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Meet James Eichner of Sana Packaging in Highlands

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Eichner.

James, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Ron and I met during our MBA program at CU Boulder. We first bonded over our mutual love for the outdoors and in particular, skiing. After a year of hallway run-ins and small talk about snow conditions, Ron asked me if I wanted to work on Sana Packaging for a class project. As avid cannabis consumers with a passion for sustainability, we were super frustrated by all the packaging waste in the legal cannabis industry and thought it would be a fun problem to explore in our Sustainable Venturing class.

We ended up winning a school pitch competition at the end of the semester, where the legendary Hunter Lovins was a judge, so that’s when we knew our idea had some legs. After that, we took Sana Packaging through the Canopy Boulder Accelerator program and we’ve been working on Sana Packaging full-time since the spring of 2017.

Ultimately, our goal is to design and develop cannabis packaging for a circular economy. A circular economy is based on three key principals – (1) designing out waste and pollution, (2) keeping products and materials in use, and (3) regenerating our natural systems. The materials we use include 100% plant-based hemp plastic, 100% reclaimed ocean plastic, and other innovative materials.

2019 was our first full year as an operational company. We started off in January with two products and 20 pilot customers and ended the year with six products and over 200 customers across North America.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh man, where to begin? Working with non-traditional materials like 100% plant-based hemp plastic and 100% reclaimed ocean plastic can be challenging, especially compared to traditional materials. That said, traditional materials are what created the global plastic crisis so it’s a problem that absolutely needs to be addressed.

Designing packaging products for the cannabis industry can also be challenging because of strict packaging regulations. While cannabis packaging regulations vary slightly state by state, all states require cannabis packaging to be child-resistant certified and that adds significant time and cost to the product development process.

Beyond that, we deal with all the regular challenges associated with running a startup like fundraising, etc. That said, we had an incredibly successful first year of sales and we couldn’t be more excited for 2020!

Sana Packaging – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Sana Packaging designs and develops cannabis packaging for a circular economy. We believe packaging should be regenerative and help heal the environment throughout its lifecycle. We’re the first cannabis packaging company to use both 100% plant-based hemp plastic and 100% reclaimed ocean plastic. We’re also the only cannabis packaging company whose core focus is using sustainable materials and creating closed-loop packaging systems.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
We’ve come so far from our first Sana Packaging brainstorming session in the fall of 2016 and we have so much to be proud of. A few highlights for me include (1) the first time I saw our packaging “in the wild” at a dispensary, (2) winning the Best Pitch Award at the 2019 Arcview Investor Forum in New York, and (3) working with Mickey Hart’s Mind Your Head Cannabis. Ron and I are both big deadheads so working with Mickey’s brand is a bit of a dream come true.

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