In this episode we meet 3 business owners who have built successful Cannabis Seeds businesses in the last 10 years: Lee Mallett from BSB Genetics, Natalia Faehnrich of Attitude Seedbank and Ruben Fernandez from Delicious Seeds.
Lee from Birmingham-based BSB genetics explains how his business has had to battle to keep up with demand in a cash-only industry. And it’s being cash-based that can cause seed sellers so many problems with banks, landlords and accountants.
I also meet Natalia from Attitude Seed Bank. Natalia is an entrepreneur and an industry media presenter too. Well known among the European cannabis scene, her company stocks over 200 seeds brands. The company extends beyond seeds too. She has helped start a smoking site with Attitude Smoking lounge and launch a skate clothing store in Colchester, Essex.
And in the final section, I meet Ruben from Delicious Seeds in Spain. Ruben helps explain some of the intricacies of Spanish law, as well as sharing his passion for the industry.
First up – as Dexys Midnight Runners might have said…let’s ‘welcome the new soul vision’ and from Lee and John of Birmingham-based BSB genetics.
Lee Mallett – BSB Genetics – Owner
Gary: I’m here with Lee and John from BSB. Can you tell me a little bit about your business?
Lee: The business was formed initially in a completely different area of retail, but the seeds came about in the summer of 2006. I spent roughly eight years building it. We’re a retailer selling multiple different seeds brands from all around the globe.
It’s my second Expo. The first Expo done was back in March 2019 where I won first prize for best seeds company and the businesses really rocketed over the last couple of years.
The seeds are sold legally as a retail business on the basis that they’re not sold for growth purposes. So if anybody gives us any idea (or belief) that they intend to germinate from the seeds we have to refuse the sale.Lee Mallett – BSB Genetics
Otherwise, we can give out the information regarding the seeds for informational purposes – that’s fine. All the seeds that we distribute then are sold on packaging that explains things like the flowering times, yield and then there’s a brief description on the back of the cards. It talks a bit more about that medicinal sort of quality – like the strain, the flavour, things like that.
John: We have to stress it’s for ‘souvenir only’ in this industry. It’s a legal product. But with the banking industry and tenancy industry you come up with problems because it’s a cash-only business and that creates problems within the banking world.
At the moment we’re struggling to give a bank money, which in any other industry would be unheard of!John – BSB Genetics
Landlords will say we don’t want you. We don’t want to have a portfolio and say one of our portfolios is a cannabis shop.
Lee: The problem it brings is being in a well-recognized brand there are people from all over the Britain who want to purchase our seeds but without a banking system in place, they have to travel to the shop.
We get people that travel from London, Manchester and from Wales. They will happily make a two-hour journey just to pick up a £50-£60 packet of seeds.
We’re constantly looking at new banking solutions. We’ve been speaking to a firm at the minute. The banks operate on the basis that this is a grey area that they don’t really understand and so for that reason they’d rather not work with us.
Gary: You mention seeds are legal in the UK but your still encountering problems?
Lee: Almost as criminals. You’re pushed aside and left to your own devices.
You need a good banking system. Its not just the banks or landlords or properties. It runs on in many different sectors. Everybody that you try and work with automatically has got this negative view of us because we are cannabis related in that sense.
Gary: In terms of the seeds can you tell where they come from?
Lees: In terms of the seeds themselves they originate from different parts of the globe. So some come from over Afghan, Hindu Kush regions.
There’s some strains that are more European-based – Spain for example and some that are coming over from the US. The breeders that I work with all tend to breed out from Spain. That is the capital of Europe now. Genetics that come from California are still distributed into Europe through Spain. Our Spanish partners are based in Barcelona and Valencia and that is really the capital in Europe for this for this industry. There is a lot of growing and breeding going on there.
Gary: Have you noticed with the popularity of CBD people are now looking for more CBD specific strains with higher levels of CBD?
Lee: Not specifically the strains. The general consumer knows what the CBD oils are but they don’t relate that to the cannabis plant in that sense.
We’ve seen a boom in the CBD Market, but that’s not been reflected in CBD seed sales.Lee Mallett – BSB Genetics
Gary: In the US it seems that with the legalization process it’s maybe got a bit more sophisticated…
Lee: With the legalisation process happening in different states over the last few years they are bit further ahead than where we are at the minute. The customers (or clients) over there, now understand that it’s not just simply as it’s known ‘recreational Cannabis’. There’s all sorts of variations that you can buy now with different CBD and THC levels. You can pick and choose.
John: In America, it’s legal. But right now, over here since it is illegal, anyone who let’s say chooses to break the law – a Sativa based plant will often run a little bit longer in the growing period. So heightening the risk of breaking the law further. So people are going for a shorter growing period.
Essentially, I think if you legalise it and for places like, Colorado or Amsterdam – if you speak to them and ask which are the most popular strains there – normally its Hazes and Sativas. Whereas in a country where it’s illegal (due to the growing period being shorter) it’s more Indica based.
Gary: What will happen in the industry in the next 5 years?
I’d like to see a decriminalization act take place which will allow for dispensaries to sell cannabis that has been grown officially in a regulated environment. Where lab reports are available, so that a consumer can buy a product and know the exact breakdown of the different cannabinoids available in that product.Lee Mallet – BSB Genetics
People can tailor to their own needs which strains are best for them. Whether it’s for medicinal use or whether it’s somebody using more for the recreational side. They will know exactly how much THC and CBD is in it. Even the different flavours, the Terpene profiles, the different Cannabinoids etc. In a regulated system (through decriminalization) it’s the only way that can really happen.
A basic straightforward legalization is a free for all where everybody will be growing cannabis everywhere. Nobody will really know what they’ve got. There’s no regulation. So it’s a different quality product.
John: With Brexit possibly. I think maybe the country starts to run out of money and possibly as a boost for the industry they may say “Okay. Let’s look at this”. Even if it makes it easier on banking tenancy, so things like that could be a beneficial side of if it.
Lee: If I look back five years ago and say you were asking me that question five years ago ‘Where would we like to be today?’ The only real change that I can see is the CBD industry never exists. It’s been legal for seven years since 2012. They actually legalized it but it took a few years for the industry to get on its feet etc.
So, yep CBD. I believe that’s a good step in the right direction. It allows the general public to understand more about cannabis. This isn’t just about getting high now. You can buy something that generally is medicine. It can’t be sold as a medicine, but people are buying it for that reason as there there’s no other real need for CBD other than as a medicinal product.
More info: www.bsbgenetics.com
Natalia Faehnrich – Attitude Seedbank – Director
Gary: Some interesting stuff there from Lee and John from BSB, don’t you think? Next up let’s hear from the Natalia from Attitude Seed Bank. Not only is she building a successful seeds bank, but her company has a smoking products division and a skateboard clothing store too.
Natalia: The company name is attitude seed bank and we’ve been around for 12 years basically connecting the world with the best genetics. We’ve got 200 different brands from all over the world. We’ve got close to 8,000 different strains – so the collection is really huge.
For example, all our American breeders we make available to our European customers, and at the same time to the American customers – they can buy European genetics.
Gary: So how are you finding the Product Earth Festival?
Its super important and super exciting that we are able to have an event like Product Earth. It’s nice that the Cannabis Community can come together. We all had a great weekend. I just think it’s a wonderful event and the organizers put their heart and soul into this. You can tell – you can see it with your eyes!Natalia Faehnrich – Attitude Seedbank
Gary: Have you been seen in the last couple of years because CBD has become more popular that this has affected your sales in any way?
Natalia: Not really, but I think generally in the UK the perception has changed. Like whenever I meet somebody and I tell them what I do, people are still surprised – but maybe not as shocked as they used to be that this industry exists. Even having this event here at a venue like this is already amazing. It’s something that we wouldn’t think was possible few years ago.
Gary: I’ve spoken to some other people that sell seeds and they said it’s hard to get leases for shops?
Natalia: Literally everything. We’re talking about getting an accountant, an actual bank, the card processing. A couple of years ago one company refused to print a banner for the booth because of what it was. We struggle to get services for basic things that you need in order to run your business – but that’s getting better also.
Gary: You have a few brands?
We also have attitude smoking lounge, which is a separate website with all the smoking accessories and food and cosmetics made of hemp and a bit of a clothing there. We keep it separate.
We also have a clothing store based in Colchester. That’s like more of a lifestyle store for skateboarders, so we sell the actual skateboards and there’s a bit of a crossover there too because most skaters are interested in cannabis I would say. A lot of brands have that cannabis motif on the clothing.
Gary: What do you think will happen in the industry in the next 5 years?
Natalia: I think eventually it will become legal here – probably strictly regulated – but it’s happening. I think it will become a little bit more corporate than it is right now, but I think it will be a positive change.
More info: Attitude Seed Bank
Ruben Fernandez – Delicious Seeds – CEO
Gary: In this final section. I meet Reuben from delicious seeds. Spanish laws in respect to cannabis may not be super easy to understand at first, but if you listen carefully you’ll quickly realise that compared to the UK they’re far more liberal. So let Reuben from Delicious Seeds enlighten you.
Gary: I’ve heard from a few people that Spain is becoming an important part of the European cannabis scene?
Ruben: Yes, we are the centre of the industry in Europe. Many companies from the states, from Holland are going to Barcelona because you know, what happened in Barcelona – people are smoking everywhere and we have a lot of tolerance.
We have something similar to coffee shops but they are called clubs. Everybody can go to them. In Barcelona they are more open-minded than us in Valencia as we don’t have clubs.
You can go to Barcelona and you open a social club. You can sell it without a problem. It’s amazing. It’s just different point of view in the same country with the same laws.
It’s legal in a Spain. Possession and grow for ‘collective grow’. This is legal. And when you go there, you pay a tax. You pay like 20 Euros to be member for a year, after they give you a card and you can go and you can take your part of the collective grow.
Gary: So do you have to be a resident in Spain to join the club?
Ruben: Some of them no, but some of them they don’t give a fuck. If you go to Barcelona half of the groups think that everyone has the right to access weed, even the foreign people. I’m agreeing with that. You know weed is for humans, you don’t need to be persecuted in a place that is legal.
In 1962 there’s some old laws that says that possession is not illegal and to grow it is not illegal. It is however illegal to SELL. If you avoid selling its legal. If you do a social club you don’t sell. You ‘share’ a ‘collective grow’.
It’s obvious that this collective grow has some costs which you need to pay when you take your weed. It’s like a smoker club. Smoking is not illegal in your home, but in a public area – yes.
Grow is not illegal, to share is not illegal, to give for free to someone is not illegal – its totally legal.Ruben – Delicious Seeds
Warning. But if you smoke in the street, or in a public area you make something that we call a ‘health problem’. It becomes a ‘health problem’ for people that don’t want to smoke.
The police can discharge you a ticket, but you don’t go to jail. They just charge you for a ticket – our laws are really soft.
The old Guardia civil are more open minded than the new ones. The new ones maybe they watch too much CSI or too much films and they believe the drugs are killing people. The only thing that kills people are guns. Everybody’s smoke in Spain.
Gary: What about on the beach?
Ruben: On the beach I smoke every time if I go to the beach, I need my joints, if not I die. If you use common sense in Spain, you are free of all the limits. Probably 50% of the population in Spain smoke.
Gary: So tell me about Delicious Seeds
Ruben: We are here promoting our company. We’re a brand from Spain, but we also have facilities in Michigan, in Chile and Uruguay.
We’re an 11-year old company trying to do a good job in the industry, and we are growing fast. We do a good job and we have good friends. We’ve won more than 166 prizes internationally around the world, including including with High Times, Spannabis – the best cups.
We grow all ‘indoor’ because we need to be sure that the pollen is just one pollen and we don’t have an accident with cross pollenation. It’s hard because when everybody grows also, you don’t know who grows next to you – if they have knowledge or not.
Delicious Seeds are wholesalers. We sell to the professionals, they then sell to the final customer.
I love this work. The best part is when you can speak to people from all around the world about grow – that’s the best.
More info: HempPassion.com
Recorded at Product Earth Festival. Mixed and edited at Canna Studios Birmingham.