Green Relief Inc CEO on New Corporate Governance and Expansion
Green Relief Inc produces medical cannabis and oils using an aquaponic growing system, which provides significant cost savings. New CEO Dr. Neilank K. Jha discusses Green Relief’s corporate governance and explains the company’s plans for future growth. Dr. Jha is thrilled with the success of Green Relief’s Sunrise Oil and notes that the product is always oversold whenever it becomes available. Dr. Jha sees the success of Green Relief’s cannabis oils as an opportunity to grow the company’s operations. Shareholders have recapitalized Green Relief and the company is breaking ground on a 175,000 square foot facility shortly. Green Relief is heavily invested in research and development through Green Relief Innovations. The company is developing products for medical conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and traumatic brain injuries.
James West: Neilank K. Jha joins me now. He’s the CEO of Green Relief. You’re the incoming CEO of Green Relief, and the company has been sort of plowing forward – I mean, I can say without any reservation that you guys make the best CBD oil in the world.
Neilank K. Jha: Well, we’d like to think so, and I think based on the clients that we have, we’re oversold with Sunrise even before it comes out on the market at any given time. I think that’s a lot related to the genetics that we have, the labs that we’ve had, and we’ve invested a ton in infrastructure to produce a medical-grade product. And I think the consumers are demonstrating to us that that’s what we’re doing.
James West: Yeah. So based on the fact that I’ve been consuming your product for almost a full year now on a daily basis, and I have experienced that, when I go to the store, if I don’t buy it right away upon receiving notice that it’s available again, I lose out. And so to me, that’s got to be one of the best problems you can have as a provider of cannabis products.
Neilank K. Jha: Yeah, you know, when I entered as CEO two weeks ago, people said we have a supply problem. I said, actually, I think we have a supply opportunity. So I brought our team together, and we sort of doing our forecasting and our analytics, and we determined that even if you took this entire block of King Street West here, the entire corner right to Earl’s, whole little block, and if we produced Sunrise oil out of that entire facility, we would still be oversold.
So what we determined is, we required a grow. And we’ve identified that if we produce facilities for $15 million in infrastructure, we could produce free cash flows of $50 million to $60 million a year.
So when I came in as CEO two weeks ago, I immediately called some Town Halls, and we had the greatest shareholders in our company: 500 shareholders. And I explained this challenge to them, and immediately these shareholders stepped up to the plate and re-capitalized the company.
James West: Great. Yeah, well, obviously, who wouldn’t? Okay, so how quickly will you be able to ramp up to meet that supply shortage?
Neilank K. Jha: Well, there’s several factors here. We’re going to be breaking ground shortly on a 175,000 square foot facility; we anticipate that eight months from now, we’ll be able to provide some product, and the yield will consistently go up. As you know, we have aquaponics, so it would be about eight months before we could do that.
In the meantime, we’ve already identified distribution networks. People are extremely impressed with the quality of the product, so when I came in as CEO, there was four areas I was focusing on. One is our shareholders, and I listened to them and I identified that what they wanted was better corporate governance, better corporate structure, accountability and transparency. So within 48 hours of being CEO, I restructured the management team, restructured the Board.
We have a great group of scientists: Masters, PhDs, that now directly report to me, and we’re advancing the product.
The second group was the staff. We recruit the best staff possible: PhDs from U of T, from McMaster, in horticulture, and they’re attracted to the innovation that we have. They come with purpose, with the analytics, the labs. It’s not by accident that we have the highest concentration CBD product on the market with the broadest spectrum; it’s because of the science that we bring to the table.
So I right away created an employee stock program for the staff, so now they have purpose and they have profit, which to me brings performance.
The third group is the clients and the consumers, and as you’ve mentioned yourself, I believe in complete accountability and transparency, so I’d love to tell the audience about the dinner we had the other night.
James West: Sure.
Neilank K. Jha: Maybe you can describe – ?
James West: All right, you’re going to make me do that? Well, we were talking about the product; I just happened to have a 30 ml jar in my knapsack, because I was going to bring it to work, and I forgot to take it out of my knapsack, so I had it with me at the dinner we had. And you had just joined the team, and had not actually had the chance to, you know, see some of the packaging, so I said, well, here, this is going to be my gift to you. And I opened it and showed it to you, and then I knocked it over, and the oil spilled out onto the table. And I said, okay, now, Neilank, I’m going to demonstrate to you how much I love this oil; and I licked it off the table, and probably got very calm afterwards, because, you know, the CBD oil is not really heavily psychotropic, but it does impart a profound calming effect.
But you know, to me it was just, it would have been criminal not to consume as much of that spilt oil as possible, because that’s how much I value it; I value it so highly I stockpile it. I’ve got, I think, six extra bottles in my cupboard right now just because I’m horrified that at some point, the supply might be interrupted because the supply challenge that you’re having, it interprets to me into a fear of missing out; that means I’ve got to stockpile this stuff.
Neilank K. Jha: And you know why I drove you home later that night. [laughter] And you know, one of the reasons I drove you home is that as the CEO of Green Relief, when we have a client like you that is that committed to, you know, imbibe the product off the surface of the table, I’m working for you.
James West: [laughter]
Neilank K. Jha: So you call me anytime you need a ride.
James West: [laughter] Well, let’s hope I don’t have to do that too many times.
Neilank K. Jha: No, but you know, I told that story to our staff and our scientists, and you know, just with you as the industry leader, and the, you know, reputation that you have, it just put a jolt through the office when I went back there to everybody and said, He loves the product so much. And that’s the experience we’re getting across the board.
And you know, the final pillar of what I’m looking to do here is, for the partnerships and investor community, we’re coming out now as a new Green Relief. We’re re-energized; we’re renewed. And I’ve sat with a number of our various partners and said, How can we work together collaboratively to take this to the next level? And I think with the new corporate governance, the staff re-energized, the unlimited clients that we have in addition to the ability to now form these partnerships and collaborations, we’re really poised for the future, and whether that’s an acquisition by a pharma company because of the quality of what we have as products, the exchanges like you mentioned…I’m already preparing for a pre-public offering in the sense that we’ve restructured the Board, the management team, the governance, the transparency. So we’re moving in that direction now.
James West: Okay. Now tell me about the aquaponics; you guys actually have fish growing alongside plants, and they have a symbiotic sort of ecological relationship. Can you outline how that works, and what is the upside in terms of the cannabis end product?
Neilank K. Jha: Yeah. The aquaponics, as you know, from a very high level, uses much less fertilizer, much less pesticides, and much less water; so it’s a very green process. In addition to that, there’s some intellectual property the way that we’ve done it. Nobody globally has been able to do aquaponics at the scale that we have. And there was learning lessons along the way. The yields were previously lower; they’re increasing. However, the quality of the product that comes out, and maybe I can ask you this question – you know, we do have Green Relief Labs, which has, you know, our distillation methods, our separation methods, our extraction methods, that are a few years ahead of our counterparts.
However, when you imbibe the Sunrise oil, do you notice any difference in the aroma or the taste or the purity?
James West: Well, yeah. The reason I say that you have the best in the world is, I’m not saying that I’ve tried every available CBD oral formulation in the world, but I’ve tried literally dozens of them around North America, and the thing that they have most commonly is, they’re either flavoured to mask this basic characteristic, or they just go ahead and leave it this way, but it’s usually, it’s a lot danker-tasting. It’s cloudy, it’s got, you know, it’s got some particulate in it, it’s a little bit gritty, and the flavour is generally nothing compared to the very mild, very pleasant, slight cannabis flavour but with none of the heavy, oily taste that your stuff has. It’s a really enjoyable flavour; it feels great in your mouth, and because it’s so concentrated – the Sunrise oil is about 48 milligrams per millilitre – 1 millilitre is all you need, and that’s basically my post-breakfast habit most days, is 1 millilitre and I’m good for the day.
Neilank K. Jha: I mean, your walk from Cabbagetown to work is about 35 minutes; sometimes if you don’t make it all the way and you forget your Sunrise oil –
James West: I go back, I go back.
Neilank K. Jha: You go back.
James West: Actually, so generally the rule is, if I make it halfway or less, I will turn around and go back. Today I forgot it –
Neilank K. Jha: Do you want me to drive you? I know where to pick it up, I can go get it for you.
James West: [laughter] Well, I might actually, yeah, no, I’d love to, but no, I’ve only got four hours left today, so I think I should be able to survive without it.
Neilank K. Jha: Well you know, to answer your question, it’s a combination of the aquaponics and the advanced extraction and separation techniques that we’re able to produce that quality product. So one of the things at Green Relief, our value proposition, our competitive advantage, is that this is a commodity market, and we’re at $9 a gram now; it’s going to go to 7, it’s going to go to 5, it’s going to go to 3. We’re investing heavily in research and development; the quality of our product, so we can sustain that value due to the brand that we have.
In addition, we have Green Relief Innovations, where we already have intellectual property for conditions like traumatic brain injury. We have positive human data, and we’re investing in additional conditions like PTSD, anxiety, depression. The difference from what we’re doing is, that we’re producing those indications with the highest-grade product, as you’ve demonstrated.
James West: Right. So is your intent corporately to actually create pharmaceutical products derived from cannabis, that you will run through trials and try to get recognized by Health Canada and the FDA, potentially?
Neilank K. Jha: It’s a great question. You look at GW Pharma, their market cap is over $60 billion, and that’s due to Epidiolex, which is a CBD-based formulation that did receive FDA approval. But realistically, to obtain FDA approval is a billion-dollar-plus endeavour with all the regulatory fees, the timelines…so one of our thoughts that we’re doing at the innovation side is that we’re producing nutraceutical-grade products, but we’re leaving the door open for a Health Canada/FDA pathway. What that allows us to do is exit at any point. As Big Pharma starts coming into this industry, they may decide to acquire one of our indications as it’s going through the pipeline; we could do a licensing/sub-licensing deal, a royalty deal, royalty stacking deal.
So we do have that idea that we’re moving in that direction, and that’s only one of our subsidiaries, Green Relief Innovations. We also have Green Relief Genetics. The CBD that you’re describing in Sunrise oil is at a 95 percent concentration; we actually can go up to 97.5 percent right now, so we’re not even firing on all cylinders, yet.
James West: Wow.
Neilank K. Jha: So we’re well ahead of our counterparts in that regard. And in addition to that, we have Green Relief Labs. So the chromatography, the simple path distillation, and all of these techniques are proprietary information as to how we produce these products.
James West: Wow. And finally, your background, you’re like, this was really interesting to me when I heard it because I thought they were joking with me, but you’re actually a brain surgeon.
Neilank K. Jha: I am.
James West: So, tell me about your background and how you actually came to be involved with the Green Relief project in the first place.
Neilank K. Jha: Yeah, I did my undergrad in physics at U of T, and then I did medical school, and then I did a residency in neurosurgery for six years at Mac, and then two years of spinal surgery at U of T. Then I did my MBA at Ivy, and I did my Master’s in Behavioural Economics and Cognitive Psychology at the London School of Economics in England. And in that process, I got involved in concussions. I covered Crosbie, and I do a lot of work with the professional sports leagues and sit on the boards, and I started developing a formulation for concussions. And that was because my mom had a concussion, and it was amazing to me that there wasn’t a treatment that was there.
In that process, we developed intellectual property. We had private equity firms in New York that were supporting us; we had, CannaRoyalty, now known as Origin House, it was one of our original investors, and I continued to drive that forward. And we had a lot of interest from Pharma, other different enterprises that wanted to form some joint venture, partnership or acquisition of what we had. That’s how I got introduced to Green Relief late last year, and I met the two founders, and we built a trusting relationship. And in that process, they acquired Green Relief Innovations, and getting to know the Board, the management team and the shareholders, a few weeks ago they turned to me and they said look, Doc, would you be willing to consider becoming CEO of Green Relief?
And I said well, you know, first of all, the founders, credit to them that, you know, it was the case of the founders’ dilemma where they realized it’s time to step away. They had taken the company as far as they could. They gave me the full mandate to work with the Board; they stepped off the Board. Still heavily involved, because I asked them to be, because they have great expertise in operations, but they’d given me the mandate to lead the company. The Board has been extremely supportive. I mean, we have a Board right now as of restructuring that is up at 5:00 a.m. speaking to me on the phone, midnight they talk to me on the phone…you don’t normally see Boards that engaged.
James West: Right.
Neilank K. Jha: And I’ve asked for their full support. Our shareholders are unbelievable. I mean, I know that we have TGOD that had 20,000 shareholders, and they had a great shareholder base; we have 500 great shareholders. So that was my story as to how I became CEO of Green Relief. I asked them that I will become CEO on the condition that I can create an employee stock program, because I don’t want these people to be employees, I want them to be owners.
James West: Right.
Neilank K. Jha: You know, I wanted the founders to take less of a role, to give me the mandate to move forward. All of those things occurred, and in two weeks what we’ve achieved has been unbelievable. There is a new energy in the entire organization.
James West: Well, that’s fantastic. Great story, and I look forward to continuing to consume vast quantities of CBD oil off of the table orally and otherwise. Thanks for joining me today.
Neilank K. Jha: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
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