September 17, 2019

Green Relief CEO Dr Neilank Jha on CBD Recovery in Sport

Midas Letter
Midas Letter
Green Relief CEO Dr Neilank Jha on CBD Recovery in Sport

Green Relief CEO Neilank Jha joins James West and Chris Geiser to talk CBD and the relationship with professional sports and the application to pain management. There are more scientific reports and sporting figures getting behind the beneficial effects of cannabinoids. The natural compounds of hemp are starting to reevaluated by the largest sporting organizations where the compound is currently on the banned substance lists. Green relief are creating awareness to the potential benefits of using cannabis to alleviate symptoms related to pain and exercise recovery. The CEO also outlines the company’s shift from cultivation to extraction and processing and intellectual property.


James West: Welcome back, everybody. I’m James West.

Chris Geiser: And I’m Chris Geiser (phon).

James West: And today, our guest is Neilank Jha. He is the CEO of Green Relief. Neilank, welcome back.

Neilank Jha: Thanks for having me, James. Nice to see you.

James West: Neilank, let’s start with a quick update: what have you been doing?

Neilank Jha: Well, at Green Relief, we’ve been proceeding as a private firm, as you know, and gently reaching a cash flow positive and profitable state. It’s been a challenging time in the industry with everything going on, so raising capital privately has also been quite challenging, but we’ve reduced our SG&A significantly, have restructured a number of our deals, and we’re focusing predominantly on extraction and processing, and moving forward to clinical trials and intellectual property.

So we’ve completely shifted from cultivation, where we continue to have a small footprint, and really now focused on more the cultivation side, from there to extraction and processing and intellectual property.

James West: Okay. I wanted to understand better your relationship and, by extrapolation, the relationship between CBD and professional sports. We saw a professional athlete, whose name escapes me right now, doing deals with companies to sponsor, to be part of CBD branding targeting professional athletes. What’s going on there?

Neilank Jha: Yeah, I mean, you look at the market right now: you have Rob Gronkowski, three-time Super Bowl champion from the Patriots – Chris, you’re a football fan.

Chris Geiser: Absolutely, of course.

Neilank Jha: So you know, he signed a deal, and he retired at the age of 29. Pain is a huge issue in the NFL, and he came out with a statement saying that, for the first time, he’s been pain-free, and he attributes a lot of that to CBD.

We have Terrell Davis, two-time Super Bowl champion with the Broncos, who’s also done some work, and he has a product, Defy. As we look right across the board, even in golf, you’ve got Phil Nicholson, who was at Augusta, and he was found to be utilizing product very quietly. There is some rumour that Tiger Woods chews CBD-based gum, and the story goes on.

I think the idea is that they’re creating awareness to the potential benefits. The challenge, I would say, James, is that is anecdotal evidence that potentially this works. And what that awareness does is, it triggers the idea that we should invest into proper research and development to answer a few questions. One is, what particular formulation do I need for an indication? So if Rob Gronkowski comes out and says, ‘Hey, I’m a football player, I don’t have much pain. I take a particular product,’ okay, well, what is that product? What is the formulation, what is the indication? What is the tolerability of that product? What is the efficacy?

And that’s where you need the proper clinical trials. After you have the proper clinical trials, then you can go on to commercialize the product and market it. And I think the challenge in the industry right now is, with all the pressure of public companies, quarterly earnings, they’re going straight from anecdotal data and awareness, and trying to jump over the quality research that gives comfort, and go straight to commercialization and marketing.

And if we don’t have a course correction very shortly, if we take these kinds of shortcuts as we’ve noticed in the industry, you’re going to get cut short. And the idea here is that we need to move systematically to bring credibility to the industry, otherwise, we’re going to replace the opioid crisis with a new crisis.

Chris Geiser: That’s an interesting way to put it. What I was curious about is, these leagues – the NBA, NFL, any league that you may be able to expose the CBD to so the players could actually be using it – because you name guys like Ron Gronkowski, recently retired. Terrell Davis, retired. They’re all open to speak about being able to use these products. Now, how, while they’re actually active and playing, how do these leagues look at these cannabis products?

Neilank Jha: It’s a great question. So there’s a lot of confusion about hemp versus cannabis. So, for example, if you have pure CBD, then if you look at WADA – the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Olympics – well, pure CBD may be okay. But if you’re in the black market, you don’t really know what you’re getting. So if the THC quantity goes above a certain amount, and that is detected in a test, then for several of these leagues, you’re going to have an issue.

So for example, the NHL: let’s take hockey. Glenn Healy, who’s with the NHL Players Association, they’ve partnered up with one of the firms in the industry to conduct clinical trials for the benefits of hockey players. You know, football is looking into it right now. Tennis and golf, for example, don’t have an issue with CBD.

So all of these leagues right now are trying to figure out, how do we implement this? What type of testing do we need to do, what amount of THC can we have? If you look even at the broader market, Mexico, for example, allows a certain amount of THC, whereas with the hemp regulations on the Farm Bill in the US, that THC amount is different.

So to answer your question, all the leagues are currently trying to figure out, how do we address this issue.

Chris Geiser: Yeah, because I guess you would have guys that are testing positive that are saying that they’re just taking a different type of whey protein, right? So it’s so all over the map that you wouldn’t want guys in the league that actually – like you said, THC content’s too high, they’re breaking some sort of contract violation. So is that something that you guys are working towards, to be able to have that proper formulation of exactly the proper dosages, I guess I would say?

Neilank Jha: It’s a great question.  You know, the different leagues address this differently, so in the NHL, for example, if you violate the policy, you may go through a behavioural intervention process, okay, that may not require any suspension of games. But you can see in the NFL that if you have possession of certain substances, you know, you may be suspended for a number of games.

So it’s really the leagues that drive it. They work with the industry, they work with – they’re demonstrating quite a bit of interest to identify what are the benefits. So if you look at athletes, for example, the areas that athletes look for benefit is, cognition, right? Pain.

Chris Geiser: Pain management is huge.

Neilank Jha: Pain management is huge, especially NFL.

Chris Geiser: Yeah. 

Neilank Jha: And a lot of other sports as well, right? Recovery is a huge thing.

Chris Geiser: Absolutely.

Neilank Jha: Insomnia, which is sleep, right? So let’s take, for example, insomnia. So you can have athletes come out and say, well, I took a CBD-based product and I slept much better. Well, then, a number of questions arise. You could also drink alcohol and you could sleep better.

Chris Geiser: Sure.

Neilank Jha: So if you take the CBD, is your performance as good or better the next day? What was the right dose you’re taking? You know, is it efficacious? Are there any side effects to taking that? And those questions need to be answered to their proper clinical trials so that when somebody says, Well, I want to take a product for sleep, well, if you’re on this, this and this medication, that might be a contraindication. And those questions still need to be answered.

Chris Geiser: So this is just, like, the first drive of the game, basically. That’s how new all this stuff is.

Neilank Jha: Yeah, yeah. You know, like, we’re still in our own – 

Chris Geiser: In the kickoff.

James West: What about for things like injuries associated with concussion in high-contact sports like professional football? Is there any applicability for CBDs in that realm, and is that something that’s likely to become standard in sports medicine?

Neilank Jha: So that’s where my background is, James, where our firm, Bodie, that was merged with Green Relief, we were doing clinical trials for traumatic brain injury, and we had specific ratios of CBD to THC that we worked with doctors at Harvard, from McGill and elsewhere. 

We ran clinical trials, we’ve got positive human results in human studies, and now the next phase for us is a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled crossover study that would demonstrate that, okay, well, if somebody has the following symptoms and they take this product, what we noticed in our studies was that when they would take the particular formulation, their symptoms would reduce. The recovery time was faster.

However, if they came off the products, the symptoms would come back again. Very simple: epilepsy, for example, that if you’re not on that anti-epileptic.

So that requires quite a bit of infrastructure, quite a bit of research investment to get to those results. So yes, I do think the future is going to demonstrate a lot of benefit for conditions like traumatic brain injury, PTSD, depression, anxiety, pain, like we discussed. And you know, from a molecular level, like, why is it that pain works? Well, we have CB1 and CB2 receptors, the endocannabinoid system. So these formulations are not directly working, but they stimulate the endocannabinoid system.

CB1 is for neurological function; CB2 is the peripheral body, and receptors for inflammation. So even people who have colitis, for example, we’ve had cases that we’ve been studying at Green Relief internally, and patients who have colitis, they may benefit from particular formulations that reduce inflammation, because certain cytokines that are out there – TNFAlpha, interleukines – they can actually be suppressed by CBD-based formulations.

So whenever you’re seeing these athletes that they’re saying anecdotally, it is supported by the basic science research. However, we still need to do the proper studies to give that comfort level of what is the dose, what is the timing, what are the side effects.

For example, if you have this past medical history of a particular mental health condition, maybe you should not be taking this particular – 

Chris Geiser: Well, that’s what I was going to say: it’s almost a case-by-case scenario, right? Anything to do with the cannabis, the ingestion of it, every person can – it’s the same way I can have six beers, you could have six beers, we could be in a completely different state of mind, right? And I know the CBD that we, the CBD our bodies do, we naturally produce some of these things that are helpful. So when you’re adding proper, good extract to your body, I can imagine that the binding inside your body is what is the helpful, is – I guess, sorry, I guess what I’m trying to say is, the purer the extract, the better the extract, that good quality, it binds to these things which are already the anti-inflammatories that our body produces.

Neilank Jha: Yeah, you’re making great points, here. So what you’re talking about is individual medicine, which is pharmacogenetics, right? So for example, if you have a headache and you stop by Shoppers today and you pick up Advil, well, Advil is not specifically suited to your headache. But you know, for example, 6 in 10 people may benefit from Advil.

Chris Geiser: Gotcha.

Neilank Jha: And that’s why some people will say, well, I took Advil, it didn’t help my headache. Whereas the next person says, Hey, I was better in an hour. It’s the same thing with CBD, with sports, with all these conditions. It’s not going to work for every single person. How many times have you said, Wow, I took this particular CBD, and I woke up in the morning, I felt great. My pain was gone. You give it to your friend, they’re like, I didn’t have the same results.

And that’s the individual medicine component. So what’s going to happen is, you’re going to find what formulation works for a broad swath of the population, that has the least amount of side effects, that has the most efficacy, and that we get that data. Then the doctors are going to have more comfort, the sports leagues are going to have more comfort.

However, if we skip that step –  so when you’re a public company, for example, and you need to worry about next quarter, you know, it comes out in the media that you’re not going to be  profitable for three to five years, or you have to take a shortcut because you’re revenue’s not there – well, then, what you’re going to do is, you’re going to hear about professional athletes that say that they have benefit with X, Y, Z, and you’re going to straight go to commercializing a product. But you’re missing that critical step, which is all the questions that you’re asking.

So you know, people often ask me, as the CEO of Green Relief, what’s your definition of maximizing shareholder value? And I say, long term shareholder value involves quality products with quality research that provides a streamline of revenue. And our mantra at Green Relief is to do good, and do well. So if we do this the right way, then there’s a streamline of revenue and we can help more people and bring more comfort to the doctors and the health care system.

James West: All right, Neilank, that’s a great contribution as usual. Thanks so much for the update. We’ll come back to you soon.

Neilank Jha: Thanks for having me, James. Thanks, Chris, great to meet you.

Chris Geiser: You too, as well.


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