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Warren Bravo is CEO of Green Relief in Ontario Canada. Warren and his partners embarked on a 2.5-year journey to master growing cannabis in an aquaponics system.
Most remarkable is Warren’s ability to leverage his aquaponics system to produce cannabis for under one dollar per gram. Growers of tomorrow or going to be competing with people like Warren and will most likely will go out of business unless they are planning now to produce quality cannabis at massive scale.
[1:25]: Warren Bravo’s background and operation
[5:30]: What is aquaponics?
[11:59]: The business side of aquaponics
[19:13]: Other sustainability measures
[27:00]: Nanobubbling and other aquaponics grow details
[33:00]: University Light Study [36:19]: Extraction technology
[40:30]: Advice for innovators and entrepreneurs
[43:10]: Warren’s recommendations and words of wisdom
Learn more at
What are the five trends disrupting the cannabis industry?
Find out with your free report at https://www.cannainsider.com/trends
Matthew: The late Steve Jobs challenged all of us to think differently. One cannabis entrepreneur in Canada is doing just that. Warren Bravo is here to tell us how he is using aquaponics in his cannabis grow to be more sustainable and resourceful. Warren, welcome to CannaInsider.
Warren: Thank you very much, Matt. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me on.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography; where are you in the world today?
Warren: We’re in beautiful Hamilton, or just outside beautiful Hamilton, in Southern Ontario. We are in kind of the hub, the Golden Horseshoe, the major population of Canada. We’re about 40-45 minutes west of Toronto.
Matthew: And I am in Central Mexico right now and it’s been invaded by Canucks who are seeking sun and shelter from the snow down here. It’s interesting to see.
Warren: I wish I was there, and I don’t blame then a bit. It’s still bloody cold up here. We’re waiting, with today being the first day of spring, looking forward to that spring weather up here.
Matthew: So what is Green Relief? Can you introduce what you do?
Warren: Yeah. So Green Relief is the only scaled North American producer of medical cannabis using aquaponics as their growing medium. We are an environmentally and socially responsible company. We are here to help people with the medicinal value of the cannabis plant, and also trying to be a model of environmental stewardship. We want to help people, and we want to help the environment.
Matthew: And what’s your background? What brought you to start Green Relief?
Warren: I’m a third generation concrete contractor, so I grew up in the construction world. Right out of my post-secondary education, right into the family business. Commercial industrial institutional concrete floors, so that’s what I’ve done. I’ve poured concrete all of my life. Cannabis is something new for me, especially the aquaponics portion of it. I’ve been around cannabis all my life, but certainly as a business this is something new and exciting. Certainly different than the construction world that I grew up in.
Matthew: I see these little video clips on like Business Insider and Tech Insider, of these robots that are laying bricks and doing interesting things with concrete. Making houses in like twelve hours, or at least the shell of the house. What do you think about all that? Is that upon us?
Warren: Well it’s the evolution. In the construction game, 80% of your cost is labor in most cases, whether you’re a subcontractor like I was. I wasn’t the big general contractor putting up the buildings, I was just a small cog in a big wheel on most projects. But I poured all the floors of all these arena complexes and shopping malls and auto-making plants and other institutional-type jobs. I think it’s the evolution, as all industries, and science, at the end of the day, rules the day, so I think it’s a step in the right direction. Quality and consistency, that’s got to be everyone’s motto, no matter what business you’re in. I think it’s certainly bringing some value into the construction world.
Matthew: Yeah. So how big is your grow up there in Ontario?
Warren: Currently, we’re in a 32,000 square foot building and only have about 4,500 plants inside that 32,000 square feet. Building One is a part of the bigger-picture model for the property that I’m on. I’m on a 50 acre property here outside of Hamilton, Ontario, where we planned three buildings for this site. So Building One was designed as part of three buildings, a larger project. So currently 4,500 plants. It was actually 6,000 plants, but I’ve had to abandon one of my grow rooms to set up a temporary laboratory and extraction area for cannabis oil. We’re in the process of just finalizing our cannabis oil sales license. We should have that any day, so we are very excited about that. We’re going to be expanding. We just started construction on our Phase Two second building, which is 210,000 square feet, giving me 100,000 square feet of canopy, which equates to 100,000 plants. So that’s the next part of the equation of the growth of this specific site, but I also have many satellite models being built in different provinces here in Canada currently as well.
Matthew: Okay. You’re doing some really interesting stuff with aquaponics and I want to dive into that, but before I do, can you remind listeners what that term aquaponics means, and specifically, just an overview of how that’s integrated into your grow?
Warren: Sure. Aquaponics is the symbiotic relationship between fish, water, and plants. It’s a natural ecosystem. We’ve all heard and know about hydroponics, using flood and drain, or deep water culture grow using commercial fertilizers. Well, I don’t use commercial fertilizers in my grow. We use fish and fish waste, fish manure, broken down naturally, as I said, in an ecosystem, where the nitrification process is allowed to happen with the fish manure, converting a nitrite to a nitrate. Nitrates being a useable plant food, in a closed loop, recirculating system, using 90% less water than any other conventional type of growing or any other type of agriculture used in the world today. We’re sustainable; it is the most sustainable form of agriculture in the world today.
Matthew: What was the impetus to integrate aquaponic technology into your grow?
Warren: Well, it all started with an idea from my wife, actually. On this 50 acre property, we built a house. Our home consisted of a walkout basement, and on the back of that walkout basement was going to be a small attached greenhouse with a small aquaponics system, a home use aquaponics system, in the greenhouse portion, just to grow vegetables for our family and extended family year-round. I didn’t think that I’d be… I thought, well that’s a great idea, would love to try it, love to do it. My wife is a landscape architect and she is the tree-hugger of the family. So we investigated the process a little bit, started working with Nelson and Paid Aquaponics from Wisconsin, and the idea just morphed into what we’re doing now, into North America’s largest aquaponics grow facility. So it was just an evolution of an idea.
Matthew: And the fish you grow are mako sharks, correct? I’m just kidding. What kind of fish are they?
Warren: Yeah, mako sharks and piranha. No, they’re actually a tilapia. The aquaculture in an aquaponics system has to match the root temperature of the plant that you’re growing. Although tilapia, people have very strong opinions about the fish that they consume or they eat, tilapia is a good solid source of protein, kind of a medium grade fish, as opposed to say, a higher end fish like a trout or a bass or perch, other things that are more sale-able. But aquaponics, with the cannabis plant and the root temperature of cannabis, lends itself very well to a tilapia water temperature. So tilapia like a 68 to 82 degree water temperature, and cannabis plant roots hover around 70-71 degrees Fahrenheit. So the tilapia are a natural fit for that production. But also, tilapia, we’ll say, has been tried and true and proven, in a farmed environment. They’re a very hardy fish. They’re very disease-resistant fish and worked out really well from an aquaponics standpoint. Currently, it’s tilapia. Building Two, the next building, will have a 10,000 square foot aquaculture experimentation area where we are going to be trying freshwater prawn or shrimp, barramundi out of Australia, koi is a possibility, there are other more sale-able fish that we could be using in the aquaponics system, but right now, what do they say? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So right now, tilapia is where we’re at.
Matthew: Now you gave a nice overview of what aquaponics are, but could you just go into a little more detail for an entry-level novice in terms of how the water gets cleaned and how that feeds the plant, exactly. What’s happening there, that interchange?
Warren: Absolutely. The fish waste is produced because we feed our fish, currently, in our 800 gallon tanks, three times a day. The fish create waste, solid waste or fish manure. Through a series of clarifying tanks, mineralizing tanks, bioreactor, off-gas tanks, basically water flowing from the fish tanks to another tank, to another tank, and all the way around through the tanks that I just mentioned. That solid waste is mineralized, converts to a nitrite. That nitrite in my bioreactor converts to a nitrate. That nitrate is a useable plant food. After the nitrate is created, it’s to the off-gas tank, where any of the remaining CO2 or ammonia that’s in the water is bubbled off, off-gassed into the air and out my HVAC system. Then basically the water flows from my off-gas tank through my growing rafts, where the plants are suspended on Styrofoam and about 20 inches of water height. So these plants that are suspended in pots on Styrofoam, the roots are allowed to just kind of dangle in the water, absorb whatever nutrient they want for whatever phase of growth they’re in. The water circulates through the plant roots, so the plant roots now are taking the nitrates out of the water, cleaning the water, returning the water directly back from the grow beds right to the fish tanks. So closed loop, recirculating system, and I’m only topping up water through evaporation and transpiration, very small volumes, at a monthly basis. So as I said, 90% less water resource than any other type of agriculture used in the world today. It’s that symbiotic relationship with fish and plants. It’s just an ecosystem. So like any freshwater lake you’ve ever taken a canoe through, and you see a lily pad growing or a bulrush or milfoil or anything that grows in water, it’s fertilized by the aquaculture, by the fish that live in that body of water. So like any freshwater lake, it’s the same ecosystem as a freshwater lake that we would be using, except our system is scale-able. It’s all about science-based systems, it’s about stocking densities, flow rates, water temperature, bacteria, parts per mil of fertilizer in the water at any given time. It’s that symbiotic relationship.
Matthew: Putting on your business owner hat, what kind of impact does aquaponics have on your bottom line, both in terms of up-front cost and then return on investment?
Warren: Well, going into this that was a big variable for us. We had an idea on how much it’s going to cost us to run the system, but now that we’ve been running for three years growing cannabis, we have the lowest cost of goods sold in the industry in Canada currently. So we are producing a gram of cannabis for $1.43 today in our small 4,500 plant grow. Once Building Two is up and we’re at our next 100,000 plants, we are well below $1.20 a gram, and when Building Three is up, we’ll be at $0.85 cents a gram cost of sales. And I don’t care how you grow cannabis, nobody in North America is producing real, organic or naturally grown product for under a dollar a gram. And keep in mind, that’s Canadian dollars, so take 30% for the American dollar.
Matthew: Wow, that’s crazy. So when you started on this journey about aquaponics, you really have to be…
Warren: Take one step back and just a quick explanation because people are going to say, well, how do you get to those numbers? Just keep in mind that 20-30 percent of the cost of goods for a cannabis plant is fertilizer. Well I have tilapia, I have fish in my system, that I sell. So it offsets all of my fertilizer costs. So I net-revenue zero from fertilizer cost standpoint, so I don’t have any fertilizer costs, so there’s 20% ahead. My grow is all LED lighting and I think we’ll talk about that a little bit later, so I’m saving a lot of hydro as well, 35% hydro cost right off the top, compared to the 1,000 watt high pressure metal highlight lights that are predominant in the industry. So from a cost to sales standpoint, we didn’t realize the impact and the cost, we actually donate all of our fish from our facility to homeless shelters in the greater Toronto area. We get a tax receipt for that, so that tax receipt does offset all of our costs for fertilizer.
Matthew: So aquaponics, you introduced it at a high level that makes sense, but there’s a lot of nitty gritty details, and you’ve got to get everything right or your fish can die or your plants don’t get the right nutrients. What did you learn about creating a successful harmony and synergy between the plants and the fish when setting this system up out of the gate?
Warren: What I learned is patience. That’s the main thing that I learned, is be patient. You can’t rush Mother Nature, nor could I rush my ecosystem or the balance of my ecosystem. It’s as I said, that symbiotic relationship with the water, plants and fish. It takes time to develop natural bacteria. Here I am, a concrete contract, third generation of pouring concrete floors. So I go in and pour a Walmart floor, we’ll say, and I’m on the end of a chute of a concrete truck, pouring a slab of concrete. Here I’ve got this concrete like pea soup, like water in the morning, and you can have a dance on it that night because it hardens that quickly. My life has been instant gratification, instant results from my construction business. Here, I really had to learn how to be patient. Took a long time for me to wrap my head around using aquaponics. But patience, once you get to that eco-balance, and once you have that fulsome system of bacteria and microbes that are generating and growing your plants, it’s such a satisfying, gratifying system, and that benefit is that I get 20-30% more product than any other grower growing this plant in the same space and in the same time frame. So there have been a few exciting developments just through osmosis and using the system that have developed out of our use of aquaponics.
Matthew: Okay. And you mentioned who you purchased it from, some company in Wisconsin. Can you say that name again?
Warren: That’s correct. It’s Nelson and Paid Aquaponics. And Rebecca Nelson and John Paid have been a huge resource for me. They spent 20 years of their life developing these aquaponics systems, turn-key aquaponics systems for vegetable production. So Green Relief was their first cannabis client. They were very reluctant dealing with me on using their aquaponics systems for cannabis, they did realize that it’s something that’s not going to go away, and it’s only going to become a larger industry, so they took a gamble on me and my word that I’m going to be doing something that’s going to be noteworthy in the industry, and something new and exciting, so Rebecca and John and I developed a very tight, very close relationship, and they have been a huge resource for me in getting to know how to grow cannabis in an aquaponics system. I gotta tell you, at the beginning of charging the system and trying to get cannabis to grow, when we told people we were growing aquaponically, we were laughed at. When I was doing my tours down in Colorado and California and Oregon. Everywhere I went, when I told people I was growing aquaponically, they said it can’t be done. They said it’s impossible, you can’t get enough parts per million of nutrient in the water, cannabis is too fast a growing plant with very specific nutrient demands at very specific phases of growth, and how do you do that aquaponically? How do you get enough nutrients in the water, and how do you adjust for those changes and grow patterns? Well, nobody wanted to take the time to figure it out. It took us two and a half years to learn how to grow cannabis successfully in aquaponics. It’s not for the squeamish. That time we spent and millions of dollars in R&D trying to figure that out. Now we have figured out, we’re the veterans in the industry, and nobody grows cannabis as naturally and prolifically as we do, all with the help of Rebecca Nelson, John Paid, many of the people who developed the aquaponics world and vegetable productions. Dr. Nick Savidov at Left Bridge University in Canada here, Dr. Racosi in the British Virgin Islands, Charlie Shultz down in Texas, all these, we’ll say, the grandfathers of the aquaponics industry. They’ve all been to our facility, they absolutely love our program and have helped us exponentially to get to where we are now. So it’s not me. I’m no academic. I’m a concrete contractor and a ham-and-egger. I’m one of those guys who has been able to take the bull by the horns and get things done, but I’m not a scientist, I don’t have a scientific bone in my body. Fortunately, I know all the people in the industry that do, and the people that work for us, the PhDs and the chemists and all the other people, a very smart, academic, dynamic young people that work here, have all helped and made us the success we are today.
Matthew: You’ve really minimized the expense of your inputs and so your cost of goods sold is really coming down, and that’s impressive. You still have some inputs left though, like electricity, and that powers the LED lights and maintaining the temperature in your grow room at different seasons. Have you thought about geothermal at all, and putting coils into the ground to use the earth’s natural temperature?
Warren: Absolutely, we looked at all of the great natural sources of energy that we can to be able to take advantage of a reduced cost of electricity. Electricity in Ontario is very expensive. Currently, we are on the grid. Our second building, we are going to be totally off the grid. We are going to be doing a microgenerating station with the use of natural gas and green environmental sustainable methods of creating electricity, all off the grid. So all of our satellite facilities, we’re building two. Anywhere else we build into the world globally will be all off the grid and not dependent on hydro usage in traditional means. So it is important for us. Geothermal, even though it is something to take advantage of from a cooling standpoint, we didn’t incorporate that into our buildings because of the green technology that we’re going to be using for generating our own power as we advance our platform here.
Matthew: Okay. You talked about your background in concrete. Have you used the knowledge of that material to do anything different in your grow, or interesting?
Warren: I can’t say that I have, because were we have fish, water, and plants, and here I pour concrete, so there’s not a lot of relativity in those two businesses. But again, trying to, being a contractor, you have to think outside the box, you have to do things differently, you have to think of ways to be efficient, and this business is about efficiencies. The cannabis business is going to be like every other business that’s out there. It’s producing the highest quality products you can and get them out the door for the least amount of cost possible. I think my construction background is going to help me with those efficiencies. That’s a huge focus for Green Relief, as we want to be one of the five or six major producers left when the dust settles in this Canadian legalization that’s going to take place. There’s going to be a culling, there’s going to be survival of the fittest, and if your cost of goods sold are not the lowest in the marketplace, then you’re going to have to say buy me out, or put me out of business, because I can’t keep up with you. So that’s what’s going to happen. This is going to be like every other business in the next five years. Right now there is a huge overdemand and undersupply. There is going to be a reconciliation in the marketplace, and I think if you don’t have the best cost to goods sold, which is what we’re shooting for, I’m just not going to be in business in five to seven years. Construction has taught me that, that’s for sure.
Matthew: I definitely agree with you there, cannabis is not a magic business. It succumbs to supply and demand dynamics like any other business, so it’s good that you’re skating to where the puck is going instead of where it is now, so kudos for that. Now, you’re very sensitive to sustainability, so I’m curious as to what kind of LED lights you use.
Warren: Well, we’ve investigated that industry to no end. We have gotten the moniker here in Canada as the LED light research guys. So we have currently four to five light manufacturers that are available on the market, and lights that are not available on the market yet, at our facility. Currently, we use and purchase Lumigrow lights from California for all of our LED lighting requirements, both their 325 watt and their 650 watt, all with three-channel adjustability with the red white and blue spectrum. We currently have five light recipes that we use, from the time that our cloning procedures take place to the time our flowering is done, and we change those light spectrums and basically give the plants a full year sun spectrum in eight weeks. Our timing from cutting to harvest is eight weeks, so we’re doing 6.7 harvests per year annually, and a lot of that simulation is done with our LED lighting. I’ve got lights from the world’s largest LED manufacturer, Ozram Lighting, has sent us lights to test for them, for the horticulture market, lights that aren’t on the market yet, lights that I can’t talk about because I’m under NDA but I can certainly tell you who I’m dealing with. There’s some major players in the lighting industry that are throwing their hat into the ring and think they can provide a light that’s going to produce superior quality plants, so we are happy to be a testing ground, because over the next three years, I need close to 50,000 LED lights with my expansions. We want to make sure we’re getting the right light at the right spectrum, and we’re excited to be developing that space.
Matthew: Circling back to how you said tilapia was a fit for the root temperature of cannabis plants, is there an opportunity to try out different fish besides the one in Australia, if you introduce like a media layer that would allow for an adjustment of temperature for the roots. Let’s say you had a much colder water fish?
Warren: So I think you’re probably talking about more of a decoupled aquaponics system, and we are testing that technology now. Right now we are trying to use as few pumps and be as sustainable as possible, because the more pumps you install, the more hydro you use, the more you play with the water, the more you try to change the natural eco balance of your bacteria, etc., then you’re putting inputs in most cases into your system. Right now we pride ourselves in the fact that we don’t use fertilizer, I don’t use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides. I have no inputs, I don’t use anything on my plants, nor do I want to play with Mother Nature and that eco balance. We are trying to do things naturally. There are advantages to lowering pH with a decoupled system, or like you said, being able to balance nutrients or play with the water or cool it down for the plant, the root temperatures. There’s lots of things we can do, but we are walking before we run. We want to make sure that we’re doing all of our changes, all of our R&D, because we’re getting better results, more effective cannabis plants, better yields, more efficacy, more terpenes, more tricombs, we’re trying to effect by that research. So we don’t just jump into things, we make sure we are making very science-based decisions on how we advance and manipulate our program. But as I said, it’s a very important focus for us not to steer too far off Mother Nature’s path in the aquaponics system because that’s the way it was intended to be used. You can grow successful plants and high-yielding, awesome quality plants, just in the way it is right now. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so they say.
Matthew: Okay, so it sounds like the more variables and temperature deltas that you introduce, the more opportunities there are for failure, and you just try to keep those to a minimum, at least right now, when everything is going well.
Warren: Well, if I’m going to make a pharmaceutical grade product, the big buzzword in the pharmaceutical world is replicate-able processes, so that’s got to start with your genetics. That’s got to start with your plants, your clones. So every day, things have to be exactly the same. If there’s human input, there is margin for error, and therefore margin for a non-replicate-able process. So I want my plants, my fish, to be the same every day, my water temperature, my humidity, my ambient temperature, all of those things, I want the same consistency every day, lights on, lights off, that way I get a consistent grow. I can time my plants and I can tell you four years from now the data I’m going to be harvesting my plants in Grow Room 4 at this time of year, so that’s how consistent we have our grow right now. Like I said, from the time I take a cutting to the time I harvest my plant is eight weeks exactly to the day. It’s very easy to figure out, it’s because I don’t screw with anything. Everything is consistent and everything is the same.
Matthew: That’s a great point, yeah. Is there any other kind of automation that you have built into your grow, because it really sounds like you have it down to a science here. Anything else you can share in that way?
Warren: There’s a ton. And not just the automation side of it, but the R&D we put in, as I said, it’s taken us a long time to grow cannabis effectively using aquaponics, because there are some manipulations in the systems that we’ve had to learn, how to naturally manipulate the system to get more phosphorus during the flowering phase, and get more potassium out of that veg into the early flowering stage, and try to manipulate some of these spikes that we need for the cannabis plant naturally. So there’s been a lot of technology, a lot of R&D. I would say the biggest thing that’s given us our biggest bump in yield would be our nanobubbling technology for our water. We have, you know, traditional deep water culture system, hydroponics, or traditional aquaponics system, you get six to eight parts per million of O2 in your water, of oxygen in your water. We have twenty parts per million of oxygen in our water, because we use nanobubbles, bubbles that are very hard to even break the surface of the water, they stay in the water 200 times longer than traditional compressed bubbling systems. We like to stay on top of the science of deep water culture, aquaculture, and aquaponics. We’ve adopted and changed some of the systems that even the manufacturer, Rebecca Nelson and John Paid, are using now, some of the technology that we developed here in their systems for the vegetable production world down south of the border. And just so I add another quick thing on the Nelson and Paid aquaponics system, Rebecca Nelson and John Paid have just been a huge asset for us in that communication and the science. Rebecca is such a science-based person and really helped us establish all the science behind the aquaponics to grow cannabis. The system is so prolific, and we’ve got this thing nailed down so well, is that I have purchased the rights for North America, for their Nelson and Paid aquaponics system, for cannabis production. So if anybody in your listening audience does want to grow cannabis aquaponically, we’ll design the system, we’ll train you how to do it, we’ll give you all of our IP, we’ll let you hit the ground running and grow aquaponically just like we do here in Canada, as well as buying the Canadian vegetable rights as well, for the Nelson and Paid system. The system is amazing and grows plants like you’ve never seen.
Matthew: Now circling back to the bubbles, the nanobubbles. The benefit there, is that it keeps the water cleaner and prevents less bacteria because of oxygen? How does that work?
Warren: So what you’re doing by oxygenating the roots of the plants, is you’re allowing more nutrient uptake. You’ve got much better plant transpiration, because you’re allowing all those… You have to think differently when you’re using aquaponics. I’m not relying on metered doses of fertilizer and these big doses of fertilizer to allow my plants to grow, or kind of messing up and putting too much phosphorus in when they needed more potassium, and vice versa. Because it’s an ecosystem, the plants are allowed to uptake what they want, when they want it, and whenever they want it. So I can have two different strains, different heights of growth, different stages of growth in the same ecosystem, and because it is a balanced ecosystem, and the bacterias and the heterotrophic and the aerobic bacterias in the water, all the conversions that are happening, the ecosystem allows the plant to take up what it wants, when it wants it, no matter what phase of growth it’s in. So it’s a very cool phenomenon. You really have to think differently aquaponics or traditional hydroponics or soil grows. We’re not doing any of the plants. Once I put them in the flowering rooms in the big aquaponics systems, my 800 gallon systems, I just leave them alone for six and a half weeks, and it doesn’t matter what phase of growth they’re in, they just grow. They grow like weeds because they’re allowed to take up what they want. For us it’s environmental. We create an environment for them to thrive with the proper ambient temperature, the proper humidity, the proper recirculating time, the proper water temperature for the roots, all consistency in the lighting, so we simulate that one year of sun wavelength, spectrum wavelength and year of growth, and environmental stressors that we induce over an eight week time frame. So it’s a ton of science and a lot to wrap our heads around, even trying to figure it out in the first place. So it’s, there’s no books, there’s no videos, there’s nothing I can watch and see how to be a successful aquaponics grower. We had to figure it out from square one. And we have. We’re the veterans of the industry now, and we’ve taken the time to do it and spent the money on the R&D to make it happen.
Matthew: Wow. That was definitely worth doing, looking at the cost of your cost per gram, for sure. And also the sustainability factor is great, and you can donate food, so there’s a lot of cascading benefits there. Now, last time I spoke with you, you mentioned a light study with a local university. Is that still going on? Is that something you can talk about?
Warren: They’ve actually just wrapped up and they’re just going to publish, going to paper shortly. They’re just compiling data, actually. So we’ve completed a light study with Gwelth University, Yoban Xiang, he’s the head of agriculture for our local agriculture university. Definitely a North American renowned ecology school, ecology and bio and eco science. They’ve been here for over six months with tests. Testing some of my plants, giving them different light frequencies, different wavelengths and intensities to find out what wavelengths and frequencies of light we can give the plants for optimum growth at whatever phase of growth the plant is in. So basically, we have a light curve for the LED light for optimum spectrum of light for whatever phase of growth the plant is in. It’s really important. Nobody has established a light curve for the cannabis plant yet, we believe we’re the first ones in the world to do so. So whatever phase of growth, if it’s a flowering plant we can crank that red up and make sure it’s getting the right intensity. All of our light racks, they’re not only just adjustable for the frequency of light, but also they’re adjustable from thirteen feet in the air to two feet off the ground, so I can also give the plants whatever intensity and micromole of light they want as well. Gwelth University was really happy about the variables. To add, a lot of growers will fix lights to the ceiling and you can’t really use the adjustability. Let’s say for instance, I want to give my plants a blue light bath for three days at the end, which is something that I actually do to my plants. So 100% blue light, but if I want to get 500 micromoles of light from my plant, I can’t keep it up six feet of the ground, because only 20% of the array of my lights are blue. So if I want to get those micromoles, I want to be able to drop those lights right on top of the plants and give them that 500 micromoles, so they’re getting all the light intensity they need to grow, to get that really nice terpene profile, and solidify those tricombs. It's been very cool working with light. Lights and HVAC, the two most important parts of your indoor growing environment.
Matthew: Yeah, you really, it sounds like, have to do develop somewhat of an obsessive nature and a deep dive into the plants. Not something you can really do lightly when looking at the aquaponics, the pH, the bacteria, the nanoparticulates, the fish, the temperature, all these things, it’s really, you’ve got a PhD in aquaponics and cannabis here, going into your learning process.
Warren: And all of that from a concrete guy who’s not an academic, this is just school of hard knocks for me, and just talking to people who are way smarter than I am. And that’s a lot of people, that’s most people, but at the end of the day, fortunately, I’ve been able to absorb it, understand it, work with people who, as I say, know the science and we’ve come a long way. Just through osmosis I’ve been able to absorb a lot of information and probably sound a lot smarter than I actually am but it’s worked really well.
Matthew: Now, you’re doing extraction. Can you tell us about what you’re doing there? Anything interesting?
Warren: I don’t know about interesting, but we do have the largest extractor we believe in Canada that’s operating. I know that one company has a larger extractor but they’re having some issues with TSSA, one of our governing bodies for pressure vessels, and the certification of, but we bought European technology. We bought an extractor that’s GMP, good manufacturing practices, being able to reach those standards for pharmaceutical GMP, because at the end of the day, we are a medical company. We want to promote and advance the science of this plant for medicinal use. So to be GMP compliant or pharmaceutical GMP compliant, we want to be able to sell our products to Pfizer, Merck, Apatex, Glaxo Smith Kline, Lilly, any of the big pharmaceutical companies, because we have that replicate-able process and consistency throughout our whole program. So we are doing CO2 supercritical extraction. European technology, as I said. All manu-computer driven. So we are doing a dual 20 liter extractor, meant for 24 hour, 7 days a week continual operation. My extractor flips from one extraction vessel to another one, keeps going back and forth, allowing us to unpack and pack the vessels and keep the machine running all the time. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough biomass to be able to keep the machine running 24/7, and we’re just days away from getting our oil licensed to be able to sell the product. We’ve had our inspection, and we’re very excited to get oils out the the marketplace, and the highly tuned refining process that we’ve been able to establish with our partners in Switzerland. So I have a Swiss partner, a company called Ifame, and they have been extracting and doing CBD extractions for well over a decade. They’ve got the science down, they have the medical devices, the applications, the different types of delivery systems, and the recipes for all those. I built my laboratory with Bookey equipment, just like they have their laboratory equipment in Switzerland, so we are exchanging information. Actually, next week I have one of my PhDs and chemists going over to be trained on some chromatography and some other advancements in the separation world of the cannabis wax and the oil. So very exciting stuff. Cannabis oil is going to be 90% of our business moving forward.
Matthew: Wow. Okay, and what about the cost per gram of oil? Is that coming down as well, just like your cost of production for cannabis flower?
Warren: We will be working diligently to get the cost per gram of production down. Now, we haven’t been on a regular production path because, as I said, we’ve been gearing up and just had our oil sales license inspection by Health Canada about three weeks ago. We believe the inspectors have passed our file on to Ottawa, to Health Canada, for the application and the amendment to our license to allow sales of our cannabis oil. We’re waiting patiently. We can’t get into a regular rhythm until we have our sales production, our sales license. So I can’t really talk too much about costs right now. I know just because of the equipment, the technology that we’ve latched onto in the supercritical world, we are getting 25% finished product from our biomass. So we’re well above industry standards. This machine was manufactured and designed specifically for cannabis in Northern Italy, and nobody else has any technology that’s even close to it in North America. That’s including the Apex and Watters machines that are predominantly used out there. We’re ahead of the curve in the cannabis oil production world.
Matthew: What advice would you give to growers around the world who would like to try something new and different in growing like you did? You endured some people laughing at you, thinking you’re a little bit crazy, maybe like the scientist from the Back to the Future, you know that guy, 1.21 gigawatts, Marty! And the flux capacitor. They’re looking at you like that, so how do you endure that and sustain your vision, because probably a couple times you were like, wait a minute, these guys might be right. Am I going down a weird place here and I have a lot of money at risk?
Warren: The blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into this place, and just in the R&D, nothing is instantaneous. Like I said, I’m a concrete contractor, used to instant results, and having to wait. The hurry up and wait game has been my life this last five years. My advice is that, just because you’ve been doing something for ten years and you’ve had success, it doesn’t mean it’s right. We can’t be afraid of latching onto new technology and using science as the base of what you’re doing, especially growing cannabis, because it is a truly science-based industry now. I call it the wizard unicorn factor, from the growers kind of latching on to their twenty year old methodology and not changing their program because they want to use this special bat guano or whatever else they want to put inside their soil because they think it’s going to grow and make them more THC-rich and faster-growing buds, and it really is bull. It’s crap. If it’s not science-based, you can’t measure it. If you can’t measure it, it’s not real. So you can’t be afraid to latch onto new technology. You have to embrace it, and you’re going to be just like I am. I can’t tell you how many failures I’ve had growing aquaponically and trying different things and doing root zone pots and hydroton and all these other things, increasing surface area for bacteria to grow on to increase my yields, and all kinds of things that I’ve been doing. Tried, failed, tried again, had medium results. You have to try it. You just have to take the bull by the horns and take a leap, an informed leap. If you’re basing your decision on science, and you’re basing it on what’s happening out there in the industry, you’re probably making a good choice, and I would jump into that wholeheartedly. Again, cost of production.
Matthew: Let’s pivot to some personal development questions, Warren. Is there a book that’s had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you’d like to share with listeners?
Warren: Well, not so much a book, although I do read a lot. I always have a reference book and a fiction going at the same time. Not so much a book, but in my early twenties, I went to the movie theatre and watched a movie called The Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams. You’ve probably seen it or heard about it. It wasn’t a particularly good movie, but there was one scene that had an impact, besides little pearls of wisdom my father gave me growing up in the construction world, old school Italian man, dominant family member, giving me his little pearls of wisdom as I’ve grown up. But Robin Williams, there was a scene in there when he made the kids in his classroom stand up on their desks just as a way to say, you’ve got to be able to look at things from a different angle. So that always stuck with me, the fact that you’ve got to be able to see all sides, you’ve got to be able to look at things from every angle, you’ve got to process all that information. You have to listen to everybody, you have to see all things, you have to be informed before you can make a good decision. And I think that scene in that movie has probably had the most impact, besides my father, my mentor, of anything else that I can say, that I’ve ever seen in my life. Like I said, not a great movie, but that scene was something that I’ve remembered always, and any time I’m in a mental conundrum, I think about that scene and I try to make sure I’ve looked at everything every way possible.
Matthew: I thought that movie was excellent. Peter Weir, the director, also did The Truman Show, which was another great movie. And that boarding school, St. Andrews in Wilmington, Delaware, is a real place. That wasn’t just a set. Very interesting perspective you have there. He makes them stand on the desk and see, well how does the world look different just from that? Yeah, a lot of people don’t do that. A lot of people are like, how can I compete and break my back competing instead of looking at it from a different way like you did with aquaponics, so, well-said.
Warren: Thank you. Think outside the box. It’s a cliché, but it’s absolutely true.
Matthew: Is there a tool you consider vital to your productivity, either around the grow or with your team or anything like that?
Warren: So, there isn’t a specific tool that I use that makes me successful, and I’m not talking about electronics, I’m not talking about anything, but what has gotten me by through life and made me a success in the concrete construction world, made me a success in aquaponics, not just my intestinal fortitude, but my gut. I’ve used my gut to guide me through every life-altering decision I’ve ever made. I trust it, it’s usually right, and therefore I listen to it. So in most cases, if you think your gut is telling you it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s telling you it might be the right thing to do, you have to listen to it. Your instincts and trust, trust yourself, that you’ve got the information you need to move forward in any endeavor or whatever you’re doing in life. So I used my gut for everything that I’m doing in life, and so far, so good. Knock on wood.
Matthew: Well, the funny thing with that, Warren, is that more and more scientists are now saying that there is, that the gut might be a part of a larger thinking entity, in terms of 80 or 90% of our serotonin is manufactured in our gut. Bacteria might be somehow communicating with other processes. So when people say, go with your gut, that’s not just slang, like how your gut makes you feel good or bad or nervous, but there’s something larger possibly going on there, so I would agree with that.
Warren: There you go, it’s all about science. There you go, at the end of the day. Nice one.
Matthew: Warren, thanks so much for joining us on the show today and educating us about aquaponics and all the different ways you think about growing cannabis. This was really fascinating, and I’m sure the listeners will find it so. Good luck with everything you’re doing up there. Let us know when your lighting study comes out.
Warren: I absolutely appreciate the opportunity, we’re always looking to advance our aquaponics platform, and looking forward to anybody who is interested in the space. You can certainly look at my website at greenrelief.ca or greenrelief.com. Tells you all about us, there’s some videos on there. We like to talk to people, and we’re looking to advance the science of aquaponics, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Looking forward to anybody saying hello.
Matthew: Yeah, and for the people that are interested in building aquaponics into their grows, that’s the same contact information.
Warren: Absolutely. They can call our client care service, they can call Jim Reddon, my COO. I’m again, Warren Bravo, I’m the CEO and co-owner, co-founder. Reach out anytime. We’re here to help, and anybody who’s interested in sustainability and growing it with the most natural methods known to mankind. Please give us a call.
Matthew: Well thanks so much, Warren.
Warren: Thank you Matt, it was an absolute pleasure.
Charles Jones has vape pens are selling in 6 states and starting on 4/20 they will be available in California. Why are dispensaries ordering his vape pens in greater and greater quantities?
Charles has stumbled upon the holy grail of cannabis enthusiasts that is his vape pens allow you to experience consistent moods consistently. The moods you can experience are; party, focus, bliss, focus, relax, and flow.
Enjoy this fascinating interview to understand where the cannabis market is moving.
[1:18] – Charles’ Background
[6:24] – What is Functional Cannabis
[8:45] – Moods available for vape pens
[11:57] – What was budtenders’ feedback
[23:30] – How to manage distribution and licensing
[25:20] – Functional beverages next big category
[27:34] – Books that had an impact on Charles
[30:44] – Roadmap for LucidMood
What are the five trends that are disrupting the cannabis industry?Find out with your free cheat sheet at http://www.cannainsider.com/trends
MATTHEW: The Holy Grail of cannabis consumption is to be able to elicit the same mood consistently so you can count on getting the same experience. The alcohol industry mastered consistency a long time ago, but in general, only allows for one type of mood. Our guest today has successfully and consistently dialed in several experiences with his product. I am pleased to welcome Charles Jones of Lucid Mood back to the show. Charles, welcome back to CannaInsider!
CHARLES JONES: Thank you, Matt.
MATTHEW: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
CHARLES: Beautiful Boulder, Colorado.
MATTHEW: Good. And what’s the temperature like there? Is it mild, sunny?
MATTHEW: Seventy! Oh my goodness, that’s pretty warm for March. Okay. And for listeners that are new, can you remind us of your background and why you started down this path exploring cannabis moods?
CHARLES: Sure. So, I had a couple careers. The first was in software and the second was an executive coach, and that’s what I was doing when I stumbled upon the idea for Lucid Mood, upon the recognition that if we were to extract the individual cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant and combine them very intentionally, formulate them according to our growing understanding of neuroscience, that we would be able to dial in very specific therapeutic and recreational effects, and dial out the negative side effects that keep so many people from benefiting from the mood-enhancing effects of cannabis.
MATTHEW: We had you on the show sometime back, and I’ll link to that original episode [link here], but give us a reminder of what Lucid Mood’s first launch was and what happened.
CHARLES: Sure. Our development platform, if you will, for experimenting with various combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes involved using hemp pucks that we would infuse with cannabinoids and terpenes and then we would have people place these hemp pucks in a dry flower vaporizer in order to consume them. And that turned out to be, actually a very good development platform that allowed us to very efficiently test a lot of different formulas. But when we attempted to bring that to market, we just found that it was too cumbersome for folks, so we pivoted, and put our formulas into vape pens, and that’s where we are today.
MATTHEW: Okay, and this is kind of an interesting thing. You make it sound like it’s such a smooth transition, but that’s a pretty big pivot. Tell us a little bit about the feedback you were getting from investors, consumers, and what made you ultimately decide to pivot.
CHARLES: People have always loved the formulas and the effects that they get from it, so that has been a win from the very beginning. In our testing, we would hold what we would call testing parties, and we would invite people to come to them, and we would make it extremely easy for them. We’d have the pucks prepared, and we’d hand them the dry flower vaporizer with the puck already in it, so it was quite efficient. Once people had the experience, they were very excited and were very willing to go through those steps in order to consume it. Once we launched that product in dispensaries, however, the feedback that we got is, that essentially we were in this catch-22, that until people actually experienced how differentiated our effects were from the other products that were in the dispensary, there were very few of them that were willing to go through the effort of that current delivery system. Some of our investors had anticipated this objection, that there was just too much friction to enable speedy adoption. We saw that right away. Over a long weekend, my co-founder, a brilliant mechanical engineer and production engineer named David Georges, he put our oils into vape pens, and then we brought those back out to the market and had an entirely different reception to it. In fact, since launching in November 2016 here in Colorado, we’ve been seeing just tremendous, month over month growths, very rapid adoption, and an extraordinary level of customer loyalty to the product. We kind of went from something that was very cumbersome to what’s the absolutely… what’s the path of least resistance? What delivery system would be incredibly simple for people to use, so we put the oils into ready-to-use vape pens. People just open the package, there’s no button, there’s no need to charge it, they just put it in their lips, take a few sips, and they’re having the Lucid Mood experience.
MATTHEW: I want to talk about that growth and the reason why you think that’s happening, but let’s back up a little bit and talk about a new category that it seems like you’ve created called functional cannabis. What does that mean exactly?
CHARLES: We certainly view our product as representing a new category, and in fact many in the industry do as well. New Frontier Data, for example, calls what we’ve done Cannabis 2.0. From their perspective, it’s where cannabis is going, toward being able to deliver, as you mentioned in your opening, very consistent effects. But the other place I see that cannabis is going is that up until this point, the mood-enhancing experience of cannabis, whether you’re using it to relieve pain or reduce your anxiety or help you go to sleep, on sort of the more therapeutic side, or whether you’re using it to get into a state of flow, or just chill after work, or watch a movie, or as a social lubricant as a replacement to alcohol. You can get those effects from cannabis, but you could get these other effects as well. You would get this feeling of being tired or lethargic after you’ve used it. And of course some people struggle with feeling paranoid when they use marijuana, or feeling socially withdrawn. So those impairments, if you will, reduce your functionality. So you get the mood-enhancing benefits but at the cost of some level of functionality. So for us, functional cannabis is one that delivers a very specific or therapeutic or recreational benefit while keeping you functional, while eliminating those typical side effects, which I think all of us need to admit are there in cannabis.
MATTHEW: Right. And you touched on a few of the moods that you offer there, but can we go over some of them, because you have some interesting ones, for sleep, party, bliss, focus, maybe you could just do a little overview of each and how to think and orient about each one.
CHARLES: Sure. We have what we call the Wellness line, and the Wellness line includes Relief, which is very good for relieving aches and sores and pains, reduces cramps, and is actually fantastic if you have a hangover. It really tends to relieve that as well. So that one’s called Relief. We have Sleep, that’s kind of obvious, it supports you getting to sleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night, you can just sip on the pen to help you go back to sleep. And you wake up in the morning refreshed. You don’t have the dullness or a little bit of a hangover that you might get from going to sleep on say, a heavy Indigo. We also have in that same line, one called Calm, which as the name implies, if you’re feeling a little anxious or stressed you just suck on this and you’re going to very instantly calm. Then in what we call the Play line, our leading product there is called Party, and it is like alcohol, it reduces social anxiety, it reduces social inhibitions, but unlike alcohol, it’s very energizing, uplifting, you’re very alert and clearheaded. You can sip it all night long and it doesn’t make you stupid. If you do a party with Party, it’s really delightful. It’s really good for almost any kind of social situation. We have another one called Energy, which is marvelous for going on a hike. Going out there, it’s uplifting and motivating and energizing. We have another one called Chill, which is both relaxing and blissful. It’s really wonderful for just kicking back with friends, watching a movie, stuff like that. Then we are bringing out another one called Flow, which you kind of become immersed in whatever you’re doing while retaining this almost kind of witness consciousness about what you’re doing, so it’s wonderful for artistic endeavors, or any kind of flow activity that you might enjoy.
MATTHEW: The first time that you launched Lucid Mood, the budtenders gave you some feedback, and then the second time they gave you feedback too. How would you contrast that feedback? What were they saying? When they were talking to you, did anything surprise you?
CHARLES: When we launched with the infused hemp pucks, the feedback is, oh, this is too much trouble, people aren’t going to use this product, and that turned out to be quite accurate. Then when we launched with the vape pens, the feedback that we got was much more nuanced and varied among the budtenders. One of the pieces of feedback is that people just really loved the taste of the product. Now, we don’t flavor the product per say, but the terpenes that we use to dial in the specific benefits that we are seeking, are all of course very flavorful. Most people like most of our flavors. There will be some people that don’t like some of them, but it’s a consequence of the formula we’re using. We get a lot of feedback on the flavor. The other feedback that we got was, some of the budtenders just thought it was wonderful that we had this one to one ratio of THC to CBD which creates this very functional, mild experience, if you will; the elevation without the stupefaction associated with cannabis. Some of the budtenders thought that was amazing and great and could immediately see that there were people walking into the dispensary that were looking for something like that, that would like the mood-enhancing benefits of cannabis, but didn’t want something too heavy, or too disorienting. Then there were other budtenders who said, who’s going to buy this product? It’s too mild? Isn’t the point to dissociate and check out and stuff like that? People aren’t going to like this product. And of course over time, one of the most common things that I now hear, say a year after we launched in a dispensary is, a budtender saying, you know, I didn’t think the market for this mild high would be as big as it is, but it’s not just the elderly people and the middle-aged women and soccer moms and stuff. I’m seeing men in their twenties that are coming in and buying Lucid Mood Party and Lucid Mood Chill. I think they’ve been surprised. I think we’ve really kind of found an underserved section of the market, and we have lots of anecdotes and stories and people writing us that, a friend shared Lucid Mood with them, and prior to this they had tried marijuana a couple times and it was just too overwhelming for them. Really, they hate pot, they love Lucid Mood. So it’s a really different product.
MATTHEW: This is really interesting to me because I feel like, much like Apple hides the complexity of their products, you know. they have RAM in there, they have microprocessors, they have all these different alternating technologies that the consumer just doesn’t have to know about at all, but you’re scrutinizing and agonizing over the details of the terpenes and the ratios and all these things that elicit an experience, but you boil it down to, for the consumers, like, how do you want to feel? Do you want to feel like you’re going into a party, and that’s what you want? You want flow? And that just makes it so dirt-simple that it invites you in and makes the first step easy, I feel like. And I would say that’s where the market is going. Because how much do I really, do I really need to know everything? There’s always the connoisseurs, or the kind of craft market, where they’re like, I want to know all the nuances of how the cannabinoids are interacting with terpenes, and how that’s playing with my biology and neurochemistry, but most people just wanna know how this is going to make me feel.
CHARLES: Early after the release of the product here in Colorado, we got into a new dispensary up in the mountains. This was during ski season. They placed an order for a case of each of the moods. Two days later, they ordered two cases for each of the moods. Two days after, they ordered four cases for each of the moods. So I had to find out what was going on. I call them up and say, hey, what’s going on? And they say, well, it’s ski season, we have a line of people out the door, someone comes up to the register and they’re here to enjoy the mountains and skiing here in Colorado and they’re from some state that doesn’t have legal cannabis and they’re not that experienced. They look up at our board of strains and they say, what’s the difference between indica and sativa? And that’s just a cue for us. We could spend the next 10-15 minutes, walking through what the differences are, trying to find, do they want something energizing, do you want Blue Dream or do you want Durbin Poison, kind of go through all these distinctions, and that could take 10 or 15 minutes. Or we could simply pick up your point of purchase display, put it in front of them, and say, what effect are you looking for? And make the sale in a couple of minutes, knowing that they’re going to have a wonderful experience. It’s not going to overwhelm them. And they’re going to come back. If we sell them a string, and it’s they become overwhelmed, they become paranoid, it’s too much for them, they don’t have a good time, it’s just not a sure bet. They may never come into the dispensary again. So yours is the safe bet for someone is a newbie. That Baby Boomer that got high in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and now life’s a little bit different and they’re interested in getting back into it again. The soccer mom, the busy executive who wants something to relax in the evening, but they have to be 100% sharp at 8 A.M. the next morning when they start their day. For all those people, we just offer them Lucid Mood. And that dispensary has actually become our number one customer here in Colorado.
MATTHEW: That’s interesting. So your point of sale display has kind of a chart or just different categories of feeling, so the budtenders just say, how do you want to feel? Do you want to feel Party, Flow, Relax, and they just point to it and say, I want to feel Relax. And that’s how the conversation goes. Pretty important to have that point of sale diagram or supporting information it sounds like.
CHARLES: Absolutely. We were seeing an average of a 50% increase in sales in the dispensaries that keep that point of purchase display next to the cash register. What they tell me is that the customer will make their product selections, get to the register, and oh, this looks interesting, what’s this? And they’ll just add it to their order. So yeah, it’s been a very successful marketing strategy for us.
MATTHEW: Of course, vape pens also have the additional benefit of being discreet, which we talked about a little bit, but when you light up a joint, it’s like everybody in a city block knows what’s happening, what’s going on with you. But with a vape pen, it’s just so much more discreet. That’s why the market is just really gravitating to vape pens. Even more in California, it looks like, looking at some of the data.
CHARLES: And they’re so convenient as well as discreet. And ours have the added benefit of, since we’re not starting from the extract from a strain, we’re starting with the purified cannabinoids and terpenes with all active ingredients, it doesn’t even smell like marijuana. It smells like aromatherapy. It smells like the terpenes that are in the product.
MATTHEW: When I hear this story about how you pivoted and how that created success, I think about the Lean Startup methodology, of the build, measure, learn, and iterate. You did all those steps. You built it, you got feedback from the market, you learned what they were saying, and then you said, this is the market speaking to me. I have to adapt. And you adapted, and then boom. Product market fit, takeoff new category, which is great, and also, the one thing I warn about over and over, is that if you have a me too product, you’re going to eventually have to drop your price. Because you can’t defend a margin if you’ve got a me too product. And this is kind of the antithesis of a me too product, what you’ve developed here with Lucid Mood. Especially when people… Like you said, you created a category, so if they come to find that they like the Party mood with Lucid Mood, any competitor that comes along after you, they’re going to compare them to you. You’re the benchmark, where, this doesn’t compare to Party from Lucid Mood. It’s like they have something in their mind that you’ve created. You’ve got this category in their mind that’s very sticky and that’s hard to pull out just by virtue of being first and creating the category. It’s kind of like Coca-Cola. There might be other colas out there that people like better, but they’ve got this in their mind that this is the cola. It’s got the cola category in my mind, and it’s just so woven in it’s hard to take out. Any thoughts about that?
CHARLES: I’m wondering how you got ahold of our internal marketing plan. That’s very much how we think about this. We’ve got, at this point, 18 months of R and D into the development of these formulas and patent pending on them, so we’re very much looking for that highly differentiated predictable experience that people can only get through our brand for at least the time being. And become the benchmark against which other functional cannabis products are compared.
MATTHEW: So tell us a little bit about how this works when you want to go to a different state. Do you license the product, and then how does that work?
CHARLES: We now have licensing partners in six states, and essentially, the way it works is that we sell them pen kits. We will sell them 1000 of the Party device along with a slurry that contains legal ingredients in it. The packaging, the supporting sales and marketing collateral, and we’ll ship that off to our licensee. Our licensee will then add THC distillate to the slurry and use a filling station that we’ve developed to fill the pens. It’s foolproof, +/-2%, in terms of the volume of oil that gets in there. This helps… Consistency and the quality of our product in every market is hugely important to us, and this ensures that if you buy a Party pen in San Diego or a Party pen in Denver or a Party pen in Providence, Rhode Island, it’s exactly the same formula, the same ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes, the same experience each and every time.
MATTHEW: Very interesting. We talked about how you created a category here. Let’s pivot a little bit to where you think the beverage market is headed, because this is a huge, huge category, beverages. And there’s some interesting things happening there. How do you think about it? Does it dovetail with the cannabis market and what you’re doing?
CHARLES: Certainly, when I walk through Whole Foods, for example, and walk through the beverage aisle, I’m starting to see beverages that have some of the same names as our cannabis products. You know, Energize, Revitalize, Sleep, Calm. These names are beginning to appear. So the functional beverage market, which is a term that’s actually used in the food industry, is seeing tremendous rates of growth. I think that it’s not just beverages and not just cannabis where people are saying, I want my beverage to convey some health benefit or some mood-enhancing benefit. To date, it’s largely been, I want my beverage to convey some caffeine, or some alcohol, to modify my mood. But things, I think, are becoming much more nuanced now. And similarly, in the past it’s been, well, I either want indica or sativa, things are becoming much more nuanced as well. It’s no longer enough to get high. What benefit is this high going to convey at the same time? So I see this tendency everywhere. In fact, I was at a restaurant recently and looking at the menu, one of the things they had on the menu was an energy salad. And the promise of the salad? I’m looking at this and I’m like, okay, this functional meme, it’s a thing. It’s definitely a thing.
MATTHEW: Let’s pivot to some personal development questions, Charles. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you’d like to share with listeners?
CHARLES: Well earlier you mentioned, boy, Charles, this sounds like the Lean approach to development, and actually, here on my desk there’s a book, Lean Thinking by James Womack and Daniel Jones. So that’s certainly a book that has influenced our thinking here. Another book that has influenced our thinking here is a book called Play Bigger, and it’s a book essentially on category marketing, and what it takes to become a category leader. One of the basic premises of the books is that, if you are the first to market in a new category, let’s say soft drinks, as Coca-Cola was, then in the mind of the consumers, you become identified with, Coca-Cola becomes synonymous for the soft drink category. It’s very difficult, then, for a competitor like Pepsi to ever unseat the king of that category. And becoming synonymous in the minds of consumers with functional cannabis, being able to deliver something which is dialed in enough to produce one very specific benefit that the consumer is looking for, and is mild enough that they remain sufficiently functional. That they can enjoy that recreational benefit, or go through their day and get their work done if it’s a therapeutic benefit. Making Lucid Mood synonymous with functional cannabis, that’s our next goal in terms of marketing. And we’ve certainly achieved that in the states we are already in, and we are launching in California in April.
MATTHEW: California, that’s great. I was going to ask you about that. So you’re just in Colorado now? You’re in six states, you said?
CHARLES: We’re on the shelves in Colorado, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, and Oregon. The next state that we’re going to add is California.
MATTHEW: Wow, that California. You’re going to be busy.
CHARLES: Very busy.
MATTHEW: So back to your point about, like, you don’t want to compete with Coke. If you realize, that someone like a Charles has totally dominated a category, it’s best not even to compete, and if he’s got Coke, make Dr. Pepper. Because it’s better to start a new category than to compete on someone that has the higher ground and can keep on pushing you off the hill. That’s my opinion, anyway. So you’re in six states, you’re launching in California in April. Are you going to be all over California, or mostly starting in Northern California or Southern, or how is that going to look?
CHARLES: We’re going to launch in San Diego, and then make our way north up through the state.
MATTHEW: Is it difficult… How do you have the conversations? Do you work with a distributer, or are they reaching out to you? How do you get into a market like California, and what do you do there?
CHARLES: We had it happen every way. For instance, in Massachusetts, five different companies have contacted us to see about being, asking if they can be our licensing partner for Massachusetts. That happened in that way, and in the case of California, a dear friend of mine who had just met another person in the industry out there in California and just immediately realized, oh, these guys are a match, and put us together, and it was pretty much love at first sight. Just the perfect partner for us. Someone that shares our values, who looks for something where, the impeccability of the product, which has been so carefully and thoughtfully designed, with a real focus on having a very collaborative relationship with the distribution channel. We’re confident we’ve found the perfect partner for us for California.
MATTHEW: I just want to ask, too, about where you are in the investment cycle, if you’re looking for accredited investors, can you tell us where you are there? Raising capital?
CHARLES: Sure. We’ve been raising capital largely from Angel Investors. We had a friends and family round, and we are now finishing up our last Angel Investor round before we syndicate a Series A. We are pretty confident that we found our lead for our Series A. This would be more of an institutional investor that runs a large cannabis fund. So that’s where we are in that.
MATTHEW: Cool. If there are accredited investors that are looking to, they like what you’re saying and they want to participate in Series A, or invest in some way, is there a way they can reach out to you?
CHARLES: Sure. Absolutely. I’m CJ[at]LucidMood[dot]net.
MATTHEW: Okay cool. Well Charles, as we close, tell listeners how they can find you in dispensaries. Is there a way to do that? Is there a locator? What’s the best way to find a Lucid Mood that they can try?
CHARLES: They can go to LucidMood.net, and there is a dispensary button on the home page if you click on that and give it your GPS. It will show you nearby dispensaries where you can purchase Lucid Mood.
MATTHEW: Great. Well Charles, thanks so much for coming on the show, and well done. Good job pivoting to create product-market fit. That’s a really inspiring story, and we wish you the best as you expand into California and other markets.
CHARLES: Thank you so much Matt. It’s been a delightful conversation.
Lamine Zarrad saw an opportunity to take his knowledge working in financial regulation for US Government and applying his knowledge of interpret The Cole Memo and then an app that would allow dispensary customers to pay for purchases with an app alleviating the need for dispensaries to manage massive amounts of cash.
Then Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions happened and Lamine was forced to put his cannabis app on the back burner. Now Lamine is evolving his technology to liberate workers in the gig economy by ensuring they get paid.
In 2016 Inc Magazine named Aeron Sullivan as one its 30 people Under 30 years old to watch as a promising founder. Indeed Aeron, co-founder of Tradiv was on the move. His online cannabis trading platform was helping 230 growers and dispensaries conduct business.
Then everything changed when Aeron had a profound spiritual experience that caused him to rethink his life, reality, and his future. Listen to Aeron’s gripping and inspiring transition.
[2:30] – Aeron talks about how he got in the cannabis industry
[4:15] – Aeron talks about his trip to Alaska
[10:18] – Aeron’s thoughts on the “I Am” language he heard
[14:00] – More than an LSD trip
[19:20] – Aeron talks about the second “I Am” message
[27:22] – Similar experiences with I Am
[38:05] – Final words from Aeron
[40:28] – Aeron answers some personal development questions
Learn more at
Aeron’s First Interview on CannaInsider:
In 2016 Inc. Magazine named Aeron Sullivan as one of its 30 People Under 30 Years Old to watch as a promising founder. Indeed Aeron, cofounder of Tradiv, was on the move. His online cannabis trading platform was helping 230 growers and dispensaries conduct business, then everything changed when Aeron had a profound spiritual experience that caused him to rethink his life, reality and the future. I am pleased to welcome Aeron back to the show today. Aeron, welcome back to CannaInsider.
Aeron: Hey, thanks for having me Matt.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Aeron: Yeah sure. So, I live in San Diego, California, sort of in the center of the county. I’m here most of the time. I work from home about 80 percent of the time. And then my current job takes up to Portland, Oregon about four days a month.
Matthew: Okay cool. I’m in Central Mexico today.
Aeron: Oh really?
Matthew: Sunny, bright Central Mexico. It’s a great place to be in the winter time, although we’re getting close to spring here.
Aeron: Yeah, for sure. That’s great.
Matthew: Let’s jump into this here because everybody’s so curious. It’s been such a wild ride for you. You were on the show a few years back when Tradiv was just getting started. In fact I got to know you when you were in the Canopy Boulder cannabis accelerator program.
Aeron: Yes sir.
Matthew: What back then drove you to get into the cannabis space? You were in the Marines and then you transitioned to cannabis. Just tell us that little back story.
Aeron: Yeah a little context. What drove me? I had been in the military for nearly eight years and was getting ready to transition into the private sector. I thought I was going to get into software development, but more as an employee, not necessarily an entrepreneur. I just had this strange inner desire one morning after talking to a friend of mine who was in the cannabis industry that maybe my desire to do software could be applied to this market. One, because I thought it would be really cool and it would be really fun. Two, because I thought there was a good opportunity to create some wealth in a market that hadn’t been inundated with major players yet.
Matthew: You certainly accomplished that. You jumped right in and were converting dispensaries and growers and selling the value proposition of coming on the Tradiv platform, because there really wasn’t anything super - there were some solutions out there, but you really just dove in so much momentum right out of the gate and there was a lot of people jumping on the platform trading. It was going well. This is where the story gets interesting. Tell us what happened in Alaska. Because anybody who wants to hear the back story of what Aeron was doing at Tradiv you can go back and listen to the first interview I did with him where we go into all the details of that. I’ll link it in the show notes here. You went up to Alaska with your girlfriend. Tell us what happened because I’m fascinated about this.
Aeron: I’m sure there will be lots of questions so I’ll try to keep the intro brief. Basically, in February 2016 I was nearing the completion of a big fundraising round for Tradiv. It would have been, I guess you could call it, Series A, if you wanted to give it a name. I was tired and I needed some quality time with my, at the time, girlfriend. She and I had also planned on getting engaged. So, I had a lull, a weeklong lull in fundraising activity intentionally, and she and I went up to Alaska, outside of Fairbanks, kind of in the middle of nowhere. Stayed at a couple different places, both way outside of, I mean, Fairbanks is pretty off steer and not that densely populated anyways, but we were even on the outskirts.
We went there to get engaged and to spend some quality time together. The first evening we were there we took some LSD, which was not an uncommon thing for us to do. We did it probably once every six to nine months as sort of a, I don’t know, you could call it a spiritual healing experience that of course that we found to be very effective with the use of LSD, but this one was a little bit different. I was pretty experienced at doing LSD. I’d done different (5.47 unclear) and hallucinogens since I was 15, and I’d never had anything like this happen. We took our dose and then actually when I probably should have been sort of coming down off the experience I had these thoughts about the future of the world and the future us as a species clawing their way into my mind about overpopulation, about where we’re heading as a group of people.
I was pretty scared. It was occurring to me that we don’t exactly have many leaders that are concerned about the future of this world that isn’t completely mixed in with their own aspirations and broken perspective on what they think is best. About that moment I felt a very heavy presence that entered the room. Heavy like gravity, like the Earth is pulling on your feet, if you’re sitting down, on your behind, and it’s pulling you down towards the ground. Now imagine something coming into a room that had an equal or greater gravity, literally a gravity to it that is pulling you in a different direction. It was very scary. Not necessarily that I felt like my life was threatened, but it was very powerful and frightening. I didn’t know what to make of it and I’m sitting there for three to five seconds and wondering what’s happening.
My wife, at the time my fiancé, she felt something, but didn’t feel it as greatly as I did. So, I grab her hand and I tell her it’s going to be okay, and then about that moment whatever this thing was it speaks to me. It goes, you would call yourself human. You might say I am a man. She is a human and might say I am a woman. Well I’ll tell you that I just am. I don’t have to apologize for it. I’m not going to explain myself. There is no explanation. All identity comes from me. Everything comes from me. I simply am. I have been and I continue to be and I will be. I am the I am I am. And in that moment I just respond. I knew, I go oh you’re God. I literally said that. I said, “Oh you’re God.” And then I was plunged into a very wild experience that was a combination of communication from this I am at a speed at which I think a brain normally cannot sustain activity.
Let’s say Matt you and I had a conversation for three days. Compress that into 30 seconds. That’s how it was communicated. A combination of visions, a combination of what I now believe to be memories that were not my own. Again, it sort of had a message for me. We can talk about that in a minute, but this is a starting point. There you go. Is that good?
Matthew: Yeah. The thing that jumped out at me when I read an article about this some months back was the language, the I am language. Were I grew up there is a temple called I Am Temple in Chicago and heard Wayne Dyer talk about that when he was alive, this I Am language. Some of the ascended masters you hear, some of these texts you read about Jesus or Buddha, you just hear the language I Am. Before Abraham I am. There is some consistent thread through a lot of experiences where this language is mentioned, and I just have to think there’s something going on. There’s something here with this I am language. What’s your thoughts around that specific language?
Aeron: It’s interesting. I didn’t find this out for six months, six months later when I was reading the Bible for the first time. I believe it’s Exodus Chapter 3 Moses and the burning bush. Moses is at the burning bush. He’s of course terrified I’m sure, as I was. This being goes hey I’m the God of your ancestors. You need to listen to me. Moses is like okay, when I go tell people this message who is it I should say sent me. He says, ehyeh has sent you. Ehyeh in Hebrew is I will be. Oftentimes translated as I am. Of course Moses can’t go to the Israelites and say I will be has sent me. So he changes it. So, he’s informed by God to say Yahweh has sent me. He will be. He will be has sent me. I’m sure they’re like, well who’s he will be. He’s like, the God of our ancestors. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, okay now we’re connecting the links here.
That then becomes the Covenant name of the Hebrew people, Yahweh. It’s been translated a number of different ways. Jehovah and all those sorts of things, but it was Yahweh and it basically means he is the one who was, who is and who will be. So, you’re right. There are other people in history that has encountered something that says I Am, I just simply Am. The question is, is that a copycat thing, or is that some spiritual force out there that’s copycatting this known Covenant name of the Hebrew people? Or is it the God of the Hebrew people that’s just communicating to different people in different places in history. I think depending on what the fruit from the person who says that they encountered this I Am, you know, the fruit being what did they do, what were their actions, what were their speech, what did they speak on. I think you can oftentimes tell if that fruit is coming from a place of restoration and hope and goodness or if it’s coming from a copycat that’s trying to manipulate a human. I’m not commenting either way on any of that. This I Am language originated back around Exodus 3 when Moses was called to go lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
Matthew: Wow. This is some deep stuff. For people that have never taken any kind of hallucinogen they might say, well this simply was an LSD trip that took an unusual direction. But as you mentioned, and I have some experience with this as well, you kind of know what you are getting into when you take these things and dosages and what to expect. When someone says, Aeron, could this be an LSD trip that went the wrong direction or direction that was just unusual. Maybe tell us a little bit more about what your wife feels. She kind of felt a hint of this. So, she did feel something. You could be like okay it wasn’t just me, but for you it’s very clear. It wasn’t just LSD because that’s the question. That’s what most people I feel like will be saying that’s what happened.
Aeron: I find that there is - if you go read the Inc Magazine story, the follow up story that Inc. did on me a few months ago, it kind of lays out the story of Tradiv, and what sort of happened after this event. I think when you read that story you’ll come to one of two conclusions. Much like maybe audience members listening to this or people that I have talked to will come to one of two conclusions. Either despite the LSD or maybe using it as an aid or whatever, God spoke to you and he told you to do something and you did it. Great. We’re proud of you. The other one is, yeah there’s no way that happened. It was the LSD.
I’m not sure. I believe that if people will have ears to listen, they will understand that this wasn’t just LSD. If they are skeptical of these sort of spiritual experiences, they’re probably going to arrive at the same conclusion. Whether I was on LSD or not. If I hadn’t been on LSD and I came back and said hey God spoke to me. It was really crazy. Ah man you need to go see a shrink. I happened to come back and say, God spoke to me on LSD. They’re like oh well it was the drugs. People are oftentimes going to come to the same conclusion regardless of what these circumstances were. But pulling that thread a little bit, I was pretty experienced with LSD. I took a small dose. It was around 100 nanograms, for anybody that’s familiar. It’s a fairly small dose, especially for somebody that’s 220 pounds.
This began seven hours into the experience. So, I was on the way down. So, all of that to say, I think people who are experienced with LSD will go well yeah okay some entity outside of yourself speaking articulately to you is way outside the scope of a normal LSD experience. You’ve got a lot of perceptions shifts, and even self-introspection that can occur, but this was entirely different. The second thing I would say is that that’s not the last time that I Am has spoken to me. And the time since he’s spoken to me I was not on a hallucinogen.
Matthew: Wow, that’s crazy. One more thing on the psychedelics is that for people that aren’t familiar is that psychedelics, mushrooms, LSD, maybe you can throw (16.30 unclear) in there. The tendency to kind of melt away the ego sense of self, and then allow to whatever else there to come more in the foreground when it was typically in the background before. So, the ego kind of gets dissolved a bit with the mushrooms.
Aeron: Is it okay if I comment on that?
Matthew: Yeah, go ahead.
Aeron: One of the interesting things is there’s actually gene that people carry. It’s called latency inhibition. Some people have latency inhibition. Some people have naturally low latency inhibition. Latency inhibition is your ability to filter what is not important information. So, if you have high latency inhibition, your ability to filter out information is very high. You can focus on things despite a lot of stuff happening around you, but you’re not going to notice the details as much. People with low latency inhibition naturally have a harder time filtering out information. They catch more detail. Artists, creative people typically genetically have low latency inhibition.
The gene for low latency inhibition has also been directly linked to both psychosis and schizophrenia. So, people that are experiencing a lot and don’t know how to filter it sometimes that can turn into if not treated or - and treated and I don’t necessarily mean by drugs, but just treated through therapy and understanding and introspection, it can lead to schizophrenia and psychosis. I’m not a scientist. I’m not positive, but I have a feeling when you talk about your ego dissolving and things that are normally in the foreground becoming more apparent I think LSD and other ethnogens might have an effect on the latency inhibition of an individual. Meaning when I took that LSD that stuff that I’m normally filtering out my brain became far more aware of it and I’m not suggesting that God needs people to take LSD to speak to him. I actually don’t recommend people take hallucinogens because they don’t know what is speaking to them, and they’re in a very impressionable state of mind.
Regardless of that warning, I didn’t have that warning and I took LSD and God just chose, while my latency inhibition was extremely low and I was very open, and my intellectual veil had been pierced. That’s when he decided to speak to me the first time, and that would be my comment on what kind of scientifically what is going on when you say oh my ego dissolved and things from the foreground are becoming more apparent. It’s latency inhibition.
Matthew: Thanks for that clarification. So, the second time or the subsequent times that you were speaking with this I Am presence, what was the message then? Was it different than the first time?
Aeron: Well, you know, God’s a very patient person. I say person, he’s a very patient entity. He is like a person in many ways. You can relate to him. He’s got a sense of humor and he interacts with us, just like an inner relationship like another person would. He’s very patient. I have a feeling when he talked to me the first time he knows that he can’t just dump everything that he wants me to do on me at that moment. So, really, I like to say that this experience in February I sort of met the God of the Old Testament. He was pretty vague, unclear. I didn’t know much about him or I hadn’t gotten to know him. He just really gave me a bunch of information that would start to make sense over the last couple of years and continues to make sense even today.
The primary message was hey I’m real, you should believe in my because it’s important. I’ve got a plan for you, just as I do everybody and it’s going to seem impossible. It’s not going to make sense. All I require from you is to have faith. If you trust me, and you have faith, anything is possible. Will you do that? Of course after a lot of convincing I said, yes. So, I came back from Alaska with my mind in a way blown, but I didn’t have a different strategy in mind. I was part of a marijuana company, and I had started that and hey look at this great vehicle God had set up for me to be able to achieve his purposes. So, I come back and I was even more feverous in my pursuit of making Tradiv a success after February. I’ve kind of continued down the same road. February, March, April, May, we win Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30, but it was around May that I started to really desire to kind of learn more and get closer to this God that had blown my world open in February 2016 and he wasn’t speaking to me.
He didn’t feel like he was there. So, I start researching every religion on the planet, every experience with I Am that people had reportedly had. I’m just looking everywhere, and ironically I was looking everywhere but the Jewish and Christian faiths because that didn’t seem right. I don’t know, I had a lot of baggage with it you know, as do a lot of people. Then it was July 4, 2016. I had gone out with a friend and we were walking to a bar. It was about [12:15] in the morning. There was a group of young adults from the Rock Church San Diego from their young adult ministry that were literally having a bible study with six or seven of them in a yard at [12:15] in the morning. I kid you not, that same presence unmistakably that I had felt in February 2016 manifests itself in the center of this yard and like a gravity he’s like, hey I’m taking free will from you for a moment. You’re going to come over here and you’re going to sit down. It was like that too. It was like hey young child. Come sit down. You need to learn something.
So, I sit down, literally sit down in the dirt with this group of young adults doing a Bible study and I sort of arrogantly said, what are you guys reading. One of them said Isaiah. I’m thinking okay God’s about to teach you something through me, and I had it backwards. I’m thinking of questions. I have concerns. I have thoughts that are sitting in my mind but I’m not verbalizing them. And then for an hour and 45 minutes that group of young adults starts to have a conversation with me, and the interesting thing is their conversation made sense to them, but it was an entirely different conversation that I was having and God was speaking through them addressing the thing that was sitting on the very forefront of my mind. He was reading my mind and then using another human to speak something that made sense to them but made a total different sense to me, and this goes on for an hour and 45 minutes until the conclusion of the conversation. They asked me would you like to accept Jesus as your savior, and I said yes.
They put their hands on me. They prayed, and the most peaceful feeling that I’ve ever encountered in my life and have continued to encounter but especially in that moment just falls on me, and they pray for 5 minutes and all of my doubt and worry and desire to get to know this God, all of that was just sort of quenched. That thirst was quenched there in that yard. It’s now 2 am. I get up and the rest of the night was kind of crazy. We don’t need to get into that, but the point was I made my way home and started reading the Bible. Three days later my wife, at the time fiancé, also accepted Jesus and seven days later I was on a flight to Israel to travel as a poor person for a week through Israel and I was letting the spirit, what I call the spirit, guide me. I came back from that experience and about a month later I kind of decided okay I feel like God’s calling me away from Tradiv. It’s time for me to move on, and it was a three month process to step down. Shortly after stepping down I started a new position with a group called the Bible Project.
Matthew: Wow. What’s crazy about this story is that almost everybody listening will be like I’ve never had this experience so this must not be real, but essentially it’s just not real for them. It was real for you.
Aeron: It was very real for me.
Matthew: Yeah, and it’s very consistent with a lot of other spiritual experiences I’ve heard so that’s incredible. It actually must create some relief for you in many ways because you’re not like most people on the fence like should I just be an atheist, should I be agnostic or spiritual. You were kind of given this clarity and this presence to allow you to be like, all my doubts are gone.
Aeron: Yeah I mean I would say all my doubts about - I think clarity is one of those things. God will give us clarity and then he kind of lets us walk in that clarity a bit and then you start to have doubts, and then he gives you another dose of clarity and you start to walk and you have some doubts. Don’t get me wrong. This has been a hard journey for me. There have been moments where I have doubted if all this was real. There’s been moments where I’m like am I schizophrenic or manic or psychotic. I’ve even gone to a psychiatrist who specializes in these sorts of experiences to evaluate me to make sure I just haven’t gone off my rocker. No, I have full faith and trust now.
It began in February and solidified in July but has still been a rocky road of discovery and introspection and doubt and renewed faith back and forth and God’s really molded me into a place now where I do feel exactly as you said. I have no doubt and I have perfect clarity about who God is and about what his purposes and desires are for humanity and where I play a part in that. That’s a great feeling, but it’s not just a take some LSD and hopefully God speaks to you and everything’s going to be hunky dory. It has been hard.
Matthew: Right. Have you come across any other people that have had similar experiences to yours and be able to talk about it?
Aeron: Yes I have. You know, the Christian community is an interesting one in that experiences like mine are typically frowned upon because the Christian church, I’m saying global church, Catholicism and (27.45 unclear), evangelical, charismatic. I think of them all as one big entity. There are groups within that that are really open to experiences like this and even pursue experiences like this. I would say by and large churches and the people who attend churches have an idea of what the moral framework of society is supposed to look like. That even includes God not working in miraculous and magnificent ways and totally outside the box ways.
It’s not inside their box, they’re like no that’s not true. So, sharing this sort of thing within the Christian community can be challenging for the same reason it might be challenging to share it with an atheist. Well that’s impossible and a Christian is like, oh no God would never do with somebody on LSD. That’s impossible. So, there is that element. However, still within my group of friends and people that I know, both Christians, agnostics and otherwise who have had similar experiences. Not nearly as intense or as frequently or consistently as I have, but I have met lots of people that have had very paradigm shifting, total life changing experiences of a spiritual nature like this with an entity outside of themselves. Some of those have been because of drugs. Many of them have not.
Matthew: That’s great. Do you keep up with these people and see how they’re doing or is it just you kind of bump into them along the way or how does that work?
Aeron: I mean I have several friends that are consistent friends of mine that I see every week at church that have had experiences like this. I keep up with them. There’s people that have messaged me on LinkedIn or something after reading that story and be like, hey man I had something similar. Interestingly talking to the psychiatrist friend of mine who specializes in this, she’s had a number of patients and people she’s done research on that have had experiences like this. I didn’t get to know them, but she did and I kind of bi-curiously go to know them through her.
Matthew: It’s funny because up to a year or two ago if you said something like this, it sounds a little crazy and perhaps to some people now it still sounds crazy, but then there’s somebody that’s somewhat universally respected, at least in the states and probably Canada too, is Elon Musk. He comes out and says, I don’t know if it was a year or two ago now, he goes yes I believe we’re in some sort of simulated reality and then Peter (30.30 unclear), the guy who created the X prise and who’s the founder of all these exponential technologies. He thinks we’re in one too. He calls a twice removed simulation. I’m like, that sounds even scarier. This conversation is starting to happen and it just begs the question. Everybody goes through their daily life working, spending time with family, having fun, eating and things, but how often do we actually ask the question what am I doing here.
Aeron: It’s like the most important question.
Matthew: Right. It’s like the most important question and it’s a question I can count on one hand the time I’ve had serious conversations with people about that because the answer seems so elusive. How do you know? What perceptual tools do I use to figure this out. So, now that you’ve had this experience what do you think humankind is doing here?
Aeron: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’d say that’s the most important question. It’s interesting, Elon Musk, I forgot the name of the other gentleman that you mentioned, Jim Landess. Yeah, I think they’re scratching at the question. They’re jumping a little too far ahead to what they think the answer is, but they’re scratching at the right question. I think Elon Musk said there’s a one in billion chance we’re in base reality. Base reality meaning this is actually real and we’re not in a simulation. Maybe we can create simulations in the future, which will create new realities, but there is a one in a billion chance that this is the first base reality. I would disagree. This is definitely reality. The question why are we here is exactly the question we should be asking. If this is reality, what are we doing here? Here I’ll give the audience an answer. People can disagree, but here’s my answer on everything that I’ve learned over the last couple of years since God’s taken me on this ride.
We are here to love one another unconditionally. Most of us are so broken because we’re victims of other victims. People who have been abused and victimized and they’re taught how to abuse and victimize. We’ve been doing that generation after generation from the beginning. So, for us to say oh, okay I know how to love you. No you don’t. No we don’t. We are so broken we do not know what unconditional love actually looks like. Jesus on the cross is what unconditional love actually looks like. He came here and said, hey I’ve got a message for you. I’d like to introduce you to the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Kingdom of Heaven this is how it works, and if you don’t want to get onboard, you’re not entering the Kingdom of Heaven. This is not the same thing as saying you’re going to hell.
I’m just saying hey there’s this paradise over here. I would like to introduce you to it, but you won’t enter paradise unless you think and respond in certain ways. And if you understand it, I can assure you will respond appropriately, but we did not like that Kingdom and so we killed him. We killed him on a really narley Roman execution device, and rather than responding with violence he’s like, you guys just don’t understand what I’m trying to tell you. But rather than killing you, rather than responding with violence even those who are spiteful and hate me and want to murder me, I would rather die than lay a finger on you. That’s what unconditional love looks like. A man enters your home. He wants to kill your family. You have a gun in the drawer next to your bed. You grab it. You have a decision. Am I going to shoot this man or am I going to risk letting him kill me. Am I going to risk letting him kill my family?
The answer is in the Kingdom of Heaven yes you’re going to lay down your weapon and you’re going to trust God and if God determines that it’s your time to enter paradise, then that is fine, but there is no room for violence, retaliation, hatred, vengeance, sexual immorality, things that reduce the dignity that make humans human, even if it will kill you. That is how you enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and they killed Jesus over that. So, what are we here to do? We are here to learn how to unconditionally love one another and it has taken God thousands of years to teach us that. It will continue to take time for him to teach us that, but I’ll tell you what in this life or the next we’re all going to learn how to do it. And when we do we’ll be in this reality, and we’re going to start building it the way that it looks when people unconditionally love one another, which means that we build hospitals and we build homes and we build gardens and sports arenas. We do all those things, but it’s not based out of selfish desire to make money. It’s based out of our love for one another and our willingness to bless and serve one another with a great day, a nice hug, a good meal and housing that not too expensive where people have to bus two hours into San Francisco to serve the super wealthy.
It looks like when you have cancer we actually treat you despite your ability to pay it back because saving lives isn’t about making money. It’s about saving lives. And God’s patient. He’s patient. He’ll help us learn. He’ll teach us how to learn. He came himself 2,000 years ago to show us the full measure of his devotion of that unconditional love as an example, but that’s why we’re here. We’re not in some simulation. This is actually reality. It was actually made for us. You could call it a simulation in the sense that God exists outside of it and he made it for us, but this is real dirt. These are real rocks. These are real buildings and the question is did we as humans, given the authority we have to build something, did we make Heaven or did we build a Hell? I’d say we’re mixed up, but leaning towards the latter when you look at the world today.
It’s totally up to us, but there’s no amount of technology, there’s no amount of anything we can do as humans. All we have to do is get onboard with God and start letting our hearts change towards one another and learn how to unconditionally love one another and you watch Heaven be built on this Earth. It’s that easy.
Matthew: Wow, that’s a great question. There are great comments you have there Aeron, and I think it’s a good place to kind of wind up the interview. That was an excellent summary of everything you’ve learned here. I want to pivot and get some final thoughts too. I want to ask some personal development questions but also anything you want to say to the employees, investors of Tradiv or anybody in the cannabis community that were your former colleagues to kind of wrap things up there because you may not have had a chance to talk to all of them individually or broadly or anything that you might wanted to do and a lot of people will listen to this interview?
Aeron: Yeah absolutely. What I would say is I’d say I’m sorry. I had a lot of people follow me into that company. I had a lot of people give money, and I’m sorry truthfully from my heart, I am sorry. What’s a complicated thing is when God is dealing with humans who have all sorts of motivations that aren’t necessarily the best motivations we get ourselves into trouble. I should never have started that company, if I had been following God, but I wasn’t and I did. When I find myself in the middle of it and God comes calling there’s no perfect way. He’s like, hey I don’t want you to be in this company. You’re like, okay well I am. What should I do? He’s like, yeah I need you to leave. You’re like, yeah I’m basically letting all of these people down and I’m breaking my word and bond with them. And he’s like, yeah I know. I’m sorry about that, and I’m sorry for them.
Do you see what I’m saying? There’s no right answer here. So, I did what he asked me to. I left because I was trusting him. It does not mean that what I did to my investors and my friends and my colleagues was perfectly right, but in the wisdom of God it was the right thing to do. It doesn’t mean from a moral perspective that it’s the best thing that could have been done in a relationship purely with me and my investors and my colleagues and my friends, but I also have a relationship with God and that trumps my other relationships. So, I had to follow him, but I’m so sorry that it worked out that way. And in hindsight if I’d known what I know now, I would have never started and put myself in a position to be torn between listening to God and trying to honor my word and bond with my friends and colleagues and investors.
So yeah, to answer your question there or comment, I’m sorry, but I still did the right thing even though it meant having to do a smaller wrong thing.
Matthew: Good. I’m glad you got to say that. Let’s pivot to some personal development questions here. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your thinking or way of life, either prior to your spiritual experience or after, that you’d like to share with listeners?
Aeron: Yeah sure. There’s some great books out there on psychology that I think are helpful for people. Let’s see, if somebody struggles with shame, which is where a lot of our brokenness comes from, I’d encourage them to read Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw. If somebody struggles with just understanding what’s happening inside of them, i.e. emotions, which is really where a lot of this comes from. Our inability to feel and react to emotions appropriately which is a large part how God made us, to be emotional. I’d really recommend the Language of Feelings by David Viscott. They are wonderful books that will help you to maybe forgive yourself a little bit for the stuff that’s happening inside you that happened to you when you were a kid, that happened to you as a teenager before you were able to even feel or understand what’ happening to you, you’re already formed. So, those are two great books. I think the (41.41 unclear) is a useful tool for kind of seeing.
We oftentimes think we’re a lot more put together than we are. I think the (41.49 unclear) is really good at helping you realize that you’re probably not as put together as you think you are. So, that’s more on of an anybody, no matter what faith background you belong to. I think those are great resources. If you want to get to know God, I think you should read the Bible, but there’s a caveat. If you jump into the Bible and start to read it at face value, you are going to be very confused and think that we have a very weird and angry God that is bloodthirsty. I’m not kidding. The Bible is very confusing, and it’s confusing because it was written to ancient near eastern people over 2400 years ago, in some cases 1950 years ago, and that is an ancient near eastern culture, a Jewish audience and 33 percent of it was written in poetry. Well we don’t really know how to read ancient Hebrew, apocalyptic poetry and actually get the point.
Matthew: Speak for yourself Aeron.
Aeron: No kidding right. So, if you read, you know you read some of these descriptions of a manifestation of God, you’re like whoa man. I’ve never seen anything like that. This must be crazy. Well that’s because they’re using anthropermophitization of the Divine which was a common tool across all ancient Near Eastern culture. You read Genesis 1 you’re like, I’ve heard of the big bang and it’s been explained to me pretty well before. So, what’s up with this seven day creation story. Did you know that all ancient Near Eastern culture had a seven day creation story. If you talked about God creating the planet, you spoke about it in a seven day creation story. Just like now when we talk about life springing forth from nothing we talk about it in the context of the big bang. It’s the language they use at the time, and God never came down and said hey guys.
A modern Western audience living in the year 2000 isn’t really going to understand this. So, let me update you on some chemistry and physics and then you can write this thing. He doesn’t do that. He speaks to the people at the time, in the context and language in which they best understand. So, when you read the Bible you need to equip yourself with the tools to read it properly. I would actually recommend people go to www.thebibleproject.com, it’s the organization I work for. There’s over 100 videos. We basically make cartoons on the internet for adults. They’re from three and a half minutes to seven minutes and they help break down the context, the language, the themes that are used and woven throughout the Bible to understand the overall story first. Once you understand the overall story, it’s a little easier to not get bogged down in some of these details that a lot of people in the Christian church like to focus on, but we’re missing the point.
We’re trying to analyze this blade of grass and we’re missing the beautiful herd of elephants walking by. You need tools to read the Bible. So, I’d recommend people start there, www.thebibleproject.com.
Matthew: Okay great. That’s the best way to follow your work is the www.thebibleproject.com.
Aeron: Yeah I mean, you know, all of my opinions that I’ve shared today are not shared by the organization, but I very much believe in everything the organization is doing. I think God has blessed that organization. We’re fully crowdfunded. Everything is free. There’s no denomination paying for this thing. We don’t belong to any denomination. We serve Catholics and Protestants alike, atheists, agnostics and Christians and Muslims and Buddhists alike. We’re trying to help share this story that God’s given us. It’s a story about us. Once you understand the story about us, it helps you understand the story about you and how you connect to this big confusing thing, but I do consider it truth, even though it’s a hard truth sometimes. Don’t just open Genesis and start reading. You’re just going to get confused. You need some assistance.
Matthew: Aeron what a great interview. Thanks so much for joining us today on CannaInsider. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain everything, what happened and clearing the air on a couple points I think that were hanging out there. Wish you all the best on your new endeavors, The Bible Project, and we’ll be wishing you well.
Aeron: Thanks Matt. I love you man. You’ve always been a good friend and been a real pleasure knowing you and I look forward to knowing you in the future.