"We continue to grow at a rapid pace, month over month, quarter over quarter," says Warrender of his company. So much so that Lifted Made moved into a new 11,238-square-foot facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in spring 2021. There, the company formulates its products,and packages its gummies, chocolates, tinctures, topicals, vape cartridges -- and even hemp flower -- infused with the novel cannabinoid Delta-8-THC.
After Lifted Made ships them out, those Delta-8 products go to market in -- for now -- around 35 different states, sold at an assortment of health and wellness stores, smoke shops, tobacco stores, vape outlets, even convenience stores. However, according to the legal updates Warrender's company receives from its attorneys, those same products can't be sold in the other 15 states, with some states increasingly looking to age-restrict or ban products containing Delta-8.
The controversy stems from whether Delta-8-THC gets people "high." While reportedly not producing as pronounced an effect as Delta-9-THC products -- which are available at recreational and medicinal cannabis dispensaries in a number of states -- people using Delta-8-THC can still experience a rapid change in mood. Warrender says, "It doesn't have the anxiety typically associated with [Delta-9]-THC; it doesn't have the head fog or the paranoia, the couch-lock comedown. It's a very clean and euphoric feeling, but it doesn't take you out of your mind or out of the present, and [it allows] you to be productive and proactive throughout the day."
Whenever Warrender wants to take a "miniature vacation," he'll take a draw from his disposable, Delta-8 vape device. "It's like a refresh button," he says. "It helps me focus. It helps me feel refreshed. It helps me stay [focused on] singular tasks and focused on what needs to be done right now, rather than getting overwhelmed."
As retailers and consumers have become increasingly aware, hemp-derived products containing the cannabinoid CBD can be sold as long as they have no more than 0.3 percent Delta-9-THC -- the primary constituent within recreational cannabis products that gives them their psychoactive effects. Delta-8 distillate is produced from CBD oil, using a process Warrender calls "forced conversion" -- a laboratory technique that transforms CBD into Delta-8-THC.
Just like CBD-containing products on the market, Lifted Made's Delta-8, hemp-derived products meet the legal limit for Delta-9-THC. Lifted Made buys its Delta-8-THC distillate from third-party labs, which it then infuses into the majority of its products in Kenosha. (Delta-8 is applied to the hemp flower via a "proprietary spraying process," says Warrender.) The company also has a line of edibles -- gummies, chocolate bars -- which are contract manufactured at a GMP-certified facility in California.
But are Delta-8 products safe? The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees that state's cannabis regulation, expressed concern about purity in a recent statement. Warrender, though, points to the lab testing results on his company's web site. "All of our products are free of any residual solvent, any heavy metals, any pesticides," says Warrender. "We do very rigorous testing to assure that there's nothing residual in there from the [Delta-8 production] process."
Still, Warrender's selling of Delta-8 products -- occasionally highlighting the cannabinoid's "euphoric" qualities -- has put him at odds with a group like the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, which has said it's "opposed to marketing products, under the guise of the hemp name, for any intoxicating value or euphoric effect."
Warrender sees it differently. "I think in the hemp industry, we ought to be coming together to explore all the different cannabinoids and what those effects can be for what [peoples'] needs are," he counters. "The way these products affect each individual is different." In other words, what makes one person feel euphoric might not affect someone else the same way, while potentially providing wellness or cognitive benefits.
Warrender started Lifted Made in 2015 with a focus on nicotine vape products. But in 2016, the company switched to CBD, making what Warrender says was one of the first vapable CBD products on the market. The company still sells a range of CBD products, including tincture, topical ointment, and flower. In late 2019, the company began introducing its first Delta-8-THC products. Sales took off. Lifted Made's publicly traded parent company, Acquired Sales Corporation (OTCQX: AQSP), notes in a press release how, "Revenue grew quarter over quarter from $1,509,437 to $2,196,518 during Q4 2020, an increase of 46 percent."
And Warrender's company continues to release new products, which combine different cannabinoids together with terpenes. In one of its vape cartridges, Lifted Made combines hemp-derived Delta-8-THC with Delta-10-THC. Warrender calls Delta-10-THC, "another new cannabinoid. It seems to have a more energetic effect than Delta-8, so we would describe it like a super sativa."
Warrender characterizes his company as an innovator and first mover in the cannabinoid industry. "We pride ourselves on being pioneers," he says.
Challenges: Lifted Made faces supply-chain issues, just like other businesses do -- for instance, how much to order of certain items, based upon the company's projected needs. But, on top of that, there's the constantly shifting legal landscape. "It's like walking a tightrope between two high buildings," says Warrender. "And every time there's a change on a state or federal level, it's like throwing another piano on, that you're trying to juggle, while walking this tightrope."
Opportunities: Consumers coming to accept products containing a cannabinoid like Delta-8-THC, just like they have CBD-infused products. Warrender says he wants to clear a path for a regulated industry by, "setting protocols and different SOPs to make sure consumers are getting clean, consistent, quality products."
Needs: Disparate interests coming together to self-regulate and present a positive face for the cannabinoid industry. Warrender says, "We want to show that, as this is an unregulated industry, we're heavily self-regulated through our SOPs, all of our systems, software, all of our testing." He also supports measures to age-restrict purchases, while opposing any proposed bans on Delta-8-THC products.