Note from the editor: This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
How do you market products that might mistakenly be associated with getting high to a group that values sober-mindedness? Michael Klein knows the first step is to arm them with knowledge.
According to separate surveys conducted in 2019, 65 percent of American adults describe themselves as Christians, and 14 percent say they use CBD. Klein, the CEO and founder of God’s Greenery, recognized the overlap and launched his company when he saw that the “underserved audience” needed a place to talk and learn about the compound in a way that aligned with a Christian worldview.
“We identified that there was this growing chatter online of Christians who were using hemp-derived CBD as part of their wellness program,” he says. “The world of CBD is so cluttered and so confusing. You have 3,000 different brands that generally think they’re talking to everyone, but of course if you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.”
Initially built as a community platform, God’s Greenery came online in late 2018 with an expectation that there would be some pushback from its target audience. There wasn’t. “It was more of, ‘I love CBD, now I have a place to talk about it,’” he says. “But as we continued to grow, the feedback was, ‘Great, thanks for the education, now what do I buy?’”
A trusted strategic partnership
When Klein didn’t have a good answer for those who weren’t sure what to look for, he and his team decided to take the opportunity to “reward the community” by creating their own line of products. After meeting Dr. Jason Mitchell, N.D., the cofounder and co-CEO of HempFusion and a fellow man of faith, the two decided to form a strategic partnership to develop hemp-derived CBD products that Christians could trust.
Describing HempFusion as “the most conservative hemp company, period,” Mitchell says it was his team’s regulatory portfolio and commitment to safe and high-quality product—the company imports its organic hemp from Europe, testing it and even providing batch reports online—that won Klein over. Today, HempFusion provides the raw material for the God’s Greenery product lineup.
“We’re kind of the intelligence inside the bottle for them, with their flair and formulation,” Mitchell says. “We helped to make sure that it was manufactured correctly, tested appropriately, and stable, so that when they offered a product to their consumers it was truly of value.”
So what makes the products for Christians?
A quick browse of God’s Greenery’s online store offers a line of two varieties of capsules (one for activity and one for sleep) and a hemp oil geared to the anxiety sufferer aptly named “Oil of Gladness.” Ingredients include hemp oil and other “biblical” plants and herbs such as rosemary, grape seed extract, basil oil, flax oil, lemon balm, and chamomile.
That, and a guarantee that the products are non-intoxicating and “won’t interfere with daily living” as they contain amounts of THC that are so low, they are almost non-detectable.
CBD for christians, or just marketing?
A skeptic may look at this brand and draw the conclusion that these are just clever marketing techniques. But faith-based marketing is nothing new. Plus, there’s no denying that a certain finesse is required to address the topic of cannabis and hemp with doubtful family members and friends who may very well be convinced that both are, for lack of a better term, the devil’s lettuce.
Mitchell, himself a former doubter of the beneficial properties of cannabis and hemp, says God’s Greenery and the mission to spread the word about CBD is more about expanding the minds of “an audience that deserves to have the truth” than it is about capitalizing on a trend in the health and wellness marketplace.
“I was one of those idiots that was out there saying that anything cannabis-related should be illegal, that it was a drug, it’s a narcotic, that it was crazy and people just wanted an excuse to get high,” he admits.
When he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2011, he took it upon himself to learn about the body’s endocannabinoid system. Although he says medical cannabis was nowhere near responsible for curing his condition, it opened his mind to the reality that the compounds in the plant weren’t “just a gimmick.”
Mitchell asserts that despite years of unhealthy conditioning and stigma around cannabis, even the most conservative Americans are feeling let down by the medical community as a result of the opioid crisis, and as they look for alternatives, CBD presents itself as a safe option.
“When you look at the elders within a church and within a Christian community, they do maintain a high level of conservatism, and I think for many there’s a really good reason for that,” he says. “Being too liberal in too many areas can lead us to this wide path as opposed to the path that’s narrow.”
For Mitchell, it comes down to a matter of where the lines of that spiritual path are drawn: “If we’re going to draw the lines on facts, great; if we’re going to draw the lines on a hypothetical that was created by man to villainize something, I think we need to revisit that.”
Covid-19 and social currency
Klein’s solution to spreading the word about CBD, amid Covid-19 no less, is two-fold: The online platform is still used to share knowledge with curious Christians and potential consumers, while a newly implemented ambassador program enables customers to donate to different charities and earn extra cash for sharing their God’s Greenery experience with family and friends.
“I look at everything, particularly in the world of CBD, as social currency. When you discover something that you love, you want to share it with people,” Klein says. “Launching a brand during a pandemic has many challenges, but at the same time we have a lot of time in front of our screens, and the ability to earn extra income right now, in addition to giving back, is very, very appealing for people.”
While from a business standpoint both Klein and Mitchell keep their focus on CBD, Mitchell recognizes the medical benefits that THC has, too. (After all, both plants and compounds are created by God, right?) Although it might be too early for cannabis marketers to try and convey the benefits of THC to Christians in the way that God’s Greenery has with CBD, the science is already there.
“I think the more we make it controversial, the more people will hide from it,” he says. “There is a tremendous amount of research to show that THC is a widely useful cannabinoid. Plus, there are over 100 different cannabinoids, and then you go even further and realize it doesn’t stop there,” he says.
“For me, I look at it and say, ‘What an amazing opportunity.’”
Editor, Inside the Jar
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Seed. Stem. Stash. Smoke.
Despite the perception of Canada as a cold and snowy landscape, cannabis has been grown outdoors here for generations, long before prohibition was lifted in 2018. In Rock Creek, a small town in British Columbia’s Okanagan region, an area adored for its long, dry summers and endless rows of wineries and fruit orchards, a portion of a sprawling 2,200-acre ranch once dedicated to ginseng and cherries is now filled with rows upon rows of cannabis and hemp.
“My partner and I set a goal to make the best cannabis-infused cookie we could. What we learned very quickly was that our cookie recipe was great, but the process of infusing our butter was damaging its integrity. So we set out to find a way to infuse butter—not for maximum potency—but for the best possible flavour, and to preserve what makes butter magic.”
“Weed infused in various candies, brownies, or cookies generally takes much longer to kick in and there’s inevitably a few moments half-an-hour post-consumption in which I say, out loud: “I’m not sure this thing is working.” Then, like one of Mike Tyson’s fists to the face, the full might of a deceptively delicious baked confection takes hold, and for the next few hours—I’m high. High high. And sometimes, too high.”