(This story is part of the cover package in the July issue of MJBizMagazine.)
Guy Rocourt, the CEO of Papa & Barkley, a California-based infused products maker, has followed cannabis research from his earliest days in the legal marijuana industry.
As the company’s former chief operating officer, Rocourt infused what he learned into the balms, edibles, tinctures and other products Papa & Barkley produces. For example, he started including lavender in whole-plant cannabis balms after reading an Israeli research paper that found the plant helped cannabinoids penetrate the skin.
Such research, Rocourt reasoned, would lend credibility to the products while educating the company’s patients.
“We’ve always wanted to make products that are based on the most accurate cannabis science, so I can go out and speak agnostically about (the research),” Rocourt said. “The more you (the customer) know, the more likely you are to buy Papa & Barkley products, because we are formulating them to the best in class of cannabis science.”
Launching a research program
But a few years ago, when Rocourt wanted to set up studies to explore cannabis’ therapeutic effects, the universities he approached about a partnership either said no or didn’t reply. Rocourt speculated they were worried about losing federal funding as well as the stigma of marijuana and bias in favor of mainstream drugs.
Rocourt was undeterred, however, and Papa & Barkley decided that if it could not pursue research in partnership with universities, the company would leverage its assets to perform its own research through “in-home-use tests,” or IHUTs.
One of the most important assets Papa & Barkley had was a database that included thousands of consumers who had bought its products. The registry, started with the company’s launch in 2016, included customers who bought THC products in California’s regulated market as well as national customers who’d purchased CBD goods.
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Setting up an IHUT is a multistep process that starts with subject recruitment and screening, said Cassie Perlman, Papa & Barkley’s senior vice president for marketing.
For its most recent IHUT analyzing the efficacy of Papa & Barkley’s Sleep Releaf Tincture, which contains
4 milligrams of THC, 2 milligrams of CBD and 1 milligram of CBN per serving, the company wanted to have about 100 subjects. Papa & Barkley aimed to recruit a mix of 150 women and men, however, because many subjects drop out of the tests. In the end, 94 subjects completed the study.
To recruit subjects for the sleep tincture study, Papa & Barkley mailed questionnaires to consumers, asking questions such as:
- How many hours do you sleep per night?
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your trouble sleeping?
- Do you take any other sleep aids or pharmaceutical products?
Papa & Barkley then analyzed the recruitment screening results that were returned.
Borrowing from other industries
To create the sleep study and other research, Papa & Barkley looked at studies that were being done in the natural holistic health and supplement industries, Perlman said. Using research from these industries as a reference, Papa & Barkley created a sleep study where the 94 subjects were mailed the sleep tincture, instructed to take it daily for two weeks and asked to reply to a survey at the end of the first and second weeks.
The survey asked subjects questions about how long it took to fall asleep after using the tincture, how often they woke up, whether they felt groggy when they woke up and how they would rate their sleep quality.
Perlman reported that, based on survey results, subjects using the tincture fell asleep 20 minutes faster on average, woke up less throughout the night and didn’t feel groggy in the morning.
Based on the success of the cannabinoid formulation used in its sleep tincture, Papa & Barkley believes the same formula likely would work in gummies or other infused products, Rocourt said.
“At the end of the day, it’s the same cannabis inputs and the same ratio,” he said. “We have disclaimers on all of our (sleep) products that say the study was done on a tincture but can apply to the entire Sleep Relief collection.”
While these studies haven’t secured Papa & Barkley admission to any universities, Rocourt believes that day will come – and when it does, his company will already have a head start, thanks to the IHUTs.
“Eventually, when we can work with a university, we’ll at least have documentation that we’re worth placing a bet on,” he said.