Kalan Kellerhals found that CBD helped him overcome a years-long addiction to heroin, and now his company has a new partnership that is expanding his brand’s profile. Photo contributed
Written by Frank Lopez
For Kalan Kellerhals of Fresno, the boom of CBD products not only allowed him to start a successful business — it also helped save his life.
Kellerhals, 38, is the owner and co-founder of Greenthumb Naturals, which produces CBD topicals, tinctures and capsules. They also produce CBD products for dogs and cats through their brand, Hempie Paws.
Kellerhals started the company around five years ago with the help of wife and co-founder Margarita right out of their kitchen.
In the last several years, cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis and used as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, has exploded in popularity. While CBD derived from hemp is legal, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any nonprescription drugs that contain CBD.
Kellerhals had a varied work history prior to starting his business, including cable installer, suit salesman/wardrobe consultant, junk remover, women’s shoe salesman and landscaper. Even with the work ethic instilled in him by his parents, a severe car accident in 2006 left then 22-year-old Kellerhals susceptible to another crippling ailment — addiction.
Doctors prescribed Kellerhals the opioid pain reliever Vicodin, which carries a high risk of addiction. When his first prescription of the pill ran out, he went for a refill, but couldn’t get it.
Kellerhals then went to the streets for pain relivers during first wave of the U.S. opioid epidemic.
According to federal statistics, the number of U.S. drug-poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics and heroin more than doubled from 16,849 in 1999 to 41,502 in 2012.
Kellerhals got addicted to Oxycodone, another opioid pain killer. Usually when dealers run out of Oxycodone, they sell heroin as an alternative. Eventually, he became addicted to that as well.
He spent the last four to five years of his late 20s and early 30s addicted to heroin.
“I was trying to work, but when I was in my addiction, I wasn’t super functional — I was just running from myself and not facing the traumatic experiences of my life. In my mid to late 20s, I was moving across the country to try to get away from heroin in Fresno,” Kellerhals said.
But he found it in other states. He could not escape the addiction.
Around 2012, a cousin of Kellerhals flew him out to Missouri so he could learn to install cable — and hopefully help him break the cycle of addiction.
At the time, he was still feeding his addiction with Methadone from clinics in a legal capacity, something most employers are accepting of.
Seeing that his life had dwindled because of his addiction, and at a frail 140 pounds, Kellerhals made a call to his parents. Though they had a strained relationship, his parents gave him another chance and welcomed him home to try and get sober.
In 2014 he returned to Fresno to his family. Shortly after, he met Margarita, whom he gives credits for helping him turn his life around.
For the first three years of their marriage, Kellerhals was still battling addiction.
After they got married, and with Margarita working, Kellerhals was able to get medical insurance. Doctors were prescribing him morphine and Xanax, leaving Kellerhals to battle his opioid addiction on top of an alcohol problem.
In 2017, Kellerhals knew he didn’t want to continue this lifestyle, and was a desperate for something natural that could help him. He then remembered hearing about the benefits of CBD.
He met a friend at a parking lot and picked up six grams of pure CBD isolate, which comes in a powder form, and went home to learn how to make capsules on YouTube.
“After watching some videos, and taking a few pointers from the internet, I decided to start making my own product at home for myself, and after trying it I was seeing some benefits after a couple of days. I was able to stay true to my commitment of quitting pharmaceuticals as well as alcohol,” Kellerhals said.
This July, he celebrated five years sober.
When he first got involved with CBD, the market was new, with the few products and high prices. There weren’t many farmers growing cannabis for CBD at the time.
Kellerhals said he saw a need for CBD products that worked and wanted to offer those to the community. He started selling CBD capsules to people one by one on Instagram, and Greenthumb Naturals was born.
After about a year of selling and delivering to people through Instagram, he created his website Greenthumbnaturals.com, which has been active for the last four years.
The company ships across the U.S., except for three states that restrict the sale of CBD.
Kellerhals said the company has 1,000 customers in their database. They have a partner flagship retail location in Fresno, Fresno City Vapor. Greenthumb Naturals also has its products in about 20 locations in the Fresno-Visalia area.
The company has seen sales revenue of more than $100,000 each year for the last three years, for a positive growth rate of 13.9% since the company started.
Kellerhals and Margarita now make all their products in a facility in Fresno.
This year, Greenthumb Naturals closed a deal with Livia Global, a probiotic manufacturer based in Visalia, to release hemp/CBD products manufactured by Greenthumb Naturals. Livia Global’s flagship product is LiviaOne probiotics.
Greenthumb Naturals is manufacturing THC topical balms and tinctures to be labeled under Livia Global’s brand to be sold to their various customers.
The first batch of products for Livia Global was manufactured in June and a second order has already been fulfilled. Kellerhals and Margarita are still currently making all their products by hand.
Kellerhals and Margarita expect a flourishing relationship with Livia Global in the long run. The Greenthumb Naturals logo will be featured on LiviaOne boxes, giving the couple credit for the formulation.
Kellerhals said that most CBD companies make their products in massive manufacturing facilities using machines.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on the manufacturing of these products directly, right here in Fresno, small batch, by hand,” Kellerhals said. “We want to enhance the community and help individuals feel great naturally.”