Grower Stories #46: Neale D. Gibbons

Tia Moskalenko
Tia Moskalenko

Tia Moskalenko, author of the AskGrowers blog, brings a unique blend of content to her readers. She is known for conducting insightful interviews with key figures in the cannabis industry, including brand representatives, manufacturers, and experts. In addition to her interview skills, Tia has a keen focus on CBD. She expertly curates product selections and reviews, offering her readers detailed insights into the various effects and benefits of CBD. Tia's ability to combine in-depth interviews with comprehensive CBD analysis makes her a valuable asset to the cannabis community, offering a well-rounded perspective on the industry.

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Grower Stories #46: Neale D. Gibbons

Sofa King Good: How SKM Wellness Sets Themselves Apart From the Crowd

Neale D. Gibbons sits down with AskGrowers to talk about his innovative cannabis brand SKM Wellness. The Colorado-based brand is behind some of the highest-quality flowers, concentrates, edibles, CBD products, tinctures, and smoking accessories on the market today.


Tia (AskGrowers) : What made you want to get into the cannabis industry?

Neale D. Gibbons : My introduction to the cannabis world was not the average... When I was about 12 years old, I had the opportunity to go to work with my father several times a summer. What made this so unique is that my father was a senior investigator for the New York State Police and the job I got to tag along for was eradicating commercial cannabis fields in the Adirondack region of upstate New York. I still remember the feeling of wonder about the plant while being dwarfed by the large full-sun plants that towered over me. With respect for the work that the State Police and National Guard were performing, it wasn’t too many years before my curiosity blossomed into full-blown experimentation and later research about the healing power of the seven leaf plant.


Tia : Tell us about your own personal experience with cannabis?

Neale : After nearly thirty years of cultivating, learning, and experimenting with cannabis, it is hard to pick just one experience. The point in my life that I realized there was intrinsic value to the plant beyond just a feel-good substance was during one of the most trying times in my early adulthood. I was going through a tough recovery after knee surgery and a broken back at the age of 18. The opioids that I had been prescribed left me feeling ill, dizzy, and unable to connect with the world around me. Cannabis aided in my pain management while allowing me to still be present in the moment. Upon mentioning my newfound relief to my physical therapist one day he leaned in and whispered, “Congratulations, you have discovered one of the greatest secret remedies the world has to offer.” This began my journey into a life of interest and research about how this plant works and its power to heal and connect us to the natural world around us.


Tia : What is the ultimate goal of SKM Wellness?

Neale : Simply stated, our goal is to research, cultivate, and promote a powerful and healing plant, learn what we can, and share this knowledge for the betterment of anyone looking to heal or simply relax.


Tia : How do you think you’re different from other cannabis-related brands as yours? What’s your key to success in the cannabis industry?

Neale : The difference is in the evolution of our brand, Sofa King Medicinal (pronounced So-fu-king Medicinal for those who didn’t get the reference) and our vision for a sustainable future. SKM has gone from a grassroots company to a subsidiary of a publicly-traded entity (ticker PHCG). Yes, we are now corporate, but we are corporate with a conscience, a huge differentiating factor in my eyes. Our core group of growers and extraction artists share the same passion as I do for helping people and creating the best and cleanest products we can. In our arena, that means producing products using organic best practices and practicing what we preach. A healthy dose of product testing ensures that the best quality products enter the market and also makes the workday more enjoyable.


SKM Wellness picture
Tia : There is an outdated stigma that cannabis affects people negatively, that “potheads” never achieve or amount to anything. What is your personal response to that?

Neale : I love this pigeon-hole… Musicians, artists, doctors, heads of industry, world leaders, and several founding fathers of this very county are just a few of the high achievers that got high. Anyone following this industry in the last few years has seen a transition from the stigma of a bunch of pot-head ‘bros’ to industry ‘pros’. I would also argue that anyone who still views this lifestyle and movement as a detriment to our society should balance their perspective to reflect the billions of dollars of tax revenue generated, hundreds of thousands of jobs created, the advancement of medical treatment options and research, and the forty thousand plus textiles and industrial products put forth that have moved the needle in our lifetime.


Tia : Edibles are a huge part of the rise in microdosing. What would it mean for the cannabis industry as it gets more mainstream?

Neale : The research shows that edibles continue to be a huge sector of the market; generally the second or third best selling category behind flower and on par with concentrates, depending on the State. Being a non-inhaled form of cannabis has opened this sector up to those looking for an alternative to smoking. We also see that this is arguably the number one product category for people trying cannabis for the first time, especially in older demographics. These factors alone paint a rosy picture for this sector as cannabis goes more mainstream. Never has this been more true than in our current age of Covid where a record number of adults have turned to cannabis.


Tia : Do you think customers should be looking for strains with super high THC levels or something more balanced?

Neale : Every consumer has his or her own preferences so I cannot say that there is a one-size-fits-all answer. From my own experience as an operator, I can say there is a misconception that products like flower, for example, get an individual higher if it has a solely high THC value. In reality, we know that the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and sesquiterpenes all play an integral role in creating an entourage effect that will have a greater effect from the sum of its parts. Another way to think of it is that humans only have a limited number of receptor sites for molecules to bind to. Products that are only high in THC may not be fully uptaken because the receptor sites fill up. Conversely, products that offer a broader spectrum of the molecules that make up cannabis will have more receptor sites activated as the broad range of molecules bind to their respective sites, not just the THC sites-thereby creating the entourage effect.


SKM Wellness interview quote
Tia : How do cannabis consumers benefit from using naturally-grown, pesticide-free cannabis products?

Neale : We at SKM have always been proponents of responsible cultivation using organic best practices. With that said, I do not think it realistic to cultivate at a commercial scale without the use of mitigative tools like pesticides. When used responsibly, organic pesticides are not necessarily harmful to humans. In our main state of operation, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has a very concise list of approved products for these purposes. Once harvested, the State Marijuana Enforcement Division has very strict standards for quality testing before the product can be sold to the public to make sure only clean/safe products make it to market. The evidence-based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that we use voluntarily exceeds these standards.


Tia : How have you guys changed/evolved with the ever-changing cannabis industry?

Neale : This industry moves fast. For us, education is the key to staying in front of the trends and evolution of best practices. Reading industry-leading, up-to-date publications and trade journals, like AskGrowers, are our key resource for staying on top of the market trends and the latest evolutions.


Tia : What's your best-case scenario for the future of the cannabis industry?

Neale : I would suggest that we are about to see the best-case scenarios play out in this country as the tides of change are sweeping across this land. Since the elections in November, we have seen several new states enter the legalized/regulated market. We have seen the MORE Act pass in the House, one of the few bills to pass with strong bipartisan support in recent years. In addition, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs recently approved a recommendation from the World Health Organization to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from its Schedule IV classification under the 1961 SingleConvention on Narcotic Drugs. The incoming Presidential administration is poised to enact some large changes. At the citizen level, a recent Gallup Poll also showed us that 68 percent of Americans are now in favor of legalization, a new all-time high. These hallmarks all come at a time when cannabis sales are smashing industry sales records as more people turn to the plant during the current pandemic.

This picture, to me, paints a promising and fast-moving next few years where substantial gains in legalization and social acceptance will lead to a strong future for the cannabis marketplace.


Tia : What’s the most common mistake that new companies make when it comes to their branding?

Neale : Several mistakes I have seen, or gone through, are not enough funding to have impactful marketing and product penetration into the marketplace; companies not researching what the target demographic is for their products, and companies not understanding the unique statistical variables that differ from state to state in terms of what products to offer. The other big one is companies being too focused on short-term gains instead of having a good long-term strategy.


Tia : Where do you hope to see your brand in the next five to ten years?

Neale : I would hope that we have learned from our own mistakes and can benefit from them in time to be strategically aligned as we move into the next four years of the Biden administration. Another target we are taking aim at is scaling our operations to meet the growing demand for our quality products, while still focusing on our commitment to environmental stewardship. As we complete our scaling, it will afford us the opportunity to diversify our brand and launch new brands to offer the right products to the right demographics via more consumer-driven branding and formulation.


SKM Wellness interview quote
Tia : Are there any brands you appreciate and follow?

Neale : There are many brands I appreciate, but not enough to plug them here… In the end, I continuously turn to our own products. For me, knowing the products I use are clean while still being produced in an increasingly more sustainable way is paramount. I’m not implying that no one produces the same quality as SKM, but by and large, I have not seen the consistency and dedication to quality that we offer in most other brands. We are a “by users for users” company.


Tia : If you could smoke with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be and why? :)

Neale : Wow- too many choices! My shortlist would have to include several of our [tooltip title="US Founding Fathers" content="Framers of the Constitution and key players who were at the origins of the democratic government of the United States."]founding fathers - Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, etc.[/tooltip] - the majority of whom grew hemp and/or cannabis. Not to be cliche but my other considerations would be [tooltip title="Robert Nesta Marley" content="One of the pioneers of reggae."]Bob Marley[/tooltip], [tooltip title="William Hugh Nelson" content="American composer, country singer and cannabis activist."]Willie Nelson[/tooltip], [tooltip title="Snoop Dogg" content="US rapper and media personality."]Snoop[/tooltip], and Cheech and Chong. Oh, the conversations we could have!


Tia : What's next for SKM Wellness? Can you tell us about your next big release?

Neale : I can’t give too much detail for obvious reasons, but we have some CBD and THC products that are going to have great market penetration because they are clean products that offer pharmaceutical-grade consistent quality dosing with predictable and repeatable results. These products focus on the consumer experience and offer the user the ability to tailor their experience based on their desires. Patent filing is in process for some of these products.


You can follow Sofa King Medicinal Wellness Products and the whole Pure Harvest family of companies at:

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