Crafting Purposeful Highs for the “High” Functioning Adult | Interview With the CEO of 1906
1906 New Highs is a Colorado Cannabis brand that is not interested in getting you super-duper-extra stoned. Instead they use cannabis as an enhancement tool – whether it be enhancing your love life, pushing you further athletically, helping you sleep, or helping you get shit done. The CEO Peter Barsoom says their products are for, “High Functioning Adults” and also stresses that cannabis should be pesticide-free and available in a healthy, non-smoking format.
We got the chance to sit down and chat with Peter about how he got into cannabis, what 1906 means, how they achieve a consistently high quality product, aesthetics and branding, equality and inclusivity in the industry, future predictions, and beyond.
Listen to the episode or read the interview below!
You started with a career on Wall Street. Tell us about your history and the transition into cannabis?
I left finance in, in 2014 because I wanted to pursue something more entrepreneurial, and that had a more significant impact. The idea behind 1906 came from my very close friend, who’d been a long-time cannabis user. I had used cannabis during college and not much post-college.
Long story short – there were two main reasons we got into the business. One is that my friend had gone through a period of anxiety and depression that was pretty debilitating. She was put on antidepressants that didn’t help her situation.
It was through medical cannabis that she was able to get off antidepressants and become more functional. I saw firsthand the medicinal benefits of cannabis in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. We went out to Colorado on our first visit in early 2015. The first thing that we noticed is that the quality of the cannabis we smoke today is the best it’s ever been.
You have clean green certified cannabis that is pesticide-free. You have the availability of so many different strains to choose from to dial in specific effects. If you’re a flower smoker, life is good, but if you’re not a smoker it’s a different story.
What we saw as a significant problem with edibles was a market that doesn’t serve people like us: high functioning adults for who cannabis can be a potential alternative to alcohol or pharmaceuticals.
That’s what we set up 1906 to do – to serve people like us who want the best possible cannabis experience that they can get in a nonsmoking format.
So why the name 1906?
1906 is named for the year the Wiley Act (also known as the Pure Food and Drug Act) was passed, effectively starting the era of cannabis prohibition. We are on a mission to bring cannabis back to its pre-prohibition status as a mainstream, widely used medicine for the greater good (and greater fun).
1906 flips the stoner persona to what you’re calling “New Highs” or “cannabis edibles for the high functioning adult.” How do your edibles accomplish this?
There were three major problems with the edibles industry and the edibles market. One is that most products have a strong Hashish flavor and poor quality ingredients.
Secondly, you had no idea how it was going to make you feel. When people use cannabis, they want to feel a particular way, whether it be relief from pain, anxiety, help with sleep, help with sexual performance, or energy. It’s not about getting high; it’s about feeling a particular way.
The third issue that we’re trying to solve is that it takes way too long to start to feel the effects of most edibles. Most of us don’t have six hours to have a date with an edible or don’t want to play Russian roulette with any product that we’ve put into our body.
Those are the three problems we tried to solve. It’s got to taste good cause it’s food. It has to deliver a specific amount of THC, and it has to be fast-acting.
How do you go about getting the same effect every single time with every single batch of chocolates that you produce?
That’s all about sourcing and quality control. We use single strains of cannabis in each of our different experiences. That allows us to control the input material in terms of cannabis. Secondly, we use dietary supplements and other plant medicines to enhance the cannabis to deliver that specific effect.
For instance, our GO product (which has got a strong following among athletes) has caffeine, l-theanine, theobromine, and Alpinia galanga. Those are natural stimulants which work great with cannabis to give you that sense of energy that you’re looking for. Each one of our different products has other plant medicines and a particular strain of cannabis.
We do a ton of testing before product development phase to ensure that it delivers the right experience. We have the strictest QA and QC standards in our manufacturing process to ensure that when we say it’s got five milligrams of THC and five milligrams of CBD, it always does. So that combination of quality sourcing and quality control ensures that every 1906 product is the same.
Earlier you talked about pesticide-free cannabis. Do you grow your own? Do you work with a specific farm? How does sourcing happen?
We partner with a farm; we don’t grow our own. We try and do what we do best, which is manufacturing, marketing, and products. We have long term arrangements with farms that growth specific genetics for our needs. We inspect all the farms, and we inspect all the material that comes to us with every single batch to ensure that it meets our quality standards.
Can you talk a little about aesthetics in branding and design and why that’s important to your company?
That was very important for us. People used to getting cannabis illegally were getting it in little baggies. Even the products that are on dispensary shelves are poorly designed.
Design is an essential part of de-stigmatizing cannabis, making it attractive to consumers and making it more accessible. By having simple names as we do and by having bright packaging that’s clear about what you’re getting. It turns it to more of a health and wellness product than a formerly banned substance.
We have a lot of people who give our products to their friends. Instead of showing up with a bottle of wine, they show up with peanut butter cups or a box of chocolates. It’s something that you’d be proud to give somebody as a gift.
I wanted to bring up inclusivity and equality in the industry. It’s a big topic in this budding space. What are you doing to push the industry in the right direction in that regard?
The Last Hundred Years of prohibition have severely damaged many communities of color. We have an obligation as an industry participant to right the wrongs of the last hundred years or so of prohibition.
We do that in a couple of ways. One, by having a diverse workforce. 70% of our team is female. We think that’s very important as a new industry that reflects the consumers and the overall population.
Number two, we’ve got an initiative that we’re starting to employ formerly incarcerated individuals, those who have been most affected by the war on drugs. This industry is creating tens of thousands of new jobs, and we’re trying to play our part by putting together a training program for formerly incarcerated individuals and open up positions to them in this industry.
That’s just a few of the things that we’re doing. We’re also actively involved with the Cannabis Trade Federation on their diversity task force.
Say you’re a new consumer looking for a new product, what are some of the most important things you should be looking for?
I think one of the first things is to ensure quality and consistency. Cannabis is a strong psychoactive substance. Just like you would choose what medication you take, cannabis is medicine. Only put the highest quality ingredients in your body. You can do that several ways, but the most important is ensuring that you’re buying from the highest quality producers in whatever format you enjoy cannabis.
There is a lot of testing that goes on in the industry that’s required by the state. But there are firms like us and others who go way above and beyond even the state-mandated requirements. I would advise everybody to focus on quality. Recognize that you often get what you pay for and, and the cheapest items are usually not the best for you.
What are some of the mistakes that you see other cannabis companies making?
I think one of the big mistakes is there is a belief that people want the highest potency. We saw that early on in the Colorado market, and it still exists today. One of the state regulations is that you can’t go above 10 milligrams per serving and 100mgs a package.
For a lot of people, 10 milligrams is too much. You shouldn’t give people advice to cut products in half. That’s the wrong answer. So that’s why all of our products are at five milligrams or at one milligram to give consumers a choice in deciding what’s the right dosage for them.
I see the push towards the highest potency, whether that be in concentrates or whether that be in edibles to be dangerous frankly to most consumers. Getting too high is the worst possible experience. It’s worse than having too much alcohol or having too much of any substance. So we always tell people you can always take one more. You can never take one less.
Give us a little sneak peek into the future of 1906. Any new products or things you’re thinking about getting into?
We’re excited about the products that we’re releasing and also where we’re expanding geographically.
Products: we’re going to be soon launching what we call our ”drops”. These are pressed tablets that are swallowable pills, and those will be out in the market in September. That gives people the discreteness and the convenience of taking a pill when they want. Not everybody wants to take a piece of chocolate. Some people don’t want sugar, for instance, at night before they go to bed. Pills are the predominant way in which we take medicine today. So our products are now all going to be available in a pill format. They will be in the same standard dosage, five milligrams for most of our experiences.
Our newest experience ”genius” will be available in two and a half milligrams.
We’re launching pills, and we’re also launching our sixth new experience, Genius. That adds several other nootropics and other plant medicines that work well for brain power and cognitive performance.
We’re also launching 1906 Pax pods later this year as well. So pax pods and vaping in general have taken off as a way in which people want to enjoy their cannabis. So you’ll see our 1906 pax pods coming out later this year.
And then beverages. There’s a strong demand in the market for high quality, low sugar, all-natural, low dose beverages. We’re excited about introducing beverages toward the end of this year (or the first part of next year) as yet another way for consumers to enjoy cannabis.
And then we’re expanding beyond Colorado as well. In the first quarter of next year, we’ll be opening up Massachusetts and Michigan and then Illinois, Ohio and competing for licenses in New Jersey and Florida. So we’ve got a robust east coast focus with our geographic expansion. Then California eventually, probably in 2021.
One five and ten-year predictions for the cannabis industry?
I think in one year what we’ll likely see is more form factors being available. We see a lot more development. Beverages are just one example.
In five years – it’s incredible what’s happened in the last five years. Who could have predicted the number of states that are now legal or are on their way to being legal. So five years I think we’ll probably see some movement on the federal front. Maybe de-scheduling or at least letting states do their own thing while federal prohibition remains.
Ten years, very difficult for me to see that far ahead other than it’s only going to get better.very
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