We’ll see you next week for another discussion on the global business environment as we sit down with Nathan Sheranian to discuss global human resources.
In Episode #22, we are joined by Glenn Davies, CEO of CannAcubed, a cannabis technology company based in Singapore. We discuss:
- Why cannabis is an attractive crop for countries in Asia, even where legalization for domestic consumption may not be on the horizon for many years.
- How the UN’s sustainability goals dovetail with cannabis growth, including Life on Land, Responsible Production, Poverty Alleviation, and Climate Action.
- Which countries in Asia are rising stars in the cannabis space.
- Why Asian cannabis is more sustainable than the North American cannabis model.
- The launch of the Asia Industrial Hemp Association and what it is doing for governments and companies in Asia.
- Reading, listening, and watching recommendations from:
- Biofuels in Asia – An Analysis of Sustainability Options (USAID)
- Sustainable Development: Building a Case for Hemp by Pauline Sullivan, Catherine Chan-Halbrendt, and Tun Lin (Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management)
- Fred – This Land podcast by Rebecca Nagel
- Jonathan – Hong Kong Security Law Sparks Race for Asia’s Next Financial Capital (Nikkei Asian Review)
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 00:08
Global law and global business go hand in hand but never seem to keep pace with each other, BRICS and other developing and developed nations wax and wane and their importance on the global stage. While consumption and interconnectedness both increase, laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. How do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global law and business posted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rockford
Jonathan Bench 00:34
and I’m Jonathan bench. Every Thursday, we take a bite sized look at legal and economic developments and locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of our international guests. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finances, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 00:59
We hope You enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us via email on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.
Jonathan Bench 01:17
We’re joined today by Glenn Davies group CEO and co founder of CannAcubed, a cannabis biotech company based in Singapore. Glenn is a seasoned CEO with 25 years of experience leading private and public organizations. Glenn is looking to revolutionize the industrial cannabis market and solve some of the world’s most pressing issues around climate, disease, waste, poverty, energy and the environment. Glenn, thank you for being with us today.
Glenn Davies 01:42
It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Fred Rocafort 01:43
Glenn, welcome to the podcast. Could you please start by describing your career path and discussing your experiences as an intrapreneur?
Glenn Davies 01:51
For sure. Well, I’ve worked in and out of Asia for about 25 years. I worked for a few companies early in my career. Had some early successes but quickly realized that my real passion was to run my own company, something that I could really be accountable for, for the outcomes. So I started my first business in Australia in 2003. And I agree that for about five years before, unfortunately, being wiped out by the global financial crisis. So a few years later, I actually launched a consulting firm that focused on bringing game changing and disruptive technologies to emerging markets. They were focused mostly on Asia, Central America and Africa. It was during this time that I saw what was happening in the cannabis space mostly in the North American markets. And so I decided to write a white paper on how industrial hemp could transform economies, both from a sustainability perspective and economic. So whilst having a significant impact on the environment as well. And that’s really where CannAcubed was born.
Jonathan Bench 02:59
Glenn, you focused on Southeast Asia in your business scope. Right now. Could you tell us what’s happening in the legalization and regulation of the cannabis industry in Asia right now? And particularly why cannabis is such a promising crop for so many nations?
Glenn Davies 03:16
Sure, well, we’re really focused on the entire Asia region. Now Southeast Asia, in the last couple of years has certainly been in the news and in the media much more. But we launched our business in early 2018. In Singapore, we set ourselves up as a biotech company, although we really are a integrated cannabis company. And we’ve never tried to hide this at all. I, in some ways, I think we pioneered the sector here by becoming the first fully banked cannabis company not just in Singapore, but also in Asia, with one of the major banks. And if I look at what’s happened in the last two and a half years since we launched it’s a totally different market. We’re aware that most Asian countries now and even the broader Asia Pacific region are considering legalization in some form, or having some kind of amendment made to their current regulations. If we just look at 2019 for example, there are three major Asian countries which have made very positive moves to regulate the industry. Now, early 2019, Thailand, amended its laws to legalize medical cannabis. About a month later in March, South Korea made the headlines to legalize medical cannabis starting to import epi dialects, the CBD based drug for epilepsy. And similarly, in March Japan also moved for trials to import the drug and since then have progressed quite quite rapidly in terms of the allowing for the import of CBD and other product based cannabinoids. So from the way that I’ve seen it happen is each country has made some form of move or had internal discussions around this and, but everybody’s got a very different take on what legalization means. And what’s actually important to that particular government. If I look at what we’ve done in China, for example, the country is very focused on industrialization, and also sustainability and any project that’s going to have a significant environmental impact. So, we’ve aligned our policies, our business plan with the China policies, which are some of the key policies including poverty alleviation, healthy China 2030 and one belt one road, which is, of course the old Silk Road route, which is opening up the trademark trade route markets across into into Europe and abroad. So with China, hemp is considered a cash crop and not just China but right across Asia. And it provides us sustainable and environmental business that supports one of the most important industries in China which is the agricultural industry, which is in turn developing their rural sector which is, which is one of the most impoverished industries in China. So, the reason that it actually improves poverty alleviation Is that him has an extensive root system and this prevents soil loss and erosion and ultimately protects farmers from the risk of flooding and crop loss, as well as stabilizing the land new surrounding communities, but only leaving even larger scale hemp production, combat global warming, and this is one of the biggest ways that hemp can actually fight poverty. Other countries have progressed in various ways. Hong Kong, for example, had its first CBD retail store opened this year. We’re aware that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are undergoing pilot projects in him in has traditionally been very strong in growing hemp for the fiber and textiles market but it now is developing quite rapidly moving slowly into other aspects of the cannabis including medical, Srilanka has approved initial medical cannabis based trials. And we’re aware that Malaysia is also considering all of its options which include industrial medical, as well as the potential import of cosmetics. One thing that we’re focused on in in, in CannAcubed, which we is quite unique and rare, as far as the industrial hemp industry is concerned, is we’ve aligned a lot of what we’re doing now with the United Nation sustainability goals. We believe that we’re the first industrial hemp company to do this. There’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and we we fully confident that we can tackle at least 10 of those and we’re moving to develop them Business further to, to look at ticking all the boxes as far as the SDGs are concerned. And these include, of course the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement around climate change. One of the goals that’s interesting for us is clean water. This is obviously important in impoverished nations and certainly in a lot of the rural areas that we’re working in in China. There’s been lots of research done and it’s been proposed that hemp plants could be used to clean up waterways. So this is looking at planting hemp within waterways to determine how much nitrogen and phosphorus each plant can uptake from the waterways and as a result of that are producing a much cleaner water. So they’re looking at some projects are looking at using hemp plants as a, I guess, a floating wetland, which can then be harvested including the roots and ultimately removing all the nutrient, bad nutrients and chemicals that from from the water. some exciting news that we’ve recently signed off here in Singapore is a deal that we’ve done with a major carbon management and climate consulting firm called CR x. We believe the deal is first of its kind in the world. And it’s where both parties are looking at exploring the potential commercialization of hemp as an impact commodity and solving a lot of these issues which we’ve talked about, which is carbon sequestration, climate control, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and fossil fuel reduction, environmental waste and plastic reduction and also looking at hemp as a potential green building and construction material. This deal is, is we believe going to be a trailblazer in terms of how hemp is perceived and Some of the positive impacts that I can have here in Asia across the world.
Fred Rocafort 10:06
Thank you, Glenn. That was very informative. I have to admit that I’ve never really considered the the ecological impact of hemp. So so thank you for for, for that overview. Looking now, at specific jurisdictions, which countries would you say are the the rising stars in Asia? When it comes to cannabis? And do you see Asian cannabis as more sustainable than that grown in North America? Are there any countries that you would call out us perhaps not doing things in a way that should be emulated by others?
Glenn Davies 10:50
I think I think the leader overall, if we look at Asia as a region would have to be China. They’ve regulated the top activation of hemp since 2002. And from there they’ve really grown stretch from strength to strength. India equally has been growing hemp for for well over a decade. But the pace in which China is developing is is a is phenomenal one, the policy support there internally, both at a state provincial level as well as federal is is extremely encouraging. But in the last couple of years in Southeast Asia, of course has come out and and shown a lot of interest in developing this industry, both from an economic perspective and also from a environmental perspective. We think that Thailand at the moment is leading the way as far as Southeast Asia is concerned. They’ve already started to open up the market and distribute medical based cannabis products to patients throughout the country. We know that Malaysia has has been in the media quite a bit in the last year or so. They’re making decisions on what it means to regulate cannabis in in some form. But with Malaysia, I think they’re probably taking a little longer than I would have I would have liked. And I think that really comes down to education. But we’re talking to some people in Malaysia and we’d like to see him introduced as an alternative alternative crop to palm oil for example. Palm oil is is not a sustainable crop. It takes five years to grow and strips the soil Well, it’s nutrients and causes all sorts of damage to the environment. But the reason that it’s grown hemp can replace most of those. And so, we’re looking at introducing hemp as a supplementary crop to palm oil not just in Malaysia, but also in Indonesia, which are the two largest palm oil growing nations in the world. Singapore has the potential And helping him to become the region’s hub biotech hub around cannabinoid research. We, we know that Singapore has already made some inroads in this space and made some investment into the synthetic production of CBD looking at the therapeutic effects of this. And there’s also been some white papers written up by some of the major universities here on hemp as a building material. So that’s very promising. But I think that they do have the opportunity to move quicker on this and perhaps become the epicenter for for cannabis r&d here in the region. I think the more emerging markets like the poll, Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao will develop fairly strong hemp industries. They’ve already got some pilot projects happening in most of those countries that we’re aware of. But it will depend on how how quickly they can move to I structure the legal framework. And one of the important things that these countries need to be focused on is the QA, the compliance and the governance side. Because you can grow, you can cultivate and you can process but if the end product is not grown to global standards, expected standards, then you’re just not going to be able to move it.
Jonathan Bench 14:25
And that’s a great segue, I think to the next question I wanted to ask you about your Asia industrial hemp Association, to form is one of the first mover or maybe the first moving company in in Asia on this topic of industrial hemp. You know, trying to spread it across borders, you have been helping from a nonprofit perspective, right to provide resources to companies in countries that want to move farther along his process of, of legalizing industrial hemp or at least utilizing in a good way. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? do you call it? I Ha? Or are you just A.I.H.A.?
Glenn Davies 15:05
Jonathan Bench 15:06
A.I.H.A., all right, wanted to get it right. So could you tell us a little bit more about the association
Glenn Davies 15:10
Yeah, sure. Um, as we’ve seen the the region develop in the last couple of years. We’ve spoken to governments in different countries, we’ve spoken to investors, potential operators, and various funds that are interested in helping the industry develop here. One thing that we wanted to do was establish an organization that could provide a lot of the support around knowledge, share and education, but come at it from a independent Association, not for profit association that was neutral. And so we decided to found the major industrial hemp Association in early 2019. We were looking at regionally Putting the headquarters here in Singapore. But after a couple of months of of trying to get applications through it, it just wasn’t. It wasn’t received very well because the the name itself has hemp in it. And that’s still considered a sensitive topic. So we set out to to launch the business in Hong Kong, which we did successfully. Now, H aiha has been set up as an independent voice to really help educate and share knowledge amongst the industry. So we’re all about making sure that governments private enterprise and operators have all the necessary knowledge and tools that they need to start build a hemp business. There’s a lot of information out there in the market. Most of its very, very good, but you have to sift through a huge amount of details to understand really which direction you should take. And so we’re, we’re trying to support industry as best we can through the iihi. And having that as a, I guess as a as a as a parallel venture to CannAcubed.
Fred Rocafort 17:21
We know that CannAcubed is in the middle of raising capital right now. Could you please tell us how are you differentiating the company from other international cannabis companies as you go through this process?
Glenn Davies 17:34
Yes, we’re we’re on we’re in the middle of a capital raise at the moment. We spent the first couple of years really focused on building the business, which included securing all the licenses and the land and the necessary permits, developed, developing IP into our business, putting together key partnerships and distribution channels for for sales, marketing and product development. Now that that’s all done On the foundation has been laid where we’re now out to market trying to raise capital. I think from what we’re now focused on or what we have been focused on, but certainly what we’re we’re now advanced in, in developing the strategy around using hemp as a sustainable and impact investment. I think that gives us a fairly clear USP as far as differentiates us from other industrial hemp or cannabis companies. We don’t believe there’s anybody doing what we’re doing. As far as the the focus, and it’s it’s very different to just a standard CBD only strategy, which which seems to be what a lot of companies are focused on. We’re also here doing the business on the ground. So we have a extensive team in China. We have our headquarters here in Singapore, and all that partners are based here within the region as well. So, Asia is 100% focus. There are some groups that we’re aware of that are trying to develop Asia based cannabis businesses, but they’re either based in North American markets or uribl, or other locations and makes it very difficult to, we think to, to really develop a domestic business here. So we also don’t spend a lot of time on the conference or speaker circuit. We’re actually just focused on the operation here and trying to develop the business as best we can. So the capital raise were involved in right now is what we’re calling a bridge to a pre IPO. And this is where we see 2021 being quite an important year for us. Because we’re looking to really grow the business out and become one of the first multi country licensed operators in the region.
Jonathan Bench 19:56
And I noticed Glenn, that you’re one of your executive team co founders is from Israel. Can you comment at all on how significant Israel’s progress has been in cannabis and technology? I know that just on the surface that Israel tends to be quite nimble, and they have a bit of a head start ahead of other countries. When we’re looking at, at cannabis, at least cannabis and technology.
Glenn Davies 20:20
Yeah, Israel’s being certainly on our radar in the last couple of years to to see what kind of technology and innovation is coming out. We originally felt that there would be quite a lot of tech, whether it was in the ag tech space or in the seed or genetic space that would come out of Israel, that we’d be able to potentially adopt and take into China. What’s happened though, is in the last couple of years, with us being on the ground pretty much full time in China, we’ve realized that there really isn’t anything that we’ve seen coming out of Israel that China doesn’t already have for his fancy in developing. So that’s shifted our focus Somewhat too, to be quite comfortable with the tech and the innovation and product development that’s coming out of China and the team that we have there as well. Of course, we’re always open to hearing what’s happening in Israel. And certainly in the last six months or so, they’ve progressed quite quite well as far as allowing for the import of of medical based cannabis and other products. We also are aware that they’re even starting some potential trials on the industrial side, although I think that Israel will predominantly be focused on the medical side.
Fred Rocafort 21:33
And before we sign off, we’d like to ask you for your recommendations, whether they are related to the cannabis industry or not. This way, in this way our our listeners can can benefit a little bit more from from your insight by having a peek at whatever is informing or entertaining you these days. So if you could share with us something interesting, you’ve read or Or listened to or watched recently. We’d, we’d appreciate that recommendation.
Glenn Davies 22:05
Sure. I at the moment, I’m really focused on on trying to read as much as I can with information that that is irrelevant to what we’re doing in the business. And so I don’t have a lot of time to pick up a standard book off the shelf. But what I am doing is reading a couple of interesting things at the moment which relate to the sustainability and the impact side of hemp. I’ve got a couple of very detailed white papers that I’m reading one of them’s called a biofuels in Asia. And this is an analysis of sustainability options around hemp, and other other potential biofuel crops. And the other one, I’m reading his paper called sustainable development, which is building a case for hemp and that’s mostly focused on how How hemp can be turned into construction and building materials that have a positive carbon impact all around sort of green building and green engineering, which are, of course happy to share with our listeners if anybody would like a copy.
Fred Rocafort 23:14
Thank you for that. Jonathan, what about you? What do you have for us this week?
Jonathan Bench 23:19
I just got done reading an article in the Nikkei Asian review. And it’s called Hong Kong security law sparks race for Asia’s next financial capital. It was a long form article with some really cool charts, comparing feasibility of these alternatives to Hong Kong. So we’re looking at Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore. And Singapore Glenn will be happy to hear and he probably knows this already. Singapore came out ahead of Tokyo and Seoul just in terms of bear, the bear metrics. They use different metrics to show desirability, ease of doing business, things like that. And so it’s interesting for me, you know, Fred, not are both lovers of Hong Kong. So we’re sad to see Hong Kong changing in a material way. But we’re also very interested to see what’s happening in that region and how China exerting its influence on Hong Kong is reshaping what’s happening in Hong Kong. And then you see all of the, all of these nations, including Taiwan, others in Southeast Asia trying to pull all of these financial experts from Hong Kong, pull these companies that are bringing their financial experts to to their countries so they can try to to be played a bigger role in the global financial banking industry. So very interesting article. We’ll drop the link for sure. And Glenn, we will also drop the links for your suggestions in the in our blog post announcing this recording, so we’ll be sure to get those from you. Fred, what about you? What do you have for us today?
Fred Rocafort 24:51
So earlier today, I was driving through eastern Oklahoma and I remembered a very good podcast. I had listened to last year. So I decided to to listen to it again. I found it to be just as informative and was just good to revisit what the podcast discussed. And actually, there’s been some relevant developments. The podcast involves a Supreme Court case, which in turn has to do with the status of a Native American reservation in eastern Oklahoma. And in the time that has elapsed since I originally listened to the podcast, the the Supreme Court actually handed down a decision so it’s interesting to listen to it again, would then have having having seen that development. But in any case, the the podcast does an excellent job of explaining the issue and explaining some of the broader issues impacting Native American reservations and Native American law. The title is this land and it’s hosted by Rebecca Nagel, so if you if you like podcasts, this is a, an excellent series and, again, highly, highly recommended.
Jonathan Bench 26:10
Glenn, we want to thank you again for spending time with us today. We appreciate your expertise, your obvious passion for for this topic and we’re excited to check in with you again in the future, hopefully for another episode and you can update us on what you’ve seen in the region and on Canada keeps progress.
Glenn Davies 26:27
Guys, thanks for having me and appreciate the chat. Happy to follow up anytime.
Fred Rocafort 26:32
Thank you Glenn.
Glenn Davies 26:33
Thank you guys.
Jonathan Bench 26:38
We hope you enjoyed today’s podcasts. We look forward to connecting with you on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else you want to find us until next week.