The cannabis industry is filled with unlikely success stories. And while stellar products will always speak for themselves, the journey to market is often as fascinating and impressive as the wares themselves. Multimillion-dollar cannabis powerhouse CannaCraft is behind some of California’s most recognizable and trusted brands, including Care by Design, AbsoluteXtracts and Humboldt Terp Council. In addition to their vast list of SKUs, the California-based company played an instrumental role in developing statewide manufacturing regulations, thanks in part to their own impeccable standards.
CannaCraft’s incredible ascendency is still somewhat surreal for co-founder Dennis Hunter, a second-generation cultivator from Mendocino. Hunter, who spent six and a half years in federal prison after a DEA raid in the late ‘90s (the largest raid in California history at the time), can hardly believe the narrative shift.
“We went from sitting in jail to being probably the most compliant and regulated cannabis facility in the state,” Hunter said.
Quickly becoming “the P&G of California cannabis,” CannaCraft provides a high-quality family of brands with offerings for every kind of consumer. Their evolution from legacy growers to compliance poster children is a testament to the power of perseverance—that and amazing cannabis.
Legacy Roots Evolve with Legalization
CannaCraft’s beginnings date back to 2014, during the Prop 215 medical marijuana era.
At that time, Hunter was teaming up with Ned Fussell, a fellow lifelong cultivator. They were searching for new and exciting ways to get their cannabis to medical patients and decided to obtain a supercritical extraction machine.
Soon after, the pair launched their two flagship brands: Care By Design—a collection of specially formulated wellness tinctures, soft gels, gummies, vapes and topicals with blends of THC and CBD—and AbsoluteXtracts (ABX), a line of vape cartridges, soft gels and gummies designed for daily consumers. Both brands saw early success, motivating Hunter and Fussell to reach further and develop Satori artisan chocolates for edibles fans.
CannaCraft’s explosive growth led to the acquisition of a former medical device manufacturing facility in Santa Rosa, perfect for large-scale, pharmaceutical-grade production.
“It was probably too big for us at the time,” Hunter laughed. “But we were like, ‘Well, this is what we want to be, we’re going to just grow into it!’”
CannaCraft built a reputation for setting the bar extremely high with regards to safety, sanitation and testing in cannabis before it was even required. So, when stricter legislation regarding safe manufacturing practices became state law in 2016, government officials took note of CannaCraft’s remarkable SOPs. Bureaucrats arrived at the Santa Rosa facility by the busload to see the company’s impressive procedures firsthand.
Despite the fanfare, local law enforcement raided the facility mere weeks after the legislators’ visit. Hunter was placed under arrest and held on an initial bail of $5 million.
“The police didn’t know that state had just been through. The city officials just saw my background that I’d been in prison for cannabis before and thought they had the kingpin and thought it was all illegal,” Hunter explained.
After a public outcry from community members and state officials, Hunter was released from jail a day and a half later. An investigation into the production of finished goods continued, with Sonoma County prosecutors alleging the operation was still technically illegal.
“I remember being at this city council meeting and the mayor referring to the raid on our company as ‘growing pains,’” recalled CannaCraft Director of Government Affairs Tiffany Devitt, who’s been with the company since the beginning.
The team quickly got to work, rallying California legislators for clearer manufacturing regulations. Once the ink was dry on new production laws, it wasn’t long before things were back up and running, paving the way for CannaCraft to become the brand behemoth it is today.
“What’s been most fascinating about CannaCraft’s journey as a company has been that it’s existed within that transition from what was basically one of the least regulated industries in the country to the most regulated,” Devitt said.
New Brands Stay True to CannaCraft Roots
For Hunter and the rest of the CannaCraft family, authenticity is always at the forefront, especially when it comes to bringing new brands into the fold. Whether it’s the development of the “by women, for women” cannabinoid-infused sparkling drink line Gem + Jane, or the acquisition of multiple Emerald Cup-winning concentrates company Humboldt Terp Council, CannaCraft stays true to their roots.
Hunter and Fussell’s own story also inspired the creation of Farmer and the Felon, the company’s first flower line. Wanting to help other victims of the failed War on Drugs, the brand donates a portion of sales to the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), a non-profit dedicated to freeing approximately 40,000 non-violent cannabis prisoners.
“There are so many people that really fought for decades and decades to get this plant to be legal. We always need to pay homage to the people that fought so hard to do that,” Hunter said of the partnership.
“There are still people going to prison over cannabis, there are still people in jail—there’s still work to do,” he added.
Looking ahead, CannaCraft has plans for revamped product lines and new partnerships to support the ever-evolving cannabis market. However, Hunter says what matters most to him and the rest of the team is moving the needle forward for the community, especially at such a critical time for their fellow operators.
“We are a company that really cares about the industry,” he said. “We’re always concerned about where it’s going.”