Meet my fellow Aussie cannabis enthusiast, Dallas McMillan.
Dallas is a former vet, turned cannabis consultant, and due to his medical background he was able to find a hole in Washington’s ever-expanding legal pot market. In an industry with minimal barriers to entry, Dallas’s company Rhizo Sciences developed a turnkey solution for the retail market that involves the professional service of manufacturing facilities for large-scale cannabis extraction.
Another of his ventures is a collaboration with UK-based Medi-Kingdom Holdings, which involves the production of quality medical cannabis in Lesotho, Africa that’s being exported to the global market.
Kick back and enjoy my interview with one of the most interesting individuals in the Australian cannabis field.
M: Dallas, to work in the cannabis space there has to be some sort of underlying passion that’s brought you to devote yourself to the cause. Are you able to give me a bit of background info on your relationship with cannabis?
D: Yeah, so, I guess like you, I’ve always been fascinated by the field, and going through vet science and dealing with pharmaceuticals, pharmacy was particularly interesting to me. Being a uni student, I’d had a bit of experience with it from a recreational perspective but really hadn’t had anything to do with it for years. After my father got diagnosed with bone cancer and was offered some cannabis to smoke by a friend I began to think about the possible application methods for patients. Smoking the cannabis didn’t really do much for my father, but he thought that if he’d had the oil it might’ve worked a bit better but by then it was a bit too late.
D: As a vet, I spend a lot of time managing pain we’re constantly having to improvise with our pharmaceuticals as it’s obvious that what works for a poodle isn’t going to work for a bull mastiff. With all the different painkillers and pharmaceuticals we’re allowed to use on animals, it really rubs me the wrong way that we’re not being allowed to use cannabis. This is something we know could help a lot of people, and it’s almost impossible to access even though it’s theoretically legal in Australia.
M: With all the talk of legalisation in the media, how close do you think we are to removing the stigma surrounding the use of cannabis?
D: I like to look at it from more of a scientific approach. Clearly, the situation is insane, but it doesn’t pay to get too emotionally invested in the whole idea. What I’m doing is trying to impact the way scientists, doctors and regulators are thinking by coming at them in a scientific manner. That’ll be the next step we need to get over. If tomorrow we found a substance that had even one-tenth of the medical benefits associated with cannabis it’d be patented and be a billion-dollar drug in a years time, so there’s definitely a lot of re-education that still needs to be done.
M: How do you think it’s going to be regulated in Australia?
D: There are thousands of years of evidence linking to cannabis’s medical benefits, but like any other medicine, there are side-effects and the potential for abuse. It’s a powerful drug, however, it’s a very safe powerful drug, and it’s got to be managed in the same sensible way we would manage any other drug.
M: That being said, with all the stigma associated with administering a plant, what’re you guys at Rhizo Sciences doing to deliver a more medicinal product?
D: So, at Rhizo we implement full-scale extraction operations, where we allow growers to bring us a product to turn into cannabis extract, or we facilitate the production of a similar facility so that growers or manufacturers can improve their business without getting in over their heads.
M: That’s awesome, so pretty much professional services for weed? (laughs). I love the product range you guys are exhibiting. Are you thinking that by bringing out oils and capsules it’s going to be a lot easier for doctors to prescribe it?
D: Definitely, as with anything by breaking it down to its roots, so just a couple of cannabinoids, we’re going to be able to deliver a totally medical product similar to the ones doctors are familiar with.
M: What’s the potential for products like these on the Aussie medical cannabis market?
D: Look, currently, there are around 150 patients with registered, legal access to medicinal cannabis. We’ve seen data indicating that there are up to 100 thousand people using some form of black market cannabis oil domestically, for better or for worse results. So the market is definitely there. It’s going to be up to governments to put forward the right legislation in a timely manner so people aren’t having to use these crude, tar-like oils that are being made in sheds to try and help with their medical condition. So we’re looking at an enormous potential. But for that to happen we’ve got to be in an environment where we’re not thinking prohibition.
M: All the talk of Australia being the most progressive country in terms of access to medicinal cannabis seems to be pretty much bullshit if only 150 people have access. It seems insane to me that this agricultural goldmine isn’t being utilised.
D: That’s right, there needs to be legislation to support a uniform and regulated industry for import, export and supply otherwise we’re not going to be moving forward anytime soon. Look at Lesotho, it’s a developing country with a lack of resources, huge prevalence of HIV, and they’ve got legislation to support a massive cannabis export industry. It’s clear the Australian public want this legislation passed, and I’m fully supportive if a plebiscite similar to the marriage vote has to be the start of this.
M: Definitely mate, things move bloody slowly around here. Talking about Lesotho, can you fill me in on that project a little bit?
D: Sure, so what I’ve been working on in Lesotho, which is a small country within South Africa, is with a company called Medi-Kingdom Holdings. Now, through their work in the local community, they’ve developed facilities to grow top quality outdoor and climate-controlled medical cannabis to supply the world market. The location means we can do a year-round outdoor crop, and up to five harvests a year indoors. This flower can be packaged as so, or converted into oil, and be sent to any country which allows for its sale.
M: With all the designer strains being produced in places like Colorado, California and even still in places like The Netherlands, how are you guys planning on competing with an organic product?
D: In terms of flower production, we’re going to be growing all of our flowers indoor in climate-controlled greenhouses and using quality American and Dutch genetics crossed with traditional African varieties that are known to have a lot of THC.
So while we’ll be producing large quantity CBD cannabis outdoors to turn into oil, all of our commercial export flower will be grown indoors to the same standards people in places like California will be used to.
M: That’s pretty unique, I haven’t really seen a globally-minded medicinal cannabis operation. That definitely provides a lot more market opportunities.
D: That’s what I was always hesitant of when starting out with Rhizo, I didn’t want to tie myself down to one particular industry and eventually realised that a global market will be a lot easier to market to. And in Lesotho and neighboring South Africa, they’ve been growing quality cannabis for hundreds of years. This gives us the advantage of having local workers with years of experience that will be able to produce cannabis much more efficiently than an operation in say, Canada. In Australia as well the market is really unattractive for a producer, which is why it makes sense for a country like Lesotho to export cannabis that it can produce at a much lower cost. And what that brings to the local community is proper irrigation for other crops, as well as a job market, clean water and money for the local economy. And we also do a lot of community development through the Medi-Kingdom Foundation.
M: What kinds of products are you currently looking to export?
D: Currently we’re only producing flower, but have facilities in place that can produce oil and other derivatives. The production facilities in Lesotho should be completed around April so that we can begin the exportation of bulk CBD and THC oil. From our last crop, we’ve got a large supply of flower for pre-order which we intend to sell as a medical product or as an R&D product to universities and R&D licensees in Australia and around the world. It comes from four strains, three of which were predominantly Kush and one Sativa. These being: LA Cheese (50% Indica /50% Sativa strain), King Tutankhamen, Buddha Cheese (Indica-dominant hybrid) and Citrix.
M: I think the quality assurance you guys are applying to the product is going to be a big selling point, those strains sound fantastic. It’s weird to me that we’re not doing this ourselves in Australia. Do you foresee the import market here as a big thing in the future?
D: With only a handful of legal producers in Australia, demand has really taken over supply. What we’re trying to do with our product is get it into the hands of researchers at hospitals and universities in Australia so that we can start to develop that legal import market. But it’s really a global market that we’re targeting right now. We’ve got a whole range of products ready to roll out this year, including a range of vape cartridges, full spectrum THC and CBD oil as well as premium flowers. For now, we’re taking pre-orders globally with a number of deals currently underway in Canada, South America, and Australia.
M: Mate, it was fantastic talking to you. I love the insight you were able to give me into the domestic and global industry. Wish you the best of luck with Rhizo and Medi-Kingdom and I’m looking forward to seeing your products down under!
D: Thanks Matthew.
If you’re currently licensed to handle medicinal cannabis under a R&D or product development scheme, you can get in contact with Medi-Kingdom through their website.