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Interview with Dawn Visintainer from Wildcard Extracts

July 10, 2024

Walker Patton, the Chief Commercial Officer at Woody Nelson, recently sat down with Dawn Visintainer from Wildcard Extracts to speak about her experience in cannabis, Wildcard, extraction, and resin. Read on to check out the interview.  


W: Could you share a bit about your journey with cannabis and where it started?

“I've been around cannabis my whole life; I grew up with it. My professional cannabis career started in 2015 when the lab I was working for started testing cannabis for MMAR/ACMPR license holders. Then in 2017, the lab was bought by a large LP, and I was brought into the manufacturing side of cannabis.”

W: Is that Valens who bought the lab?

“That was Valens, yes. And I have been with Pantheon, for almost three years now. I've mostly been in extraction side of the industry and have learned about the plant from an analytical side. It’s been a journey for me leaning about what this plant can do after seeing the benefits of it growing up. I grew up seeing how people used it to aid their different ailments.  Learning about the plant as an adult has helped me better grasp the effects I have seen.”

W: When you were going to school for your masters in biochemistry, did you ever think that you might apply what you were learning to cannabis some day?

“Oh no, that it was still so taboo back then. It's funny though; a lot of what I did was actually applicable to extraction of cannabis because I was focused on extracting chemical components like flavonoids, anthocyanins and tannins from wine grapes. I worked in the wine industry optimizing different methods for extracting those type of chemicals and then analyzing them through GC (Gas Chromatography) and LC (Liquid Chromatography).”

W: Wildcard Extracts has quickly established itself as a leader in high end hydrocarbon extraction. What sets your products apart from the competition?

“I think it's our experience and knowledge base with cannabis. Our extraction artists have been extracting in their garage since they were about 15. They're very well versed in cannabis and the type of coaxing they need to do to get the compounds out of the cannabis to make it as true to the flower as possible. And that's really our goal.

W: Would you say it’s still part art and part science?

“For sure.”

W: Would you walk us through the hydrocarbon extraction process and why your team chose this method over the rest?

“That's just what they knew. We did consider other things like ethanol or CO2 when the building was being built out, but the type of products that equipment makes versus what hydrocarbon makes is, is two different things. Hydrocarbon, you can really dial in what you want to do to get those cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds you want away from the plant matter and lipids you don’t want. We don't even really test for the flavonoids and things like that in the flower, which is what makes the strain so unique and what makes cannabis really special. So again, going back to that true to the flower mentality.”

W: Are there any big advantages with hydrocarbon extraction over CO2 or ethanol?

“I don't know if there's really any disadvantages or advantages. It's just different. It's what you want to get out of the cannabis plant. If you are using inputs that are maybe old, or contaminated, then you definitely want to do CO2 or ethanol. This allows you to make distillate which strips most of the compounds out of the cannabis leaving cannabinoids.  Hydrocarbon it is a much gentler process, and the aim is a full spectrum product in which the integrity of the plant is preserved.

W: Would you help us understand the difference between resin and rosin and why it should or shouldn't matter to the consumer?

“To put it very simply and broad, with rosin, you are essentially applying heat and pressure to flower or hash; no solvents are used. Whereas hydrocarbon, uses solvents.”

W: Should it matter to the consumer?

“It shouldn't matter to the consumer. I think what matters more is who is making the product and your personal preference. We see a huge range of quality in the market for both rosin and resin.”

W: We are seeing an abundance of distillate-based products and botanical terps in the market these days. What's your take on that?

“I think it is personal preference and what you are able to afford. We know that you don’t get the same effects when consuming a distillate product as the ancillary compounds that work with cannabinoids to create the entourage effect and not abundant or present at all. But you can buy these products at a cheaper price point so even though you may have to consume more than you would of a resin or rosin product and have to buy more often, that may be all you can afford at that time. Its kind of funny, on the flip side of that I have had people tell me they can’t afford to buy distillate vapes because its more expensive. They have to buy more vapes throughout the month because they run through them faster than a resin or rosin vape.”

W: Perhaps the recent popularity of distillate-based products has more to do with the low cost of production than consumer preference?

“It's probably a bit of both. We know that there's huge corporations in the Canadian cannabis industry mass-producing low-quality products and the integrity of cannabis is not top of mind. So yes, driving the price down, trying to put out the cheapest product to take up the most market share is definitely top of mind. They don't actually care about the type of products. We've heard them say it openly, it's not hidden from anybody.

But there's also the other side of it. I think there is a place for cannabis with the botanical terpenes. I personally wouldn't smoke distillate but will consume on occasion resin with botanical terpenes. You know, if you're at a family function where people don't like cannabis, you're in a dorm room, you're in places where you can't actually have that smell. I get it, there's a place for it. But I just think the effect of resin is better over distillate in general.”

W: Would you say the more educated consumers are starting to move away from distllate?

“It's a complicated conversation and one that also speaks to the state of the industry. You have a lot of big companies who are going out of their way to create very low-cost products and marketing themselves to consumers who don’t know the difference because that's where they find margin. That's where they find a way to keep their business moving forward.

I wouldn't think of that as a long-term strategy because eventually, the uneducated consumers become educated or move on. They'll find their way to some resin products and some other better products. I just think it's going to take some time.

We’ve seen that shift for sure. Wildcard's been out for less than two years, and we’ve already seen a shift in consumer preferences. People who were not aware there was differences in cannabis oils, try a resin or rosin product and they're like, ‘oh, I get it now.’ We see that that shift with budtenders as well.”

W: What role do you think product transparency plays here?

”I think that's a huge one. I think having product transparency in general would benefit everybody. Putting indica or sativa on a distillate product is comical. We all know it is, we just don’t have a better way to classify products because of the limitations in our regulations”

We’ve been told by the provincial bodies to make it very apparent that we don't add distillate to our resin because so many other brands are doing it. We've changed our marketing recently saying no distillate ever.”

W: Everyone likes to talk a big game about innovation and quality, but it looks like those are truly core values for Wildcard. How do you make those a priority on a day-to-day basis?

“Honestly, I think it's because we're a small team. We're privately owned. We don't have a CEO. Our extractors and our team members who have been doing this for the longest are really the ones that are behind the innovation and quality.

I think it's just built into our company because we are small, privately funded, our extraction team, our production team, our quality, and our management team are a cohesive unit. We built it into the fundamentals of the company, and we all run it together as a collective group. If I was like, ‘oh, let's put distillate in our products to save some money,’ they'd be like ‘no.’ You know what I mean? We hold ourselves accountable to the standard that we're setting.

Actually, when I first started at Pantheon, I didn’t grasp the types of products the teams makes as I had not seen anything of the same quality before. I naively suggested we cut with distillate as that seemed the norm to bring down costs. They reluctantly agreed to formulate some products with distillate, to appease me more than anything. They made some products with different formulations and needless to say of the 1 kg we purchased two years ago we have 990 g left, if anyone wants it.”

W: That’s hilarious. I must admit, I have a huge respect for what you and your team have accomplished in short period of time. It’s great to see smaller shops that are focused on quality finally finding success.

“We definitely appreciate that, and I think that's probably a good thing to point out. About half of our group has worked at these larger corporations and have seen the level these operations can get to with GMP. We've had a chance to learn what to do, what not to do. That experience mixed with our legacy experience melded well together. I think that's what really contributes to keeping the quality high; because we know what the quality standards have to be. Then the innovation keeps driving it forward.”

W: The market is just too competitive right now to put out low quality products unless you're willing to do them at budget pricing.

“It's not what we're about. So, we have to keep those quality standards high in order to keep our consumers.”

W: Would you tell us about any upcoming products or innovations that you and your team are excited about?

“We just launched our CBD jar, so I think that's a good one to touch on.”

W: From Greg Christie at Terroir Craft Farms?

“Yeah, exactly. That one we're excited for because, like you were saying, some people are nervous around extracts, and this is the kind of product that might help us bridge that gap.”

W: I actually saw it in the one of the local shops here a few days ago. An incredible way to experience CBD.

“It's an interesting effect when you have actual resin CBD. I think people just need to try so they can see the difference. It's so nice.”

W: What trends are you seeing in the cannabis extracts market and how is wild card positioning itself to stay ahead?

“I think a lot of people, BC specifically, are really loving the collaborations that we're doing with the smaller craft producers because they may not have been able to try their product in an extract format. So that's something we're definitely still going to keep doing. We love doing it. We love working with all these different people. I don't know if it's a trend in the market, but it's definitely a trend for us and we love doing it.

It's maybe not the best business model, but we're just keeping our heads down and we're making high quality products. We're not worried about playing the game so much. Just do what we do best, and we'll prevail. I think that's where our mindset is.”

W: Not every company needs to billion-dollar company and if we all focused on making great products, I suspect the market and industry would be better off for it.

“Yeah, 100% agree.”

W: All right, last question of the day. Where do you see the future of cannabis extracts heading and what role do you envision Wildcard playing in that future?

“I do see extracts expanding more than it has been, for sure. I think people are open to smoking these different formats now that the hardware is getting easier to use and they're understanding the effects more.

I think more education and knowledge is needed, but I also think it’s happening. We try to make our content as educational as we can. Health Canada sometimes steps in and censors us, but we do try and promote that way. If you understand what you're smoking, then it's your choice. My hope is that the industry gets more transparent for everybody.

And Wildcard, I see us continually being a craft brand, we want to maintain our quality and our integrity, so that's what we'll continue to do.”

W: Is there anything else that you want to say to our audience?

“Educate yourself, educate yourself on what you're putting into your body. You vote with your wallet so make sure you know who or what you are supporting because every purchase shapes our ever-evolving industry.”

ABOUT DAWN VISINTAINER

Dawn Visintainer is the COO of Pantheon Cannabis Group is a part of the team behind Wildcard Extracts and Slerp brands. Check out their Instagram accounts at @pantheon_extracts, @wildcardextracts_, and @slerpweed.  

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