Indigenous-owned outfit raises its voice in the CBD industry

Canndigenous is Wisconsin’s first Native American-owned CBD hemp company and focuses on transparent, sustainable practices.
This is a photo of two people leaning over a bar with green flowers spread over.
Photo courtesy of Canndigenous
The Bud Bar offers people a chance to learn about and try hemp-only CBD.

As the cannabidiol industry arrives in Wisconsin, Rob Pero is making sure the Native American community has a seat at the table.

Canndigenous, which combines the words cannabis and indigenous, is the first Native American-owned CBD hemp company in the state of Wisconsin. Pero began a pilot program in 2018 and by 2019, he had established the LLC. In 2021, Canndigenous had its first official product launch.

“Canndigenous is a national cannabis brand that we produce and we stay in our lane with what we can produce in Wisconsin, which is CBD hemp,” says Pero.

CBD hemp is one of the many ventures that Pero has explored throughout his career. In 2012, Pero, who is a member of the Bad River Tribe, one of six Ojibwe communities in Wisconsin, founded Perodigm Media, an Indigenous-owned media agency that helps amplify native businesses and offers marketing solutions. His time in media production led him to a variety of industries and most recently, cannabis.

Pero is always looking for ways to elevate the voices of the Native American community in Wisconsin. As an active member in the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, he partakes in conversations and efforts that aim to change the perception of what a native country is in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, many associate the Indigenous community with businesses like casinos. But Pero is eager to rewrite this narrative. “It’s a robust and diverse mix of industry,” says Pero.

In 2017, the state of Wisconsin legalized industrial hemp, opening up the market for people to grow CBD hemp. There are two different cannabis plants you can extract CBD from – marijuana and hemp. In Wisconsin, it is illegal to extract CBD from a marijuana plant. However, it is federally legal to grow CBD extracted from hemp because of its lower THC levels.

Because of these nuances and the industry’s novelty, Pero considers transparency a valued asset. “People want to know where they get their products from,” says Pero. All Canndigenous products have easy-to-read labels, and Pero emphasizes that customers are always welcome to call or email to learn more.

Canndigenous is committed to bettering people’s lives through CBD and this idea is evident in who Pero has brought on board.

Lindsey Wehmeyer first met Pero while bartending. They soon began discussing the benefits of CBD and cannabis and Wehmeyer admitted to him that both products saved her life. She quickly identified with the company values and joined the team.

Cbd Cropped

Photo courtesy of Canndigenous

Canndigenous sells a variety of different products, including hemp oil.

She shares that under Pero, the Indigenous way to lead has been a crucial aspect to everything that they do.

Wehmeyer started out as a brand ambassador and is now the manager of Ripley Green, a brick-and-mortar store in Cambridge. She compares the store to an “apothecary” and emphasizes the importance of creating a comfortable space for those interested.

There, customers are invited to ask questions about the products and anticipated effects. The store currently sells oils, flower, edibles and a few other CBD-infused products. “With the opportunity to help people through Canndigenous, the sky is the limit and it is so exciting to be part of that,” says Wehmeyer.

Since she started, she has managed different projects and has helped put on events that aim to spread the message of Canndigenous. Canndigenous recently launched the Bud Bar, a portable bar that can be set up anywhere to serve CBD-only cannabis strains. Wehmeyer says that the reception has been positive and it serves as “a really good platform to talk about cannabis with people.”

Canndigenous has taken the Bud Bar to private parties and Wehmeyer shares that they have been busy booking weddings. Other events the company has put on include a gin tasting with CBD infusions and most recently, a CBD seltzer speed dating event for Valentine’s Day.

At these events, Wehmeyer and the whole team at Canndigenous are looking to bring a transparent and sustainable approach to the industry.

“We’re seeing an uptick in people that are interested in Canndigenous, I think because people are wanting to hear that minority voice, says Wehmeyer. “I think we’re ready now for a seat at the table; being the first Native American-owned cannabis company in Wisconsin is a big deal and it gives us a voice and place in the industry.”

Canndigenous is a company for anyone looking for the benefits provided by CBD. Across the country, the conversation about cannabis is taking place, and Pero aims to help Wisconsin recognize the bright future to come by using his Indigenous voice.

“It’s an exciting time,” he says. “It’s a locomotive and you can wave at it or you can jump on board,” says Pero.

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