Crafting Cannabis Brewed Beers & Distilled Spirits with Dooma Wendschuh

Dooma Wendschuh Province Brands

Listen in as Dooma Wendschuh co-founder of ProvinceBrands.com discusses how he and his team are creating cannabis brewed beer and cannabis distilled spirits. Dooma transitioned from the US Cannabis Market to the Canadian Cannabis Market because he saw more opportunity in Canada’s federally legal marketplace.

Interesting factoids about Dooma

He was the co-founder of the software gaming company that made the mega hit game Assasin’s Creed that has grossed over 5 billion dollars in sales

– His favorite book is The Hard Thing about Hard Things
– His favorite business tools are Slack and SmartSheet

Find Dooma at http://www.provincebrands.com
and on twitter at @doomadooma

Key Takeaways:
[4:23] – Dooma’s background
[11:02] – Dooma talks about the Assassins Creed game
[15:28] – Dooma talks about Ebbu and his transition to Province
[21:21] – Dooma talks about Province Brands
[32:54] – How do you feel the effects of a marijuana beverage faster
[34:02] – Dooma talks about dosage
[42:02] – Dooma talks about other ingredients in his drinks
[43:42] – Bringing Province drinks to market in Canada
[52:58] – Dooma talks about the fundraising process
[56:56] – Dooma answers some personal development questions
[1:04:13] – Dooma’s contact information

Important:
What are the five disruptive trends shaping the cannabis industry?
Find out with your report at https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Today we’re going to talk with an entrepreneur, Dooma Wendschuh, that has transitioned from the US cannabis market to the Canadian cannabis market and is making the world’s first beer and spirits brewed and distilled from cannabis. Dooma, welcome to CannaInsider.

Dooma: Thanks Matt. I got to say it is amazing to be back. To this day, I have people coming up to me and asking about the last CannaInsider podcast I did with you. It is just amazing what a phenomenal following you’ve developed and how many people are listening, and not just the number but the quality of listeners. It’s not that I’m surprised. You are one of a kind and one of the hardest working people in the industry. So, thanks again for having me. It is an honor, and I’m really thrilled to be back.

Matthew: Thank you Dooma. Flattery will get you everywhere. I appreciate that. Well, it has been a while. I think it was 2014 or 2015 since you were last on, but before we jump in to everything you have going on in your life, give us a sense of geography and tell us where you are in the world right now.

Dooma: Absolutely. I am standing in what will be the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis which is an amazing feeling. Do you know where that is Matt?

Matthew: Canada.

Dooma: That’s right, and a lot of people think it’s Uruguay, but the difference is in Uruguay they legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, but you have to be a citizen. Canada’s legalization will be for anyone who is of age, which is a huge deal. That opens it up to tourism and to a whole lot of different uses that you won’t see in Uruguay. It’s really changed everything. You have been following I think a lot more than a lot of the other US focused podcast and the media outlets. I know you’ve had Mark Lustig on your podcast and John Fowler of Supreme, and Brockstein who covers the cannabis industry better than almost anyone in Canada, although he’s from Texas. It’s been amazing to be here in Canada seeing an unparalleled growth in the industry. I mean Canada has a population of 36 million people. It’s one of the largest legal exporters of medical cannabis in the world, and I don’t know if you say, but there was this study that Deloit recently did that predicted that the size of the legal cannabis market in Canada in just a few years could top $22.6 billion.

If you’re in the USA and you have a 50,000 square foot indoor greenhouse grow, that’s pretty big. In Canada there are companies that have millions of square feet of cannabis grow indoors. There are companies that have valuations literally in the billions of dollars and many that have valuations in the hundreds of millions of dollars. So, it is a truly unique place to be in the cannabis industry and a world leader. That’s where I’m located. It’s the only place in the world I’d be right now to be working in the industry and doing what I’m doing.

Matthew: Yeah, there’s a lot of exciting things going on in Canada right now. I really like the aspect that you don’t have to live with one foot still in the closet like you do in the US. That’s really a frustrating thing. I think the industry in the US could really leap forward if we had a policy closer to Canada’s, I think, with the exception of dispensaries are the only thing I think Canada’s missing in terms of how it could be better. That can be changed.

Dooma: Right, and we do have dispensaries here but they’re illegal, which is crazy. In America you get your illegal drugs from the drug dealer that meets you in the parking lot of the Rite Aid. Whereas in Canada you just walk into an illegal store and buy whatever you want from a thing that looks a lot like a US dispensary, but they are illegal, they’re raided all the time. They’re shut down all the time. It’s basically a criminal activity here in Canada. Whereas in the United States it’s at least state legal when people operate dispensaries.

Matthew: Give us a little bit about your background. I know you were on back in 2014 or 15, I can’t remember when that was, and there’s a lot of new listeners since then and they want to get a sense of who you are, what industry you came from, what were you doing before this and all those juicy details.

Dooma: I grew up in Miami, Florida, so I am American. Received my undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Did my graduate school at the University of Southern California. As most people do when getting a graduate degree from USC, I went into the entertainment industry. Started a company to make motion pictures. We were not very good at that. We sold eight movies to the studios. We only managed to get one of them made. I think it was just kind my age. I was 22 years old and I didn’t know how to get these celebrities to sign on to be in our movies. That’s what it took. I wasn’t getting invited to those parties. When I did meet a celebrity, which was very rare, I remember one time I was at a party at the urinal and Brad Pitt came and urinated right next to me at the urinal, and I was like, this is my chance.

I needed to have something really smart to say, but I didn’t think of anything and he just walked away and that was it. We didn’t really succeed in that industry, but we pivoted the company into the video game industry where we had a lot of success. We helped create some of the biggest video game franchises out there. My company is called Sekret Agent Productions, and the video game franchise that the company is best known for is Assassins Creed, which has now done about $6 billion in worldwide sales. It was a lot of fun. It was crazy. We worked on the first eight of those games. We also did Batman Arkham Origins, Army of Two and a bunch of stuff that didn’t make any money. Actually we did three games in the Prince of Persia series, so those made money as well.

It was a lot of fun. You become very close with the team when you’re doing these games. We were pulling 18 hour days, month after month and crunching and they become like a family. I really don’t think there was anything that could have pulled me out of the video game industry except for what eventually did, which was November of 2012, and I was living in Canada because we had an office in Montreal, but then another office in LA and I had more or less moved up to Montreal at that point. I was over at a friend’s house, and we were watching the US elections. Oh yeah, Obama got elected, but you know what else happened, marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington. When I saw this I was like, whoa. Who knew this was happening. It was crazy to me.

I mean, I had know about medical marijuana, sure, but there’s medical cocaine and no one thinks cocaine is going to get legalized for recreational purposes any time soon. It just seemed so far off to me that this had actually happened. It kind of got me thinking, and when I thought back at my life, the moments that really mattered me weren’t moments where I’m sitting on a couch with a game controller in my hand. That was fun, but the moments that mattered to me all involved some kind of a psychoactive. I know I say that, I sound like a drug addict, but I’m the furthest thing from that. Think about it. Those video games, we never would have sold them if we didn’t have drinks with the publishers to get to know the publisher, to develop the rapport, you learn to trust people after you’ve had a couple late nights with them in a business setting.

We never would have made those games if it wasn’t for tons of caffeine fueling the workforce. Caffeine makes you a super human and people forget that’s a psychoactive as well. In college all my best friends are folks I met and sort of intensified those friendships often under the influence of alcohol and certainly the most important business deal I ever closed, which was asking the woman I love to marry me, would not have been possible without a good amount of Champaign. I believe that psychoactives provide a lot of benefit to our world. They break down boundaries. They do so many great things for people. I also believe that they have a lot of problems. With the legalization of cannabis, I saw an opportunity to perhaps bring about a better class of psychoactive. I didn’t know what it was, and we’ll talk about Province and sort of how my thinking has evolved since then, but at the time I was like, there’s something here. Because I knew, even back then in 2012, I knew what a lot of people still don’t know, which is that marijuana is not a thing. It’s not a single active ingredient psychoactive. It’s very different from the other legal psychoactives in our world.

If you look at the three legal psychoactives for social and recreational purposes, alcohol, coffee, tobacco. Each one of them has a single active ingredient. For alcohol it’s ethanol, for coffee it’s caffeine, for tobacco it’s nicotine, but cannabis has all of these different compounds. It’s basically a polypharmaceutical. There’s 144 phytocannabinoids that have been identified to date. There’s hundreds of terpenes and these individually in a different combination can create varying psychoactive effects. So, I wanted to see what that could be and how those things could create a better class of psychoactives. I ended up selling my shares in the game company in 2013, and using some of those funds to start my very first cannabis company, which was in Colorado. That’s kind of how I got into the space.

Matthew: Gosh, I just want to rewind for a second because Assassins Creed is like a household name at this point. I know they’re making that into a major motion picture I think.

Dooma: They did make it into a motion picture. If anyone out there saw it, I’m sorry.

Matthew: It was bad.

Dooma: It was so bad. It was so bad and it didn’t make any money. It’s hard. There haven’t been a lot of successes. The only one is Resident Evil. That’s the only success that’s ever been a successful translation of a video game into a motion picture. They’re different media and it is very hard to make that jump. I am really disappointed in the Assassins Creed movie but I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised.

Matthew: What captured the imagination of the public with that game? Do you think it was the narrative and production value or the quest? What is it that you think really resonated?

Dooma: Well, at the end of the day I think it’s a lot of things that my cofounder of that company, and I probably can’t take credit for, and I think the most important thing about making any kind of a business, but in particular a video game is it is a team effort. It is something you really rely on every person on that team and they all have to be working at top speed. I think the number one thing that made that franchise successful is not any individual element, whether it’s the story or the game play, but the sum of all of them. I believe, as an entrepreneur and as a business leader, that execution always trumps innovation, and Assassins Creed had a lot of innovation. Certainly the crowd system was way ahead of its time. The open world, the different aspects of the open world were very innovative, but the execution, it all hit together very well.

I think the execution contributed in a major way to its success, but I’ll tell you a little story about one element that I can take and that we can take no credit for that made it a success. The game was funded and published by UBSoft and they put someone on the team whose job it is is to make sure that this game is going to be marketable. This woman would go to all the meetings and she would give her feedback and input, let’s put it that way. At that time, what we had pitched, what UBSoft was developing and what we were making was a game that set in the Third Crusade. It was entirely a period piece. Keep in mind this wasn’t that long after 9/11 and you were basically playing an Arab, a Muslim guy and the bad guys are Christians. There’s a little bit of unease around that.

She kept saying, this woman kept saying we can’t sell this. No one is going to buy this game. Nobody wants to play a game where it’s a period piece and you play a Muslim and the bad guys are Christians. This is going to be a disaster at the Box Office. Can’t you put in some aliens, put in some science fiction. Let’s make it edgier so that we can have a hook and sell it. My cofounder, Corey and I, we fought this tooth and nail because keep in mind, we had just done three games in the Prince of Persia series. Prince of Persia is all about time travel. We were definitely not doing another time travel game because every time you go back into the past you have to change the future, which is so annoying. Then one of the guys on the team had read something. I think it was a short story that talked about genetic memory, and we were like okay, that could work.

That’s not time travel. You don’t have to change the future. You’re just going back and learning from the past and it was amazing because that little tweak is what made it so that every game in the Assassins Creed franchise did not have to take place in the Third Crusade, and that little tweak is what turned this from a single game that probably would have done pretty well, but not really had a following, into a worldwide know franchise that generated about $6 billion.

Matthew: Wow, maybe you could just summarize quickly what genetic memory means for people who don’t understand.

Dooma: Yeah, for anyone who hasn’t played the game, genetic memory is this theory that by analyzing someone’s genes, you can understand specific events that happened in their heritage before they were who they were. What we did is we imagined that in the distant future they would have a technology that could read your genetic code and would allow someone to effectively replay or relive moments from their own ancestry. So each Assassins Creed game takes place in a different time period and a different location because it’s all along the lineage, the ancestry of the main character, of the people who were his great grandparents, great-great grandparents, great-great-great grandparents and all the adventures that they had you’re reliving when you play those games.

Matthew: Speaking of going back through history, let’s talk about Ebbu and them Province. What was Ebbu, that’s what your endeavor was before Province, what you’re doing there and your transition to Province.

Dooma: That was a very good transition that you made by the way. I like that. Ebbu was the first company that I founded in the cannabis industry, and you have to believe me when I tell you that it was the hardest thing that I’ve done in my life, and I’ve done a lot of hard things. We started this in Colorado. We set out to raise $10 million. Keep in mind, we were doing this in the United States where cannabis is federally illegal, but also in Colorado where at the time, they had a residency requirement that meant that you could not own equity in a company unless you were a two year resident of the state of Colorado. That made fundraising a tremendous challenge, almost impossible.

On top of that, we had to solve one of the most challenging problems in the cannabis in the cannabis industry which was to try to make products, and eventually we succeeded at this, but to try to make products that when consumed would be both reliable and predictable. Cannabis is definitely unreliable. It’s unpredictable. You never know what you’re going to get. At Ebbu we made vapor pens and the company still makes vapor pens that every time you tried it you would have that same sensation guaranteed. The long term goal was also to make products that would predictably give everyone who tried them the same sensation. If you and all your friends tried it and it was called Energy, you would all have an energetic sensation when consuming cannabis. To do this we had to hire world class scientists, and it was hard.

I had a cofounder that wasn’t able to take the time off, take the risk to launch a startup, at least in the beginning. He was working a full time job, while I worked Ebbu full time, put my heart and soul into it. I barely slept for two years and whenever I did it was in airports. I was traveling the world raising capital and recruiting the scientists to join the team, and in the end my friends and family and people I’ve known since high school in some cases or college or in the case of my family, my entire life, came through and made investments despite incredible risk. We raised $10 million. We hired a world class team, including Dr. Linda Klumpers who is a world renowned cannabinoid researcher who now has her own startup that’s really exciting. It might be someone you want to talk to in a future episode.

More importantly, the company succeeded in creating phenomenal products. The Ebbu Genesis that’s out now is one of the best vapor pens on the market. It nearly killed me, but I am really proud of what we accomplished, and I’m proud of all of Ebbu’s success, although it did not end well for me personally. The crazy thing is I ran a video game company for 13 years. Was involved in some of the world’s biggest entertainment franchises. I never once got sued and I never once had to sue anyone, and I used to be so proud of that. I thought I was litigation proof, but I guess you can’t hide from it forever and if you’re an entrepreneur, as I assume many of those listening to your podcast are, then you haven’t been through it, it’s going to catch up to you. I never wanted to do anything to hurt Ebbu, as I mentioned, the investors are my friends and family, but I was put in a situation where I had no choice but to file an arbitration lawsuit, an arbitration against my cofounder and against the company. This has been what I’ve been dealing with the past year and a half.

The costs are approaching now half a million dollars of my own money and it keeps going. It’s incredibly expensive to be in litigation. It’s forced a company, which my wife and I own together, into bankruptcy. It’s been really hard, and the money is not the worst part. The worst part is just knowing that you’re basically, at least in my case, filing suit against something I help create. My friends and family who invested in the company, to be pitted against them is terrible. Most of them understand, obviously. I think whether I win or lose the major battle I’ve sort of already lost and a reason for the lawsuit is that there was information in large part not true that was leaked out to media sources and has done a lot of damage to my reputation and made it very difficult to start the second company, Province. It’s been challenge. It doesn’t matter in the real world whether you win or lose in a court of law. It matters a lot whether you win in the court of public opinion and I think I may have already lost in that court and that’s been the hardest to deal with.

So it’s been really rough, but it’s also a great learning experience. I was very fortunate for 13 years to run a successful video game company and to be able to exit that. My cofounder, that’s still one of my best friends and one of the smartest and most capable people I’ve ever met and to be able to have good relationships with him and it’s a good learning experience to see it from the other side and to realize things don’t always work out that way. When you’ve been through something like what I’ve been through you can certainly empathize with a lot of others who’ve had experiences like that. So anyway, thanks for letting me vent.

Matthew: I appreciate that Dooma. I appreciate you giving the details and some context there. That really helps people understand what happened, because we hear a little bit here and there, but it’s great to get some more straight from the horse’s mouth, and we wish you the best on that. I mean, that sounds very taxing on you personally, you and your wife. I hope that there’s a revolution soon. Let’s move on to the next chapter. Let’s talk about Province Brands. Tell us about that.

Dooma: Province is pretty unique. There’s really not a lot like it out there. We are one of the first products companies in Canada. What we’re making is something truly revolutionary. Imagine a world where there were no psychoactives. Just no one ever figured it out. No tobacco, no alcohol, no coffee, no anti-depressants, no stimulants, no anti-psychotics, none of that stuff. That world would probably be a boring world, and in a lot of ways it would be worse than the world we live in. Imagine that a flying saucer came and the aliens showed up and they’re like, hey humans, check all this stuff out and they gave us everything. Crystal meth, heroine, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, coffee, all of these and they flew back into space.

Then it was up to the governments of the world to decide what are we going to do with all of this stuff that the aliens left behind. What will they decide. I’m pretty sure that there’s no way in hell that they would make marijuana illegal. They would do a cost benefit analysis because obviously a lot of these things have benefits. A lot of psychoactives are really important for treating ailments. Anti-depressants save people’s lives, prevents them from committing suicide. That’s a perfect example of a psychoactive that has a very strong social and individual benefit. I think they’d do a cost benefit analysis. I think they’d find that things like marijuana should be legal. I’m also pretty certain that when it came to alcohol it probably wouldn’t pass the test. I think it’s very unlikely that alcohol would not be legal.

Why is it that alcohol is a $1.2 trillion industry? It’s so huge. It brings people together. It enriches our lives in so many ways. It’s got this pass. A pass like a get out of jail free pass because it has been around for so long. You could think of alcohol as sort of being grandfathered in. Up until now there really hasn’t been anything which could be legal, which could be a substitutional product. Again, to go back to these hypothetical scenarios, imagine a world where that wasn’t the case, where alcohol wasn’t grandfathered in and maybe there was something different. Imagine what the healthcare costs would be like in that world. When you go to the hospital now you’re paying your bill, but you’re also paying for alcohol because you’re paying for the person who drank too much and crashed his car or the person he crashed it into. You’re paying for the person who is possibly gotten cancer. Alcohol causes eight types of cancer and it’s not if, it’s a when. If you drink alcohol and you live long enough, it will give you cancer.

Heart disease, liver failure, depression, dementia, it contributes to so many ailments and has such a burden on our society. I think a lot of people just look at this and say, that’s the way it is. Me, I’m an entrepreneur, and I think where others may just see a cold beer, I saw an opportunity to change the world. I knew right away that it wasn’t going to be with smoked marijuana, because let’s face it, nobody likes to step outside to smoke. I don’t think that product is going to go away, but it’s not going to be the thing that replaces alcohol. Besides, smoking marijuana isn’t all that good for you anyways. The rolling paper, if you’re making a joint, could be carcinogenic. It contributes to bronchitis and myocardium infractions, all these different things, pneumonia. It’s unpredictable. It’s unreliable. It’s very confusing with all of these different strains of cannabis that you have to learn about, what all these different names mean.

There’s also the experiential aspect. Marijuana, it feels great. I love it, but it doesn’t have that sort of feeling quality that you get with alcohol, the mainstream appeal. Let’s take another example. Alcohol is a $1.2 trillion industry. What about the other legal beverage psychoactive, which is coffee or caffeine. Both are consumed primarily by adults. Both are consumed socially in a bar, in the case of alcohol or in a café in the case of coffee. Why is it that alcohol is a $1.2 trillion dollars whereas coffee does about $200 billion a year. Why is it that people are willing to pay six times more for alcohol than coffee. Matt, what do you think?

Matthew: I think the perceived value from a craft beer or a high end spirit is something people are willing to pay up for if it delivers on what they think it will. What do you think?

Dooma: Yeah that’s good. What do you mean it delivers on what they think it will? What are they looking for?

Matthew: It’s more of a euphoric sensation versus caffeine which is like let’s crack the whip, like a focusing drug.

Dooma: Yeah. It comes down to different sensations. I mean, alcohol has a sensation such that it’s totally normal to go to a bar and have three drinks, but if you go to a café and have three coffees in a row, you’re kind of weird. People don’t really do that. I think that that’s also one of the issues that cannabis has to face. At Province we do make beverages, but we’ll talk about that in a little bit. We’re not the first, but we have a very different approach. I think part of our approach is solving a lot of the problems that the other cannabis beverages have. Not the least of which is the onset time. You drink any marijuana beverage it’s going to take an hour, an hour and a half to hit you. That’s a long time. It’s like you go to your business drinks you don’t feel anything until you’re driving home. Because of the way marijuana is metabolized when it’s drank, it goes through your liver. It creates a metabolite called 11 hydroxy THC, which has different properties from cannabis when it’s smoked. As a result, a single serving of marijuana when consumed as a beverage could keep you intoxicated for six hours or more, which doesn’t mesh with how we like to drink. At some point you have to drive home. You don’t want to be intoxicated for that long.

We like to self-titrate. We like to go to the bar and get another drink every so often, because that’s social, otherwise you would have to talk to the girl you’re on the date with. Also another issue is the calories. Most of these cannabis beverages are basically soda pops and juices to which they’ve added marijuana oil. When you do that you have to cover up the taste of the marijuana oil, and to do that you end up adding a lot of sugar. So it’s not uncommon for a single cannabis beverage to have three or four hundred calories, which is kind of insane.

At Province what we’re doing is basically coming up with solutions to these problems. We make beverages. We basically have a technology that allows us to brew and distill cannabis to make beverages that are alcohol free for the most part and that are designed to intoxicate using marijuana or its cannabinoids and which are designed to take on the $1.2 trillion alcohol industry. I know that’s a really bold thing to say, but think about it for a minute. Alcohol or adult beverages in general, this is an industry which really hasn’t seen a lot of innovation in the past several centuries. If you walked into a bar in the year 1800, what you’d get then is pretty much what you get now.

At Province we’ve developed a patent pending process to actually brew a beer from cannabis. That’s pretty interesting. Why does that matter? Well, let’s take an example from Japan. In Japan Kirin figured out how to make a beer from soybeans. They put it on the market and you know what, people liked it. When others wanted to make their own soybean beer to compete they found that Kirin had surrounded it with this sweet of pence, and as a result there are still to this day companies who pay a licensing fee to Kirin in order to make and sell their own soybean beers to compete. In the same way, Province intents to own this entire category of beer brewed from cannabis, whether it’s help or marijuana, either type of cannabis, whether it’s alcohol free like almost all of our products, in which case it intoxicates you using marijuana or cannabinoids from the marijuana plant, or whether it’s an old fashioned beer that does contain alcohol. We will make just one of those for a lot of reasons, but the main reason being to gain market acceptance.

If you’re not used to drinking cannabis, you’re going to a bar every day, this is a way you can drink cannabis. It’s made from hemp. It has no marijuana in it. The only psychoactive element is the alcohol, but you can get used to the flavor. You can get used to drinking a beer brewed from cannabis and then maybe when you walk into the dispensary and you see a bunch of stuff you’ve never heard of, but there’s one bottle on the shelf that looks familiar and there’s a brand that you might have tried once before at your local bar, that’s probably the brand you’re going to pick. That’s why we make the one product that has alcohol in it. Because we brew from cannabis, our products are naturally low calorie. We clock in at about 60 calories for one of our beers, 80 calories for another and we are developing a gin which has 10 calories per 1 ½ ounce serving. They are low sugar, low carb. They’re almost entirely, almost all of our products are gluten free. They’re (32.06 unclear) too, actually. From a high level that’s sort of what we’re doing and what we’re developing at Province. So, our product is designed to solve a lot of the problems that the alcohol industry causes and also a lot of the problems that other marijuana beverages face.

Matthew: How do you arrive at the come on of the experience? You were saying the problem before is that if you were to take a cannabis infused beverage, a traditional cannabis infused beverage, it might be an hour and a half before the come on starts. How do you change that around so it’s more similar to alcohol in that the experience is faster?

Dooma: There’s a lot of technologies that people are using to do stuff like this. The particular technology we use is an excipients that we add into the product. It’s a natural excipients. It is something that could be grown organically. It basically changes the way your body processes the cannabis so you process most of it before it gets into your liver. As a result, you start feeling that sensation as quickly as you would start feeling alcohol. It does grow in intensity in a slightly different way than alcohol does, but it’s going to peak and hit you with a dose response curve very similar to that of alcohol.

Matthew: Okay, interesting. In terms of dosage, considering people metabolize cannabis at different rates, some are fast metabolizers, slow metabolizers, but at least that’s consistence. If you’re a fast metabolizer, you’re pretty much always going to be a fast metabolizer, but what are you thinking in terms of dosaging to arrive at what people want their experience to be?

Dooma: I love this question. I’m going to go on my little soapbox for a moment, but I think we’re thinking of dosage all wrong in the cannabis industry. With alcohol it’s so simple. You pick up a beer and it says 6 percent ABV, which stands for alcohol by volume. You pick up a spirit and it’s 80 proof, which for some reason is twice as much alcohol it has in it, which is a little confusing, but most people who drink know what that means. That makes sense when it comes to alcohol because alcohol is a single active ingredient psychoactive. The only thing that is going to intoxicate you in that alcohol is the ethanol. With cannabis it doesn’t work like that.

With cannabis you have 144 different phytocannabinoids. You have all these terpenes and both the intensity and the type of effect you get from cannabis is dependent on a multitude of different compounds. Most states and most countries where medical marijuana is legal have gravitated towards an approach where they measure the dosage based on the percentage of just one of those compounds, the tetrahydracannabinol. That’s not a problem per se, but it’s not a very accurate measure of how strong the product is. If I had, let’s say, two vials and both of them contained 10 milligrams of THC and nothing else. They were completely empty other than that. One of the vials I added (35.43 unclear) and I gave both of them to a consumer . The response from the one to which I added a little bit of cannabichromene would be different and it would be more intense and more intoxicating than to the one which only had the THC.

That’s my message is that you shouldn’t really think of dosage in terms of THC because it’s not the only thing that’s affecting the way that you feel. To go back to our products, our goal is to refocus the industry when it comes to thinking about dosage in a very fundamental way. We dose all of our products such that one beer or one shot of our gin is intended to intoxicate you, if you’ve consumed cannabis, and that’s a very important if, about the same amount as one alcohol beer or one shot of gin would intoxicate you if you’ve consumed alcohol before. There is some aspect there of habituation and certainly just as you can become habituated to alcohol—I remember the first time I drank booze I was 11 or something and I had one beer and my parents gave it to me and drank it and I was retarded. I was out of my mind from one beer. Nowadays, one beer, I don’t even feel it.

The same is true for cannabis. If you’ve never consumed cannabis before and you take one of our beers, you’re going to get pretty rocked, but if you’re a normal consumer you probably don’t even feel that first one, but the second one does a pretty good job and we want to make it so you drink the whole six pack. You go back for multiple drinks at the bar, if this product could ever be sold at bars, because we want to encourage social consumption and responsible consumption. If you just take one and you’re rocked all night, that isn’t either of those in my mind.

Just to go back to the dosing thing one more time, I think the way we like to think about it is the dosage is really important, but it’s not the most important part. If you look at alcohol as an example, if what we cared about was how strong was the drink, then the most expensive alcohol in the world would be Everclear and it’s not. Everclear is one of the cheapest, even though it contains the most intoxicating, it contains the most ethanol, it’s one of the cheapest alcohols you can get. What’s expensive? It’s stuff that contains very little intoxicant. Stuff like Opus 1, fine wines and champagnes are really expensive. We’re willing to pay a lot more, even though they contain very little of the intoxicant. Scotches that are 40 percent alcohol by volume, we’re willing to pay a lot of money for a fine scotch. The fact that if it had a little more alcohol in it that wouldn’t necessarily make us want to pay more.

In cannabis we need to get away from this mentality that something that contains more THC or more psychoactive compounds is somehow better than something that contains less. It’s about the full picture. It’s about the terpenes. It’s about the experience. It’s about the flavor. It’s about so much more than the strength. I think this mentality comes out of this drug dealer mentality. If I was a drug dealer back when cannabis was illegal and I wanted to maximize my profits, I would want to get as much, as strongest weed I could put in my backpack and smuggle from California to wherever I was going to go sell it. For me, I was valuing strength. I wanted to have the most active ingredient and the smallest possible physical space. That would make me the most money, also limit the chance that I’m going to get caught because I could carry another backpack. That mentality needs to shift as we move away from an illegal system to a legal system.

I sort of wonder, I wasn’t around then, but I bet in 1934 when alcohol prohibition ended I bet there was this similar thing. Back in the thirties during prohibition, everyone was making moonshine, which is pretty strong. It was the same idea. You wanted the strongest booze you could pile in the back of your car and smuggle across state lines or wherever and that is what you valued. Over time we evolved to a taste for the finer things in life and to appreciate the other aspects. So we really focus on making products that express quality across the board as opposed to just being the strongest thing.

Matthew: It makes a lot of sense. I mean, it’s really about how the customer frames the whole situation in their mind. What’s my expectation? How does this drink deliver in terms of my expectation? Then the consistency like how often can I repeat this over and over again where I get predictable results. That is a big part of puzzle. I am definitely guilty of not thinking about it, but if you can crack that I could see where you’d definitely make a dent in the alcohol market share. I did hear a professor once at a university talk about the same idea that you were talking about is that when there’s a drug that’s illegal, was formally legal and then it’s illegal, it becomes much more concentrated and potent to maximize taking it across state lines or wherever it has to be transported. You said you need to look no further than a college football game where beer is legal in the parking lot, but oftentimes there’s no booze in the stadium. So instead of smuggling beer into the stadium, people smuggle in—

Dooma: A flask.

Matthew: Yeah, a flask of alcohol. I was like wow that’s pretty similar to what you’re talking about and definitely you can see a lot of proof of that idea around.

Dooma: Yeah I love that. The flask is actually a really good metaphor that I never thought of before. I’m going to use that.

Matthew: What other interesting ingredients are in your drinks Dooma?

Dooma: I think what’s more interesting is what ingredients are not in our drinks. We have a patent pending process for actually brewing a beer from cannabis. That means we brew the beer actually from the cannabis, not from barley, and when you don’t use barley you don’t have any gluten. So if you have celiac disease or gluten free, most of our beers won’t bother you at all. Also we don’t add sugar or other sweeteners or flavorings. Our beers are lower calorie and as a result should be healthier for you than most other marijuana beverages. Our products are very simple. They’re craft beer is designed from quality ingredients and very few ingredients.

The only ingredients in our beers are cannabis, obviously, water, because you have to have water, brewer’s yeast and a little bit of hops because you need hops to make it a beer. There are some trace amounts of excipients that help with the dose response curve. Those are all natural and organic as well, and that is it.

Matthew: So again, the excipients are something that kind of makes a more predictable delivery, accelerated delivery response.

Dooma: That’s right. We use excipients for modifying the dose response curve to make it more similar to alcohol.

Matthew: Okay. What’s the next steps here in Canada that you’re going to be doing to bring Province drinks to markets?

Dooma: Since founding the company we have been working really hard to figure out how to do this. It’s not an easy thing. When you think about brewing beer you typically think about starting with grains because they have carbohydrates. Those carbohydrates can ferment into sugars and the sugars can then ferment into alcohol in the brewing process. It took a lot of work to be able to brew something from a starting material that does not contain carbohydrates. This is a real challenge. Then once you figured that out, making it taste amazing was even harder. I’m happy to say that we have had a really positive response in the past few tastings that we’ve organized to our product. That says to me that the next steps are probably a little more refining on the flavoring and then putting this into the market.

I’ll just tell you a little story to give you an idea of what we’ve experienced on the tasting perspective. We work with a brewer who is based in Colorado. Went down to his brewery and he had prepared a batch of the product for us, and went and picked it up and I was walking out the door, put it in the truck. He said, hey can two of my bartenders try this. I was like, yeah I mean, why didn’t you give it to them before. Didn’t you try it? He’s like, no I never tried it. I didn’t know how much you had and I didn’t want to waste it. Alright let’s do this. We poured four glasses and cheers and take a drink. This was made from hemp and not from marijuana and it had alcohol in it, as I mentioned. We do one product that’s made from hemp instead of marijuana that has about a 6 ½ percent ABV, and that’s an introduction to our product for people who enjoy alcohol.

At any rate, we did cheers. We had a drink and I’m holding it in my mouth and I just don’t know what to say because I’m honest with you. Prior to this, the past five batches we had done did not taste very good, and in fact they tasted a lot like rotten broccoli. I was sort of expecting a little bit more of the same. Actually it wasn’t that bad, but I wasn’t really sure because these guys are the real beer connoisseurs, and the female bartender finishes her drink and she says, when can we get a keg of that and the male bartender says yeah I would pay for that. That’s great. What is it. I was like, oh my god thank you. It was amazing. This bar is attached to a brew house and this brew house is known for brewing these really crazy experimental beers, and there’s four customers sitting right there. Hey, we want to try, because these guys go to this bar to try the new hot beer. They want to know what it is.

I was like, sure. We poured them some beers. Two guys across the bar want to try too. Gave out two beers to those guys and everyone drinks. They finish their glass and the brewer can’t hold it in anymore. He says alright guys, what do you think you were drinking. Customer is like, a pilsner. He’s like, yeah it’s a pilsner, but let me give you a hint. This beer is made from a starting material that you’ve never had in a beer before. One of the customers is like what is it millet, which is a grain, millet. I can’t hold it in anymore so I’m like guys, what you just drank was the first beer in the world ever brewed from cannabis. Then they freak out. The guy’s like what! Is this going to get me high? Then the other guy is like wait, I have to take a drug test for work. Then I have to say, listen. This is made from hemp, not marijuana. It will not impact your drug test and it will not get you high. The only intoxicant in this is the alcohol and they loved it.

I felt like I had had a baby, but it was like a beer baby. It was so weird. This weird moment of pride and excitement. We’ve made a lot of progress. After that we did a bunch of tastings in Toronto. Got really favorable response from those. We need to tweak a few things to the flavor profile, but we’re pretty close. The next steps immediately for the company are firstly to put an alcohol product on the market here in Canada, which is not as easy as it seems. In the US you can brew and just put it on a shelf somewhere. In Canada you have to submit for approval, which we’re certain we’ll get, but it could take about three months. We’ll be pretty close to submitting that.

Similarly to figure out how to get our cannabis, marijuana version for sale in a place where it’s legal to do that. Marijuana beverages and edibles have not been legalized yet in Canada. So, as of right now the product would not be legal for sale. The marijuana version of the product would not be legal for sale in Canada, although we could manufacture it here and ship it to various countries in Europe where it would be legal, and we’re just waiting for recreational legalization to hit and following that, beverages to be legalized so that we can sell our products here in Canada. In the meantime we’re building the world’s first cannabis brewery. Nothing like this has been built before. It is groundbreaking. An offer was just put in on a space that will allow us to build 100,000 square foot brewery, which is truly game changing. We’re very excited with that as well. Those are probably the next steps for us right now in the short term.

Matthew: You mentioned your first couple iterations tasted like broccoli or something undesirable you wouldn’t want to drink. Do you have someone on the team? Can you tell us a little about your cofounders or team members that maybe have specializations in different areas that help you bring the product to market in a way that you think will make it successful?

Dooma: Yeah, we have a world class team, although you do not have to be any kind of an expert to know that our early iterations tasted terrible and they were really bad. One of my cofounders started a gin brand and did pretty well, and he sold that company. Following that, he created a distillery and launched a vodka brand that is a household name vodka and became a worldwide brand, worldwide bestselling brand and then sold that to one of the largest alcohol companies in the world in an absolutely tremendous exit for himself. He’s full time with me in this venture. Has tremendous experience in the alcohol industry.

Also my brother-in-law, who is an advisor to our company, created the bestselling ultra premium vodka in Canada and got that through the distribution system here in Canada with the (50.42 unclear) Alcohol Monopolies, and got that into every providence and territory in the country. We have a few folks with a lot of alcohol experience. Then we have folks with a lot of cannabis experience. One of my cofounders has won now 22 Cannabis Cups, owns a dispensary in California and also one in Las Vegas. Another cofounder was formally an in-house counsel for Privateer and also worked very heavily on their Marley Naturals brand. A really amazing group of founders, a great team.

One of our scientists has an incredible depth of knowledge on chemical engineering and chemistry that’s enabled us to get as far as we have. He’s also really good at managing teams. We have our own in-house product designer and graphic designer who is incredibly well known, has launched products that sold in Nikea and (51.45 unclear) and actually designed the primary design work for an Audi automobile that went to market. So a really well know designer. I think when it comes to marketing and branding if it’s not done in-house, it’s done in the outhouse. Obviously we will work with a lot of outsource advertising agencies, etcetera, but when it comes to actually figuring out the branding, what the brand is going to look like, what it’s going to stand for, we do all that in-house and have our own two person team that’s managing that.

We are right now 11 entrepreneurs and early stage employees at Province, which is a reasonable number of people. Between us we have had four successful exits. We’ve had 14 years experience in the alcohol industry, 13 years experience in the cannabis industry. If you add it all up collectively for previous projects we’ve raised more than $75 million. So, it’s a group of guys who really know how, guys and girls, to put a business together.

Matthew: Where are you in the fundraising process right now?

Dooma: We are in a very unique situation. In my previous business in the United States and for all the entrepreneurs who are listening who are in the United States, it’s a lot different up here in Canada. You have access to things. Because cannabis is federally legal for medical purposes in Canada, and has been since 2001, you have sort of a support system that’s grown up around this industry that you don’t have in the United States, and that enables us to do things that you couldn’t really do in the United States. For example, our law firm is Bennett Jones, which is a major international law firm with offices in nine countries. You can’t really work with those big international law firms as easily in the United States.

In Canada there’s a whole industry that has grown up around supporting marijuana companies, mostly medical marijuana companies in the capital market and helping them with fundraising. So, we’ve been very fortunate at Province to attract the attention of Thought Launch Capital Advisory to help us with our fundraising. These guys are a well known firm out here. They just completed a very successful and substantial fundraise for one of the major licensed producers here in Canada. They’re sort of taking the lead on fundraising efforts, which is great for me as a CEO because it enables me to spend a lot of my time doing things other than raising money. I always believe that a CEO’s job is to raise money for their company, and I think to some extent that’s always true, but you can get a lot of help from that that you can’t ordinarily get in the United States.

We will be attending the ArcView Conference here in Toronto. We’ll be presenting. We were selected to pitch on stage so we will be presenting at that event. We have a little bit of money left in our current round. I expect shortly after ArcView it will be complete, but we are going to open another round around September/October timeframe in which we’ll raise about $10 million. Fundraising is something we’re always doing. The cost of putting together the world’s first cannabis brewery is not inexpensive. We’re looking at needing to raise, assuming revenue hits the targets we’ve set out for ourselves, we would need to raise an additional $40-$50 million Canadian dollars over the next three years.

Matthew: That ArcView, which is a fundraising event for angel investors in the cannabis industry to come together with entrepreneurs. That is July 16-18 in Toronto for accredited investors that are listening, outside of Canada as well that might be interested in going. You’re doing a lot of fundraising. It sounds a lot different. I would love to dive into that, but that’s really not what we’re talking about here, but that seems like a totally different process from what we’re used to talking about. That’s interesting.

Dooma: It is a lot better. I’ll just say on the ArcView front, to date our single largest investor in Province is someone that we met at the ArcView event in Los Angeles. If anyone out there is an entrepreneur raising money for their company or an accredited investor looking for the best deal flow in the country or in the world, I think ArcView is probably the top spot. I’m a big supporter. They don’t pay me to say this, but I really believe in the organization and it’s done a lot for me.

Matthew: Great. Before we close let me ask you a couple of personal development questions. Is there a book you would recommend to CannaInsider listeners that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share?

Dooma: If you are in this industry or thinking about getting into this industry and you have not read The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, you should do that right away before you do anything else. Have you read it Matt?

Matthew: I haven’t read it, but is this Andresson Horowitz the VC Firm?

Dooma: Exactly, and also Loud Cloud and Opswear. He’s a very successful entrepreneur. He breaks it down in a way that it was so eye opening. I read it recently actually. I read it just when I was starting up Province. I was like okay, entrepreneurship it means so many different things to so many different people. There’s a whole class of people for whom entrepreneurship means let’s just do this easy thing, make some easy money like flipping houses, buying apartment buildings. That’s entrepreneurship. You can do that, but if you really want to change the world, if you really want to do something that is fundamentally going to change the direction of society, that’s a hard thing and it’s not going to be easy.

Running a business is never easy. Running that kind of a business is almost impossible. The number of hurdles that you have to face and the challenges associated with operating a business in any industry, specially one that’s trying to make change, is overwhelming. To do that, to do anything in cannabis you’re facing so many challenges. I mean, this is the hottest industry in the world right now, bar none, but it is also the most difficult industry in which to succeed. So I think that book is amazing. The other one that I would recommend also to anyone who wants to start a company in cannabis is by Ashley Vance and it’s the Elon Musk biography. (59.00 audio cuts) how to run your own business by watching how he has run his and started his so successfully.

Matthew: I got the whole answer there for the first book, but then the whole second part on your second book just totally dropped out. So, let’s just do this. You just jump in and go, and there’s a second book.

Dooma: The second book I would recommend is Ashley Vance’s biography of Elon Musk. He is such a phenomenally talented entrepreneur and there’s so much you can learn about starting and operating your own business by seeing how he has done it so incredibly successfully.

Matthew: He made a cameo appearance in this comedy called Why Him with James Franco. I don’t know if you’ve saw that, but it’s a really funny movie. James Franco is like this Silicon Valley entrepreneur that’s super rich. If anybody missed that, it’s just really worth watching on Netflix or Amazon streaming or something. It’s really good. Why Him? Let me ask you another question here. Is there a tool, web-based or otherwise, you use weekly or daily that you consider very useful that you would recommend?

Dooma: Yeah I could do a whole podcast on this, but I’ll try to keep it short. We use Smart Sheet at Province. It’s a fantastic tool. It’s great for long term planning and project management. There’s this debate. There’s two different schools of thought around project management. One group of people likes the Waterfall where you do a GANT chart and plan things out well in advance. The other group of people like the ConBon boards and the Agile workflow. They argue about these different sort of approaches to productivity on the internet all day and all night. What’s so great about Smart Sheet is you can do them both.

It has a ConBon functionality. It also has GANT chart functionality. It is a really amazing tool. I love it. It reminds me, in the video game business we used tools like Jira and Greenhopper. Those tools were amazing for tracking productivity, but they cost an insane amount of money. For just a tiny fraction of what we would pay for those productivity tools, Smart Sheet does almost all the same thing. So, I think it’s way ahead of its time. It’s a great tool. We also use Slack. If anyone from a company sends me an email, I delete it without reading it. Slack is the only way I communicate on phone or in person with people who are team members at Province. I think it’s very efficient as a great way to clean out your inbox and also a great way to foster communication with folks who may not be sitting right next to you.

Matthew: Why has it transformed your life compared to email? What do you think the benefit is for Slack?

Dooma: I don’t have any junk in my email, first of all. I never give out my personal email on any of those web things, like when you buy something and they want an email address, I never get it. I don’t get any span, but even without spam I get 200-400 emails a day, mostly from outside folks. It’s not feasible for me to respond to all of them in the same day. So, if people from my company need something from me and they send me an email, it just gets caught in that clutter and it gets weighed down and it adds to that clutter. The most important thing to me are my team and my employees and what they need. That always has to be first priority, but it saves trouble reading through all my email looking for things that were sent for people in my company because when people need something from me, they either ask me in person or they put it in Slack and I can see it right away or they put it in Smart Sheet.

If someone is asking for me to do something that I can’t do in a split second, it typically ends up in Smart Sheet and then the task gets done because that’s the tool we use for tracking all of our tasks. I think what makes Slack amazing from my perspective is just the ability to have a different way. If you think about it email was made a long time ago and it was made for some kind of military defense purpose. It’s a really inefficient way to communicate. You got to type in someone’s ID, which is their email address. Then you have to decide what you’re going to call this thing that you’re going to say to them, so that’s your subject heading. You have to say “Dear so and so” and write it like a paragraph format. If there’s other people, you have to decide who to copy. There’s a bunch of buttons to press along the way to making that happen. With Slack, you just open the window, type the thing and send it and it doesn’t have to be fully formed. It doesn’t have to have as many steps involved in communicating. I just find it way more efficient, so I’m a big fan of that tool as well.

Matthew: Dooma, what’s the best way for listeners to connect with you and find you online?

Dooma: We have a website, www.provincebrands.com, there’s nothing on there and there probably won’t be anything on there until we’re ready to launch our products, but in the meantime it will allow you to put in your email address. If you put your email address there, we will get in touch with you. I promise. We’re very good about that, or you can find me basically on every social media platform; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and you can find Province brands on all of those platforms as well. If you direct message us on any of those, we will get back to you. We’re very good at following up with folks.

Matthew: Great. Dooma, thanks so much for coming on and telling us about Province and good luck with everything you’re working on.

Dooma: Same to you man. Thanks for this opportunity. It really means a lot to me and I really enjoyed it.


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