision to go with a specific brand is a difficult one.

KINDLAND: Which Papa & Barkley Releaf items might be seen as luxury products, and which more directly address medical necessities?
Boris Shcharansky: All of our products are medical wellness products with a focus on different types of pain relief. Our balm, which can be applied directly to pain-afflicted areas, is the signature product. Our patch allows for micro-dosing of cannabinoids over a 12-hour period, achieving approximately 2.5 mg absorption per hour. Our Releaf Soak is a whole-body relaxant for end-of day baths. We have found that if you exfoliate with it prior to entering a hot bath, the salts help the cannabinoids absorb into the dermis and, thereafter, the hot water helps the solution penetrate deep into pain centers. Finally, the massage oil is meant to be used as part of massage therapy. A patient can bring it to a licensed therapist to improve the pain-relief elements of the massage.

Cannabis is not a panacea that cures all ills. It must be used as part of a healthy and active lifestyle. 

Cannabis use for wellness must be approached from a holistic angle. Cannabis is not a panacea that cures all ills. It must be used as part of a healthy and active lifestyle. Our products are meant to go hand-in-hand with such a lifestyle. Use the balm before and after your workout. Use the patch for all-day cannabinoid absorption. Use the soaking salts at the end of a long day of work. Use the massage oil with your therapist. Different options for different lifestyles.

KINDLAND: What does 'artisanal' mean in your processes?
Boris Shcharansky: This means we are using all-natural processes that are solvent-free. Our topicals are created using a patented pressurized coconut cooking process for cannabinoid infusion as well as heat-pressed cannabis resin. Further, we also use bubble hash and dry sieve to extract cannabinoid- and terpene-filled trichomes. Artisanal refers to using processes defined over millenia of cannabis use rather than industrial processes such as CO2 extraction. We believe many of the industrial processes destroy terpenes, which we want to maintain in their whole-plant form throughout our products.

KINDLAND: How much of Releaf is science, and how much is art?
Boris Shcharansky: Our Right Ratio of 3:1 is based on a survey of research reports on pain and inflammation coming out of Israel. In addition, our commitment to whole-plant extractions that do not destroy terpenes is based on the science of the Entourage Effect.

We are aiming to show that using our balm can help reduce or eliminate the number of narcotics these patients are taking.

We are going a step further than just using off-the-shelf research results. We are currently designing a study for Diabetic Neuropathic Pain patients to use our balm over a period of three weeks to ascertain the efficacy of the pain relief achieved. These are patients in a lot of pain, who take a lot of opiate-based pain medications. We are aiming to show that using our balm can help reduce or eliminate the number of narcotics these patients are taking. The study will take place in Israel under the guidance of one of the top diabetic pain specialists in the country. 

We will be testing additional products through our partnerships with research institutions in Israel. We are committed to the science of cannabis and to unlocking the wellness potential of the plant to improve peoples' lives. For this reason, we are spending serious financial resources to effectuate clinical studies on our products to prove their efficacy. The result of the first trial should be available by autumn 2017.