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Cannabis Tech had the opportunity to interview Dr. Kyle Hammerick, Chief Science Officer at Escape Artists – a best-selling cannabis brand from Colorado about dosing, formulations, and pharmaceutical influences coming to cannabis.
Dr. Hammerick specialized in regenerative medicine and stem cells until he pivoted to the cannabis space when he saw the potential for more effective and systemic drug delivery methods. Working previously in the pharmaceutical space, he identified a need for increased compliance and testing processes to improve the quality of cannabis products and their efficacy and integrity for consumer health applications.
From scientific testing to federal and consumer standardization, Dr. Hammerick takes us through the present and future state of cannabis as a drug and the regulatory maze in commercial-scale cannabis.
Q&A with Dr. Kyle Hammerick
Q: Tell us about your background and role with Escape Artists?
A: I came into the industry in 2016. My role covers product formulation, product, ideation, and invention, all the way to how we can turn this idea or this bench process into an actual product and try to deploy it as a full process that we can scale and make consumer-friendly.
However, in pharmaceuticals, you’re often looking for ways to extend drug delivery. In cannabis, the goal is to deliver it faster. How can we simulate smoking without actually smoking?
Q: What methods are you employing at Escape Artists to ensure that your products have that consistent dosing and that customers or clients know what they’re getting every time they use one of your products?
A: We take lessons from pharmaceuticals and bring that into cannabis. That involves additional testing beyond the minimum compliance testing required by the Marijuana Enforcement Division, like stability and potency testing. And the knowledge from pharmaceutical gives us a little bit of an edge compared to some of our competitors who might not be going to great lengths to ensure product quality.
Q: What have you found to be the best delivery method for cannabinoid absorption?
A: That’s going to be subjective based on what you want to achieve. When we look at the topicals, those aim to deliver an effect very locally to a knee or elbow.
For faster-acting effects, smoking is always going to be best because you have a big surface area in the lung, and it gets into the bloodstream very rapidly; and you’re across the blood-brain barrier. Even though we work on rapid delivery, smoking or inhalation is one of the most rapid forms of getting systemic levels of THC or even CBD. But because of the health [concerns], you must do it judiciously.
Q: How do you properly dose topicals? And what are some of the challenges involved with dosing cannabis?
A: Cannabis, in general, is challenging for dosing, just because there’s a lot of individual variation. Even in traditional pharmaceuticals, there’s a lot of variation and response. That’s why we have large clinical trials that say, on average, this person or this population will respond a particular way.
Cannabis falls under the same umbrella as having different response rates, and some people will feel or be more subject to the THC or CBD. So, it’s tough to dose it orally; I think that’s one of the reasons maybe topicals have gotten a foothold. They’re typically non-impairing with nearly no significant side effects.
With topicals, we advise people to ‘start low, go slow’ – to start on test spots and see how it makes you feel. And then, if you need to apply more, there’s a bigger window where you can apply a lot more to get the desired effect.
It’s a bit tough to recommend dosage levels, but with topicals, there’s so much room to err on the side of generous proportions.
Q: Since you’ve spent time in both industries, what are the similarities and differences between the pharmaceutical industry and the cannabis space?
A: Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, they’re starting to converge. THC, and CBD, are drugs. In terms of differences, there’s much more trial data on pharmaceuticals. We don’t have the funding in the cannabis space that Pharma has. We’re unable to do large-scale blinded trials to prove unequivocal results. A lot of cannabis info is anecdotal, industry-wide, but we do some small qualitative studies internally.
Regarding similarities, with things like pain, it’s hard to get objective data, but you get a lot of preponderance of subjective data and analog data that gives you directional information about where it’s going. There’s a sophistication coming to the cannabis industry looking at creating good manufacturing practices and facilities. Mandatory documentation and paperwork such as tracking incoming materials, and testing are similar to the pharmaceutical space.
The Marijuana Enforcement Division is getting more sophisticated on the regulatory side. They’re imposing more testing requirements, which is good for the industry. Ultimately, you don’t want to regulate it out of existence, but you need some protection for the customers, especially when dealing with impairing substances.
Q: What do you think the future looks like as we push forward with federal regulation?
A: We’re in the initial stages right now with state-by-state regulation. Even if it becomes federally decriminalized or somewhat federally endorsed, it’ll probably still be a hodgepodge of state regulations. But the roadmap will probably be something similar to the pharmaceutical model, not as far as development, but as far as record-keeping and quality control, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.