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As the founder of a CBD company Central New York farm, Brittany Carbone has been involved in the cannabis space for several years. She answered eight simple questions for NY Cannabis Insider’s “People to know” series.
What is your position and what do you/your company do in the cannabis space?
As founder and CEO of TONIC and co-founder of Tricolla Farms, I operate in both the cultivation and consumer packaged goods space of the cannabis industry. Our operations have been focused solely on hemp cannabinoids since 2017, but now with Tricolla Farms receiving its AUCC license, we are shifting focus on our farm to adult-use cannabis. We will also be launching TONIC products in the adult-use market using Tricolla Farms’ sun grown crop.
How long have you worked in the cannabis space?
Just over five years (since 2017).
What did you do before you were involved in the cannabis industry?
I was a personal trainer and certified nutrition coach on Long Island.
What led you to the cannabis industry?
I have loved this plant since the first time I experienced it as a teenager (disclaimer: NOT advocating or encourage underage use!), but honestly didn’t think of it as an actual career path until I was introduced to CBD. At the time, around late 2016, I was seeking a natural solution to manage my depression and anxiety – something that would help me like [THC] cannabis always had, but was more workday friendly.
When I first tried CBD it really amazed me how well it worked to curb my anxiety and regulate my mood. I couldn’t believe that as an avid cannabis consumer for 10 years I had never heard about CBD. I needed to understand more about how it worked, which led me into a lot of research on not just CBD but the endocannabinoid system in general. Through that research, I began to draw parallels between CBD and traditional adaptogens like ashwagandha, which was something that was already a part of my routine to help me manage my stress, mood and energy levels. So, I decided to begin experimenting with combining CBD and ashwagandha with the idea that since they are both working towards the same goals of less stress and more balance, but taking different pathways to get there, combining them would allow them to cover more ground and more efficiently and effectively accomplish those goals. That’s exactly what happened. The results were incredible, so I began to share my special blend with my personal training clients as well. The results were repeated and consistent and that’s what really sparked the idea that this could be a business. I started to develop other blends for pain and sleep to address the primary issues my clients were struggling with and saw this as a great potential side hustle – selling the products to my clients and their networks – but I was in the right place at the right time as the CBD industry was just beginning to gain traction, so what started as a side hustle concept quickly turned into something bigger.
I was frustrated, though, in the lack of consistency and quality of the raw material available at the time. I had a very high standard (and still do) for every ingredient in TONIC products, so subpar quality hemp extracts was not something I could get over. So, I decided to approach my parents about using our family’s property in Tioga County, NY, to start growing hemp for TONIC and other like-minded brands who value sustainable, intentional, quality-driven cultivation. In late 2017, we became one of NY’s first privately licensed hemp farms and began cultivating in 2018.
I truly have a passion for helping people and I saw this as a way to help people on a larger scale than one-on-one coaching could ever accomplish, all through this incredible plant that I owe so much to.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into the NY weed industry?
Don’t rush into anything. Really understand what you’re getting yourself into – from the regulations, to the market dynamics, to the inevitable headaches that come with operating a cannabis business. NY is going to be a big market for sure, but don’t get too swept up in the hype. Stay grounded and focus on what you know, what you’re good at, and what makes you different. The size and potential of NY’s adult-use market is an opportunity for sure, but that also means that it will attract all of the big players with deep pockets and it could be difficult for small-to-medium sized businesses to compete with well- resourced operators coming in from out of state.
That being said, nobody understands the NY market like New Yorkers. Build a strong brand that people can connect with; understand and speak to the culture that you are already a part of and you will be able to withstand competition more effectively. So, start networking right now. Build community, make connections, learn everything you can. The NYCGPA (soon to be known as CANY) is a great way to start, or build upon, that work.
Lastly, if you plan on going for an adult-use license, don’t open a sticker shop or similar gray market business and publicly promote the fact that you are selling THC products. It will give the OCM a reason to deny your license right out of the gate.
What do you think the NY cannabis ecosystem will look like in five years?
I think there will be a strong regional, craft market similar to NY’s craft wine and beer industries. If the potency tax remains in place, I would love to be optimistic and say that it will motivate producers to educate consumers about the value of a robust terpene profile over a super-high THC potency, but the more realistic side of me says that it will ensure the unregulated market is a very dominant force in NY’s cannabis ecosystem.
I do believe that NY will lead the way in environmental sustainability and that we will see a cannabis ecosystem that has sustainability built into its core while other markets have approached it as an afterthought.
There will be a lot more representation from social equity populations from the start, which is huge. NY’s unique approach to getting this market started has already promoted a more collaborative and community-driven approach between potential operators, and my hope is that it results in a more inclusive and equitable supply chain five years from now.
On-site consumption and the microbusiness model will also play a significant role within NY’s cannabis ecosystem. Microbusinesses in Upstate NY can leverage the same model that has proven to be very successful for small scale beer and wine producers, while on-site consumption spaces will be a huge draw in the boroughs. Cannabis tourism is becoming a bigger and bigger market opportunity and I feel that the inclusion of these two license types puts NY businesses in a good position to capitalize on that opportunity.
Do you use cannabis? If so, what’s your favorite method (flowers, dabs, edibles, tinctures, etc.), and why?
Enthusiastically! Flower is my favorite by far – joints to be specific. I like the ritual of smoking a joint as well as the immediacy of the effects.
Who should contact you, and what’s the best method (ie email, phone number, LinkedIn handle, etc.)
If you are a brand or processor seeking a sourcing partner, a potential retailer seeking established NY brands for your shelves, if you are somebody who is seeking employment or training/mentorship opportunities, or if you are interested in investment opportunities please feel free to send email me at [email protected]!