Steve Sakala is the co-founder and CEO of Mana Artisan Botanics and the owner of Honaunau Farm located in the beautiful islands of Hawaii. He has been a leader in the medical cannabis and sustainability movements for more than two decades. Over the last seven years, he focused on the CBD-rich hemp strains. He is also offering diverse and very potent health benefits through the cultivation of these plants.
Join us in this episode as Steve shares what galvanized him to be an advocate of hemp-CBD at a very young age. Listen to the life-changing experience that he had living in a village without electricity and water for four years. Be inspired by his advocacy to change the future with sustainable regenerative agriculture and a whole lot more.
I was looking to create a platform in the cannabis industry to talk about sustainable regenerative agriculture. And see the trend in legalization going to commercial grows chemical agriculture, pesticides, and fungicides. – Steve Sakala
Some Topics We Discussed Include:
[02:50] – The reason behind Steve’s journey to the hemp-CBD space
[06:31] – What the process was like bringing that first legalization process to fruition
[09:45] – The life-changing experience of living in a village with no electricity and water
[10:50] – Talks about his work abroad and what brought him back to the states
[14:40] – Current projects
[23:00] – Reason why there’s such an incredible gap between our standard for food and cannabis and hemp
[32:25] – The challenges he encountered to get where he is with his hemp business now
[37:09] – Wins and triumphs
[39:58] – Three ways that people can get in to support the Farmers Union.
[44:48] – Cannabis versus Hemp movement
People Mentioned / Resource
Connect with Steve Sakala
Connect with Sonia Gomez
Sonia Gomez: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of The Hemp Revolution. I’m your host Sonia Gomez, and in today’s episode, we are going to be diving into the story of Steve Sakala who is the co-founder and CEO of Mana Artisan Botanics located in Hawaii, the beautiful beautiful islands over there. He is also the founder and owner of the Honaunau Farm. Steven’s been a leader in the medical cannabis and sustainability movement for over two decades and the last seven years with a hyper-focus on the CBD rich cannabinoids hemp streams and also offering a diverse and very potent health benefit through the cultivation of these plants. Now many many of the entrepreneurs who are coming into this space right now have some sort of transformational story or reason behind their journey starting with this plant. Mine started as a patient as many of you have heard my story being in a near-fatal surfing accident and suffering through many, many trials and tribulations with both the legal and medical system for my right, so safe access. My life has been completely transformed through this plant. And I firmly believe that it’s because of farmers and business owners like Steve, that I was able to gain access to the products and people and professionals with seasoned results in this space that I am able to live in thrive the way that I am today, a health advocate for this plant and for the incredible movement in the industry that is blooming around it. So without further ado, please welcome my guest, Steve. Hi, Steve.
Steve Sakala: Hi, Sonia. Thanks for the invitation. Really good to be here with you.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, wonderful to have you. I cannot wait to hear all about the budding industry over there in Hawaii. I want to hear straight from you a little bit about your background, how you got involved into this movement. It sounds like you are a veteran. So share a little bit with us about your background.
The Beginning of Steve’s Journey to the Hemp-CBD Space
Steve Sakala: Sure. Well, I was fortunate enough to really become an activist for hemp and medical cannabis at a very early age. I was turned on to Jack Herer‘s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, of course, a legend in high school and it opened my eyes. I started seeing the dead shortly after graduating and really had a conscious awakening, let’s say around the possibilities of what this plant could do really from an environmental perspective was my excitement. I was becoming a radical environmentalist seeing the changes happening right before my eyes. So in 1992, I’ve gotten in touch with Jack and said I wanted to help on the initiative that he was running on the ballot and that was the first hemp and medical marijuana initiative that really had some traction. And we weren’t successful that year. I worked with them again in ’94. And then we were eventually successful, as you probably know, in ’96. So you know, my really kind of initiation into politics and policy was what Jack Herer working on those initiatives and it really galvanised me to that so many benefits that if we could really just get this plant back in its place of an agricultural, right farming practices, and certainly in a medical setting with this botanical medicine, that we were going to change the way the health system works, diet just it affected almost everything through the fabric of our society. And I was excited to really try and be a part of that.
Sonia Gomez: Well, I have to just say that that legislation that passed in California in ’96 prop 215 was foundational in the way that I was able to approach my own health care and the way that my husband ended up building his business and his affiliation with cannabis. My mom still owns property in Mendocino County, right in the upper Lake area, right in Jack’s backyard.
Steve Sakala: Yeah.
Sonia Gomez: A lot of the work that was done was so necessary and could not have come at a better time. My husband was built his way up and from ground level working on a lot of the farms that and collectives that we’re serving the dispensary’s throughout California. Helped many, many Many people make their entryway into the cannabis and hemp space. And quite honestly my life would have not been the same had I not had cannabis. I mean, at the peak of my illness I was 100 pounds overweight. I was on seven different medications, missing three out of five days of school. As a teenager just trying to get my life together. And after somebody who was educated in the manner actually helped me get in contact with a professional who would introduce me to my endocannabinoid system and teach me about strain selection and micro-dosing and all of these really cool things that literally changed my whole life inside of nine months. I was off my medications off anti-inflammatories, following what we call self-conscious care and lost 100 pounds and nine months. I mean, all of these things because of cannabis consciousness. And I get to interface with many, many patients now who are benefiting from the same types of transformations and it’s because of pioneers like yourself. I was too young at the time to be able to participate on that level but later on, went to work with Colorado on legislative development and that is no easy feat that as a citizen, not amount of work. I want to hear from the ground floor because I’ve never had to have this Congress or got to have this conversation before. You guys were the first to do it. Talk to me about the journey of legislative development and legalization. What did the sleepless nights look like? And what was the process like of bringing that first legalization process to fruition?
Passing Legislative Development and Legalization via People Power
We had to really work with the people via people power to get this initially passed. And that was the exciting part is we were taking back the power of a really a democracy. - Steve Sakala Click To Tweet
Steve Sakala: Well, you know, it’s exciting times it was an uphill battle because of course, we were collecting signatures we were really working with people power, it was the referendum process. It was how do we get past the inaction of our legislators and the political system. And luckily, California had a pretty good referendum process and we got on the referendum on the ballot those in ’92 and ’94 But of course, it didn’t pass. It wasn’t until ’96 that we collected enough signatures again, that we finally got the passage from the voter. So, you know, luckily we got the workaround around legislation and the legislators who are not willing to really stand up against the pharmaceutical industry and all the other, you know, military-industrial complex, the petrochemical you know, companies, all of these companies we know conspired to really keep hemp and cannabis from us and so we had to really work with the people via people power to get this initially passed. And that was the exciting part is we were taking back the power of a really a democracy.
Sonia Gomez: Well, no small feat by any stretch of the imagination, pre-internet, really everybody guys were
Steve Sakala: standing in front of the supermarkets, I mean, literally standing in front of safe ways, going to events, of course, throwing events to gather signatures, but remember, he was a lot of fun. Work what tonne of work done
Sonia Gomez: all throughout Northern Calif I mean I was in Northern California at the time so Portland which is a huge hub now for him sustainability yeah renewable energy center all throughout upper Lake all the way up into Garber Ville Radway, you know we saw a tonne of your guys’ stuff at the, it’s now reggae rising but it used to be reggae on the river. I remember this so clearly because it was such a big deal many of my family members are pioneers in this space whether they were doing you know cultivation or providing the Collective’s I call them the strike and Jonah’s you know that we’re up there making the medicine from the very start the ones who truly pioneered this space but are not getting a lot of the recognition or credit from it. Now, as a matter of fact, a lot of those same people are going out of business.
Steve Sakala: Yeah. Unfortunate component of the legalization.
Sonia Gomez: Man. It’s heartbreaking to see. I’m watching cannabis cup-winning strain developers and seed banks and all of these incredible geneticists and they’re all going out of business right now because they have shitty partnerships and anything that you can think of is going wrong. I am pretty vocal about how I believe California fucked up the whole opportunity around the for-profit model. Colorado repaired that Oregon Washington went on to repair a lot of what Colorado messed up. So the ripple effect of that is all positive. But I’ve never understood and perhaps I just haven’t done my own research well enough but how is it that California ended up in the nonprofit versus for-profit model back in ’96?
The Life-Changing Experience of Living in a Village Without Electricity and Water
Steve Sakala: You know, that’s a really good question. Because of my youth. I actually became a medical grower right out of the gates after ’96. But I actually left in ’99 and went and did international work for four to five years. So you know, I was really called to do sustainable work in agriculture outside of the country to really get a different perspective of what we grow up in what we have access to our conveniences of the Western world, so to speak. And so I opted out and lived in a village in West Africa for four years. No electricity, no water, fetched all my own water daily and really wanted to have a different experience of subsistence agriculture and village.
Sonia Gomez: Oh my god, that’s so amazing. So I kind of took a sabbatical after being involved with myself. I was like, dude, I gotta go like I couldn’t. It’s very, very intense work. It’s no joke when they say the pioneers are the ones that get the arrows and recovering from that as major. Tell me more about your work that you did abroad. And what brought you back?
Steve Sakala: Sure. Well, so I graduated from Humboldt State in ’99. And literally a month later, I was off to the Peace Corps. And so it was really my desire to not only experience a different culture but really experienced what it was like to live in a subsistence culture. And as far away from Western technology as possible. It was incredible. I mean, it was life-changing, of course. I have to be so grateful for the people of the village, I got to live in, the people of Gambia, the country I got to live in. Just so many positive experiences along the way that the different paths that people walk on the planet. We were blessed and privileged to have this amount of resources in our country. But not everybody has that same access but there are benefits to not having that access too. They’re outside all the time. They’re interacting with nature. They have a connection to the planet that we seem to be missing in the Western culture. And so that was the benefit of spending four years on that level, and I wasn’t ready to come back, to be honest. I was looking for work. I extended my stay at my service with the Peace Corps an extra year and a half and was looking for work to stay because really was really resonating with the lifestyle there and the people and the heart space that they come from, there’s a lot less barriers and communication and sharing. And that resonated with me. But I decided to come back because I was going to get a grad degree to continue doing international sustainable development. And when I got back, it hit me in the face, it was we’re three to 5% of the population in our country, and yet we consume almost 30% of the world’s resources. Whereas the work to be done in sustainable development, it’s in our country. It’s educating our fellow family members, our friends, the society of our Western culture, that’s where the work is to really make things so to speak equitable or more equitable. So I stuck around to do my work in sustainable development here in the States. But then I started twitching a little bit and decided, look, let me go with a middle ground so I ended up in Hawaii.
Sonia Gomez: what a beautiful place to end up in a lot of important work going there. I mean, We were looking at aquaponic farms out there and doing a lot of the research and my mom owns 18 acres out in Mendocino County up in upper Lake actually more specifically. And right on the backside of the reservation right at the foot of the National Forest there. And my husband, they partnered on the land there and he grew acres of different kinds of lavender and all these aromatic herbs and just used to his ex-wife who’s an incredible herbalist. They used to create everything right there from the land. And still, those farms are thriving and beautiful. And we wanted to bring more sustainable infrastructure into feed the communities and, and give the native people the opportunity to teach the next generation about sustainable practices and get them back in touch with the things that were so natural to their culture. I grew up fully immersed in Native American Indian culture.
Steve Sakala: Lucky you.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, it was beautiful in their ceremonies and their traditions and all you know, special sweat lodges and teepees, pod ceremonies, that was the threads of my fabric. And so plant medicines have never been foreign to me but it’s interesting to me to see the lack of spirit in the way that people approach this industry, especially as it’s maturing. We’re still in its infancy now. But you know, it’s kind of the sperm and the egg thing like we’ve just been fertilized, everyone’s kind of magnetized to it now, and there’s a very little soul in the industry. Talk to me about the work that you are currently doing and what you’re protecting right now.
Steve Sakala: Yeah, thanks for asking. Really my passion and the reason why I actually ended up starting Mana Artisan Botanics and my previous CBD coming out of high CBD organics was because I was looking to create a platform in the cannabis industry to talk about sustainable regenerative agriculture for the main reason that you just spoke about and seeing the trend in legalization going to commercial grows chemical agriculture, pesticides, and fungicides. I mean, having been in the industry for over 20 years, we know that there’s too many chemicals going on to the plants that people are using as medicine. And they’re not being grown in the right way. I mean, certainly, pesticide-free or spray-free like you can get into dispensary’s is a baby step. But really, unless it’s a sustainable regenerative agriculture system, you’re not getting the high-quality spirit-based medicine that it has the potential to be. And not only that, but we have to start working on changing our systems if we’re going to protect the ecosystems, we’re seeing massive ecosystem collapse and agriculture is one of the main contributors. And so you know, being that cannabis has this spirit to it and that it has this medicinal component. It seems like this is a great opportunity to have the agriculture conversation that really we should have been having around food a long time ago, but we’re at this point now that it’s a conversation we can, we can’t ignore any longer and canvas is a great foot in the door to that conversation. Considering most people, even if they’re using a recreationally my opinion, it’s probably a medicinal application of some sort. And so if we really want to use the highest quality medicine we can get, then it should be sustainable, regenerative, growing organic at the minimum. And so that’s the platform we were hoping to create with our products. It’s certainly what I’ve been lobbying for it the legislature over on a wall who, you know, I was very involved in dispensary legislation when it was happening. I’ve been involved in the hemp legislation from day one here in Hawaii. And that’s, you know, we’re kind of, you know, pounding down the tour and, you know, it’s a conversation that we will continue to have, but it’s baby steps. And that’s really one of the unfortunate things about legalization. I’m saddened by the direction it’s gone. I was just at an investor presentation over in Oahu and they were talking about the billions if not trillions of dollars waiting to enter the cannabis industry. Talking about the alcohol companies, the tobacco companies. And I said, guys, these aren’t the good stewards of our society in our capitalist system. Why are we excited about that kind of money coming into cannabis? We should be talking about how to create a craft industry supporting local farmers, small scale farms, chemical-free agricultural regenerative systems. That’s the conversation. And you know, I was the minority by far. And that was disheartening. But I think that we have to continue to have these conversations of things are going to change. And these are the moments to be doing it when we’re still in our infancy.
Unless it's a sustainable regenerative agriculture system, you're not getting the high-quality spirit-based medicine that it has the potential to be. - Steve Sakala Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: You know, I couldn’t agree with you more. And there’s a lot that I teach and preach and I have a very similar story with you that I’m not sure how much you know about us. I just sort of sent out this random invitation because I’ve been stalking everybody online. But nobody really I’m not one of those people who are not a self-promoter. I’m not the person I’ll be like, hey, look at me look at me. So I’ll just share a little bit about who we are and what we do and make the connection is why is this such an important relationship that we’re building. So my husband and I have about 35 years combined experience starting from you know, my accident in sporting in his entry in ’95 into the cannabis space while he was studying at Heartwood with Shayla Berger and Paul Pitchford and
Steve Sakala: all the old school guys
Sonia Gomez: all the old school guys you probably know my family Joey Berger who own trim seen solutions up in Garber Ville. And so our whole network up there started with some of the mainstay grassroots earners who brought the seats over in their backpacks on their way in. And fast forward, many years and many successes, many failures as the journey of entrepreneurialism happens especially in the cannabis space, and we found ourselves with an opportunity to come to Colorado to support legislative development, owning and operating one of the first hundred licensed dispensaries, but recognising in our path of serving 10s of thousands of patients, the high level professionals and city officials Schools all the way down to the veterans who needed donations to even have access to their medicine. And the major, major gap that separated everybody was the education and just understand the fundamental differences between have been cannabis or strain selection or you know, whatever it was that was keeping them from getting the desired results. We recognize that gap. So we stepped out because of the paired with the education gap and the challenges of running a legitimate business. There was not enough space for the change-makers, the tree change-makers that didn’t have VC money or some sort of incredible exit strategy that they were building towards. We were truly in service to the communities that we were part of. And so we decided to sell and step out and we got into digital marketing. We’ll fast forward through the peaks and valleys of success in digital marketing when we could hardly send an email. We could hardly send emails Coming out of the hills and trying to do affiliate marketing online, we think God did well, but not well enough. And one day we sat down with one of our mentors, and he said, Why are you guys trying to do bullshit affiliate marketing online? You have specialized knowledge in one of the most interesting, fastest-growing industries in the world. This was three years ago. Yeah. Why don’t you just start publishing content? You seem to be passionate about it. You love it, you have a purpose around it. We were like, okay, so as a hobby, we started to Legalize It Don’t Criticise It, which today, just two and a half years later, has turned into an organic following of over 1 million people. 350,000 subscribers. We’ve impacted over 50 million people’s lives around the world. We’ve published 2200 articles. And because we have this captured consumer audience, we’ve been attracting a lot of the business owners who need and want support getting out access because we can’t market you can’t advertise you need merchant all of these different things. And this is how this started. So I didn’t want to just promote anybody. I was very, very conscious about the types of products and purpose and passion that the entrepreneurs on our show or in our network would be able to access our consumers because we have a very heart-centered, very balanced focus on self-aware care. How are we consciously caring for ourselves? How do we recognize the ripple effect that we are making in our communities in our families? How are we preparing the next generation for what’s to come? And so conscious entrepreneurs get an opportunity to share their stories and their products and services on our pages. And that’s how we found you. We go out and we stalk you guys. And we’re like,
Steve Sakala: Thank you for finding us.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, you’re welcome. And here’s a platform that will speak about and showcase the important things that are part of this industry. Fuck the billions of dollars that’s going to happen in beers and bongs like, right, you want to be associated with that go into another space. But there’s a real opportunity here to create a revolution to cause disruption to change the way that the next generation is going to think about things, execute all of this different stuff. So my question is, and you’re the perfect person to answer this, with all of the standards that we’re holding ourselves than each other to in the hemp space right now it has to be organic. It has to be this that Tinkerbell itself has to be plucked from the vine of a virgin. Like there’s all of these different things that say mine is better than yours. Right? But we don’t have that same conversation or standard around food. We’re willing to just eat Agent Orange off of a nonorganic farm in the middle of you know, and it’s absolutely crazy to me, why do you believe with there is such a massive gap still to this day. With all of the science and everything, why is there such an incredible gap between our standard for food, which is the necessity for life, and cannabis and hemp production, which is a bonus feature of self-aware care?
Steve Sakala: Gosh, you’re hitting some of the big questions here. I mean, really, it’s because we are systematically deceived, really, or distracted. I mean, think about the amount of distraction we have in our society. It’s not just the food that we’re distracted the issues around food, it’s really health of all things. You know, it’s so many different ways and pathways towards consciousness. We are distracted from and unfortunately, food is one of those things. The almighty dollar is more important than healthy food. And we have chosen unsustainable agricultural practices to really produce our food systems which are degrading not just the food, but they made entire ecosystems. I mean, look at the Great Plains and All how we’ve lost so many feet of topsoil into the Mississippi River and into the delta and, you know, the Gulf of Mexico, it’s completely changed the whole fabric of those ecosystems to not be recovered anywhere in the next couple generations. So I’m not so sure there’s the level of consciousness and cannabis that you’re speaking of. To be honest, I think that there’s a segment in the cannabis industry talking about organic and all these things but if you look at the majority of the canvas in the market, it’s not organic. And I would say the majority of the hemp is not organic. So
Sonia Gomez: that’s a lot of falsified claims and glory standards. And I know this only because I’m interviewing for I sent out 200 email invitations to come on to the show, you know, 154 responses, all ego-driven. Many of the responses I received were like of course I want to be VO little me I want to be featured in front of a million people, but they were very few and you and I are a part of the I would say that 3% of the industry who are in fact fully immersed in the full purpose full, you know, pursuit for legalization and availability of this plant, not only for the end product but for everything else that comes from this plant’s cultivation and nurture. How we nurture this industry from this point forth. Yeah, not about the end result, but I hear a lot of things like this. I have the best full spectrum I slip on the market. And I’m like, sorry, what?
Steve Sakala: Right, right.
Sonia Gomez: So I think there’s a tonne of miseducation.
Steve Sakala: There’s a lot of miseducated,
Sonia Gomez: and God bless them. Everybody’s trying to be a part of it.
Steve Sakala: Everybody is trying.
Sonia Gomez: And that’s fine. But at the same time, the lack of education the disconnect between the real mission of legalization for hemp and cannabis that you were a part of. I was like seven years old when you were in this stuff. Now you’re glorious. But I got to watch it from a child’s eyes and a child’s eyes are like this, right? We’re adults, we tend to be a little more calloused. But I was watching you guys the way that people spoke about you and what Jack was to the whole group of incredible people who came around prop 215. That was such a magical time and it set the foundation for the rest of the world really, to explore what else was possible. So tell me about your work today. What are you doing today? That is setting the standard pushing the envelope and providing for your community and family?
Steve Sakala: Yeah, well, first of all, I’m a pretty much a full-time farmer diversified agriculture farmer. So the cannabis on my farm is only really like a 20, maybe a 30 by 30 space, but I have seven and a half acres. So my focus is food production and it’s sharing with the community. It’s sharing and education with the guests that come through our farm. We have rainwater catchment, we’re completely off the grid when it comes to water, we have solar, we compost, you know, all the systems that we would hope to inspire people to take back no matter where they live, whether it’s an apartment or a house, a small scale farm, they can take some of these components with them and increase their sustainability no matter where they are on the planet. So you know, we spend a lot of time doing education, growing food, I’ve got sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, over 100 different types of fruits and medicinal plants on my farm.
Sonia Gomez: Wow.
When it comes to food production. It's going to come back to small scale farms, and regenerative practices if we're really going to have a chance as a human species. - Steve Sakala Click To Tweet
Steve Sakala: So it’s really about trying to model the diversity and the agroecology systems that I hope to see and that you know, that really science is showing is the solution of our way forward. When it comes to food production. It’s going to come back to small scale farms, and regenerative practices if we’re really going to have a chance as a human species. And science is showing that and so we’re really modeling that and of course, then cannabis is a component of that. You know, we know that in the food industry, the organics component is the fastest-growing segment of the industrial food industry at the moment. So, people are waking up to the idea that our food has to be done differently. We have to be reading the ingredients, we have to cut out the refined sugars. We have to do these things to be healthy. I mean, the health epidemics are unignorable any longer. And so, you know, agriculture is a piece of that where we shop for our food if you’re not growing food, Know Your Farmer, support a farmer directly, you know, know where your food comes from. Take those steps to empower yourself but then also empower that farmer. And I think cannabis is the same way and again, that’s part of the reason why we started our CBD hemp company is, first of all, we were blocked out of the dispensary side here in Hawaii. They really made it for the big boys, which was a disappointment and that’s part of why we went to hemp. But in reality, it was a really good movie. Because it gives us a much wider platform than just being able to work within our island or our state. And so this national platform with hemp is really a blessing. And we wanted to not just model a CBD product like everybody else was doing but how do we make this a farm to bottle product? So not just where does the hemp come from but where did the base oils come from? So we sourced a local organic macadamia nut oil from our neighbors. There are the only organic macadamia nut processes in the entire state. So you know we’re using a really high-end oil it makes our products more expensive because the oil is incredibly expensive oil but we said we want to support our fellow farmers. How do we do that not just with hemp with every ingredient so we source our turmeric locally that we infuse to the oils, our passion bind come free planting everything that goes into our bombs all comes from farmers we know and as many as ingredients as we can we have gone directly to farmers to support regenerative agriculture local based economy. And we know those dollars have, you know, the ripple effect those local dollars spent. And we get to support farmers that are doing the right thing, both for their health and the health of the planet. So um, it’s really been a journey, it’s been an uphill battle because people, again aren’t necessarily making conscious choices. They’re looking at the lowest cost per milligram they can get whether it’s isolated or not. And we’re really proponents of full-spectrum oil with the Europeans and the minor cannabinoids and have committed to being an Islip free company. And that means that we have an uphill battle against kind of the companies that are taking a really different approach, let’s say.
Sonia Gomez: You’re so politically correct.
Steve Sakala: Well, you know, I try not to make anybody wrong because you know, I don’t know their reasons, but there’s so much cheap stuff out there and people are using this medicinal. It takes an effort to be an educated consumer, again, so many distractions in our society, and to spend the time to find out how isolates are made with mostly industrial chemical solvents. Is that really what you want in your medicine?
Sonia Gomez: Is it in fact in medicine by the time that you infuse and then dis infuse? All of the?
Steve Sakala: It’s a good question. I don’t see that as the highest quality potential for the cannabis products. And I think that it’s unfortunate it’s gone that direction. I can see why it did. But I think it’s unfortunate. And I think we just have to continue to educate the end consumers that if they’re really looking for something that’s going to benefit their health in a holistic way that they have some choices to make. And it’s not necessarily the cheapest option, just like with food, it’s not going to be your cheapest option.
Sonia Gomez: So we have a mixed bag of listeners, we have the consumers who love the products, they want to know which ones are the best, which ones are on the market where they can find stuff. They want to know what’s happening in other states. A lot of them are in illegal states. So when they hear like, oh man, there are dispensaries in Hawaii. My next vacation They want to hear about the pulse on the industry. We also have the budding entrepreneurs, folks who are trying to find their entry wave and they can recognize the trend. They want to be a part of it or not sure how to get in there. And then we have the entrepreneurs who are established, they have brands, looking for key relationships and opportunities to be able to expand their businesses. I always ask the question, I asked two questions of my guests. Number one, I want to understand some of the challenges that you have come through to get to where you are with your hemp business. Because the challenges that we are facing are unique to our industry, and entrepreneurs path to get on the other side or troubleshoot or even just to be able to humbly say like, I’m still stuck here. I need help, you know, it is a really powerful thing. So let’s just start there. What are some of the challenges that you have faced in getting your beautiful product off the ground and in the hands of the people who need and want it?
The Challenges He Encountered to Get Where He Is with His Hemp Business Now
Steve Sakala: Well, I think Probably you hear this over and over again from a lot of your guests. The major ones are the baking industry, merchant providers, stability on the financial level of being able to really reach consumers and take credit cards and process those. That has been a major obstacle every single step of the way over the last four to five years. But we also have a unique challenge being a small scale business in Hawaii was the most remote island chain in the entire planet, over 2000 miles in either direction. And that has made it a challenge. Cost-wise, everything is more expensive, getting bottles here finding labels, importing, what are the things that we can’t get locally, that’s been a unique challenge that I didn’t really fully get the scope of when we were first starting. And so that has been something we’ve had to really look at and face as a small scale business in Hawaii, which is always consistently rated as one of the lowest states for doing small scale business, usually 48 that ranked 48 the 49th out of 50 states. Wow, small scale business. So you know, those are the main challenges. I think that you know, really building a team that resonates with your values and your passion, your philosophy can be somewhat challenging in the beginning as well, especially in an island isolated location where you don’t have the population centers to choose from or draw from. I really was committed to finding people that wanted to work on my team that had the values around health and wellness. And we’re just looking for a job that really embodied what we wanted to promote as a company. But it was an extra effort that took time to really build a really solid team. Luckily, I have a fabulous team now and super grateful for the folks that have really shown up to support the mission.
Sonia Gomez: I love. I do hear those challenges quite a bit. And because I kept hearing these over and over and over again, James and I decided to create a membership-based network called the Emerald Circle and taking inspiration from the Emerald Triangle, but yeah, so we created the Emerald Circle, a circle The strongest structure and we wanted us to be able to have a safe place to come in and collaborate and share you know, opportunities for distribution manufacturing, you know stabilizing supply chains, knowing that the people and the contractors that were being brought to the table were pre-vetted, actually creating and cultivating and supporting the positive results that were being made in the community that they weren’t just, you know, overcharging the people in this because it’s a cash-rich industry, you know, always charge a premium for their services here or whether or not they have experience or numbers on the board. It’s fascinating. So folks who have limited resources are you know, overpaying people who don’t have results and it was just very, very sad to watch and so we decided to create this private community that business owners like yourself could come into and get connected and in a sort of stabilize some of these challenges. So we’ve created a network of manufacturing, merchant processing, distribution channels, sustainable farmers, all of these different folks, so that no matter how big or small, whether you’re just starting or growing and scaling, you could come in and say, somebody, please drop me off and walking in from the rain, I need help to get to this next phase. So when we get offline, I’ll share with you some, some merchant processing and some distribution opportunities, right? Well, we really need more products like yours that have the foundation of what can we bring versus what can we take from the industry. And we have multiple channels open up here where we can just plug a product like yours right into so happy to share those with you offline. I want on the contrary of all of the challenges, you’re obviously in a place where you have been able to create and cultivate a business that allows you to serve your community, provide for your family here, and I am Understand that food production is a part of that. But what you’re doing in the hemp space is also incredibly significant. So share with us on the flip side, what are some of the wins and the triumphs, the milestones, the deep breath moments that say, Wow, I can’t believe we just did that.
Wins and Triumphs
Steve Sakala: Those are always good to keep in mind because the challenges seem to always stay at the front of the mind so much more easier. The triumphs have been really as you very well know the people contacting us and saying how the hemp extract, the CBD rich hemp extracts are changing their lives, having people come up you know, friends and family saying, you know, I’ve had the best night’s sleep I’ve gotten in the last years after trying the products. And it could just be simple things. I feel less inflammation in my body. But we hear the major ones too, and those are the ones that are impactful. You know, MS, cancer, you know, we’re not allowed to talk about health claims, but we know that these people are benefiting and hearing those stories. Actually and seeing how it’s changing people’s lives for the better, really are the stories and the and the highlights that stand out. For me as a farmer being able to be in a lifestyle where I get to be outside with my plants with food production with the cannabis plants every single day. You know when I walk out in the morning after the sun has risen, and I get to look at the ocean and have the cannabis in the foreground of that view, I’m grateful. And that for me is a way that I get to start my day with gratitude that carries on throughout my day and is infused into the products into the flower into the cannabis. And that’s always one of my highlights of the day is being with the cannabis plants. And I think really forming our team has been such a highlight. I have two incredible business partners Melinda and Shimyrre and being able to have them as part of my daily reality it’s certainly one of my also one of my daily highlights. So
Sonia Gomez: have you heard of Korean natural farming?
Steve Sakala: Oh Absolutely. I’m certified as a Korean natural farmer. It’s really big in Hawaii. You know Master Cho comes to Hawaii several times a year. So I use microorganisms as a part of my foundation of my farming practices. I’m on pyramid pure rock on my farm. The microorganisms are absolutely essential to the production of my farm. And I’m super grateful for master Cho and his son who’s developed a system himself that’s based on micronutrients and microorganisms. So yeah, I belong to the Hawaii Farmers Union. I mean, everybody should think about supporting the Farmers Union Bates. There’s a national chapter. It’s the oldest agriculture organization in the country. They’re advocates for Regenerative agriculture, their advocates for hemp, and so you know, you don’t have to be a farmer to support these types of organizations, but
Sonia Gomez: you need to support Let’s be like, I’m going to post all of this stuff all over. We’re going to do a long-form blog about this great though I want to know exactly like what are three ways that people can get in involved in start to support the Farmers Union.
Three Ways That People Can Get in to Support the Farmers Union
Steve Sakala: So become a member. If you’re in a state that has a chapter, join your local chapter advocate for Regenerative agriculture. Not all the states are as active as Hawaii and they’re supportive regenerative agriculture. So if you really really want to support regenerative agriculture join the Hawaii Farmers Union. And that way the membership in our state, even if you’re not in Hawaii, the numbers show that people want to see more of this and that impacts the national organisation that really gives us the funds that we need here on the local level to bring in people like master Cho and others that are doing regenerative practices to educate the farmers and have that spread. You know, Acres USA is another really great national organization that promotes a lot of regenerative practices. They have conferences, they put out books, they have a magazine that’s a publication that comes out regularly. Subscribe, be up to date on agriculture, or just put your membership money in allow the science to speak for itself through publications. So those are a couple of ways to support regenerative agriculture.
Sonia Gomez: love it. How did you get involved with your education? You said that you offer a full spectrum of educational opportunities for people to come over and volunteer. I’m just like throwing stuff out there but how can people get involved and come and check out what you’re doing and is there a bungalow for little old me full of pakalolo
Steve Sakala: Definitely a bungalow. We don’t keep it stocked in the pocket. Anywhere pretty much on the farm but cannabis net on the farm, you can see the bar bag
Sonia Gomez: perfect.
Steve Sakala: You know, so we do internships, people, they have to commit to at least three months we usually ask for six months. So it’s not a fly by night type of decision. But if you really want to immerse yourself in a sustainable lifestyle in a community that’s practicing these types of agricultural practices and regenerative sustainable practices. Think about coming to check us out. You can certainly look us up, honaunaufarm.com. There’s a lot of vowels in there. Support our company. Through purchasing products that are farm to bottle. You can come to stay with us, we do have a little kind of guest retreat for vacation rentals. You don’t have to be involved in the farm, come immerse yourself just in the farm energy, we’ve got little bungalows, we certainly hope you’ll come and join us. We also have, you know, little apartments, two-bedroom apartments where you can have your own kitchen, cook local food, you can have farm-to-table meals with us if you’d like. And then we have classes and tours. So those are all ways that you can come get involved.
Sonia Gomez: How many people does your space accommodate? Like if I were to come and rent out the spot? How many
Steve Sakala: if you wanted to, let’s say rent all the spaces, we can accommodate somewhere around 15-18 at full capacity. So it’s an intimate atmosphere. It’s not a big retreat center. It’s very intimate. But usually, we’ve got six to eight residents on the farm and anywhere between eight and 10 to 12 guests.
Sonia Gomez: Wow, that’s so incredible. wait to come. When I travel, I travel with my film guy and we do the incredible branding and education videos and blast them all over the place and in the for us it’s all about raising the consciousness and awareness because if people can’t see you and they don’t keep they can’t hear you they don’t know what’s happening right you know there’s no way for them to support you so it’s our job to shine the light and projects like your people like you are just so near and dear to my heart I want to do and what we have built here it was an accidental hobby turned you know incredible mission movement.
Steve Sakala: Yeah. Congratulations on that by the way.
Sonia Gomez: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it’s really incredible overwhelming at times. And I feel just like such a deep responsibility to use these, this power in this attention of this captured audience to raise awareness and consciousness of how we are supporting you know, ourselves and creating for the next generation and repairing what has been destroyed in the wake
Steve Sakala: No, it’s true.
Sonia Gomez: Absolutely. So it would be such a pleasure to be able to come and visit over there and, and see what you guys are up to. And we saw our Mastermind actually meets twice a year for business planning and all of that stuff. And we always look for cool places that we can go that have a thriving industry around it, where we can go and, you know, touch and feel and see and experience the process from the soil all the way to sales. So many people are stuck like in the factory and in the bottling plants, and they don’t actually get to see the beauty or experience the vibration of the plant and it’s in all of its glory. That’s right. I took for granted that I was you know, three feet tall next to a 20-foot tall tree, right.
Steve Sakala: Yeah, most people don’t get to have that experience that early. Yeah.
Cannabis versus Hemp movement
Sonia Gomez: I want to know a little bit about the pulse of the cannabis space versus the hemp movement over there. Cannabis legalization, dispensaries are popping up. I know the whole culture around cannabis consumption in Hawaii was pretty ceremonial It was very much there were two sides of it just like anywhere I guess, heavy black market and those very beautiful spirit of exchange and trade and community commerce. So talk to me a little bit about the quality because Hawaii is famous for the quality of candidates. I saw a lot of the quality go down once legalization happened in California and in Colorado like still can’t find anything quite like a Mondo-grown Kush.
Steve Sakala: No,
Sonia Gomez: there’s nothing quite like it. But how is it over there in Hawaii? How is the quality of the product effective now that legalization has come differently? Yeah,
Steve Sakala: yes. So in Hawaii, we still don’t have legalization. So it’s still just medical
Sonia Gomez: reasons such Yes, yeah,
Steve Sakala: they’re, they’re really still brand new. You know, we had our medical law passed in 2000. It was the first state to pass medical cannabis by a legislature. So it’s not a referendum process here in Hawaii. That was in the year 2000. It wasn’t until 2015 that we got a dispensary law. So that was an incredible opportunity really for the industry to model what we could do. We could learn from Colorado, all the states that have already gone to dispensaries. Unfortunately, Hawaii always wants to learn the hard way and they want to go their own way. And I don’t really think that we did a very good job with the dispensary system in Hawaii. They’re all vertically integrated. There are no pro licenses. There’s no manufacturing licenses, each license that was given out, two for Big Island, two for Maui, three for Oahu and one for Kauai. All have to be vertically integrated. So there’s no incentive for innovation or quality control because essentially they have the market between those eight companies statewide. So there’s room for improvement for the dispensary’s you know most of the people that had medical license and in Hawaii prior to the dispensary’s still have their licence because they want they got their licence to grow their So there’s still a real, I would say, grassroots movement of people that grow their own cannabis, which I’m a huge proponent of. And that’s what I really like about the Hawaii cannabis scene is most people are growers. Most people care about the way it’s growing. They care about the quality product, but the dispensaries are doing okay took them a long time to come online. We just got our second one in the Big Island just this year. So really, you know, it took three years from legislation passing to get up and running. So it’s been very slow, but the quality, I’d say the homegrown quality is incredible. The dispensary quality is pretty good. I haven’t been in all of them because they were spread out by islands. I haven’t been in the Kauai one or the Maui ones. But they had some hard lessons that were they’re not allowed to grow outdoors in Hawaii, which was completely nonsense ridiculous. They have to grow indoors. So most of these
Sonia Gomez: greenhouse? can they do like a hybrid greenhouse?
Steve Sakala: They can have a transparent roof, which almost none of them do. I know it’s absolutely ludicrous.
Sonia Gomez: I am speechless.
Steve Sakala: Right, right. And we lobbied heavy against that. But the law enforcement wanted to have non-transparent walls indoors so that it was secure. There was a lot of fear when this law passed around security and theft. And it really pushed the industry in the wrong direction, because we’re first of all using non-renewable resources mostly to grow the herb indoors. And it’s not the same quality as sun-grown, especially when we have this amazing Hawaii sun.
Sonia Gomez: Oh my god, the environment over there is like, there’s it’s second to none.
Steve Sakala: Yeah, the challenges of our politics here in Hawaii is an almost third-world of corruption the way the old boy network works. It’s really unfortunate the hemp industry, it’s in its infancy. I don’t know if you saw the report that came out last couple weeks ago, half of the hemp that was grown in Hawaii, this past Last year, which was our first year having legal hemp was destroyed because of high THC levels. And so a lot of these growers didn’t do their research. The state did not support them with seed that was tested, and they brought in mainland varieties planted them and they were not adapted to our high amounts of UV at our latitude. We’re at 19 degrees latitude and their hemp plants were hot and the state did not have a way to help the farm
Sonia Gomez: that hemp was like yeah
Steve Sakala: right. I’m in Hawaii.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah produce the oils.
Steve Sakala: Extra resin on my leave.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, exactly. Oh my god,
Steve Sakala: the unique challenges in the industry here. But you know, we also have an immense opportunity in the hemp scene. If we can develop a hemp strain that is consistently at legal limits. We have the opportunity to be able to help almost all the other tropical countries and granted you have to Almost all the tropical countries are what we consider lesser developed. Hawaii is one of the only developed Island tropical nations, really the kingdom of Hawaii, and not a part of the US, but that’s another story. So we have this opportunity to create a strain that can impact people throughout the tropical world in a positive way if we can really use our industrial resources to create a strain that stays stable.
Sonia Gomez: I’ll talk more about that with you offline because I have some connections there who may be able to provide those genetics and I don’t want to speak if I speak about it chemically, and it’s not true. I’ll be like, Fuck, but it is true we’ll have a follow up on that and make a big announcement that we are single-handedly solving the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Steve Sakala: Yes, that would be amazing
Sonia Gomez: man, I’m so super passionate about this stuff. And mainly selfishly because it changed my, I’m a mother today because of it. I’m a wife today because of it. I am a thriving positive contributor to my community and society because of cannabis and hemp health and my own personal fight against the medical system. For my rights to safe access, and I on the daily get to interface with people whose children’s lives are being changed or whose parents lives are being changed or, you know, they get to do something a little easier or a little better because because of this thing, and I’m so passionate about it, I’m always just looking to how I can solve the next problem so that these things are just incredible to hear you speak about with such passion. It’s so clearly articulated it’s it’s not so far off in the left-wing that an average person can’t hear the reason, ability, right reasonability in the things that you are saying and anything that I can do to continue to support and shine the lighting and give you a portal or platform to speak into, I would just be so honored to be able to do so. Thank you. Yeah, you’re welcome. Any final thoughts or words for our community in closing here?
Steve Sakala: Well, just thank you again for the opportunity to be with you and to speak about all these things that obviously I’m super excited and passionate about. Please check out all the regenerative agriculture resources. I mentioned. Rodale Institute is another great resource that’s done a lot of good science behind regenerative agriculture. support your local farmers, whether its food or cannabis, shop local, buy local, do your due diligence on products, and you’ll make a difference with every dollar you spend. In fact, I believe every dollar you spend is way more powerful than any political boat you have because you’re supporting companies and products that are doing the right thing. And so I’m trying to become a conscious consumer and certainly, in the cannabis industry, you can have a major impact. Where can they find your products? You can find our products at https://manabotanics.com/
Sonia Gomez: Okay, awesome. For those of you who are tuned into The Hemp Revolution podcast, thank you so much for your time and attention and for the way that you are participating first with your time and attention and then with the way that you are financially contributing to any one of the organizations that we are promoting. This is a place for you to get the truth about cannabis so that you can make empowered, educated decisions about how you want to consciously involve yourself in the movement of cannabis and hemp health. This is truly an opportunity for us to disrupt, single-handedly disrupt one of the biggest industries in the entire world and that is health care. We believe that you deserve the opportunity to decide how you’re going to care for yourself that people that you love, the conditions you may be suffering from are our preserve and otherwise healthy lifestyle. The way that we have been taught is not necessarily the only way to go about loving yourself. If you want more information about how you can join the green rush or they have a revolution, check us out at theemeraldcircle.com for the right relationships, resources, and tools that you need to make a safe and sustainable entry to leave a legacy for your family. If you are a patient looking for information on which products or delivery system is going to be most effective for you. Check us out on medicalsecrets.com. I’m your host Sonia Gomez. And this is The Hemp Revolution. We’ll see you on our next show.
Thanks for listening to another Rockstar episode of The Hemp Revolution podcast. I’m your host Sonia Gomez. And just for you, we took notes on this episode along with the links and other resources mentioned inside of today’s show. Get them for free right now by going to the Emerald circle.com. Now, if you want more on this, please subscribe to the show on Apple podcast or wherever you like to listen and you will be automatically entered in to our monthly giveaway where you can get swag bags, all kinds of cool gifts and discounts from our guests and exclusive offers that are only mentioned right here in The Hemp Revolution podcast. I can’t wait for you to share this with your friends. With your help, we’ve been able to impact millions of people’s lives around the world with the truth about hemp and cannabis. And we know that you love us so much that you’re going to leave a review and rate us right now on your favorite platform to absorb content just like this now, we challenge you to dream big and love the life that you live. Thanks so much and we hope to see you on our next episode of The Hemp Revolution podcast Ciao for now.
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