The Spirit of Hawaii and CBD
Mana Artisan Botanics
Cannabis for recreational use or medicinal and wellness is ever changing. Sustainable practices, the sourcing of unique ingredients, and overall education has been moving in a very positive direction, and Mana Artisan Botanics has been a part of that.
Mana Artisan Botanics is based in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and it could not be better situated. The area boasts volcanic soils and essential elements that produce its rich ingredients. Cannabis Brightline spoke with Chief Executive Officer and Cofounder Steve Sakala and Director of Product Shimyrre Britt.
Steve was inspired at an early age to be in the cannabis industry when he worked with Jack Herer, the author and cannabis rights activist known as the ‘Emperor of Hemp.’ Both worked in the early 90s on some of the first medical marijuana and hemp initiatives in California, where Steve grew up. After a four-year stint in West Africa, where Steve was working in agriculture, he went to Hawaii to practice agricultural development and consulting.
“The state welcomed me in, and I was inspired to develop my business here. I was introduced to CBD varieties in 2011, and that drove me to look further into how we can focus on the health benefits of the cannabis plant beyond the psychoactive aspect, and that led me to CBD hemp,” says Steve.
Steve, working closely with the Department of Agriculture’s Commissioner Scott Enright, saw a great opportunity to develop the CBD hemp industry in Hawaii and started the state’s first CBD hemp company. A few years ago, after a chance meeting on his farm, he met his future partners and shortly thereafter formed Mana Artisan Botanics.
Steve and his partners explored a culturally appropriate way to convey the essence of what the company was trying to do. “It is about more than selling product; it is about agricultural practices, farmers, health, and wellness,” he says. What emerged was the idea of highlighting the concept of Mana, the life force and energy in all things. Mana is a Hawaiian word and also has meaning in many cultures and languages. It is associated with miracles, light, and love.
“We made a conscious choice to source as many of our botanicals locally, including from Honaunau Farm (the birthplace of Mana). We want to support the local economy, knowing that these plants are being grown in an intentional manner that feeds the planet and also creates high quality ingredients,” says Shimyrre. The company believes that performing the least amount of processing helps maintain the essence of the benefits.
“With my background in regenerative agriculture, including cannabis, we are not just looking at our bottom line, but how to leave the land more enriched than how we found it. It’s about wanting science to play a role in why people support cannabis in their diet and how that builds trust,” says Steve.
From this idea three of the Mana co-founders created the non-profit Wholistic Research and Education Foundation. In 2018 the foundation facilitated the largest private donation ever given to cannabis research to date. It is currently funding the University of Utah’s studies of health and CBD. The study will allow researchers to use cutting-edge brain imaging to examine the effects of cannabinoids on brain networks to discover why these chemicals affect people differently.
The company highlights its farm partners and ingredients with pride. The industry is full of options, and there is a lot of confusion. Mana wants to be a brand people trust, and transparency is a big part of maintaining that trust.
“We know virtually all the farmers that produce our ingredients and cultivate relationships with them. We know of their agricultural practices and do not source simply on what farmers say. We know them as friends,” says Steve.
Steve has been in the cannabis industry for over twenty years and knows its growing practices. In addition to his four years in Humboldt achieving his bachelor’s in science, he has visited many operations on the West Coast and in Colorado and elsewhere. The industry is perceived as green or environmentally responsible, but that is a misperception, and this is part of what inspired him to become a product maker and manufacturer.
An unfortunate side of the industry are the high amounts of pesticides and fungicides put on plants. Steve feels that there needs to be more dialogue on sustainable, organic, and regenerative agriculture. Doing this through the cannabis industry has the potential to affect the food industry in a positive fashion as well.
Until now, organic farming has been a step in the right direction, away from the chemical-based agricultural system, but Steve wanted to go further. Regenerative agriculture means leaving more behind than was taken out. This approach aims to improve the health of the soil and increase biodiversity and not just extract nutrients from it. Regenerative and sustainable agriculture is one of the vital parts of the company since growing practices affect the environment and contribute to creating healthy ingredients that become premium products.
Mana is dedicated to using only full-spectrum or broad-spectrum extract and does not use isolates in any of its products. The company believes the inclusion of terpenes and other naturally occurring compounds of the cannabis plant contributes to its beneficial effects.
“Having been in the industry and knowing how isolates are made, in general you cannot have an organic isolate. Most processes use industrial chemical solvents to get it from crude oil to a powder, and that doesn’t fit into our philosophy. We are committed to being an isolate-free company,” says Steve.
Hawaii possesses an indigenous culture that has a reverence for how people interact with the land and each other. Practices based on indigenous wisdom look at methods that have, for eons, tried to work in balance with nature. This is a part of what Mana Botanics is trying to emulate. The company wants to be more than profit-driven, with care for its employees and respect for the land (Aloha aina).
“Western civilization has not been good with these practices. We need to give more attention to the impact we have in terms of land practices and social justice,” says Steve.
Supporting the local economy is important to Mana. It gives a boost to area farmers and their goods. It strives to be a model for the type of agriculture it supports, from a sustainability standpoint and in helping improve agricultural practices.
“We see hemp as part of the solution to the large planetary challenges we face. It’s not just about the health of an individual or the benefits to a farmer; it’s being able to use regenerative practices and eliminating chemicals to enhance entire ecosystems. We are talking about climate change, ocean issues, and other major environmental challenges and how to solve them,” says Steve.
Mana does not portray cannabis as a cure-all. Health is multifaceted, with physical, spiritual, and emotional components. Diet is a foundation of physical health, and many of the plants Mana incorporates in its products help to support the body adapt to stress, cope with irritants and assist with overall functioning. Many people are not familiar with the benefits of hemp, particularly in supporting the endocannabinoid system. This biological system is involved in an assortment of cognitive and physiological processes in the body and is composed of neurotransmitters that affix to cannabinoid receptors.
“The mainstream dialogue is shifting. We’ve seen fifty years of the industrial revolution mentality with the dominance of convenient food and have taken some unfortunate steps in the wrong direction. Now it’s coming back to fundamentals, and we try to empower our customers to evaluate their options for better health,” says Shimyrre.
Cannabis is one plant that can support a health regimen, but everything that is put into the body needs to be examined. Mana encourages people to take steps through diet, exercise, and a spiritual practice to incorporate a more holistic lifestyle.
Hawaii is blessed with diversity and abundance. This paradise can grow almost all the spices you can think of including clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. When Mana looked at formulating its products, it searched for unique ingredients that support local farmers and highlight synergistic and nutritive benefits.
“One of our main exotic ingredients is macadamia nut oil. As far as we know, we are the only ones using it for infusions with CBD. It is local, organic macadamia nut oil, which produces a deliciously smooth, mild, enjoyable experience for a hemp oil,” says Shimyrre.
Mana uses organic CO2 extracted, full-spectrum oil which is combined with the amazing botanicals grown on the farm. Turmeric, a featured ingredient in the company’s flagship oil, is one of the most widely studied plants on the planet for its health benefits.
Mana is also amongst the first to use turmeric in combination with CBD hemp oil, leading the trend of including additional botanicals in more CBD products. Most of the turmeric in the world comes from India, so Mana is lucky to be able to obtain this locally in a sustainable way. The team sources from their own Honaunau Farm or from other farmers located on the island.
Another ingredient gaining a lot of attention is Mana’s hemp honey. It contains honey made from the nectar of the Lehua flower found on the Ohia tree, which is endemic to Hawaii. This creamy, delicately floral honey is combined with Christmas berry honey, making for a delightful way to enjoy hemp and honey. Lehua honey is one of the world’s rarest honeys and stands out as an unusual ingredient.
Honaunau Farm and Wellness Retreat is the founding site of Mana’s CBD product line. Steve bought the farm in 2007, shortly before the housing bubble burst. The challenging economic times spurred new innovation and direction. “I became very inspired in making the farm sustainable on a financial level and thriving on an ecological basis. We have created a very diverse environment of opportunity and rich plant diversity. I incorporated permaculture principles that I studied for the last twenty years to really build the farm,” says Steve.
There are now over one hundred types of exotic fruits and medicinal plants on the farm. Honaunau Farm also has milking goats, sheep, chickens and ducks for self-sufficiency. The farm is also used for education, attracting those interested in regenerative agriculture, sustainability and organic cannabis growing practices. The farm offers short-term vacation opportunities so people can experience sustainable agriculture and Hawaii on a more authentic level, instead of a mere tourist experience. A traveler can interact with plants and learn about the diversity of Hawaii from those running the farm.
It’s apparent that Mana Artisan Botanics strives to be a model in the industry. By promoting progressive agricultural practices and high quality, clean ingredients, they hope to build awareness on multiple fronts for the greater good of the people and the planet.