Regenerative Agriculture, Hemp and Saving the World with John Roulac

The Ministry of Hemp Podcast
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The Ministry of Hemp Podcast
Regenerative Agriculture, Hemp and Saving the World with John Roulac
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In the newest episode of the Ministry of Hemp Podcast, we take a look at regenerative agriculture and how hemp can play a part in a more sustainable world.

Our host Matt talks with John Roulac, founder of ReBotanicals and an outspoken proponent of regenerative agriculture. They talk about everything from what it means to be a responsible farmer, the Center for Food Safety’s Hemp-CBD Report Card, to how gross rotten coconuts can be. John isn’t just an environmentalist and founder of one of Ministry of Hemp’s Top Brands, he’s also working on a film called “Kiss the Ground” narrated by Woody Harelson produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

We want to hear from you too. Send us your questions and you might hear them answered on future shows like this one! Send us your written questions to us on TwitterFacebook, email matt@ministryofhemp.com, or call us and leave a message at 402-819-6417. Keep in mind, this phone number is for hemp questions only and any other inquiries for the Ministry of Hemp should be sent to info@ministryofhemp.com.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Ministry of Hemp Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast app. If you really want to help us out, we’d love for you to rate or review the show.

Thanks again for listening! Contact sales@ministryofhemp.com if you’re interested in sponsoring our podcast or other content on our website.

In the Ministry of Hemp Podcast, John Roulac of REBotanicals tells us about the role of hemp in sustainable agriculture. Photo: Bright green barley plants grow under a blue sky.
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In the Ministry of Hemp Podcast, John Roulac of REBotanicals tells us about the role of hemp in sustainable agriculture.

More resources: Hemp, agriculture and sustainability

Here are some articles we’ve published about regenerative agriculture and hemp:

Regenerative Agriculture, Hemp and Saving the World: Complete episode transcript

Below you’ll find a full written transcript of this episode:

Matt Baum: 00:00 Last week was a pretty huge week for climate science. I’m sure you heard that there was a climate strike, I’m sure you saw Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist that spoke in front of the UN last week. She gave a very fire and brimstone speech that some genius on YouTube set to death metal, and it’s wonderful.

Speaker 2: 00:27 [inaudible 00:00:27] How dare you?

Matt Baum: 00:35 She said all her speeches will have death metal in the background from now on, and as a metalhead I can get behind that, but the important part was we were actually talking about climate science, in a time where there’s been a lot of attacking science, and a lot of attacking the facts of climate change. It’s so cool to see the youth of the world coming together and organizing these climate strikes.

Matt Baum: 01:00 So today on the show we’re going to talk about what some hemp farmers are doing to do their part, to grow hemp responsibly. It’s part of a practice called regenerative agriculture. My name is Matt Baum and this is the Ministry of Hemp podcast.

Meet John Roulac

Matt Baum: 01:22 Today on the show I’m having a conversation with ne of the founders of one of Ministry of Hemp’s top brands, RE Botanicals. His name is John Roulac, and not only is he a huge proponent of regenerative agriculture and making an incredible CBD product, but he is also a very outspoken, punk rock environmentalist that is not afraid to call people out when they’re doing it wrong. I don’t know if I’ve talked to anyone with the depth of knowledge that John has about hemp, from seed to plant, to processing and finally to market.

Matt Baum: 01:59 When John is not working at RE Botanicals, or speaking about regenerative agriculture, he is currently working on a movie with producer Leonardo DiCaprio, Woody Harrelson narrates, the film is called, Kiss The Ground, and it is all about how regenerative agriculture is probably going to save the world. This is my conversation with John Roulac.

Matt Baum: 02:28 So you’ve been very vocal and active in the world of regenerative agriculture and hemp for a long time now, what is your origin story, which was first? Was it regenerative agriculture or was it hemp?

John Roulac: 02:42 The dumped nuclear waste by an identified truck driver when I was 21 years old, at my [inaudible 00:02:48] Pasadena. So that’s when I set off to my journey of, “What is going on?”

Matt Baum: 02:55 So that’s not a joke? That sounds like a superhero origin to me.

John Roulac: 03:00 Yeah.

Matt Baum: 03:00 Wow.

John Roulac: 03:02 I’m on the hero’s journey, the Joseph Campbell … When I first found out that they just dumped it by my house and an identified truck driver, they didn’t do anything about it, I was like, “Take me to whoever is destroying the earth, and I want to give my piece of mind.”

Matt Baum: 03:19 Yeah.

John Roulac: 03:20 And what I discovered after about a year of just reading about back in the late 70s, the hole in the ozone layer, dying whales and pollution, and pesticides et cetera, was it was about how we were living. Living on planet earth and what our lifestyle choices were and how corporations acted, but at the end of the day, it’s the decisions people made in, what kind of food, what kind of car they drove, do they recycle, “How are we farming?” Et cetera.

Matt Baum: 03:59 Right.

John Roulac: 03:59 So that led me to a journey on, “What are solutions?” And organic farming, and [inaudible 00:04:07] culture became clear to me as leading solutions. In the 80s we didn’t call it regenerative agriculture then, regenerative agriculture became popular in the last five years. I’ve been one of the people to help popularize those concepts.

John Roulac: 04:21 I also founded Nutiva in 1999, we were the first food company to say that regenerative agriculture is basically the solution to climate change.

Hemp and regenerative agriculture

Matt Baum: 04:35 Can you give us-

John Roulac: 04:36 It’s not Tesla cars, it’s not solar energy, those are all important, but how do we deal with the legacy load in the atmosphere, take that legacy load that’s also fallen into the oceans, they’re acidifying the oceans, they’re killing off the plankton, which are killing off the sardines, when the no sardines, means the whales and the dolphins and the seals are starving to death, which is what’s going on, they’re washing up dead on the beaches in California, Oregon and Washington.

Matt Baum: 05:03 Right.

John Roulac: 05:03 And the simple solution is under our feet, and it’s called healthy soils, and photosynthesis, in photosynthesis we sequester the carbon. And so, after I stepped down at Nutiva, I decided to kind of enjoy my semi retirement, but then I had the calling to step into the CBD world because the hemp CBD world has been kind of hijacked by the marijuana mavens.

Matt Baum: 05:29 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roulac: 05:30 And their interest is profit, low cost of goods, market domination.

Matt Baum: 05:38 Right.

John Roulac: 05:38 And soil health and the original vision of why we’re growing hemp was left to the side, and they were just taking market share and selling people without any transparency to the supply chain. So I said how about if we take-

Matt Baum: 05:53 Yeah it’s more, “Grow as much as possible as fast as possible.” Basically.

John Roulac: 05:56 Yeah. So my idea is, “How about if we took the vision of soil health, and regenerative agriculture, and botanicals, and Non-GMO, and helping farmers create a better livelihood for themselves, and their communities, and the environment, climate change, and turn that into a brand? Regenerative Botanicals? Or we shorten it to RE Botanicals?”

Matt Baum: 06:23 Oh, okay.

John Roulac: 06:25 And that was a year ago, when we opened up an office in Boulder, Colorado, we were in four stores, and today we’re in over 1600 stores.

What is regenerative agriculture?

Matt Baum: 06:32 That’s amazing, that is truly amazing. Now let me ask you, can you give me a quick working definition of, “What is regenerative agriculture?” We all know what organic farming is, but what is regenerative agriculture?

John Roulac: 06:44 The idea, regenerative, whether its regenerative agriculture, regenerative business, is that you actually improve the biologic capacity. So for example, regenerative farming, if you go onto a farm, maybe it’s got 2% organic matter. Now 200 years ago there might’ve been 5% or 6% organic matter through the tall grass prairies or meadows. When you deplete the soil, you’re doing degenerative practices, so regenerative agriculture regenerates the soil, regenerates the biologic capacity, so it has the ability to hold more water, so it stores more water. It has more biological activity, more microbes, more soil life. And over time it increases the organic matter, and basically that’s storing the carbon, so regenerative agriculture addresses the climate crisis, the health crisis, the ocean crisis, our farm crisis, and our economic crisis, because if we’re destroying our ecosystems, and we’re destroying our farmlands and destroying our health, you have a collapsed society.

Matt Baum: 08:05 Right.

John Roulac: 08:05 And that’s what we have in 2019.

Matt Baum: 08:06 We have a [crosstalk 00:08:08]

John Roulac: 08:09 We have a society that’s completely collapsing.

Matt Baum: 08:12 It does appear that way, when you read the papers, anymore. Can I ask you, specifically in hemp, what practices are you, RE Botanicals doing in your farms, to regenerate the soil?

John Roulac: 08:25 Yes, Hemp.

Matt Baum: 08:26 I’ve heard that hemp is very easy on soil, and actually leaves it better than it was, is that true?

John Roulac: 08:33 That, in theory, it can be true, in practice it’s mostly not true.

Matt Baum: 08:40 Okay.

John Roulac: 08:42 This is how the marijuana mavens, the pot mavens have been able to, basically pull a fast one over the American consumers. It’s like, “Oh, hemp is a weed, it grows easy, restores land, it’s great.” All that stuff.

Matt Baum: 08:57 That’s all we’ve ever heard, yeah.

John Roulac: 08:59 Yeah, the reality is, hemp is a taker from the soil, not a giver.

Matt Baum: 09:03 Okay.

Fertilizer and growing hemp

John Roulac: 09:04 The reason being is, it likes lots of nitrogen. Like corn, it requires nitrogen to grow, in terms of, if you want to turn it into a seed crop, into a flower crop, or into a fiber crop. It’s hearty enough, you can just throw some seeds out and it will grow, but it’s not going to produce a commercial value by doing that.

Matt Baum: 09:27 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roulac: 09:28 So what’s the cheapest way to produce fertilizer in the world? It was a German invention, over 100 years ago, and essentially they take, frack, natural gas, destroying our ground waters in the US, and they split that, and they turn it into nitrogen fertilizer.

Matt Baum: 09:53 Really?

John Roulac: 09:53 And then they inject it into the ground, and that’s the way the vast majority of all hemp is grown in America today. So, that’s not so good. The challenge is, when it rains, guess what happens to the nitrogen fertilizer.

Matt Baum: 10:07 Washes away?

John Roulac: 10:08 And where does it wash to?

Matt Baum: 10:09 Right into your ground water.

John Roulac: 10:11 Yeah, the ground water, it also goes into the-

Matt Baum: 10:14 Rivers, lakes, streams.

John Roulac: 10:15 … streams.

Matt Baum: 10:16 Yeah.

John Roulac: 10:16 And then the streams go to the creeks, and then the creeks go to the rivers, and where do the rivers go?

Matt Baum: 10:22 They dump into the ocean eventually, right?

John Roulac: 10:24 Yeah. Did you know we have a dead zone the size of the state of Massachusetts, in the Gulf of Mexico?

Matt Baum: 10:29 I’ve heard that.

John Roulac: 10:29 Everything is biologically dead [crosstalk 00:10:31].

Matt Baum: 10:30 I actually read about that not too long ago.

John Roulac: 10:34 Yeah.

Matt Baum: 10:34 It’s terrifying.

Feeding the Earth naturally

John Roulac: 10:35 So the ironic thing is, taking CBD because you have anxiety, or taking CBD because you have pain, if you just go and put a blindfold on and you pick any bottle off the dispensary, or natural food store, or supermarket, or internet, you may be contributing to killing the planet. So hemp as we know it, is killing the oceans. The bad news is it’s accelerating, it’s not just hemp, it’s corn, [inaudible 00:11:13], industrial, agriculture. 99% of all crops in America are grown using non-organic degenerative practices. Only 1% is certified organic.

John Roulac: 11:25 And regenerative is on top of that. And I’ll get into talk a little about how we grow that in a minute. So again, the bad news is it’s getting worse.

Matt Baum: 11:34 Yeah.

John Roulac: 11:35 More and more emissions, not only from industry, but also from agriculture, polluting the oceans, the plankton, we’re having less oxygen, and we’re having more intense storms, and the window is short, we don’t have 20 years to wait now. We’re right in the point of the breaking. The youth today, they’re telling us, “We’re seeing species collapse right now, not in 10 years, right now. We’re losing mass amounts of species.”

John Roulac: 12:05 The good news is we have a solution. We have a app, it has 500 million years of research and development under its belt, and it’s called photosynthesis.

Matt Baum: 12:14 Yeah.

John Roulac: 12:15 Carbon sequestration. So all we need to do is to allow plants to grow in the right place at the right time, integrated with human knowledge of natural systems, integrating animals. We have tobacco farmers, they grow our hemp, and then the season before, they grow grasses, and then they bring the cattle in.

Matt Baum: 12:41 Sure.

John Roulac: 12:41 The cattle eat the grasses.

Matt Baum: 12:43 Poop on the field.

John Roulac: 12:43 They poop and begin to [inaudible 00:12:48], and now when they plant the hemp they have this naturally fertilized, with transform. It’s not the cow, it’s the how. Industrial animal production is one of the largest contributors to climate change in the world, but if you do it where it’s running off of today’s solar, essentially organic regenerative agriculture runs off today’s solar, and degenerative agriculture runs off of yesterdays solar, i.e petrochemicals. And how we grow on today’s solar, hemp is, that we work with the plants and the animals, so for example we have farmers that will be growing alfalfa.

Matt Baum: 13:29 Right.

John Roulac: 13:29 Or vetch, or cowpeas, they’ll grow those, this season right now, on one field. They won’t be growing hemp, and then that will be fixing nitrogen in the atmosphere, so we work with nature to provide nitrogen, not petrochemicals.

Matt Baum: 13:43 Just through simple crop rotation-

John Roulac: 13:45 Yeah, crop rotation, so that’s the key thing.

Matt Baum: 13:45 … stuff that farmers have been doing for thousands of years, basically.

John Roulac: 13:50 Yeah, and that’s how they used to do it a couple a hundred years ago, or a hundred years ago.

Matt Baum: 13:54 Right.

John Roulac: 13:55 Until this invention. Now there’s some next generation ways to look at this that’s even to the next level that hardly any farms are doing, and we’re just starting to research this, and that’s where you can produce up to 40% of the nitrogen for the hemp crop in the current season you’re growing. So things have just been researched where you grow four, five … You grow vetch, cowpeas-

Matt Baum: 14:26 I’m sorry, what is a vetch? I don’t know what that is.

John Roulac: 14:29 That’s just another cover crop.

Matt Baum: 14:30 Oh, okay, gotcha.

John Roulac: 14:31 Yeah. And then you plant that two weeks before the hemp, so you leet that grow, and so now you have like a multi species salad bar, for microbes.

Matt Baum: 14:46 Okay. And that’s creating nitrogen?

John Roulac: 14:49 [crosstalk 00:14:49]. You go to a salad bar, and all there is, is iceberg lettuce, you go, “Not so interesting.”

Matt Baum: 14:54 Right.

John Roulac: 14:54 But imagine if you go, “Oh, there’s sunflower sprouts, and there are garbanzo beans, and there’s hemp seeds, and there’s some kale, and there’s some [inaudible 00:15:04].”

Matt Baum: 15:04 It’s delicious, of course.

John Roulac: 15:06 Right, it’s like, “Yeah, this is the way to live here.”

Matt Baum: 15:09 So mixing that in like that creates nitrogen?

John Roulac: 15:13 Yeah, some of those crops can fix the nitrogen, we call it salad bar, it’s just multiple plants.

Matt Baum: 15:22 Sure.

John Roulac: 15:22 So some will fix nitrogen, some of them just provide flowers for bees.

Matt Baum: 15:28 Pollinators, yeah.

John Roulac: 15:29 Yeah, pollinators, so you want to put some pollinators. The idea is to increase the biodiversity, and then you come in and you strip-till, in with the hemp, and then the hemp will come in and grow, and so as the hemp is growing up, you have the cover crops and so hemp is planted in a multi-species cover crop, and this is just getting experimented this season, and so we hope to do more of that next year.

Matt Baum: 15:58 You’re basically using these other plants to do a job that chemicals would’ve done?

John Roulac: 16:04 Exactly, yeah.

Matt Baum: 16:05 That’s amazing.

Healing the planet with hemp

John Roulac: 16:06 Yeah, what the food movement and the world needs to understand, we need to be plant-based, but plant-based today means, and I’m going to piss off some vegetarians, but much of the quote, “Plant-based foods.” Are chemical-based.

Matt Baum: 16:30 Right.

John Roulac: 16:30 Like the impossible burger is a chemical-based, it’s not plant-based, because it’s using GMO soy, sprayed with round up, dipped with a bee killing neonics, so you can serve up this soil destroying, greenhouse gas emitting crop, to make a vegan burger.

Matt Baum: 16:51 Sure an animal didn’t die, but we’re destroying farmland to do this.

John Roulac: 16:54 Yes, and so we could be doing organic, where if you’re using peas instead of soy, then peas become part of the rotation, and use it organically. So then that would be plant-based. So the idea is we need to use plants in the more holistic manner, and the degree that we get that will be the degree whether we live as a species or we perish as a species, because it’s time is now. This is not 20 years from now to think about this. In the 90s I got the realization that it was almost too late, in the 90s. I hit the wall, we were losing momentum. So people have to really step up.

Matt Baum: 17:40 Absolutely.

John Roulac: 17:40 So my vision is that while everybody is focused on hemp, everybody’s freaking about hemp. I mean how many people do we know aren’t in pain, don’t have anxiety, depression, stress-related, how many people do you know that don’t have one of those things?

Matt Baum: 17:59 Yeah.

John Roulac: 18:01 Right?

Matt Baum: 18:02 I don’t know but if I find that guy I’m going to kick the crap out of him.

John Roulac: 18:06 Yeah. So everybody’s got this, so while we’re going to be obsessed with this magic pill, this magic flower that you can take and have all of these benefits, imagine if we did it not just for the benefit of the people, but for the benefit of the planet. And so, I have this massive conspiracy that I’m creating, whereas if we can hijack the hemp movement, and say, “How about if we use this as a teaching moment? How about if we take hemp, and it will not only be good for people, but for the planet, and do it in a more organic regenerative way, help for the farmers, our communities, our climate, our people.” I like to say, “Healthy soil.” It all starts with healthy soil.

Matt Baum: 18:51 Right.

John Roulac: 18:52 That leads to healthy plants, that leads to healthy animals and people, healthy planet, healthy oceans, healthy climate, and a healthy healthcare system.

Matt Baum: 18:59 Not to mention the fact that hemp as a crop is something that we haven’t grown for 75 years, so we have a unique chance here to grow the original unmodified plant, and do it the right way.

John Roulac: 19:13 Yeah.

Matt Baum: 19:13 There’s not another crop I can think of like that, in the world.

The Hemp Report Card

John Roulac: 19:16 Yeah. So I encourage all of you. Those of you who are in the CBD industry, and those who are just individuals is, find out, start asking questions. I find it ironic that there was a survey done by one of the leading NGOs in the food movement, called the Center for Food Safety, they’ve sued Monsanto 20 times, they have a million people who signed up on their website, and they’re very focused on organic and healthy soils, and Non-GMO, two thirds of 40 brands, many of the leading brands refused to even fill out the survey.

Matt Baum: 19:53 That’s awful. That’s one of those things where, we just did a show recently, talking about education, where you’ve got to know where it’s coming from, and do the right thing, and make sure they’re making it right and they’re using good hemp and stuff like that, but honestly I didn’t even think that when you go to buy these bottles, not just that, you don’t even know exactly how it’s being grown. You need to think about that.

John Roulac: 20:17 And how it’s processed.

Matt Baum: 20:18 Right.

John Roulac: 20:22 It’s called Center for Food Safety, so people should check that out, and you should consider doing a session with Rebecca, that worked on this thing. And I swear at Expo East, at the Natural Food Show, people were losing their shit, people were going, “You mean, I didn’t put my stuff up on my website, and I didn’t tell people how I grow and process, and you say I get a bad grade, blame the teacher.”

Matt Baum: 20:46 Yeah.

John Roulac: 20:50 A lot of companies got C’s, D’s and F’s. We were the only company that got 100, because we were just very transparent.

Matt Baum: 20:57 Yeah, you report it.

John Roulac: 20:58 Like, “How did you grow it? Did you test it for glyphosate? Do you test not only for CBD levels, cannabinoid levels do you also test for pesticides, herbicides? If you were processing, do you say what you use?” A lot of companies will say, “Oh, we process with CO2.” How many people have heard of that, they say, “We only use CO2.”

Matt Baum: 21:17 Everybody, what does that mean?

John Roulac: 21:19 Not 90%, or more … Well CO2 factories all use ethanol as a final step to clean it up, because the CO2 by itself isn’t so effective.

Matt Baum: 21:33 Really? I had no idea.

John Roulac: 21:35 What do you think the standard way that people … What kind of ethanol do you think they use to process hemp flower to CBD, do you have any idea?

Matt Baum: 21:43 They’re using probably industrial grade ethanol garbage, the same stuff that is probably not even good enough to put it in your car.

John Roulac: 21:51 Yeah. This is ethanol made from Monsanto GMO Corn, laced with roundup glyphosate, because they spray it multiple times on the crop to kill the weeds, et cetera.

Matt Baum: 22:09 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roulac: 22:10 There’s not a weed in the field. So they’re using that, and then they claim that they’re Non-GMO.

Matt Baum: 22:18 It’s really good up to this step, they’re growing it right, they’re doing everything organic, and then you get to a final point where you’re finishing it, where you’re literally adding terrible stuff right back into your product.

CBD carrier oils

John Roulac: 22:30 Yeah, and then the question is, is what’s your carrier oil, so once you grow it, then you process, what’s your carrier oil. The standard carrier oil in our industry in non-organic MCT oil, hemp oil or olive oil. Those are the three. That’s 95% of all the carriers, and if you really understood health, and you understood botanicals, you would never use any one of those for your carrier oil.

Matt Baum: 22:54 Why is that?

John Roulac: 22:56 First off, lets talk about hemp oil. Hemp oil, as I mentioned before, I’m the founder to Nutiva, we’re the number one selling brand of organic hemp seed oil in North America.

Matt Baum: 23:09 Okay.

John Roulac: 23:09 I have access to it, so why don’t I use it? Because hemp oil goes rancid, it’s got a short shelf life, as soon as you open up [crosstalk 00:23:15] you put it in the refrigerator. But it’s omega 3, and how many people who have tinctures at home, put it in the refrigerator?

Matt Baum: 23:24 I don’t. I keep mine in my bathroom.

John Roulac: 23:27 Nobody does. So people are using rancid oil, and putting it on their tongue and thinking they’re helping themselves. So there’s no reason to use hemp seed oil, unless it’s in a product that’s in the refrigerator. If you came up with a salad dressing with CBD in it, and it said refrigerate after opening, then that’s a different thing.

Matt Baum: 23:49 Sure.

John Roulac: 23:49 Then hemp oil wouldn’t be necessarily a bad carrier. And then olive oil has a little better shelf life than hemp, but still a short shelf life.

Matt Baum: 23:57 Right, still too much fat that’ll go rancid.

John Roulac: 24:00 And the other thing, what does olive oil and hemp oil have in common? They are long chain fats, so they’re like C20, C22. That’s the molecule length.

Matt Baum: 24:10 Okay.

John Roulac: 24:12 MCT coconut oil, medium-chain triglyceride coconut oil is more like C8 and C10, so it’s much smaller, so the small molecule size penetrates through the cell wall. The reason why they call it carrier oil, and remember when you buy a tincture, the majority of what’s in it is a carrier oil, it’s not even CBD.

Matt Baum: 24:35 Right, it’s just an oil that’s carrying the CBD, literally.

John Roulac: 24:38 Yeah. And the point of the carrier is to carry it through the cell wall into the cells and into our organs.

Matt Baum: 24:44 So the smaller the molecule, the better it’s going to carry it, more or less.

John Roulac: 24:48 Exactly. So we think organic MCT coconut oil is the gold standard. We pay a much higher price for it, but that’s why we use it. Now the majority of companies that use MCT oil, use non-organic MCT coconut oil, because it’s again, it’s cheaper.

Matt Baum: 25:02 Of course.

John Roulac: 25:03 And as long as you want to go as bigger, faster, cheaper, you’re going to use the cheaper stuff. Do you have any idea how they make non-organic MCT coconut oil?

Matt Baum: 25:13 I can only imagine.

John Roulac: 25:15 The ironic thing is, how many companies have you heard in the CBD business that talk about their carrier oils?

Matt Baum: 25:21 I’ve only talked to a couple that have brought it up, and when I do talk to those people, my first thought is, “All right, these people know what they’re talking about, they’re paying attention.”

John Roulac: 25:29 Yeah.

Matt Baum: 25:30 But they’re few and far in between, really.

John Roulac: 25:32 Yeah, that gives you an idea. They never talk about your carrier oil. I’ve been to the Philippines 30 times, part of my pioneering virgin coconut oil, with Nutiva, back in the last 15 … So it’s 2003, that’s when I started selling virgin coconut oil, pioneering that. So I’ve been to the Philippines 30 times, been to all these mills. So, there’s two pathways in processing coconut in the Philippines and many of the tropical countries.

John Roulac: 26:01 The first one is the fresh one, and that’s what we use, but the vast majority is not fresh coconuts. Basically the farmer harvest the coconut, maybe they’re in a rural area, they’re up on a high road, they’re up a mountain, and so they don’t have access closer to the mill where the fresh nuts go. So they chop the coconut, they scoop the meat out they just lay it out on the roadside, they lay it out on some dusty boxes or whatever it is.

Matt Baum: 26:28 Right.

John Roulac: 26:28 It starts to mold, it gets black, [crosstalk 00:26:32]. It’s kind of not the nicest thing.

Matt Baum: 26:37 Yeah.

John Roulac: 26:37 So then they scoop it out, and then some guy comes by in a truck, and they throw it in with all the other ones, and then this kind of blackened coconut meat gets sent to big mills. And it’s stacked up a like four or five story high building, and I go into these and then there’s trucks going by, and there’s grease on the pavement, where it’s sitting.

John Roulac: 26:57 It sits there and then they have to go and bleach it and deodorize it, they use a lot of chemicals and now they’ve sterilized it, and then once they do that, then they have to fraction it further, to separate the solid fat to the liquid.

Matt Baum: 27:16 So literally making oil out of garbage.

John Roulac: 27:18 Yeah. And that oil’s got this kind of yellow tinge to it, it doesn’t smell very good, it doesn’t taste very good.

Matt Baum: 27:23 So you’ve got to do something to it to make it smell better and taste better to.

John Roulac: 27:28 And if you look at the leading brands of CBD, that’s what they use.

Matt Baum: 27:33 Because it’s cheap, that’s why, because people are going to add flavor to it, and you’re not going to know.

John Roulac: 27:39 Yeah, you don’t know. So here’s how the fresh coconuts are made. So you take the fresh coconuts, once they get to the mill they cure there for a few weeks just to get to the right amount of water and fat.

Matt Baum: 27:53 Right.

John Roulac: 27:54 But they’re not opened, and then once they’re open, they immediately scoop the meat out, and then it’s dried, so once it’s exposed to the oxygen, they dry it, they remove all the water and now they convert that into the virgin coconut oil press, into the oil press. So now have this virgin coconut oil, and then from there, and this is done in Indonesia, and from there then it’s sent to Singapore, and it goes to a special facility, there’s only one in the world that knows how to do this, and they slowly cool it down, and then they spin it through a centrifuge process, and they separate out the lauric acid, and that’s being used by different companies like Procter & Gamble and other ones, they use this lauric acid for soaps or specialty medicines and things.

Matt Baum: 28:46 Right.

John Roulac: 28:46 With the liquid part, the C8 and C10, then we put that in [inaudible 00:28:52], and then it’s shipped over to the US, and Nutiva is the number one seller of that, and we source that from Nutiva, and many other companies that are doing it right, actually source that. So if you’re in the CBD industry and you want to do it right, you know where to get that.

Making healthy, sustainable CBD

Matt Baum: 29:10 So in a nutshell, when we are making our CBD purchase we need to ask ourselves, “Does this company grow their hemp correctly in an organic way? Are they doing it in a way that is good for the soil also?” Next, “Are they doing it with a responsible carrier oil, that is grown the right way?” And then finally, “Are they using an extraction method that’s not adding this stuff, we’re trying to get away from right back into it?”

John Roulac: 29:39 Yeah, exactly.

Matt Baum: 29:41 Good God.

John Roulac: 29:43 It’s important.

Matt Baum: 29:44 I feel guilty just as a host on this show, and I’m learning. Part of this whole show is my education to CBD as well. I came into this as a podcaster. I am learning, and it makes me want to go back an edit some things that were even said on this show. I never thought of stuff like this, it’s incredible. It seems like such a completely uphill battle. Other than doing it yourself, and like you said, I like that you used the word conspiracy, and hijack, I like that a lot, what else can we do? Just demand this in our companies, just make-

John Roulac: 30:18 I think the best thing that people could do, is to go to the Instagram pages, and the Facebook pages of the CBD companies that you buy, or you bought from, where you question and ask them, “Can you tell me how you grow? Can you tell me how you process?”

Matt Baum: 30:38 I love it, it’s guerrilla social warfare.

John Roulac: 30:40 And not just CO2, not just, “Oh, we do natural farming methods.” What does that mean?

Matt Baum: 30:45 Yeah, “What is natural? It’s grown on earth, oh you mean it’s grown on the planet, thanks.”

John Roulac: 30:51 I think the presidency there is natural.

Matt Baum: 30:52 Yeah, I’m sure it’s real natural, it’s a very natural color certainly.

John Roulac: 30:57 Yeah.

Matt Baum: 30:57 No I like that, it’s like social guerrilla warfare, call them out and see if they can answer the questions.

John Roulac: 31:02 Yeah, so do that. I think going to go to the study, the hemp report card that just came out last week in September, from the Center For Food Safety, get that report card and look at that and call up the companies and ask them questions.

Matt Baum: 31:20 Yeah, definitely.

John Roulac: 31:22 And one of the things that we’re proud of at RE Botanicals is, we’re the first certified organic, vertically integrated, flower to bottle operation.

Matt Baum: 31:34 That’s amazing.

John Roulac: 31:35 So, let me explain that. The vast majority of all CBD companies outsource their manufacturing, growing, processing, and packaging, and bottling.

Matt Baum: 31:47 Of course.

John Roulac: 31:47 Because we want to shake the industry up, and we’re able to do that, and so we merged with a company called Palmetto Harmony, Janel is the founder, her daughter is named Harmony, she’s a special needs child. Had a lot of tremors, a lot of issues, and Janel was tired of getting the hemp oil hustler, bad quality hemp seed oil-

Matt Baum: 32:17 Right.

John Roulac: 32:17 … In 2014, so she created this company, now we’ve merged, and now it’s RE Botanicals, and we also have a Palmetto Harmony branch. We work with the farmers, we actually grow some ourselves, and we work with the farmers, we bring it to our facility, and then we extract it, we have two types of extractions, I’ll come to talk about that in a moment, so we extract it, and then we take that, and then we further process it, and then we blend it with the organic MCT coconut oil, and other botanicals, like essential oil from orange or peppermint, we only use natural flavors, and then we package it. And there’s no company in the industry that does all of that, that’s certified organic. Maybe there’s somebody that’s got like a tiny little shed on his farm somewhere.

Matt Baum: 33:06 Right.

John Roulac: 33:06 But no one that’s in supermarkets and natural food stores that we know of, we think that really gives an advantage, so we send it all up for the testing. So we’re pretty excited.

Matt Baum: 33:20 Yeah.

John Roulac: 33:20 But in the, “How we process.” So there’s two ways we process. RE Botanicals has been based on certified organic alcohol extraction and we take organic not from GMO ethanol or also people call it alcohol, so we take organic cane, from cane sugar, we take an ethanol that’s done there, so there’s no GMOs, certified organic. It’s much more expensive, and then we use that, mix in the flowers, we cool it down, really low temperature, and then we take that process, we extract it, we decarb it so it’s heated to release the CBD.

Matt Baum: 34:03 Sure.

John Roulac: 34:03 There’s companies that are selling CBD that is not even decarbed, and people aren’t getting the benefits. I have some people say, like last night I was with [inaudible 00:34:13] executive, I won’t say who, but one of the top executives, one of the biggest natural food companies in the world, and she says, “Yeah, I got a sore wrist.” And she’s been taking on one of the leading brands, it was one of the marijuana brands, and she’s been using, she doesn’t get any benefit. She says, “Is this just placebo, or what’s the deal? I don’t get any-“

Matt Baum: 34:31 When you say decarbed, what does that mean?

John Roulac: 34:34 Decarbed means, you have to go through a Decarboxylation process, so it heats it up so it activates. You need to heat it to activate the CBD.

Matt Baum: 34:45 Right.

John Roulac: 34:45 So anyways, she put one of our … We have a roll-on product that’s made from alcohol extraction, and all of a sudden her wrist was getting better, and she says, “I’ve been using this other stuff for weeks and nothing.”

Matt Baum: 35:02 “Congratulations, you’re moisturizing.” At that point, basically.

John Roulac: 35:06 Yeah, so we have the alcohol process and that’s the traditional way hemp [inaudible 00:35:14] since the 1800s, we’ve had hemp apothecary, they didn’t call it hemp, it was just cannabis sativa, but in 1850 they were blending it and using it as old-fashioned medicines in America. And that went on until the 1930s, and then the pharmaceutical industry shut down the apothecary movement, including hemp.

Matt Baum: 35:33 We did a show all about that, the history of hemp.

John Roulac: 35:35 Yeah, with the history of apothecary, there’s Lloyd Museum in Ohio, you should interview the Lloyd Museum people.

Matt Baum: 35:44 Lloyd Museum, I’m taking notes on this while you’re telling me this.

John Roulac: 35:47 Massive knowledge. On our website we have a timeline from the 1850s to now, so we think apothecary, the alcohol extraction is kind of tried and true, we like it a little better than CO2, some people like CO2 to do this. But the other thing, we have another way we process also, and that is lipid infusion.

Matt Baum: 36:08 Yeah.

John Roulac: 36:09 Or our MCT flower infusion.

Matt Baum: 36:12 I just talked to a guy about lipid infusion a few weeks ago on an earlier show. We’d been talking extraction on the show, lipid infusion is very cool.

John Roulac: 36:19 Yeah, so this is what Janel, from Palmetto Harmony, my partner, now COO of the company, and she’s been a real pioneer in one of the leading hemp CBD, and when I went out to her greenhouses, it was like, “Oh, she’s got organic compost, oh she’s got all the different things.”

Matt Baum: 36:40 That’s awesome.

John Roulac: 36:41 She was using certified organic medium, before it was even hip. So I was like, “Well, this is good.”

Matt Baum: 36:47 Right, “It’s just the right way to do it, we’re not trying to be cool, this is just the right way to do it.”

John Roulac: 36:51 Yeah, so we take the MCT, and of course we use the organic MCT coconut oil, so you take the coconut oil, first you’ve got to decarb the flower, then you put it into the organic MCT coconut oil, and then it essentially soaks, and soaks up and extracts that CBD just being in this warm oil.

Matt Baum: 37:15 Right, just naturally the fat just clings to it, it pulls it and lines to it.

John Roulac: 37:19 Yeah, and it just comes out a bit.

Matt Baum: 37:20 But you have to wait, that’s it.

John Roulac: 37:22 Yeah, and then you just hit a spigot, it’s like a brewery process. And that’s got more of a rootsy, kind of herbal flavor.

Matt Baum: 37:33 I would really like to try that.

John Roulac: 37:35 And many of her customers are moms with special need kids, and a lot of her customers are for that, and so those are the two methods we use, the MCT flower infusion, also called lipid infusion.

Matt Baum: 37:53 Right.

John Roulac: 37:54 And then that alcohol extraction.

Matt Baum: 37:56 I wanted to ask you earlier, the cane that you guys get, does that come from the Philippines as well?

John Roulac: 38:00 From Brazil.

Matt Baum: 38:01 From Brazil, okay. So this is just … You guys are completely punk rock about this, you didn’t like the way something was being done, so you said, “Screw it, we’re going to do it, all of it, our way, and we’re going to control every aspect of it, so we know it’s being done that way.” I love that punk rock sensibility. That’s very cool.

John Roulac: 38:20 Yeah. I was a punk in the early 80s.

Matt Baum: 38:23 I had a feeling, there was a little rabble-rouser to your voice, I couldn’t help but notice when you started talking about this stuff.

Closing thoughts

Matt Baum: 38:34 John was amazing to talk to, and I want to thank Christy at RE Botanicals for helping set this up. RE Botanicals are so serious about their beliefs that last Friday, the 27th, during the climate strike, their website was closed for business. If you went there, there was actually a link to an animated video that explained organic regenerative agriculture, and I’ve got to say, that’s pretty amazing. Just being closed for 24 hours to make a statement.

Matt Baum: 39:00 Well hemp isn’t the only answer, of course we’d like to see changes like this across the spectrum of agriculture. It is important that people getting into hemp and hemp farmers realize that while we’re starting this anew, there’s a better way to do it than the old way, and I’m glad that there’s people like John, and companies like RE Botanicals out there that are doing it the right way.

Matt Baum: 39:33 Well that about does it for this episode of the Ministry of Hemp podcast. As always you can find a complete written transcript of the show in the notes, along with links to RE Botanicals, to the trailer for Kiss The Ground, the movie that John has been working on and so much more, and of course you can always find links to the Ministry of Hemp top brands in our Top Brands section on the website ministryofhemp.com, if you like what you hear, let me know, because the Ministry of Hemp podcast is produced, edited, written and performed by me. And if you really want to help us out and help spread information like this to people that need to hear it, do me a favor and leave this podcast a review on iTunes, give us a star rating or go to your favorite podcast app and gives us a thumbs up or whatever they do there. It really does help, it pushes us up in search results, it’s the least you can do to help this show out.

Matt Baum: 40:31 We always want to hear from you at the Ministry of Hemp, so you can hit us up on our Twitter @ministryofhemp, Facebook /ministryofhemp, or you can call me at 402-819-6417 and leave a message at the Ministry of Hemp hotline. I’ve been doing some question and answer shows with Kit, the editor and chief at ministryofhemp.com, and it’s been fantastic. Your questions have been great, a lot of medical related stuff, and again we’re not doctors, I’m going to repeat that over and over again, but we can find the information you need, so please, give us a call. We’d love to hear from you.

Matt Baum: 41:08 Next time on the show we’re going to continue our series on women working in hemp, when I talk to Jane Pinto of First Crop, Jane is great, and I can’t wait for you guys to hear that interview, but for now, remember to take care of yourself, take care of others and make good decisions, will you?

Matt Baum: 41:25 This is the Ministry of Hemp, signing off.

Matt Baum has been hosting, producing, and editing podcasts for almost ten years. He's been a touring musician, chef, journalist, and avid comic book fan for as long as he can remember. Currently, Matt lives in Omaha Nebraska with his wife Kacie and pugs Mable and Bobo.

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