“We’re all parents now, we’ve got shit to do,” laughs Sue Tan, co-founder and chief creative officer of Polite. “Even if we enjoy high-THC products, there’s a lot of our day and week where it’s not an option. But people still need relief, and we want to bridge that gap.”
I’m seated across the table from Sue and her brother Yung, CEO and co-founder of Polite. To my right is Mary Brown Szomjassy M Ed, another co-founder and the company’s chief clinical officer. We’re at Polite’s south Seattle facility, a large but unassuming building surrounded by tire shops, electric services, and plenty of construction. Inside, it’s quiet, warm, and welcoming. Yung turns off the Smashing Pumpkins and hands me a cup of coffee before joining the conversation, which kicks off with some background.
The BIPOC and women-owned brand launched right before the pandemic. Despite obvious challenges presented by launching a new brand during a global health crisis, Polite has stayed true to its origins and helped to bridge the gaps between science, nature, and cannabis use.
In our conversation, the term “functional euphoria” comes up again and again. It’s a fitting description for the company’s goals—to promote wellness for various needs, without rendering users too high or uncomfortable.
This may be a common direction for wellness-centered brands, but the Polite team have an important trick up their sleeves: over a decade of clinical experience in research and applications of cannabis medicine. The small but mighty team formulates their tinctures based on the knowledge of their clinical experts and medical advisory board.
At AIMs, Szomjassy works with MDS, naturopaths, and other clinicians to provide cannabinoid-based therapies to clients. “We really wanted to find a way to get products to patients and obtain accurate data on the process and progress,” she explains. “One of the issues we had was that even if I knew the growers or was growing myself, it was inconsistent. When legalization happened, the inconsistency got even more vast.” While consulting, the prospect of creating formulations backed by science appealed to Szomjassy.
So in 2020, Polite launched its line of products containing THC and other carefully-formulated therapeutic cannabinoids and medicinal herbs. Two years later, the company launched a line of non-THC products, still with therapeutic blends of cannabinoids and botanicals. Today, their CBD line is available across the United States, while their THC products are available in Washington and Arizona.
Both the THC and CBD versions come in five different formulations to target specific needs. Relief Aid is for pain and inflammation, Rest Well helps with sleep, Ease Your Mind is for stress and anxiety, Daily Defense helps with digestive health, inflammation, and immunity, and Power Up is designed to boost energy and focus.
The names clearly reflect each tincture’s purpose, and that’s by design–in more ways than one. Sue Tan’s background in design and branding shines through each aspect of Polite’s products, with an emphasis on making the tinctures as accessible as possible. Every bottle comes with a clear name and an easy-to-understand symbol, like the lightning bolt for Power Up or the eye mask for Rest Well.
And then there’s the name. “That’s just rude,” the team says of companies that add shady ingredients or questionably-sourced materials in their products. So, Sue came up with Polite, a playful twist on the rude things she’s seen in the industry.
“We’re not talking about these outdated constructs of politeness, like ‘yes ma’am, and all that,” explains Sue. “We’re talking about how when you feel better, you’re a better partner, a better friend, a better family member. And there’s that ripple effect–the force of good.”
With formulation help from Polite’s medical advisory board including Mary Brown and Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, Dr. Leanna Standish, and Dr. Julianna Giles, each Polite tincture contains therapeutic ratios of CBD, CBG, CBN, microdoses of THC, as well as functional herbs like ashwagandha, gotu kola, and ginger. Polite uses hemp seed oil as a carrier and nothing else, and offers transparent third-party lab test results on their website for each product.
A notable fixture at Polite’s headquarters are the poster boards filled with customer testimonials. Sue proudly shows me the large display covered with kind words and gratitude from a variety of customers. “This is what we look at when we need some motivation,” she tells me.
“Ease Your Mind tincture has literally saved my life…From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” reads one testimonial. Another patient says they cut their narcotic use in half just two weeks after starting to use the Power Up tincture.
It’s not just customer feedback that highlights Polite’s success in the short period since their launch–the numbers show it too. The company’s products are now available at over 230 stories across Washington State and Arizona.
They also go international. Polite’s parent company, Canvas Therapeutics, is a founding partner and equity owner in Siam Herbal Tech, a plant-based therapeutics extraction company in Thailand. They’re the first to receive a license from Thailand’s government for commercial hemp CBD production in Asia, and the first to officially extract and produce CBD from Asian hemp.
The team went up against large MSOs competing for this prestigious selection from the Thai government. And the small, self-funded company won. “There’s a lot of companies saying they were the first to extract in Thailand,” says Szomjassy with a chuckle. “But we really were the first.”
“We’re pretty ambitious for a small company,” says Yung, before explaining their presence in Japan, where they are currently beta testing isolates.
They’ve recently begun selling hemp products in Brazil, and they don’t plan to stop there. Polite is on the lookout for like-minded partners that can bring their products to other US markets and beyond, while maintaining the quality and integrity behind the brand.
Throughout our discussion, the passion, knowledge, and synergy between the three co-founders is apparent. Yung and Sue aren’t the only ones on the team with a family dynamic, either. Szomjassy’s family is involved too–her father and sister are active board members. The Polite family has more founders than I had the opportunity to speak with, and based on my time with these three, I can guess that the deep respect everyone has for one another is just as prominent.
“We don’t step on each other’s toes, we have such different strengths. You don’t always get such a diverse band of founders,” explains Sue. “There’s not a lot of overlap, that’s what makes us work so well together,” adds Yung.
Yung has been in the cannabis industry far longer than Polite’s run. Before he entered cannabis, he was hustling on Wall Street as a corporate lawyer before spending over a decade as an investment banker. When their father was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, Yung moved back home to provide support. And after seeing their dad find comfort with cannabis, he launched MFused alongside two other founders. The company is now a Washington staple for vape technology.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s rare for me to be able to meet brands in person (outside of our MJ Unpacked events, which is where Polite first hit our radar). So it’s a special treat when the Polite team sends me off with a box full of goodies, including all five hemp tinctures and some adorable socks.
I’ve only tried the Daily Defense and Rest Well, and can honestly say they both do the trick for me. They taste rather earthy and, well, like plants—with a gentle kick. It’s just what I’d expect from a company that only includes the good stuff. After all, anything less would be rude.