For 25 years, Paul Benhaim has been an international hemp business leader and evangelist. Products from his companies include foods, dietary sup-plements, and beauty products, which are enjoyed by consumers in over 40 countries.
One of these companies, Elixinol Global, comprised of Elixinol LLC, Hemp Foods Australia and Elixinol Pty, has executed a successful IPO on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) under the ticker EXL. We are grateful to Tara Coomans for helping arrange today’s interview with Paul Benhaim.
Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today, Paul. I know you're busy, let’s jump right in: Everyone in our industry seems to have an interesting “how I got here” story. What is your background – before starting in the hemp industry?
I started in the hemp industry 25 years ago, though there wasn’t really such a thing as the “hemp industry” at that time. I was raised in England and as a young guy I decided to travel the world, which I did for several years. I had a strong interest in food and nutrition, but had not figured out how to apply it yet. For example, I was concerned about processed foods, and became very interested in Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
I learned a bit about the nutritional value of hemp seeds and extracts and was thinking about ways to make a business out of it, and I’d discovered a book by Dr. Udo Erasmus that included a very small mention of hemp that stuck with me. I had the occasion to meet him, and so asked him to confirm it. When Dr. Erasmus confirmed to me that hemp seeds were the best source of omega fatty acids, I said “I’m in, I’m going to do this.”
Q. Wow, 25 years? Public perception was not very ‘pro-hemp’ back then…
Right, but hemp is so nutritious and has no THC, and I was completely convinced of its potential, so I said I’m going to go do this. I wanted to explore all aspects of hemp, from food to genetics, to seeds. I settled in Australia and got to work.
Q. What obstacles have you had to overcome to be a hemp entrepreneur?
My job used to be educational to a huge degree. I’ve mentored companies in the industry and have been a speaker at events around the world. I’ve published nine books, and with the amount that hemp and cannabis are in the news these days… all these things have helped to ease restrictions and allow the barriers to come down. I have been involved lobbying for many years, by necessity. Now finally, the legislative environment is changing for the better.
Q. In a nutshell, what’s the difference between hemp and cannabis as it pertains to your products and your business?
Most of the public realizes they’re different plants, with the major difference being the THC in cannabis – hemp has no THC and can’t get you high. There are more scientific studies going on worldwide now than ever before, even more searches on Google, and the majority of people are also realizing that cannabis is good. And of course, no one has ever died from cannabis or hemp. I am confident that the market and the world impression is improving. Some people are still confused, especially in government, but they’re coming around.
Q. We had a nice conversation with Dr. Phillip Blair at the CWCBE in Los Angeles last year. But we’ve since learned a lot more about the global reach of your company. Can you tell us about the whole company?
Yes, Dr. Blair one of our best spokespeople, and a fine doctor. He’s just incredibly knowledgeable and speaks from personal experience.
UnderElixinol Global, we own 3 main businesses with consumers in 40 countries:
Hemp Foods Australia (https://www.hempfoods.com.au), where we make many kinds of food products from pancakes to protein powders to skincare items.
Elixinol Australia – (https://elixinol.com.au) In development - we’ve raised $13MAus for medical cannabis cultivation and manufacturing of pharmaceutical-grade medicinal hemp products that meet Australia’s new regulations
Elixinol (located in Colorado) (https://elixinol.com) – where we manufacture hemp-derived nutraceuticals including CBD
Q. Including Elixinol, what’s the future of hemp around the globe?
I am very positive about the future of hemp. It’s got worldwide potential - - always had, of course, and it’s a shame we lost so much time to prohibition. But we’re really seeing positive changes. I mean, just this week your own Senator Mitch McConnell announced support of hemp in his home state with the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which is currently moving through the Senate. That’s pretty amazing. Now, the United Nations is looking at hemp. In Australia, hemp has been legal for decades, but is now allowing medicinal cannabis. But only in 2017 was it allowed as a food.
Our company has been in development in Australia for 5 years, mostly for beauty products and export, but we were positioned right when the regulations came around. Now, the question is: How fast can we expand with the same quality we’ve built on?
Q. What are you proudest moments as a hemp entrepreneur?
All this effort we’ve put forth for 25 years has led us to make products that people genuinely need and want. We are now able to push forward with great energy in R&D, new methods of growing and extraction, adapting delivery methods for medicines and nutrition through our foods and dietary supplements. We are able to work with scientists, professors, research institutes, and ultimately, create the highest quality products in the world. All of our best practices are being utilized and it’s just incredibly gratifying.
We started with a family-like culture and built on it. Our people genuinely care about each other. We really believe in efficacy, and we believe in creating sustainable benefits
We respect our environment, our farmers, our scientists and doctors, and our consumers. They all keep us energized.