Q&A with George Hodgin: Founder and CEO of Biopharmaceutical Research Company
The Cannabis 50 celebrates the organizations, individuals, and companies who are working to build a responsible, sustainable, and equitable future for the cannabis, hemp, and related industries. In addition to the 2021 Cannabis 50 Impact Review, we are also sharing interviews with our honorees to help spread their messages of positivity and growth.
Formed by a former Navy SEAL with the mission to uncover the benefits and potential risks of cannabis in medicine, Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC) is a fully integrated cannabis research, development, and production company. In 2021, it became one of the first entities to receive a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning it is now a federally authorized marijuana manufacturer for research purposes. We talked with George Hodgin, the founder and CEO of BRC, to talk about what inspired him to get involved in the industry, how these DEA-issued licenses are changing the game, and what’s next for companies focused on cannabis research.
MGO: How long have you been involved in the cannabis industry? What inspired you to get involved with cannabis?
George Hodgin, Founder and CEO of Biopharmaceutical Research Company: After completing my time with the Navy SEALs, I attended Stanford Graduate School of Business and then founded Biopharmaceutical Research Company in 2017 when I saw a veteran friend of mine using cannabis to help him deal with some combat-related chronic health conditions. I could see the positive impact and knew there had to be something there, but with such a dearth of research, it was difficult to know for sure. BRC was founded with the mission to uncover the benefits and the potential risks of cannabis in medicine.
MGO: The cannabis industry saw several trends emerge in 2021. What do you think was the biggest one?
Hodgin: I think the increase in competition, both on the recreational and pharmaceutical side, has really become a theme. We’re starting to see a legitimacy and a real marketplace for cannabis, which I think is a good thing. Just like modernized medical cannabis laws, the Drug Enforcement Administration program providing licenses will speed up innovation in the research space. Before, there was just one entity allowed to produce cannabis for research. Now, there are a handful. There’s competition, which is what this space has needed so badly for such a long time. We’re ready to compete—we’ve been waiting years to do it.
In my view, the decision to issue these licenses will lead to an incredible rush of innovation in the healthcare space. But it’s not just about speed alone—quality is just as important. You can have the best research institutions in the world researching cannabis, but if the quality of their samples don’t match what’s actually in use, the research isn’t all that helpful. So, I think the competition will increase the speed—there’s no doubt about that—but I also think the quality is going to be a crucial part of driving the innovation as well. I think it’s a similar situation on the recreational side too, with new companies popping up all the time. That means everyone needs to do better, follow compliance, and provide a better, safer product—or someone else will come along and take their customers!
MGO: What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced in the industry in 2021? How did you manage and overcome these issues?
Hodgin: We had been waiting for three years for the DEA to administer licenses for the federally compliant cultivation of cannabis for medical research purposes. Before we got our license this summer, we were unable to cultivate. Receiving that license has been the single most important milestone for our company since we began operations. We’re now engaging in exciting partnerships across the cannabis industry, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in 2022.
MGO: What were the biggest highlights and most positive changes for Biopharmaceutical Research Company in 2021?
Hodgin: First and foremost, receiving the first-of-its-kind license from the DEA, which will allow us to legally cultivate and manufacture cannabis products for research and development purposes.
Over the past several years, I’ve been preparing the company for federal compliant research of cannabis for medical purposes. We’ve partnered with UC-Davis, Washington State University, and other research institutions to study cannabis compounds acquired through DEA-approved channels over the past couple of years. And now that we’ve received the license, we’ve begun to cultivate our own cannabis for research purposes.
Because of state laws, cannabis is now legal in some form for most Americans. At the same time, there’s a giant knowledge gap and massive deficit in adequate research for the substance’s health risks and public safety concerns. More federal research is needed to ensure we know as much as we can about it. The short-term impact of these licenses will be a rapid closing on this knowledge gap. More research is, of course, always better, and the scale that BRC and our fellow licensees will be able to study cannabis will do a lot to increase scientific understanding of cannabis compounds and how they react with patients.
MGO: What should the cannabis industry be focused on in 2022—and beyond—to keep it moving forward in a positive way?
Hodgin: I think it’s all about continuing to reduce barriers for research. An improved understanding of the cannabis plant’s makeup and behaviors will help healthcare providers more effectively prescribe medicinal cannabis. Ultimately, this will improve outcomes for patients, and lawmakers will be able to effectively regulate access to cannabis for medicinal and recreational use.
Cannabis sativa is a crop that has not been domesticated in the same way as many of our food crops. Food crops have been selectively bred over many thousands of years, but cannabis is largely unselected. It’s diverse, and this diversity is likely to be of value in discovering new pharmaceuticals that have medicinal value. We need to understand this chemical diversity to harness it for future benefits. Because of previous restrictions, we’re unsure as to what these might be, but bringing together crop breeders, food and nutritional analysis, and biomedical scientists is likely to yield new and novel insights into the crop’s beneficial uses.
MGO: How do you think the cannabis industry will continue to evolve in 2022? What are you personally most excited about?
Hodgin: The University of Mississippi was the sole provider of the cannabis research supply for 60 years, which was simply not enough to advance the medical community’s goals of therapeutic development. But this all changed this year when the DEA took that critical step to open cultivation to other organizations like ours. We—and other research institutions—are just getting started when it comes to developing clinical trials, and it’ll really benefit people and close the knowledge gap at the same time. This is going to set off a wave of innovation in the industry and prove to be one of the substantial developments in patient care for 2022 and beyond.
MGO: Who else in the cannabis industry inspires you by making a positive impact?
Hodgin: The shackles are off the academic institutions—and I believe they’re the real trailblazers. UCLA, UC-Riverside, UC-Davis, UC-San Diego, and others are really beginning to understand the power of this plant and how it can be used responsibly. The plant and health experts here will continue to play a pivotal role in the development of safe cannabis treatments, unlocking its potential for patient care.