Apr 21, 2020
CBD Assist recently got in contact from Cormac Sheehan, the co-founder of The Cannabis Company, Purpose Communications, and Green Planet. Cormac has had an extraordinary journey through the early days and inception of the cannabis movement in Australia and is a passionate advocate for the use of the whole Cannabis plant.
Can you give us a brief history about yourself and your involvement in the Australian Cannabis industry?
Sure! I founded The Cannabis Co together with Dr. David Stapleton in 2017. I’d been closely following developments in North America since the start of the 2010s, as I’m also a musician and would be on tour on the West Coast of the USA every year or two. Things moved really quick there, and from the late ‘00s through the ‘10s I literally couldn’t believe what I was seeing in states like California and Oregon.
I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression since childhood onwards, getting especially bad in my late teens and early 20s. I had tried various antidepressants and seen a lot of therapists about it, some of which helped a little but most of which just made me feel more desperate and alone. The things which helped me the most were environmental factors such as exercise, a good clean diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, creativity such as playing music – and cannabis. I went through a particularly tough period from 2016 onwards, and a friend suggested I try CBD. I did and it was life-changing… I felt like I could breathe again.
People who’ve suffered mental health challenges or PTSD will tell you how bad it gets when you can’t escape circular catastrophic thoughts – you can’t sleep, you can’t work, you can’t relax – the “bad thoughts” constantly crop up, sometimes triggered by innocent things such as a song or a picture or anything really which might remind you of the reasons why you’re unhappy with a situation, person, event etc. With antidepressants, my experience was that those thoughts and feelings were “locked away” behind a layer of ice, so that I couldn’t access them. This was good in the short term, but long term it meant they were never processed and dealt with. With cannabis, those feelings couldn’t touch me, but I could touch them if I chose to do so. CBD made depression something like having a very poisonous creature in a glass case that you could pick up and observe and try to figure out how to live with. Antidepressants, on the other hand, were like having a poisonous creature hidden away somewhere in the attic or basement – if you didn’t keep taking the pills, it could get out and attack you. Now don’t get me wrong, antidepressants work very well for some people and can be life changing, but for me, it was not an answer.
…which is a very long way of saying, cannabis helped me get back control of my mind and my life. Around the same time, I serendipitously met Dr. Dave and we hit it off. I’m also a journalist and a writer, and for the past ten years or so I’ve mainly been working as an ethical marketing strategist and communications consultant. Dr. Dave initially made contact with me to discuss engaging my company (Purpose Communications) to help construct and launch a hemp brand, but I was so into the whole thing that I came back to him with a counter-proposal to create The Cannabis Co together. We made plans and formed the brand. He had a silent partner who helped finance the launch of The Cannabis Co but this guy literally didn’t know anything about the plant or how to market and build a brand, he was just “the money guy”. It later transpired that he only cared about one thing – making money – and he wasn’t even using his real name. Unfortunately we had trusted him that he had more honourable intentions.
Regardless, he kept out of the way early on and that allowed me to form and build the brand together with Dr. Dave and his expertise. Our mission was to make the plant more accessible and acceptable to Australia and Australians, and we did that through strong branding, good marketing and a lot of education – we made ourselves available to answer every question people had, and we soon became the most visible and well-known cannabis brand in Australia by creating interesting products (gin, pet products, terpene blends etc) in way that nobody else was doing.
As the Co-founder of Cannabis Company, and now Green Planet, what do you hope to achieve with your new website?
Green Planet was formed to achieve what The Cannabis Co was formed to achieve before it became apparent the greedy money guy was lying and being duplicitous in countless ways. There were six of us involved at that stage and literally every one of us left the company except for the money guy, with Dr. Dave and I divesting our shares. Dave went on to join Aganics, a new hemp / cannabis brand, and I formed Green Planet, which is focused on education and advocacy. The intention is to encourage Australians to get into the cannabis industry as this plant has so much to offer our society and our planet. For now it’s entirely non-commercial; I realised through working on The Cannabis Co that I had a vested interest in encouraging people to buy our products instead of the best products with the highest standards, which meant I was always going to be biased. Green Planet is non-partisan, so we won’t be influenced by financial factors.
For now, it’s self-financed, but as the site grows, I’ll explore ways to try and make it self-sufficient without devaluing the mission and without compromising my ideals. That may be through consulting work, sponsored content (which is clearly marked as such) or co-creating products with quality cannabis/hemp brands. It may be as a not-for-profit focused on transparency and equality in the industry. We’ll see where the road takes us.
What has been the biggest challenge of your involvement in the industry so far? How did you overcome it?
Shady individuals! A lot of liars! Vultures always flock to money-making opportunities and “the green rush” has seen a lot of con men, fraudsters and other unsavoury individuals try and turn a quick buck off cannabis. Companies like Monsanto, Bayer and Philip Morris have been trying to corner the industry at a macro level by using their cash reserves, lobby groups and networks to turn the plant into just another commodity. My job is essentially to encourage grassroots growth with normal kind-hearted people building hemp / cannabis companies, and at the same time being a watchdog against cynical corporate interests trying to enter the market and devalue the social, environmental and medical benefits of cannabis.
Many people think education and misconceptions are the biggest challenge, but dodgy individuals are a bigger problem as far as I’m concerned – simply trying the various products you can make from cannabis helps people to overcome the stigma, whereas unscrupulous business / government interests are much more insidious (as the past 100 years of prohibition demonstrates).
From the enquiries and discussions that you engage in what are the most common topics of discourse?
“Will it get me high?”; “Is it dangerous?”; “Where can I get it?”.
Prohibition means that it’s hard for people to find A) trustworthy information and B) high quality cannabis products. People just want access to safe, affordable, environmentally-friendly cannabis products.
Where do you see the future of the Australian medical cannabis industry heading? And the Australian cannabis industry in general?
The medical industry will see a lot of companies failing. For the most part, they’ve made a big mistake in trying to follow the pharmaceutical industry blueprint with their branding, marketing and operations in general. That won’t work. People try cannabis because Big Pharma has failed them; trying to make cannabis into just another pharma product won’t work, and most of those companies will fail because they’re indistinguishable from the others. The ones who create a strong unique identity and focus on a policy of strong honest helpful communications will survive and thrive. Within a decade, cannabis products will be as common as aspirin. People will want to buy product they can trust and which is good for society and the environment.
Same goes for the wider cannabis / hemp industry. Be unique, be trustworthy. Don’t try and pretend you’re “not cannabis” by focusing on the fact that you’re an innocent hemp brand – embrace the plant for all it is, market it as such, and you’ll see people come to you. Lots of cannabis research & info in this white paper to back up my claims here.
If you could choose one, what is the most interesting discovery or fact of medical cannabis that you would like to share?
Simply the endocannabinoid system – our bodies are crying out for cannabinoids on a cellular level, and this is why they’re so helpful for so many applications. Doctors aren’t even taught about this in medical school. Decades in the future, we’ll look back at the long 20th century of prohibition in much the same way as we do the early years of medical knowledge and surgery many hundreds of years ago – primitive, dangerous and ignorant. Cannabis is the future of health.