Providing Alternatives with Star Quality
Starseed has been a Health Canada licensed producer (LP) of medical cannabis since April 2017. The company was founded in 2013 by a group of strong advocates for medical cannabis use and is striving to see changes made with respect to insurance providers so that medical cannabis becomes part of available benefit packages.
The medicinal history of cannabis dates back, way back, to 2,700 BC, when it is believed that the Chinese emperor Shen Neng first prescribed its use as a tea to treat a number of ailments. It is also referred to in the Rh-Ya, the Chinese pharmacopeia of 1,500 BC.
The benefits of cannabis are still recognized today as seen by the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in 2000, that it is a constitutional right for Canadians to have access to it for medicinal purposes. It was a year later that medicinal use became legal in this country.
Although its use is still somewhat controversial, all indications are that medical cannabis is here to stay, as is its recreational form which became legal in Canada for adults in October 2018. And Starseed Holdings Incorporated, with corporate headquarters in Toronto, Ontario and a production facility in Bowmanville, Ontario, intends to be a leader in a quickly evolving medical field.
In 2016, Starseed began negotiations with Mettrum Health Corporation, a licensed medical cannabis provider of dried cannabis and cannabis extracts, to purchase one of Mettrum’s subsidiary companies. Mettrum Bennett Road North Limited later became known as Starseed Medicinal Incorporated.
Just before the deal closed, Mettrum was purchased by Canopy Growth Corporation (CGC), leading to Starseed’s negotiations and initial supply agreement being finalized with Canopy.
“Our core business is packaging and distributing of product, rather than growing product,” says Ed King, CEO of Starseed. “That’s been our vision from the onset, so Canopy and other growers are our source of supply.” Medical cannabis has been, “very germane to the makeup of our company and the strategy of the company.”
Starseed has developed its own colour and number classification system for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) levels to, “help clients better understand their medical treatment plans,” says Simon Davies, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer. “It simplifies the dialogue around potency and cannabinoid ratio by categorizing medical cannabis according to THC and CBD levels.” This colour coding simplifies the complex nature of cannabis individual strains and allows, “health care professionals to recommend a Starseed product to patients with confidence.”
Blue and green codes have blue for cannabis oil and green for dried cannabis flower. Along with this colour code, are numerical values that range from one to three for blue and one to four for green. Higher numbers represent higher THC content and lower CBD levels.
“For patients, this means they don’t need to feel anxious about navigating a flurry of individual strains,” he continues. “Instead, they can start with the Starseed System classification they have been assigned, knowing that potency and ratio of THC and CBD is consistent within that.”
There are currently eleven medicinal products including whole flower, milled flower preparation for vaporizers, and oil extract. Starseed does have a recreational brand of cannabis called Saturday, “which has universally received high praise for its originality,” Ed says, and is, “becoming a very unique brand. But our core business and corporate focus is on the medicinal market. From the outset, our goal was to be the leader in the medicinal market. This aim is very much supported by our major shareholder and partner, LiUNA, who are the largest labour union in the country.”
Starseed believes that its customer-centric approach is what sets it apart from the rest. Other factors are, “the relationship that we have with LiUNA as a partner and the dedication of persons that we have on our Board,” says Ed. The Board is comprised of advocates such as cardiac surgeon Dr. Hugh Scully and Chief Medical Officer and pain specialist Dr. Peter Blecher, among others. “We have a big commitment to the research side and to the medical side,” he adds. The company looks to find resolutions to the huge opioid crisis. This is particularly relevant to LiUNA’s members, who are exposed to pain and muscle tension causes in the workplace.
Medical cannabis, particularly with CBD and minor amounts of THC, can potentially lead to a substantial reduction in opioid use and the accompanying harmful effects. “We’ve done a lot of pioneering work with [LiUNA],” says Ed. An important goal is to have medical cannabis included as part of a benefit package for workers and is working closely with insurers to create a system in which the transition from heavier opioids to medicinal marijuana is as seamless as possible. “That’s our core business.”
“Starseed has dedicated quality assurance, compliance, and legal teams who are experienced at testing and ensuring the quality of all products purchased,” says Jason Alexander, the company’s chief legal officer. “Before accepting product from any producer, not only will that producer have to meet the quality standards imposed by Health Canada, but such producers will have to meet the stricter quality standards imposed by Starseed.”
Certificates of analysis and batch records must be provided and include, “thorough and frequent site visits,” continues Jason. This is done to assess, “how every batch of product was grown, harvested, processed, and tracked. Without exception, Starseed will only purchase product that passes not only all of the testing required of Health Canada but the stringent testing imposed by our quality assurance and compliance teams.”
Starseed has a huge role to play in the interpretation of cannabis legislation, at both the federal level and the provincial level. “Starseed devoted significant time and resources developing robust compliance and legal teams. These teams review and analyze all legislation – provincial, federal, and international – to provide advice on compliance, legal and regulatory matters,” Jason explains. The teams “provide regular training to the senior management team regarding the difference in the regulations and how to operate effectively and efficiently within the rules established by the various levels of government.”
Starseed takes its role of mentor and educator very seriously and has aligned itself with several employers, insurers, and workers, “to help them understand the effective use of cannabis as medicine to treat chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia,” says Simon. “Ultimately, we are responsible to all stakeholders and share in their desire to displace dangerous narcotics like opioids. Our message echoes the milestone legislation in Canada; workers have a duty to be transparent and be fit for work. And employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate the medical needs of their people and provide a safe work environment for everyone.”
North Star Wellness is Starseed’s clinical affiliation of nurse practitioners who provide medical cannabis clients guidance on the company’s product use and benefits. Their customer service representatives in Bowmanville are equally adept in addressing any concerns.
Starseed, “had to set up a whole regime with the benefit providers, with the insurers and all of those for whom it never had previously been a paid benefit,” he adds. “It will be a learning experience. It takes time to understand the alternative and its properties. Medical cannabis is less harmful and less destructive than opioids.” In the next five years, says Ed, it’s important to consider the changes that will occur within both the medicinal and the recreational cannabis landscape the effect.”