Ep 269 – Designer Cannabis Is On The Horizon Thanks To Molecular Science

chris emerson level

It’s no secret that achieving a truly targeted effect is the holy grail of the cannabis industry, but how close are we to making this a reality? Are designer cannabis products on the horizon? 

Here to help answer this is Chris Emerson, co-founder and CEO of a unique company known as Level that’s working to disrupt the cannabis industry with products precisely tailored to every individual and every occasion.

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

Key Takeaways:

  • Chris’ background in chemistry and how it led him to the cannabis space
  • An inside look at Level and its mission to provide a tailored cannabis experience to every patient and consumer
  • How Chris’ extensive background in science allows him to think about cannabis products differently than most entrepreneurs in the industry
  • Why Level sources its oils from strains high in CBD, CBG, and THCV and how this enhances the overall effect for consumers
  • Chris’ efforts to find rare and unique cannabinoids for Level’s products and his discoveries to date
  • A deep dive into Level’s tablinguals and pax vaporizer pods
  • Chris’ work at Level determining new uses for cannabinoids, including everything from stimulants to hangover cures
  • New and exciting initiatives at Level and Chris’ insight on what the cannabis industry will look like in the next 5-10 years
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.

It's no secret that getting a targeted or desired effect from consuming cannabis-related products is the holy grail that consumers want, and businesses are trying to create. But how close are we to making this a reality? Here to help answer this question is Chris Emerson, CEO and founder of Level. Chris, welcome to CannaInsider.

Chris: Thanks, Matt. Appreciate you having me.

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

Chris: Currently sitting in San Francisco, California.

Matthew: Okay. For people that aren't familiar, what is Level at a 10,000-foot view?

Chris: Level is a cannabinoid company with a thesis that you can get to targeted or effects-based experiences through the application of unique or more rare cannabinoids formulated in ratios you can't access from the plant alone.

Matthew: Okay. And, Chris, can you share a little bit about your background, and journey, and how you got into the cannabis space and started Level?

Chris: Sure. So I've always been really fascinated with the interaction between chemicals and human physiology biology, and had a very significant interest in plant medicine. But I actually wasn't very good at school, and ended up going in the military, spending most of my 20s trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And in my 30s, I went and got a Bachelor's in chemistry and really fell in love with small molecules. And I [inaudible [00:01:51] small molecule chemistry. Most people get trained that way either go, they work for pharma discovering or making drugs, or they go into academics and train the next generation of chemists.

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn't know how I'd reconcile these two kind of desperate physical life science and building a company because there's a lot of barriers to that. And so after my PhD, I had a postdoc at Stanford. And I was doing a postdoc at Stanford doing molecular biology and small molecule synthesis. And about six months into my postdoc, I was kind of disillusioned with anything that was available to me at that time and with academics. So I quit my postdoc, ended up on a cannabis farm in Mendocino. This was early 2012. And that whole experience just kind of reshaped my life from, yeah, being on the farm, and being able to synthesize my knowledge base as chemistry and biology in the plant, and really diving into what we knew about it and what we didn't know about it.

Matthew: Okay. So it sounds like you dropped out of the Stanford PhD program. Was it just you kinda lost interest or didn't like the career opportunities that looked like they layout on the horizon? Or what were you thinking back then?

Chris: Right. So it was actually my postdoc. So I already had my PhD. So I was a postdoctoral fellow doing research. Yeah, I wasn't cut out to be a professor. And that wasn't a path that I could do. And pharma wasn't interesting to me. I just really didn't want to go into pharma for various reasons. It's hyper-competitive. And the job market in the pharma industry over the past 20 years has been really challenging for small molecule chemists. And so that coupled with the other day, you know, I was living in San Francisco community to Stanford. But, you know, when you're in the city, you just feel that there's a ton of opportunity. And so if you can figure out how to access your tap into that, you know, the sky is the limit. And so I was really feeling that and just trying to understand how I can make something unique happen in my life. And that led me just to say, "Hey, you know what? I'm gonna quit my postdoc, and we'll see what happens." And everything just kinda started unfolding from there.

Matthew: Okay. So when you quit your postdoc and just went to go work on a cannabis farm, did you have any insights about the rest of your life for how things might go differently? Because I've noticed this kind of point of departure for many people, including myself when I just kind of walked out of a, you know, Fortune 500 company kinda, like, if I do keep going down this road, I could see what lies ahead. So what kinda insights did you have?

Chris: It's a great question. At first, the insight was... Sorry, I almost used an expletive. At first, I was like, "Oh, no, what did I do? I just spent 15 years of my life getting a PhD and trying to achieve this status in life. And now I'm living in a tent on a cannabis farm, and I'm gonna go to jail." That was the first insight I had. And then once that kind of, you know, wore off, and you got used to just...you know, this was 2012, so they were still...you know, 2012 is coming into the season, the feds were always going up into Mendocino and making a rests. So it was always at the forefront of my mind. But as I could push that back, I had this really in-depth quick indoctrination into kind of the culture at that time of cannabis cultivation on through the prop 215 model. So learned all the different processes, you know, cloning, all the way up through, you know, taking it out for sale.

And I saw that this plant had these amazing properties that we really knew nothing about and could have a very positive impact on human health. And I saw where the state of the industry was, and there was a massive need for standardization, for new unique product types to come online, and there was also a sense...you could tell regulation, legalization was coming down the pike at some point. And so I saw that as an opportunity as, yes, it's still very gray, but now is the time to make a run for it because it's gonna be a diminishing window in the future.

Matthew: Yes, I agree. That's what I was thinking too. Like, "Hey, it's a good time to jump in while the dust is not settled yet."

Chris: Definitely. Yeah.

Matthew: So you have a background really quite heavy in science compared to most people in the space. How do you feel, like, as you create cannabis products that you look at the plant differently than a typical entrepreneur, like, the lens you use when you look at the cannabis plant, and what kinda products you wanna make?

Chris: I think just inherently, I look at the world differently because of my training. And it's who I am, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to go into chemistry. So I really try and see the world in molecules. And that's what the world looks like to me. So I think having that changes how you approach something such as a cannabis plant where you say, "Hey, there's three different major biomolecule classes, cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids." And there's a host of compounds within each of these different classes. And so you look at them in a different way as these distinct entities. You know, they all have different topology or molecular structure that leads to their physical property and how they're gonna interact with a physiological system. And so, all of that, you know, definitely has been a driving force and a foundation with which, you know, I approach how we look at cannabis.

I mean, at the end of the day people are incredibly passionate about this plant and what it can do, and that's amazing. And so they do everything they can to educate themselves about the plant. But there's a ton of misinformation out there. And if you don't have a fundamental understanding of realizing what information is correct, or what may be inaccurate, it will skew your path forward. And I think that that's been a big difference for me because, you know, fundamentally, I understand molecules. You know, I know how they go together, I can put them together, we can take them apart, and then building from that.

Matthew: Okay. Now, you gave us a 10,000-foot view of Level. But can give us a little overview of your product so we can understand what it is that you offer?

Chris: Sure. So we currently have three different product classes. We have a vape line. So we're in the packs era. That's a legacy product for us, the vape market. It was the first product we ever created as we are trying to build this company and really execute on this thesis of effects-based cannabis. Because in order to really formulate with unique and more rare cannabinoids and ratios you don't access from the plant, you have to first access those cannabinoids. And that's very expensive. And so if you try and put unique formulations in a vape, it becomes prohibitively expensive. And so you know, nobody's gonna be buying $500 vapes for you to build your company, especially when the whole thesis of...this whole market of effects-based cannabis is we're having to create it at the very time that we're building this industry.

And so you have to kinda leapfrog this thesis with the products you're putting out. And then people experience it. And they either agree with your thesis or they don't. And you have to build this sustainably. So vapes are challenging to do that way. So we started with vapes, but the whole intent was really to develop new and unique product classes, so then we could use these unique formulations, and actually make them affordable to get to market. So the other two products we have right now are a three-milligram sublingually administered tablet called a tablingual. And we also have the 25-milligram orally consumed concentrate in the form of a tablet as well. And within those product classes, you know, we have either highly enriched or single isolate cannabinoids that we originally put on the market. So for instance, in the tablingual, you can get THCA, you can get Delta-9 THC, you can get CBD, Delta-8 THC CBG. And then we also have pre-formulated blends, which is where we're really trying to shift you as we move forward.

Matthew: Let's talk a little bit about some of the...you don't see as much about these other cannabinoids that you mentioned CBG, THCV, and so forth in dispensaries. It's not as popular to see it on a box. Can you talk a little bit about that as well as the sublingual, and what that experience was like?

Chris: Sure. You know, the reason we don't see this yet is because we're building an industry out of a legacy industry that was really hyper-focused on one cannabinoid, Delta-9 THC. So all of the plants that were cultivated and any products that were made from those were gonna be very high-potency in Delta-9 THC because that's where the market was. And so it was hard for people to either have the genetics or the vision to say, "Hey, I really wanna explore some of these other cannabinoids," because there was no market for them. So nobody knew if they would sell or not. And there was an education that had to be presented, so people understood what these cannabinoids were.

So getting to these more unique, say THCV or CBG, it takes a lot of effort to get there. And without having an established market, most people didn't want to, what I would say, kinda pioneer that. But that was the opportunity for us. And so we spent several years finding the right partners that could help us with genetics, with the cultivation, so we could actually get access to these unique cannabinoids. And so once we have access to them, we put them into a product such as a tablingual so we can, A, really experienced what that effect is going to be like, because there's really no data out there. And, B, figure out if we can productize it, and get it to market, and do it in such a way that these are very expensive cannabinoids. So how can we at least make them affordable enough that people will try them? And so the three-milligram tablingual is a great vehicle for that.

Matthew: Okay. Three-milligram, I mean, I guess anything under five-milligram do we consider a microdose? I mean...

Chris: I do.

Matthew: Okay. That's what I was wondering. Like, is that generally accepted there? Okay.

Chris: I mean, yeah, I think it's really interesting, right, because it's... Yeah, I would say anything under five. But I would say three or less is really, "microdose." The name is a little inaccurate as well. I really call them millidoses because that's really what they are. Tthey're milligrams. But for the cannabis industry, you know, I would say one to three milligrams. It falls into the microdose space. Yeah. So you have to be judicious in your choice in your route of administration when you're dealing with small amounts of cannabis, because if you ingest very small amounts of cannabis orally, then you put them through the metabolism of your body.

So they go through presystemic or first pass metabolism. They're gonna get pass through the liver on their way to the bloodstream, you know, from the stomach or into the small intestine, depending on a matrix that you're trying to extract this from. So you get really delayed onset. You're gonna lose fidelity of the actual cannabinoids that you're trying to get into the system, because they're gonna be changed in different ways through this metabolism process. When you do it sublingual, you bypass most of these processes. So the fidelity of your formulation remains much more true to what you're intending. And onset is much, much faster because of the route of administration.

Matthew: Okay. I know, it varies from person to person. But what would you say a typical onset would be for the tablingual?

Chris: The tablingual is within 20 minutes. Empirically, most people who use it, they report that they reach the plateau of the effect within five minutes.

Matthew: Oh, the plateau of the effect within five minutes. Wow. Okay. What was the 20-minute figure then you said?

Chris: Well, within 20 minutes, you will know where your plateau is because after 20 minutes, excuse me, everything is mostly been taken up and it's entered into, you know, your bloodstream and into the system.

Matthew: Okay. So we skipped the whole digestive GI tract, liver, and then it goes right into the bloodstream sublingually?

Chris: Correct. Yeah. It actually goes directly into your heart, through the superior vena cava, which is the main artery there from the oromucosal area in your face. And so that's what really it's a very, very rapid onset.

Matthew: That's great. That's great. I think about CBD, you know, sublingually all the time. And I don't typically think about, you know, tablingual, so this interesting new format. Do you find people are using the, you know, CGB and THCV in different ways, then let's say Delta-9 THC.?

Chris: Yes, I do. It's a yes and a no, but I would say mostly yes because the thing about...So there's 10 classes of cannabinoids. Delta-9 THC is one class of cannabinoid that has psychoactivity to it. Other classes have psychoactivity as well, but a lot of them don't. So you take CBD it sounds like, is that correct?

Matthew: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah. So although you may not experience the same psychoactivity or headspace of Delta-9, there's a physiological change when you take CBD. And some people do register, "Hey, you know, I feel different in my head. I feel the change," right? And whether that's an artifact of, "Oh, I'm actually really relaxed in my body now," or, "My pain is attenuated, so my headspace is different," people really...they still report a change in using CBD a lot. CBG we found is even much less than that. It's purported to be very good for anxiety. And that's what empirically we see with it. People use it as an antianxiety. And especially in the tablingual, it's a very fast onset.

And then the real magic though of the cannabinoids is when you start using them in concert together. And so CBG, when combined with THCA, or CBD, or even THTV gives you different synergistic effects because you're, you know, accessing this entourage effect. This multidrug components working in concert for synergistic effect.

Matthew: Yeah. I guess people are always curious, like, what exactly is that synergy? And we talked about it with the entourage effect. But how do you experience it and your customers experience that synergy with the different combinations of the cannabinoids? Especially, I mean, you're thinking of this in terms of molecules. So you're probably saying, like, which is the optimal molecule interaction that gets me the desired outcome? So looking at that question, what would you say?

Chris: I think, you know, this is all very qualitative still, right? This is such an infancy, and we have very little data that as we keep collecting and driving toward so we can have more rigorous data collection and analysis, we can really hone in on these. But, you know, empirically what we find, and this is very interesting, I'll use the example of CBG. CBG has what I call this [inaudible [00:17:54] kind of reactivity with other cannabinoids. For some cannabinoids, it potentially eats them in a very significant ways.

So here's something most people don't know. If you have been consuming, say you smoke, and you've been smoking throughout the day, and you've had a few different strains, you kind of reach a plateau, and you really, you know, you might say, "Hey, I wanna prolong this little more, and maybe I want a little boost and I can't actually increase the psychoactivity because I've kind of been consuming all day," a little bit of CBG especially subliminally, it is amazing. It enhances your high significantly and very quickly. But if you take CPG with something like THCA, It appears to significantly potentiate either the anti-inflammatory or no subceptive qualities of THCA. And so this one cannabinoid, when combined with different cannabinoids and potentially different ratios, has a very significant impact on the nature of that experience.

Matthew: It makes sense. That's really cool. Gosh, it seems like there's so much promise in this area. It's just crazy. I see why you're excited about it.

Chris: I absolutely think so. I mean, this is a tabula rasa. This is a blank slate. We really get to push forward in exploring what plant medicine in this form can really do for humans, right? And in a new way, we know we've been using cannabis. Humans have evolved with cannabis for at least the last 10,000 years, and probably for the last hundred thousand. But, you know, we have supportive data back to 10,000 years. So this is an ally. This is a plant ally for us on this planet. And so it's really how do we really work together now in new ways, and really explore and discover. And so I think it's incredibly exciting.

Matthew: You've somewhat answered this question already. But I was hoping to get a little more detail here about how you call Level a cannabinoid company not a cannabis company. I think that's kind of the bow wave of maybe a new trend here because you're really trying to get the benefits of the cannabinoids. But why make that specific distinction?

Chris: Well, I think for us, it defines exactly what we are. So, you know, we use a lot of different terpenoids and terpenoid ratios we've gotten from the plant, terpenoid mixtures. We still have flavonoids that are present in a lot of the distillates we use and through some of the extraction processes like in our THCA that we formulate with. We still have flavonoids in there, terpenoid. So we still keep these other components of cannabis. But for us, those are really nuanced. The thing that changes unequivocally in our experience, the nature and the experience of that effect, it is the combination of cannabinoids, right? And a lot of people are understanding this now when you think about in the context of CBD, right?

So if you take a 1 to 1 THC, that's a very different formulation and effect you're gonna get, than say if you do a 20 to 1 CBD to THC. And so people may not consider that when they're looking at it. But inherently, people are being trained to understand there's a difference when you start combining cannabinoids. Now, the world is still really only playing with THC and CBD. But we're really interested in driving hard with all the other ones. And so we work in cannabinoids. We have access to 11 unique cannabinoids in isolation in our facility. And that's what we play with right now. And we have three more coming online by the end of the year. So all of a sudden, this becomes a huge combinatorial challenge of how you formulate these different cannabinoids. And the whole thesis of the company is driven by a cannabinoid. And that's why we're a cannabinoid company.

Matthew: So the tablinguals you like, because you can bypass the whole kind of GI tract and liver, and go straight to the heart, and probably more precise dosing, you know, faster onset. But is there anything else that you like from tablets or the reason you like them more and kind of the focus is moving in that direction for you?

Chris: Yes. I mean, obviously, the form factor. Tablets are the ubiquitous, right? We grew up in a culture that, you know, if you're young, and you're sick, and you have a headache, or you have a fever, you get something that's a tablet, or it's a hard capsule, right? Or if you get a prescription medication from the doctor, it's gonna be in the form of a tablet. And so I think, as a society, we have an inherent bias that if it's a tablet that, you know, "Hey, I think I can trust what's in this." Well, that that's a big thing right there for people to be like, "Okay. I'm gonna trust what's in this because of how visually looks." There's a reason why pharma and the drug companies formulate everything in tablets. This is a pretty effective way for delivering an API, you know, a drug.

And so then you take that a step further and say, "Okay. Well now, if I have those two things, why is that?" Well, it's really easy to standardize. You can make a very explicit standard formulation, it can be shelf-stable. You know, all of a sudden, you get all these properties. You want different properties when you're taking something sublingually versus when you're gonna swallow it or you're taking it orally. And so you can tune the properties through the excipients or, you know, people consider this filler, but it's the other things that make up the tablet besides the drug. And so you can really modulate these in different ways. And you can do that by using components, which we do, that are only plant-derived. They're vegan, there's no gluten in them, right? You can source all of this. And so you can have a lot of flexibility to formulate for an intended effect, not only I think through the cannabinoids you're using in the formulation, but also in how you deliver that through the vehicle. And so it just made sense to us.

Matthew: Okay. How do you think cannabinoids could help with a hangover?

Chris: Yeah. I think that they can help a lot. We actually have a product called Hangover. We developed it over the past year by working with a lot of different...We've been working with a lot of different cannabinoids for four solid years now. So anecdotally, empirically, we have a sense of what kind of effect you can expect from a given cannabinoid at a certain dose within, you know, for a range of people. Let's call the first standard deviation, say it's gonna be 80%, 85% of the people who try it will probably fall within this first standard deviation.

So we take that and then we formulate from there saying, "Well, we understand that these cannabinoids help us feel a certain way or maybe help reduce pain significantly. This one is good for anxiety. And we find that this one is really good for your stomach," right? It helps nausea a lot from Delta-8 THC. And so we looked at it approaching it that way. A lot of people who consume cannabis, if they do have a hangover or if they've overindulged one night, you know, if they consume cannabis the next day, it tends to help. And so we took that legacy information and then just applied our method of thinking about product formulation. And, yeah, came up with a formula that we think works pretty well to help alleviate some of the symptoms that you experienced from that.

Matthew: Yeah. I mean, someone with a chemistry background, we don't really think about what's happening a lot when we're drinking alcohol. But that, you know, ethanol and what it is, and what it does to our body, you probably think about that more as someone with a chemistry focus like, "Hey, what's happening to my body right now with this poison?"

Chris: Yeah. I mean, it's something most people learn in their, you know, sophomore organic chemistry class in college, you know, the process of alcohol, ethanol being converted to methanol. So it gets oxidized and then it goes through other processes in your body that lead to some of these effects, you know, that we feel if we overconsume. So, you know, and that's fairly standard knowledge that people can get to. But, yeah, it's something that I keep in mind. It doesn't prevent me from overindulging, but I definitely keep it in mind.

Matthew: So you take Hangover yourself then when you're overindulge, and you feel like it's a...

Chris: I do. Yeah.

Matthew: And how fast do you typically feel the impact?

Chris: For me, it's usually about 30 minutes, you know?

Matthew: Wow, that's quick.

Chris: Yeah. And there's different ways you can use it. And this is the beauty of these products. And everyone has, you know, an endocannabinoid system and ACS. All of us are slightly different. This is why people react to cannabis in different formulations in different ways. But part of all of this, too, is really understanding that cannabis is a journey, right? Cannabis is a journey that we all...those people who choose to use it, they're going to go on this journey because we have to figure out what works and what doesn't work for us. And so, you know, part of what we're trying to do at Level is to help guide people on this journey of what cannabis is, so they can experience the possibilities.

And in doing that, you know, it's important for people to understand cannabis is not a silver bullet. if there's something wrong physiologically with you, or you have severe depression, or anxiety, or a multitude of other things, cannabis doesn't cure that for you. What it does is it helps just get your body to a place and your mind, hopefully, that you can address the lifestyle or behavior changes that you have to take care of in your life, so you can heal. That's important for people to understand. I'm circling back now to, so there's different ways that you can use something like hangover.

Some people use it when they wake up in the morning and they say, "Oh, you know what? I feel a little hangover from last night. I'm gonna take half of a tablet right now." And 30 minutes later, they're great. Or some people say, "You know what? I think I'm gonna be hungover tomorrow morning. I'm gonna take a tablet right now. And it's gonna help me all night as I sleep, and I'm gonna wake up, and I'm gonna feel better." And so there's not a one size fits all for the products that we make and most cannabis products that anybody makes. And so, you know, it's really about giving people the confidence and trust in what you're doing that they're willing to allow...they're willing to go down this journey, you know, with you.

Matthew: I keep on thinking about that book, "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley and the drug in there called soma. I don't know if you ever read that book.

Chris: Yes.

Matthew: But it feels like we're kinda moving towards that experience, like, that's coming at some point where you kinda have this mildly euphoric but no after-effects or, you know, you don't really lose your ability to think and reason and do things like that, but you get kind of a mild euphoria. Do you think that's coming?

Chris: I think versions of it are coming. I mean, everything still has to be in moderation. And I don't think you were suggesting it wasn't. But I think ultimately, you know, it is always a balance. And as much as I'm a massive proponent, and I'm obsessed with cannabis and what we're doing, at the same time, you still realize this is a drug. And, you know, you have to be conscious that there may be changes that happen, especially if you use it long-term. So it's good to take abstinence breaks. It's good to, you know, stop using one cannabinoid potentially and try other ones, just to let your body reset and make sure that things are still functioning how they should, you know? And I talk about that as context of cannabis, but it can be food, it can be alcohol, it can be exercise, right? We just need to live a life that has balanced to it.

Matthew: Anything of interest to you in the psychedelic space in terms of, like, MDMA, commonly called ecstasy, psilocybin, or LSD? Do you think about those areas at all and how there might be some dove-tailing with what you're doing with cannabinoids?

Chris: Yes, absolutely. So I tell people now, Level is a drug company. We are a cannabinoid company. That's what we're focusing on first. But yeah, as plant medicine comes along, and, you know, if we can get the powers to be to make changes in our lives, and allow for microdose psilocybin, that'd be amazing, right? We have a product for it now. So it's, like, "Hey, 10 years from now," and you can do it through microdose. It's, like, there are 50 micrograms of psilocybin in your tablingual, you know? You walk into Walgreens and CVS, and pull it off the counter.

Matthew: Yeah, Because that is a big problem with psychedelics, especially people, their first couple times, they're like, "How much am I taking here?" And so that's more so than, you know, other things [inaudible [00:31:06]

Chris: And it's a dedication, right? You're on that ride when you've taken it. So, you know? And I think that there are. And we see a lot of studies that there can be a lot of profound positive impacts that happened from a microdose. And, you know, when you're talking about LSD, it's a shoot in microdose. And LSD nowm it's probably, you know, your nanodosing. So I guess you have to change the actual dose in it. But, yeah, I think there can be a lot of positive things that come from it. And so it'll be exciting to see what happens in the next couple decades.

Matthew: Well, how do you think about replacing a morning ritual, like, coffee with some cannabis product or cannabinoid experience?

Chris: Yeah. I definitely think there's room for that. I think one of the things that, you know, any new or disruptive pattern or behavior industry has to deal with is inertia, right? So there's a, what is it, 3, 400 years of coffee that people have been using. And so it's deeply ingrained in many different cultures. So I don't know that it replaces it so much, especially in the near term, you know, the next 20 to 50 years. But I think it definitely comes in and it enhances, or it's used as an alternative at times. And we're actually seeing this a bit from feedback we're getting from people with our...it's called Stimulate. It's a tablingual. It has THCV in it, and it's intended to replace an afternoon cup of coffee. It's a focusing tool, if you will.

And so we have a lot of people that reach out to us and let us know how they're using it. And some people are using it to replace their coffee. Some people use it in the morning because it gives them energy for the day before workouts. And other people, they use it synergistically with their coffee. They say, "Hey, there's nothing better than a cup of coffee and a Stimulate tablingual because then I'm right where I wanna be".

Matthew: "I'm really jacked. Thank you, Chris, for making Stimulate." Okay. So what's meaningful about your products that we haven't addressed, but you feel, like, the public doesn't fully grasp or understand to a level that you think is warranted?

Chris: Yeah. That's an excellent question. Our products are fairly sophisticated. And something that we haven't been able to really put a lot of resources into yet is really education, and educating people. You know, what is the intent and purpose of this product, and then how do I use it? And one thing that's challenging for people, because it's a heavy lift, is people really understanding, "Hey, I've got six different cannabinoids available to me. How can I formulate? How can I be my own master formulator?" And I know that, "Hey, when I'm feeling this way, I take one CBG and half a Delta-9 and, you know, a Delta-8 THC." And that's hard. That's really challenging for people because there's just so much information that they have to have. And so part of the challenge that we had was we got really far out in front of where the market was.

And it was intentional why we did it. But now, we're really figuring out how to dial it in and educate people better of... We'd like to say that we make a cannabis products for anybody, right? If you want it for a recreational purpose, great, we have that. If you're looking to try and help you with anxiety or depression, there's products that will help you with that. Sleep, pain, the whole spectrum. And so if you're a human, we make a product for you. And I think that that's the challenge for us is trying to educate people on that.

Matthew: Sounds like you're discriminating against cyborgs, Chris, only make stuff for people. I hear you.

Chris: Yeah. I'll work on that.

Matthew: Where are you in the capital-raising process?

Chris: We are literally about to sign our Series A docs this week.

Matthew: Wow. Good timing. So for listeners that are interested that are accredited investors, is there room for them to reach out or anything like that?

Chris: This round is full.

Matthew: Full?

Chris: It's closed. Yeah. This was a really long fundraising process for us. So I'm happy that it's coming to a close. But they will definitely be a Series B.

Matthew: Okay. Well, you can tell us how to reach out to you for that type of thing as we close. But any notable investors? I think I heard Dave Asprey, the bulletproof guy. Did he invest in you, is that right?

Chris: So we had a safe round that we had from 2016 into the middle of 2017. And so we had quite a few safe investors. And so yeah, I don't know that I can comment on any of them. I haven't gotten permission to fully disclose who actually invested in that round. So I prefer not to comment on that.

Matthew: Okay. I think I heard him say that some months ago. So good to do it that way, though. So that's cool. You got some notable investors in there, too. That always helps.

Chris: It definitely does.

Matthew: Yeah. So Chris, let's go to some 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 for your way of thinking that you'd like to share with listeners?

Chris: Yeah. Actually, I would say there are two books, kind of a bit different than each other. "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." You're familiar with that book by Richard Bach?

Matthew: No.

Chris: So it's a short book. I read it in my early 20s when I was in the military. I can't really describe why it had such an impact other than it was just kind of one of those books that inspired you that there's no limit to possibility if you just go for it. So "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is one of them. And the other one, shortly thereafter, a few years later that really had a profound impact was "PiHKAL" by Alexander Shulgin.

Matthew: Well, that's the first time I've heard of either of those. That's great.

Chris: PiHKAL, it's, Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved. And so Shulgin essentially talked about his journey from his early days through the psychedelics that he experienced through his whole time at Dow, and then him developing his own independent lab, and him pioneering all of these. He essentially took MedChem, medicinal chemistry principles, and appled them to psychedelics, and then, you know, tested them on himself, and his close group of friends, and wife. And so he talks about that. And then the second half the book is all of his lab notes. And it set the DA off once he published this because he essentially was opening up a free source of, "Hey, this is how you make all these some amazing, some really challenging psychedelics." And they're not all meant, there should be in human hands, but he wanted this information out there. And so that book and my experience at Burning Man when I was 24 is what put me down this path, pretty much.

Matthew: Oh, good, good. And what do you think is the most interesting thing going on in your field apart from what you're doing at Level?

Chris: That's a really challenging question, but it's a good one. I think, ultimately, what I think is really interesting is there's perceptions in this industry across a lot of the sectors, but also outside perspectives that looking into the industry and us looking out. I think if I had to put my finger on it, it's the juxtaposition of this exponential growth that everyone thought was just gonna happen once legalization came online, and how fast this industry would be moving. And this industry is moving very fast. It's very dynamic, but it's nothing, like, the reality of what all of us thought was gonna happen over the past two years. And it's interesting to really watch as you get operators that saturate a state, then they hit a plateau. They can't grow anymore because we're having the slower growth of consumers, I think, coming online, fighting regulations, legislation, taxes, so then they start going state by state. And this process of trying to show this growth and how we're gonna have this exponential growth, like, tech companies have, it's not there. And I think over the next few years, we're really gonna see some implications from this.

Matthew: Now, I have a Peter Thiel question for you. What is one thought you have that most people would disagree with you on?

Chris: So how am I a contrarian?

Matthew: Yes.

Chris: Yes. Actually, the company that I will worked for, Emerald Therapeutics, before, it was a fully automated life science laboratory. And I worked on the research team as the chief chemist. That was a Founders Fund company. And so this was actually a question that they asked people during the interview process.

Matthew: Yay, perfect.

Chris: But yeah, what's my contrarian differentiator? I think for me, you know, it's really I think, just in how you view the world. And for me, I try and view the world in negative space, not the things that you can actually see. But, you know, it's the interstitial space. And, you know, when you talk about molecules and at the molecular level, when we look at a molecule, we see these... We can come up with a schematic of what a molecule may look like. And we can model it in three dimensions. And I can physically touch a collection of these molecules in bulk at the macroscale. But everything is really space, right? And so it's how does that space affect the world in which we live, and how we move, and everything about life as we understand it? Because it's not really about what you can see and what you can touch. It's everything that you can't see and can't touch. And I think that's really where a lot of the magic of life is.

Matthew: One more question. And this is gonna demonstrate my chemistry ignorance and biology ignorance. So maybe you could keep the answer for a layperson. So we have a molecules and smaller atoms. And then smaller than that is quarks. And is there things yet smaller we keep on discovering going on?

Chris: Yeah. So you're gonna get outside my wheelhouse here because, you know, physicists are high-energy chemists, but yes. Here's how I look at it. I think we would never stop discovering things because the more you split things apart, you're always going to create fragments in different ways. And when you start getting into subatomic particles, it's definitely a place that I don't spend a lot of time. I think that it's, like, anything, it can be a rabbit hole. And if we go chasing through these things, it's gonna be this elusive pathway. And I think we'll get information from it, but how good is the data? So for me, you know, I try and stay on the level of things that I can understand of a more holistic thing. And that's kind of where I was saying about if there's a molecule represented in space, the molecule is there, but there's all that space, too, that helps define what that molecule is. And so it's really a holistic, I think, approach for myself of how I try and view things.

Matthew: Yeah. You hear sometimes musicians even say like, it's the space or there's no sound at all between notes. That's just as important because it, like, gives rise to the tone and texture of the next sound as it unfolds. So I think I get what you're saying there.

Chris: Yeah, awesome.

Matthew: Chris, as we close, how can listeners learn more about Level products? And for credit investors, how can they reach out to you?

Chris: So our website's www.levelblends.com. And the website has a lot of information on it. You can learn about the products. You can also go to a store finder if you're in California. We're in I think 280 dispensaries throughout California. So you can find hopefully dispensary near you, and you can find products. And then, you know, people can reach out to me directly. It's chris@levelblends.com.

Matthew: Well, Chris, thanks so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate it. Are you related to Ralph Waldo at all, Emerson?

Chris: You know, I can't unequivocally say that. My mom had done a lot of genealogy. And my great uncle says that we were, but I haven't seen the actual tree. So, I'm not sure.

Matthew: I don't know. He wrote what "Leaves of Grass," and here you are playing with something similar. Okay. Have a great day. Thanks for coming on the show.

Chris: Matt, I really appreciate it. Have a great day, too.

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