Antonio Frazier has been promoted to CannaSafe’s President, effective May 2020. Previously VP of Operations, Antonio has been by CEO Aaron Riley’s side since starting as a Lab Manager in 2017. Now, with plans for national expansion, Antonio’s new role will remain integral to the company’s success.
Antonio has experience in materials, nuclear, and aerospace engineering, holding two B.S. degrees from Furman University and Clemson University. He obtained his degrees simultaneously and mastered time management skills early in his college career. Antonio and Aaron met playing football together at Furman, now, years later, they are CannaSafe’s dream team–leading the company into a bright future.
We sat down with Antonio to give us insight on his career growth and passion for all-things-CannaSafe.
What brought you to CannaSafe?
Aaron recruited me over a 2-year period. He visited me out-of-state and convinced me to leave home and come to California. He believed my skillset to be necessary for this new venture. The decision was made easy because Aaron supported my family and I through the transition. The passion from Aaron made this venture impossible to refuse.
Tell me about the journey? How have you come so far, so fast at CannaSafe?
Aaron taking the lab to the reservation gave us a head start on being regulated and access to high quality manufacturing and cultivation, so we worked through the issues that most labs are experiencing now, in 2017. I came in with a focus on operations and quality, so we brought in our Scientific Director, Ini Afia to take over our technical aspects. Once we got our license in LA, it became a feverish race to be the best.
The journey was a rollercoaster, there were many ups and downs. It would get very emotional, but I accepted the unpredictability. Even with regulations in place, you can never be certain of what’s going to happen next in this space. We learned to communicate better as we grew.
It comes down to people building; that’s what ultimately got myself, our team, and ultimately the brand so far. We all accepted this was a learning processes and educated each other without worrying where credit was placed. Developing a strong team developed a strong lab. We supported and brought each other up.
What are some highlights of your CannaSafe career thus far?
Building and motivating our team from the start is what made us strong. We brought in people who shared our vision and values, this helped us move forward. We developed several different departments within our lab, operations, and media-marketing, we covered areas that other labs wouldn’t consider. Our customer service and sampling teams maintained wonderful relationships with our clients. We all collaborated, wore many hats, picked up the slack, and did above and beyond our defined titles. We were able to run far with that. Being ahead of things was, and is, a priority for us.
We initially tested for cultivators and caregivers. This was before testing became mandatory for cannabis. Then we started working with brands who cared about safety testing and compliance. People used to believe in anything when it came to test results, there was no understanding of it. A CoA (certificate of analysis) wasn’t required before, it was just a plus. Helping people understand what it means to have quality and consistent products made our lab’s message influential. We brought in customer service, who are experts on explaining our testing processes, and they focused on educating our clients on quality assurance.
Breaking the Vitamin E Acetate vape investigation really solidified our position in the space. During the vape crisis last year, I think we did a great job at conveying our message on consumer safety. We investigated and brought forth public health information before the CDC did, which was another strong point for us.
Pushing our corporate social responsibility initiatives aligned with my personal vision. I’ve always been passionate about education and social justice. I really feel like I get a chance to be impactful in those areas because this industry has a responsibility to help repair the damage from the war on drugs. We also realized that this community work was attracting the type of employees who wanted the same things. This evolved into CannaSafe’s company goal and overall culture, to be an upstanding member of the community in the pursuit of safe cannabis and hemp for all.
I was always around it but couldn’t actively support its use as a college athlete. It was just so attached to negative connotations. The science wasn’t there, so I wanted to understand what this powerful and demonized substance was made of and how to ‘grade’ it. I thought this would be an opportunity to trailblaze the science needed to legalize and hopefully create some equity.
Any advice for someone who may want to follow your footsteps?
Find the next lane necessary for legalization and humble yourself.
I believe there’s a dire need to bridge the traditional and regulated markets. We certainly need to bring everything above ground to ensure safety and label claims, but the barriers to operate legally are simply setting traditional operators up for failure. There is no structure available that’s best for that. We, as a community, need to figure out what that lane/bridge is. I see great opportunity in developing that.