Q&A: Talking plants and product development with Courtney Maltais of The Clear

Courtney Maltais is a co-founder of The Clear, the first pure cannabis distillate oil to hit major markets. She went on to found CM Botanical, a consultation company focused on bridging the gaps between the scientific community and the cannabis industry. I was originally interviewing Maltais for an article on extraction methods, but as we talked, I realized (unsurprisingly) that MJBI readers would likely be interested in her experiences building a major brand and expanding into new markets.

Maltais is soft spoken yet voluble on any topic I throw her way, from a technical description of extraction methods to the latest in genome mapping. She has a serious, thoughtful manner of considering each question, but is quick to laugh when we get on to lighter topics like her worry that she might be sniffling through the interview because she has hay fever from working in her personal cannabis garden.

MJBI: What drew you to cannabis?

CM: It had been in my life for many years prior to joining all of the guys at The Clear, and it had been really monumental in my experience of dealing with my own autoimmune issues. So I had a deep connection to it before considering a career. After graduating from school, I was considering furthering education and that’s when my friend Chris Barone, approached me and said, ‘Hey, I have this idea. I think we have something really special to work with. Do you want to come out and start messing with some plants?’ And we did a little research cultivation at that time. 

MJBI: Can you tell us more about The Clear?

CM: The Clear was founded back in 2013, when we launched the first ever distillate oil to market in California. We really just wanted to take our backgrounds in science and engineering and put a little twist on that with our passion for cannabis by making products that were, at the time, not available on the market. 

MJBI: Are there any new technologies you’re excited about?

CM: One of the things that I’ve been seeing over the past decade are the transgenics and the invitro plant labs that are coming to market and working with researchers to develop different kinds of technology that can help us with genome mapping. Essentially there’s this process where we’re going to be using genetic information to code and understand the parent genetics of any one phenotype variety of cannabis. This could be really powerful in the rehabilitation of old type strains that may have been lost due to negligence or improper cultivation techniques…This is a fast technology that we could use to save strains that have been hybridized over the years…I think that there’s really cool regenerative technology that will be coming to market.

MJBI: Do you have a favorite strain?

CM: I think my favorite strain is…(laughs) Excuse me for saying this if it’s not the proper thing to say, but IC Collective has a strain they call T.I.T.S. It stands for This is. The Shit. It’s a chem cross, and honestly, as heavy hitting as they say the strain is supposed to be, it is so uplifting and the body load is so manageable that there’s just never been another strain that good for me. 

MJBI: Do you spend much time in the lab anymore?

CM: When I’m not helping with education and lobbying work, I work almost solely in the lab space, working on product development, standard operating procedures, and innovative technologies, alongside Bryan [Maltais] and Chris [Barone]. 

MJBI: How does the process work when it comes to product development?

CM: Sometimes it will be brought to us because there’s an overwhelming push in the market for a specific type of product. The team will come to us and say, “Hey, is this possible? Is this something we can do?” And then we look at it from a scalable perspective, while also examining best practice for getting this product from start to finish, in how we source our ingredients and how we handle each ingredient. It gets pretty technical, but we go through a number of phases of development until we get to a kind of proof of concept, where, ultimately, we’ll have a novel product along with the IP behind producing it. And oftentimes we’ll also produce equipment that will make things a little easier for the staff that will be operating it. So there’s kind of two sides of it. On one side we have the formulation and on the other side we have the manufacturing process that we develop. 

MJBI: What products are you excited about with The Clear?

CM: We just launched the Reserve line in Nevada. This is the first fully native cannabis-derived product line that we have on the market and it’s been really exciting developing products with our partner out there, Flower One.

MJBI: Do you find it challenging when working in a new state to implement your standards? How does that work?

CM: Each state, it tends to vary and we do have to make certain adaptations in order to work within the regulatory boundaries that they have. But generally speaking, most of the boundaries are within the capacity of all our Clear standards. It’s really awesome actually. Myself and many of our team members will go out to the facility of the new licensee and run through all their processes with them, and kind of work side by side, just to make sure that we can give them tips and tricks of the trade that might not have to do solely with the distillate products alone, but everything from their cultivation, to harvest, to curing, to pre and post processing for distillate products.

MJBI: Do you have any industry predictions for the coming year?

CM: It’s an interesting time…We’re kind of coming into a new time in general in the world when connection and access to information is so important, especially when we’re so distanced. Something that I’ve found really interesting in the industry this year has been on the education front. There’s so many new platforms for people to gain access to consumer-based education. A lot of these new classes are empowering people to grow their own or infuse their own edibles, and we’re even seeing new programs launching at university level..I think we’re going to see a renaissance of the home experience for cannabis education.

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