Podcast The Hemp Revolution

How to Shift and Create a Career into the Hemp-Cannabis Industry with Christopher Michael Fontes

Episode 31 Christopher Michael Fontes

Christopher Michael Fontes is the founder and CEO of Hemp Exchange, a marketplace for quality hemp and CBD products. He’s a professional programmer catering to various industries including highly regulated ones such as healthcare and health insurance. Being an advocate of cannabis since 14 years old, he knew the potential medical benefits and the tons of ecological values of the plant. So, he’s always been excited to utilize his skills set to this industry.

Join us in this episode as Chris shares how Hemp Exchange is changing the industry by creating a safe place to buy and sell CBD products. Be inspired by their milestones and how he foresees the future of cannabis a whole lot more. Stay tuned!

I’m not a big believer that I just need to figure out a way to make money. I can do that. But that’s not really where my heart is, my heart is in wanting to make a difference. -Chris Fontes

Download The Episode Companion For This Episode

Some Topics We Discussed Include:

2:25 – Figuring out how to apply his skill set to the cannabis industry
14:24 – The hurdles he faced when he was getting started
21:24 – Milestones to celebrate
26:50 – Major considerations why he chose the hemp-cannabis space over other heavily regulated industries
29:33 – How Hemp Exchange is giving back to their community
37:55 – The hemp-cannabis industry in three years from his point of view

People Mentioned / Resources

Connect with Christopher Michael Fontes

Connect with Sonia Gomez


Sonia Gomez: What’s up happy family. This is Sonia Gomez coming to you live from Denver, Colorado. This is another ribbon episode of the Hemp Revolution where we are changing the game with healthcare, industry, cannabis, hemp. And all the things are happening right here in The Hemp Revolution. Today’s guest, Mr. Chris Fontes is the founder and CEO of The Hemp Exchange. He has been on the tech side of things and highly regulated industries for most of his professional career. From health care to credit reports, he now focuses his time and attention and energy in supplying and stabilizing the hemp supply chain. Without further ado, give a nice warm hemp revolution welcome to our friend Chris Fontes. What’s up?

Chris Fontes: Thanks for that amazing intro. That was fantastic. I appreciate it.

Sonia Gomez: Yeah, no worries. You are out of Utah, right?

Chris Fontes: That’s correct. Yeah, we’re an Oregon State company, but I’m physically located in Utah.

Sonia Gomez: How does that work?

Chris Fontes: Well, in this day and age, it’s easy to work remote, so it kind of doesn’t matter where our headquarters is, or we have a marketing person that’s in Missouri and we’ve got human resources in Oregon, we have human resources in Chicago. So we, it doesn’t matter where we’re at these days, right? Unless you’re like a retail shop or brick and mortar. So for us, we really push the remote work as much as possible. We think it’s a better work-life balance and actually perform better when you don’t have to commute an hour into the city every day.

Sonia Gomez: Nice. Love it. So tell me about The Hemp Exchange. How did you, first of all, the intro’s nice, and that’s all good, but I want to hear from the horse’s mouth. Who are you? What does it mean that you were on the tech side of restricted industries for a long time? What’s your background and how the heck did you get into cannabis and hemp?

Chris’ Background and Transition to Hemp-CBD

Chris Fontes: Sure, so I’ve been programming for as long as I can remember. I mean, literally, I’m at the age where your viewers might go, I don’t know what you’re talking about that. We had a Commodore 64 when I was like five years old, in the house, and it was one of the first computers you could buy and bring home and you plug it into your TV. And it was a horribly slow, giant inefficient thing. But I learned how to program on that thing when I was really young. It was just to me it was like operating the microwave or operating the TV. Like it’s just another thing I learned.

And so I’ve been around computers and learning to program really since forever. And because of that expertise, by the time I was old enough to like attend college, they didn’t have college courses that really focused on programming, they had CS degrees, but those are more like IT at the time. And so I didn’t even go to college because it was like I know more now. And I’m going to take a four to eight-year hit to go to college, to learn stuff and get a degree in something I’m not even doing. 

Using my skill set combined with trying to keep up with the ever-changing and often ambiguous regulation is sort of been my specialty. - Chris Fontes Click To Tweet

So I’ve been around programming for a long time and because of that being so far ahead of the curve, with the advent of the Internet, and that sort of thing. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to move into various industries and leverage that skill. Over time, the heavily regulated industries I’ve been involved with include health care, health insurance, which are two of the largest Lee, the most regulated industries. And as well as credit reporting and finance, tech and finance, also very regulated.

So using my skill set combined with trying to keep up with the ever-changing and often ambiguous regulation is sort of been my specialty. And I’ve been an advocate of cannabis in general, since, I was probably like 14 years old and knew what it was and knew the potential medical benefits of it. And so, I’ve been kind of watching from the 2014 farm bill on how exciting it is to have a federally legal version of cannabis, and no it’s not high THC, but there’s still a ton of medicinal value. There’s a ton of ecological value as well, and a ton of economic value. 

So I’ve been really excited with the industry and just trying to figure out how can I apply my skill set to this industry to have some sort of benefit? I’m not a big believer that I just need to figure out a way to make money. I can do that. But that’s not really where my heart is in wanting to make a difference. And so sort of waiting for that opportunity, where’s the right fit for my skill set and what I can do to make an impact in this industry. And really it was, the more I dug in, the more I realized the supply chain was just totally fractured, and chaotic and really difficult to work with.

And so I thought, man, this would be a great opportunity for me. And to be totally blunt as well. I was working with another client at the time, who had also been watching the cannabis industry and seeing it evolve and also realizing the need and they really pitched it to me initially, it was one of those things where I was watching it, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t on top of it every day. These guys were on top of it every day. And they’re like, what do you think about this? I’m like, that’s a perfect fit. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. So we JV with another company who’d been in the industry for years before us. So we got to adopt a lot of their knowledge really quickly. And ultimately just try to help stabilize the supply chain. So that’s where my background is. And that’s where we’re at now.

Sonia Gomez: So, through this partnership, and through them being like, yo, yo, you gotta get in here. There’s a space and there’s a need for your skill sets. Let’s do this. You got involved, and that’s where the exchange came from?

Chris Fontes: Yeah, exactly. So it was sort of a meeting of the minds are like, Hey, our biggest problem is vetting products and vetting sellers, and vetting buyers. They were doing some trade fun type things at the time. And 90% of the time was occupied by just dealing with garbage and trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not. Yeah, there were some marketplaces that exist before we came online.

There was one particular in the Pacific Northwest, it’s very well known, and then one that’s based out of Colorado, neither of them were vetting any of their users or any of their products, or really doing much more than just a glorified Craigslist. And really, they’re still not doing anything more than that, despite some claims that they’ve made recently. 

So, we thought well for their need, they’re like, we need a marketplace that works, where things are actually vetted. And where we know that, hey, if the products listed, we know it’s real, that it exists, that the COA is real, that the user is licensed. Like that would just be amazing. So that was their primary need. And then this evolved further into Well, that’s great that you know, that the users’ license, but what about the financial transaction? That often can be a nightmare. You get products, even if the users are on the products real, it doesn’t mean they’re going to ship you the product that you’re looking at.

That doesn’t mean that they’re not going to potentially issue a refund if there’s any problem. If there are any discrepancies with their labs and our labs, even though they’re both authentic, they could be off by four points easily on CBD. And what happens then how do we get somebody our money back? So we brought all of our ideas together and really came out with this complete White Glove service where it’s free to sign up, you log on anyone you deal with has been vetted. When you order a product, you should deposit funds through our wire transfer into our FDIC account, which is it is an FDIC backed account. 

And I believe we’re the first cannabis platform to offer that ever, which is super exciting. And we also handle the shipping, we make sure your product gets to your door, we have a great third party logistics partner who has a $2 million per conveyance hemp specific cargo policy. So your products protected when it gets to the door, you have seven days to check it out. Is does my test concur? Does the product look right? Does it smell right etc? Is it in the condition that they said it was doesn’t look like the pictures? Is it working? Is it giving me the yield I need etc? And if there’s any kind of discrepancy in that seven-day window, we still have the funds.

They still have the product and now we can arbitrate for any kind of problem. A seller did a test and it’s soft by four points. What do you want to do here? We also take a sample in transit so we can send it to our own test. And then we can properly arbitrate saying, Well, here’s what our third-party lab said, can we come to some sort of arrangement? If we can’t come to an arrangement, they can return the product. 

Hemp Exchange will eat the shipping costs on that and give a full refund to the buyer. That way the sellers, maybe they’re out some time, but they also are accepting the fact that they ship the product that doesn’t exactly meet what they said it did. And their products not getting stolen at least, which happens all the time, too. We hear people saying, Hey, I bought isolate, you should be powdered sugar and they’re like, no, I shipped you isolate. They’re like, nope, we’re returning it and they returned powdered sugar back to the seller and try to get their money back. Or they go to the escrow company and say, I don’t know what this guy’s talking about.

He shipped sugar but really he did ship isolate so people are getting burned on both sides of the deal and us being able to third party, arbitrator and work truly fairly for both sides helps create a supply chain where it’s you know click and buy and you know that what you order is going to show up and if it doesn’t then there’s a resolution there and a third party to help.

Sonia Gomez: There’s really these fools out their shipping sugar? This is the first time I’ve ever heard that.

Chris Fontes: Yup, there’s been legitimate verified cases of people either shipping sugar or returning sugar claiming that’s what they got in the first place. It’s pure insanity. It’s a weird world where you have legitimate businesses who most of these businesses on the hemp side of the cannabis coin so to speak, they don’t come from marijuana culture at all. Right? These are soy farmers. They are Hey, farmers, they’ve done cattle. They’ve done something not related to cannabis at all and they’re jumping in the game. 

Now of course, there are people that were on the marijuana side that came over Well, but there’s by far more people that are new to cannabis in general that are participating in hemp. And then you have a bunch of will call them high school dealers like that dude, you know who can get everything. Those guys from the marijuana side, see the potential in hemp because of the lack of supply chain and they’re doing the deals with the farmers, they’re doing the deals of the processors. And really they’re taking advantage of and I don’t want to say all brokers by any means there’s a group of brokers that are doing it. 

Sonia Gomez: This is not a blanket statement. This is a story that you’re telling me right now. That is a thing I’ve heard for a long time.

Chris Fontes: Yeah, and it’s scary. We talked to a gentleman at a conference who had bought some biomass. He was in New York, he bought biomass from Colorado. They said it was like 15% CBD they got it and it tested out of like five and they kept his money they’re like we’re not going to give you any kind of refund sorry. So they decided well, let’s try to stop doing this ourselves because it’s a nightmare. Let’s hire a broker. So they look for a broker, they found someone that thought was reputable. They told him the entire story we bought from this farm, we got burned, they wouldn’t refund us. We only have so much money left in the bank account and we need some good products to make oil so we can sell and then you know kind of revitalize our business here.

The broker said No problem, I’ll find you material. So the broker found a material shipment showed up 5% turns out the broker bought it from the same farm they just got burned on. He literally heard their story and said, Yeah, no problem, just went back to the same farm bought more of the same product, shipped it and said, Well, sorry, I’ve got my commission, good luck, and just burn them again. And these things are happening on the regular. And this is not happening to everyone, obviously. And it’s not to say that there are not good brokers. I think there are actually quite a few really valuable brokers out there that are very ethical and trying to do a good job for their clientele. But unfortunately, there is also a load of Joker brokers out there that are just waiting to burn someone so they can get their cash grab.

Sonia Gomez: Man, it’s so true and it translates across multiple sides of the industry, banking, merchant processing. A lot of people I think just want to be the go-to person and so they speak a lot faster. I’ve done it before I’ve, I’ve said that I’ve had and often it’s just a ripple effect of someone else giving you the telephone game right? Like, you get told you’re ready or that you have something specific. You get excited, you want to make the deal happen. You go and you run your mouth early. everyone’s done it but there’s a graceful way to repair that and take responsibility for it and then not duplicate the mistake, but I don’t see that happening a lot.

I see a lot of people just being excited they’re making the corporate to cannabis jump. They think they’re going to get rich fast. And it’s interesting to just watch and I love that there’s a company like yours out there who’s sort of stabilizing the process. I love the term white glove, anything White Glove I’ll take because I just think that in this day and age people need and want a high quality of service so that they can truly outsource a piece of their business and stay in alignment with the thing that makes them most passionate.

What are some of the major challenges besides people shipping sugar that is like, that is my new reference for everything now just shoot me some sugar? But what are some of the major challenges that you faced when you were getting started? And I asked because we have a lot of entrepreneurs who are considering their move into the industry right now. We have folks who have established companies who are still facing the inevitable challenges that this industry is throwing at us every other day in fields. And I love to hear from the different types of businesses and their owners. What kind of challenges are you facing and what have you done to get on the other side of it. So let’s start with the challenges that you have faced or are currently facing in order to hit the milestone that you’re aiming for right now?

The Hurdles He Faced When He Was Getting Started

Chris Fontes: Well, I think one of the first challenges anyone moving into the space is faced with is that you can literally drown an opportunity. There’s a million things you can do to be helpful. There’s a million things you can do to make a profit in this industry. And it’s easy to start tackling on Well, I can do that. Oh, I can do that, too. Oh, I can only do it all of it. Yeah. Right, unless you have just an unlimited bank account and unlimited human resources, no company really succeeds by tackling everything. You really have to figure out what is the specific goal we’re trying to achieve, and let’s just stay focused on that. 

And you really have to pare things down. There’s a lot of things that we wanted to do that we had to pair away because it was taking away from the core value of what we’re offering. And even as we as we grow, we’re learning and pivoting slightly and making money Are alterations to respond to the market need. But it’s really about what is the market needs? Where are your skills? How does that product-market fit work? And how can you really focus down on just one solid value proposition to the clientele? So that’s the first problem. 

The amount of people who act like they're the authority figure, but really have no idea what they're talking about, is out of control in the industry. - Chris Fontes Click To Tweet

The second problem is education. I cannot fathom the level of ineptitude in the industry right now. And being part of Facebook groups, and when you’re trying to learn, you don’t know any different so someone sounds knowledgeable, and you’re like, Okay, that’s reasonable. I’ll go off that that makes sense. And when you really do your research, you find out it’s complete garbage and they don’t know what they’re talking about at all. So the amount of people who act like they’re the authority figure, but really have no idea what they’re talking about, is out of control in the industry. 

And it’s kind of a complicated industry and when you don’t know I mean, I knew a lot about cannabis as a plant. I didn’t know much about the industry at the time, like its current state of the supply chain, and how things are being tested and what the different laws say. And there is a lot of opinions out there that are just, that’s all they are as opinions and they’re bad ones. Navigating through that and cutting through the noise and trying to get to the brass tacks of Okay. What is the legal limit for industrial hemp for THC, is it total THC or is it Delta nine? Is that a federal thing or is it a state thing? It’s both and how does that affect me? And how does different testing methods work? And how will that affect my lab results? 

Sonia Gomez: And what lab should?

Chris Fontes: What lab should I use? What lab is reputable? What strains are reputable? What COAs ways can I trust? What SEO ways or faked? It’s just getting through to the truth is probably the hardest part of the industry. The only thing I can say is that consider multiple sources. The closer to the horse’s mouth the better so instead of relying on somebody’s opinion, go read The Federal Farmville. Digest it so you can wrap your head around it. Don’t take the opinion of someone that’s trying to make money off you.

I mean, obviously, we’re providing a service. So we have transaction fees, and we’re trying to make money so we can stay afloat as well. But I say that honestly, don’t just take my word for it, either go out and do your own research and come to a conclusion the best you can because if you just follow a couple of people or even a small group of people, you could be led astray really fast. 

So do your research, trust the authority figures in the industry, which is like the USDA, the DEA, your local state, ag department, and trust what they say more than some guy that has a farm and is supposed to be doing this for 1000 years, because often those guys have been doing it for a long time. They either have some bad info or they’re happy to tell you bad info or they are happy kinds of skirting the truth so they could get away with doing certain things. And in this day and age, with this burgeoning industry, doing things right and legal is critical for the ultimate success of the entire industry.

If we start doing things black market or sort of even grey market, all it’s going to do is piss off the people who are already in great opposition to this plant and make it more difficult for legislation to be passed to make things easier for the actual industry to succeed. So doing things right, shipping things right. Not lying on your co a is not lying to the authorities. Doing things properly is absolutely critical.

Sonia Gomez: Yes, I agree. Preach. I’m like over here with this snap clap because it’s really frustrating to watch and I happened to be one of those people. My husband and I have 30 years of combined experience in the space. We’ve written legislation we’ve been a part of pioneering this industry across the country. We’ve built one of the largest education platforms online today. 50 million-plus people have consumed our content, collectively, whether they’re watching videos or liking our stuff, or reading our blogs, whatever, it’s a significant number of people that have been impacted. And I’m always checking myself I’m not perfect by any means, definitely have had to walk the gray line because the rules didn’t exist for us to do it any other way. But now that there is we have this whole mentality around together as one. 

Together as one, we have to set the standard. We have to be a self-regulating self-governing industry, we have to hold each other accountable to a certain level of excellence if we want to be taken seriously both as entrepreneurs and as an industry and how we do one thing is how we do everything. So if communication is poor, if you know information is false if services aren’t rendered in the way that they were promised, it gives a bad reputation to the overall industry and not just to the individual who’s participating.

Tell me some of your successes, what are some of the things that they have exchanges been able to celebrate as a company as a team? Because with the challenges, we know that this industry or in general, with great risk comes great reward. And a lot of folks that I talked to are still like in the trenches where they haven’t yet got to feel or experience the full benefit of their hard work. And that’s okay, too. But there are still milestones where we’ve been able to celebrate what are some of those points of celebration for you guys? where you’re like, Hell, yeah, we did it.

Milestones to Celebrate

Chris Fontes: You know, there’s been a couple of recent and to be transparent here, we’ve only been live to the public to use our platform since like April 1. So we’re fairly new. In this amount of time. We’ve had a couple of pretty important milestones or things that I feel really good about. Our general media attention has been overwhelmingly positive. And I’ll see our name-dropped in places that I don’t even know how they heard about us. Like for example, PanExchange made a huge press release that they were going to release a hemp trading platform that’s more like a commodities trading like a derivative stock trading platform. But they are going to supposedly offer transactions to the platform. It’s not really live yet, but they anyway, they did a sort of premature press release will help industry daily picked that up and did a whole article on it. And they talked about really in general, that as the supply chain grows, various marketplaces are scrambling to try to support the industry. And of the three they listed, we were number one, and to see Hemp Exchange listed in the hemp industry daily article about supply chain marketplaces was super exciting. So that’s been great. 

I’ve had a keynote speaker at a conference that was really exciting. We have something that’s more general that’s not really a milestone, but a constant reminder of why we’re here and the success we have, approximately one out of five COAs that are submitted to the Hemp Exchange have been falsified. And we catch that. And we don’t want that out in the marketplace. So we have this amazing daily reminder of why we’re here, that hey, today, you stopped this person from listing this fake product. That is probably my favorite milestone that we’re constantly hitting. We’ve helped a bad shipment, we had a shipment of product that was significantly short, and we were able to arbitrate that successfully. Whereas had we not been involved in that particular moment, we would have had a big problem, because often the buyer will say, Hey, this is short and the seller will say no, it’s not. And that’s all there is to it, and then civil litigation or nothing, right, they just go your separate ways.

And so we’ve actually had a couple of incidences of that in one instance we had two semi loads of biomass, that had mice all in it, and which is obviously not usable. And that’s a significant investment into biomass to get it at your facility and then realize that none of it’s usable. And you know, thankfully, and I’m not trying to say that in this case, the seller was ill-intended. It just it was circumstantial, but had we not been in the middle? There’s a possibility that that wouldn’t have been arbitrated fairly. And because we were there, and we had the funds were like, Hey, you don’t get paid for this material? Because it’s got mice in it. You can’t sell biomass with mice. They’re like, Yeah, that makes sense. Just bring it back. And I’ll give you a new load. And it was a done deal. And it was a phone call to fix. And that was it. No civil litigation. And, you know, I feel really good about knowing that this could have really screwed the buyer, and we were there to protect them.

I feel really good about knowing that this could have really screwed the buyer, and we were there to protect them. - Chris Fontes Click To Tweet

Sonia Gomez: Man. This is such a cool thing that you have going on here. And I mean, I come from like, you know, Northern California where you don’t have any regulatory agency or support system that you can call to stabilize the deal. Like the deal is the deal and it Done or it’s not and like, it can get very bad very fast if it’s not to the specifications. So it’s so cool to see a lot of the problems that the grassroots industry had and has had for many, many years, sort of getting remedied with people’s creativity. And most often, it’s the people who have no relevance or no relationship with the gray market, that California kicked off when prop 215 passed in 96 opened up a massive gray area for people to be able to operate. And there were a lot of challenges and a lot of success built to but more challenges than success. It was the success was well earned, because of how much you had to do just to stay safe just to complete a transaction, the amount of risk that was taken on the front end of that was just Such a significant time. 

It’s hard to even articulate without getting into bruiser type content, you know, but I think that I think you got the gist, you know, what you’re doing right now is really stabilizing and legitimizing the way that business is being done between organizations. And it’s unfortunate that there has to be a lack of trust in the first place, a lack of trust and integrity. And, you know, I would just say to all y’all who are listening right now and are shipping sugar or falsifying COAs somebody who’s going to get your ass. Somebody is going to get you. So I want to know from you, at the end of the day, separate from the businesses separate from the ones that you’re serving. What for you was the big the pie in the sky, the dream that you’re aiming for? I mean, you could do this in 100 Different ways and you’ve had you have done this in 100 different ways. Why cannabis? Why hemp?

Choosing Hemp-Cannabis over the Other Industries

Chris Fontes: Well, how often do you get to participate in a brand new industry and a brand new market with a brand new crop that is leading the way spearheading the way for new legislation, political reform, cultural reform and revitalizing a rural America who is currently suffering and struggling to feed their family. I mean, it’s in front of every religious conversation like well, am I allowed to have CBD? Am I allowed to have THC if you’re religious into the Mormon Church conversation? It’s very common out here in Utah with the Mormon Church, but I think it’s nondenominational Christians. It’s it’s Muslims. It’s, it doesn’t matter but struggling with Can I do this or not? So it’s the forefront of religious conversation moral conversation. ethical conversation, there has been the stigma and this taboo. 

And we can, everyone probably listening knows where this taboo comes from. So I won’t get into the nasty details there. But this taboo exists and a lot of people are naive to the fact that their belief about this plant is propaganda, and that it’s really not that bad. And people that use this plant, whether it be on the CBD side of the THC side or relevant or not going out and raping people and shooting up churches like that’s not happening with this stuff, but that’s what they believe is happening.

And so being on the forefront of social change, where the culture is shifting from only losers use cannabis to I’m a highly religious soccer mom of 12 and I use cannabis every day because I need it for x y&z medical reasons, and it’s just fine. That’s super exciting to me. It’s totally unique in that regard. There’s no other industry I could get involved with right now that is on the forefront of so many people’s minds, areas of their life as well as the business side. It’s the forefront of tech. It’s the forefront of banking and finance. It’s the forefront of operations and logistics. There’s new machinery being built every day to help support the market. There’s just a million things happening. And it’s just incredibly exciting. And I’m very privileged to be part of it.

Sonia Gomez: Yes, I love it. This is the best interview. I love how you’re like how concise you are in the way that you express the impact. So let’s talk about the impact for a second. How was Hemp Exchange, contributing back to their community right now what is some of the social differences or social change that hemp exchanges responsible for or will be responsible for?

Giving Back to the Community

Chris Fontes: know, I think inherently to stabilizing the supply chain and making transactions safe and stable. That stability speaks to the industry as a whole and perpetuates the idea that this is a legitimate crop. This is a legitimate industry. We have legitimate businesses doing legitimate business through legitimate methods. And we have your super conservative rural farmers who have never been interested in cannabis in their entire life coming on board and going, Okay, this is a safe way to do business. This is a great crop for me and my family. I can have my kids out there helping call the males and, and trim the flower and whatever it is I need to do. And that’s acceptable. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that you’re not a horrible dad. Because your nine-year-olds out in the farm with you help them with your cannabis grow.

And just helping create that sense of professionalism in the industry that sometimes is lacking, I think inherently does a lot of social good. I think that there’s once we grow and we have a little bit more authority in the marketplace, a little bit more saturation, there’s going to be some other options that open up is to how we can make an impact. But right now, like I said, we could drown by operating community so we’re really just focusing on what’s legitimize and add a level of professionalism to this industry. So it permutates through all fingers of this grow this crop in this business.

Sonia Gomez: I love it. Part of what we’re doing as an organization because there’s a couple of different facets to what we do on one hand where we offer a ton of free education to our platforms. We’ve created certification programs through our company, The Leaf Academy, where we’re teaching people professional skill sets that they need to support patients or clients selecting and using hemp and cannabis-based products and their derivatives to improve their health and functionality.

And then we have a business mastery course, a networking group that companies can pay annual membership fee to so that they can save anywhere from five up to 55% on anything from manufacturing, banking, shipping, like we’re helping to save people money, time and energy similar to you guys, we’ve done an incredible amount of vetting on the professionals or contractors that are out there selling their services.

So when you get connected with one of our folks, you know that they have actual numbers on the board results in this particular industry, and are not just like a new chameleon coming into our space claiming that they have all of these results. 

So, through The Leaf Academy, actually, we’ve been donating quite a bit to organizations, nonprofit organizations who are rehabilitating non-violent offenders who are coming out of jail or coming out of prison. And we know that somebody who’s has a felony for whatever, can’t get a job, can’t support their family can’t, it’s very, very challenging for them to become a positive contributing member to society again. And so what we’ve done is start to donate these licenses and these certifications to folks who are rehabilitating nonviolent offenders drug primarily cannabis offense, people who’ve been putting precedent for cannabis or hemp related offenses, and we’re helping to rehabilitate them and start their own little businesses. And it’s been such an incredible thing to hear and to see, these people find hope again, and to find opportunity and to feel empowered as an individual and recognize that they have something of value that they can use their years of experience, and implement it towards a new business opportunity. 

And so these are some of the ways that I see I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time, who are starting nonprofit organizations or making a significant contribution to their local churches or homeless shelters or children’s hospitals or whatever it is. And I mean, here in Colorado, we’re a decade down the road watching how this industry has already started to nourish our communities, driving on new roads. We see new construction, the industrial buildings are full commercial real estate is rented. I mean, it’s so significant, but the real estate boom that’s happening here. It’s so significant what we are witnessing in the economy because of this incredible industry.

And I love what you’re saying that like, it’s cool when you get to be a part of a new product or somebody has innovated a service or, you know, whatever there. It’s just a replica and an improvement of something that already exists. But it’s not very often that you get to participate on the ground floor and, and really be a part of pioneering an entirely new industry. That’s not just demographically limited to the US like this is a global industry. And very soon we’re going to start to see borders, opening exchanges happening import and export. I’m just it’s such an exciting time to watch and witness all of this stuff happening.

Chris Fontes: Yeah, I agree. 100% and to your comment about it being a global marketplace, we really are on the cusp of that happening. And we have the potential to be one of the leaders on the planet for this industry. And so going back to my earlier comment about doing things, right, it isn’t just important for our country, it’s important for the planet that we are facilitating and nurturing this industry in a professional manner. So it can grow to a global scale, and make a worldwide impact. Something I didn’t mention earlier.

You know, there’s the more it’s on the forefront of moral and ethical discussion, political discussions, legal discussions, tech, and finance. It’s also on the forefront of the well being of the planet. Right. The things we can do with this plant aside from the medicinal benefits of the cannabinoids and the terpenes with the fiber is phenomenal. The ability to remediate soil with the plant and clean soil, the ability to produce more oxygen per acre than trees, and to do so in a much shorter amount of time with much less water usage. The ability to make biofuels and bioplastics from this plant that is a sustainable, reusable or renewable industry, the options are endless, and we’re barely scratching the surface of what it can do. And if we can get this industry to fully implement all parts of the plant on a global scale, and we’re talking real impact for generations,

Sonia Gomez: I’ve been watching a lot of our Facebook groups talk about, they’ve been putting together some effort, it started out as a joke, but when we started to see all of the different fires popping up throughout the Amazon and understanding how significant the square footage or the square acreage that is being impacted by these fires down there, and what the ripple effect of that could be three, six, you know, 10 months, five years from now was was really, really scary to sort of getting I mean, I love that everyone in this in this industry, not everyone, but most people in this industry have a pretty good handle on what’s happening in not only the economy but, you know, with sustainability with planetary responsibility, and a lot of the groups that I’m a part of, especially in the farming in the farming sector are like, let’s pull together seeds.

Let’s pull together, you know, clones, let’s do this, let’s do that. And they’re creating this whole movement of wanting to go down there and replant with hemp, and the areas that have been affected. And I was just like, I didn’t even think about bamboo, and cannabis grows so quickly and has so many benefits to those crops. It’s insane. And we could really replenish a lot of what was lost in those types of disasters. So, I mean, it’s super fascinating. There’s not enough of things that I can say that is a positive impact from this industry’s growth. I would just want to ask this final question because it seems like you have a pretty good handle on it. I’m interested in your opinion, let’s say three years from now. What does the industry look like for you?

The Cannabis Industry Three Years from Now

Chris Fontes: I think in three years’ time, we’re going to have stabilization through regulation. Even right now there is a ton of gray area and regulation. And then this comes down to the federal regulation as well as individual states. Many states right now, as well as the federal guidelines, don’t recognize that when you extract cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, everything increases in potency. So if you have .2% THC To start with, and now you have crude oil, it’s not going to be point 2% anymore, it’s going to be over the limit. And there need to be regulations for all of these little areas that got missed so that people can operate in a legal manner that doesn’t inhibit the growth of the industry. So I think it’s going to take us several years for all of these little pieces to finally come in place. 

I think the testing methodology is the actual Delta nine versus total t debate that’s going on right now will finally be squared away a pathway for not only CBD but hopefully all cannabinoids into the food stream into cosmetics into topicals will be available in there so people can do this the right way legally without any fear of repercussion. I do think the global market will, it will be, I think in three years’ time, it’ll still be fairly new, but it will exist. We’ll have a common export-import. I think that we are going to see a massive boom in CBD uptake, especially on the hemp side. And eventually that market will stabilize or commodities and prices will come down to a sustainable level. But then people are going to start talking about CBG. Well, what can CPG do for me that’s going to help my back pain? That’s fantastic. I want CBG this micro boom of CBG and CBG primarily CBG strains. Gonna go What about CBN that stuff really helps me sleep and there’s going to be huge CBN boom and CBC and then followed by the other hundred and 30 plus cannabinoids, we’re going to continue to see these micro economy booms in the smaller cannabinoids or the minor cannabinoids and they’re going to start to become major cannabinoids for various strains. 

So I think there’s going to be huge strides in genetics there’s going to be huge strides in the market for hemp, non-THC hemp material is going to be very large because we’re going to use all these different cannabinoids. And I think we’re going to be in a place where people can transact freely and safely and when you buy CBD at a gas station. It’s actually CBD because it’s regulated properly. And when you get it off Amazon, I think that’s all going to straighten out. Eventually, Amazon will be an easy place to purchase your products. You can purchase with a credit card anywhere you go. I think it’s going to be a much it’ll still be in its toddler stage, but it’ll be out of the infant stage in three years’ time.

Sonia Gomez: I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s going to be a really exciting thing to witness and we know so little science, there’s a difference between like the Strega Nona’s who’ve been working with this plant for hundreds of years and the every day mainstream Western science that can see beneath the surface and has their microscopes and all of their fancy machines to pull an extract and particulate these plants, I’m really excited to find out how this plant has, for so many years been so valuable to the human body. And you know why generation after generation, the Strega Nona of the industry have been hiding up in the hills, making these incredible medicines that have been forbidden and mainstream. We’re going to start to see their efforts, their time their years spent and working with this incredible plant medicine and many, many others. I mean, there’s a huge revolution right now around just holistic plant medicines, products of the earth, mushrooms, I mean, all of those things are are coming to the surface right now.

So I’m really excited to see how science is going to pick it apart and put it all back together again, offering the more conservative generations legitimacy, a sense of security and safety around the use and availability of this plan for their communities. I’m excited to witness the demolition of the opioid crisis. And I’m most excited to see families and the next generation become more aware, conscious and capable of self-care. And that is going to be a major disruption to our current medical system, one that I think will be welcomed communally, but I am also anticipating a pretty significant fight from Big Pharma and big business when it comes into that. That is going to be a clash of the titans for sure. Because big business wants their piece, they’re going to come into regulate, I mean 80% of the financing to any one of the regulatory industries, or agencies that are regulating this industry right now are funded by the big businesses that we are, you know, trying to run away from right now and create a new method of doing business. 

So I’m nervous and excited and a little scared, but also it just just totally open and in surrender to how this works, and really taking responsibility every step of the way to reveal the truth about the journey of the entrepreneurs who are pioneering and pushing this forward helping to set the standard of how things should be done, as well as advocating on behalf of the patients and the people who need and want access to information education so that they feel empowered and educated so that they can be a part of the movement and the change that we are witnessing right now in our lifetime is such an incredible time to be alive, I say.

Chris Fontes: Yeah. Absolutely, this is going to be a moment in history. That is one of those defining moments. I mean that there’s all kinds of movements that don’t make it into the history books. Right. But this is going to be the one that does. We’re going to look back in the momentary prohibition and think, what were we thinking? Doing? Yeah. And let’s talk about the Revolution and the revival of cannabis globally, and how that all happened. I think we’re going to have a lot of business lessons. We’re gonna have a lot of case studies of like, Hey, here’s how this business grew and how it works, just like we do with the tech industry. Right now.

There’s a lot of companies out of the mid and late 90s that we use as case studies when teaching people tech business. I think we’re going to have a lot of case studies for that, case studies for medicinal value, and how we can look to common treatments for common problems and how we can maybe walk away from a chemically derived and manufactured pill for every ailment and talk about just more holistic health, I think there’s an endless future ahead of us and we’re just at the very beginning of it. It’s very exciting.

I think there's an endless future ahead of us and we're just at the very beginning of it. It's very exciting. - Chris Fontes Click To Tweet

Sonia Gomez: Yes, it is. Well, thank you so much for all of the hard work that you are doing to support this industry becoming as legitimate and as respected as it deserves to be. And in closing, I’ll just for those of you guys who are listening today and considering how you’re going to enter into this space, or if you’re already an established brand, and you’re looking at how you are going to grow and scale your business, check us out on theemeraldcircle.com for more interviews and more episodes like this one that is giving you the exact insights you may need to take the necessary steps forward in your business. 

If you’re experiencing any of the challenges that we’ve discussed today with marketing and advertising, banking and merchant processing or just stabilizing your supply chain. Again, theemeraldcircle.com will be able to offer you the resources and relationships that you need to build, grow and scale sustainably so that you can leave the legacy that you want for your business and for your family. If you are a patient listening to this looking for resources on products or services that can transform the way that you feel and function, check us out on medicalsecrets.com.

Chris, thank you so much for your incredible work in the world and for taking the time to visit with us today. And for those of you who are interested in working with The Hemp Exchange, all of the links will be posted right around this video here along with the highlights from today’s interview. I can’t wait to see you guys on the next episode. I’m your host Sonia Gomez. See you guys soon. Thanks, Chris. 

Chris Fontes: Thank you so much.

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