“Maybe you should reach out and try some cannabis.”
When those words came from the mouth of a doctor, it changed Dirk Lindley’s life. It was 2009 and his wife’s sister was terminally ill with breast cancer, given just days to live, and here was a doctor suggesting she try cannabis, something Lindley had never tried himself.
“That was like a culture shock for us,” recalled Lindley. It didn’t save her life, but since his wife had already lost three other family members to breast cancer, he began researching the cancer-fighting potential of the plant and specifically cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component with great medical potential.
“I made it my life’s mission to learn everything I could about cannabis.”
The fruits of that mission are now for sale across the U.S. and in nine other countries. Cannaki Beverage Company launched its line of CBD waters earlier this year and Lindley, CEO, expects sales to soon reach three-million bottles a month.
“We were lied to”
Lindley, 59, had always believed the propaganda, the government-issued negativity about cannabis and all other drugs. So, he never smoked it or tried any drugs.
“When I found we were lied to early on it opened my eyes to everything, that we’ve been lied to by everyone, everywhere,” he said. “Now I have smoked it, and I enjoy it like everybody else.”
A lifelong entrepreneur with experience in the beverage industry, he decided to put his newfound liberating knowledge to work for himself and his family. The concept was a CBD-infused water that tasted great—which was not as easy as you might think.
“The challenge is when you really put a good volume of CBD in any product, it has a taste to it. Developing the flavor without any flavoring, just developing the right combination to have it taste pleasant as you drink it, that’s really important,” he said.
The years between his 2009 epiphany and the 2018 product release were spent on research and development, though he also launched the luxury CBD skin-care brand Cannamour in the meantime.
Lindley knew early on that the beverage couldn’t be marketed as medicine, despite the potential of CBD to fight inflammation, pain, seizures, anxiety, depression and even cancer. People are conditioned to think of medicine as tasting bad, and Lindley worried the product would fall flat.
He also knew that the hemp plant would have to be the core of the operation, so Lindley developed an operation that controls everything “from seed to bottle.” His grow operations would have to focus on strains with less than 0.03 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and he would own the laboratories to test them to be sure.
“Any time it’s over 0.03 you’ve got to burn down your crop,” he said. “By all definitions, we’re not even from the cannabis plant. We’re from the hemp plant.”
He takes pride in rigorous testing so people who aren’t looking to get high can have confidence in what they’re consuming, plus the fact it would be illegal to sell Cannaki beverages across state lines and online with THC. (That said, the Aliso Viejo, California-based company is poised to launch a THC-infused beverage line “when the environment changes.”)
“There’s no such thing as overnight success. It looks like it but there was a lot of hard work and preparation going in, knowing this day was coming.”
Cannaki sold 500,000 bottles in the first month of the launch earlier this year, as consumers clearly took to flavors like Coconut Mojito, Berry Blast, Lemon Lime and Tropical Punch. It’s already on store shelves across the country and can legally be shipped anywhere in the U.S., as one flavor or mixed packs.
Lindley says he is also poised to announce a distribution deal with “two large retail chains,” though as of press time the deal had not been finalized. There’s even CBD water for pets.
“One of the major pet store chains asked if we would make pet water. I said, ‘I did. It’s called Cannaki.’ Okay, so I switched the label, changed the name, and now you have pet water. It’s taking off really really well, but it’s the same water.”
He attributes the seemingly instant success to sound, steady planning over years, so when the product launched the company wouldn’t have to scramble to meet the demand. And there’s also the great-tasting flavors and the reliability of a rigidly-tested product, coming on the market at a time when interest in CBD is at an all-time high.
But he won’t use the term “overnight success.” There were plenty of lean times, of instant macaroni and cheese dinners while laying the foundations to be able to eventually produce 24 million bottles a month, the expected output in the foreseeable future.
“There’s no such thing as overnight success. It looks like it but there was a lot of hard work and preparation going in, knowing this day was coming. From the day we created the company, when we put this all together, I knew we would be selling this much in a very short time and I had to make sure everything was in place before I opened up those floodgates.”
And as a true believer in the health benefits of CBD, he’s just happy people are partaking, including him and his family, who drink it constantly.
“People ask us all the time, what’s the best application to take CBD, I say, ‘All of the above,'” he said. “We’re by no means trying to say it’s the only way or the best way. It’s just one way.”