Can Kola Authentix Save the CBD Market From Itself?

“OG status?? That’s a silly question. If you’re looking for real a ‘OG,’ talk to Jerome Baker or Tommy Chong. No, I’m not a carpetbagger—I was eking my existence out of the dirt in California’s medical market long before Sanjay Gupta made cannabis acceptable to soccer moms, but I can’t claim that level.”

Jeff Beverly isn’t as abrasive as the quote would suggest. I was just pushing his buttons. I can do that. It’s my job.

He didn’t want to talk about his previous foray in the smoke shop space; that time he created and managed one of the most pervasive and recognizable brands in the industry. I argued that it was important for context, necessary to establish that he’s not a white-collar Johnny-come-lately here to cash in on the hard-fought victories of others. And yes, I used the term “OG.” His response was to chuckle wryly and wave off concerns with the facts.

He’s just not interested in dredging up the past. Neither is he interested in fostering the narrative of a previous departure and glorious return. As far as he’s concerned, he never really left. He just expanded his footprint.

The smoke shop industry is now but one room in the house he’s built. The next room over is the spacious den of general retail, connected by the hallway of federally legal hemp—and that hallway ends in French doors that open widely to the rec room of the full-blown cannabis market, still under construction

The “house” in this metaphor is Kola Authentix, a new venture he’s cofounded with former financial investment manager, Mark Mersman, and Paul Sullivan, RPh, a 30-year veteran of compound pharmacy and pharmacogenetics with over 1,100 custom formulations to his credit. The litany of services they provide will indeed have implications for every space described; really, any market where cannabinoids are a valued commodity. Right now, that mostly revolves around hemp-derived CBD products, but they’ll be expanding as the market evolves.

“I think on it’s face it seems like we’re a hemp company, but that’s not really the whole picture,” Jeff clarifies. “We’re already reaching beyond CBD . . . when regulations are eased such that it can be used in interstate commerce, we’ll be dealing in THC also. I think that understanding is necessary. We’re a cannabinoid distribution company—that’s going to play from genetics all the way to end products.”

At face value, the house metaphor may seem poorly chosen. It isn’t. Most companies merely exist within a space, but Kola Authentix is a structure intended to house the space, i.e., provide the framework and protection upon which the existing players depend for survival. Be that as it may, it’s not their chosen metaphor. They prefer the supply chain analogy, dubbing themselves, “the missing link.” Equally accurate.

There is no question of need here. We know the raging demand in the market for CBD products. The latest projections estimate the niche will reach a value of $24 billion in the next five years. But we also know how difficult it can be to verify the safety and authenticity of the products available. There are plenty of lab reports, but we’ve been down that road before. Memories of the spice years are too fresh to rely on brand-funded reports alone. Hence, the gap in the supply chain, i.e., the “missing link.”

“We’re filling that gap,” Jeff asserts. “We have built a virtual vertical that effectively ties the supply chain together and relieves those choke points created by the uncertainty that naturally coincides with an industry being built and scaled on the fly.”

“We’ve merged the resources,” Mark adds. “In one sense, we’re a distribution firm. We provide all the different forms of cannabinoids in a variety of preparations, from biomass, to market-ready products like tinctures, filmstrips or gummies. But that’s only part of the equation. We also function as a consulting firm. We can connect any company entering the space to our virtual vertical at any level of the supply chain and provide them with the expertise crucial to their success.”

In practical terms, he’s saying that wherever you are positioned in the cannabinoid market, they can plug you in to what you need. If you’re a grower or extractor, that can mean access to cutting edge genetics, certified labs, guidance on best practices and incoming regulation, internal audits, et al, as well as a channel to bring your yields to market. If you’re a market ready brand, reverse that. They’re your access point to a steady supply of cannabinoids and their derivatives, all monitored for quality and safety through their stringent, pharmacist-developed, internal protocols and double-checked by reliable third-party auditors.

But a system this complex can only be as strong as its individual components.

We’ve touched on the credentials of the founders, and anyone who’s worked in the head shop realm over the last decade is no doubt familiar with Jeff’s work. Now add to that, Jeff’s pre-cannabis background in law and finance and Mark’s recent work in the cannabis space in compliance and education. Then consider the potential of this experience when combined with Paul Sullivan’s hard science background in pharmacogenetics. The expertise of these three alone would more than suffice to make Kola a formidable player in the space.

But there’s also their advisory board to consider. If the first several inductees are any indication, they clearly aren’t settling for second tier. The list is a veritable ‘Who’s who’ of business and activism, both inside and outside the cannabis space.

First in the mix is Lee Zavakos, an East Coast entrepreneur and real estate expert lending his knowledge to assist with property acquisition. Next is Kimberly Stuck, founder and CEO of Allay Cannabis Consulting, and previously, the first auditor of the Marijuana Enforcement Division for Colorado. There’s also Lisa Pittman, an attorney licensed in both Texas and Colorado, recently hailed as “The First Lady of Texas Cannabis Law” by Houstonia Magazine. For guidance on incoming regulations, they’ve brought in Fred Niehaus of the Policy Center for Public Health and Safety, an organization actively working to shape cannabis policy across the country. Perhaps the most visible is MySpace cofounder, Joe Abrams, famous for his negotiation of the platform’s $500 million sale to Rupert Murdoch.

Time will tell if their system can aid the market evolution to the extent for which they’re aiming, but judging by the inroads they’ve made, success is a pretty safe bet. For now, the mere fact of their existence and intentions should inspire hope. We need this, or at least something like it—for the sake of everyone involved.

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