The Home Grow System you Control from your Phone Called Leaf

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Yoni Ofir returns to Cannainsider to give us an update on how his super sleek, plug-n-plant home grow solution called Leaf. Soon you will be able to grow your own cannabis from your phone. The Leaf smartphone app will interact with the Leaf grow cube and allow you to adjust temperature, hydration, nutrients and share your grow recipe with the Leaf community.

Learn more at http://www.getleaf.co

Key Takeaways:
[2:20] – What is Leaf?
[3:09] – Yoni talks about his background
[6:30] – Yoni talks about developments with Leaf
[12:10] – Hardware iteration process
[15:40] – Yoni talks about the tech industry in Tel Aviv
[21:24] – Does America have a puritan streak
[25:28] – Yoni talks about the features of Leaf
[28:58] – Yoni talks about the other co-founder of Leaf
[32:08] – Launch date and cost of Leaf
[33:51] – Approximate ROI with Leaf
[37:04] – Yoni talks about the social aspects of Leaf
[43:32] – Will Leaf stink up your home?
[45:30] – Drying and curing process
[47:34] – Yoni talks about lessons learned as a CEO
[52:52] – Yoni answers personal development questions
58:39 – Leaf contact information

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

I am pleased to welcome back Yoni Ofir, CEO and Co-Founder of Leaf, the “Plug N’ Plant” system that automatically grows cannabis from the comfort of your home. Yoni’s self-contained grow system won Product Hunts 2016 Hardware product of the Year. Yoni has been featured in Forbes, Vice and Tech Crunch. Yoni, welcome back to CannaInsider.

Yoni: Thanks Matt. Thanks for the awesome intro.

Matthew: Sure thing.

Yoni: It’s so good.

Matthew: Give listeners a sense of geography. Tell us where you are today.

Yoni: Right now I’m in Tel Aviv, Israel. It’s raining a little bit which is pretty rare over here, but that’s where I am and it’s where Leaf’s headquarters is as well.

Matthew: Okay. Give u a high level overview of what Leaf is for people that aren’t familiar.

Yoni: So Leaf is “Plug N’ Plant” system that automatically grows cannabis and is controlled by your smartphone, and you could think of it as a beautiful mini fridge that stocks itself with high quality cannabis, and we help you grow it in a fun and interactive way.

Matthew: Gosh, what a great visualization. The only think I like better than a stocked mini fridge is one that self-replenishes itself. Sounds like Star Trek.

Yoni: Yes exactly, and it’s completely pesticide free. No harmful chemicals. So that’s also awesome.

Matthew: Now you were on a couple of years ago on the show, but for new listeners can you give a little background about yourself and what you were doing before Leaf and how you came to start Leaf?

Yoni: Yeah so Yoni Ofir. I’m 28 years old, originally born and raised in Long Beach, California and have been living in Israel for about 17 years on and off. So at a young age kind of moved here with my family. I was in the Israeli military. I served there for three years as a safety NCO and non-commissioned officer. What I did in the military was basically our unit was responsible for all of the safety within the ground forces. So that could be anything from training safety, combat safety, what degree of vision you’re allowed to fire at in order to not accidently hit friendlies, anything from there to vehicular safety.

A big issue when I was in the military was drunk driving, unfortunately, and most of the soldiers are between the ages of 18-25, youngsters. We give them so much responsibility but still we’re still young and there’s a lot of drunk driving issues within the military. A friend of mine that we were both in the unit togtether we set out to solve this by creating after our military service a product called (4.37 Alcohoot?) which was the world’s first microphone breathalyzer, a police grade, consumer, pocket, beautiful breathalyzer that connects to your smartphone and can easily within seconds give you your accurate blood alcohol reading. Our goal was to allow people to have this affordable device that would allow them to test their alcohol levels at any given time and prevent people from getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t.

So that was my previous company. It went very well. We had a lot of success with official partnerships with Heineken, with (5.17 unclear). The product was placed in retail stores like Target and Bloomingdales and Walmart. We really did bring the conversation to drunk driving and we sold that business at the end of 2014 and a little bit after that I started Leaf, about three or four months after we sold that, my partner and I. I’ve been doing Leaf since about March 2015. Sort of slowly at the beginning and then getting more and more involved as time went by.

Matthew: Now when you first started talking about Leaf back in 2015 and I met you it was really just a prototype. You had this box and you were talking about it and it really gathered a lot of attention even way back then, this concept of what you were building, but take us back to 2015 to where you are now. You were going around to investors, showing them this prototype and where are you today versus back then?

Yoni: Yeah so 2015, it was a totally different world. Completely different world just in general but also in the cannabis space and also in with Leaf. We had very basic prototypes. The sort of essence of the product when we started was basically a box that had sensors inside and the sensors could remotely transfer the information to a mobile application or to a website or whatever we decided it would be. So remote kind of sensor and monitoring. The idea was we could tell you hey, temperature is out of wack. You need to fix this and this is where you want to be and always give you notifications and that’s how we started.

We sort of started from there. That concept had gotten a bit of attention. Most people felt it wasn’t enough. Yeah that was kind of a marginal improvement and of course the design was much nicer, but our tagline was “Plug N’ Plant” Cannabis, and we really wanted to achieve that. So from a product perspective, if we look at back then and today, today what we’re talking about is a system that is almost fully automated. It’s not just sensing and telling you hey the temperature is too hot. It actually has an air conditioning unit, a heating unit, a dehumidification, humidification unit. So it’s really a bunch of products into this box, let’s call it, into this system. There’s nutrient dosing. There’s PH balancing and more and more. It not only has the remote functionality, the remote monitoring functionality, but there’s also a remote control. There’s an actual control.

So it doesn’t actually tell you what to do. It does, and I think that that was thee important change in the evolution that the product has made. Of course a lot has also happened on the way. We’ve shipped units, beta units of that first generation. We learned so much from the customers and partners that had used them and we iterated and we evolved and grown our team and the whole industry has evolved into something that even the most enthusiastic proponents of this industry couldn’t believe how quickly it’s been growing, and I’m really happy to be a part of it at least in some form.

Matthew: So if we were looking at a Leaf right now in front of us, it’s roughly about five feet tall, two feet wide and two feet deep. Is that about right?

Yoni: Yeah.

Matthew: Okay. How do you feel, like your background with Alcohoot, your breathalyzer product helped you with Leaf? Was there a lot of carryover there?

Yoni: Yeah. The main thing that you need to understand here is that we’re creating a real hardware product, something physical, that actually needs to be manufactured and that iterations take a lot more time and cost a lot more. Going through that process just kind of once with anything, it doesn’t matter if it’s as complex or not and it’s really… it was not as complex as Leaf by any stretch of the imagination, but just going through that process of sourcing components, finding a manufacturer, building an assembly line, going through the quality control process of the assembly line, logistics of moving between different counties internationally because we’re manufacturing in China. We’re bringing it to the US. Just that whole process is something that going through it and having done that successfully and just getting the product on to the market and it working and being of high quality is tremendous. It’s tremendous and pretty much necessary.

So in that form it was very helpful. We also had Alcohoot was sensor based product. We had one senor in it, the sensor for the alcohol and we have several sensors in Leaf so there is a little bit of carry over there. So those kinds of principles really help. In addition to that, Alcohoot was my first business, my first startup period. So hiring a team, managing finances, raising money, marketing, everything, business development, just everything you go through in a business. Patience, patience is a big one. So all of those things really really helped, but Leaf has been its own journey with its own set of challenges and a lot of new things that have been very interesting.

Matthew: You mentioned talking about hardware development. It is difficult, especially compared to software because the iteration cycle takes so long. How do you keep up with morale and keep the team encouraged and excited when some of these cycles in improving a product like Leaf, it just takes longer than you might like. How do you keep the team engaged in moving in the right direction as they wait for these iterations?

Yoni: Yeah we haven’t had really a big problem with morale because the reason why I think that’s the case is because everyone really loves this product and what we’re doing, and the team is so connected by our shared passion for this. We know there’s going to be speed bumps and things like that, but really there’s always something to do. We’re still in a stage where the product is before manufacturing and there is a lot of things to do even while we’re waiting for something to come from the factory or a component to come from overseas or whatever it is. You’re just like okay, I got three or four days to wait, but there’s a long backlog of things that we’re working on all the time, and morale has not been a problem. We do a lot of stuff with the team that has nothing to do with the product.

We go on trips. We go on educational trips. We were just recently here in Israel. One of the largest malls in Tel Aviv, there’s about 750 square meters, excuse me for all the US listeners, I’m not exactly sure how much that is, but a huge mall. The entire roof, almost the entire roof, they’re growing hydroponically. They’re growing vegetables, about 10,000 heads of lettuce a month which is great. So we take the team on trips like that and we learn about sustainable agricultural practices within cities. There’s a lot of ways to keep morale up, but not necessarily something to do with the product, and I really like that about our team. While yeah we’re doing a product that has to do with cannabis and growing, but there’s so much more complexity to our team and fun stuff that we like to do and morale has been great.

Matthew: So 750 square meters for the US listeners is about 8,000 square feet.

Yoni: Yeah and that’s one mall on one roof that’s providing 10,000 heads of lettuce a month, 10,000 heads of whatever it is, lettuce, spinach and whatnot. So it was just a cool trip and we do a lot of those things every few weeks. Morale is up and morale is great. It doesn’t hurt also being in this industry and it seems like, I’m sure you know this, it seems like every week there’s several great headlines coming from all over the world of some advancement in the science of cannabis, some advancements in legalization and so on and so forth. That it really feels like the wheels are turning and they’re moving very quickly. So that keeps the energy level very high all the time and I like that and I think our team really likes that.

Matthew: How would you describe the tech scene in Tel Aviv? I hear some interesting things coming out of Israel all the time, but I don’t know. I don’t have boots on the ground idea of what it’s like. I mean I heard that (15.36 unclear) Conference is really cool there, but how would you describe it?

Yoni: The Israeli tech scene is very unique. If you look at Israel just as a country we’re talking about roughly 7.5 million people in an area the size of New Jersey, yet more venture capital money per capita than any place in the world, more patents per capita than any place in the world, most Nobel Prizes per capita than any other place in the world. So there’s sort of culture of innovation in Israel. It’s always been that way. We all go to the Army. That’s one of the big reasons, and we have several technology units in the Army which has helped kind of grow the tech scene around here.

In addition to that, Israel does not really have any natural resources. We don’t have a lot of physical space so it’s always kind of been that our natural resources people, ingenuity, innovation, things that you can make better and not necessarily… oil, diamonds, whatever it is. This has been going on forever. This isn’t just a new thing. We’re talking about advancements in science, in medical devices, in high tech startups and agriculture, in water desalinization for example, the leading country in the world. So all this innovation is in Israel. Tel Aviv is sort of the hub of that. Tel Aviv is kind of our, let’s say, San Francisco, Silicon Valley area in which you have startups all over. When you do end up coming here to Israel Matt, I’m sure you will com time soon, I’ll take you out here to Rothschild Street. You will walk on one little stretch of street and you’ll have 800 startups. It’s just ridiculous. Big, small, and everything in between. This is Israel, this is our people.

There’s also a form of Israeli (17.46 unclear). I don’t know if you’ve heard that term. Basically the audacity, kind of the audacity to just go for it. So we have that and I think that’s really important for an entrepreneur. On the cannabis side it’s very interesting because the cannabis part of this equation, if you look at Israel, Israel is kind of a conservative country. So it’s kind of weird that we’re very very advanced in medical research with cannabis, but what happened was in the early 60s a young researcher at the time called (18.25 unclear), he had the idea to start researching hashish and the story kind of goes where he actually went to the local police station. He told them, this is 1963, I’m a researcher from a Hebrew university and I want to get a five kilo brick of hashish for my studies. He just literally went to the station.

He knew the chief of police there. He sat, he had coffee with him and by the end of the meeting he gave him a five kilo brick of Lebanese Hashish from the safe and he tells the story. He’s pretty funny. He put it in his book bag and at the time, I think ’63, he didn’t have his own car. I think he took the bus. It reeked. No one really knew what this smell was because it wasn’t so prevalent back then, at least not in Israel. He’s just this researcher. Funny story, but long story short, that’s how it started. This researched (19.24 unclear) THC. For the first time they discovered THC. The later discovered the endocannabinoid system, and just through that there started to become a culture of this little team that grew and grew and grew of researching cannabis in Israel. There were clinical trials, small instances of them, even with children with cancer in the 70s and it’s amazing.

Today all of the knowledge is already here and there’s a situation where there’s sort of a every country wants this knowledge immediately. They don’t actually allow to do the research so they come to Israel. Now when you pair this sort of mentality or this history of cannabis research with the innovation and the high tech that’s already here and the agricultural practices and the bio science and everything, I think Israel, you know a lot of people call it the startup nation, I would call it cannabis nation because really all the pieces are here in this little country; agriculture, science, cannabis research and medical devices and everything. So this is how Israel became a powerhouse in medical research for cannabis and also in high tech, let’s call it the cannabis tech.

Matthew: Wow that’s interesting. Do you think there is anything to do with there being no… in the United States there’s this kind of Puritanism where we have hang-ups about cannabis and alcohol. We have a higher drinking age than the rest of the world. Do you think the fact that we have kind of this Puritan streak holds us back a bit compared to other countries like Israel?

Yoni: Well I think I said this earlier. Israel is actually typically a conservative country, more on the conservative side. And of course Israel in one way or another a majority Jewish and so that sort of goes all the way to the top. So we do have kind of that similar roots as in the US where I believe it’s back in the day it was predominately Christianity and so like you said, Puritan, we do have that here. So I’m not exactly sure that that’s the reason why, but with that together there is in Israel a very high regard for science.

In Israel it’s still illegal, cannabis is still illegal. It’s not even decriminalized, although recently they said that they would decriminalize, but that’s only recently. There’s been other countries for example in Europe and even states in the US that it’s been decriminalized for decades now, like in California or other places. Just the decriminalization part. So I think just the high regard for the scientific aspect and saying hey we have a theory, we want to test it. We’re not saying that this needs to be given to every single person, but that sort of regard for science is important here, and I don’t see it as much in the US unfortunately, but here we have it. I’m pretty proud of it because until you test something, really how do you know. How do you know what’s good, what’s bad, what works, what doesn’t. You need to test and it needs to be done with science.

Matthew: I think there is a certain amount of it too that has to do with the density of people. You have all these people that are technologically savvy, but they’re in a dense area, kind of like San Francisco or New York City. The more dense these people pack in, these ideas kind of spill over from one coffee table to an office and then down the block all in one day and it kind of starts this flow of things happening that you can’t always chart.

Yoni: Yeah and also if you think about it Matt Israel, like I said, small country. It’s basically like a state. It is the state of Israel, but if you imagine like a state in the US and it’s easier to get things done on a smaller scale. For example in California, they’re very very liberal about cannabis, and maybe if they weren’t bound by federal law then they would have already allowed research and they would have already allowed all these different things. So it’s easier to get things done on a smaller scale when there’s kind of less people, less hoops to go through, although it’s not always the case in Israel. People will make it difficult here in some things. That’s just kind of the nature of Israelis, but that’s also if you’ve ever met any Israeli, than that’s also kind of a (24.36 unclear). So in your face, tell you how it is, get things done kind of mentality.

Matthew: Hutspa.

Yoni: Hutspa yeah pretty much.

Matthew: I’m going to be using these terms all over the place here. Schlepping. I use that one all the time. I kind of like that one because it’s like an onamonapia. You can kind of visualize what the word means just by hearing it.

Yoni: Yeah exactly.

Matthew: Well let’s circle back to Leaf here. We were talking about the science and technology coming out of Tel Aviv. Tell us a little bit more about the cutting edge design and technology features in Leaf itself because there’s a lot of things going on here. Controlling temperature, moisture, odor, just walk through some of the features you get asked about the most or people think are the coolest.

Yoni: I can tell you what I think is most important and what is most important for the plants because bottom line is we want to get an amazing crop and an amazing medicine come out of this. Climate control number one. Temperature, humidity, the moisture, as you said, that also goes down to we’re a hydroponic system and even the temperature of the water is important to allow the roots to properly soak up nutrients and things like that. So that’s number one, and that’s a system on its own. Most people are familiar with cannabis grow systems and the fact that you need to circulate air from the outside and bring in new air because you want to have a consistent CO2 level.

The plant will take the CO2, use it for photosynthesis, convert it into oxygen and that’s always happening. So it becomes really difficult to control this environment. Imagine your refrigerator, my mom used to always yell at me when I used to kind of lurk in front of the refrigerator with it open because then it would lose its temperature, this is kind of similar. We need to maintain a specific humidity and temperature while essentially the door is “open” because you’re getting new air every minute from the outside. So it’s complex in its own way. We’re talking about a very small grow area. Normally you don’t really have systems that are off the shelf but then heat or cool the small area. Normally air conditioning is for at least the size of a small room, not the size of just a refrigerator. So that’s one of the systems.

We have a system with capsules, nutrient capsules. Imagine kind of like an ink inside of an ink jet printer that you can kind of click them in and connect it to pumps. Those nutrients on the schedule times or dynamically, depending on what grow recipe you’re using. There’s more basic recipes. There’s more advanced recipes and that works also with the PH. You mentioned odor. We have an active carbon filter that deodorizes everything. Our lighting, you can change the different intensities dynamically at any given time. And there’s more and more and more. Really we sort of thought through every little thing, and nothing from what existed in previous growth systems that were commonly used or grow tactics and strategies that were commonly used. We didn’t take anything for granted. Like hey everyone has been doing this for 20 years. Let’s just do that. That’s already done. We relooked at everything and that’s why I believe that we’ve created something that is completely unique to the market and I think people are really going to enjoy it.

Matthew: Tell us a little bit about your co-founder because it sounds like he’s probably involved in a lot of the day-to-day kind of nuts and bolts of how these things are worked. I know you are too, but tell us about his skillset and what he brings to the table and how it’s impacted the design and range of Leaf.

Yoni: Eran is my co-founder. He’s our CTO. He’s the tech guy, the hardware, mostly hardware guy. First of all what he brings to the table is that he’s awesome. He’s awesome, he’s always in a good mood no matter what’s going on. That’s the number one thing really, but his background is in product design and manufacturing. So he’s the head of company, boutique firm for industrial design and engineering and manufacturing of products. They’ve done consumer products, medical devices and anything. He’s brought several dozen products to the market that you can go and find in stores today, and that’s really important.

Anything from manufacturing technologies to when you’re thinking in a design process there’s more than just making it cool. There also needs to be a manufacturing process attached to every cool thing that you want to physically make. So it’s really really great having that experience on the team and actually leading the team because then we don’t waste time with things that are just unrealistic. We want to try and move as quickly as possible. We’re creating really a home appliance. It’s also certified, all the safety procedures and certifications are of a home appliance, just like your dishwasher, your refrigerator or anything that is supposed to work for years and years.

His experience is really bar-none from any person that I’ve met in my professional life, and it’s been an honor to partner with him and we’re both fully immersed in this 150 percent. We love it and he’s also a great friend. He’s a great friend. We worked together on Alcohoot, not as partners. His company did the industrial design and then he sort of taught me the ropes of how to kind of manufacture and how to build the quality assurance process for a manufacturing line. I’ve just learned so much from this guy. He knows how to hire the right people and he knows how to get the job done which is fantastic.

Matthew: Oh that’s great to have such a synergy with a co-founder. How big is your team now? How big is the Leaf team?

Yoni: We are 21 people. We’re 21 people and I am the only non-engineer. There’s 20 engineers on the team. It’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy. Maybe that just speaks to how deep we’ve gone into the technology here to make it something that will be totally relevant ten years from now.

Matthew: Now when’s the launch date? When will people be able to actually buy Leaf, and what will it cost?

Yoni: People can already preorder. We launched preorders late in December, and it’s been going very well. You can put a deposit down today of $300 and the balance of the unit will be in September when we start to ship. The balance is $2690. So the total price is $2990. That includes the first round of nutrients and filters and basically everything that you need to start growing an excellent crop.

Matthew: Okay, so putting down the deposit kind of guarantees your place in line.

Yoni: Exactly, exactly. You’re basically putting a deposit on a unit that’s going to be manufactured for you. We’re not asking you to take the financial risk or anything. Of course you can get a refund on that deposit up until we ship the unit, but we do want kind of a serious (33.08 unclear) so that we know we can know when manufacturing, know how many units approximately order needs to be and you know this is really a brand new product. It’s an appliance. It’s something new that doesn’t exist, and so I think this is a great way to gauge the interest of people and also succeed in our business goals of knowing how many to manufacture, not too many, not too little and so on and so forth.

Matthew: Well now that we know the price let’s talk a little bit the return on investment. What kind of yield can a customer get from homegrown cannabis with Leaf would you estimate?

Yoni: With Leaf you’re going to get easily four to five ounces worth of high quality cannabis. That is per growth cycle. A growth cycle is three to four months depending on the strain, depending on if you started from a seed of a clone, but let’s just say three to four months. So that’s four or five ounces, let’s say three times a year. In the first year the unit will pay for itself. So that’s pretty awesome because most technologies that you buy, whatever the cost is, it’s sometimes difficult to gauge exactly what it’s worth. For example my laptop, I don’t know how to gauge it. I mean it’s definitely worth it for sure.

Matthew: But you can’t measure it exactly like you can like hey I spent this much last year buying flower. Yeah that is nice, especially for someone that’s consuming a lot. It’s like a no brainer.

Yoni: I think that the number one reason, I don’t just think this, we talk to our customers. It’s not the number one reason why people buy this is to strictly just save money, and quite frankly let’s be honest for the people who are just looking to just save money and it’s all they want to do, they’re going to go and build a grow room, a little grow room for themselves. They’re going to invest the time in understanding it, if that’s all you’re worried about. If you’re looking at this from a perspective of getting the highest quality bud that you can get, the highest quality medicine that is completely chemical and pesticide free and just doing that consistently and having a fun experience while doing it.

This product is sort of like a game in a way. It’s like a new video game except you’re not just getting digital trophies. You’re getting a real live plant which is super awesome. So I think those are the main reasons to begin. Then when you think about it hey you know in the first year it’s paying for itself anyway so that’s kind of a logical reason to back it up. Yeah it will pay for itself in the first year.

Matthew: I’ve grown my own tomatoes and jalapenos and different plants and it may be totally psychosomatic but there’s something about growing your own plants and then consuming them and like wow this tastes better than I imagined and it’s better than what I can get from the grocery store or dispensary and that could be totally in my head, but there is something there. It’s kind of a pride of ownership and especially if you have friends that they Leaf, they’re growing their own plants. You kind of compare notes which leads me to the social component of Leaf I want to talk about a little bit because you were telling me before the interview about the recipe builder which you mentioned, how you can take pictures and so forth. Can you talk a little bit about kind of the social aspect, the sharing and even it’s somewhat of a gamification of growing where you’re showing people your recipe hoping they use it and so forth. So can you kind of give some highlights there on how that will work?

Yoni: Yeah totally. Gamification is really a great word. We really love this kind of artisanal experience of growing cannabis and it’s been going on for years and years and traditionally people have been basically sharing their techniques, their grow recipes, if you will. It’s been done from word to mouth for years, on forums, kind of in different ways. We love that artisanal experience, and we wanted to bring it into Leaf. Out of the box Leaf has default recipes for a bunch of different strains or strain types, since we can’t really test ever single strain, as you and imagine, but in addition to that, you can also build your own grow recipe. So if you have for example a strain that we’ve never grown, and you got your seed and you planted them you can start building out a recipe. For example what is the intensity of the light at different stages. How much nutrients at different stages? What do I want the day time temperature and humidity to be versus the night time temperature and humidity at different stages? At what height or at what day do I switch to flower.

You can get as deep as you want with this. There’s a built in HD camera within Leaf that actually records your process as you go and you can also see a live stream during the grow. What’s really cool is after, when you’re showing off your grow recipe on our community function, you can show off these time lapses in addition to the recipe. So there’s sort of more, here’s what actually came out of this and this is how good it looked. People can sync, with one click, that recipe into their device. So if they have the same strain, they’re going to get very very similar results. You can rank the recipes. The top recipes are shown within the community. I expect people to be competing with each other. I expect people to be trying out new things that our team has never thought of, and this community function is something that is going to be updated weekly. Not just something that we’ve built and just going to let people go with it.

We’re going to allow people to go with it, but we want to highlight our growers. We want to highlight our community members and give them a spotlight. Of course, you don’t have to show off your grow. Everything is completely anonymous if you want it to. You don’t have to have access. You don’t have to even have the camera on if you don’t want. As you can imagine, people want their privacy and we respect that completely, but if you do choose to, then there’s going to be a whole new world for you to explore. You can also just consume recipes. You don’t only have to show them off. You can just say I just want to see them and sync them, and I don’t want to maybe rate them, but I don’t want anything else beyond that. That’s fine too. That’s fine too. In general you’re getting a full recipe, we call it a grow recipe builder, with the app and a community tab that you can see all of these and rank them and et c.

Matthew: That would be very helpful. The first time right when you get your Leaf and be like hey for this first harvest I want to just copy a recipe from someone that’s already having success with this or it looks like it will be easy to do. Watch how it happens and then maybe I’ll create my own recipe the second go around or the third go around.

Yoni: Yeah and we have our default recipes, the Leaf ones that most people, I think, will probably opt to use those to begin with even before you get into the app, the community functions. There’s our recipes that we show, but you know what Matt I’ll tell you honestly, you heard it here first on this show if there’s going to be a community recipe out there better than our defaults, we’ll change it. I expect that thousands of growers are going to be able to do a much better job than the dozens or hundreds of even test grows that we’re doing, and I would be pretty proud and excited if we changed our default recipe to something that a community member made. That would be awesome.

Matthew: Yeah a lot of pride there for sure. I remember playing Nintendo as a kid and thinking I was great and then you see some of these people around the world, their high schools and you’re like holy cow. It makes you up your game quite a bit when you realize there’s people out there that can get 10X the score, they’re playing on a different level. Not to say that Nintendo is the same as growing cannabis, it’s just that it does. It does something when you can kind of see what your peers are doing, and not just about points, but just like hey I’m helping someone to have a better experience. There’s a lot of value in that.

Yoni: Yeah absolutely and the key here is is because every Leaf is so tightly controlled. It doesn’t matter if you’re growing in the winter in Canada, in the summer in Miami or whatever it is, you’re all going to get consistent results using the same types of nutrients, same growth space, same light, same conditions. I think that’s really powerful, and the gamification part of it is fun, interactive and awesome, but also imagine there might be a specific let’s say very high CBD strain that’s pretty rare, but someone made a recipe for it and it’s very good and then people are going to be able to get their medicine that is specifically tailored or works for them and they’re going to be able to get that in a very high quality even if our team has not been able to specifically calibrate to that strain. That’s also something that opens up a new world that just doesn’t exist right now and we can’t wait for that. We can’t wait for that.

Matthew: You mentioned that you have a filter for the odor and for the people that want privacy and they’re worried about their landlord or neighbors or anything, they don’t want the odor to go too far. Does it sequester the odor entirely or is it just kind of pull the order within a few feet? I guess that really depends on everybody’s different circumstances and where they live and airflow and things like that. I mean to what extent do those filters sequester the scent?

Yoni: So this is how I always say, in order to smell it you would need to literally come up, put your nose touching the crevices of the unit, the little small, there’s not even openings. It’s all air tight, but you would need to literally put your nose up to it to smell a little bit of hint of cannabis. But if you’re standing even a foot and a half away, you’re not going to smell anything at all.

Matthew: Okay.

Yoni: Because all the air that is in the system all passes through this filter and it clears up 99. Something 9 percent of the odors and also a few other particulates. So that part is pretty… that also exists in a lot of systems today. So we didn’t invent carbon filtration. We put a little spin on it to work for us. The caveat to that is that the active carbon gets used up and if you don’t change the filter for a very long time and there’s no more active carbon to deodorize. So these filters need to be exchanged, but we sell them. So you can purchase them from us. They cost what you would pay for a gray carbon filter at your local (44.55 unclear) shop which is $39 and it’s also $39 for a whole set of nutrients that last for a full grow. So $78 for a full entire grow. The filter even lasts a little longer than a grow. So that’s the caveat, if you don’t replace it, but the Leaf app tells you when to replace it, when it recommends to replace it and you can order that directly from us, gets to you quickly and odor free. Odor free.

Matthew: And what about the drying and curing process, all done within the unit as well?

Yoni: Drying is. Curing is a process that takes a long time in that it’s done within jars. It doesn’t need to be done within the system, but we show you how to do it, and drying, you also dry within the system. So basically we show you how to harvest the plant properly, how to cut it down, what to cut down. Some people are confused, do I cut it off the entire stem? Do I cut it down to the branches and just individual flower. So we show you how to do it. We put on thsese individualized racks inside the system, close it up and you hit dry mode and it changes the temperature and the humidity to a level that will optimize the drying process in terms of speed and consistency.

What’s also super cool is that there’s still a continuous air circulation. So all the fans are still working, and it’s still deodorized right. It’s really smelly when you’re drying, as anyone who has dried cannabis knows. That’s when all the aromas are coming out and also even other things. Chlorophyll is starting to leave the plant. So it’s really smelly and it’s nice to have it in this entight closure that cohesively kind of dries everything. So everything is dried in the same way and you’re not getting some that are very dry and brittle and then some that are still wet. Everything happens really nicely. Once you’re done drying, you can put it into jars and you can cure from there as long as you want. It’s ready to consume after drying, but I like to cure it for taste and better taste and better flavor.

Matthew: Okay.

Yoni: You could start consuming immediately and continue to cure as you go.

Matthew: Have there been any lessons you’ve learned about being a CEO in moving forward that have been perhaps hard lessons to learn but meaningful that you would like to share?

Yoni: Hard things? Well I will say something that is specific kind of to the cannabis industry and that is the consumers, the people, the customers for your products, they are ready for these products. People consume cannabis and I think that’s not really a secret to anyone. Even if you don’t look at the sales numbers of retail cannabis you know because we live in society and we see that people consume this all the time regularly and as part of a normal, healthy lifestyle. The business communities, investors and things like that, not everyone is 100% sure how the market is going to react to everything.

So one thing I’ve learned is you really need to recognize that … I came from a tech background, hardware and tech and there’s just a certain way that things work there. It doesn’t work the same in cannabis. That’s been something that I’ve needed to learn. There’s a bunch of specific takeaways but one of them is if you’re raising money from investors you need to really pinpoint the people that sort of get it, as opposed to trying to convince people that it’s going to be something. So that’s one thing.

Then a general thing that I’ve learned in business is that the team is the most important thing. Team, the culture is the most important thing because there’s good products and there’s good ideas all over the place. In as startup, as they say, things are going to hit the fan no matter what. It’s going to happen, and a good team will survive and then thrive after a very difficult hurdle. Teams that are not very, I won’t even say good, because sometimes there’s very talented people in teams, but there’s no cohesiveness and there’s no culture and things just don’t mesh well. So I would say if you’re an entrepreneur, your team is the most important thing. Not how much money you have in the bank, of course sometimes you need a certain amount, but without the team it’s going to be very hard to succeed. So bring in people that are smart but that also there’s good chemistry and that they are really a part of the mission.

Be transparent with your team as much as you can, especially as an early stage startup. Normally you’re one to twenty, one to twenty-five people which is still a small company. Be transparentwith your team. You’ll be very surprised if you have the right people that they will help you come up with solutions that you never even dreamed of and it’s not always up to just one person at the top to say hey we’re doing this, we’re doing that. We’ve had a lot of success involving our team in everything that we do, I mean, pretty much everything. That’s some advice I think that people should hear.

Matthew: How about if you could wave a magic wand and make one of the more difficult things about Leaf be solved right now and forever, what would that be?

Yoni: Well if I could wave a magic wand and get whatever I want, there would be a lot of things. But if it was only regarding specifically Leaf, then I think that we have a bunch of different… we’re not getting to technical. There’s a bunch of different sensors and things that are just difficult to work with and this has been kind of a problem in growing. Growers will know that sensing PH and TBS and calibrating those sensors and things like that. It’s something you need to learn and something you need to build with. We had to go through almost a year, three people just working on re-engineering sensors to make them work for something that will be easy, and we have done that. I’m really proud of that, but in the early days I wish I could have just waved a magic wand and just had it ready. So that’s just kind of one little thing, but honestly I think it’s all about the journey anyway, everything in life.

Matthew: Yeah. Also it makes it harder for your competitors behind you if it’s that difficult.

Yoni: I don’t know. Do they also have the magic wand?

Matthew: No. We’ve only lent it to you temporarily.

Yoni: Okay only to me. But in all honesty yeah there’s just a lot of technical challenges that I wish, I don’t wish, if we didn’t have them that would be easier on us and certainly would have had a few less gray hairs but like I said, all a part of the journey and we’re thankful for it.

Matthew: Yoni, I like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get to know you a little bit better. With that is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share?

Yoni: You know I don’t really read that many books for pleasure. I like to learn things as I go in life. I also have horrible ADD that I just can’t sit and read a full book. So don’t really have any tidbits there, but things that have always helped me in my career, in my life is just sort of looking around, listening, and taking the things that sort of meshed well with me and my life goals. Sometimes when you hear something you can hear someone talk about something and one thing that they said really sticks out to you and you really like that. I just take up those types of things from everywhere, from every person that I meet, from places that I travel, places that I go, other businesses. I’ve seen use cases.

That way you start to kind of build your own business personality and just the way that you like things done. Some people want things done really really quickly and later you can figure out the quality. Sometimes there’s people that the quality needs to be perfect the second it comes out. There’s all these different types of things. So for me it’s always been about just listening to other people and taking away the things that I think are good from what they’re saying. Some people I listen to more than others, but I can tell you that just a person that I listen to a lot and that I really like is Elon Musk. I know I’m not the only one there. That might be pretty common, but I really do like a lot of what he talks about, what he’s done. Tesla is one of the companies that we really looked at at the beginning and we made an inspiration board and Tesla was one of the companies that we really felt that inspired us to kind of push the envelope on innovation and what a lot of people think is very very difficult or a huge challenge that might not be worth investing the time, energy and money to solve we feel like we’ve taken a lot of inspiration. He’s just someone that I kind of look up to and there’s a lot more, but from a product perspective I think he really has hands, his companies and specifically Tesla, speaking of they really do a great job.

Matthew: How about is there a tool web based or otherwise apart from Leaf you consider really valuable to your day-to-day productivity?

Yoni: Oh yeah, there’s one that I talk about a lot that I really like. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with Leaf or I use it all the time. It’s called Similar Web. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. Similar Web is a really interesting website. They have a Google Chrome extension that I use literally every single day. Basically what it is is you can go to any website or you can type in any website and you can see the data of how many visitors approximately are coming to that site per month in different months, where the traffic is coming from, the name of the sources, the geolocations of the users, referrals, things like that. It’s really great for a lot of things.

It’s kind of there on my extension bar in Google Chrome and it’s just easy to click it and see it. Once you start using it you realize that you can learn a lot of different things and it can take you on many different pathways when you’re researching whatever. It shows you different ads, audiences, things like that. So Similar Web is one thing that I use every single day.

Matthew: Wow that’s cool. I haven’t heard of that. I’m going to check that out for sure.

Yoni: Yeah it’s Similar Web. It’s an Israeli company. Actually I didn’t know that until months after I started using it. Really cool.

Matthew: Yoni where are you in the investing process? Are you taking on more investors?

Yoni: Well you’re always sort of investing money in a startup but are we looking for investors? Right now we’re taking investments on a Series A round. People can contact me. I’m sure if people are interested there’s going to be all my information here at the end of the show. There’s still a little bit of space left in the round.

Matthew: Is there a minimal commit for investors?

Yoni: Yeah there is a minimum commit. I don’t want to talk about it publically right now about the actual terms or anything like that, but again I think the serious investors can probably get a hold of us pretty easily.

Matthew: Okay, Just a super quick interruption to this interview because we forgot to actually say Yoni’s email. It is jofir@getleaf.co. Now back to your program. So that would probably be for a credited investor it’s going to be for. So people who aren’t familiar with that term, just Google that.

Yoni: Exactly yeah.

Matthew: Okay tell us one more time when Leaf will be available so everybody knows and also your website.

Yoni: Yeah so Leaf is available for preorder right now. The website is www.getleaf.co, just like it sounds. A $300 deposit secures a unit today. The balance when we ship. It’s fully refundable up until then, and there’s still units available. We have a limited manufacturing run that’s still open. We’ll probably still have within the next month or two, but it’s still available right now, and if you guys are interested, I urge you to go take a look. We have awesome videos showing how the product works on our site. A lot of in-depth information about how the systems work, etc. Of course there’s a live chat that you can ask us any questions that you want right then and there on the website.

Matthew: Yoni, thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it and good look with shipping the first units. This is really exciting.

Yoni: Thank you , thank you and thanks for having me again. We’re closing a circle here right now.

Matthew: That’s right. Alright, take care.

Yoni: Alright Matt.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Packaging Options for Cannabis Infused Products

cannabis packaging assurpack

Interview with Nancy Warner the founder of Assurpack.com.

Nancy leveraged her background in pharmaceutical packaging to bring child-safe packaging and automation to the cannabis industry.

Learn More at, Assurpack.com

Key Takeaways:
[2:08] – What is Assurpack
[2:31] – Nancy talks about her background
[4:52] – High-level overview of where product packaging is in the cannabis space
[5:44] – Nancy talks about what can happen with poor packaging
[6:20] – Different packaging options for infused product companies
[8:18] – Nancy talks about where she fits in in a company’s lifecycle
[11:33] – Nancy talks about designing packaging
[13:38] – Price ranges for packaging
[15:32] – Timeframe for custom packaging
[17:39] – Process of packaging
[20:18] – Nancy talks about the evolution of the packaging industry
[21:53] – Transitioning from the pharmaceutical to cannabis industry
[25:10] – Most common questions Nancy gets from prospective clients
[27:39] – Nancy answers some personal development questions
[30:24] – Nancy’s contact information

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Packaging is a huge consideration for cannabis infused product companies both in terms of having a child-proof and safe product but also in terms of maintaining a visible brand identity that resonates with customers. Here to talk with us about packaging in the cannabis industry is Nancy Warner of Assurpack. Nancy, welcome to CannaInsider.

Nancy: Thanks Matt. Great to be here.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Nancy: I am in northern New Jersey. A few miles from New York City.

Matthew: Okay great, and I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland today.

Nancy: Cool.

Matthew: So Nancy what is Assurpack at a very high level? Tell us what it is.

Nancy: Assurpack is a packaging company that provides custom engineered child resistant packaging solution, both components and some equipment, for mostly infused and edible products.

Matthew: Okay. And what’s your background? How did you get started with Assurpack and then get into the cannabis industry?

Nancy: Okay well I’ve been in the packaging industry my whole career. I have a degree in package engineering so I’ve been doing this a long time.

Matthew: I didn’t even know that was a field of study. Where do you go for that?

Nancy: I went to Michigan State but there are probably about 10 different universities around the country that have this program.

Matthew: Oh that’s cool.

Nancy: And I started out on the corporate side and I was actually at a pharmaceutical company as the manager of package engineering and then switched on to the supplier side and worked in the pharmaceutical contract packaging industry and business development and sales for most of my career. So I pivoted out of that corporate sales environment to try and do some more entrepreneurial ventures and ended up starting Assurpack when I saw an opportunity in the cannabis space with my background in child resistant and pharmaceutical packaging.

Matthew: Good timing. Good timing there. Now I mean in the case of pharmaceutical companies they have such a huge margin on their product that it really does make sense to look at how to impact the perceived value of consumer’s choice. Did you take a lot of that away from your experience in the pharmaceutical industry and bring it over into the cannabis space?

Nancy: Well what I find is interesting Matt is in the pharmaceutical industry all the packaging is geared towards high speed automation. Okay, and the packaging is not that innovative when you look at it because of the required automation and speed at which these packages have to run on machines. So what I did was kind of look at how to reverse engineer some of these packages used in the pharmaceutical industry into simple components that don’t require high speed machinery to bring it to the cannabis industry. Also now it’s opened up a lot more opportunity for creativity because we don’t have the demands of running on high speed machines right now.

Matthew: Yes it’s too small for that. Give us a high level overview for people that just don’t understand or they’re just getting into the cannabis space or they’re in it but they don’t really understand where we are at a high level in terms of where is cannabis product packaging right now if you had to give someone a quick summary?

Nancy: Well I would say the quick summary from my perspective is that we’re moving beyond what I would call simple bottles and bags and I think the industry started out with simple Ziploc bags and pharmacy type bottles and now you see a lot more creative child resistant packaging that is really doing some beautiful branding with the packaging out in the industry. So I’m very excited about it.

Matthew: Now a lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about hey I want to get this much THC or terpenes or such and such into my product or I want to have the most tricomes per square inch or something like that and they’re not thinking about the packaging. What’s at stake if packaging is not executed or is poorly executed? What can happen? What do you see? What are the outcomes?

Nancy: Well I think one of the outcomes is that you’re limited in your choice of what type of packaging you can use. If you don’t start looking at the packaging options and how you plan to package and what you need for your package when you start thinking about your product development, then you’re going to leave the packaging options until the end and then you’re going to be scrambling and just take whatever is easily available and readily available to help you launch. So my suggestion to people is always start early.

Matthew: Okay. And walk us through the different kinds of packaging there is for infused product companies right now.

Nancy: Okay well one of the packages that we’ve been bringing to the cannabis industry is a unit dose or a single serving blister package, and in order to make that blister package child resistant we use a patented blister card that was developed for the pharmaceutical industry and I brought this to the cannabis space. That card provides what we call an F1 Certified Child Resistant feature meaning it’s the highest rated child resistant package. If you get into one blister cavity, one dose it’s considered a failure in the child resistant protocol test that we have to go through.

So this blister package has allowed a process in a manufacturing operation where people can have a machine. They’re using blisters, not little single blisters, but we try to give them a good manufacturing process to get some better output and a reliable speed at which they can package their products. Also the dosing becomes more reliable. We’re engraving the Colorado required symbol into the bottom of the blisters so people are actually using our blister as the mold for their candies. So they’re pouring the hot candy into the blister and the symbol is at the bottom so when the product sets up in the blister that symbol is on the candy itself, and then we use that for the blister inside the package as well. So you’re not having to pour candy into a mold, take it out of the mold, put it into a package.

Matthew: Okay. So it’s flush. The candy is flush in the blister pack if they make that mold or they thing ahead of time. That makes sense. Makes it kind of a perfect fit as possible.

Nancy: Right.

Matthew: Now do you work mostly with startups or mature companies? Where do you fit in with different sized companies in their life cycle?

Nancy: Well we’ve been working with a lot of startup companies, some of who have grown very large and some of whom have not. The type of packaging that we provide, especially in the blister packaging where you need some equipment and it’s manufactured on high speed machinery, you need some good volume in order to justify the investment to do that type of packaging because there’s custom molds and some small machines involved, but we’re also supporting some of the larger brands as well. What we do is very scalable. So we can start out with small, very semiautomatic type of systems and as we get bigger we can help support people into very high speed applications for these type of packages.

Matthew: So when you say you need some minimum size or quantity, in your mind, what is the kind of threshold where your services start to become more important?

Nancy: Well we have a threshold of about 25,000 units for our custom packaging, but this past year I’ve spent the year developing some new packages which are more stock items. They are injection molded, and these packages have been developed specifically for the concentrate products. So we have a little recloseable box with a silicone lining for wax and shatter and some of those type of product, and another size and shape of a similar package for prefilled oil cartridges. So those packages don’t require any machinery and also you can buy ver small quantities of those packages. So I’m trying to expand the product line to offer different types of packages to people.

Matthew: And it’s not required that a smaller or newer infused product company be able to do 25,000 units at once. They could do three months worth that could make up 25,000 or something like that, correct?

Nancy: Correct, correct. Yeah, and we also are working with companies to try to encourage them to look for customization in a simpler form such as a custom folding box to put a stock bottle into a very uniquely designed folding carton that can be printed and have a shape that’s very unique on their own. We give you the branding opportunity and it doesn’t necessarily require you to have a custom inner child resistant package.

Matthew: Okay. Now obviously everybody with an infused product really wants the product to stand out. Some people really have a knack for this where the design, there’s something really visceral about it where you have a connection that resonates with you and others just look like they were designed in a basement with low light with little thoughts or care at all and there’s such a huge spectrum there. Can you tell us anything about you or your customers where you look at the end product wow, this was properly done and maybe an example of when it’s not properly done. How to contrast those two things so listeners can stay on the right side and do things the correct way and have a product that looks great.

Nancy: Sure. Well what we do is mostly structural and what I would look at in terms of what you’re discussing as far as the branding is the graphic image and this comes from good graphic design. We don’t do graphic design, but we work with graphic designers who are using our packages and doing their graphics for these packages and I think the best branding comes from the best designers and that’s true in any industry. So I encourage people to seek out some good design help, either graphic or industrial design to give them input to create a brand because you can’t create a brand without some people who know how to do that. I think looking at getting the best help you can and the best services from people who you can look at their portfolios and see what they’ve done and select the right design agency or group that fits your needs.

Matthew: And do you refer out contacts in this way when people reach out to you for graphic designers?

Nancy: I do. I do if people ask me.

Matthew: Okay. I’ve also used 99Designs in the past and have been very happy. You create a design contest for packaging and you only have to pay if you like one of the designs. It’s a pretty clever system. So I encourage people to give that a try.

Nancy: Yes I’ve done that for a logo when I did that for one of my businesses.

Matthew: Yeah what did you think?

Nancy: It was a lot of fun. It worked.

Matthew: Yeah, can you walk us through one or two examples of what your service is and packaging might cost at a high level so we can digest how to budget for it because people have investors or they’re setting out budgets for the rest of the year and so forth and they just want to know how to properly think about this so they can say I’m going to sell this product at this price. I have to allot this much for packaging and so on and so forth. Do you have some real high level math there?

Nancy: Well it’s really hard to say Matt because packaging is really volume related especially when we’re doing custom packaging so something could cost 25 cents or it could cost up to a dollar. It really depends on what you’re doing and the size of the package and how many colors, but on the stock packaging we’ve created price lists for some of the items that are more standard and they range anywhere from 25 cents to 65 cents depending on what it is. So people want unique packages. I’m working really hard to find that solution.

One of the issues for me in development is that it’s so expensive to develop a child resistant package. You have mold cost, you have child resistant testing cost. I would say on average it costs me between $30,000 and $50,000 to develop a new child resistant package from scratch.

Matthew: Wow.

Nancy: It’s not inexpensive and it’s a long process.

Matthew: And you want to be sure you create a design that you can use for a while then if it cost that much.

Nancy: Yes, yes. I mean there are other less expensive versions of it. So maybe $20,000 to $50,000 but it’s a large investment. So companies like myself are taking that on so that smaller branded companies can have the advantage of having some of these unique packages.

Matthew: Okay. So let’s walk through typically, I know every case is a little different, but a client reaches out to you. They have some infused product and they want to work with you and they want to get some custom packaging done and want to automate it to some extent. How long does that back and forth take and what kind of information do you need from them and then finally when you have everything you need, if you do a run of 25,000, how long does that take?

Nancy: Oka we tell people that we can usually do a custom package in about eight weeks which is really not a long time for the blister packaging. For other packages that we do it could be less time than that. If we’re just talking about printing plates and dyes for a unique folding carton or if we’re talking about a pouch that we do that’s a single serving child resistant pouch with an opening feature. And as far as the stock items that we have we can do labeling application and decorating to customize those packages as well. So our timeframe doesn’t really go beyond eight weeks when we start working with people and they’re ready to commit and get going.

Matthew: Okay.

Nancy: We need information like the size of the product, what kind of tolerance is on your product. If we could recommend a size change slightly in the shape or the size, you might get a better layout and a more cost effective package. We need to know how many colors you’re going to print and what kind of graphics you want to utilize. So a lot of these questions come up in the beginning based on my experience and I have a colleague based in Colorado and she’s also from the pharmaceutical packaging industry. We know how to do this very quickly because we’ve been doing it a long time.

Matthew: Okay. Good. Now to what extent are humans involved. This is still somewhat pretty manual since the size is small. I look on one end of the spectrum you have Elon Musk in the Tesla factory that operates in the dark because it’s all robots and robots don’t even need light for eyes. This is a different thing. This is more elementary and you have a human involved.

Nancy: Correct.

Matthew: So if we were looking at a blister pack assembly for let’s say an infused gum, something like that, what does that look like?

Nancy: From the beginning, what does it look like?

Matthew: So you have the gum on one end and then how does it make its way through the gum getting into this packaging and sealed?

Nancy: Okay. We provide pre-form blisters and you would load your gum into each cavity and we help people how to do that in a process that’s not placing each particular piece of gum into a blister but there’s different ways to have a hand feed operation that’s a little better than one at a time. Then we would provide also the foil backing that matches the pre-form blister, and then there’s a heat seal machine that’s either a table top or larger versions that you would then seal that blister with the plastic and the foil with the gum inside into a sealed package.

Then the second step would be to put it into a child resistant package, either a blister card or a recloseable child resistant carton and that would maybe either require additional machinery or not. There’s recloseable cartons that you would then just attach the blister in that printed carton or our blister cards are a second heat sealing step where you would take the card, bottom card, place the seal blister with the gum inside of it with the foil and then the top card and that gets sealed together and when you take that out it’s a finished carded blister package ready to go.

Matthew: Okay. So we mentioned gum there, but can you just kind of rattle off the top packaging you do? Is it gum, gummies? What are they?

Nancy: We do gummies, packaging for gummies, for caramels, for chocolates, from mints, for chews. So many different types of products. For oil cartridges people want a blister card and also the blister card allows you to put it on a rack in a dispensary. So it gives you good display options in a dispensary.

Matthew: Do some people like to have a transparency window so you can see through?

Nancy: They do but then in Colorado the child resistant packaging is required to be opaque. So it depends on the state regulations of where you’re selling your product.

Matthew: Okay. And where are you helping provide packaging? Is it just in Colorado or are you in multiple states now?

Nancy: We’re in multiple states now so it’s pretty exciting.

Matthew: Okay so pretty much anybody can reach out to you if they’re interested if they’re in the United States.

Nancy: Absolutely.

Matthew: Okay. And how do you see the cannabis packaging market evolving? I mean you mentioned a little bit about the bags and how we’re moving away from bags somewhat. What do you think it will look like in three to five years from now?

Nancy: I think we’re going to have the most creative child resistant packaging in the cannabis industry that’s available in the market today. One funny thing that’s happening to me, a few of the packages that I’ve developed for the cannabis space I now have some pharmaceutical colleagues wanting these packages for pharma which is an opposite direction of where I was headed, but they don’t have these creative packages so I just find it really interesting what’s going on.

Matthew: There’s something about the cannabis industry that spawns creativity I think is what you’re saying Nancy. I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

Nancy: No it’s true and it’s very exciting to be a part of it.

Matthew: Yeah. You and I met in 2014 at the Marijuana Business Conference. I believe we were standing in line at the Starbucks there and at that time you were kind of doing your due diligence on the industry and wanted to bring your expertise to the industry. Can you tell us about your journey and transitioning from the pharmaceutical world. Because as I talk to you now, you’ve got both feet in this industry and you’re doing well with this and you have a strong foundation and it’s worked, but there’s a lot of people that are listening that are like wow, Nancy has this magical confidence but that’s not the case. I mean I try to paint a picture that it’s just people are building this brick by brick and there’s no magic wand. So could you just talk a little bit about your transition maybe from the pharmaceutical world, how you made that transition, how you went to shows and how you kind of made this happen step by step?

Nancy: Okay. So basically I had a small business in New Jersey, a pharmaceutical contract packaging in business that due to FDA regulations was not going to be able to grow because there was a huge fee that the FDA imposed on us. So I found myself in a position where I had a new business, relative young business that the business model was not going to succeed. So we were trying to look at different options of what we could do and my family from Colorado was at my house for a holiday in New Jersey. My sister-in-law and her twin sister own the oldest head shop in Boulder, Colorado. I’m going to shout out to the Fitter here.

And talked about what’s going on with legalization and some of the issues with some of the overdoses with edibles and it got me thinking about well they need child resistant packaging and after they left I started looking into it and there were regulations requiring child resistant packaging. This was in about April 2014. So I started thinking about what can I differently because bottles and bags were kind of boring, and I said there’s a different way to do this.

So in my mind I thought about the institutional pharmacy market and for those of you who are not aware of it, institutional pharmacy market is a big industry that is an industry that’s regionalized like the cannabis industry is and what people do there is they buy pharmaceutical products in bulk and then they have small machines that they’re buying preformed blisters and cards and they’re packaging patients’ doses for a 30 day one month dose with multiple products in servicing the prison industry, the nursing home industry, nursing homes, things like that. So that got me thinking because it was an interesting business model for this industry, and what I needed was a child resistant blister card because those cards are not child resistant.

So I knew the owner of a packaging company here in New Jersey who has the patented F1 Child Resistant Blister Card and I approached him and I said would you give me exclusivity to take your IP and your packaging that you would manufacture for me into the cannabis world. And because he’s known me a long time, and he trusts that I would take care of his IP and know what I’m doing, he said sure Nancy go ahead. So that gave me the basis to have something unique to go out and start selling, and I had to put the whole supply chain together of how to do this, create it, and then I had to go find customers.

Matthew: Sure. Yeah and that’s a good point. How do you go find customers? How do you do that?

Nancy: How do you do that? Well you just go to trade shows. You go out, you start talking to people. I’m constantly reading and listening to your podcast and other avenues so that I can learn about people and I just reach out and cold call, just put yourself out there.

Matthew: Yeah. What are the most common questions you get from prospects when they approach you at a trade show or they want to know what you do and how you can help them?

Nancy: Well I guess the questions that we get most are how do these packages work, like you were asking. And it’s not a simple story to tell and I wish I had it down in one sentence that would describe what we do and how we do it, but because it’s custom and a lot of it is custom engineered and there’s a lot of parts to it, we’re having to teach people what we do and what the packaging process is and how to do this.

Matthew: Okay. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing over the last few years since you’ve been in the cannabis industry about your approach or your technique or how you got into it, would you have done anything differently with that one wave of the magic wand? I like to stump here on CannaInsider Nancy.

Nancy: You know I’ve had few mistakes. I think one of the big issues has been getting the right professional support to help me from a business perspective. Not necessarily the packaging. I know the packaging part very well, but getting the right lawyers, getting the right accountants, financial support, getting people to help me with my supply chain. All those types of professional support has been challenging.

Matthew: Okay. You know I have people reach out all the time saying they want to get into the cannabis industry. It sounds like there’s a very specific need in your type of operation. If you were to hire somebody, what type of background do they need to have? What’s ideal?

Nancy: Well I think a packaging background is very helpful but not necessarily required because I can support people on the ground who aren’t technical with the technical support they need. So I think you have to be good with people. You have to be good with details. Follow through. I consider myself very professional and like to present myself and my company that way and want people on the ground who also do that.

Matthew: That’s good. So you’re saying as long as they’re professional and have some competency, you might be able to mold them into the right fit into your business.

Nancy: I think so.

Matthew: Okay. A few personal development questions to help listeners get a sense of who you are personally. So with that is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share?

Nancy: Well there’s a series of books that were written by a childhood friend of mine Iris Krasnow and her books are kind of a coming of age series and she started in the 90s until the 2000s and her first book was Surrendering to Motherhood and then she had a book about Surrendering to Marriage and then Surrendering to the Self, and she was a journalist and has interviewed people, women and have their stories and her stories. It’s just really a wonderful support system. When you’re by yourself it’s something to read and feel not alone and to listen to other women’s journeys and experiences who are similar to yourself and maybe give you insight and maybe how to think about something differently.

Matthew: Well that’s pretty cool to have such a meaningful book be written by a friend. Did you boomerang back around to your friend Iris and say hey, ask questions and talk about it a little bit?

Nancy: When we get a chance. She’s very busy as I am, we like to connect.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise you consider indispensible to your productivity you would like to share?

Nancy: I think Google and all my Apple products. I think about this a lot because I’ve been in packaging and sales and business development for many years. Started out way before we had these tools and I’m so appreciative. I could not have this business today without these tools. There would be no way that I could pull everything together that I need to do on a daily basis without this. Finding resources, finding information, finding people. It’s just amazing to me.

Matthew: Yeah you’re not kidding. There’s one tool that I use called Jing and it’s this little thing that sits on my desktop. I press a button, a square pops up and then I can start recording something on my desktop and then I press finish and it gives me a url and I can share it with people. That tool has saved me probably hundreds of hours because I can show people what I mean instead of typing it out and hoping they comprehend what I mean and then can translate that into something. So it’s such a big deal. I don’t know how I got by without it. Now it’s just part of my day-to-day life. Every day I use it. It’s crazy.

Nancy: Sounds great.

Matthew: Yeah. It is. I asked you to share one and then I shared one too.

Nancy: Okay thank you.

Matthew: Nancy in closing how can listeners find out more about Assurpack and connect with you and find out about your services and so forth?

Nancy: Well they can go to www.assurpack.com. You can send an email through info@assurpack.com and we can get back to you with information and we would love to hear from people.

Matthew: Now are you going to be at the next Marijuana Business Conference and Expo?

Nancy: I am. I’ll also be at the next NCIA Trade Show in Oakland.

Matthew: Okay great. So look for you there then.

Nancy: I’ll be in D.C. in May with Marijuana Business Expo and then Oakland in June.

Matthew: Perfect. Well Nancy thanks for coming on and educating us about packaging. I wish you all the best.

Nancy: Thank you so much Matt. I do appreciate your connecting me with your audience.


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Protect your Cannabis from Prying Eyes Interview with SneakGuard Founder Graeme Gordon

sneak guard

Graeme Gordon invented SneakGuard, a humidity controlled hand-held mini vault in response to his daughter that almost found his stash. This device is really very clever.

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Visit: http://www.cannainsider.com/sneak

Key Takeaways:
[2:00] – What is the SneakGuard
[2:31] – Graeme talks about his background
[3:17] – Functions of the SneakGuard
[4:53] – Graeme talks about a former name for SneakGuard
[7:58] – Specs of the SneakGuard
[8:46] – How does SneakGuard defend its contents
[10:27] – Graeme talks about the optimal moisture levels for cannabis
[12:47] – Why is vacuum a key benefit in storing cannabis
[13:31] – Feedback from customers
[13:54] – New product development
[15:54] – Graeme talks about working with manufacturers
[18:20] – Graeme talks about his experience at Arcview
[20:32] – Graeme answers some personal development questions

 

Read Full Transcript

Other industries with high value, sensitive materials have a lot of security options available to them to secure their goods. Cannabis is starting to have more options as well. I’ve invited Graeme Gordon to tell us about his product called the SneakGuard that can help you secure cannabis. Graeme welcome to CannaInsider.

Graeme: Hi Matt. Thanks for having me.

Matthew: Sure thing. Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Graeme: I am in lovely Tampa, Florida.

Matthew: Oh good. I’m in Austin, Texas today. So what is the SneakGuard?

Graeme: So SneakGuard is the only smell proof cannabis storage container on the market that combines a lock with a vacuum fresh sealing lid.

Matthew: Okay.

Graeme: So it’s mainly designed to prevent ingestion of cannabis but it can also be used for traditional medication. So it’s got a good mainstream appeal.

Matthew: Okay. What’s your background? How did you get into this industry and developing the SneakGuard?

Graeme: Well my background is actually rooted in corporate America. I was a creative entrepreneurial marketing executive for about 20 years. I worked a lot in global manufacturing and I know retail marketing so that was my past background, but I have always been a serial inventor. Kind of followed in my grandfather’s footsteps. So I’ve always enjoyed inventing products that make our everyday life easier.

Matthew: Good. Yeah so dive into the SneakGuard a little bit for me because when I looked at it initially I thought I was looking at a safe, and it does have a safe function, but there’s other things going on there. Can you just describe those a little bit more?

Graeme: Sure. So I actually invented SneakGuard out of necessity. I caught my four year old daughter snooping around in our bathroom and she was able to open one of those push and twist medicine bottles. Yeah it was a scary experience. Luckily she wasn’t hurt but it certainly could have turned out a lot worse. So I’ve always been inventive and decided to see if I could look around and find something to solve the problem and there really wasn’t anything on the market that suited my needs. So I did a lot of research and decided this was something that I wanted to do.

I felt like the push and twist had been invented and patented in the late sixties. So I thought this is something that could be improved. It would actually keep my kids safe and would be easy for adults to use while maintaining a good sense of security which I thought I had from the push and twist, but apparently my kid could open it.

Matthew: At four did you say?

Graeme: Four years old, yeah.

Matthew: That’s pretty amazing.

Graeme: Yeah. You know it’s remarkable, when I did my research I found out that there were plenty of cases out there of children even much younger than that that were able to do this. So it’s fairly common problem.

Matthew: Okay. You formally had a different name for SneakGuard. Can you tell us about that?

Graeme: Sure. So as I had mentioned I had caught my daughter snooping. So as a marketer and a brander I was trying to come up with a name for the invention. I did a study of several different names and came up with Snoop Guard because I thought it had addressed what the product solved which was snooping. So I proceeded down the normal entrepreneurial path. Block and tackle. You get your patents and your trademarks in line and I trademarked the name Snoop Guard and the US Patent Office actually granted me the mark. So at that point I owned the mark and moved forward into production and actually took orders.

This was back in October of 2015. We attended a trade show and about two weeks after that we received a cease and desist from a well know rapper or this rapper’s attorney and we sort of hit a brick wall.

Matthew: That’s kind of a funny thing though because you got the trademark legally and then it just becomes a battle of lawyers and who is willing to spend the most on lawyers essentially is what would happen. I imagine this rapper who everybody probably knows who it is would just have a lot of resources to throw at this compared to your average startup entrepreneur.

Graeme: Yeah it certainly hit me hard as a person because at that point I was really trying to affect children’s lives. I had a safety product and that’s what I thought you know, that was my focus. Safe, responsible storage, and I had to quickly put on my CEO cap, if you will, and think more about a business decision. Did I want to slug it out in the courts which would take up a lot of time and certainly a lot of financial resources or do I want to pivot and stay true to what I was trying to do which was follow the mission of safe and responsible storage. So I ended up with a quick pivot and we branded the company, changed the name to SneakGuard.

Matthew: And a karma would have it this rapper is in a trademark dispute with the Toronto Maple Leaves right now over his first cannabis product. I don’t know if you’ve read about that.

Graeme: Yeah. It’s amazing.

Matthew: It’s interesting how that goes around.

Graeme: It is.

Matthew: I do enjoy his music so I’m not going to be too hard on him.

Graeme: That’s okay. These things happen for a reason and we made a quick, fast recovery so things are actually going very well now.

Matthew: Let’s dive into the specifics. What’s the approximate size of the SneakGuard. If I was holding it, what would it look like and feel like?

Graeme: Okay so it’s a round container. It’s about 6.5 inches in diameter and 6 inches tall. So it’s got a stainless steel wrap. It’s really solid. It’s double walled so it’s got a lot of insulation. It can be stored in the refrigerator. It’s got a plastic lid that’s BPA free and it’s got a really cool design but it’s a very ergonomic design, very easy to grip and grasp and very simple to use.

Matthew: Okay. So it protects visually as people can’t see into obviously. That’s kind of the first line of defense, but how else does it defend your cannabis or other medicines you might hold in there?

Graeme: So the two major categories, most people have problems with cannabis storage is really either the safety or the freshness aspect of it. And the cannabis safety it’s a key point of pain among the public, the media, the industry and even the government. It’s actually one of the eight priorities listed by the Department of Justice. This is the safety side. So we got a resettable lock that’s actually built into the lid, and then of course like you mentioned the opaque stainless steel exterior which they both sold for the safety side of this.

With any sort of medication it’s always good to keep it out of the reach of children and adding a lock is just basically buying you insurance. So with the safety side taken care of we kind of started to look into the storage. When you’re storing cannabis you’ve got heat and moisture, light air and then handling that can all cause problems with cannabis. So we took the aspect of storage and took it a step further than just your normal air tight container and we added the vacuum pump and then the humidity control capability. So we’ve basically combined the two to control the environment from a freshness standpoint and the security side.

Matthew: Okay so let’s go into a little bit about the moisture. Why is moisture so important and what is the optimal moisture level for your typical consumer or cannabis enthusiast out there that wants to keep their flower at kind of the right moisture level?

Graeme: Okay well moisture in general when you’re talking about interacting with anything that’s organic including cannabis, moisture can cause mold and bacteria growth. So what you want to do is you want to control the humidity in a similar fashion that you would look at Sagora [ph] if you will or a Humadore [ph]. And each substance has a different requirement for humidity and cannabis, the general range you want to be in is between 55-65 percent. That’s a relative humidity percent. This is very easy to control with a closed system and what we use are Humidican packs [ph], and they are basically plug and play. They’re like little, if you will, sugar packs that you would find in a restaurant. You just drop them in and they automatically add or take out moisture as its needed. So it keeps it at the relative humidity based on that pack and you can buy it in that 55 percent or you can buy them at 65 percent. Either way they really work really well to stabilize your cannabis. You don’t have to worry about it going too dry or going too moist. It’s just automatic, put it in and you’re set.

Matthew: That’s pretty clever. I mean I can visualize this taking out or putting in, but how does it achieve doing both? Do you know about the specifics of that?

Graeme: Absolutely. There are different manufacturers that have similar processes. The ones that we use is a gel pack. It’s food safe. You can actually touch the material. You don’t have to worry about it. In fact there are some of the reps for the brand that we use which is Integra Boost who actually put it on their tongue. It’s harmless, but it’s a gel. Some other products use a salt type of substance and it’s literally a gel pack that’s in a paper wrapper and it automatically takes it in or out based on the chemistry of the gel.

Matthew: Okay. And what about vacuum. You mentioned the vacuum nature of sealing. Why is vacuum key or important benefit?

Graeme: Okay. Again, it goes back to anything that’s organic and this applies obviously in the food industry. We know oxygen is the enemy of freshness so by removing the oxygen your cannabis is protected from the deteriorating effects of the oxygen. That’s the purpose of the vacuum really is to remove that accelerator of decay and by doing that you can maintain freshness and you can maintain how long your product is going to last and the potency because over time everything decays.

Matthew: What’s the feedback been like from the early adopters?

Graeme: It’s been terrific. Once customers have this thing in their hands and they actually feel it and touch it and see that it’s substantial and something that they can use every single day and they don’t have to worry about anything, it’s really been tremendous.

Matthew: Are you working on any other cannabis security products at all?

Graeme: We are. Actually we have two products that are in the pipeline. One is about 80 percent through development and it’s an exciting skew. What we’ve done is the current model of SneakGuard uses a combination lock that you can reset. It’s a full wheel combination lock, and we have developed a biometric version which replaces the combination lock with a biometric fingerprint sensor and it holds up to 300 passwords or fingerprints that is. So what this does is it creates a chain of custody if you will because we’ve added a smartphone app via iPhone and the Android operating system which allows the administrator to open and close the container with their iPhone but also administer all the fingerprints. So you can tell who has accessed the container and when they’ve accessed it. This is something that we’re really excited about. I’ve seen the prototype. It works. It’s fantastic and we’re really excited about releasing that hopefully in 2017.

Matthew: What are the price points for both the SneakGuard and your new product here?

Graeme: So the SneakGuard, we call this the CombiFresh for the combination lock. It retails for $119.99 and the BioFresh which is our biometric version we haven’t actually priced it yet but we know it’s probably going to be in the $200 range.

Matthew: What’s it like working with manufacturers to bring your vision to reality because I know it’s sometimes difficult to iterate and to get them to see your vision and to trust them and to source the right materials. Just to do everything just the way you would want it done? Can you tell us anything about that journey?

Graeme: Well yeah it’s an exciting journey. I’ve worked in manufacturing in China for many years, but despite that fact it remains a journey and a challenge for anyone regardless of your experience. You always have to build a relationship with anyone that you’re working with, but when you’re working on a product that’s never been done before you really have to take a lot of time and energy to translate your vision. In our case with SneakGuard it’s such a complex solution even though it seems like it would be very simple. Just simply combining a lock with a vacuum, but working in a vacuum presents a whole set of challenges and also the usability.

You want something that’s going to be very easy to use. So again it was a lot of relationship building. Looking at a lot of factories that have different strengths. I always go back to the product never existed before so I couldn’t exactly go out there and say okay I want to find a factory that makes a container with a lock and a vacuum. There was no such thing. So I really had to work hard to find the right one that would work with me and also take the risk. You’re talking about a product that is not a toy. It serves a purpose that has to deliver on safe responsible storage. So I had to be very picky.

Matthew: Has there been any dispensaries that have shown interest in carrying this?

Graeme: There have absolutely. We’ve got dispensaries in Washington and Oregon, that area. Those seem to be doing very well. It’s sort of early in the game with the dispensaries. I think a lot of dispensaries are very preoccupied with moving the product that they’re there to sell. But in my opinion as prices settle down, they’re going to need to find margin dollars and ways to differentiate themselves and I believe that non-plant accessories will become a big part of their assortment.

Matthew: Sure. You recently presented at the Arcview Group. What was that like?

Graeme: The Arcview Group, that was amazing. It was such a terrific experience for me. First of all it was really exciting to see the energy and the sheer scale of the industry. It was so concentrated. The level of expertise and the knowledge all in that one area. I don’t know for your listeners who aren’t familiar with Arcview they do a really good job of qualifying perspective products and services for investors. So they know the industry ins and outs. They know the data. It’s sort of an industry that’s so new and there’s so much room for opportunity. Unfortunately there are a lot of opportunists out there when it comes to investing in the business, but they are one of the few that are really professional. They’ve got a lot of integrity. So for me it was a great honor to be selected and it was just a lot of fun to be there.

Matthew: Graeme where are you in the investing cycle post Arcview?

Graeme: We pitched Arcview the week before Thanksgiving. So we’re in our Series A right now. We’re definitely seeking investors. Our current round close is at the end of January and we are generating revenue. We started our sales in April 2016 with our launch and we are distributors, sorry, we have a distribution in 26 states, Canada and the UK. So we’re off to a great start.

Matthew: Great, great. And investors that are interested in connecting with you, what’s the best way to do that?

Graeme: The best way to do that is to reach me directly at my email address. It’s ggordon@sneakguard.com.

Matthew: Graeme I like to ask a couple personal development questions to give listeners a sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Graeme: Sure, absolutely. One of the books that I’ve really enjoyed, I’ve read it a couple of times is Insanely Simple by Ken Segal. I was in the advertising business in corporate America all of my life, both on the agency side and the retail or client side. So I’ve always been a fan of branding and companies like Apple. So this book was written about Apple and really how Steve Jobs worked on the basic premise of keeping everything simple. Ken worked for an advertising agency that did a lot of work for Apple. So he was alongside of Steve Jobs the whole way, and he brings a really interesting perspective into the word simplicity and how you can use these principles that he lays out to guide you not only for your product but your advertising and really throughout your entire organization.

Matthew: I haven’t heard of that one. It sounds really interesting. Apple’s certainly done a masterful job of that.

Graeme: Yeah absolutely. For me it really hit a chord, especially with the simplicity side because simplicity is really important but it’s not easy to sit down and be simple. I think things that are intrinsically really simple or products have a lot more complex work behind them to get them to be simple versus some products or organizations that truly are very complex. Now Steve Jobs was a very complex person but everything that came out of there and to the point today still has that same feel of being very simple and for me that was really important for what I did and still do with everything. Not just product design but everything that I have as a touch point with a customer and my wholesalers, my distributors, my media partners and things like that. I think keeping it simple is key.

Matthew: I hope they can continue that radical simplicity with the car. It just sounds like they’re acknowledge developing the iCar. That’s a big jump from a phone or a computer to make a car, but I think it should be interesting to see them jump in and compete with Tesla in that domain.

Graeme: Absolutely. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. It’s exciting stuff right.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity that you would like to share?

Graeme: Yeah for me it’s a general tool. If I look at what I do I’ve developed a new product and kept a very flat organization through development and production because I want to scale the company but I like to be very nimble and I use a lot of outside vendors where possible. So for me my go to is actually the Adobe Suite which now resides in the cloud because content, I’ve got a new product and a lot of what I do is about education. Educating people why safe, responsible storage is important which means I need a lot of content and for me Adobe fits me very well. I use their entire suite all the way from web to audio, getting ready for pitches and things like that.

Matthew: Very cool. Is it the Adobe Cloud Suite then?

Graeme: The Adobe Cloud Suite right.

Matthew: Okay got it. Well Graeme thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. I really appreciate it and good luck to you with SneakGuard.

Graeme: Absolutely, thank you so much.

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Endoca Hemp CBD Review – Coming Soon

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How to Cure your Cannabis to Perfection with Cole Ducey

cole ducey of autocure

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What is the difference between drying and curing your cannabis and why should you care?

Great question. Turns out that it’s a really big deal to dry and cure cannabis right. If you do it wrong you can get nasty mold, if you do it right you have a beautiful flower with all its terpenes intact.

Learn how to master drying and curing your cannabis in this episode with Cole Ducey the founder of AutoCure.us

Key Takeaways:
[3:02] – What is Auto Cure
[4:40] – The making of Auto Cure
[9:37] – What’s the difference between drying and curing
[12:20] – Risks of not curing cannabis properly
[13:47] – Most common ways to dry and cure cannabis
[16:27] – How does Auto Cure work
[20:21] – Cole defines burping
[23:04] – What is RH Threshold
[25:14] – What does Auto Cure look like
[30:04] – Auto Cure’s data logging feature
[34:24] – Is the dashboard user-friendly
[37:46] – Cole talks about most common customer feedback
[41:08] – Cole answers some personal development questions
[48:40] – Cole’s contact details

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Note: Just a quick note that the audio quality of my microphone is not the best in this interview because I accidently used the microphone on my computer instead of the one I was holding in my hand. So my apologies about that and I’ll be back to better audio quality from my microphone in the next episode.

In an effort to continue to highlight the entrepreneurs that are making the picks and shovels for the cannabis industry I am pleased to welcome Cole Ducey founder of Auto Cure on to CannaInsider today to discuss an often misunderstood but extremely important topic, Curing Your Cannabis. Cole, welcome to CannaInsider.

Cole: Hey thanks Matthew. I really appreciate you having me on today, and I look forward to our conversation.

Matthew: Me too. Give us a sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?

Cole: So I am currently in San Diego, California at the Auto Cure facility. It is a beautiful day here, nice, sunny and clear and a great day to be speaking with you and discussing a little bit about Auto Cure.

Matthew: And I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland where it’s already getting dark and it’s very cloudy. So kind of the antithesis of what you’re doing down there in San Diego right now. Thanks for joining me early in the day.

Cole: Yes, yeah, you’re welcome. Yeah thanks for having me again.

Matthew: So tell me what is Auto Cure at a high level?

Cole: Auto Cure is a professional drying and curing technology. It is really one of its kind, and it is comprised basically of two components. The first being a robotics system that is run by software. The second component being a series of chambers or housing for the robot where flower contents are put into the chamber as well. The way that it functions basically is that the robot will activate or deactivate itself. During the activation phase air will be blown through the chamber system. New air will be blown into the chamber. When the robotic system is deactivated the system will close itself off to create an airtight environment so there is no air movement.

Matthew: Okay so we’ll get into the weeds on why that’s and idyllic scenario for curing your cannabis, but before we do how did you come about creating Auto Cure? Did you wake up one morning and just visualize this and say I must build it? What’s the origin story there and what was your background?

Cole: So it’s been a number of years actually. About seven years ago right out of college I was growing, cultivating and in order to compete with the dispensaries in the area in the San Fernando Valley where I was at, I knew that I needed to cure my flower. I knew that that gave the flower the best quality and it’s just the most desirable and highest value when it is cured. So as I was growing, I soon realized how monotonous and inexact of a process the curing process actually is so at that time I had the initial idea that I knew there needed to be a solution in the curing process.

So after my days of growing were done I actually went into studying to be a mechanical engineer which is what I currently do. So I run CNC machining equipment and I have a full shop. So basically after I learned the skills to manufacture such a device my initial idea came back to me and I basically put it together and I said wow I can actually make this now. I then started on the path of designing the product about two years ago, and that was a process in and of itself in fabrication and software development. Now we are at the place where everything is dialed in and we are making them in production. So that is very exciting.

Matthew: That is great. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met in the cannabis community that have created really cool products that have an engineering background. I mean it makes sense because you have this idea in your head and you’re like oh I know how make this but it’s really remarkable how many mechanical, electrical, structural engineers are just making some really cool stuff. I’m so glad people of that background are getting into it. Go ahead.

Cole: I was going to say you’re exactly right. It’s very interesting that point how mechanical engineers and machinists are transferring their knowledge into this budding industry that we got that’s the next huge growth industry. That’s really how I saw it, and so it was really an easy decision for me and I know that it is for a lot of other mechanical engineers also. So that’s a very good point.

Matthew: Yeah I mean a lot of problems that have no solutions still so it’s kind of this green field opportunity where it’s like hey there’s nobody doing this. I could just do it and there’s a lot of people making a lot of money with cannabis cultivation so they’re happy to throw money at you if you can solve their problem.

Cole: Correct yeah. Just kind of an aside, the funny thing is that the machines that I have and I run are the same exact machines that Boeing uses for the aerospace industry. So they’re made for building jet aircraft components, satellite components, highly highly precise pieces of equipment. However, I took that and other engineers alike have took that technology and implemented that precision into this new industry that really needs and desires this type of innovation. So it’s a very nice mesh that’s happening.

Matthew: Cool, some space age technology there.

Cole: Yeah exactly, exactly.

Matthew: Okay well let’s just get kind of into the bread and butter of curing, but before we do I want to just ask a very simple question. What’s the difference between drying and curing?

Cole: That’s a very good question, and basically curing is a longer more slowly controlled evaporation process than the drying process. It occurs secondarily after the drying process so just timeframe, approximate timeframes. Usually drying takes about five to seven days and that occurs right after the live plant is cut and harvested. Family foliage is typically wet trimmed off at that time and then the plant is either hung whole or in sections on strings upside down. That will take place for about five to seven days like I mentioned.

Then secondarily the curing process will occur when the flower has reached a certain level of dryness. So when the curing process starts what you are trying to do is get the innermost moisture released out of the flower in a slow enough process so that the medicinal oils and terpenes do not evaporate off with the moisture, the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Okay so it’s giving a pathway for the water to leave or the moisture to leave the plant by keeping all the terpenes and compounds that you want to keep. So it’s kind of the art and science of doing that in the most efficient way possible.

Cole: Correct, and if in the curing process if the evaporation process is too quick, then as we mentioned the valuable terpenes and oils resultantly get evaporated off with the moisture and they are lost. So the value in curing is retaining those oils while releasing the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Now I see a lot of growers, especially new growers, obsess about the soil and lights or these different growing inputs, but not spend a lot of time thinking about drying and curing. What’s at stake if a cultivator doesn’t cure his/her cannabis properly? What are the risks?

Cole: There is tremendous risks actually and very highly detrimental risks. On one side, like we discussed, if airflow is too much, if the rate of evaporation is too high in the curing process, then what you’re going to do is you’re going to over dry your flower. You’re going to lose too much of the oils. It’s just going to be dried out. You’re going to lose the smell, the taste, and it’s really just going to have that dried out grass feeling which loses end value. On the other end if airflow is too restricted, then what happens is you risk mold forming which can destroy your entire harvest if it spreads to grossly.

Matthew: Okay. How do most growers dry and cure now? I’ve been in grows and I see the plant hanging from a clothesline or in buckets and things like that. What’s the way most growers do it? Is that the way they do it or how does it typically work?

Cole: So the way I learned to do it and the most typical way that hear through our customers, we’ll start with drying. As I mentioned, touched on previously. In the drying process that occurs right after the plant is cut, the live plant is cut. So after the plant is cut from the stock there is an initial wet trim that’s done to get fan leaves and other excess foliage from the flower and the bud. Then either the whole plant or parts of the plant are hung upside down from strings, as you alluded to, and what that upside down hanging does is it pulls all the flower. Basically gravity pulls the remaining leave and the flower down so you get your typical nice bud structure. That lasts for about five to seven days, and in that time the plant drying in exposed ambient conditions which is the atmosphere within the room that its drying in.

So that’s important to understand because after that five to seven day drying period when you move to curing what you’re doing is you’re taking the flowers and you’re putting them in either buckets or jars and sealing off the jars. What you’re doing there is you’re creating a new environment for the flower that is actually protected from the dry, ambient conditions that you were previously hand drying in.

Matthew: Okay. How does Auto Cure work differently for the drying process than the curing process?

Cole: So that’s just touch screen settings that on the Auto Cure unit there is a touch screen display and there are sliders that control the venting parameters of the unit. So how often or less often the unit will actually vent itself. In drying, the unit will be set to vent itself much more frequently or in a continuous manner so there’s air constantly flowing on to the flower to dry. Whereas when you reach the curing stage you’re going to dial back the settings. It’s very easy, as I explained, on the display. So in curing when the settings are dialed back the unit will vent itself much less frequently so much less fresh ambient air is being blown onto the flower because you are slowing down the rate of evaporation during the curing process.

Matthew: Right. You don’t want that rate of evaporation to be too quick. That’s why you’re closing the vents intermittently. Is that correct?

Cole: Correct. So when the vents close the fans turn off. So at that point the unit is a airtight system. During that time the flower inside that is curing is releasing its moisture into the surrounding air inside the chamber. As that’s happening, the digital sensors that are placed inside the chamber of the Auto Cure read the increase in moisture in the air which is caused by the transference from the flower to the air via evaporation.

Matthew: Okay. So Auto Cure does measure moisture then?

Cole: Correct. So we have to be clear on exactly what type of moisture it is registering. What it is registering is actually the lost moisture from the flower that has been transferred into the surrounding air inside the chamber. So that’s different than the actual leaf moisture content inside the flower.

Matthew: So it’s measuring the ambient environment in the chamber as opposed to the plant.

Cole: Correct, and more specifically it’s measuring the change in the ambient level of humidity and that change that you’re seeing is actually coming from the release of moisture from the flower which indicates that the flower is drying or curing because it is losing moisture into the air.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about burping and what that means because these are kind of terms that are thrown around and sometimes we don’t have an opportunity to stop and define that. Can you define what burping means because I’m about to burp right now myself as a human.

Cole: Yeah. So burping is an industry term for what I referred to earlier as venting. How the Auto Cure vents itself another word for that is burping. Where burping comes from is in the traditional methods of curing you’re either using buckets or some type of a jar that becomes sealed, just like the Auto Cure seals itself off. Burp a bucket or a jar what you’re doing is you’re taking off the lid of the bucket or jar to clear out the saturated air that was inside each of the chambers and replacing that saturated air with new drier air and then sealing it back off so that the process of moisture transference from the flower to the surrounding air can occur once more. So it’s process that happens over and over. When you’re using buckets or jars that process gets extremely monotonous and when you get to a certain level of cultivating it becomes almost impossible, practically impossible to burp so many buckets or jars in a day.

Matthew: Yeah I can see where that would be time consuming and a pain to do that.

Cole: Yeah and that’s, as I mentioned, that was my initial idea in creating the Auto Cure is because the Auto Cure vents itself automatically whenever the computer knows that it’s time to. The compute knows it’s time to vent relative to the settings that user sets on the touch screen display.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about a different term here. What is RH threshold and why is that important to understand?

Cole: So the RH threshold is one of the settings on the Auto Cure that I just alluded to which causes the unit to vent and when to went. The RH threshold is one of the three toggle sliders that we have on the display, and what it does is it sets the maximum RH level, the maximum humidity level that is allowed within the Auto Cure chamber during the curing process. So as we discussed, when flower is put into the chamber and the chamber is sealed off so it’s not in a venting process what’s going to happen is the relative humidity inside the chamber is going to rise, and it’s going to rise until it hits the RH threshold value that you set on the display.

Typically that is around 60-65%, it could go as low as 55%, but the way that we use the Auto Cure and the way that most of our customers use the Auto Cure they set the RH threshold at 62 percent. So again once the internal RH hits 62%, the unit will vent itself completely, bring in new air which is then much lower than 62% right after the vent cycle is complete, then the humidity will rise again until it hits the RH threshold.

Matthew: If we were standing in front of an Auto Cure machine right now, how large is it? What could you compare it to so we can get visualization?

Cole: So the technology that we have is completely scalable so we have multiple sizes which I’ll go through right now. The smallest size that we have in production right now is our medium and that holds ten to twelve pounds. It could also hold as little as one pound because it is an air tight system so you’re not restricted to a minimum amount in that unit. Size wise that unit is two feet wide by three feet deep by three feet tall. So it’s basically the size of a large box. It could be easily carried with two people or placed on a roller table for easy accessibility, but it is designed as a tabletop unit. So it has feet on it. It rests on a table or platform of some kind.

Our next largest unit is the large. That unit is configured a bit differently from the medium in that it is on wheels. So it’s a floor unit that you’re able to easily roll around your facility. That unit holds 25 pounds. It’s two feet wide, by four feet long, by four feet tall. Our extra large holds 50 pounds. It’s configured the same way as the large and it’s double the size of the large. So it’s four feet wide, by four feet deep, by four feet tall.

Matthew: Okay. So it really depends on the size of your harvest on what size machine you’re going to get.

Cole: Correct and those are our individual units, our individual production units. From there we also make large scale production units which are actually walk-in chambers. One style of the walk-in chamber we make is actually retrofit into an existing dry room. The smallest chamber we make that’s walk-in is eight foot by eight foot by eight foot. It’s framed and lined in acrylic so it’s completely air tight. It utilizes our same technology. So basically it’s a walk-in room that burps itself. That is great for large quantities. We can fit over 200 pounds in one of those chambers and we can custom configure that for whatever type of racking the facility uses. So they’re great for the large producers.

The last style of walk-in chamber that we make is actually retrofit. It comes all in one in a prefab, insulated shipping container. So if you picture a shipping container that is completely insulated, it has full climate control inside to control the ambient. Then within that shipping container we build our Auto Cure chambers which then burp or vent the ambient that is controlled by the HVAC system of the shipping container.

Matthew: Okay so is that preconfigured then, the shipping container option or how does that work?

Cole: Correct. So that’s preconfigured and those are shipped to the customer preconfigured. They’re completely structurally sound. You don’t need to put them inside. They can be placed outside. They are very secure. They can be completely locked up. They just need a power supply hooked up to the shipping container as it doesn’t have its own generator. So it needs power hooked up to it.

Matthew: Okay. Tell us a little bit about data logging and how the Auto Cure logs the data so you can follow the progression of the curing process.

Cole: Yeah so that’s really exciting. That is something that we see has such far reaching implications for (1) the facility that’s using the product and (2) for the development of cannabis itself because what our data logging does is that we have a portal on our website where each owner of an Auto Cure has a username and password that they sign in to. In that portal you’re first going to see a graphical representation, a line graph of the current humidities registered by the Auto Cure over a period of time. So you’re going to see trends happening in your drying or curing flower which (1) allows the user to see in real time what they’re drying and curing flower is actually doing, (2) gives the user peace of mind. They know that the unit is working perfectly and they’re not even there.

They know that their flower is curing actively and they’re not even in front of the unit. (3) The data, when it’s interpreted or analyzed by the user, they’re going to be able to compile that data over multiple cures to know exactly when the flower is done curing strain specific.

Matthew: So it’s kind of like a journal where you’re saying hey this is exactly what happened and we love the outcome when this is what the log produced so let’s make sure we do that again and repeat this over and over once we dial in what works the best.

Cole: Correct. So the quantitative data, the raw data that is registered from the Auto Cure is sent to our portal and then the user will add their own qualitative data to the quantitative. So basically they see strain specific. They say Blue Dream is curing in X number of days at X RH percentage and we got the highest sales price when using those Auto Cure settings. So obviously they’re going to want to save the data so that they’re able to repeat the quality that they got when they received their highest sales price for that specific batch.

Matthew: Yeah so batch logging. That makes sense. You can then go back and see what you liked about it and what you didn’t. That makes a lot of sense. I guess people are doing it because they have to track the seed to sale stuff so this isn’t really that much of a stretch to go this far in logging the curing process. So that’s interesting.

Cole: It is.

Matthew: There’s a lot of people listening that might be saying hey this is very interesting stuff. I want to cure really well and make sure it’s all optimized but I don’t want to get a PhD in curing. Is the dashboard pretty easy to understand and is it pretty easy to learn? How long does it take to get up to speed would you say?

Cole: The learning curve is minimal to be completely honest. We made the (audio cuts) very straightforward. As I mentioned there’s three sliders that determine the venting parameters. So you’re either going to base it off a time threshold which means that if you set the slider to 24, the unit will vent itself once every 24 hours. The second slider that we already mentioned is the RH threshold. So that’s set typically to around 62 percent. The unit will also vent itself when the threshold hits 62% even if that’s before 24 hours which you set on the time threshold slider. So it’s an either or that’s going on with those parameters. So the Auto Cure is either going to vent when the RH threshold or when the time threshold is hit, whichever happens sooner.

Matthew: Okay. What about infused products companies? We’re talking about cultivators and everybody is getting their flower or trim from cultivators, but is there any unique type of needs or desires that infused products companies have or their careabouts when curing?

Cole: So instead of curing flower the Auto Cure can also be used for pre-processed drying of trim or other type of cannabis material. So pre-processed drying before it becomes extracted into oils or concentrates. So in the pre-process drying you’re actually not going for curing necessarily because the product will then be extracted into oil. You’re actually just trying to get the material as dry as possible before the extraction process. So when the Auto Cure’s settings are set to continuous venting then it’s very good to be used in the pre-process drying.

Matthew: Okay. So after a customer is onboarded with Auto Cure, they’ve had it for a couple of days, they’ve started to use it, what’s their immediate feedback to you in terms of benefits and in terms of what they like? What do you hear the most?

Cole: So the number one thing that we hear is the automation. We hear back it’s just so much less labor intensive than burping buckets. Along with that comes the precision and consistency of Auto Cure because during Auto Cure’s venting process inside the chamber a completely uniform laminar airflow which is from bottom to top, side to side completely uniform airflow flows through the chamber so that the contents inside dry and cure at a completely uniform rate. So along with the automation what our customers see is standardization and consistency which is something in the curing process and in the drying process is something that is a bit difficult to achieve is standardization and consistency because mainly in curing the manual burping process is so labor intensive and monotonous it just can’t be done on a precise or consistent level as compared to when a computer does it, i.e. the Auto Cure robot.

Matthew: Sure. What about for the people that are like hey I just want to set this and forget it? Can you really get that level of hands off? Let’s say if my mom was doing curing for my plants. Is this something where she could just throw it in there pretty much and set it and forget it?

Cole: Yeah so that’s how it’s designed.

Matthew: No offense mom if you’re listening.

Cole: Yeah so if your mom were to be curing your flower, then it would be as easy for her. She wouldn’t even have to touch the settings if you already preset them. So in the context of a grow facility the master grower or the head of drying or curing can set the settings and then the employees can come and load the device without touching any settings. They just close it right up and then the Auto Cure will vent from there. So it really is a set it and forget it piece of technology. On top of that we have the portal that you can login to on your smartphone or computer so you can check it remotely from there as well.

Matthew: Okay. That’s great. Cole, I’d like to switch to some personal development questions to let people get a better sense of who you are personally. With that is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Cole: Yeah you know the book that had the biggest impact on my life in the moment that I read it was, I actually listened to it on tape, I didn’t read it, but it is called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

Matthew: Sure, it’s a great book.

Cole: Yeah just an amazing, amazing book. It just really turned on a light in my mind and in my heart more specifically, and ever since then I’ve just really had a much more open outlook on life and humanity.

Matthew: Yeah he has this concept of watching the thinker. You kind of stand behind your thoughts and watch your thoughts kind of race and think about things like hey I’m hungry. What am I doing later? Did I make my bed? You can just watch all these things and you realize the entity that’s watching the thoughts is not the same entity that’s having the thoughts. When you separate those two things kind of go wow, then what am I. What’s going on here? It’s pretty deep but it really does open you up in a way that nothing else I’ve read has. It’s kind of very Zen or Buddhist like in that way.

Cole: Exactly and just to be sure that is really the biggest enlightenment that I got from that book. It was a book on tape that my mom just gave to me kind of out of nowhere. I’d never heard of it before and when I was listening to it in my car on a road trip when he got to that part it was just like I said a light went off and I was just like wow there’s a lot more to each and every one of us than just the monotonous voice in our head.

Matthew: Yeah and if you watch Eckhart Tolle, the author and video and stuff like that, it’s as close as you can see to someone that really has minimized their ego into a tiny, tiny, tiny thing because he has no affectation. I don’t know how to describe it, but you could do a YouTube video and listen to him talk. I think he’s German so he has a bit of an accent, but it’s just interesting to watch him talk, how long silences are between when he says things and he seems to feel no pressure to come up with the next word to spit out of his mouth. He’s a fascinating character. He looks like he could be a Star Wars character, kind of like a Jedi coming out with little one liners to make you think about things.

Cole: Yeah it’s really an art form. I’ve watched multiple of his YouTube videos so I know exactly what you mean. That state of consciousness is really an art form and he seems to have mastered that pretty well so he is seemingly our earthly Yoda. I like to refer to him as that.

Matthew: Yeah. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you would consider indisposible to your day to day productivity other than Auto Cure?

Cole: I would just say just basic meditation. I work in a machine shop that is very loud and there is a lot of stuff going on and I find that stepping away for even a minute or two and just clearing my thoughts and getting back to my breathing is something that always, always benefits me. So that’s what I keep a lot of my focus on throughout the day.

Matthew: Cool. I have a lot of entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs in the cannabis space and when they email me I read between the lines how much doubt they have in their selves and I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes we’re kind of programmed by the people in our life or the school system or we’re just not raised with much confidence about ourselves. I try to pass along that it’s okay to have doubts or you don’t need to be this perfect, fearless person and have 100% confidence. Is there a time you can tell us about where maybe you didn’t feel sure, but you went forward anyway to push Auto Cure forward?

Cole: It’s basically the entire process of Auto Cure.

Matthew: That’s what it’s been the whole time. It’s been doubts and I pushed through.

Cole: I mean obviously this is an invention and it’s something that we developed from ideas in our minds. So with that there’s more of a sense of lack of confidence when you’re just starting out, but as you’re focus remains more and more on what you actually feel in your heart is true, then that level of lack of confidence actually starts to fall away more and more as what you’re working on becomes more and more materialized which is an awesome learning experience in and of itself because now I look back on times when I was first starting with the product and I think a lot of that of worry and insecurity was completely useless and it was actually detrimental to what I was doing at the time. In short it’s really I feel about knowing in your heart what you truly want to do and what you truly feel like you have talent at doing and then maintaining focus on that over an extended period of time. So that is the implementation that I have done in my process and I feel like it is a great open mindset to have.

Matthew: Agree. Well Cole I know that listeners can find you on a beach in San Diego pondering Eckhart Tolle passages, but if they want to find you online, where would that be?

Cole: That would be on our website. It is www.autocure.us. That is www.autocure.us. We’re very easy to get a hold of. We have our email and contact number on our website.

Matthew: Cole, thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today and help educating us on the curing and drying process. I learned a lot today and I know the listeners will too so thank you.

Cole: I appreciate it Matthew. Yeah really appreciate you having me today and I hope you have a wonderful day.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.


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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

How to Get Your Cannabis Employees Paid – Keegan Peterson

keegan peterson

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Keegan Peterson is the founder and CEO of Enjoywurk.com

Wurk helps cannabis business get employees onboard, paid and helps business owners optimize their employees to meet the needs of their cannabis business. It may seem like a simple thing to get your employees paid, but in the cannabis world, at least in the United States it isn’t. Keegan also has some great insight into what it takes to start a sustainable and profitable business in the cannabis industry.

Key Takeaways:
[2:26] – What is Wurk
[2:51] – Keegan’s background
[5:07] – Keegan talks about realizing the need for Wurk
[7:02] – Problems arising from not having payroll software
[7:54] – The birth of Wurk
[9:14] – How to get your cannabis employees paid
[10:07] – What is labor waste
[11:42] – Feedback from current Wurk clients
[13:48] – Wurk dashboard
[17:08] – Metrics in the retail world
[18:28] – How does banking interact with Wurk
[20:07] – States where Wurk is available
[20:49] – Handling state-by-state compliance issues
[21:47] – Wurk in the future
[26:46] – Keegan talks about his experience at CanopyBoulder
[28:17] – Keegan answers some personal development questions

Learn more at http://www.enjoywurk.com

Important Update: What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?
Find out with your free guide at http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

It’s one of the recurring themes of the CannaInsider show to highlight entrepreneurs who are engaged in making the picks and shovels to support the cannabis industry. One of those entrepreneurs is Keegan Peterson founder of Wurk. Keegan, welcome to CannaInsider.

Keegan: Thank you Matt for having me.

Matthew: Keegan give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Keegan: Today I’m in Denver, Colorado which is where our business is headquartered. However, I spend a lot of time on airplanes in all the legalized cannabis states right now.

Matthew: Okay, and I am Edinburg, Scotland today. Yes you don’t hear that every day so it throws people off.

Keegan: I’m don’t, I’m jealous.

Matthew: I’m doing the interview in a kilt so I just wanted to make everybody aware of that so you can get a mental picture.

Keegan: It’s weird, I’m wearing a kilt as well.

Matthew: Really, wow what are the odds of that. Keegan, at a high level what is Wurk? What are you doing?

Keegan: Wurk is an HR payroll platform built specifically for the highly regulated cannabis industry. So we help business owners in this industry not only understand the typical complexities of running a business and dealing with employees but also to understand the compliance around running a cannabis business.

Matthew: Yes and there is a lot of compliance. Now what’s your background? How did you get started in this mad, mad industry?

Keegan: Yeah so I’ve spent the last eight years in the enterprise workforce management space working with folks like PetSmart, Target and a lot of the Fortune 500 retailers to help them understand their labor strategy and bring on tools and software to support that strategy. And a friend of mine happened to own a very large dispensary here in Colorado and kept on asking me for help and advice on how he could pay his people and run a more efficient business. After a while I realized there was a real problem in the space because there wasn’t software solutions to help these business owners.

Matthew: There is so much to running a dispensary. It really is crazy. I mean, people think of it as like oh I just get bud tenders interacting with customers, but if you have the cultivation side too, if you’re vertically integrated, that’s like a whole separate business. Then there’s just manage the employees and all the compliance and marketing. There’s just a lot of hats you have to really wear well that I don’t think is adequately covered about the industry. All people think about is hey you make a million dollars. You sell pot and that’s all there is to it.

Keegan: You’re spot on. Yeah you’re spot on, and the complexities of growing and selling the product are a whole other breed that no one has had to deal with before. So not only are you dealing with the complexities of running a business, just like any other traditional business owner has, now you have this whole new set of compliance that you have to report on daily. So it’s very challenging, and I would compare them to a Fortune 500 retailer who has distribution centers and has all these different types of business under one business. However, these smaller cannabis businesses don’t have the luxury of having thousands of employees to manage these processes. They have to figure it out on their own with a very small management team. So it’s a big challenge and these folks are doing an amazing job of making progress.

Matthew: So your friend says hey can you help us with X, Y and Z. You’ve got the background for it. What specifically were they looking for in terms of help and when did you realize this was going to be beyond just a little helping a friend that there’s a business here?

Keegan: So it was a back and forth. I was asking him for labor data to try to understand how the labor in this industry works and some of the drivers that run these businesses. When I asked him that question he came back and said hey I don’t even have a payroll system to pay my employees. I have no data to even give you to play around with. So after a back and forth I realized that he was paying his employees in cash and he was using Excel to track how much he had paid the employees and how much he’d paid in taxes, and then he was delivering cash to the IRS building downtown in a box to pay for his taxes, and I realized that there was a real problem here. When you’re paying that much tax at the end of the year, we’re not talking thousands of dollars, we’re talking millions in a box.

Matthew: Yeah so it’s like a Mission Impossible expedition just to get your taxes paid. You’re running around looking over your shoulder, make sure no one’s going to jack you.

Keegan: Exactly.

Matthew: That’s got to be nerve racking. So just the basic blocking and tackling of getting payroll done was just a huge obstacle.

Keegan: Yes, and it’s a security concern for not only that person who has to pay the taxes. It’s a security problem for all the employees that get paid checks in cash. It’s a security problem for the community that has folks carrying large amounts of money around. So it’s a really big problem. It’s plaguing this industry. It’s not just here in Colorado. It’s in every single legalized state, and until we started this company it didn’t seem like anybody was really going after the opportunity to help make this a better situation.

Matthew: So when you’re not able to have data around your payroll and do it digitally and so forth do problems kind of originate from that and then cascade into other parts of your business?

Keegan: Yes. So one it’s difficult to calculate how much you’re supposed to pay employees. Then it’s also hard to calculate how much you pay in taxes. If you do either one of those things wrong the penalties are very high. So the average employee lawsuit for being misclassified or paid incorrectly is $50,000 or 20% of their yearly salary, and then the penalties for not paying your taxes correctly can go all the way to the point where you get your business shut down.

Matthew: So you were talking with your buddy, you helped him out a little bit here and then when did that kind of idea germinate like I got a business here and I’ve got to start it. Did you talk to some other dispensary owners or where there a couple of other signs you saw where you say hey this has got to be a business. It’s an itch that a lot of other companies need scratched.

Keegan: Yeah when I sat down with him and I helped him create a solution he pushed me and said look I’ve been doing this for seven years. I know hundreds of businesses I can bring to you that are having the same problem. If you can fix this issue and sustain this and create a scalable business to solve not only this problem here but in multiple states, you have a really big business on your hands. So I started doing some research and I realized at that point that there were already 160,000 employees in the cannabis industry and the majority of them were underserved.

Matthew: Yes. So there’s a lot of aspects to Wurk I want to talk about, and just so people know Wurk is not spelled W-O-R-K but W-U-R-K. So we’re saying Wurk but it’s a little bit different spelling. Let’s talk about some of the features and benefits here with onboarding and so forth and tax paperwork so people can kind of get a sense of the full range of benefits they get when they come onboard with Wurk. I really want to highlight this because you’re not creating a spot product. It’s more of a solution that kind of engrosses all the pain points of your customers in an interesting way. So I want to give you an opportunity to talk about that a little bit.

Keegan: We’re a workforce management application so we look at the lifecycle of an employee within a business from the day you’re trying to attract him/her to the business to the day that they end up leaving the business. We look at that complete lifecycle and we’re building solutions to manage it as well as automate it. So that includes payroll. It includes HR and tracking of all the documentation that you need to when you onboard an employee, all the assets that you need to track while they’re with the business, t-shirt sizes, etc. We do all the time tracking. So how are you going to collect time from this hourly workforce? How are you going to schedule these employees? So all those different aspects we’re looking at that holistically and providing a one-stop solution to manage all of it in one place.

Matthew: Okay. What’s labor waste? How would you describe that?

Keegan: Labor waste comes in several different forms. So one is over scheduling. So if you schedule more labor than you have demand for. So let’s say you have four bud tenders working the counter and you only have three customers at the store, you’ve over scheduled and now you’ve spent more money than you need to. The opposite is true when you under schedule a workforce. So you have two bud tenders when you have ten customers in the lobby. Now you are going to miss out on sales because customers are going to get upset and they’re going to walk out the door. Overtime is another labor waste. Sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes it’s not. Managers tend to lean on it a little bit too much and think that it’s necessary when they can just bring in another employee that’s not being paid time and a half.

Then having the wrong employee mix. So sometimes you have too many junior bud tenders working the counter at peak hours and now you’re going to have less customer service than you would like to have, less experience than you would like to have at the counter which is going to result in less sales. So what we try to do is look at all of these holistically and build strategies for our clients to optimize in each one of these areas.

Matthew: Do you have any recent examples of how you’ve helped some clients improve efficiency by using work where they adopted the software and the solution, embraced it and then got some quick hits right away that they gave you some feedback on?

Keegan: Yes we have a client here in Colorado that has 300 employees and where we started building schedules into our solution, when we build a schedule it creates a budget. Sorry got some background noise in there.

Matthew: Pull them in there Keegan. I want to chastise them for interrupting your interview.

Keegan: It’s actually my speaker phone. It just randomly talks to me when it’s upset.

Matthew: Okay, darn, that would be fun. Okay go ahead.

Keegan: I’ll yell at it later. So but when you create a schedule in our system, because it’s tied to payroll, it tells you how much that schedule costs. So I’m going to have 10,000 hours, each hour is going to be worth $10, now I’ve got $100,000 schedule for this week essentially. Now when that schedule gets worked over the next seven days I’m going to have my actual and that creates a variance report. Now your actual is obviously different than what you scheduled because you have people working into overtime, you have people who don’t show up for work.

So when you look at these two, variance report and schedules, it clearly shows you where you’re being inefficient. You’re creating a budget. Your business is based on that budget and now you have an actual report that’s much different. If your actual are a lot higher than that schedule, then you know that you have some unexpected costs. Now sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. That’s where you start to see the overtime waste, and with our client that had 300 employees they started seeing overtime waste where managers were allowing folks to work into overtime when they didn’t necessarily need to and they had other employees that were available who weren’t in their overtime threshold. So for them we were able to quickly with one report be able to tell them here’s an opportunity for you to save a lot of money over the next twelve months.

Matthew: Okay kind of tailoring the work needs to the demands of the business. That makes sense.

Keegan: Exactly.

Matthew: Let’s say I’m a Wurk client and I login. Is there a dashboard that greets me and tells me something and if so, what do I see at first?

Keegan: There is and the great thing about our solution is the dashboard is customized to the user. So if your role in the company is to run payroll, then your dashboard is going to be our payroll dashboard and you’re going to see all the payrolls that you’ve run. You’re going to see missing time punches and how you can quickly fix them. You can also see employee birthdays so you can notify them happy birthday, thanks for working for our business. If you’re job is a manager, it might be more time tracking and scheduling features. So depending on who the user is in the business, when they sign on they’re going to have a dashboard that’s customized to what their job role is.

Matthew: Okay. So did you name all the roles there or are there more roles than that?

Keegan: There are more roles than that. So you got the business owner who wants a high level perspective of the business. So he’s going to want reports. He might want to see that variance report of schedule versus actually, not only short term but long term. Your general manager is going to care about seeing different stores in comparison to each other so that they can keep their managers accountable. Your managers are going to care about the employees that report to them and the manager’s goal is to hit their budget for the week. So if they get $10,000 dollars of labor, they’re goal is to work towards that 10,000 hours and they got to figure out where they need to flex. And then you’ve got your employees who care about their schedule, when are they scheduled for this week, can they request time off, is their timecard accurate, did they forget to clock out and they need to go in and change that. So those are different perspectives and we try to create a customized look and feel that gets the end user exactly what they’re looking for.

Matthew: So employees can request time off within the system?

Keegan: Right within the system, yeah, and the nice thing is being connected to payroll. All of that flows over into your payroll system and gets cut at the time of payroll.

Matthew: Okay very helpful. Is Wurk hosted on your servers or third party servers.

Keegan: Yep.

Matthew: Okay that’s how it works.

Keegan: It’s all in the cloud. We have redundant servers in place. We’re going through an SSAE audit right now. We’re an enterprise level application. We take security to a whole new level and we’re making sure that we’re doing everything on our end to protect our data and make sure that our clients are safe.

Matthew: Okay. So I’m looking at the dashboard for the first time. It sounds like this is a great way to pinpoint waste and allocate resources which is kind of what your background is in, but you mentioned a little bit about how the employee scheduling and so forth kind of addresses throttling the right amount of employees to the demand, but what are some other ways that a business owner can look at the dashboard or otherwise and say hey I see a distortion here in the business and it needs to be addressed according to this dashboard or what are some other things that business owners look at the dashboard and kind of pinpoint right away that they weren’t able to get access to before because they didn’t have the data?

Keegan: The most important measurement or metric in the retail world is labor as a percent of sales. So when you marry the data coming out of our system with your POS data and we can bring labor drivers into our system and create reports off of that. You now get a perspective of for every hour of labor out of spending here’s how much I’m getting in return in sales. That’s a very important aspect. I don’t know if a lot of cannabis business owners are running their business with that in mind and our goal is to help them get to that point. That shows you very specifically if your operation is efficient or not. Then when you have multiple locations, especially multiple locations in different states, having that statistic, that metric to compare location to location really gives you an idea of okay is my managers doing a good job, is my operation there set up. Here’s my secret sauce, have I applied that to every one of my locations or is one of my locations missing the bar. So I think that’s a really important statistic that folks in this industry need to start focusing on in running their business too.

Matthew: How does it work with the banks? Do you have the relationship with the bank that you manage on your client’s behalf or is the client’s account, I mean how does that work.

Keegan: Yeah so we’ve partnered with several banks that are in the industry and our goal is to be a channel to the banking system. So for clients that are unbanked we introduce them to our banking partners and if the banking partners see that their business is compliant and fit, then they usually sign them up for an account and at that point we feel comfortable working with them. We also have clients that are unbanked. Some states just don’t have banks yet and they’re using our system as an audit trail. So their employees go into our system and sign off that they’ve been paid, even though it’s been in cash, but it still gives them the audit trail that they need in case an employee comes back and says I’ve never been paid. Now they’ve got an IP addressed signed to that person saying yes they have.

Matthew: So this is helpful for the cannabis related business that wants to get banks and isn’t when they say look I’m coming above board and documenting everything possible. Does that give the bank a little bit extra layer of comfort like okay they’re working with Wurk to document everything?

Keegan: Absolutely. That’s what these banks want to see now. There’s obviously a limited number of banks that are in this industry and there’s a surplus of businesses. So these banks want to see that someone has put the measures in place to be a compliant business and not overboard. So having a payroll and time tracking system that shows very granular who’s worked where, how much these employees are paid, how much taxes were paid is one aspect of that compliance check.

Matthew: What states are you operating in now, are you servicing clients?

Keegan: We’re in ten different states right now. So we’re in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, New York, Vermont and I believe Massachusetts, eleven states.

Matthew: Okay, good memory. And now in terms of a compliance checklist and such because each state’s compliance regulations are different. Some a lot different than others. Is there built in modules or add-ons or features for people that want to get into more compliance related tasks with Wurk?

Keegan: Absolutely. We actually rolled out a module called Comply and that module is focused on the state specific compliance that the state marijuana enforcement division is putting on to that state. So for instance in Colorado the marijuana enforcement division is the regulatory body. Here there is new hire reporting that they require. Their employees have to badged before they can work in a facility. So we work with the MED to really understand those compliance and then build it into application and we’re going to do that state-by-state. For some of these states we’re in a wait and hold pattern as they’re trying to figure out their regulatory body and what they’re going to require. As soon as those get finalized we’ll build those into our application.

Matthew: Okay. And where do you see Wurk going in the next couple years? I mean it’s kind of getting everybody into the fold and making sure their employees are paid and documenting all that, but how do you see it evolving?

Keegan: Yeah that’s a great question. There’s so much opportunity right now because the market is so underserved that we’re focusing on getting this application in the hands of business owners and helping them run a compliant business. Our goal is to service every legal cannabis state in the United States. We’re going to focus on the United States for the time being. Then we’re going to look at the lifecycle of the employees and the different things that they have to do and we’re going to continue to build solutions to support those. So we will be bringing new products to market over the next year to two years, but they’re always going to be focused around employee management and employee engagement.

Matthew: Where are you in the investing process right now? Are you looking for more investors? How many investors have you had? What can you tell us about that?

Keegan: We’re not looking for more investors, but we will have some news coming soon.

Matthew: Yeah. Okay. And you’ve had some high profile investors. I imagine if anybody does a Google search they could figure out more about that. I don’t know how much you’re willing to talk about that, but I thought I would throw that out there.

Keegan: Yeah we’ve been very fortunate. We have an amazing investor base. Poseidon is one of those investors. Rick (23.01 unclear) is one of those investors, and we have some more folks that are coming onboard that really are thought leaders in this space. They’re really connected in making a difference in this space. So we’ve been very fortunate to have them a part of what we’re doing, and they fit the standard for who we want to be working with.

Matthew: If there’s any aspiring entrepreneurs listening, Keegan, that want to know what it’s like to spot an opportunity, build a team and raise capital, what would you tell them about that process and maybe encourage them and tell them what to look out for both to and avoid.

Keegan: I’ll say it’s very challenging. The last two years of my life have been very challenging to say the least, but they’ve been the most exciting years of my career and my life. It’s a real honor to have an opportunity like this to work with amazing people. This industry is full of different people than in the traditional world and that’s what I love about it. Some of the challenges, fundraising is not easy in this industry. A lot of folks are conservative investors looking for conservative investments and I think the challenge is really understanding your business model and understanding to a point where it can become investful to another individual who may be conservative. So you really have to look at how you’re going to scale your business, how this business is going to be able to support multiple markets and how you can easily bring a business to profitability. I think the one thing that we were lucky with is there is a lot of comparables as far as payroll companies that have been created over the last five years. Business owners look for that.

Matthew: You’re lucky you’re in a niche that really business owners need. It’s not something like do I need this or do I not. It’s a staple of any business so that’s a good thing to be pitching investors always.

Keegan: It is. If you want to keep your doors open, you want to make sure you’re paying your employees correctly. It is a nice spot to be in and the more folks that we can get introduced to and help, the more we can help this industry stay alive and continue to grow.

Matthew: Yeah and there’s an additional benefit of this being kind of a sticky application. The more you use it, the more it gets woven into the fabric of your business and it’s probably hard to leave or transition which you know I’m not going to say that that would be a problem for you but that’s a benefit because as the clients commit to you they get deeper and deeper into work and it’s just woven so tightly. So that’s another benefit for investors potentially.

Keegan: It is, and the more that we can really understand these businesses and help them implement labor strategies and control their labor, the more they’re going to want to use our service. And that’s our goal is we do payroll. That’s one aspect of it and that’s a big challenge in this industry, but when you start marrying in the labor efficiencies and understanding how I deploy my labor, that’s where you really see long term value for your business and I think that’s where the industry is moving as we continue to evolve and get bigger.

Matthew: You were part of the CanopyBoulder cannabis technology accelerator program that focuses on ancillary cannabis businesses. Can you tell us a little bit about that. That’s where we originally met. I was over there and I met you and I learned about your business. Can you tell us about your experience there and what it was like?

Keegan: It was an amazing experience for me. I learned a lot. I matured as a person, as a business owner. The business matured very quickly. Our goal through that program was to mature the business model and make it investable and then prepare ourselves to scale into multiple markets and that’s exactly what we did over the three month term. So the program is led by Patrick Rey and Mika Tapman and both of them have experience in building, in investing in businesses. So they give you a whole plethora of their experience but then they bring mentors and advisors who have done similar feats that these young entrepreneurs are trying to accomplish, and help them accelerate their business in a very short period of time, and you can see from the companies that have come out of Canopy that they have figured it out and they’re really doing a lot to help these businesses grow. We were fortunate to go through that program and our business has definitely grown and seen the results of going through such a program.

Matthew: Keegan I like to ask some personal development and enrichment questions so listeners can get a sense of who you are personally. I normally ask two questions but I’m going to ask you seventeen. I’m just kidding. I’m only going to ask you two. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your way of thinking or given you a new lens or perspective on life that you would like to share with listeners?

Keegan: Yes. Never Eat Alone was one of the books that I read a couple years back, and I think the author is Keith Ferrazzi. That’s a book that really pushed me outside of my boundaries to invest in the people that are around me, the friendships, the business partnerships and it helped me learn to enjoy those conversations. That was one book that really stood out in my development.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise other than Wurk that you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity?

Keegan: Trello I use quite a bit. It’s a gant chart and I want to… or (29.08 unclear) I’m sorry, and it helps me organize what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and prioritize my tasks so that’s one thing I lean on quite a bit.

Matthew: So Trello is a web based tool where you have these cards. They look kind of like index cards or something that show what your working and then your team shows cards of what they’re working on. Is that what it is?

Keegan: Yes and how I set it up is I have a card for each department in the business and then on each card I have different tasks that are associated with what I want to get done in that department and then I can bring team members onto those cards who are associated with that side of the business. Then we can prioritize when we’re going to get these tasks done, and then we have a separate card for things that we get accomplished so that we can see how much we’ve accomplished in the last week, month, quarter, etc.

Matthew: Would you say that lends itself more to software development in general or do you think any team could benefit from that?

Keegan: I think any team could benefit from it. We use it more on the operational and sales aspect. Obviously we’re trying to grow this business very quickly. So we’re trying to look down the road 12 months at where we need to be, what policies we need to have in place, what structure do we need to have built in order to support more customers and more sales reps etc. So we use it mostly in our sales and implementation process to organize what we’re doing.

Matthew: Okay. Keegan as we close can you tell listeners how they can find Wurk online?

Keegan: So you can go to www.enjoywurk.com and you can see all the different products that we have available. You can request to see a demo, you can connect with someone on our sales team. If you would like to email us directly, you can email us at sales@enjoywurk.com and we would love to hear from you.

Matthew: Great. Keegan thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Keegan: Thank you for having me.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Medical Doctor Pivots to Create a Cannabis-Focused Practice

dr rachna patel

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Dr. Rachna Patel has a background in emergency medicine and completed her medical studies at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine and her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University. She has been practicing in the area of medical marijuana since 2012.

Learn why Rachna pivoted to make the focus of her practice cannabis and why cannabis related treatments may be the future.

Key Takeaways:
[2:09] – Dr. Rachna’s background
[5:11] – Dr. Rachna talks about her day to day practice
[6:52] – Dr. Rachna talks about patients’ motivations for coming to her office
[7:57] – Dr. Rachna’s recommendations on what symptoms to use cannabis for
[9:03] – Cannabis very effective for anxiety
[11:12] – Using cannabis to conquer opioid addiction
[13:27] – Instances where cannabis is not a good treatment option
[22:24] – Cannabis and cancer
[24:14] – Is the endocannabinoid system discussed by MDs?
[27:24] – Dr. Rachna gives her thoughts on the vaccine controversy
[28:47] – Dr. Rachna answers some personal development questions
[33:59] – Dr. Rachna’s contact details

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

 

Read Full Transcript

I am pleased to have a medical doctor on the show today to discuss how she is integrating cannabis into her practice. Dr. Rachna Patel has a background in emergency medicine and completed her medical studies at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine and her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University. She has been practicing in the area of medical marijuana since 2012. Rachna welcome to CannaInsider.

Rachna: Thank you for having me on the show.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Rachna: I am located in the Bay Area in California.

Matthew: Okay an I mentioned your background and education a little bit there, but can you tell us a little bit more about that and how you pivoted into the cannabis practice?

Rachna: Sure. So like you mentioned my background is in emergency medicine and while I was going through training there were a couple of cases that really stood out in my experience while I was training. So one was seeing a ten year old boy who had come in having overdosed on oxycontin. He was barely breathing. The second scenario was a woman who had previously been admitted twice to the ICU because she had overdosed on opioids and in both scenarios the doctors had predicted that there’s probably a 90% chance that she will die and fortunately she didn’t, but there was a night that I was working in the emergency room and there she was coming in again seeking opioids.

Third situation is basically overall in general I saw a lot of elderly patients that came in. They are on a sleuth of medications and a lot of them would come in just completely out of it because they had taken too much of their opioids. The fourth scenario was going through what’s called a toxicology rotation and this is when basically all you deal with are overdoses on prescription and over the counter medications. So big picture here, you step back. I started off medical school wanting to really truly help people, but what I was finding is that the very medications that I’m prescribing are harming people. So there’s something wrong with this picture.

Now at the same time I happened to find an ad on Craigslist there said medical marijuana doctor needed. So that definitely peeked my curiosity and I started looking into the field. I didn’t even know that it existed. Then what I started doing was I started going through the research on marijuana. I was looking at the studies that were out there, what they said and at some point I was compelled enough where I was like okay I think there’s something to this. It has a lot of potential for pain management and as it stands in medicine we don’t have a good option for long term pain management. So any good doctor needs a lot of clinical experience and there was no formal training experience in medical marijuana. There still isn’t. So what I decided to do was work at a medical marijuana clinic, and that’s where the journey started and here I am today.

Matthew: Wow. That’s an interesting path. What’s your day to day practice like today?

Rachna: So day to day mainly I just practice in the area of medical marijuana and I treat a wide variety of conditions mainly chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia.

Matthew: Okay. You saw the Craigslist ad and that was just kind of something that sparked your interest, and then what further from there when you said hey I’m looking for alternatives to some of the maybe more hash alternatives in terms of medications out there.

Rachna: It’s not that I was looking for an alternative, but as I started to do the research on marijuana I learned that it has a lot of potential to be a great alternative. So I was reading about how there was a study done by Dr. Donald Abrams on how using marijuana helps to reduce the use of opioid medications. I saw how it helps patients with multiple sclerosis, patients with arthritis and whatnot. These are all preliminary studies that I read about but they definitely peaked my interest. It was a stark contrast to what I was seeing in the emergency room with opioids.

Matthew: So most patients that come to your practice are they looking for alternatives or what’s they’re primary motive for coming to see you? They’re saying hey I want to try some botanical solution with cannabis or just like the fact that you’re open to it or how does that work exactly?

Rachna: Typical scenario is that I have patients that have spun their wheels with conventional medicine and they’ve tried, when we talk specifically about pain management, they’ve tried the opioids. A lot of times patients are then moved on to antidepressants and then they’re moved on to medications that are typically used for seizures. Then they get injections with cortisone which is a steroid. Then they try alternative options like acupuncture or massage or chiropractics and nothing is really working for them. So mainly what they tell me is Dr. Patel I’m here because I’ve spun my wheels, I don’t know what else to do and I’m going to just try this as a last resort.

Matthew: Okay. If you were to rank the top conditions or symptoms you recommend cannabis for, what are the top two or three you would mention?

Rachna: So the top three, like I said, chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety.

Matthew: Chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety. Now this is kind of anecdotal and subjective, but why do you think most people are experiencing anxiety now and do you feel like it’s at a higher level than points in the past?

Rachna: A lot of patients will tell me that a lot of anxiety… I’d say half of my patients it’s due to work related anxiety, work related stress and the other half it has to do with just they get nervous in social settings, especially where there’s like large crowds of people or speaking in front of a large group. So those are sort of the general trends that I’m seeing in my practice.

Matthew: So do you think cannabis is an effective treatment for anxiety and if so what’s the best kind of application to help there?

Rachna: Yeah, actually I find there are certain conditions where the medical marijuana works better than prescription medications and I definitely say anxiety is one of them. The alternatives aren’t that great. Typically benzodiazepines are used and these are medications like Ativan, Diazopam, Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication for anxiety. They’re highly addicting and they’re highly sedating as well. So it does impact the quality of a person’s life. What I found with medical marijuana is that patients can use it on an as needed basis. They don’t need to use it on an everyday basis which is the nice thing. Anxiety can sort of range the spectrum.

There are those that have it on an everyday basis. They have panic attacks very often during the week, and then there are those where it’s more situational. It just depends on the situation. So what’s nice about medical marijuana is that you can sort of, you know, once you start taking it, you don’t have to take it on an everyday basis. You can take it on an as needed basis. So that’s what I like as a physician, but that’s also what my patients like about the medication as well.

Matthew: You mentioned a little bit earlier about helping with opioid addiction. How does that work exactly and how effective is it as an alternative to other forms of dealing with opioid addiction because it seems like we’re really at a huge huge amount of the population is suffering from this, some areas of the country worse than others. We don’t really seem to even talk about it. There’s not a national dialogue about it. It’s kind of buried underneath, we kind of sweep it underneath the rugs. Where do you feel like the level of opioid addiction is or opioid addiction and how can we use cannabis to help with that as an alternative?

Rachna: Let me make a distinction here. So I get the patients that are not looking to get addicted on opioids. So that’s one group of patients that are using it but they’re using it very cautiously. Then there are those that are actually addicted to opioids. So let’s start with the patient population that I see. Now based on research, again this was a research study that was done by Dr. Donald Abrams, he basically in his study, the results showed that marijuana helps to reduce the use of opioids in terms of dosing. The reason is is that marijuana enhances the effect of opioids.

Say you typically take two tablets of an opioid. By using it with marijuana you can get away with using just one tablet because that one tablet will be made more effective with the use of marijuana. Now what I’ve seen in my practices that’s definitely the case. There are patients that are able to significantly reduce the dose of the opioid that they’re on, but I’ve also found that there are patients that are able to come off of the opioids. Again they’re using the medical marijuana on an as needed basis. Now when it comes to addiction, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t treat in general a lot of patients that are addicted to drugs. I’m also a believer that I don’t think one substance should, if you’re addicted to a substance, I don’t think you should replace one substance with another substance because that’s still addiction in and of itself. So I can’t say much about that based on the experience that I’ve had.

Matthew: So we’ve talked a little bit about what cannabis is good at treating or is a helpful tool in your tool belt. Are there any symptoms where cannabis is not in your opinion been a good treatment option for patients?

Rachna: There are certain patient populations that I’m very cautious in recommending medical marijuana to. To start off with, any patient that’s had a history of psychotic episodes. The reason being one of the chemicals in marijuana, THC, has psychoactive properties, and if you take too much of it, it will cause hallucinations. So it makes these patients that have already had a history of psychotic episodes even more prone to getting other psychotic episodes because of that psychoactive effect of THC so that’s one population.

The second population is are my patients that have some sort of underlying heart condition. The reason being again marijuana can, if you overdo it, increase your heart rate. So you don’t want to put too much of a demand on the heart to the point where it could potentially stop beating. So that’s another population. In patients that have lung conditions, obviously they don’t want to be smoking or even vaping marijuana because it can exacerbate their underlying lung condition. Of course patients that are pregnant, that are breastfeeding, I tend to err on the side of caution with these patients. There are studies that go both ways. So there are studies that show that it has no impact on a growing baby, but then there are studies that also show that using marijuana while you’re pregnant can cause pre-term labor and delivery and also cause low birth weight as well. So those are the areas that I’m generally or those are the patients that I’m generally cautious in recommending medical marijuana to.

Matthew: So you mentioned smoking and vaping. I mean if the patient was going to do one or the other would you say hey vaping is a little less harmful or do you say look just don’t do any of them, skip that?

Rachna: It depends on what you’re vaping. There are concentrates that are extracted in solvents which I don’t recommend using. Because at this point we don’t have information on if there’s anything residual left over after the whole extraction process. We don’t know how many parts per million there are of that residue. Okay and if there are toxic levels of it, then it’s doing harm to your body. So overall I don’t generally recommend to my patients that they smoke marijuana. Long term it does do damage to the lungs. It does make you more prone to infections like chronic bronchitis for instance. Then vaping, as I said, I’m cautious about the concentrates.

Matthew: We’ve reached a really high level of autoimmune conditions or disorders. I want to ask you about that, but first can you just maybe rattle off a few autoimmune conditions and your opinion about why there’s so many autoimmune issues going on right now?

Rachna: Actually I’ve dealt with an autoimmune condition and that was hypothyroidism. For the longest time, I was diagnosed in my 20s and I had been on medications for the longest time, and in medical school they teach you that it’s lifelong condition. So about a couple of years ago I decided to stop eating sugar and try to eliminate as many carbs as possible in my diet. What that actually did was it reversed the autoimmune condition. My thyroid levels completely normalized and I’m now off the medication. So speaking from a personal experience, I can’t help but say that what you eat has a significant impact especially on autoimmune conditions.

Matthew: Okay yeah and autoimmune conditions often have an inflammation component with them. Why is that and is cannabis helpful in treating or helping the inflammation aspect of autoimmune conditions?

Rachna: Yeah so basically what an autoimmune condition is is that your body is attacking your own body. There is some sort of signaling that went awry and now your body is just attacking your own body. What happens is that attack process results in inflammation. Now the way marijuana sort of plays in is that marijuana does have anti-inflammatory properties and based on research in mice we know at a very cellular level what the marijuana is doing. So mainly it does three things. One is that it’s causing the death of the cells that are attacking your own body. The second is that the signaling that’s going on amongst these cells that are attacking your body the marijuana suppresses that signaling.

Now the third thing is is that marijuana activates T regulatory cells. This is a type of cell that we have in our body that ensures that the body doesn’t respond to chemicals that are signaling hey attack the body. So that’s how by affecting the cells that are attacking the body their communication process and then affecting T regulatory cells, this is how marijuana is reducing the inflammation that goes on. Specifically, clinically conditions that I’ve treated where there’s an autoimmune component to it those are psoriasis, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, so those are just some of the ones that I see very commonly.

Matthew: Okay. What’s your reaction from colleagues when you tell them you’re in the cannabis space? Does their facial expression change at all? I mean you’re in the Bay Area so people tend to be more familiar with cannabis out there, but is there any kind of wrinkled brows or anything like that?

Rachna: It’s really interesting because when I first started my practice in 2014, we’ve made a lot of progress since I would say 2014 onwards, but when I first started my practice. Typically what a doctor does when they start a practice is that you go around to other doctors to let them know that hey you’re in town and basically if they have patients that would benefit from the specialty that you practice and they refer patients to you and then if you have patients that would benefit from whatever they practice and you refer patients to them.

So I remember going to a variety of different specialists; neurologist, oncologists and just to let them know hey I’ve opened up this practice. I specialize in the area of medical marijuana and I basically got the door slammed in my face. Nobody was willing to meet with me. What’s really interesting is that now, this is now my third year of practice going on to my fourth year. I now actually get referrals from doctors that I’ve never even met before. So I think we’ve made a lot of progress in a span of a very short time. So I would say overall definitely the perception has changed. I realize that doctors in general tend to be conservative so I do have patients that still come to me and say hey I am a little concerned about telling my primary care doctor that I use marijuana for medical reasons. Then I’ve also had patients where they have told their doctor and it was met with a lot of that finger pointing like you shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing. So we still have a ways to go, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress.

Matthew: What about cancer? There’s a lot of people listening that have a friend or family member with cancer or they themselves have it and they’re wondering hey is a possible application for me.

Rachna: Sure so there are a couple aspects of cancer that the marijuana I found helps greatly with. So for anybody with cancer that’s undergoing chemotherapy they end up experiencing, as a side effect of the chemo, nausea, vomiting, complete loss of appetite. So those are areas where the medical marijuana helps greatly. It helps you reduce the nausea, gets them to stop vomiting, gets them eating again, and anybody who has used marijuana can speak to this because they’ve probably experienced the munchies at one point or another. So we know that it definitely stimulates appetite.

Now what I want to touch on is this whole sort of claim that’s going around, especially on the internet, that medical marijuana cures cancer. There is certainly research out there, preliminary research, in cell cultures in mice that does show that marijuana does have anti-cancer properties. It does fight cancer. Now we don’t know if this is the case in humans yet. We don’t have enough research number one, and secondly clinically I actually haven’t found that to be the case. I’ve seen quite a few, I’ve been doing this since 2012, so I’ve seen quite a few cancer patients and nobody has really come back to me and said hey Dr. Patel, the marijuana cured my cancer. So I think we have jumped the gun in coming to that conclusion. It very well may have the potential but we need more information at this point.

Matthew: In medical school do they talk about the endocannabinoid system or is that still something that’s just not really discussed in the medical community yet?

Rachna: Not at all. Marijuana is presented as a drug of abuse not as a clinical treatment. So no, we never learned about the endocannabinoid system. A lot of what I learned is based on just going to Pub Med and reading the journal articles that have been published on this. Of course what I learned in medical school helped tremendously the basic concepts that you learn, like for instance in pharmacology, biochemistry and whatnot, using those concepts. It helps you to sort of put all this information together, but no it’s definitely not taught. I mean I graduated medical school back in 2009 so it’s been a couple years and obviously we’ve made a lot of progress with medical marijuana itself as a treatment option so I don’t know currently if it’s taught at any medical schools.

Matthew: Was that kind of a strange moment for you when you realized hey I know all about the pulmonary and respiratory system. It’s like how can this whole system exist, and it’s like we don’t even talk about it or it’s not even acknowledged. It’s kind of a strange thing isn’t it?

Rachna: Yeah it is. I believe I read somewhere that it’s a system with the second highest number of receptors in the body. So it is definitely something that’s having a huge impact on the human body. I mean if there’s anybody out there listening who is a medical school faculty member or an administrator that I think I encourage them to make this a part of their curriculum.

Matthew: Okay. I like to ask guests a few personal development questions to help the audience get to know you a little bit better so I’m going to jump right in. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your way of thinking or has been a good lens into a learning opportunity for you that you would like to share with listeners?

Rachna: Yeah. So I don’t know if you’ve heard of this Hindu texted called the Bhagavad Gita.

Matthew: Yes.

Rachna: So I grew up with my father quoting that book. So I have learned so much about life from him just quoting it. An example that I can tell you about is one of the things that’s said in the book is don’t focus on the fruits of your labor, focus on the labor. I think that’s very relevant to American culture. We’re so goal oriented. So I remember growing up and even recently going to my dad. Just being an overachiever I would go to my dad and I would be like dad, I’m going to get a 4.0, and I remember him telling me just focus on learning the material. I remember when I opened up my practice I was like dad I’m going to be the best medical marijuana doctor there is and he said you know just focus on serving each patient and be grateful that that patient help you put food on your table. So he really kind of sort of just kind of pulls me back and reminds of what really matters at the end of the day. So a lot of what he’s telling me he’s learned from this book.

Matthew: Very nice. It’s kind of balancing the yin and the yang there, kind of hardcore goal setter versus kind of a spiritual path there.

Rachna: Yeah.

Matthew: Yeah I’ve had that book recommended before and the Dao De Jing which I’ve read and these are some huge spiritual texts out there now. Anything else that you heard from your dad, any other words of wisdom that would throw out occasionally?

Rachna: Yeah so growing up he told me this one story that always stay in thought in my head. So he told me that this woman went to Buddha and said it’s really unfair that I’m suffering so much in life. So the Buddha told her okay well here’s what I want you to do. Go to a house and find me some mustard seeds from a household that’s never suffered, and nobody in the household has ever suffered. So she goes around trying to find these seeds from a household from people that have never suffered, and she’s trying and tying and she’s unsuccessful so she goes to Buddha and she says I couldn’t find any seeds from a household that’s never suffered, and pretty much he was like well that’s your answer.

So I think the lesson my dad was trying to teach me is that struggles are important in life and they make you who you are. So that’s a story that’s always sort of stood out in my mind. I remember him telling this to me. I mean none of this made sense when I was five years old, ten years old, but now it’s like wow, I can’t believe I have this amazing person as my father that’s taught me so much.

Matthew: That’s great. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity?

Rachna: So you’re talking to a millennial. All of it is essential, but I mean even things as simple as Gmail. I’ve been using it for the past, I don’t know, 15 years now. So even Facebook, I mean I was an early adapter when it came to Facebook because I think what Mark Zuckerberg had initially done was that he only allowed access to certain colleges and I think he had started it in February of 2014. I remember reading about it in our college newspaper in April of 2014 and I was like this was interesting. So I joined. So I think that’s a hard question to ask to a millennial. It all at some point becomes crucial to your survival.

Matthew: Right. So would you say millennials are miscategorized sometimes. Obviously you’re employed, you went to medical school. So do you get frustrated when people say hey millennials are kind of like they don’t do anything because clearly you do.

Rachna: Yeah we do but we just do it in our own way. We don’t necessarily follow social norms. Yeah I’m a doctor, but I’m a medical marijuana doctor. So yeah.

Matthew: There’s something to the generation thing. I read a book called the Fourth Turning by a gentleman at a university that studies generations and there is a big impact on our world view and our outlook and how we relate to people just from our generation. Everybody including myself likes to think we’re a unique snowflake, but I’m a Gen Xer and there’s certain characteristics that I read about and I’m like holy I do relate to that and how did I pick these things up. They just kind of stick to you like gum on your shoe.

Rachna: Yeah totally.

Matthew: Hey in closing can you let listeners know how they can find you online and connect with you?

Rachna: Sure. A couple of different channels that they can connect with me. One is my website which is www.drrachnapatel.com. I won’t spell it out for you but I’m assuming you’re going to put it in your show notes because it’s long. Second is my YouTube channel. I’m always trying to put out information on commonly asked questions, conditions that can be treated by medical marijuana, conditions that can’t be treated by medical marijuana. That’s on my YouTube channel. Then thirdly I know there’s a lot of people with questions out there so every Wednesday on my Facebook page I have an Ask Me Anything Wednesday and you can post your questions in the comment section and I’ll either comment or if it’s a very common question, then I will do like a Facebook live answer to that question.

Matthew: Now can they ask you unrelated questions like what’s your spirit animal or does it have to be strictly related to cannabis and medical questions?

Rachna: It doesn’t have to be. They can ask me, I mean as long as there’s certain bounds, I mean some people kind of like take it to an extreme and that’s kind of weird. So as long as it doesn’t get weird it’s okay.

Matthew: Okay good to know. Alright, well Rachna thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today we really appreciate it.

Rachna: Yeah thank you for having me on your show. I appreciate it.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

The Founders of PenSimple Are Obsessed with Fresh Ground Cannabis Flower

pensimple

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Brian Seckel is the co-founder of PenSimple an innovative automated portable grinder.

Hear how Brian scratched his own itch and created PenSimple. From working at libraries to using his local townships 3D printer, this scrappy founder did whatever it took to make it work.

Key Takeaways:
[2:12] – What is PenSimple?
[2:34] – Brian’s background
[3:32] – The idea behind PenSimple
[4:38] – Co-founders complementary skillset
[7:03] – Brian talks about the software used to create PenSimple
[7:43] – How Brian and his co-founder Jessie work together
[9:15] – Does resin clog up PenSimple
[10:16] – Manufacturing process of PenSimple
[11:09] – Frustrations in developing PenSimple
[13:01] – Brian talks about his CanopyBoulder experience
[14:30] – Educating prospects on PenSimple
[17:03] – What condition herbs should be in before grinding
[17:56] – Brian’s advice to entrepreneurs
[19:46] – Brian talks about possible future PenSimple products
[20:31] – Brian answers some personal development questions
[22:16] – Brian talks about manufacturing overseas
[24:49] – Contact details for PenSimple

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Innovative entrepreneurs are creating new market segments in the cannabis space that didn’t exist before. One of those entrepreneurs is Brian Seckel, Co-founder of Jaeb Designs, the company behind PenSimple. We’re fortunate to have Brian on the show with us today. Brian, welcome to CannaInsider.

Brian: Thank you.

Matthew: Brian give listeners a sense of geography. Tell us where in the world you are today.

Brian: Yeah so we started Jaeb Designs and PenSimple in Ohio and we are now in Boulder, Colorado.

Matthew: Okay and I am in Destin, Florida today.

Brian: Sounds nice.

Matthew: It is nice. White sandy beaches, sunny. I’m not complaining. Brian, give us a high level overview of what PenSimple is.

Brian: Yeah so PenSimple is a grinder, storage device and dispensing device that is unlike anything else on the market right now. It’s a portable grinder that allows you to dispense your herbs at the simple push of a button wherever you want them to go.

Matthew: Where are you from originally and what’s your background prior to starting PenSimple?

Brian: Yeah so I’m from Ohio originally. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. I went to Miami University. My background is actually tech startups. I started my first company when I was 19. It was a collegiate Craigslist, sort of online hub for students to buy and sell amongst each other.

Matthew: Every any elicit substances on there like Silk Road?

Brian: Fortunately we were pretty heavy on our moderation and we ensured that everything that was on the site was above ground.

Matthew: Okay. What was the hottest selling item on there?

Brian: Furniture was really big. For seniors that were moving out and then sophomores and juniors that were just getting their first house. There was this marketplace where seniors were just throwing away their furniture and we opened up where they could then sell it to the younger students so that they could give it some life.

Matthew: Oh that’s great. What gave you the idea to start PenSimple and how did that happen?

Brian: So there are really a few drivers that push me towards making PenSimple. I mean the first is I wanted a grinder or something that wasn’t a one-hitter plus dugout that I could take golfing with me and use on the go. I was also finding that any time I was using my grinder I was ending up with sticky fingers because I had to pinch it from the grinder to the device. Then the final push towards PenSimple is when I spilled and lost a whole grinder’s worth of herbs and instead of spending that afternoon relaxing I then spent it trying to figure out how I could prevent that from ever happening again.

Matthew: Okay. So I can just picture like a distressed look on your face as you slowly watch your grinder fall. Nooooo. Okay. The disc golf, you didn’t want the sticky fingers. That all makes sense. Tell us about your co-founder. How did you meet him and how did you guys get together to start PenSimple?

Brian: Yes. So that worked out is we were actually random roommates our freshman year at Miami University. So I kind of had this idea. I knew I didn’t personally have the engineering skills to bring it to life. So I gave my good friend Jessie a call. We ended up living together actually all four years of our time at Miami University. He was a great mechanical engineer so I called him up. He saw the problems I was talking about and we agreed that we would move forward and just see if we could solve this problem.

Matthew: Okay. Tell me about the early days in Cincinnati developing PenSimple.

Brian: So I moved to Cincinnati to live with Jessie so we could live and work. I took a part-time job helping to run a before and after school program. I would spend my afternoons at the Cincinnati Public Library 3-D printing prototypes in their Maker Space. In the evening when Jessie was off work and we could work together we would then test and iterate at night, make a new 3-D file for the next day and then continue the process with very fast iteration speed.

Matthew: Okay. So how long does it take for a 3-D printer to actually print out a prototype for you?

Brian: Fortunately we were printing some small parts. I mean they would take anywhere from probably 10 minutes to 45 minutes to print. Any time we had some larger parts or like a full prototype, it would take probably about 2 to 3 hours to print a full one.

Matthew: How important do you think having access to a 3-D printer in the early days was to iterating this idea?

Brian: Having access to that 3-D printer really pushed us along. I don’t think we would be where we are today without this 3-D printer access we had. There really just isn’t a way to prototype as rapidly as you need to to make this kind of breakthrough. I mean we spent about 3 years testing different 3-D printed configurations, testing different designs and mechanisms and it really would not have been possible if we weren’t able to rapidly prototype using the 3-D printer.

Matthew: What kind of software did you use to create something like this and model it?

Brian: We are using AutoDesk Inventor right now. It’s one of the two big names in the space. My co-founder has used that in previous jobs and in schools and is very comfortable with it so we’ve been moving forward with that.

Matthew: Okay. So there’s design work and mechanical engineering. What is the best way to marry those two because they are really two different parts of the brain. One’s maybe left brain and one’s kind of right brain. Do you do more of the design or does your co-founder do that or do you guys just happen to have both the skills there?

Brian: So I mean I think this is where Jessie and I kind of make a really great team. He’s the sort of educated engineer. He knows about material properties and tolerance stackups and all of that. Whereas I am much more kind of ignorant on some of the design specifications and all that. So the way it kind of works is we both work together to kind of get our base design and decide how we want whatever feature it is working on to work. Then from there he’s able to use his sort of right brain to make it happen and problem solve through what we talked about at a higher level and turn it into a real product.

I think that it works great because with our different backgrounds and different knowledge levels it really allows us to sort of design for the lowest common denominator so we can make products that are really easy to use even if you don’t have a background in using a grinder or packing a bowl. We wanted to make a product that anyone could just sort of pick up and figure out how it worked.

Matthew: Now resin is a sticky substance that kind of gets on everything if you’re using paraphernalia of any kind, a bong or a grinder or a one-hitter. How does the resin get, does it clog up the device at all in any way?

Brian: so that was probably our biggest design challenge with PenSimple was the fact that we needed to be able to dispense very sticky herbs. So basically the way we designed the dispenser it has a lot of movement and activity that helps shake a lot of that sort of the trichomes or any of the sticky stuff off. We use coatings to really ensure that it’s able to dispense really no matter what herbs you’re throwing into it. Whether it’s Colorado or California or whatever you want to put through it, it will be able to handle it.

Matthew: Okay. How did you initially manufacture the prototypes beyond the 3-D printing at the library? What was the next step to bring this to an actual, physical prototype you could touch and it was working and operating besides getting the parts and sizes right?

Brian: Yes we used Chinese manufacturers for our initial prototypes’ runs. The way that kind of worked is we’ve probably done about four or five different Chinese made prototypes at this point. Really those were more to figure out the materials, just the exact feel and look of the product. So the 3-D printing gave us a very good functional prototypes, but then kind of moving over to the Chinese manufacturers in just a little bit more professional quality that we could then put into the hands of people and to use for promotional materials and such.

Matthew: Was there ever a time where you felt like you and your co-founder were really frustrated with the progress and you thought maybe this PenSimple thing might not work out, but you overcame the challenge in the end?

Brian: For sure. We had those a couple of times at least. I mean after our first year of development we initially had started with a manual push button dispenser and we found after a year that we could not make a manual push button dispenser that had the user experience we wanted to. Electronics was something we had no experience in and didn’t know much about but we decided at that point we needed to make it an electronic dispenser and we were able to sort of get over that hurdle by switching to electric and then we ran into a problem a year later when we found that the biggest motor we could fit in the pen was not strong enough for these sticky herbs and it was torquing out and causing a whole bunch of problems.

So we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to dispense electronically either, but then we were just able to mess with the design, do some more research into motors and we were able to design a dispenser that actually fit more motor inside than we thought we could and we were able to get the torque necessary to deal with these really sticky hers without any clogging or gumming up.

Matthew: Well that’s a great barrier to entry because people that are just like oh I’m going to throw a motor inside this cylinder and call it PenSimple cheap. They won’t be able to solve these problems as elegantly as you who obsessed over the details for years. So there’s some first mover advantage there for sure

Brian: Yeah I definitely agree with that. This is a very competitive space so really the higher barriers to entry you can have the better. So that technical barrier to entry is great. Now we’re sort of establishing a brand hopefully that will increase that even further.

Matthew: You were in the CanopyBoulder technology accelerator program. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about your experience there?

Brian: The CanopyBoulder accelerator for us was really an incredible experience. We were able to learn a ton about not only just the cannabis industry but just anything that you would need to know to get a strong business foundation in which to launch a startup. I mean I had some startup experience before and that helped, but the CanopyBoulder experience really kind of tied everything together and put us on a great foundation. It gave us a ton of knowledge and even better it connected us with the people that we needed to connect with to learn and to grow the business. We have a great lineup of advisors and mentors that Canopy connected with that have been incredible for our initial growth.

Matthew: So there’s a real challenge and opportunity when you’re creating a new market segment like you’re doing now in that you can have that first mover advantage and be first in a prospect’s mind when they understand what your product is, but they don’t have a category in their mind where they can neatly put this product so it requires education , and education is a friction point to getting a sale. So how do you surmount that challenge to educate prospects and get out in front of prospects so they become interested in PenSimple?

Brian: That is a really big challenge because for so long the idea of an her grinder has just been a multipiece hockey puck and it can be made of metal or acrylic or whatever, but pretty much if you say herb grinder the same sort of hockey puck image pops into somebody’s mind. So it has sort of definitely been tricky positioning the product as sort of a traditional herb grinder versus the dispenser and herb dispensing capabilities that we’re also offering. So sort of with our product positioning it’s been a very kind of touch balance between how much we want to be an herb grinder and then how much we can really push this new market and how much education is really required to get people understanding that there is this new market beyond just a grinder that can only grind.

Basically what we do at this point is we just have to ensure that we efficiently get our product benefits across to the consumers. If once we’re able to sort of establish in their minds why they would need the product, and that differs for all types of consumers, they really kind of understand and get it and their usual reaction is like oh my god I want that right now.

Matthew: Right. Actually the video on your website, to give you a plug there, is very good at that because what we’re talking about you might as a listener be thinking hey I can kind of conceptualize this but you did a really excellent job of framing what this is and showing what it is in a very simple way. Now the video on your website it’s like the grinder spits out perfect amounts in size of ground cannabis. I mean does it really look that picture perfect when it comes out or is it more variant?

Brian: So for our videos and all of our public facing things we have to use oregano and other more kitchen herbs so that we’re not having any actual cannabis in our promotions or advertising. That allows us a little bit more leeway in terms of marketing. But what it also allows us to do is still show exactly what the product does without breaking any laws in the process.

Matthew: Okay so any recommendations for someone that does go out and buy a PenSimple in terms of do you want it to be dry as possible or how do you want to the herb to be when you get it in there so it works ideally?

Brian: So I mean you obviously want the herb to be properly cured. If it’s not properly cured and is too wet, it won’t grind properly and then it will have a little bit more trouble dispensing. Really so long as the herb is properly cured. It doesn’t need to be super dry. It just can’t be not cured enough, but then it really can go through and deal with just about any herbs that are thrown at it.

Matthew: If there’s some entrepreneurs out there or founders that are thinking about starting something, they have an idea to scratch their own itch like you had and they’re on the fence whether they should start or not start, is there any words of wisdom you would give them about getting started or overcoming difficulties or just going forward?

Brian: Yeah I mean really the only thing you can do is start. I mean there’s no real substitute for actually doing it and actually getting things started. You can do some market research. You can do some competition research, but really until you’re actually going out there, finding, trying to build a team, trying to really cover your bases in terms of what you need to actually get this product to market, I would say just kind of getting out there and doing it is the only thing you can do.

Matthew: Yeah and solving a problem in my mind is usually always better than other forms of product creation because people are much more willing to throw money to solve a perceived problem in their mind so that’s always a good place to start is to solve a painful problem.

Brian: Yeah exactly. It does make things a lot easier when you’re able to propose a product to someone and they can kind of say oh well yeah I have this problem and that will solve it. It makes the sale much easier versus hey I can make your day slightly better. I can make a very small increase to your overall happiness levels, but really being able to put that product out there in front of them and say hey this will solve a problem you have. It may even solve multiple problems you have, really kind of gets their brain working and then they can start picturing themselves without having those problems and when they’re doing that, they’re sort of seeing the product in use which is what we want them to do.

Matthew: Now PenSimple is a young company but any thoughts about other products you want to create down the line or is it too early for that?

Brian: We definitely have some products in the pipeline behind PenSimple. They’re very sort of general at this point, but basically with all the sort of customer research and customer interviews we conducted with PenSimple we just hear about so many problems that people are having with the herb consumption experience. So basically we kind of want to follow up PenSimple with really just more products that solve these really basic problems in the herb consumption experience.

Matthew: Brian at this point in the interview I like to transition to some personal development questions to let the listeners get a better sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Brian: Yeah I mean really the one childhood book I can really remember that kind of inspired me was the Phantom Tollbooth. That was really a book that I loved as a child. It really got my creativity going. It really just kind of (20.49 unclear) this you’re on an adventure, make the most of the trip. Don’t just worry about where you’re going to end up, and I think that has been a really great book for me over the years.

Matthew: Very cool name too, Phantom Tollbooth. I’m going to go check that out. How about is there a tool web based or physical other than PenSimple that you love and consider totally invaluable to your day to day productivity?

Brian: I mean really there’s not just one. There’s just a lot of these tools to connect with different professionals and contractors and really just a whole set of tools that put a lot of power in the entrepreneur’s hand. So for example we use Upwork to connect with engineers and engineer contractors and Upcounsel to connect with lawyers. We use mfg.com for our manufacturing and really these sites are great because what they allow us to do is they allow us to post and say hey this is what we need and then a large amount of experts and people that can handle those requests then send us quotes and how much they can do for us and it gives us just a huge amount of choice between our engineers and our manufacturing that I can’t even imagine doing some of these things ten years ago without them.

Matthew: Yeah. What are some of the challenges when you’re doing manufacturing overseas? Any lessons learned there?

Brian: Really you just need to find somebody that you trust and can work with. We’ve had some problems with language barriers so having an overseas firm that has a very solid grasp of the English language and can understand get back to you very quickly is also very helpful. Really with overseas manufacturing what we found is just trying to minimize as many of the hurdles or communications has been the biggest help to us.

Matthew: And where is PenSimple and your company in terms of fundraising? Are you still seeking outside investment right now?

Brian: Yeah so we closed a $100,000 round a few months ago and that was to get the initial PenSimple product out into the market. We do plan on raising another round in about four to six months that will allow us to expand the PenSimple line further and then push through some of these other product lines we have on the backburner.

Matthew: And if there’s any investors listening that would like to participate in working with you on that, how can they reach you?

Brian: Yeah any investors that are interested, you can reach me at brian@getpensimple.com.

Matthew: Okay. And one more question before we close. I recently read an article about how the Midwest will have more technology startups than Silicon Valley in the next five years. You mentioned you’re from Columbus. There’s a lot of startups in Columbus. Is there anything you’re seeing or hearing about there that is inspiring you in terms of all the startups out there or is it still kind of in the incubation stage?

Brian: I mean while we were living out there, I mean especially in Cincinnati we were definitely seeing that they’re trying to increase their profile with startups and really just at the base of that it’s just having the resources that a startup needs to succeed, and I’ve seen that there’s been some sort of big venture funds that are now opening up. I believe there was a $300million fund that just opened up in Columbus. Really now that there is sort of more venture funding moving outside of the coast and towards the Midwest I think they can really grow that startup culture in the Midwest and I think that Ohio is very well-poised to do so.

Matthew: Yeah. Well Brian in closing, let listeners know how they can find you online.

Brian: You can find out more about PenSimple at www.getpensimple.com.

Matthew: Yeah and it sounds like you’re the guys that solve painful cannabis consumption problems. If people want to email you or Tweet you or contact you through your website and let you know the problems they’re having in consumption, would you welcome that?

Brian: Of course. If you have a problem consuming herbs, please let us know and if we’re not already looking into a solution for it, we will definitely start.

Matthew: Great. Well Brian thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. You have a really cool product with PenSimple and I wish you all the best.

Brian: Oh no thank you for having me so much, I enjoy listening to your podcast all the time.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Dialing In Your Cannabis Experience with This Vaporizer Technology

mark-williams-firefly

Download Transcript >>

Key Takeaways:
[3:14] – What is Firefly?
[4:02] – Mark’s background
[5:00] – Mark explains the difference between smoking and vaporizing
[6:33] – Mark talks about his Co-founder and how they came up with Firefly
[17:21] – How temperature impacts vaporizing & terpenes
[22:10] – Mark talks about terpenes
[26:30] – Mark talks about some differences between Firefly and other vaporizers
[28:16] – How do you know when your flower is spent using a vaporizer
[30:22] – Mark talks about using concentrates in Firefly
[39:34] – Mark discusses the companion app that goes with Firefly
[41:30] – Mark’s personal Firefly settings
[51:17] – Mark answers some personal development questions
[56:32] – Firefly website and contact details

Mark Williams got started working as part of the Apple Computer design team working on customer experience. Mark leveraged his design expertise at Apple to develop The FireFly Vaporizer with his co-founder.

If you are interested in getting the most out of your flower or concentrates, this is an interview you can’t miss.

Learn More About The FireFly 2 Vaporizer
http://www.cannainsider.com/reviews/firefly-2-vaporizer/

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at  http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi. I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has a number of interesting attributes. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a hemp wellness chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience.

Valerie writes, “My ten year old Husky/Sheppard/Lab mix Chuck is my faithful companion. Chuck got significantly quantifiably better from using Treatibles. It took about three days of feeding Chuck two to three doses a day to see the full effect, but he did get noticeably more comfortable on the first day of feeding them to him. Before Treatibles Chuck limped and couldn’t enjoy longer walks though he clearly had the desire for them. Once he started taking Treatibles he could leap around again.” Thanks for writing in Valerie. Treatibles are legal and available in all 50 states right now. If you want to learn about what Treatibles can do for your pet, visit www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet. And get a coupon code for 10% off your order. Now here’s your program.

What happens when a former Apple designer turns his focus and attention on creating the most elegant, joyfully simple vaporizer on the market? We’re about to find out. We’re fortunate to have Mark Williams, Co-founder and CEO or Firefly on the show today. Mark, welcome to CannaInsider.

Mark: Thanks very much Matt. Nice to be with you.

Matthew: Mark, give listeners a sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?

Mark: I am in West Sonoma County California which is north of San Francisco by about two hours and located in the middle of a big coastal redwood forest.

Matthew: How nice. Got to say the weather there is idyllic. It seems like year round it’s between 70 and 80 in Sonoma County all year.

Mark: Oh gosh, that would be wonderful if that were so but it gets a little colder in the winter. It’s usually in about the 40s to 50s in the winter which I know for a lot of folks in the country would seem balmy, but it seems a little cold here.

Matthew: Oh gosh is that just in the woods or even out where the vineyards are and everything? Same?

Mark: It’s a little warmer where the vineyards are. One of our secrets in Sonoma County is we get a lot of rain in the winter because that’s what’s nourished the redwoods for so many millennia out here, but in between the rain and even when it’s cold outside if you are sitting in the sun, you can sit out in a t-shirt most of the year, at least for a couple of hours a day which is a real treat.

Matthew: Oh that’s great. Well tell us at a high level what Firefly is.

Mark: Firefly is a company. Now it used to just be a product. The product line is now a company because I work with lots of people I really enjoy working with who helps to communicate our vision to the world. The vision right now is around our product and what it can do for consumers. Specifically what it’s designed to do is offer a whole plant experience through inhaled vapor with essentially very little effort on the user’s part, but a whole lot of control and ability to customize their vapor so that it soothes what they want to accomplish.

Matthew: I mentioned your background at Apple. Can you give us some more detail about your background at Apple and in general?

Mark: Sure. My background at Apple was leading a design team that designed parts of the Mac OS10 desktop experience. At Apple we were called human interface designers. Other names for it in the industry, at different companies would be UX design or User Experience Design. I’ve also spent a lot of time doing what would be called just straight out product design. So when I think of my profession background leading up to creating the Firefly I think it could be sort of summarized as trying to design technology and experiences that were well-suited to human beings.

Matthew: Okay. That makes sense. Now before we dive into Firefly, can you provide a reminder about what the difference is between smoking and vaporizing?

Mark: Oh sure. Basically smoking is burning a material to basically aerosolize compounds in the material that you generally want to inhale. Unfortunately the act of combustion also releases a bunch of other chemicals in plants that are often undesirable as well as creating essentially little microscopic tiny hot embers that are also inhaled, and that’s basically what smoke is. Vaporizing on the other hand is heating up, as far as it applies to this context, is heating up plant material to the point where its desirable compounds are aerosolized basically because they turn from liquid or solid into gaseous form, and they can be inhaled but at a very controlled temperature point meaning that you don’t create a lot of the undesirable chemical byproducts of burning something at a higher temperature and maybe more importantly you actually don’t create any smoke because you’re not actually catching anything on fire.

So that’s sort of a long winded explanation. Basically to summarize, what it means is that you get the things out of the plant that you want to get out of the plant and you don’t create things that you don’t want to get out of the plant.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. Tell us a little bit about your Co-founder and how you met him and how you both came up with the idea for the Firefly.

Mark: Well we met socially through some good friends, actually who are cancer therapy researchers at a major biotech company here in the Bay Area. My wife and I were out at a post Burning Man event dancing with our friends, and our friends knew Sasha, saw him on the dance floor and said you guys need to meet, because Sasha comes from a development background as well. They were right because as soon as whatever song we were dancing to stopped we got into a conversation about designing stuff. It’s a mode of behavior I think or a mode of looking at the universe that is really almost impossible to turn off for people who have kind of been infected with that mean, but it’s a delightful thing.

So we got right into it. Thinking about what’s cool out there that was just recently designed, what have you done, what do you think the world needs. That conversation went on in an informal manner for I think about a year. We found that we had really good communication around designing stuff which was basically user focused. By sharing this kind of common perspective it became more obvious to us that we could probably design something together and have some success or at least that would be fun. So about a year and a half later we were sitting on my couch at my apartment in San Francisco and we were smoking. We were smoking a joint actually.

We both are physically active. I play ultimate Frisbee, and Sasha does a number of martial arts and I was over 40 at the time, just over 40 and Sasha was in his late 30s, and we both agreed that while we really loved cannabis and how it fit into our lives in a really positive way we really didn’t like the effects of smoking because we could feel it in our cardiovascular system. We thought hey, there’s got to be a better way. So then fast forward a couple of months. I had the experience in the interim to try a product called the Volcano Vaporizer. It was a real epiphany for me in that I could see right away how much better the vapor version of aerosolized cannabis fit into my life than the smoke version. At the same time I also saw how that product was one that was likely to be a real niche product and not one that many people could fit into their lives.

I don’t know if any of your listeners have one. They probably have but it’s basically a big giant hair dryer turned up on end with a big giant bag that gets filled up and it does a good job making vapor, but it’s a pretty esoteric experience and kind of a tough one to have around the house, especially when company comes over, much less your parents or your kids for that matter. So it seemed like there was an opening there to offer something more portable and smaller that a person could use in their house or take out with them. So we decided that we would start working on something like that, and hilariously thought to ourselves hey how hard could this be. As it turns out it was a lot harder than we thought, but really rewarding in that we’ve had to learn so much in order to get the first product out.

Then follow that up with learning just as much, if not more, from our customers with their experiences with the first product that we then plowed back into development for the second product which we just released this year, the Firefly 2, and I think if I could characterize it, I would say that it has been a really rewarding learning experience and continues to be. Basically I feel like a perpetual student of trying to achieve some ultimate product for people which of course nobody ever does, but it sure is fun and interesting to go along the way and do your best to fulfill that vision.

Matthew: With a bong or a pipe or even a joint many people are used to the huge cloud of smoke that you exhale after inhaling and they want to see that verification that hey I got a good hit here and that’s what the white smoke is, but with vaporizers and the Firefly in particular that’s not always something you see or is even desirable. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Mark: Thanks for that question Matt. Yes I would love to talk about that because actually it’s a really fundamental difference between smoking and vaporizing and important with people’s expectations going into the experience so it’s great to get to talk to it. Basically when you’re taking a hit off a joint or a bong or a pipe or what have you and you’re exhaling all that smoke you’re essentially exhaling burning embers that did not stick to your lungs. So that’s good, but essentially also aerosolized cannabinoids and terpenoids that did not stick to your lung surface.

Basically you could look at it as waste product. I don’t mean product wasted that’s been processed by your body so it has not been metabolized by you. It’s essentially you put so much into your lungs that your body was not able to absorb it and actually usually with smoke you have a physical reaction where your body feels this urge to expel it because your body is designed to expel stuff that is not comfortable for it. Usually basically people wind up expelling some large percentage of the material that they paid for and just inhaled so they keep maybe, I’m making up the numbers so this is for sake of discussion, maybe 20% of that stays in your body from a puff and then the 80% you exhale out. So it’s essentially like taking 80% or some large percent of the material that you just paid for and just throwing it in the trash instead of actually using it.

So that’s what a big exhalation of smoke its. We’re a visually dominant species of course so it makes complete sense that we look for that cue first and foremost because that’s our primary way of navigating the world and our environment so it makes sense. Once you get a little bit deeper into it you realize the better way to gauge it is with your body and your mind. Specifically, how does something make you feel a few minutes later or actually 30 seconds, 2 minutes later which is actually what you’re trying to achieve anyway. When you’re enjoying something that you’re smoking, whatever it is, the point of the inhalation is not to blow out waste product. It is to get the feelings from that plant that you just inhaled.

Fortunately we think that vaporizing allows people to focus on this a lot better because you exhale essentially a lot less waste product because you’re not bringing burning embers into your lungs therefore the body’s involuntary urge to exhale strongly isn’t nearly as strong with most vaporizers because you basically don’t have burning embers in your lungs. So basically with a vaporizer you can expect to get a lot less white cloud than you would with smoking. This is a great thing because it basically means that you’re wasting a lot less of your product. You’re getting better absorption of the aerosolized contents of the product sticking to your alveoli in your lungs and then becoming absorbed into your blood steam which is essentially what you’re trying to do when you’re either smoking or vaporizing.

With the Firefly in particular we know that people are looking, because people are coming from a model of smoking often, they look for something analogous, that cue as an indicator of success. This is part of the big user education that’s an ongoing thing for us. When a vaporizer is working correctly you should actually barely have anything visible at exhalation at all because that would indicate that you’re running at closer to 100% efficiency of absorption of the material that you just vaporized. So you can imagine that if you get 100% efficiency, you actually would have no visible exhalation. If you’re running at 10% efficiency, you would have a giant exhalation. Which one ultimately do people really want they think about it? They want to actually enjoy the product that they usually paid a decent amount of money for.

So what we try to tell people is sure dial up the heat as far as you want to get a big cloud so that you know that it’s working and then we recommend dialing it down to the point where feel the effects that you want to but you don’t see a lot of waste product in your exhalation because that means you’re basically more efficiently using your material.

Matthew: Okay so once you’re satisfied like hey this thing does work, here’s the white cloud. Let’s dial it down and see what the effects are. Why is that important to be able to control the temperature as far as getting the most out of your flower and all of its properties?

Mark: It’s important because the plant does not vaporize at a single temperature, specifically talking about cannabis. No plant vaporizes at a single temperature. They vaporize at lots of temperatures. For instance THCA turns into Delta 9 THC at a very low temperature. Between 200-300 Fahrenheit. Then Delta 9 THC is vaporized around, roughly speaking, 380 Fahrenheit. CBD at maybe 360, and depending upon which guide you reference, the terpenes have vaporization temperatures all the way from the 200 to 400 Fahrenheit. So the point being that there’s not a single temperature that makes for the perfect vaporization temperature to enjoy everything in a plant.

So thus it’s good to have different temperature settings on your device, but more important than that is actually the way each puff unfolds. So what I mean by that is you can imagine something that gets what I think of as a static temperature setting, and this is the way that most conduction based vaporizers work. You set it for some temperature, let’s say 400 degrees, and then you wait around for a while and after like a minute or whatever the time is, it says okay I’m ready and then you inhale and you’re inhaling vapor at 400 degrees. That’s fine, but what it means is that the volatile terpenes that vaporize down at 220 degrees or 300 degrees or some of the more volatile cannabinoids that change state like THCA into Delta 9 THC, down at low temperatures, they’ve either undergone a chemical change or have actually off gassed and are now gone.

So the point being that with static temperature setting you don’t get to enjoy the whole plant. You’re basically enjoying everything that ideally vaporizes at that 400 degree temperature, but not the whole plant. Whereas in contrast with the Firefly it’s designed basically to go from room temperature up to where your maximum set temperature is with each inhalation. So you can imagine as you’re starting to inhale that first second you’re down at 100 Fahrenheit. Second number two you’re at 150. Second number three, 200 Fahrenheit. We’ve designed it for about an 8-10 second inhalation or 8-12 second I would say with 10 seconds being the average. By the time you get to the end of your inhalation you’ve reached the maximum temperature.

So the advantage of this approach, which we call dynamic convection because dynamic means that it moves, it that you go passed the individual vaporization points of every single desirable substance on the plant. You’re basically boiling off that molecule at whatever temperature it boils off at and inhaling it just in time. That basically essentially conserves your material a lot better because you’re only vaporizing as you’re inhaling and it means that you’re not off gassing stuff before you even get to inhale it, and you’re also not creating secondary chemical reactions that lead to undesirable compounds. That’s a bit of a technical answer and believe me it’s a challenge to do the education with customers, but we’re doing our best to learn how to simplify it.

Essentially dynamic vaporization is a lot better way to offer a whole plant experience and entourage effects that people are looking for in cannabis than a static vaporization experience. Does that make sense.

Matthew: Yes that makes total sense. You’re using different temperatures gets different parts of the plant into your body and you can just kind of dial it up and get different benefits and you can get different cannabinoids and also while conserving your flower. That makes total sense. I haven’t heard it put quite as succinctly so that’s really good to know. Mark you mentioned terpenes and it’s kind of a buzz word flying around now and a lot of people are geeking out on it and diving into that subject, and for good reason. There’s a lot to know and understand about terpenes. Can you tell us why terpenes are important, how you think about them and what we should know about them?

Mark: Sure. Well a lot of what I know about terpenes and what a lot of folks know about terpenes is think is derived from the work of a gentleman named Dr. Ethan Russo. I’ve seen a number of his lectures and he has both compiled a lot of historical information around terpene usage across the entire plant kingdom as well as contributed in unique primary research on the way that terpenes can be applied to the human metabolism and also is quite up on general literature of studies done like that around the world. So I wanted to give a shout out to him and a big thank you to him for everything he is doing in the field of advancement.

Basically terpenes can be thought of as the flavor and aroma components that are inherent in plants. So one that some users might be familiar with is called limonene which both occurs in a lot of cannabis strains but also occurs lemons and limes. In fact that’s what gives lemons and limes their distinctive smell. You can think of it as like the lemon oil. Similarly pinene is what gives pine cones their smell and so forth. So there are many of these things that occur throughout the natural and that occur in cannabis and it’s thought that these terpenes are what create the entourage effect of cannabis. Meaning that the whole plant experience when you take in not just the cannabinoids but the terpenes that are co present with them that you achieve a different overall result in your body as a result of taking everything in together.

For instance one could use a strain of cannabis that has a particular THC level but has a lot of mercene in it and that would tend to have sedative type of effects. So it could be better for sleeping. One could take a cannabis strain that has the exact same amount of THC in it but doesn’t have any mercene but instead has limonene and one might find a more stimulating effect from that. In fact that’s what people generally are referring to when they say oh is it indica or sativa, which generally in our culture has come to mean is it going to make me awake or is it going to make me go to sleep. Those are due very largely to what terpenes are present with the cannabinoid. So one could think of them as things that work with the cannabinoids to create specific effects in our body.

There’s plenty of very easy to understand analogies out there right now. Herbal tea, when you drink an herbal tea that has a certain terpene mix that comes from chamomile and lavender for instance we tend to find it sedative and relaxing. Similarly when you enjoy those terpenes in a cannabinoid situation and linalool by the way is the terpene that occurs in lavender that also occurs in some cannabis strains, you’re going to find yourself having a more relaxing sedative type of experience. So one can think of them as things that basically they are not the engine of a cannabis experience, but they’re a little bit like the steering wheel. They help point it in a certain direction relative to the way that your body is processing it.

Matthew: That’s an interesting metaphor. So I can start to see why it’s very crucial to be able to control the heat of your vaporizer as to not destroy the terpenes or get the terpenes you want out of the plant, but also you alluded to a little bit earlier about how Firefly it only heats the plant as you’re inhaling. I take it that most of the other vaporizers out there do something different.

Mark: That is correct. That was our specific design goal was basically to offer the whole plant experience we call it. You can’t really do that with a conduction vaporizer because conduction vaporizers are too slow. They take a while to reach a set temperature then they stick at that set temperature because it’s like an old fashioned oven model. You have to heat up all the metal or the ceramic or whatever the bowl is that’s holding your material. You kind of have to heat that up and that takes a while. Whereas with a convection vaporizer, depending upon the style that you are using, the heat up and cool down is a lot faster which means that you can basically be heating up or cooling down during a single inhalation which is what the Firefly does.

So yes to answer your question, the Firefly works really fundamentally differently than any other vaporizer out there, even other convection vaporizers. For instance the (27.28 unclear) which by the way I think are good products, but they’re what I would term as static convection vaporizers meaning that they reach a set temperature and they just stick there so that when you’re inhaling you’re inhaling at that set temperature only. Whereas the Firefly in contrast is a dynamic convection vaporizer meaning that the temperature is changing as you’re inhaling which we think is a much better way to offer the whole plant experience.

Matthew: So with other vaporizers I’ve seen how do you know when the flower is spent. My kind of shorthand is if it smells like kind of a burnt popcorn kernel, if you put your nose to the flower, it’s probably spend, but I don’t really know. How do you know?

Mark: It’s kind of subjective. I gauge it certainly by vapor volume, by flavor to a degree but also visually. Really when it looks like the crumbs scraped off of some well done toast, not black, but a really dark brown and it’s reduced in size by a good 25 to 40 to 50 percent, then I tend to think it’s about done. A simpler way is, as it applies to our product, is okay how many puffs do you think are in a typical bowl, and if you fill up our bowl to the top, which is how we recommend using it and you take five puffs and then turn the material, give it stir and basically turn it over and take another five puffs, we think that ten puffs is about a bowl’s worth in the Firefly. Some people think that it’s seven and some people think that it’s 15 because it really depends on how long you’re inhaling for. I don’t think I have a very good answer for you Matt because I think it’s subjective.

Matthew: Sure, sure.

Mark: So I use a combination of flavor, vapor quantity and visual appearance and also volume because you can imagine that as you’re actually inhaling all the vapor and what used to be liquid in the plant then you are just left essentially with the cellulose material which is a lot less. So basically I just have what looks to be kind of darker brown cellulose that doesn’t really have any of the terpenes left. It doesn’t have any resinous quality left. It seems pretty dry. Essentially when it’s really dry that’s when you know that it’s pretty much done.

Matthew: Does Firefly work with concentrates just as easily as flower?

Mark: Yes. Thank you for asking. Yes indeed it does. The growth of concentrates have been amazing, but not surprising because certainly the economics of it makes sense because it was a way for growers to turn their trim into material that was as valuable as their flowers. So it totally makes sense from a grower’s perspective. In any case, without getting into why people like concentrates, the answer is yes. All you need to do is we include concentrate pads in the Firefly and they’re essentially little, very clean stainless pucks that are little brillo pad that you just stick right into the bowl and your can dab your material onto there or you can drip it depending upon the consistency, and you only need about a rice grain amount’s worth to put on that little sub-straight.

Then with our free app you can turn the temperature to concentrates temperature which is a maximum about 500 Fahrenheit which is a lot lower than the way that most other concentrate devices work, and it’s because you need a little more heat for concentrates but not as much as most people think because concentrates these days are often, in the way that they’re processed, are already decarboxylated, meaning that the THC acid or CBD acid has either been turn into Delta 9 THC or CBD respectively, and thus is bioavailable already. So all you really need to do is aerosolize the concentrate and it’s pretty much ready to be absorbed and metabolized without needing to be converted from one form to another due to heat.

So basically the upside of this is that you can enjoy concentrates at a lot lower temperature than people think they need to. For instance the folks who use really high temperature dabbing rates, when you use a blow torch to get a titanium nail up to some extremely high temperature like 900 degrees Celsius or 1500-1600 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s actually totally unnecessary. Really all it’s doing is burning your material. The cannabinoids and the terpenes that you’re looking to absorb into your body are actually available to your body at down around 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Matthew: Oh my god that’s a big difference. That’s a third or a fifth.

Mark: It’s a huge difference. It’s a huge difference. The big difference is that you can actually taste what a concentrate tastes like with the Firefly which is our big selling point for concentrates. In fact it seems like now that a whole lot of our users use it as much for concentrates as they do for flower because people have their own specific likes and the Firefly delivers concentrates with a flavor and sort of a preservation of the original material that I don’ think any other vaporizer can touch.

Matthew: Speaking of concentrates there’s a lot of people that say hey I like the concentrates that come from butane and others say CO2 is just as good. These might be the same people that say I like to listen to records on vinyl vs. CD. I don’t know how much of a big of a difference is there, but do you hear that often. Hey I like my concentrates that were extracted from butane and others that are saying CO2. Is that a thing?

Mark: It is. I think butane’s gotten a bad rap in that there are, well first of all the process is more dangerous in how it can be explosive, but that aside, assuming that you’ve got somebody who is doing things in a responsible way, butane and hexane leave very small residual amounts, very very small. Does that matter? Maybe, maybe not, but they do tend to preserve the terpenes in plants better than CO2 which essentially really wipes them right out. There are more advanced CO2 extraction methods which do terpene preservation where basically it’s partial, fractionated recapture of terpenes which then get added back in, but CO2 basically strips out all the terpenes. Whereas butane or hexane tend to preserve them more.

So just on their face, while butane and hexane might have some very small trace amounts of residual hydrocarbons, and I do mean very small and it really depends on of course the quality of the extractor. CO2 won’t have those which would be a thing in its advantage, but to its disadvantage it tends to just get the heavier molecules and wipes out the terpenes. So really the majority of CO2 extracted oils that are out there on the market, if they have any terpenes in them, they’ve been added back in after the fact by people who are essentially approximating what the original terpene balance was in the plant. So while CO2 might be technically a little cleaner it often basically has less information in it than other forms of extraction. One can look at it that way. In fact that’s how I how I look at it.

I look at the plant or an extract or whatever form of it as essentially information because that’s how your body looks at. Your body looks at it as information. There is undoubtedly a lot more information in a plant, in the flower of a plant than there is in an extract from that flower because the extract by definition is less. It’s less meaning that it doesn’t have the cellulose which you don’t really want anyway, but also often loses some of the more nuanced relationships between minor ingredients like terpenes which actually really matter. So that’s a bit of a tangent, but yes the extraction method does matter. One always needs to know that whatever extract they’re using it does contain less information than was originally present in the flower or the plant, which some people like.

Some people like the fact that for them they can feel a little “cleaner”. I think a more accurate way to put is that it can feel a little simpler. It’s like listening to a symphony and taking out the woodwind section and only hearing the strings. That’s maybe a more useful analogy.

Matthew: Yeah that’s good. So from a purist point of view they might say hey if I want to preserve as much as much of the integrity of the original organic terpene profile, first have a Firefly, have a concentrate pad in there. You’re burning it at a much lower temperature, a third or fifth of what a nail would be heated to with a blow torch and if possible it was butane extracted because then you know you’re getting the original profile as close as possible in concentrate form. If you choose to go the CO2 route, it’s probably more advantageous for the producer that you’re getting less of the original profile of the plant. Would you say that’s a good summary?

Mark: Yes I would say that with one small caveat being that it really matters to know your extractor, how good they are because I actually like butane extractions, but only by certain extractors who really really know how to purge those hydrocarbons out of the finished product. That is not the case for every extraction. So it’s case by case but if you have (39.02 unclear). I personally think, and this is just a personal opinion, that they tend to be more flavorful and fully featured than CO2 extractions, but a lot of CO2 extractions really depend upon the skill of reintegration of terpenes by the particular extractors. So really I would say it comes down to the quality of the people doing the extraction.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. That’s fair. Tell us a little bit about the companion app that goes with the Firefly.

Mark: Sure it’s available for IoS or for Android. The primary function is that it lets you set different temperatures so different sort of maximum temperatures for the Firefly, but it also allows you to sort of change how you get to those temperatures. A simple way to look at it is that you can set a max temperature for let’s say 400 degrees and that you get there over the course of let’s say ten seconds. We also have a feature in there that’s more than just the max temperature. We call it power tuning, but its effect is how fast you get to that max temperature. So instead of getting there in 10 seconds you can get there in five seconds.

With the Firefly and the app essentially what we designed it to do is not just control temperature but allow you to customize how your experience unfolds which is a whole other level of nuance and sophistication that our users really appreciate because as it turns out not everybody wants their vaporizer to work exactly the same. Most people actually want it to work differently than anybody else’s and so what we’re doing is we’re learning how to provide just more customization options so that any user can basically dial it in to be exactly the experience that they want, and that’s what we’re basically in continual pursuit of that Matt is how do we make it flexible in a way that people understand and is simple enough to use that allows them to customize the experience to exactly what they’re looking for.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. Let’s get into a specific example. How do you use your Firefly or how do you adjust the settings to get your kind of unique snowflake type of inhalation?

Mark: Well it depends on if I’m using flower or concentrate. I actually like it a little cooler than most people so I’m usually on medium/high which is our default setting which is about a 400 degree max temperature. I’ve actually turned my power tuning down a little bit depending upon if I want to focus more on terpene enjoyment. Our power tuning basically has percentages from 89 to 111% with the factory setting being 100 percent. I turn mine down to 98 because that gives me just a slightly longer hit which I like that focuses a little bit more enjoyment on the terpenes. So it basically just let’s me really get into the flavor of different strains because we’re so fortunate living in California that we actually get to have access to all these incredible products that so many great growers from around the state are producing.

So I’ve sort of dialed my Firefly into that, but I’ve also for demo purposes dialed Firefly to that same medium/high where I turn power tuning to 107% it means that that hit comes on a lot sooner. Instead of unfolding over 12 seconds, it unfolds over 5 seconds. While that isn’t the way that I want to enjoy it, it’s a great way to demo it to people who are having their first experience because it gives them that feedback that you were talking about that’s so important really soon, and they have a big exhalation and they go oh wow that was amazing. Then that’s a great point of departure to allow people to then start to dial it down to something that maybe gives a more full spectrum offering of the plant. Does that make sense?

Matthew: Yeah that makes perfect sense. What if you want to go out on the ultimate Frisbee field and be LeBron James of ultimate Frisbee, what do you dial into for that?

Mark: Well I dial the way back machine to be about 15 years younger.

Matthew: That’s how to do it right there.

Mark: First and foremost.

Matthew: That might be a psilocybin we’re talking about.

Mark: In micro dosing heck yeah that would be fantastic.

Matthew: Okay. That’s actually becoming quite a thing out there in Northern California is the micro dosing of psilocybin for creativity, breaking up monotony, doing a lot of things. By the way I’m not recommending this to anybody, but I mean have you heard about this people micro dosing for creativity and work to be clear not to have a full psychedelic experience but just for different reasons allowing them to work in a different way and still be functional.

Mark: Yes I’ve heard about it. I actually study it fairly deeply.

Matthew: How good.

Mark: Basically because I’m a believer in it. I forget who said this, probably somebody from ancient Greece, but the difference between medicine and a poison is the dose. One can carry that a little bit further and say the difference between a medicine that has really pronounced effects and a medicine that has really subtle effects is also the dose.

Matthew: Right.

Mark: And that’s actually one of the ways that I use cannabis that I want to put out there to your audience that the Firefly is really ideal for micro dosing in that you can take a very small two or three second inhalation and just get a little bit which gives you essentially incredible titration ability which basically means how much you dilute it in air. It basically let’s you get exactly the effect that you want because the worst thing is having too much of any drug, whether it’s alcohol or cannabis or psilocybin or god knows any number of pharmaceutical opiates for instance. The worst thing is having too much.

It’s great to have too little because then you can always add a little bit more in a way that’s safe and responsible and that you have enough time really gauge the effect of. So I’m a huge believer in micro dosing in general and I believe one can think that we actually micro dose ourselves with food and drink every day, tiny amounts of magnesium in this particular plant for instance one can think of taking in micro dosing of certain minerals or what have you or vitamins. So extending that concept from things we ingest through food to things that we normally think of as just being psychoactive I think is a great sort of extension of that concept and we can learn how those things are applicable in our lives, if they are. I’m not saying that they are and I’m not recommending to anybody that they do it, but for those who are on that journey I think what they’re finding is that there can be a place for responsible very small amount usage that is below the threshold of any sort of experience that changes your perception of reality but gives you a slight effect like wow I focus a little better for a few hours.

A lot of the things that essentially are pharmaceuticals are designed to offer, I think, and people are finding that with micro dosing various substances they might get similar effects with a lot less of the metabolic byproducts that are undesirable.

Matthew: Yeah there’s so much to talk about in that field. Psilocybin the mushrooms and also MDMA. There are so many different fields of research there that there’s a lot of promise on what it can bring into the human domain in the future. So that’s an intensely exciting topic.

Mark: May I say just a little bit more about that Matt?

Matthew: Sure please.

Mark: I find it so exciting because it really also opens up what is inherently a more responsible and rational dialogue at the national level about it because for instance you’re testifying in front of Congress in some hypothetical situation about micro dosing psilocybin mushrooms which our federal government says oh this is dangerous. It has no medical use. It’s horrible. It’s the worst thing ever. We’re going to throw you in jail because you’re using it because it makes you think out of the box that we would like you to think for instance. It potentially causes some destabilizing effects on society. All of a sudden if now you’re reframing that discussing saying well I’m taking below what is termed a psychoactive dose. It’s not affecting my ability to communicate or do anything in the default world, and here’s what I think the benefits are to me without there being any obvious disadvantages to society, then it’s a different conversation entirely.

I think it’s really responsible and then all of a sudden you can have a conversation on the merits on the actual experience itself rather than all the dogma that stems from sort of puritanical heritage of being afraid of the experiences that we have, especially when it comes to things that change our fundamental perceptions. So I love the fact that the discussion is happening because it’s impossible to approach it dogmatically anymore. Nancy Regan, Just Say No, this is say no to drugs. This is the worst thing ever. You can have that if you’re talking about micro dosing because you’re not bringing on the psychoactive effects that the government is afraid of at that point which means that you’re having a totally different conversation about what the actual experience is rather than the hypothetical feared experience.

Matthew: Great points. Great points. So much stuff going on there. I love it. I believe Tim Ferris, the Four Hour Work Week author is funding a psychedelics research project at John Hopkins University in Maryland to see if they can document some of the benefits and then use that research to move the conversation forward.

Mark: Good for him. That’s fantastic to hear.

Matthew: Yeah. Mark I want to ask a couple of personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life that you would like to share with CannaInsider listeners?

Mark: Thanks for asking. Yeah, by the way when I was doing my prep I saw this at the end and I was like wow how cool that you’re asking that. It’s a real privilege to get to share one’s perspective so yes. There’s a lot of them. One in particular that jumps out is called The Book by a gentleman philosopher named Alan Watts, and it had a really profound impact on my life because I’ve been interested in personal develop in better understanding my place in the universe, for lack of a better term, spiritual development, but not necessarily perspective of any one tradition and isolation. I’m really interested in how we can learn from all traditions and even in fact learn from things that aren’t captured by any traditions.

So I thought that his book called The Book, which the subtitle is On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, for me was tremendously eye-opening and really added to a greatly sort of expanded idea of self and my place in the universe in a really healthy way. So that one I can recommend to anybody. It can definitely cause some alteration in one’s belief system as it did for me, but I found that largely to be a really positive thing. It doesn’t not require that you believe in anything. There’s nothing to do with that. It’s just maybe a broader way of looking at the universe and your place in it. So that’s one that I can highly recommend to people. It made a big positive impact on my life.

Matthew: Well that’s easy to remember, The Book, by Alan Watts. Great. Is there a tool other than the Firefly, web based or otherwise that you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity that you can’t imagine living without?

Mark: Wow let’s see here. I can kind of imagine living without any really.

Matthew: Society won’t let you though.

Mark: Exactly, it’s so true. I mean certainly my phone I think as much as anything. I know that that’s not a particular interesting answer, but it’s probably the best one I can give just given that we’ve become so reliant on it as our extension of our brain, our external brain, but more so just the connectivity. I mean for people who are younger they might not have a frame of reference but my gosh the connectivity that we have now compared to 30 years ago is just mind blowing. It’s incredible how all of a sudden it’s like we’re now part of a neuronet that is many billions of neurons connected with literally a latency of a couple seconds to make a text or a call or an email or what have you or Tweet or blah, blah.

Matthew: It is.

Mark: And we weren’t able to sort of self-assemble into these neuronets with anywhere near the amount of speed or completeness of scope just a few decades and now we can and it’s amazing to me because who knows what exactly is emerging over the next few decades but definitely something different is emerging and it’s pretty fascinating. It feels like being sort of at the cusp of a formation of being part of a world brain and it’s darn cool.

Matthew: Yeah good points.

Mark: I would say my phone a tool, but also my micro screwdriver set and my digital calipers which I use to measure really small parts because actually I’m still involved with the technical details of everything we do. So my micro screwdriver set which has all the different screw heads, bits and everything and they always try to take it away from me in the Hong Kong airport but I don’t let them. Yeah those things. Also of course my multimeter which is a really good one. It lets me test resistance and voltage and amperage and all manner of things electric. Basically my little micro mechanical and micro electrical tools I’d say are things that I can’t conceive of being without.

Matthew: Excellent. Well Mark as we close can you tell listeners how they can learn more about a Firefly and how to buy one if they’re interested?

Mark: Well thanks yes. You can buy the Firefly at lots of smoke shops around the country or dispensaries in the states where those apply. You can buy it through our Vape World or a number of other partners online, but we prefer if you buy it through us of course because that’s how we make the most money and we sure do appreciate people who choose to do that. The website you can buy it directly from us at www.thefirefly.com. We have basically a lot of the information I’ve talked about as well as other information on the website so people with questions can usually get answers to anything. If anyone who is interested in looking, please stop by and take a peak and I thank anyone in advance for their time and interest in what we’re doing.

Matthew: Mark thanks so much for joining us on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it and good luck with you and everything with the Firefly.

Mark: Thanks so much Matt. It’s been a real pleasure to talk to you and thanks very much for having us on your show. I really appreciate it.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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