Five relatively new businesses in Arkansas’ medicinal cannabis industry are now processing state-grown marijuana into a wide range of products, often by hand, and often by the hands of women.
Vape pens and gummies are among their products, to be sure. But the women behind these companies — and three of the five are at least 97% women-owned — are also making face and body balms, dietary supplements, even vaginal suppositories and personal lubricants.
Almost all of the processors started out making CBD products from hemp, expanding those operations after Arkansas licensed its first processing companies in 2021. That led them to introduce products with THC, the compound that puts the “high” in marijuana.
Shake Extractions, which makes the lube and suppositories, has a four-woman ownership team led by CEO Julie Brents. It got its marijuana license back in March 2021.
Two other processors, New Day Laboratories of Hot Springs and Mink & Kimball Extracts of Marion, are also woman-owned, and one of the three co-owners of Pure Pharma Labs LLC of Little Rock is a female pharmacist. Nearly 53% of Arkansas’ 90,000 medical marijuana card holders are women.
Shake Extractions started branding and making organic CBD products shortly after hemp was legalized nationwide in 2018. Brents’ ownership team includes Antigone “Tig” Davoulas, a lawyer who once worked for Hugh Hefner at Playboy, design chief Brittany Phillips, who owns a Fayetteville studio, and lab manager Syrona Scott.
“We started in 2019 with a brand called CBD & Me,” Brents told Arkansas Business. Its products were getting rolling when COVID struck, and the team decided to go after a license to work with medical marijuana.
Shake’s products have been on dispensary shelves for only about 100 days.
The ingredients are all organic, Brents said, except for the cannabis distillate from cultivator Good Day Farm that provides the THC. Shake combines that with CBD and other organic ingredients, making “small batches of boutique … products, about 400 units at a time per SKU,” Brents said. “It’s kind of small, but very manageable.”
Brents and her partners saw a market with women-driven products like the suppositories, marketed as vaginal moisturizers. “It can help with endometriosis, or cramps, or difficulties going through the change of life.”
On the beauty side, Brents said, “we have a beautiful drench that has grapeseed oils for the face and neck area, and then a beauty balm as well that uses seed oils with CBD and THC.” Shake’s body balm “has a high-octane 1,000 milligrams per bottle of CBD and 500 milligrams of THC in it,” Brents said. “It’s these products that differentiate us from the other processors.”
Shake’s products appear in more than a dozen of the state’s 38 dispensaries, and reorders have been coming in, Brents said.
Mink & Kimball Extracts was owned 100% by Danielle Buntyon until after Arkansas Business went to press Thursday; she had a request before the state to sell 3% of the company. New Day Laboratories is 100% owned by Carla McCord, who owns several companies in Hot Springs, including Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant. New Day Laboratories did not respond to repeated interview requests. McCord is also a 70% owner of New Day Cultivation LLC of Hot Springs, which does business as Leafology.
Mink & Kimball
Buntyon, working out of an industrial center in Marion just 12 miles west of Memphis, her hometown, studied agriculture at Tennessee State University and trained in processing in California and British Columbia. She and her mother, the company’s only full-time employee, make bubble hash (a type of hashish made with ice water), kief and gummies, among other products now on sale at Body & Mind Dispensary in West Memphis. Kief refers to trichomes, or hairs, that have fallen off of cannabis buds.
“We’re working to get into two more stores; once we released our first batch, we sold out in like three days,” Buntyon said.
“I do my processing a little differently because I can process by hand. It’s a mixture of hand processing and what’s called mechanical separation. We also do a full cannabis extraction with food-grade alcohol and oil.” Buntyon’s first dispensary sales were in January.
She took her company’s name from the intersection where she grew up in Memphis, Mink Street and Kimball Avenue. Her hemp and CBD company is Jades Elevation, named for Buntyon’s daughter, Jade.
Pure Pharma Labs
Pure Pharma Labs LLC of Little Rock has one female co-owner, compounding pharmacist Amy Bell Seale, who has a 25% stake. Dr. J. Justin Seale, a Little Rock spine surgeon, also has 25%. Fifty percent owner Chris Gibson told Arkansas Business by email that the company was cleared for operations in January 2022.
“PPL uses an extraction method called fractional distillation, with food/beverage grade CO2 as the solvent,” Gibson said. “We prefer more natural, full spectrum oil to isolates; and we concentrate cannabis without toxic, explosive, corrosive, petroleum based chemicals or fuels.”
PPL gets its cannabis from Bold Team of Cotton Plant, which Gibson said is the only state cultivator using natural sunlight. Offerings include edibles, topicals, cartridges (for vape pens) and pure hash oil.
“With processed cannabis, most people know very little about what they are consuming or how it was made,” Gibson said. “This is why we try to bring a more transparent, balanced, health and wellness approach to perhaps contrast some of the greed and money that saturate Arkansans’ curiosity about what we do.”
Gibson said payroll and revenue details are proprietary.
The other licensed processor is Dark Horse Medicinals of Little Rock, owned by Casey Flippo, who started out in CBD as CEO of Natvana LLC, which did third-party hemp processing out of Stuttgart. He told Arkansas Business in 2021 that the company had “extensive experience in this kind of business model, and we’re taking that expertise we obtained in the hemp space and applying it to cannabis.”
Several attempts to reach Flippo for this article were unsuccessful. The number for Dark Horse on file with the state is no longer in service.