The art of crafting full-spectrum products with founder and chemist Paul Roethle
Chemistry might be a hard company to Google at first, but if you know to add search terms like, “small batch” or “whole flower,” you’ll end up finding the cannabis company known for their mission to stay true to the plant.
This “craft cannabis” business is led by founder and C.E.O. Paul Roethle, Ph.D., who has worked in labs for almost 20 years. Combining two of his passions, cannabis and chemistry, he launched a company named after the latter from behind the scenes towards the end of 2017, just before legalization passed in California. They stepped into the spotlight with a third-place prize at The Emerald Cup cannabis competition that year, and have been building on that early success ever since.
We talked to Paul about how sustainability is at the heart of his company, his work to support other local, small businesses, and how he’s constantly thinking of ways to stand out in a growing industry.
How did you first get into cannabis? Where did you start, and what was the road that got you here?
I’m originally from Wisconsin, which isn't exactly the promised land of pot. So my first experiences with cannabis were pretty typical, generally consisting of crappy weed from who knows where. I certainly wasn't yet aware of the true power of the plant as a medicine. I got my undergraduate degree from The University of Wisconsin, Madison in chemistry prior to migrating west to continue my education. Settling in the East Bay was ultimately an advantage for starting our business, and it was here that I received my Ph.D. in organic chemistry at The University of California, Berkeley. During this time I started my never-ending journey to study how Mother Nature makes complex, natural products like THC and CBD.
I worked at Gilead for seven years, mainly on HIV and hepatitis, and mostly in the lab. Working for corporate pharma and the manufactured-medicine world had me a bit burned out, and as I learned more about the power of cannabis and the potential of naturally-derived therapeutics, I decided it was time for a change. We need as many options as possible to treat the myriad of diseases we face, and cannabis provides many of them in one plant. Mother Nature created this amazing mixture of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, all of them uniquely found together in cannabis.
It was also important that I find my purpose. I needed something to keep me going over the long term following my mother's passing from a long struggle with lymphoma and my daughter's birth. Before Chemistry became its own brand, it started as a contract manufacturer called Peridot Labs in the Prop 215 days, helping small farmers diversify their offerings beyond flower. This was when we really honed our methods and learned how to make the product we now call Chemistry. Things started to take off when my friend and co-founder did what he does best in bringing the brand to life. He took our concept and made it tangible with a comprehensive line of beautifully-presented products.
What was the business like when you first started, and how has it changed in the last three years or so?
When we started, we were trying to set up to make products differently and be able to make almost anything—any type of extract that can go in vapes, tinctures, edibles, or concentrates. As we continue, we ensure that our methods are fluid and flexible so that we can pivot within our process.
“Our methods are fluid and flexible so that we can pivot within our process.”
We did learn that our oils aren't flavorless, and that’s what we think makes full-spectrum cannabis oil special. We're not trying to rip everything apart and isolate individual compounds, thats pharma. We want to represent cannabis as it naturally exists. In the early days, edible makers didn’t like our oil. They were like, “It tastes too much like weed.”
Now we’re actually using that as a selling point to develop partnerships. You can use tasteless, storyless, sometimes even boring ingredients, or you can use full-spectrum oil that's responsibly sourced and processed. This is an important part of our story and what makes us different. It also maintains that nuance of the strain, and it still tastes like weed.
What would you say is the most important thing your company is doing right now to help differentiate you from other vape and tincture brands?
This is something new. Full-spectrum products + sustainable sourcing = Chemistry, a company true to the plant. It's those two pieces that mean everything to what we do. To stay true to the plant, you also have to respect the earth where the plant came from, and that's why we believe in nothing but all-natural sun and soil. No other agricultural crops produced on scale are grown inside, so why start with weed?
Our full-spectrum method is a differentiator that highlights the finer points of each strain we work with. It also puts into focus our responsibility to the earth in terms of how we source and process with concern to our overall efficiency, waste production and energy minimization.