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Can Craft Cannabis Survive The Big Money Takeover?

ryan stoa craft weed

Can small-scale craft cannabis survive against huge corporations and the big ad practices they’re introducing to North America?

Here to help us answer that is Ryan Stoa, Associate Professor at Concordia University School of Law and author of “Craft Weed: Family Farming and the Future of the Marijuana Industry.”

In this episode, Ryan argues the need to keep cannabis “more craft beer than Anheuser-Busch” and proposes a Marijuana Appellation system that would support a sustainable, local, and artisanal farming model within the U.S.

Learn more at http://ryanstoa.com

Key Takeaways:

  • Ryan’s background in law and cannabis and what sparked his desire to write “Craft Weed”
  • Why Ryan argues we need to support craft weed over big companies with large scale cultivation facilities
  • The extensive research that went into Ryan’s book and the information that shocked him the most
  • Smart farming and how it relates to indoor cannabis growing
  • How Ryan believes the newly passed Farm Bill of 2018 will affect the small American family farm
  • Why the desire for sustainable, artisanal cannabis fluctuates across the U.S.
  • Ryan’s positive outlook for the future of cannabis agriculture and how he believes legalization will benefit our culture
Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday I look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com that's C-A-N-N-A insider.com. Now here's your program. Can small scale craft cannabis survive in the face of huge corporations bringing big Ag practices to North America? Here to help us answer that question is Ryan Stoa, Associate Professor at Concordia University School of Law in Boise, Idaho and author of the book "Craft Weed Family Farming and the Future of the Marijuana Industry." Ryan, welcome to CannaInsider.

Ryan: Thank you very much, Matt. It's a pleasure to be here.

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

Ryan: I am in my cabin in the mountains outside of Boise, Idaho.

Matthew: Oh, nice. And I'm in Charleston, South Carolina today.

Ryan: Awesome.

Matthew: Can you share a little bit about your background and journey and what drove you to write this book?

Ryan: Sure. So, I started my career in Miami, Florida, Florida International University, and was studying at the time, predominantly water rights and water conflicts around the world. And I turned my attention to water conflicts domestically here in the United States and one of the conflicts that originally jumped out to me was occurring in Northern California. And it was between, you know, cannabis farmers, small scale cannabis farmers, many of whom were doing their best to practice sustainable and legal cannabis agriculture. But were not doing so with water rights that have been granted by the state of California largely because the state had not figured out how to develop a water permining system for cannabis agriculture. And once I kind of delved into water conflicts in the cannabis industry I realized that there was a huge number of questions that regarded cannabis agriculture and its future. And once I started digging in I realized that there was just so much fruitful information out there to uncover and discuss and ultimately write about in my book.

Matthew: Okay. So, your book is called "Craft Weed," can we have craft weed as big companies move into the space and focus on huge large scale cultivation facilities?

Ryan:Yeah, I really believe we can. You know, I'm not pretending that there won't be this sort of big marijuana model that'll come to become a reality. You're already seeing some really good investments by big tobacco and build out big alcohol players, you know, the owner of Corona beer has made a billion dollar investment in a Canadian marijuana producer in late, I believe, in August of 2018. And then in December, a few months later the owner of Marlboro made an even bigger investment in a marijuana producer...Canadian marijuana producer. So, you're seeing a lot of money coming in and certainly like other industries, there's likely to be consolidation and scaling up and perhaps even a commodification or commoditization of the product. But I think craft weed or artisanal model of marijuana agriculture and production can survive and even thrive. I think that's really what a lot of consumers have shown an interest in and a preference for in terms of diversity of products and strains.

I think people look for higher quality and sort of the products that they're consuming, especially if you look at other industries such as the wine industry and the craft beer industry there's evidence out there that a craft model can coexist alongside the sort of cheaper generic products. And I think that's just as likely to be true in the cannabis industry.

Matthew: Okay. Was there anything that really surprised you when you were researching this book that really jumped out that you weren't expecting?

Ryan: Yeah, you know, I was roughly familiar with the history of cannabis, and of course I knew that cannabis cultivation and use stretched back centuries. But I think what surprised me a little bit about the history of cannabis cultivation, I think sometimes we sort of assume that you know this war on drugs that the US implemented in the 20th century was something really novel and new. And that previously everybody had been in love with cannabis plants and that's really not the case. Cannabis cultivation has been controversial for centuries and it's been...and many cultures around the world have sort of had this tension between those that recognize the opportunities and potential of cultivating cannabis on the one hand and authority figures that were uncomfortable with it and try to prohibit it on the other hand. And so it provided sort of a useful backdrop and really surprised me in the sense that, you know, a lot of cultures and societies have tried to deal with cannabis cultivation and square that with our societal norms.

Matthew: It does not surprise me at all because I feel like the first time you consume cannabis you say, "This is not anything that I was told it was. It was demonized." And then the second thing is that you start to ask other questions. So, I could see while it's why authority figures don't want people asking a lot of questions, it makes a lot of sense.

Ryan: Yeah, and, you know, the cannabis plant as many of your listeners would likely now, you know, as a diversity of uses. It can be recreational, it can be medical, it can be therapeutic, it can be spiritual. And historically it's been used for all of those reasons and I think what can be especially threatening, especially historically where, you know, groups that were using it for spiritual purposes that sort of threatened the, you know, the status quo or the world order of the dominant society. And I think that those were cases where it was perceived to be especially threatening.

Matthew: Let's talk about smart farming. And how does that dovetail with indoor cannabis growing?

Ryan: So, there's been a rise in the last few years of this concept of vertical farming or smart farming, in other words, growing crops indoors. And by doing so you can optimize growing conditions and increasingly monitor those growing conditions to a very scientific degree. And so, a lot of smart farming operations will have sensors for the quality of the soil, and moisture content, and the climate, and the temperature. And you're measuring all these things at once and those technologies can inform you when, you know, those plants need more inputs or need a change to their growing environment. And you know, it's interesting that that concept is now increasingly being applied to grow produce indoors. And really a lot of the foundations of that indoor farming movement or the vertical farming movement are, you know, indoor cannabis grows, which sort of developed out of necessity in the 60s and 70s when the federal government and state law enforcement were starting to go after cannabis outdoor grows. It drove cannabis growing inside and the benefits of that are still numerous.

You know, you don't have to be subject to the whims of mother nature. Now you can control your environment and really dial in your system. And of course, there are also downsides and as I talk in my book, I think, you know, indoors farmers really need to reckon with the fact that the, you know, the cost and energy consumption required to grow plants indoors instead of under, you know, the bright light and free light of the sun it can be an enormous challenge.

Matthew: So, most licensed cultivators operate indoors as we've talked about, but how will the greenhouse model, will that be a catalyst here, you know, to be more sustainable? And how do you think that will look because politicians are still really nervous about this. They treat cannabis like plutonium. What do you think is gonna happen?

Ryan: Yeah, you know, I think one of the interesting developments in the cannabis industry and the legal cannabis industry is that you've got these two different communities growing cannabis. There are the indoor growers on the one hand and the outdoor growers on the other hand and both are really passionate advocates for their model of farming and just can't see how the other approach would have a viable future. And, you know, that's interesting. I think eventually it may be that one comes to become more popular than the other. You know, at the moment, you still have a thriving outdoor cannabis agriculture community, especially in western states and especially in Northern California. But certainly authorities in some states aren't even allowing outdoor cultivation largely for the reasons that you mentioned. They want it to be out of sight and out of mind. And so that certainly gives a leg up to the indoor growing community.

Ultimately, you know, I think there's probably going to be a happy medium in the form of greenhouse agriculture. It makes sense that you would create a growing environment in which you're taking advantage of the sun's light energy while at the same time, you know, not subject to all the whims of mother nature including storms and droughts and the like. And so, I think greenhouse, you know, that sort of middle ground or what some state license issuers or regulators are calling is sort of mixed light approaches are gonna have a bright future, no pun intended.

Matthew: Now, how will the Farm Bill affect the small independent American family farm? Will it be a new era of like these beautiful systems being built with small family farms being able to support themselves and without having to just scrape by?

Ryan: Well, I think that we can certainly hope so. I'm not sure I'm that optimistic that I would project that that's a guaranteed future but I certainly hope that you know, the Farm Bill can help support the American family farm. And with respect to cannabis agriculture, of course, the significant development was the federal legalization of hemp cultivation. And one of the things that's interesting about that is that, you know we have...I think a lot of folks kind of mistakenly believe that, you know, hemp and psychoactive marijuana are these two very distinct plants. Whereas, you know, really we're talking about pretty similar plants, one might be a strain that is low in THC and the other is not. And so, I think it'll in some ways help make communities and especially agricultural communities a little bit more comfortable with with farming the cannabis plant and seeing the potential uses of that. And hopefully as that develops and American hemp farmers become competitive in the global trade for hemp products will sort of loosen up our conceptions and fears around psychoactive strains or psychoactive crops and enable those to legalize and then thrive.

Matthew: So, wine lovers tend to think wine from Napa or Sonoma, California are better than other places. Will something similar happened with cannabis? And if so, what would it look like?

Ryan" Well, I expect and in some ways you can probably already see that if you spent time in California or Washington. Colorado, I think folks there and can be very proud of their local products. You know, you often hear people brag about, you know, the quality of Cali weed or Colorado weed. And I definitely think something similar will happen in the cannabis industry. And one of the ideas that I propose that has been gaining traction is the...is using the wine appellation model for the cannabis industry. So, what I mean by that is that in the wine industry, if you're drinking a bottle of wine that says Napa County on it, you can be sure that the grapes that were used in that wine actually came from Napa County because a regulatory authority is verifying that that's the case. And that's called an appellation system. And there are many who are now believing and hopeful that such a system can be applied to cannabis agriculture as well.

In other words, farmers that are cultivating cannabis in Humboldt County can advertise and put Humboldt County grown on their cannabis and that will be verified and certified by an authority or governing body. That way, someone who's, you know, growing in, you know, their basement in Arkansas can't just put Humboldt County on that to take advantage of the solid reputation of Humboldt County and get away with them. And the same could be said of other growing regions Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, wherever. You could really use that system to diversify the amount of products that are available and help, you know, sophisticated in a way the cannabis marketplace.

Matthew: I think that works. It works but there in some ways there's still kind of these imposters. Like I went to Parma, Italy last year and I went through the Parmesan cheese tours and watch how they made that. And they have essentially like a cartel that is allowed to say, you know, Parmesan cheese but then you have these competitors that say like, Parmesan inspired cheese or Parmesan-style cheese and for a lot of people that aren't paying attention they're like, "Oh, just grab this one's a little bit cheaper or, you know, I like the packaging a little bit better." So it does work because the person that really wants, you know, the real Parmesan cheese will look for that seal, will say, "Okay, this is one the real deal." But for people that are not that into it, they still lose some market share. So, it'll be interesting to see how strict this becomes, you know, I know in California, they love making like laws and regulations so, maybe they will make it really strict there and it'll be difficult to do that.

Ryan: Yeah, I mean, it's a great point. And, you know, one of the major challenges of an appellation system is enforcement. Famously, it took, you know, over a decade and ultimately a US trade mission to China to get Chinese authorities to stop a Chinese wine manufacturer from labeling their wine as coming from Napa Valley and you could see the same thing happening with cannabis. The origin of the appellation system can be traced back to the Champagne region of France, you know, so champagne wine producers were developing this really high-quality product and wine growers from other regions were recognizing that and saying, "Hey, if we just say champagne people will pay more." And so that's, you know, really the origin they sort of, there were riots around this issue and ultimately, French authorities said, "All right, we're gonna have to verify this and allow these producers to develop their reputation." And also one of the questions about an appellation system, you know, there's sort of two different models in the US for wine.

All our appellation system says is where the wind came from, whereas in France, the appellations are also used as a mechanism to regulate what types of grapes you can grow, when you can grow them, how you can grow them, et cetera. So ultimately, there's some potential there for the appellation also to be a mechanism for farming communities to get together and talk about what type of strains they might wanna specialize in, or how to be sustainable on their agricultural practices.

Matthew: Yeah, that would be interesting. I mean, in one way, you could see why that would be a cool way to create like a heritage that passes down from generation to generation that consumers get to know but in another way, it might seem stifling. So, it'll be interesting to see what balance is chosen there.

Ryan: Yeah, and hopefully, you know, since legalization and regulation is taking place on a state by state basis, we might have a lot of different models to look at and investigate.

Matthew: Yeah. In your book, you talk about cannabis consumers desire to have their cannabis come from small, sustainable and wholesome places. But as I drive across the US as I have many times and I stop all over in the middle, a lot of times there's...I see people making choices about food that is there's not much thought put into the sustainability or perhaps the budget, so think about that as much. So, will this simply be a bi-coastal thing you think?

Ryan: You know, it's a great point and I think in the cannabis industry or cannabis consumers, they're still going to be a large subset or a significant portion that are, you know, their most important factor is price. They're gonna be price sensitive, and they're gonna be looking for that inexpensive, yet potent generic product that maybe the big marijuana purveyors can specialize in. But I still think there's going to be a robust market for the higher quality strains, the sort of boutique artisanal craft producers that are churning out and producing interesting varieties and strains that have interesting effects and taste and flavor profiles. And so, I think there's still gonna be a robust market for that. And what's interesting about the cannabis industry, you know, especially compared to the agriculture, the sort of broader agricultural industry we have in the United States today, I think a lot of people, you know, certainly some people aren't thinking about this issue or are more price conscious and, you know, the status quo is it works fine for them.

I think there's a growing community in the United States that sort of laments the state of American agriculture and the unsustainability of practices and the monoculture that we've developed. And yet, it's kind of hard to change because, you know, we have these entrenched interests. What's interesting about the cannabis industry is that it's brand new at least from a legal perspective. And so, there's a wonderful opportunity here for stakeholders, including growers and regulators and consumers to build from scratch the industry that we want.

Matthew: Yeah. How do you think the cannabis industry is going to change and evolve in the years ahead?

Ryan: I think we'll continue to see big moneyed interests entering into the marketplace. Ultimately, federal legalization could be a huge force and potentially a disruptive force but I think there's a bright future for the for the small scale farmer and for the artisanal producer. I think you're already seeing a sophistication of the industry as people, you know, walk into a legal dispensary and, you know, oftentimes the person behind the counter sounds an awful lot like a sommelier that you be speaking to at a fancy restaurant when talking about wines. You know, you can kind of go in there and say, "Hey, look, I'm having migraines. Is there a strain that can help?" And they can say, "Yeah, here's a few you might want to consider." And I think that that's likely to continue.

Matthew: Okay. One aspect, we don't talk about too much on this show but is culture in terms of how it affects culture, you know, different generations, the boomers, the millennials, Gen X, now also Gen Z, the homeland, or homeland generation. How is this affecting our culture and how we live?

Ryan: Well, I think, you know, America as a society is becoming more and more comfortable with cannabis and the cannabis industry. You know, we sort of moved from a model that, you know, really try to demonize the plant and especially demonize users and now sort of the war on drugs. So, I think that generations that lived through that might either, you know, still be buying that message or be scarred from that experience. But as we're moving away from that and more and more Americans are sort of aware, you know, in the 90s that California had legalized medical use and that throughout the 2000s you have more and more states that are legalizing. I think that we're becoming more comfortable with it and now starting to think about, "All right if this is going to be legal, what do we want it to look like?" And ultimately my book, you know, doesn't focus too much time on legalization or whether or not the plant should be legal. You know, really I think it's time to think about the future and the next steps. If this is gonna be legal, what do we want this industry to look like? We have an opportunity right now to really help shape that future.

Matthew: Okay. Just out of curiosity, what's the reaction been with your colleagues at Concordia University as you published this book?Because I know Idaho is typically pretty conservative, but also becoming less so now with so many California transplants and transplants from all over the country discovering what an awesome state it is.

Ryan: Yeah, you've got a good read on our state. Certainly, Idaho's rather conservative when it comes to cannabis legalization. I think we're one of three states that have not legalized medical use in any form or decriminalized small amounts of possession. So, certainly our legal infrastructure is still relatively unfriendly with respect to cannabis. But I think from a research perspective, my colleagues are supportive and I think there's still a lot of interest. You know, we're surrounded by states that are legalizing cannabis, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Montana, and of course, Canada. And so, it's certainly even though it hasn't been legalized here, a terribly relevant issue, even for Idahoans.

Matthew: Oh, yeah. And also it's coming in over state lines one way or another. So there's gonna be, you know, a reckoning in how to deal with it.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Matthew: So, Ryan, at this point in interview, I'd like to ask a couple of personal development questions to help readers...listeners get a better sense of who you are personally.

Ryan: Sure.

Matthew: With that, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Ryan: Sure. I think, you know, one book or series of books that have really influenced me were written by Daniel Quinn, you know, when he came out with his sort of Ishmael trilogy, including "Ishmael" and "The Story of He and My Ishmael." I just thought that was such an innovative and novel way to approach sort of a lot of philosophical questions that we have between humans and our natural environment. And the way that Daniel Quinn talks about that in narrative form, encourages us to reevaluate our relationship with the earth. I thought was really, really influenced me and helped shape my thinking. And I think another book that, you know, was influential in the way that I wrote "Craft Weed" is the "Unsettling of America" by Wendell Berry. And if you read the book the last chapter I sort of quote from several passages from Wendell Berry in that book talking about sort of the development of big agriculture in the United States and the impact that that has had on our rural communities. And I think that book will still have...leave a lasting impression on readers into the 21st century.

Matthew: Do you know anybody close to you that had a positive impact from cannabis or hemp that caused you to start to broaden your opinion of the plants' abilities?

Ryan: One of an indispensable figure in my life with respect to understanding cannabis and the cannabis industry is Jack. The sort of figure that I opened the book with and talk about throughout the book. He was a close friend of mine and, you know, moved up to Northern California and sort of got his start in the cannabis industry and is now a flourishing, you know, artisanal craft farmer. And I think, you know, being able to hear from him and hear his stories and his experiences and learn how the industry is changing and changing rapidly on the ground, you know, was a really invaluable experience in writing this book. And you can hear a lot about the cannabis industry from, you know, online media or sort of your larger publications, but it's really an industry such as this one that is sort of quasi-legal and still evolving and moving in a lot of different directions. Having contacts on the ground is really an essential aspect of understanding the industry and where it's going.

Matthew: Well, Ryan, this has been a lot of fun. As we close can you share with listeners the best way to find your book and connect with you online if you're on social media or like connections there?

Ryan: Absolutely. I'm on social media, I'm on Instagram and Twitter. You can find me at Ryan Stoa, or on Twitter @ryandstoa. I have a website ryanstoa.com R-Y-A-N-S-T-O-A .com, and you can find my book "Craft Weed Family Farming and the Future of Marijuana Industry" essentially anywhere you buy books online, whether that's IndieBound or Amazon.

Matthew: Ryan, thanks so much and best of luck with your book.

Ryan: Excellent. Thanks very much, Matt. It's been a pleasure.

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 cannainsider.com/itunes.

What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out your free report at cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider, simply send us an email at feedback@cannainsider.com. We'd 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. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers or companys featured in CannaInsider. 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.

Bringing Cutting Edge Science to Cannabis ­- Dr. Jon Vaught

dr jon vaught fronrange bioscience

With the recent global surge in industrial hemp, scientists are moving into the hemp and cannabis space to provide cultivators the technologies and best practices of other industries.

Helping lead the movement is Dr. Jon Vaught, CEO and founder of Front Range Biosciences, an agricultural biotechnology company that specializes in tissue culture cloning for cannabis and other high-value crops.

In this episode, Dr. Jon shares how Front Range Biosciences is revolutionizing cloning methods to not only produce robust, healthy plants but also create new varieties that could disrupt the dietary and pharmaceutical industries.

Learn more at https://www.frontrangebio.com

Key Takeaways:

  • A breakdown of Front Range Biosciences and the revolutionary biotechnology it’s bringing to the cannabis industry
  • Dr. Jon’s background in biotechnology and what led him to start Front Range Biosciences
  • The differences between cannabis and hemp
  • A deep dive into Front Range Biosciences’ services, including its Clean Stock Nursery Program
  • The ins and outs of tissue culture laboratories and the benefits they offer researchers and cultivators alike
  • How to avoid common mistakes in cultivation, including exposing plants to disease
  • Dr. Jon’s goals to create new plant varieties and cannabinoid profiles for the purposes of dietary supplements, nutraceutical products, and even pharmaceutical products
  • Our current understanding of the cannabis genome and the exciting new discoveries Dr. Jon anticipates in the years to come

 

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry, learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A insider.com. Now, here's your program.

Matthew: Scientists are moving into the hemp and cannabis space to help cultivators enjoy the technology and best practices from other industries. Here to help us understand this is Doctor Jon Vaught of Front Range Biosciences. Jon, welcome to CannaInsider.

Dr. Jon: Thank you Matt. Glad to be here.

Matthew: Jon, I know you've got a voice issue because you've been traveling and speaking and so forth. You may sound like the villain, Bane, from Batman, but we will forgive that if it's a couple of octaves lower, don't worry about that. This is not how Jon normally sounds and I'm not distorting his voice in any way.

Dr. Jon: Thank you. Yeah, it's definitely a couple of octaves lower right now. But it still works. So, we'll move forward.

Matthew: Jon gives a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Dr. Jon: So I'm actually back at home in Colorado, on my farm. I live in East Boulder County, not too far for most of our locations and our headquarters here in Lafayette, Colorado. But I just got back from a trip to Virginia at the Industrial Hemp Summit where we had a collection of farmers from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, who were all going to be adding industrial hemp as a new crop to their rotation. So, just got back there late last night...from there late last night and I'm happy to be home again.

Matthew: Great. And I'm in Charleston, South Carolina today. Jon, tell me what is Front Range Biosciences at a high level?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, Front Range Biosciences has been...we've set it up to be an agricultural biotechnology company for high value crops. And we currently focus really on two crops. The first being cannabis, which we include hemp, which is actually the majority of our work in cannabis. But then also the high-THC version as well, through some relationships that we have in California. And then the other main crop that we work on currently is coffee. And there's really two parts to our business. And the first part is our clean stock nursery program, which is pretty similar for all of the crops. We use a process called tissue culture to produce clean, disease-free, healthy, vigorous young plants, and then we put them into the greenhouse and then we ship them to customers. So we basically sell young plants, seedlings, clones, rooted cuttings, lighters, these are all words for young plants and we sell those to farmers.

The other part of our business is our variety development in our breeding program where we're using advanced technologies like next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics, the combination of those things called marker-assisted breeding to improve our ability to breed new varieties. And we're particularly focused on hemp in this area, so looking at a unique cannabinoids and agronomic traits so that we can grow this crop and domesticate it in new growing environments. Not only here in the United States, but around the world.

Matthew: And Jon, can you share a little bit about your background and journey and how you came to get involved in this business?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, certainly. It's a little bit of a long story, but I'll try to keep it as short and sweet as I can. My formal training is in organic chemistry, so I'm a synthetic organic chemist by training. I did my PhD work at the University of Colorado at Boulder. And I started my career in biotech while I was at the University of Colorado at Boulder working for a startup company here in Colorado that was focused on human diagnostics. And I spent actually about 15 years in the molecular diagnostics worlds after completing my PhD. And what I mostly worked on was the development of new technologies for laboratory tests. These were things, tests for early detection of diseases like cancer and heart disease and chronic inflammation. And I worked a lot with pharmaceutical companies to help support FDA clinical trial submissions and really improve what we call personalized medicine, where we better understand the side effects of certain drugs and can predict them better so that we can improve treatment and outcomes for patients.

I also spent a couple of years in food safety, similar technology platforms. But we were focused on a different application, which was the detection of food pathogens, or food-borne pathogens. So things like salmonella, listeria and E. coli in large scale food production. During this 15-year stint in molecular diagnostics, I got really engaged with farming. I started a 501(c) three non-profit. It's actually a small goat farm called Mountain Flower Dairy here in Colorado. And we were really focused on helping bringing the community closer to agriculture and help giving them a chance to understand where their food comes from because it's shocking how removed we are today from where our food comes from. So we did summer camps and workshops and I spent actually nights and weekends in between building these biotech companies setting the farm up.

And it's turned out to be a hugely successful here in Boulder over the last seven years. And so all of that combined, I fell in love with farming and agriculture. And, you know, when I looked at this emerging industry and cannabis and this new crop here in Colorado about four years ago, I thought, "What an incredible opportunity for me to move my career more into agriculture and combine all of these things that I care about." Because, you know, cannabis is a crop, has implications and applications in nutraceuticals or dietary supplements and nutrition and obviously pharmaceuticals and then agriculture and the growing, the production of the crop. And so that was really what motivated me. And I ended up stepping down from one of the other companies that helped start and went out to start Front Range Biosciences.

And it's been quite a journey ever since. And I don't regret it at all. I love moving my career into agriculture and, you know, and I think at the end of the day, when I look at human disease and human health and food production and all these things that I spent my career, you know, working on, you know, it all comes together in this new crop and in agriculture really. I think the root of many of our problems that we face in health care are due to poor nutrition and challenges in food production and things like that. So, yeah. That's kind of how I got here.

Matthew: I want to dive into this more, Jon, but before we do, can you just clarify for people that are still unsure about the difference between what cannabis and hemp is. They're the same plant, but different genotype and what that means exactly for a lay person.

Dr. Jon: Yeah, definitely. So cannabis is really the genus of a plant. And traditionally it's been thought of as three different species, indica, sativa, and ruderalis. The reality is that over the last 60 years due to prohibition and lack of access to modern breeding practices and characterization, everybody has been crossing all of these different varieties. And we kind of have a mixed up gene pool right now, meaning it's not really clear what's what, and you can use next-generation sequencing to track things back to some of the original, what they call landrace strains. But the reality is that right now they're all basically the same plant, and they can be hybridized or bred together. And so their only real difference between hemp and cannabis or marijuana is really a regulatory difference, which is the amount of THC that's present. And so currently in the United States, hemp is defined as having less than 0.3% THC whereas marijuana or cannabis is considered everything that's above 0.3% THC. And so from a scientific perspective, they're the exact same plant. They, you know, there's some unique differences in the different varieties, but it's not necessarily related to whether they're hemp or cannabis or marijuana. It's more about the region that they came from or how they're grown that makes them different.

Matthew: Now, could you tell us a little bit more detail about who your primary customers are at Front Range and what you're doing for them right now in terms of your clean stock nursery program and what problems? That's all.

Dr. Jon: Yeah, absolutely. So we're a B2B business and so our primary customers are all growers and farmers. They're our target audience and they're the folks that we support. You know, we work with all different types of farmers. So in hemp, for example, the majority of farmers are growing outdoors. Some grow in some greenhouse, but generally speaking, they're growing outdoor acreage and it's starting to look a lot more like the production of corn or wheat or soy although it's still just a very small fraction of the footprint that those crops make up worldwide. But, so we support farmers there on the hemp side. In California we have some partnerships with some cannabis companies and so we work with cannabis growers there that grow indoors and outdoors and in greenhouse conditions.

And then for their coffee growers, we're currently focused on growers in California, so we've been working with a group...our partner in coffee, Frinj Coffee. And they're out of the Santa Barbara area in California. And we work with them to distribute coffee plants to the coffee farmers throughout California. It's a new crop for the state and it's an exciting project to be a part of. And we have a significant production agreement with them to produce millions of coffee plants for farmers at California. And coffee is generally grown outdoors in California and in other climates as well.

Matthew: Okay. And then when you talk...when you say the word tissue culture, can you just explain what that means exactly?

Dr. Jon: Yeah. Tissue culture is a tool and there's a lot of misconceptions about it, I think especially in the cannabis industry. You know, but it's really just a tool, and it's one of many tools in our toolbox that we use to produce healthy plants. The processes really...it's not that different than growing in a greenhouse in some ways only it's growing in a sterile environment instead of the greenhouse where you have pests and pathogens and exposure to environmental conditions. In a tissue culture lab, we're still growing the plant. So it's still does things like rooting. It still produces new leaves and can even flower. And you know, but you're growing it in this unique environment. It's sterile. It's kind of like a clean room for production of plants. So tissue culture, it really can be used in a variety of different ways as a tool to support agriculture.

It's used as a research tool where groups use it to transform the plant, do things like genome editing and use it to research the underlying biology of the plant. And then it can also be used in the production setting, which is really how we use it in our clean stock program where we produce pesticide-free, pest-free, virus-free plants. And we're able to do that because of the sterile environment that we grow them inside the tissue culture lab. So, you know, we, we can use it to produce much more healthy, vigorous and cleaner plants for our growers. And the end result is a higher quality product going out of the greenhouse. So when farmers go to or come to pick up their plants from us, you know, our goal is always to have the highest quality plants and tissue culture is really just a tool that we use to do that. You know, there's other tools that we use as well. Like next-generation sequencing or an integrated pest management program, these are all really tools that we use to improve the quality of our plants that we produce for our growers.

Matthew: Okay. And the term tissue culture is thrown around a lot. But since you're in this business, can you tell us what misconceptions there are about it?

Dr. Jon: Well, I think a lot of people see it as this holy grail of how you can produce plants and you no longer have to have the mother stock and you don't you don't have to do cuttings anymore. And the reality is that when you use tissue culture in production, that's not really how it works. I mean, you always have to have plants. You always have to have stock plants and other plants and, you know, and you really...the production of plants through tissue culture includes both the tissue culture lab as well as the greenhouse. Because plants that are grown in the tissue culture lab can't just be immediately put into a greenhouse or into a field. They wouldn't survive. They've been grown in this very isolated climate-controlled environment. And you can't just simply put them out into the real world. They don't have the ability to survive.

And so, it's quite a delicate process to take the plants from, let's say the greenhouse to the tissue culture lab, clean them up, then produce them in the tissue culture labs and back to the greenhouse, and then from the greenhouse to growers. That process can take quite a significant amount of time. And it's also labor intensive and expensive and requires a specific set of expertise that can be hard to come by in today's labor environment. And so, it's really a little more complicated that I think a lot of people realize.

And I think the other misconception is that, you know, a lot of people have experience using tissue culture and plants as a research tool, you know, whether it's in graduate school or even an undergraduate and working in research labs and using it to understand the biology of the plant. And that's certainly an important use of tissue culture. But the difference between doing tissue culture that scale and using it to mass produce plants is significant. It's a whole different world when you go from a small isolated, you know, tissue culture lab, you know, with maybe one or two scientists that are highly trained, it might have PhDs and working very carefully in the lab to being able to produce millions and millions of plants on an annual basis with a team of people in a tissue culture lab. So it's just two very different worlds. I think there's also the idea that it's a quick and easy solution and I think I've heard people say, "Oh, we're just going to build our own tissue culture lab and, you know, we're going to start producing plants in less than a year."

And the reality is, and I've been very fortunate to assemble a team that's been doing this work for decades in large commercial, you know, settings. Places like Driscoll's and Syngenta and Ball horticultural. The reality is that to put a new crop into a clean stock program and tissue culture, it takes years. And, you know, it takes a minimum of six to nine months to get a new variety clean and stable and the tissue culture process and then to get it from there into production. You know, it can certainly take a years and especially to get into the large scale production of millions of plants. So, I think these are all a set of misconceptions that are out there in the industry. We've watched a lot of companies try to do this on their own and spend millions of dollars and not be able to execute. It's a little more challenging, I think, than people realize.

Matthew: Okay. And you mentioned, you know, you have virus-free, bacteria-free, all these different things did you do to keep the environment clean. How does the less sophisticated cultivator typically introduce disease to their plants?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, so the most common thing we see in cannabis is because it's so easy to vegetatively propagate, people find a plant that they really like and they take cuttings off of it and then they transfer it to their friend or their friends' friends. And, you know, they move these plants around and if proper clean stock processes are not put in place, then those cuttings in those plants simply carry along whatever might be present on the mother plant. So these could be pests like thrips or mites or aphids. There could also be viruses that people aren't aware that are, you know, residing inside the tissue of the plant. There can be bacteria and fungus and molds and all of these different pests and pathogens. They're out in the real world. So if you have a plant, whether it's growing in the field or in the greenhouse or an indoor grow, if it's...unless it's in a tissue culture lab, it's not in a sterile environment.

So it can be exposed to any number of these different pathogens. And so every time somebody transfers it from one environment to another, they not only bring along the pests and pathogens that were in the first environment, they also introduce the new ones and the second environment. And then you end up over time, as people move these plants around different facilities and different growers, you introduce more and more and more of these pests and pathogens. You know, and I think simple precautions like, you know, sterilizing your tools that you cut your plants with and making sure that you've got clean plugs that you're going to root your plants in, and just having a strong integrated pest management program in place in your grows so that you're constantly on top of your pests and pathogens. I mean, the reality is that in agriculture, when you go to a place there's pests, there's no way around it.

I mean, you know, we unfortunately have to live in the real world. In the real world, there's things like thrips and aphids and mites and they're just there. And so the idea that, you know, you don't have to pay attention to that is not a good one. You have to constantly stay on top of it and be proactive and take preventative measures to make sure that you don't get huge outbreaks. And especially in the spring when, you know, everything kind of comes back to life and all of the bugs, you know, kind of break out and start to attack the plants again. So, you know, it's really important that people take preventative measures. But yeah, I think that's a shortlist of the ways that we see folks introduce pests and pathogens.

Matthew: You have a goal of creating new plant varieties and new cannabinoid profiles. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, definitely. You know, when I look at this plant cannabis from the organic chemist perspective, you know, I see it as a treasure trove of unique small molecules. There's really not so many plants in the world like it. There's over 500 small molecules that are produced in this plant. Things like canabinoids, there's I think at least 110 or 115 unique cannabinoids that have been identified. I'm sure there's a few more that haven't been identified. There's terpenes and flavonoids, which just all of these unique small molecules, it's a pretty diverse, you know, a diverse group of compounds in this plant. And so, the two that everybody knows the most about are THC and then now CBD, which really just happened in the last few years. And I think we're really just at the tip of the iceberg.

I think there's a lot more cannabinoids and combinations of these small molecules that are going to be effective and in human disease and preventative health measures. And then, you know, and then even as a dietary supplement, when you start to look at hemp grain, as a protein source, you know, it's got to balance fatty acid profile and it's got fiber and has got a balanced amino acid profile. So, from a crop perspective, you know, whether it's cannabinoids or any of these other components, it really has the ability to produce a lot of unique things that I think are going to be beneficial to both humans and even animals and pets. You know, we're starting to see that now as well. So, we're certainly focused on trying to breed new varieties that can produce some of these unique canabinoids that hopefully will become a part of either dietary supplement or nutraceutical products or even pharmaceutical products or even nutritional products.

Matthew: Now, how do you think about the future of patenting cannabis plants and what that holds?

Dr. Jon: Well, it's a very interesting question. I mean, you know, the reality is that when you look at agriculture and just like any other industry, intellectual property or IP is often the foundation for a company's value. It's certainly the case in biotechnology, whether you're talking about diagnostics or agriculture or a drug development. And, you know, for better or worse, the only way to protect that IP is through patents. And so we've already seen some patents issued for cannabis plants. And I think we're certainly going to see more. You know, the reality is it's the only way to protect somebody's hard work. So, for example, if a plant breeder spends years breeding a new plant variety that has some very special trait, you know, the only way they can protect that hard work and recognize value would be to get some type of patents on it.

And, you know, while that might scare some people off, you know, I think you have to look at it from the breeder's perspective and say, "Wow, if they spend years in typically...in traditional plant breeding and even in cannabis breeding to create a new stable variety, you know, it really does take years of hard work." You know, if you look at it from their perspective, it's really the only way they can truly capture the value and protect the hard work that they've done. You know, and so, I think we're going to see a lot more of that. And, you know, and I think it's, like I've said, for better or worse, it's really just the way the world works in terms of intellectual property. Now, that being said, you know, I think it's important that growers and farmers have access to these plant varieties and, you know, and I think there's ways to develop intellectual property and create that value, but then also to provide access to farmers.

There's generally enough money to go around. And so, you know, while some groups of farmers may get early access to some new variety over time and traditional crops, you know, the folks that might have developed these unique varieties will make those varieties available and then occasionally, you know, they get...can get deposited and in public banks or made available to the public. And so, you know, I think we'll see that as well. And, you know, just because there's a patent on something doesn't mean it's not going to be available. It just means that somebody has a legal or they has the legal ability to generate revenue through a royalty off of the use of that product. And so, you know, I think as long as those royalties are not, you know, overly greedy in terms of, you know, limiting folk's ability and farmer's ability to grow these plants, you know, I think the system can work quite well so that everybody wins. The farmers get access to these new varieties and the breeders that develop them get the ability to recognize and create value from their hard work.

Matthew: Yeah, I think about things like that when I bite into like a honeycrisp apple and it's like, there's just something about those. And I know they've kind of been designed for the human mouth, mouth feel and taste buds and the crispiness and the sweetness level. Like everything has been engineered to perfect satisfaction and they're not too expensive. But I'm really glad they exist at the same time.

Dr. Jon: Yeah. And I think that's a great example. I mean, that, you know, that took a lot of hard work to create that variety and other varieties as well. I think the companies that invest the money, you know, you look at an agricultural company, you know, let's take Driscoll's, for example, that creates all of these unique strawberry and blackberry and raspberries and, you know, I mean, they invest millions and tens of millions of dollars, you know, to develop these varieties and produce them in a way that consumers trust and believe in. And they know that when they go to the supermarket and they buy that strawberry, it's going to taste the same. It's not going to be funky or weird. It's going to taste just like the strawberry that they were expecting it to. And, you know, I think that's an important thing to keep in mind.

Matthew: Where are we in sequencing the cannabis biome or genome? And what are your thoughts around that, in general?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, I think there's actually two parts to your question there. You mentioned the cannabis genome and then also the biome without considering the microbiome. And so when we look at cannabis, actually when you look at any organism or any plant, it's actually a combination of those two things. It's actual genome, so the genetics that make up the DNA that makes up that actual plant variety or even an animal or whatever it might be. And then you've also got the microbiome, which are all of the microbes and things like bacteria and yeast and fungus and all of those things that coexist with that, you know, with that plant. And so, with next-generation sequencing available in the technologies have been developed over the last really 10 years especially. You know, we can look at both of these genomes. We can look at the microbiome and all of the unique genomes there and the bacteria. And then we could also look at the plant's genome.

Cannabis, we're still very early in our understanding of the genome and it's...there's a few groups around the world that are working on it. There's been a few great papers that have been published over the last, even the last six months, a few papers had been released. You know, and I think there's...it's good to take a collection of research groups around the world to fully develop our understanding of the cannabis genome. I know we're working on it with University of California at Davis, you know, we hope to release some results or professor that's running that study is going to release some results over the next 6 to 12 months. There are other groups that are working on it as well, but when you look at a crop like corn for example, you know, I think the first fully annotated genome map didn't really come out until around 2012 and it took around 30 labs and over $30 million.

And so, you know, there's...we're still a far cry from being at the...our genomic understanding that we have and in other crops. So there's still a lot of work to do. I think the same is true for the microbiome. The microbiome is even more complex. When you start looking at that, you're talking about, you know, many, many different species of bacteria and yeast and microbes and it's, you know, it's going to take a long time before we understand how each of those play a role in interaction and growing of the cannabis plant. So, you know, I think to summarize, we're certainly working on our genomic understanding and hoping to make contributions to the broader scientific community, but also leverage some of that for our own internal breeding program and how we develop new plant varieties.

And I think there's a lot of other groups around the world, but I'd say it's still early. And I think, as I mentioned earlier in the interview, the complexity of this plant is significant. And the biological pathways does it make up the production of all of these unique small molecules, things like cannabinoids and terpenes and all the other components of the plant. They're very complicated and it's not as simple as, you know, "Oh there's a gene for this cannabinoid or that cannabinoid and you can turn it on or off. They're often interrelated. And so, you know, if one changes, it doesn't necessarily mean that, you know, you're going to wipe out that effect or, you know, you're going to change the production of that compound. A lot of these pathways are, you know, they intersect in different ways. And so, you know, biology is pretty amazing, if one pathway gets shut down, it will often open up another pathway. So I think it's still very early in our understanding of the cannabis gene

Matthew: Can you explain what CRISPR-Cas9 is for listeners that are unfamiliar and maybe what you think is great about the future with that and then maybe what you don't like about it or you think is not yet ready to do anything with? That makes sense?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, definitely. So CRISPR-Cas9 is really a tool that was discovered. It exists naturally in bacteria and archaea. And it's...these are microbes and it's a natural system that evolved to help these microbes fight off viruses that would come in. And without going into the weeds here, it's basically a complex set of molecular machinery. So things like enzymes and short pieces of DNA and RNA that all kind of work together to achieve a certain purpose at the, you know, at the molecular level, if you will. And so, you know, the bacteria use it naturally to, you know, go in and cut out pieces of DNA or RNA, you know, to basically cure itself of a virus that might have invaded the organism. And so what sites is they've done over the last 10 years is they've isolated this molecular machinery out of these bacteria and then they use it to go in and do similar types of molecular work.

So you can think of it as scissors, cutting DNA and going in and stepping out pieces and even inserting pieces. And so people have started to develop this tool both in plants and animals. And even folks who are looking at it for treatment of human disease, but they use this molecular machinery to go in and do what we call genome editing. And it's really, a lot of people, once again, a lot of times with science there's misconceptions, people, there was an article I think that came out and people said, "Oh, you can do CRISPR in your garage." And one of the guys that I always love the saying that, when the guys that did a lot of CRISPR work and runs a team for a company, which I won't even mention, but anyways, they, you know, he said, you know, "If somebody knows that guy, please tell him to send me his resume because, you know, if he could do it in his garage, he needs to be on my team."

It's actually a lot harder than everybody realizes it. It really can take years to use CRISPR genome editing to effectively accomplish a goal such as, you know, removing a target or inserting a target. And it also takes millions of dollars. It takes the right types of facilities and people and, you know, and I think in plants, we're certainly seeing the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technologies in a lot of different crops. But I think, you know, a lot of those crops are crops that have already been pushed to the limit in terms of what can be accomplished with breeding. So when you look at things like corn and, you know, how many bushels per acre you're yielding of corn and things like that, you know, minor increases are hugely valuable for these very large commodity farmers. You know, in cannabis, you know, the margins are still pretty high in terms of what you can generate for revenue from this crop.

So, you know, the need to employ these advanced technologies, I'd say it's still a little bit early for it. And there's certainly a lot of folks talking about it and wanting to do it, but I think you'll find that, you know, just like everything else, it's a lot harder than it might appear based on what you hear in the press and, you know, the internet. And I think it's going to take quite some time before we see, you know, true CRISPR genome edited, you know, cannabis products out on the market. And the last thing to keep in mind is there's also a big regulatory component. You know, I think there's...whenever you do anything like that, especially in the United States, but around the world, you start doing genome editing or even things like genetic modification, you know, there's regulatory concerns that come into play.

So a lot of these crops are highly regulated and to, you know, it's one thing to make it work and it's another thing to get it to the marketplace. And then obviously, there's a big public concern with GMOs right now in the United States and around the world. And so, you know, so I think most companies approach, you know, product development with those technologies with some caution because of market reaction and then also the regulatory hurdles that have to be overcome to actually get those products in the marketplace.

Matthew: I mean, just putting on just my conjecture hat, I mean, when this CRISPR-Cas9 technology more stable and well understood in the future, what's possible. I mean, could you combine elements of the coffee and cannabis plants to do something interesting? Because, you know, you mentioned you're in coffee and I'm always thinking, you know, coffee's great, but like if you have just a little bit too much coffee, it's like it's not so good. I think like chocolate has a little bit better onset of that, like a little bit and fed, I mean, I think it's the theobromine they call it. Like, is there a way to tweak that or do something? I mean, what do you think is possible there in terms of customizing our experiences with these plants?

Dr. Jon: Oh, that's a fun question. I mean, I think realistically, you know, the ability to combine two very different plants like coffee and cannabis, you know, that's science fiction at this point. You know, it's really, you know, coffee is like, it is a tree. It's a perennial plant. It takes years. And it, you know and cannabis is more like a...it what's an annual and it's a grass. It dies every year. So there's big differences biologically that make it kind of hard. It's like saying, you know, it's kind of like looking at my livestock guardian dog that takes care of my goats. And then looking at the cute baby goats and thinking, "Gosh, if only we could combine those two into this new little creature, it'd be the cutest thing that ever walked the earth." The reality is it's not going to happen as much as...as much as they might try, it's just not going to happen.

So, you know, but I think, you know, I think there are going to be opportunities as we better understand that the genome of both of these plants and improve our breeding practices and everything else that we will see some interesting traits come out of them. You know, and the ability to develop, you know, whether it's new flavors for coffee, which is, you know, kind of one of the things that we're working on or that Range is working on in terms of their breeding efforts. How do you produce these truly exquisite flavors in the coffee bean that are, you know, that you don't get from other types of coffee. And I think we'll see the same types of things and cannabis and, you know, there's certainly the potential for it to have unique effects as well. You know, you mentioned something like theobromine or, you know, obviously there's caffeine in coffee and then there's THC and CBD and all these other cannabinoids in cannabis today. I think we'll certainly see the fine tuning of some of those small molecules and end each of these plants which might produce different effects, definitely produce different flavors. But, you know, I think for sure we'll see some customization of the user experience, you know, directly from planet breeding.

Matthew: Okay. And thanks for letting me down easy there. You told me very gently I was being crazy, but I think, you know, I think I read an article about how like some tomato cultivators used a gene from a spider. Do you remember that story and what that's about?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, definitely. So there are certainly, I don't remember the specific one about tomato and a spider, but the one that I'm thinking of was actually from a goat and a spider where they actually...the goat, they insert some genes from the spider that produce the web that spiders spin. And then it came out inside the goat's milk and then they actually extracted that fiber and we're using it for different processes. So there are those examples out there where you can, you know, you can take a piece of biology from one animal or one plant and put it into another one. Those things are certainly possible with the technologies today. But, you know, there comes a lot of concerns and questions that go with that that those types of applications, I mean, you know, is it fair to, you know, to animals or whatever it is? Is it safe?

And are there other effects that we don't recognize? So, you know, it definitely is possible, but I'd say those are, are generally outlier situations and not the norm. Generally speaking, when you start playing around with the biology of an organism like that, you know, it doesn't survive. You know, nature kind of has done things better than we do still. And there's a reason for that. And, you know, I think these things evolved to function in the way that they do in their existing environment. And when we'd go and play around too much with that, the outcomes are not always as good as we'd like. So, you know, so I think it's possible, but I don't think it's going to be the norm. And I think it's a lot more challenging than, you know, than people realize.

Matthew: What footprints do you operate in besides Colorado? How can different people listing, "We want to work with you in different geographies. Reach out." How does that work?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, so our largest footprint is currently in Colorado. It's where we manage all of our hemp operations out of. We have a tissue culture lab here. We have indoor breeding facility and research facility. And then we also have several greenhouses that we use for production of young plants and seed production as well. We also have a greenhouse facility in Wisconsin that we use to distribute young plants to farmers in the Wisconsin area and also the Midwest. We also have some partnerships in California. So, we have a tissue culture lab and a greenhouse for our coffee plants in Gilroy, California. And then we have some partnerships with some licensed cannabis companies in California so that we can implement our clean stock technology to produce clean plants for growers in the regulated California Cannabis market. So, you know, so those are the geographical areas. We're working on additional areas which I can't talk about right now, but there'll be some announcements in the near future about that.

Matthew: Damn it, Jon, don't give us teasers. We want the meat.

Dr. Jon: I know, I know, but I have to keep some things for later. So yeah, so we're working on expansion and trying to get our varieties as well as our technology, you know, out throughout the United States as well as internationally. So, you know, so people can reach out to us on our website, frontrangebio.com. There's a lot of information about us there and email addresses and order inquiry forms and requests for services and things of that nature. So I encourage people to check us out there.

Matthew: All right. Just a couple more questions before I let you go. Where are you in the capital raising process?

Dr. Jon: So we just closed a $10 million series A last fall of 2018, and so we're in pretty good shape currently, but given the rapid growth of this market and the demand that we're seeing, I anticipate that we'll probably raise some more money this year. We certainly have a lot of interest on the investor side, and I think given the fast pace that this industry is seeing in terms of growth, and then especially when you look at the growth in hemp from the passage of the Farm Bill this year, I think there's a huge opportunity and a huge need for what we do in the marketplace. And so, yeah, so I'd say stay tuned. And we're certainly considering...we're planning our strategy for our next round of fundraising. But I would anticipate that that happens at some point this year.

Matthew: Okay. And is there...I want to ask you a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. Is there a book that's had a big impact on your life for your way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Dr. Jon: Wow, that's a great question. There's probably a couple that I would point out. The first was one that I read a long time ago in the early '90s. I'm a book called "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn and it's really about...it's really interesting book. It's an interaction between a young scientist and a gorilla who's lived for quite a long time. And they actually have...the book is basically an entire conversation or dialogue between these two. And the gorilla, you know, from the gorilla species standpoint, his view of the human race and civilization and it really brings up a lot of interesting points about how, you know, modern technology and human civilization and how it's evolved. You know, over thousands and thousands of years. And it looks at it from, you know, from the gorillas perspective. And so that was really, really interesting. It definitely made me think a little bit differently about our world and modern technology.

And the other one I think there's really interesting is the four agreements. It's a book. It's a very short book, but it's about kind of a set of guidelines that come from a tribe called the Toltecs, a pre-Columbian tribe out of Central and South America. And, you know, and it's really about just how to live your daily life. It's a...I think the four agreements are being impeccable with your word, don't take things personally, don't make assumptions and always do your best. And I think it's a great set of a daily guidelines to live by. And they certainly have had a big impact on my life. And I certainly try to achieve that on a regular basis.

Matthew: Is there a tool you use that is helpful for your or your team's productivity that you'd like share of?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, you know, I think one of the things that I've done over the last year, I have a great CEO coach who's been around for quite a long time. I won't mention his name or his age, but, and he gave me a book about a year ago called "Traction." And it's really been a great tool for me in terms of helping grow the company effectively. And they have what they call the entrepreneurial operating system. And it's really a set of guidelines and in a structural way to view your company as you grow it, and how to build your management team and how to effectively hire and manage people. And so I highly recommend that book to any entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs. It's really a great tool for management and for building a successful company. It's a lot of work being an entrepreneur and being in the driver's seat for a startup company is really, really tough. And I think that book has a lot of great insight in order to execute effectively in the entrepreneur endeavors...entrepreneurial endeavors that somebody might go through.

Matthew: Here's a Peter Thiel question for you. What important truth to very few people agree with you on?

Dr. Jon: That's a pretty funny one. I don't know, the thing that that comes to mind, you know, is a lot of people might say this, but I don't know that many of them truly believe it or are actually truly live it. But it's what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. I think I've experienced this throughout my entire life and, you know, a lot of times things that might seem like an unfortunate situation or things that are really hard or challenges that you feel like you're never going to be able to overcome. You know, I think if you stay patient and you stay focused, and you overcome them, I think it does make you stronger and I think it opens up new doors and new opportunities. And I think that's certainly been true in my life and there's been a lot of moments where I wanted to give up and, and not live that out. But I have, and I think it's how I've gotten here and I'm going to continue to take that approach and I've certainly heard other people say it, but a lot of times it's a tough one to actually live. A lot of times you can get discouraged and give up or turn away from sayings just because they're challenging or they're not going the way you want them to. And I think that it's important to push through those things.

Matthew: Yeah. It sounds like this cold is going to make you stronger, this deep voice.

Dr. Jon: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Matthew: John, as we close, can you tell listeners how they can learn more about Front Range Biosciences? How to connect with you or...and also for accredited investors that are interested in learning more about your next round of capital raise?

Dr. Jon: Yeah, definitely. So our website is the best place to start. www.frontrangebio.com. We're on Facebook and Instagram as well, in LinkedIn, so you can certainly reach out to us that way. And depending on what the person's interest is, you know, we've got folks that will direct you to the right person. You know, investors, you know, are certainly welcome to reach out to me directly through any of those channels. And I'm always happy to speak with folks. We also are out at conferences on a regular basis. We have a big one coming up here in Colorado, the NoCo Hemp Expo. It's going to be in Denver this year. We're going to have a big booth and a lot of our staff will be on site. We're probably gonna even offer some tours of one of our facilities. And so, I think that's at the end of March. I can't remember the exact days, but it's a Friday and Saturday last weekend of March. So we'll certainly...I'd encourage people to come out there. And then stay tuned, we'll be announcing some other conferences that will be out at as well, both in California and some other places as well to share.

Matthew: Jon, thanks so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate it. Keep us updated as these developments continue to evolve. This is really exciting stuff.

Dr. Jon: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate the opportunity to do the interview and hopefully it was helpful and the folks out in the audience learned a thing or two and yeah, I hope we get a chance to speak again. I'm always happy to do this.

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 cannainsider.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 cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider, simply send us an email at feedbackatcannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guest as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis for using it for medical treatments. Emotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers or companies featured in CannaInsider.

Lastly, the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies, entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial adviser before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention. This little whistle, jingle you are listening to, it'll 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.

Dixie Brands Using Fresh Capital To Expand

chuck smith dixie brands

American cannabis companies are starting to go public in Canada, using the fresh capital to further fuel their growth.

One of these companies is Dixie Brands Inc., one of the most recognized consumer brands with a portfolio of over 100 products across more than 15 different product categories.

In this episode, Dixie CEO Chuck Smith shares his insight on the future of cannabis and discusses the company’s goals to become the leading global consumer packaged goods company in cannabis.

Learn more at http://dixieelixirs.com

Key Takeaways:

  • A breakdown of Dixie Brands and its expansive array of THC and CBD products
  • Chuck’s background in the cannabis industry and his journey to CEO of Dixie
  • Dixie Brands’ state-by-state growth and its plans for expansion within the U.S. and beyond
  • How differences in regulation dictate Dixie’s go-to-market strategy in Canada versus the U.S.
  • Why Dixie focuses on building brands instead of cultivation
  • How Dixie competes against new companies entering the cannabis industry
  • The importance of packaging and how Dixie successfully creates packaging that distinguishes their brands from others and achieves consumer trust and engagement
  • A walkthrough of BDS analytics and it offers cannabis industry market trends and consumer insights
  • Chuck’s outlook on the global future of cannabis over the next decade

 

Read Full Transcript

Mathew: Hi. I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday. Look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly-evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A insider.com. Now, here's your program.

American cannabis companies are going public in Canada and using this fresh capital to fuel their growth. One of these companies is Dixie Brands. Here to tell me about it is Chuck Smith, CEO of Dixie Brands. Chuck, welcome to CannaInsider.

Chuck: Matthew, I'm so happy to be here with you and your listeners.

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

Chuck: Well, I laughed at... Lately, my office has been a row 10, seat A of United Airlines, but today, I'm in our headquarters here in Denver, Colorado.

Mathew: Okay. And give us a very high-level understanding of what Dixie Brands is for people that aren't familiar.

Chuck: Sure. Dixie Brands is really a consumer package goods company, a CPG company. We have one of the largest portfolios of infused products both for THC as well as CBD wellness in the industry. We've been around for about 10 years starting here in Colorado. And we've now built the company to a portfolio of over a hundred different products across about 15 delivery vehicles or different product types. Think of a drink is a delivery vehicle or a chocolate bar as a product type. And then we also have two other companies Aceso Wellness, which is our hemp-derived CBD human supplement product line, and then Therabis, which is our, again, hemp-derived CBD pet wellness company.

Mathew: Okay. Can you share a little bit about your background and journey and what brought you into the cannabis space and specifically Dixie?

Chuck: Oh, sure. Well, I'm one of the older guys in the room, so I've been around for quite a while. I've been both in corporate America running finance organizations and then moving into more sales, marketing, and internal management and then became very entrepreneurial later on where I started with other folks building companies and, you know, really having that kind of entrepreneurial bug.

And about 10 years ago, my business partner Tripp Keber and I decided to make an investment here in the green rush, if you will, of Colorado. That was the very early days during kind of the caregiver model and before Amendment 64 was passed. And that investment, that kind of passive investment, turned into very active investing and then active management. And here we are today with Dixie Brands, a publicly-traded company with the operations really globally now.

Mathew: And I've watched Dixie grow quite a bit. It's been an amazing thing to see and I've been fortunate to go on a couple tours inside the facility in Colorado in Denver there. Can you tell us a little bit about the evolution from just Colorado to where you sit today?

Chuck: Yes. And I would say one of the best things that probably happened to the company in terms of building this great foundation is that we did start here in Colorado. So, even though California was a much bigger marketplace and we probably, from a revenue standpoint, would have been a bigger company in the early days, we really built a foundation of strong intellectual property, strong compliance, regulatory compliance, and Colorado continued to evolve its industry here by really putting in strong, again, regulatory compliance or legislation that caused the industry to really evolve to the highest level.

So, if you look at Dixie's products, we've always triple lab tested our products, even in the early days, for purity, potency, and consistency. We also have always developed the highest level of compliance for child-resistant packaging, and for labeling, and for other information that would really allow the patient, and now the consumer to know what they were getting. And what that really did is put us in a great position to take all of that learning and all of that intellectual property that we developed over the 10-year period and really now take it out on a state-by-state and really soon country-by-country basis, and it gives us a good foundation to really be that global CPG leader.

Mathew: Yeah. And for context and the investors listening, when did Dixie go public?

Chuck: On November 29th of 2018, we went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange. I had said it was probably one of the worst days of all to go public because starting in December, the entire industry sold off as a sector. But fortunately, that's all started to turn back around and the company and the stock is moving really in the right direction.

Mathew: Okay. So, can you talk a little bit about your footprint in the U.S., Chuck? I know I've been to very small towns' dispensaries. I'm thinking of Crested Butte in Colorado, a great ski area and mountain bike area. And I did notice... I happened upon your products there. Can you just talk about kinda your distribution strategy and your footprint in the U.S.?

Chuck: Sure. So, Dixie Brands now manufacturers, and produces, and distributes through affiliates or licensed partners that we have in each state in five states. So, we are in Colorado, which is where the company was originally founded. We also have operations in California, Nevada, Maryland. And we just announced our most recent operation that's opening in Michigan, which we will be building and producing products and distributing those, hopefully, by the end of March.

Mathew: Oh, great.

Chuck: And our stated goal has been to really be one of the largest infused products or brand owners here in the industry in the U.S. controlling our manufacturing and distribution. We'll have between 8 and 10 states up and running by the end of 2019.

Mathew: Okay. Okay. And how is the strategy different in Canada than the U.S.? I mean, you have a different go-to-market there. There's different regulations. It's federally legal, but how do you think about Canada differently?

Chuck: Yes. In Canada, we have a manufacturing and licensing agreement with a company called Auxly Cannabis. It's a publicly-traded company. Some of your listeners might know it as Cannabis Wheaton Income before they changed their name. They're a great partner of ours. They have a licensed production facility on Prince Edward Island called Dosecann. And so, we are starting the process of really developing our manufacturing protocols, our regulatory compliance review. As you probably know, Health Canada just came out at the very end of the year with their guidance on which products were gonna be allowed. But still those regulations and rules are still forming up.

So, our teams are working together to understand our compliance against that and determine which products we're gonna launch. The one thing I will say to you is there's not a product that Health Canada could have approved for infused products consumption that Dixie doesn't already make. So, I'm very comfortable that we'll be able to have a very fast time to market with Auxly, that we've already run a lot of the traps in terms of formulations, and packaging, and labeling. And so, we're just eager to get started up there in Canada.

Mathew: So, you've mentioned in the past you view cannabis as an ingredient and don't wanna be in the cultivation business. Can you go into detail on why that is?

Chuck: Sure. We just long ago decided to focus our efforts on where we thought we had the highest value and where we thought was one of the highest values on the value chain. And that was really building brands. But it's more than just a logo that looks good on a hat. It really has to have all the foundational elements of repeatability, consistency, quality formulations, strong packaging. And, of course, the brand appeal to the consumer is critically important. So, I think we really focused on being experts at that. And when I've talked about cannabis as an ingredient, I do make the joke that, you know, we're just a commercial food manufacturer that happens to use a funny ingredient called THC or CBD.

One of the reasons we aren't really interested in the cultivation game is that we know we don't have the infrastructure or the capabilities to be a high-quality farmer. We know that that's a commodity-type industry. And the ones that are gonna win on that are the ones that are the most efficient and have put the amount of capital involved or required to really be able to be a low-cost producer because we can see where that's going. We have great relationships with cultivators across the country. We're developing those relationships with cultivators in other areas now as we move into Canada and other areas of the world. And so, we wanna really work with them to have consistent supply chain. And then on the other side, wholesale distribution to all the retailers that are out there serving consumers or patients across the country.

Mathew: Dixie is about, as a mature player in the cannabis space as I've come across, particularly in drinks. How do you use that maturity to help you as new entrants come in and try to compete?

Chuck: Yeah. As I said a minute ago, Matthew, we have this broad portfolio of products. So, really for 10 years, we've been developing formulations. We've been developing the really intellectual property and know-how, and it's one thing to say as a, you know, a new entrant, "Well, we're developing drinks or we're developing a product and we're gonna bring that to market." There's no substitute for having done it for 9 or 10 years. And understanding not only just how to make 1 or 100 bottles of a drink, but you have to make 10,000 of them.

And you have to make 10,000 of them a day in some markets in order to meet demand. And they have to be exactly the same. They have to be consistent. They have to have high quality. They have to be homogeneous, meaning the very first sip of that drink is gonna be the same as the very last sip of that drink. And, again, there's no substitute for the time, and effort, and investment that it takes to be able to do that on a consistent basis, and I think Dixie has a big a head start on that, having been in the industry for so long.

Mathew: Yeah. That emulsification and homogamy in the drink is really a key thing. Did it take a long time to kind of crack the code on that to get it just right?

Chuck: It certainly did. It takes a lot of trial and error. It takes a lot of brainpower. And it takes a lot of resources to do it. And you're all also doing it in a kind of highly-regulated environment. And so, it's not like we can go out and tap a couple of universities and their food scientists to come in and help us. And if you think about it, you know, in the world, we've been cooking with vegetable oil and olive oil for, you know, thousands of years. We've been really cooking, if you will, with cannabis oil for, you know, 20 and 30 maybe, and commercially really for the only last, you know, 5 or 10 at the most. So, it's a very immature science and it's one that has really taken a lot of time.

And you mentioned emulsification and the homogeneity part of it. Really, the Holy Grail now that all producers are looking for is to make the cannabis product no different than any other consumer products. So, if you talk about the analog being a drink, a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer, we wanna make your experience with drinking a cannabis-infused beverage exactly the same as what you predict or what you know it as when you drink wine or you drink beer or an alcoholic beverage.

We want that onset to be very similar so it's predictable and you're comfortable with it. And then we want the experience and the longevity, if you will, of the experience to be similar. So, again, you get very comfortable with the format. And here at Dixie, that's what we've really worked on and we have some exciting news coming out soon in terms of really our water-soluble THC and CBD products that really help move us along that line of predictability and consistency.

Mathew: Okay. And talk about packaging because it's definitely a strength for Dixie. How do you think about packaging and, in particular, you know, when you see a Dixie product, how do you want that to register with consumers as this is part of the Dixie family, like look, and feel, and something about it?

Chuck: Yes. I think the packaging is no different than what's inside of the package, frankly, in the way we think about it. And that is, I want consumers to look at Dixie or patients in those markets that are still medically-oriented and I want them to trust the brand. I want them to trust that there is a consistent product there that's built to the highest level of quality, and care, and testing and that every single product that they buy of Dixie's is gonna be the same.

And it's incredibly important when you think about now this ubiquitous world that we live in and this growing industry because very soon, you know, a consumer will be able to get on a plane in Boston, and fly to Chicago, and then on to Denver, and then on to San Francisco, and eventually, up to Toronto. And they're gonna be able to buy cannabis products in every one of those cities because they're an adult 21 or over, and the product is legal in that state.

And I want them to pick Dixie because they're familiar and comfortable with the product and they know it stands for consistency and quality. So, part of that is the outer packaging. It's gotta be attractive, but it's also gotta have the right information, compliance, and safety measures. And then as importantly, it's the product inside that they trust and have come to rely on.

Mathew: You talked a little bit about how you don't wanna be in the cultivation business because it's a commodity business and the winner-take-all there is gonna be the one that's the most efficient. You're in the brand-building business, but there's still economies of scale you want and efficiencies you want. Can you talk a little bit about how you think about the logistics and operations there and bringing down expenses?

Chuck: Of course. And that's, obviously, very important to us as a manufacturer. We always want to try and drive as much efficiency and economy of scale as possible. A little bit of the challenge is still here in the United States, we're very much a state-by-state-regulated industry. So, where a package may look one way in the label and the information may be portrayed in one way in Colorado or California, for example, that package is entirely different in Maryland because Maryland is a medical state and it has its own list of regulatory requirements there. So, we aren't getting true economy of scale by being able to have one package or one label fits all, but we do our best to make that as efficient as we can.

Where we drive the efficiencies is really in our manufacturing and our standard operating procedures and really understanding what it takes to make each widget and learning and continuing to learn how to do it better and better and drive efficiency. So, as an example, we have a program in place for 2019 where we'll be doing significant lien management manufacturing training where we're bringing outside consultants that really understand lien management or what's it called, Kaizen Training and focusing on certain aspects of our business to really increase that efficiency. Once we know how to do it in one facility, then we just pick that learning up and we take it to all of our other plants and all our other facilities and implement it there.

Mathew: Yes. Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement, I believe.

Chuck: That's right.

Mathew: Is that a... It's like a Peter Drucker maybe philosophy it sounds like in there, the guy that...the efficiency and management experts and the lien manufacturing is something you're kind of borrowing from there. So, it's interesting to see how that all ties together.

Chuck: Well, you know, I look at this industry and our company, in particular, as just another industry. Again, we have a little bit of a weird ingredient. We have certainly a lot higher regulatory hurdles to jump over, but I view Dixie as a CPG company and it wants to be the best of breed in terms of manufacturing, distribution, and brand management.

Mathew: So, if I'm a product manager and I put that hat on, this is how the model seems to be, and correct me if I'm wrong. I look at a tool like a BDS Analytics or Headset that tells me what's selling in dispensaries now, what's trending, what's falling in favor or out of favor, craft a thesis of how I wanna bring a product to market, perhaps put a new spin on there on an existing product, work through the cost, do a benefits and drawbacks analysis of the product, craft the packaging and the brand, get feedback from the ecosystem, launch to a limited geography, iterate, and expand to a larger geography. Is that how you look at it or is there things I'm missing or what would you add or change?

Chuck: Matthew, it sounds like you've been sitting in our management meetings. That's exactly how we do it. I think the complexity there, we use tools like BDS and data sets that we get from other providers like Ed said. I think that that data is still evolving though as you go into each new market. You know, that data is just starting to be developed. It's only as good as the either the point of sale systems that are collecting it or the state-mandated seed-to-sale tracking systems. So, we're still continuing to evolve that data set. And I think what makes it even more complicated is that the consumer is expanding at such an exponential and rapid rate in terms of not only the sheer numbers, but all also the preferences.

So, you're probably aware that, you know, the fastest-growing segment of consumers today in the industry are adults 50 years and older. That's a much different demographic and a much different a consumer profile than it was even, you know, just a couple years ago when those consumers really weren't comfortable coming into the industry yet. Either they felt there was still a stigma or there wasn't a product set that was broad enough for them. So, as they're coming in, we have to kind of anticipate what they're looking for because we don't have a good data set to draw on in terms of their habits.

The female consumer is also, you know, now a much faster-growing demographic. And so, again, we have to make sure that our products are approachable or if it's not, you know, a specific Dixie-branded product, it's brands that we've either purchased or that we've innovated that are really speaking and targeting those new consumer preferences. So, it is a very evolving and dynamic exercise right now and it's exciting to be part of it.

Mathew: I think one thing I'd love to see is that, you know, we get the dispensary data from BDS Analytics or Headset. But I'd like to see, like, as someone walks out of a dispensary, just ask them like, "Why did you buy that?" and just understand how they walked through that decision because we've got the hard objective data, but we don't know exactly what the decision process was. I mean, it could be something as simple as like, "I liked the color. I like the aftertaste of this." But, I mean, it could be something we just don't anticipate that we could be wildly off and don't even know it.

Chuck: That's right. And I think that's where consumer research really is important. And so, at Dixie, we're in the middle of several consumer research projects. We really are trying to understand the consumer as they walk in, you know, what their impressions are, how they're influenced to make buying decisions. Do they come in with a preconceived notion or idea of either what they are looking for in general or a product in specific, or are they really coming in and putting their selves in the hands of the budtenders who are very powerful, if you will, at the point of purchase because they have a lot of knowledge and they have certainly their own preferences. So, we're trying to educate and understand consumers as they walk into the door. And we're also trying to understand and educate and work with budtenders to be a good point of contact for us as a house of brands.

We're also looking at that in new markets. So, you may be aware that we entered into a term sheet for a joint venture with Kyron, which is one of the largest infrastructure companies in Latin America for cannabis. So, it's a perfect marriage of Khiron with their infrastructure for all of Latin America and Dixie with its broad portfolio of products. But we don't really know what the Latin American customer wants. And they vary from country to country. Chileans are much different than Colombians, much different than Mexicans. So, we need to understand what each of those consumers are looking for in their products and then working with our partner Khiron to really start developing products that appeal to them.

Mathew: Well, I lived in Chile for a year and I can tell you they put avocado on everything. And if you love avocado, you'll love Chilean foods. So, I think I'm gonna say an avocado vape pen. They call it avocado palta, but I think that would do really well there. And I'm not kidding. It's on everything, smashed avocado. So, I'm gonna throw that out there, a little secret weapon for you.

Chuck: Well, I appreciate that and I'll tell you when we're ready to start testing different products for Chile, we'll ask you to be one of our testers.

Mathew: Oh, great. Great. Great. Well, Chuck, a lot of people talk about what is the cannabis industry gonna look like in three to five years. Let's go a little crazy here and take some risk and say, "What's it gonna look like in 2030?" This is a totally speculative exercise. You know, usually we ask, you know, CEOs to be conservative and not to do things like this, but let's go crazy here. Let's take a controlled risk and just say what do you think it's gonna look like, what is gonna surprise most people about what the cannabis industry is gonna look like? And we could be totally wrong, but what do you think is coming?

Chuck: Well, I do think it's gonna be a global industry at that point. I think that if you look in the U.S. and really 2030, we're talking about 11 years from now or 10 1/2, I still think that we're gonna have a state-oriented mandate. I do think there'll be federal legalization. In fact, I've called... That there'll be a form of federal legalization by the end of this year or early in 2020. I think coincides with the elections that are coming up. I think it coincides with some incredible policy that's being promoted at the federal level, like the STATES Act, which has really good bipartisan support. But even in the STATES Act, which is, I think, you know, a good solid piece of legislation, it still calls for treating cannabis like alcohol. And if you look at even the current alcohol model, while it's federally illegal, it still has state control.

So, I think we're still going to...even 10 years from now we're still gonna see state by state by state control because that allows distribution. It allows our taxes to be controlled at the state level and some nuance, you know, that that are really up to the state legislators. But I would predict that every state in this country will be legal in some form or fashion by 2030. I don't think that's a wild prediction. I think that we will be able to ship across state lines. I think we'll be able to carry product across state lines. And I think we'll be able to carry product globally. And so, this will be much more of a global economy. And you can just see it forming up now in every country. Even in the most conservative countries are or looking...you know, France is a credibly conservative country and they're still looking now at some form of medical marijuana or at least medical CBD-oriented products.

And then finally, I think that we've only scratched the tip of the iceberg on this plant. There are so many other cannabinoids that we know with research are gonna provide incredible benefit to people, whether it's CBG or CBN and many of the other ones that we haven't really even uncovered yet. So, I think with research, we're gonna be able to target some very, very high-quality products or medicines that are driven out of this plant. And that's really gonna continue to fuel the global use of cannabis as a broad-range subject or product.

Mathew: Do you think that lighting the flower and consuming it that way will fall below 10% of all consumption of cannabis by 2030?

Chuck: Now I'm gonna be making somebody in the industry mad with my answer probably.

Mathew: That's okay. That's what we're here for.

Chuck: Well, given the fact that we don't cultivate nor do we actually sell dry flower, I guess I'm probably safe to say I think so. I think, look, if you look at just even smoking, I mean, you know, normal smoking is reduced to a small level or a much lower level than people probably predicted. I think you're seeing the industry really moving to more normalized consumer products. So, you're seeing a lot of people both ingesting it as well as using it topically, which doesn't even provide that much euphoria. It's more from a medicinal or wellness perspective. So, yeah, I think... I don't know if it's gonna be 10%, but I think the actual combustion of dry flower is going to be the minority and the majority will be, you know, more what I would say traditional uses of wellness and recreational product.

Mathew: One thing I think's gonna happen is that there is gonna be genetic profiling married with a cannabinoid profile to create the perfect synergy for each individual consuming. In fact, I'd love it if Dixie created, call it 23 and D for Dixie, and somehow find a way so I could, you know, give a hair sample or [inaudible 00:27:48] or something and I can find out like, "Oh, this has the most impact for you for this reason. And it's supported by the genetics." I think that's too expensive probably do now, but the price is coming down so much on genetic testing that it's just... I see it in the next three to five years and I'm hoping that I can try something like that soon.

Chuck: Well, I hope you're right and I think that as, again, the industry gets a little bit more normalized and the stigma of it goes away, we're gonna see a lot of dollars going into research and I think research is gonna drive the very thing that you just suggested.

Mathew: Chuck, I wanna ask you a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are. Is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Chuck: You know, it's funny you asked because I was just thinking about this the other day. I've read a lot of books in my life, you know, trying to always find ways to improve. And I was given a book a few years ago and, again, I entered the cannabis industry initially as a passive investor and then an active investor. And then this crazy thing happened to me. And we started getting testimonials from people that we're talking about how cannabis changed their lives and how they went from, you know, being hooked on opiates or, you know, drinking and using painkillers to ward off pain.

And one was, in particular, a veteran. A Vietnam vet had terrible PTSD and they started using cannabis products. And in one case, you know, in particular, they started using our Dixie drink. And over a relatively short period of time, they were able to wean themselves off of their opiate use and really control their alcohol addiction. And I realized, you know, this was not just about making money. This was about really changing lives, and ending prohibition, and ending, you know, the silly war on drugs. And this is coming from, you know, a conservative Republican, frankly, and someone that worked in the Reagan White House. So, hopefully, your listeners aren't turning me off right now. But I read a book called "Chasing the Scream" by Johann Hari.

Mathew: I've had him on the show.

Chuck: Oh, that's...

Mathew: He's great.

Chuck: Well, then I don't need to tell you too much about how the book changed my life.

Mathew: No, please summarize what it meant to you because it's been a couple of years.

Chuck: Well, you know, it's just an incredible expose on, as he called it, the first and last days of the war on drugs. And what I found about it, you know, liking and really liking history was how, you know, what is now the version of the DEA was originally created under Henry Anslinger and how that really evolved to this terrible persecution of people and now, certainly, people of color on trying to eradicate drugs when there was a much better solution.

And, you know, he goes through, you know, really the whole history of it, even almost up to modern day to where Colorado and Washington both approved in 2013 their or the election of 2012 the recreational use of cannabis. So, that book not only made an impact on me just to understanding it more and, you know, helping be...really embrace what we were doing here from, you know, a non-capitalist point of view, but it's one that I give out. So, somebody gave me the book and now I buy the book and give it to people that I meet and ask them if they like it to pay it forward. So, hopefully, I've helped Johann make a few dollars himself on selling the book.

Mathew: Oh, that's great. Is there a tool that you or your team use that you consider valuable to your productivity?

Chuck: There is. And, in fact, that would have been the second book that I would have told you that has an impact on me. We use a philosophy, a goal-setting philosophy, here at Dixie that we put in at the end of Q4 and really have embraced it company-wide now in Q1 of this year. And it's called the OKR theory or the OKR process. That stands for objectives and key results. And it was actually a goal-setting tool that was invented by Andy Grove of Intel and was then more professionalized by John Doerr who's a legendary venture capitalist from Kleiner Perkins.

And Google, for example, credits the OKR process with their success and they use it to this day, even as big as they are. So, there's a great book called "Measure What Matters." And I would recommend it highly to you. It's a great read, but it's also a foundational element of how we here at Dixie set goals, create transparency in those goals from the top of the organization down, and really get everyone aligned on how we move this company forward and how we take accountability for meeting the objectives that we set.

Mathew: That sounds great. I'm gonna have to check that out. I have not heard of that one. So, thanks for that recommendation.

Chuck: Of course.

Matthew: This is a Peter Teal question. What is one thought that you have that most people would disagree with you on?

Chuck: Yeah, that's also a really good question. That's a thought-provoking question. I think that people disagree with me on a lot of things probably because I'm opinionated but I'm opinionated because I'm trying to drive results. I think that there... You know, I have long advocated that we don't have to sacrifice the qualitative side of what we do for the quantitative side and vice versa. So, you know, maybe it's that, you know, my capitalism meets my altruism, if you will, and even as it goes to this industry.

And I think it's okay to make money in this industry, but I don't think that you have to sacrifice the other side of it, the human side of it. So, you know, again, as an example we have put a lot of money into philanthropy here. One of the biggest surprises that I actually had over the last few years is we've tried to give money to a lot of organizations and they wouldn't take it from us because we are in the cannabis industry and it's kind of crazy. You know, we're putting that money, we think, to good use, but there was such a stigma about it.

But I think as this industry evolves, we need to look to increase the diversity in the industry. We need to look for ways to support people that are disenfranchised or have been disenfranchised and bring them into the industry, whether that's minorities, or women, or folks that just haven't had, you know, the opportunity that this industry now is portraying and providing. I'll give you a great example. We have a person that works in our lab. And, you know, she graduated from high school, didn't go to college.

She works on a piece of equipment that's probably worth a quarter of a million dollars. She's heavily involved in formulation work. I mean, she's literally learning how to be a scientist here. And if it wasn't for this industry, I don't know that she'd have had that opportunity. And so, I take great pride in the fact that we're trying to empower and grow people and bring other people into an industry that deserve to be here.

But I also have a focus on the bottom line and we need to make money because if we don't ultimately make money, then we're not able to support that more altruistic side or, you know, positive human side of what we're growing. So, that's probably something that some people would disagree with me on that you can serve both masters, but I think you can.

Mathew: Now, is there something that's not taught in school or you didn't learn in school but learning it has added huge value to you personally and professionally?

Chuck: Oh, for sure. There has never been... I went to graduate school and all through all of my education, even including that, there was never a course or a chapter of a book that said, "Never give up even though you know that the end is near." And I will tell you, I've personally stared in the abyss many, many times. Part of that is from being an entrepreneur. You know, sometimes things don't work out and you've got to figure it out. And even in this industry, I mean, it's been such a difficult industry for many with the regulatory changes, and the high taxation, and the lack of access to capital and all of those things.

But, you know, if you give up, then you actually don't get a chance to ultimately succeed on all the hard work that you put in. And so, I would say that, you know, I never was taught that, you know, you could just power your way through things. I had to learn that. And I would suggest to anybody, you know, when it looks darkest, just give it one more chance because there's a good opportunity you'll crack through and it'll be dawn on the other side.

Mathew: Well, Chuck, I also wanna give you a thank you because a lot of people don't know all the help you've given the industry at Dixie because when I've gone through on tours, there's been regulators, politicians, and people that are in key decision-making roles. And Dixie has kind of opened up and said, "Come through. Do a tour," and, you know, taken away a lot of the stigma and the worry that these lawmakers have. And that has really lifted the tide for all boats. And a lot of us are riding that tide and don't even know how we got here. And it's because, you know, behind the scenes, there are people that are trying to help the whole industry. So, thank you very much for that.

Chuck: Matthew, thank you. I really appreciate that. That's means a lot to me and I'm glad that we can play our small part in what we're doing.

Mathew: Chuck, as we close, how can listeners find more about Dixie Brands, and find products, find dispensaries, where the products are available and find your ticker as well?

Chuck: Sure. Well, thanks for that. And, again, thanks for your time and thanks for the thoughtful questions. I really have enjoyed the chance to speak to you today. Dixie is traded on the CSC under D-I-X-I.u. Very soon, we will be listed in the U.S. on the OTC, so just look for that. I can't tell you the exact symbol yet because we're still waiting for final approval. But I hope that's gonna be imminent and that'll make it much easier for folks certainly in the U.S. to trade the stock. Our products are available in the states I mentioned earlier, Colorado, California, Nevada, and Maryland, and soon, Michigan. You can go to dixiebrands.com and then we have store locators on the website as well. So, you can get a lot of information about the company both from an investment and a product standpoint on dixiebrands.com.

Mathew: Well, Chuck, thanks so much for coming on the show today and educating us and good luck to you and Tripp and the whole Dixie team.

Chuck: Thanks very much, Matthew. I appreciate it.

Mathew: 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 guest to you. Learn more at cannainsider.com/itunes.

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Oaksterdam University: The Harvard of Cannabis for Entrepreneurs and Growers

dale sky jones oaksterdam university

With the worldwide cannabis market projected to hit $32 billion by 2022, better training and information sharing will be paramount for industry newcomers in the years ahead.

Enter Oaksterdam University, widely known as the Harvard of Cannabis.

Since 2007, Oaksterdam has been the forerunner in providing the highest quality training offered in the cannabis industry and the first institution to address the growing needs of the marijuana movement, from patients to regulators. Such a focus has established Oaksterdam University as the first and only cannabis college with a comprehensive curriculum in cannabis business and horticulture.

In this episode, Oaksterdam Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones joins us to share everything the university has to offer for those looking to achieve success in the cannabis industry.

Learn more at https://oaksterdamuniversity.com

Key Takeaways:

  • Dale’s background in the cannabis industry and how she became executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University
  • The crippling federal raid Oaksterdam underwent in 2012 and how Dale took over to ensure the university’s continued success
  • Oaksterdam’s extensive curriculum and how the school determines its core programs and electives
  • How the university’s student population has expanded beyond the U.S. to 40 different countries since it was founded in 2007
  • Oaksterdam’s online versus in-person programs
  • How the university utilizes augmented reality in its courses
  • Examples of students who have gone on to achieve great success in the cannabis industry following their time at Oaksterdam
  • Dale’s advice to those looking to leave behind their current careers and enter the cannabis industry

 

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program. With the worldwide market for cannabis expected to hit 32 billion by 2022, one has to wonder, how are we going to educate all the people entering the industry? Here to help us answer that question is Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor of Oaksterdam University. Dale, welcome to CannaInsider.

Dale: Hi there, Matt. Thank you so much for having me on.

Matthew: So great to have you. Give us a sense of geography, where are you in the world today?

Dale: I am in beautiful Oakland, California, in what is known as the Oaksterdam district.

Matthew: Oh, great. And I am in Austin, Texas. Dale...

Dale: Fantastic.

Matthew: ...tell us a little bit about Oaksterdam, background, history, what it is?

Dale: Well, the university itself was actually founded by a Texan. So throwback to where you are. But the original area was founded by Jeff Jones. And this was a 20 plus years ago, harkening back to trying to help the original medical necessity patients, and trying to just educate them on how to be safe with law enforcement encounters, what we call successful law enforcement encounters, as well as just how to grow your own garden. And that has blossomed over a decade plus. We founded an official school in 2007, we've trained over 40,000 students from 40 countries, and we're now online. So we're international.

Matthew: Oh, great. And can you tell a little bit about your personal background and journey and what brought you to become Executive Chancellor of Oaksterdam?

Dale: Well, quite by accident, I must say. It started out just as a volunteer. I was working with doctors in Southern California who were in mainstream medicine and wanted to do medical cannabis recommendations. And they needed someone to help them figure out how. And so it really just started as a business endeavor to help doctors be safe within the guidelines of a very conservative area. In the process, I learned that patients really walked out of the doctor's office into what amounted to a black hole. They weren't allowed to talk about what to consume or how much or where to find it. And so Oaksterdam University was really a passion project based on education, which is where I come from in corporate America, was as a corporate trainer. I think I always had that hankering to be a teacher. And then when I got old enough, I realized that it wasn't feasible, but never did I imagine running a pot college as [inaudible [00:02:52], I must admit.

But it started with Pot 19 [SP]. This was the blueprint to legalize cannabis. It was the first statewide initiative and we certainly bit off more than we could chew with California to start. But I was a pregnant woman talking about legalizing cannabis, and talking about putting family first and putting an end to the criminalization. And this is where it became a moral imperative. It wasn't just about patients trying to access their medicine, which in and of itself felt like a pretty important thing to work on. But it was also about the criminalization and specifically of our youth, of people of color, that this is actually the most important civil rights revolution of our time. And so I realized that my little sliver of trying to save the world was actually through cannabis policy reform. And I became an accidental spokeswoman for this campaign because I was first a teacher on the subject, and it was my students asking really good questions in my science class, of why and how, that I had to get pretty quick and short to the point for Fox News. And here I am now a decade later, after a rather horrid federal raid in 2012, I wound up taking over the school and expanding it from there.

Matthew: Can you just talk about that raid a little bit, because I remember reading about it and hearing about it, but just give listeners an idea of what happened, what it was all about?

Dale: Sure. Well, based on the segue from the political events that we triggered, we basically took money from cannabis, both the campus college, and the dispensary that our founder had and put it into politics. And so the Fed didn't like that very much. And in 2012, on April 2nd, we were visited by four different federal agencies. They took everything but the office furniture that day, and our founder was forcibly retired. And each of the employees that were longest serving in each of the businesses, myself in the school, another individual, Tim, took over the dispensary, and a third took over the gift shop. Eventually, I wound up rescuing the gift shop and the museum in addition to the school, and Tim, actually, recently just passed.

Matthew: I'm sorry to hear that.

Dale: Yeah, we also lost Big Mike this year, who was our horticulture technician, our lead hort tech for a decade. So it's been a tough year but our founder still meets me for lunch every month, at least I drag him out and he still signs wet ink signature on every certification that our students earn.

Matthew: Oh, great.

Dale: Yeah, he's still Professor Emeritus. He's still around, but he gets to spend more time with his mom in Texas. And in the meantime, you know, we've really had to just bootstrap it. You know, when they take everything but the office furniture, they take all your records too. So even if I had wanted to attract funding at the time, I couldn't have. And so now we're poised with some really exciting legacy projects. As I mentioned, we just went online. Our horticulture program is already available so it's easy to take from anywhere in your underwear at 2:00 in morning if you like. Although, if you do come to campus, we do require pants, and you can take it in one of two different ways. We have two different programs, a canna-business program, which starts out with all the basics that you really need to understand. We do have prerequisites and this is part of our moral imperative. We teach you what you need to know before we teach you what you want to know. And this is something that a lot of folks don't understand that's been carefully crafted based on our student body and their needs over the decade-plus that we've been doing this and the 150 plus faculty that contribute to the curriculum each and every week. We're having new updates and new additions, whether it be electives or core programs.

The second program is horticulture. And this is where we've really discovered those folks that just, you know, court hort and more hort. Well, we force legal upon you, because you have to know what not to do. But once we teach you what not to do, we teach you how to be compliant. And then we go on a deep dive with horticulture. And we just recently added an additional seminar option so that you can even take outdoor horticulture in a five-day "weekend," it's really a work week so to speak, where you can get hands on. And this is the only place in the world where you can plant a seed or harvest a plant from start to finish, and if you pass all your examinations, you will receive a certification.

Matthew: And how do you arrive at what exactly is needed, and then electives for what's wanted? Do you talk to businesses, kind of the ecosystem and say, "Hey, what exactly do you need?" Or are they coming to you and telling you? How does that work?

Dale: Yes, yes, and yes. We have a multitude of different ways that we determine our curriculum. And first and foremost, we speak to the regulators. One of the things that we started doing first was training those that regulate us. We actually received an award back in 2009 from the city of Oakland for teaching them how to tax cannabis. And then we went on to teach the second largest tax collection agency in the world, the Board of Equalization for two intensive days of training. So I joke with my students, you're welcome. I taught them how to audit you. But the thing is, is I taught them how to audit you in a way that doesn't put you at risk. We taught them about open book audit, so that they can go and learn the information that they need without taking copies that can then be subpoenaed and used against you in a federal court of law.

So there are ways to interact with the cannabis industry that's not only fair, but safe for all players. Such as, you know, which glasses to wear if you walk into a grow room? Where are the pinch points where you can either divert product or money or invert product or money? Inversion is just as concerning and bringing in black market product that perhaps hasn't been tested. So it's also who's regulating you from The Department of Health in the State of Florida or Maryland State, or we're talking with Jamaica, various government entities, as well as, of course, California entities up and down the state from municipal to the BCC and above, we worked on the Blue Ribbon Commission. And so part of it is also working with our law enforcement partners, working with our community partners or municipal partners to understand what's most important for the public health and safety and the public trust that we've developed. And of course businesses. Some of our most exciting success stories are the businesses that then come back and even teach for us and help us develop new curriculum. I get cream of the crop here.

And so I invite people to dip into the cool clear waters of Oaksterdam, because these are the students that have self-selected to be the best. And then they get to network with one another as well as the instructors that are often inherent in writing the very laws that they operate under.

Matthew: And where are most of the students from?

Dale: Pick a state, any state. I mentioned earlier, it's 40 different countries now are represented with Oaksterdam University. And so what I've learned, everywhere I go, man, and this is what just...it blows me away and I invite...I hope people, when they see me out about, come up and say, "Hi," and tell me what you've been up to. Because every time I walk into a room, any room, a conference room, a business room, an advocacy event, a patient event, somebody who's working on changing the law to somebody who's working just to pull up her own bootstraps at an equity event, a third of that room is Oaksterdam University alum. And it blows my mind. And this is what I charge them with is you need to now go back and change the world in your neck of the woods, because all politics is local, it starts with your city council. And I charge them with showing up, showing up to vote, showing up to be involved in their local community events. I charge them with leaving their community better than they found it.

And to ensure that they continue to advocate not only for the cannabis industry because we are all in the same boat together, and a hole on your side of the ship or my side of the ship, we all sink together, it's not your problem or mine. And we have to practice that collaborative competition, that we're all still focused on descheduling. At the same time, we're focused on figuring out our next business plan, because you can just put it in the shredder if we have this go the wrong way. Right now, 2EDE is something that affects us all. And so there are certain things we can agree on to advocate for. And I charge my students with doing that. And I think if we just demand that of one another. I ask people, before I go into business with them, are we intellectually aligned? Are we gonna help leave it better than we found it as we make money? Can we save the world? The answer is yes. And we can demand that of each other in this industry. We can demand more of one another and only do business with one another when we are intellectually aligned. And I think demanding that of one another is something that we can do to actually raise...not only raise the industry up, but advance the industry's needs as well as those of the patients that we serve.

Matthew: Now, can you give some color and context around some of the differences between the online learning and the in-person learning? I know you mentioned, you know, you have that five-day program where you can go on, plant a seed and so forth. But in what other ways does the online different from the in-person?

Dale: Well, and I also wanna mention for in-person, you have an option for semester where you're coming for 14 weeks and every week you come and you get more comprehensive training, additional horticulture if you're in the business program, additional horticulture if you're in the horticulture program. Now, the online learning, of course, you don't have the same hands-on experience with the cannabis plant that you would coming to the campus, but we also realized that it's expensive. In fact, it's more expensive to come to campus than it is to take the classes.

And so for people that are in a state, even where cannabis is not legal, you can still work with basil or rosemary or lavender and experiment and practice with things like manual extractions or, you know, planting any seed, because ultimately, you can learn how to pH water and understand the concepts of nutrients and practice this in a way that you can apply it to a work environment. If let's say, you're trying to figure this out while you live, you know, in Vermont, but you're planning on moving to another state where you're trying to get a job, you can still do a lot of these things. And one of the focuses that we have moving into 2020 that we're gonna be working on this year is augmented reality. Additional ways that we can have not just information but also infotainment. You know, we have to keep it fun.

I've been very impressed with the feedback that we've gotten from our online students. I've had some students take a couple of months to finish the course within the course of their normal lives and the responsibilities, their children and their other jobs. And I have...it blew my mind, I had people sit down and crunch it out over a weekend. But the response has been really fantastic, whether it's online or in-person. We have instructors and facilitators and student services that are willing and interested in...sorry about that, that are willing and interested in helping students to the next step.

And I wanna point out that regardless of whether or not you take Oaksterdam University at a seminar in Las Vegas, on campus in Oakland, or online from Italy, that when you do make it to Oakland, you're always one of our alum. Whether or not you even graduate, we wanna hear back from you. We wanna understand what you're doing with your education and how we can take the next steps with you.

Matthew: I've always thought that augmented and virtual reality have a real place in education, but just wondering how that's gonna come about exactly. I mean, how do you visualize something like that happening with like an Oculus Rift or something like that? Or how does that work?

Dale: Well, you know, there's a couple different things that we've looked into. And, you know, you can even look to these cardboard where you fit your phone...Yeah, really relatively inexpensive. There's different ways that you can use your phone to...then we've actually looked into virtual reality first. And notice I didn't say that, that that's something that I'm working on because I found that it might be prohibitively expensive, and part of what we try to do is keep our education accessible to as many people as possible and we found that just the production cost alone doesn't seem to offer the same return on investment that augmented reality is. Now, augmented reality is gonna have its place, and it's not gonna be every place. It's best when we're talking about things like machinery, when we're talking about specificity and repetition, because these are things that the augmented reality can help you with. It can also superimpose parts of the cannabis plant over what it's supposed to look like or what you're trying to do, whether it be detailed trimming activities, manicure and things along those lines, there's different ways that we might be able to do that.

And I think that there's also something to be said for visual learners. So maybe there's a different way that we can approach genetics that is not just your straight, you know, reading from a paragraph, and that I think is also really key with what we've tried to do with our online. This is not just dude on a whiteboard. This is professionals that we've hired from the world of academia that are taking subject matter experts who aren't necessarily, you know, trained professors in student learning outcomes, but these academics are. And we're finding ways to convert this information in ways that's not only applicable but retainable. The question that I ask my team all the time is, "What are our students gonna do with this?" This has to be actionable information. I don't just want them to have to come back to me over and over again, to figure something out. I wanna bridge them to the source so that folks can figure it out for themselves. That's truly teaching people how to fish, yeah? Or grow.

Matthew: And I wanted to kind of explain for people the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. So virtual reality is a totally digital world that's fictional to some extent. You might be teaching something but doesn't exist in reality, whereas augmented reality, you actually have maybe transparent or semi-transparent glasses and you're looking at reality, maybe a real plant and then there's an overlay that's describing things about that actual real physical object or objects. Is that...how do you explain it, Dale?

Dale: Well done, Matt. And I would say that in application, let's say that you are working with a complicated extraction machine and you have a new employee. And that's a million dollar machine. You can have that employee put on a specialized set of goggles, where the augmented reality overlays a map of that machine and is training them step-by-step. And look, pilots and doctors, the people that we entrust with lives are the ones that use checklists. Yeah, so I think that there's also best practices, real-world practices. And this is what excites me most about our student-base. You asked, who are my students? Everyone. We have from 18 to 96-year-old graduates. They come as masters of their own universe, whether it's real estate agents, or teachers or firefighters or retired law enforcement officers. We have colored priests sitting next to nurses and doctors. I have MIT graduates and literal rocket scientists and heart surgeons sitting next to people that never graduated high school, because they were criminalized for actually being good at something that used to not be okay. We just changed cannabis from being contraband to commodity. And I believe very strongly that Oaksterdam was who ignited the debate.

Matthew: Yeah. Now, can you tell me what some of the most popular courses are right now? I'm sure that changes over time, but what are students asking for?

Dale: Right now, I would say that one of the...the two big ones are outdoor. We used to teach outdoor cultivation for a long time. And then all of a sudden, it was banned everywhere. And so we kept it in our semester course, but pretty much stripped it out everywhere else because we found out the students just didn't show up. They're like, "I can't grow outdoors, and why bother?" So all of a sudden, outdoor is allowed, thank goodness. I've been having this discussion on policy for ages, because I've had, for instance, regulator say, "Oh, well for a 'green industry,' you people sure are not, you know, carbon footprint sensitive," right? Well, for one thing, they're comparing illegal growers, you know, stealing public lands, who are just trying to pop off the largest harvest they can and then get the hell out. You know, so they're not worried about how many fish they kill, or pesticides they use. They're trying to get the best biggest bud.

Now, when you put them next to somebody who's trying to achieve a permit, you're talking about two entirely different people, but under prohibition, they're both the bad guy. So now under permitting, we're finally allowed to differentiate somebody who's doing it well and even give them points on their license when it comes to things like green practices, gray water reclamation or solar or just plain outdoor growing. This is a crop for goodness sake, you know, it's just a leafy green theory, likes the sun.

And I would also point out scientifically, you're gonna get a slightly better crop, because part of just even teach sea production, for example, you know, this plant is producing THC to repel insects as a sun-protected and an insect repellent. It's anti-bacterial, anti-microbial. So the more hardy that that plant has to be, the more it's going to produce in order to respond to environmental events. So I would say that we're starting to get there with LED technology, and that's, you know, part of their research and development that's fun and exciting.

The other thing that's really in demand right now is extraction. And we just added actually an advanced extraction class here on campus that we're working on promulgating online as well. So I'd say extraction and outdoor are the two that have been most exciting for us to work on new projects. And then, of course, the dredge is compliance. You know, we started teaching people how to operate safely and responsibly in the gray area. Now, we're having to teach them how to be compliant. So it's a bit different concept. But, you know, it's remarkable to realize, too, the differences, because we have some people say, coming from Texas where it's not legal yet. And then we have other people coming from Colorado where, you know, been there, done that. So it's having to keep everyone on their toes simultaneously when they're sitting side-by-side has been some of the greatest challenge. But taking the best practices from these folks and the knowledge that they bring, whether, like I said, it's a chef or a medical professional, they're making our industry better.

Matthew: Now, how can students successfully leverage their training at Oaksterdam into careers? Have you seen or do you have some examples of students that have successfully built that bridge and now are kind of in a zone of excellence that you could highlight?

Dale: Sure. And, you know, some of our students are investors who are making sure that they're not, you know, using what I call damn money, you know, they're putting their money on something that they don't really understand. They don't understand how to mitigate their own risks. And they've gone on now to, you know, conquer whether it's various aspects of a region in capturing multiple licenses and vertical integration all the way through training their staffs. I think what's most exciting for me to watch is the equity applicants. We have a lot of scholarships that we give out to both veterans and equity applicants, and watching them come in and just finally be put on the same footing and receive that same education. I've had students with resumes on, you know, Indeed or one of the...you know, monster.com for months and months trying to find a job. And then they come through our classes and they just add two words, Oaksterdam graduate, and all of a sudden, bam, job offers.

And so it's as simple sometimes as networking with one of the instructors that also happens to be usually either a business owner or a professional, you know, whether it be an attorney or CPA, you know, we try to put the experts of each particular subject matter in front of you. And oftentimes, they're hiring. We also have job boards, and we are about to launch Oaksterdam Business Association. So there's ways whether you are a small business trying to network with other businesses and just get a realistic good deal on insurance. Which on a side note, Matt, professional services that have been just taking advantage of the cannabis industry have been pissing me off for entirely too long. So I'm finally doing something about it. And using those 40,000 students as leverage to say we demand better, we demand better service, we demand better deals. And I know for me, insurance is our second line item every month. And so if I can get a better deal on insurance, that means I can pay my employees better, getting better quality health benefits, do other kind of flex spending plans or just even offer a vacation.

Matthew: Yeah. And do you see a lot of students from other industries or buckets of industries where you say, "Wow, that's kind of a lot of students that are coming from this other industry? That's like, at least, you know, a light bulb goes off in your head, like, "That's a pretty big chunk." Do you see that or is it just totally diverse?

Dale: It's pretty diverse. I would have to stretch to say that there's one over another. I will say that I've noticed one giant trend and that's the overarching what the students are doing with it in the sense of the first couple years, they were all patients. They were people just trying to figure out how to obtain their medicine or how to cultivate their medicine and how to do it safely and responsibly. And then all of a sudden, dispensary started popping up. And then it was, well, how do I get a job to a dispensary? And so we started training, you know, budtenders and then procurement and allocation, you know, which cannabis? And, you know, I joke, it used to be magic marijuana because the only thing we were regulating where the storefronts, but the growers were trying to figure out the extractors, the folks trying to make edibles or topicals.

And so we started to specialize in teaching people how to specialize. And then we had an investor class pop up and that didn't exist prior to, I would say, 2011 at all. And then poof, they disappeared. And then bam, they came back and then poof, they disappeared and bam, they're back with Canada. So it's been more observing the waves of investors and people wanting to start, own, become entrepreneurs versus people that are just flat out trying to get a job or start a career, versus those who are just DIY. Like, you know, I can do it myself, I grow my own tomatoes, I can do this too.

And one of the ways that people can interact with us is also with our affiliate program. If you have any one of these things, especially if you're an advocacy organization, anyone that purchases an online class through your link, we not only give you 50 bucks, we donate a matching 50 bucks to the nonprofit of your choice. And so if you're a nonprofit, that's 100 bucks every time you help somebody take an online class through us. And that's a way that you can actually fund your own nonprofit activities, whether they be political or advocacy to help patients or just, you know, your local YMCA.

Matthew: Yeah, that's great. And for listeners that are considering getting a certification but they're a little bit nervous about transitioning from a, you know, "safe career," can you offer any words of encouragement or talk about how some people make that transition, and it's not quite as scary as they might think?

Dale: Absolutely. Well, first and foremost, we are just good old fashioned first amendment organization, education is legal, knowledge is legal. And so whatever it is that you do here with Oaksterdam, not only do we honor your privacy, but you can come learn amongst like-minded individuals that are actually very similar to yourself. And so it's kind of nice, realizing that you're not alone, that there are other people out there that share the same interests as you and that you can not only bond with them, but work with them, whether it's, you know, for fun, for free, or as something that you're building towards a career. The other thing that you can find when you network are opportunities you never even thought of, and this was, you know, I joke that it was just a failure of my own imagination, as a young girl that I didn't imagine myself as running a pot college as a grown woman with a family of three kids. It never occurred to me that this is where I would be, but I couldn't be happier. And it's because I found myself doing what I was passionate about. And I didn't know what I didn't know until I got here.

And I realized that I spent my entire life preparing myself for this very expertise that I never could have imagined myself being so good at, and I would invite anybody else to try that too. You know, valor is not the absence of fear, it's what you do in the face of it.

Matthew: Yeah, well said. Well, Dale, I like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. With that, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or your way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Dale: I struggled with this question, Matt, because there are three books and I can't pick my favorite. So my favorite personal development books is "How to Win Friends and Influence People." And I'm talking the throwback from the field.

Matthew: Yeah, I read it. I know what you're talking about.

Dale: [Crosstalk 00:30:06] not even the new one. I don't even like the new one. I'm talking the classics here. This is something...you know, cliché is cliché for a reason. And it's just a new...it's a different way to think. And I first read this book as a teenager, and I wound up...I read it every time I'm on the plane, of course, now with three kids. I have it on the little audible because I can't...you know, if I look at a book, a kid will fall off the table. So I, you know, read it differently now, but you have to remind yourself of some of these good habits and "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is just simply a good way to live your life in a way that everybody wins. It's not a...life is not a zero-sum game.

The second book that really I think shaped my sense of humor, and is my fun place is "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and, frankly, anything from Douglas Adams. And those of you that have read it will just simply understand, and, you know, ultimately just don't panic. The third book, well, really anything by J. R. R. Tolkien. I lived in the world of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings." And I think at a certain point, you know, fantasy and being in love with fictional characters when you're 12 instead of real people is maybe a good thing. So maybe diversity is also the name of the game, is just read a lot. I fear the man that only read one book. I look forward to conversing with the one that's read many. I think there's a quote about that.

Matthew: How about a tool? Is there a tool that you consider vital to your productivity or your team's productivity that you'd like to share?

Dale: My team uses two tools religiously. One is the Google Suite, just Google Docs, I discovered working on policy to have a lot of disparate people work simultaneously on one document once you get over the feeling that somebody is watching everything. The other tool we started using this year that I'll share my team has really enjoyed is called Asana, A-S-A-N-A. And it's a productivity tool that we use to keep people on track, on production, and on task.

Matthew: And I have a Peter Thiel question for you. And that is what important truth do very few people agree with you on?

Dale: This is the toughest question I think I've ever had anyone ask me that. And it's evil and wicked because I'm one of those folks that will talk you into thinking like I think. So if you don't agree with me on the face, you will by the time I'm done with you. I would say two things, once more, because I can't just stick with one. I would say recreational. It's a word that I battle all the time. And words are really powerful. And now that I have three kids, and I am a soccer mom, I realized that when you call cannabis recreational, moms think of their eight-year-olds and then it freaks them out and they vote no. And so, I shout from the mountain-top, especially towards like Colorado, please stop saying recreational, because you're freaking out the soccer moms and I don't want this to sound fun for kids. This is not what this is about. We have a responsibility as an industry.

The second is my philosophy towards life that, you know, like my CFO, will cringe at me when I say it out loud, but it's worked for me so far. You set out for success, you prepare for the worst, and then you wing it.

Matthew: Okay, that's good. That's good. I like that. You've got a little bit of yin and yang both in there. So makes sense.

Dale: Yeah, you just got to find your guard rails and then hope for the best. And sometimes you're surprised by what you don't expect. And you have to make sure that you're open to that too.

Matthew: Well, Dale, thanks so much for coming on the show and educating us. Can you tell listeners how they can learn more about Oaksterdam and connect with Oaksterdam?

Dale: Certainly. I'm hoping that anyone can just simply go to oaksterdam.com. Now, Oaksterdam is an amalgam of Oakland and Amsterdam. These are the first two cities to not only legalize but regulate the sales of cannabis. So oaksterdam.com. And you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can #Oaksterdam and of course, we are @Oaksterdam or @OaksterdamUniversity.

Matthew: Great, thank you, Dale, for coming on the show today.

Dale: Thank you, Matt, so much, and I do hope that listeners will check us out. You can actually take a free sample class online. Anyone can do it, you just give us your email address. And you can take a class by yourself, check it out, see how you feel. And hopefully, we will see you soon, if not here, at an event upcoming.

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