When Aucklander Grayson Hart moved to the United Kingdom seven years ago, his plan was to carve out a career as a professional rugby player.
He’d played for the Blues, the New Zealand Under-20s, and rugby was in his blood – his uncle John Hart coached the All Blacks from 1996 until 1999.
But the journey Grayson ended up travelling is one the halfback is still getting his head around.
“If you’d have told me 10 years ago that I’d be involved in a CBD/cannabis business, I would’ve been a bit worried about where my life was going,” he laughs in an interview with Newshub.
Hart, 32, is the chief executive and co-founder of PureSport CBD – a health company which makes its products from an oil called CBD, extracted from cannabis.
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is the non-psychoactive part of the plant and is legal in the UK. It helps with inflammation, pain, and anxiety and is in dozens of products widely sold in health stores and supermarkets.
“I’d been having trouble with a knee injury, it kept puffing up and causing pain,” he says. “I’d go from one painkiller a day, two painkillers, three painkillers, then it was really getting out of hand because they’d lose their effect.”
They were powerful opiate painkillers and while they made his mind feel cluttered and foggy, there was another reason he didn’t want to keep using them.
“When I was a little kid, my dad had an addiction to heroine which is an opiate. And I was always like ‘man I don’t want to go down that path’. I’ve seen how destructive it can be,” says Hart.
On his hunt for alternatives, he came across an American UFC player who swore by CBD. Hart ordered a bunch of different products, took them, and the results blew him away.
“The pain and inflammation was so much better and I managed to fully get off the painkillers”.
At the time, he was playing for Scotland’s national team and was subject to random drug tests. Although team doctors were impressed with Hart’s recovery, they told him to stop using CBD because the world’s doping watchdog hadn’t approved any CBD products.
But instead of accepting defeat, Hart saw an opportunity. He found a supplier, ordered CBD oil in bulk, and PureSport CBD was born.
“We became the first CBD brand in the world to have a full range of products tested and certified by the Banned Substance Control Group,” he proudly says.
That certification meant it was safe for elite athletes to use his product – and the orders flooded in.
“We were blown away man. Our inbox was just full of athletes. And the reviews from people about the benefits they’re experiencing, I know it sounds a bit cheesy but it literally makes it worthwhile. It gives you another boost to know this is a good thing we’re doing here,” says Hart.
“We’ve got plenty of All Blacks who are plying their trade in Europe, UK, Japan now who are using our products. A world cup-winning All Black or an Olympian is not going to advertise something that will put their career in jeopardy by failing a drug test,” he says.
The company is growing at an exceptional rate, with a 500 percent increase in sales over the last year. It has allowed Hart and co-founder Adam Ashe to pay off all their debts and reinvest profits into growing the business, which is valued at more than $5m.
“Everything that we’re making we put back into the growth and the marketing of the company, and the company is self-sufficient,” he says.
PureSport CBD’s products are only available in New Zealand with a special prescription – and there are no CBD-specific provisions in the upcoming referendum. But still Hart is optimistic he’ll soon be able to freely sell his products in his home country.
“I’m proud to be a Kiwi and I want to have my company in NZ. But I want Kiwi people to see this stuff is legit and it can help them. New Zealand could be one of the absolute pinnacles of premium hemp growth in the world.
“What a yes vote can do is open it up to people who aren’t just looking to get high, they want to look at other avenues in this industry that are going to be beneficial,” he says.
Until then, Hart says his focus will be on growing his team and continuing to dominate the world’s CBD landscape.