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Medical Doctor Pivots to Create a Cannabis-Focused Practice

dr rachna patel

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

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

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

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


Read Full Transcript

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

Rachna: Thank you for having me on the show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew: Yes.

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

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

Rachna: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachna: Yeah totally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Founders of PenSimple Are Obsessed with Fresh Ground Cannabis Flower


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

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

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

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

Read Full Transcript

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

Brian: Thank you.

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

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

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

Brian: Sounds nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian: Yeah any investors that are interested, you can reach me at

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

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

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

Brian: You can find out more about PenSimple at

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialing In Your Cannabis Experience with This Vaporizer Technology


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

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

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

Learn More About The FireFly 2 Vaporizer

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

Read Full Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew: Sure, sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark: First and foremost.

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

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

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

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

Matthew: How good.

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

Matthew: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew: Sure please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew: Society won’t let you though.

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

Matthew: It is.

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

Matthew: Yeah good points.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoying CBD in your Coffee?

native jack cbd coffee

Jason Walsh is co-founder of NativeJack a cold-brewed nitro coffee with CBD. Learn how this food scientist is using his family’s unique recipe to get his coffee on grocery store shelves.

Key Takeaways:
[2:15] – What is Native Jack
[2:31] – Jason talks about how he got into the cannabis space
[4:34] – Jason talks about getting the ingredients right
[6:21] – Jason explains where the name Yummari came from
[7:16] – Jason discusses putting nitro in coffee
[9:05] – The reason some nitro cold brew coffee tastes sour
[10:15] – The ingredients in Native Jack
[10:49] – Jason discusses how he sources his CBD
[14:37] – Jason talks about the hemp market in Colorado
[15:21] – Where is Native Jack sold
[16:45] – What are grocery stores looking for
[18:36] – Letting customers know there’s CBD in the coffee
[20:39] – Jason discusses the manufacturing process
[22:02] – Jason answers some personal development questions
[30:45] – Investment opportunities for Native Jack
[31:39] – Native Jack contact details

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

Read Full Transcript

The cannabis conversation is moving out of dispensaries and on to store shelves. I am pleased to welcome Jason Walsh co-founder of Native Jack CBD Coffee onto the show today to tell us all about bringing cannabis and hemp derived products on to grocery store shelves. Jason, welcome to CannaInsider.

Jason: Yeah thank you for having me.

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

Jason: I am in Boulder, Colorado.

Matthew: Okay, and are you originally a Boulder native or where are you from originally?

Jason: No, I am a transplant. So I am from the New York City area. I recently moved to Boulder it will be three years this April.

Matthew: Okay. What’s Native Jack at a high level?

Jason: Native Jack is a nitrogen cold brewed coffee that meets the benefits of CBD oils infused into its product.

Matthew: Okay, and what’s your background? How did you get into the cannabis space and start Native Jack?

Jason: I guess my journey probably started some time in the early 2000s when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a graphic designer. So my role was to help the sales team really pitch the products and the new drugs coming onto the market. So I got to gain a big experience learning about types of new molecules that were coming to the market and how they were being presented to customers. After I had my time in the pharmaceutical experience which was great, I really thought about other products in the food category that could be beneficial to consumers just like medicine is as well.

So I researched a ton of different seeds; chia seeds, hemp seeds, hemp hearts and I understood there was great molecules that were undiscovered in these seeds. I thought well if could make a great product that had medical benefits that maybe weren’t tested by the FDA but were understood to be beneficial, I could really start developing great products. From there I quit the pharmaceutical space and launched my first company Yummari which is a hemp derived energy bar and then after six years of running that we were fortunately sold to a larger company here in Boulder and during that time I was experimenting with cold brewed coffees and trying to understand how I can incorporate different levels of benefits into coffee and the help plant again came to my forefront of thought and how can I do this and I guess Native Jack was born out of all these progressions of learning throughout the year.

Matthew: When you were developing the Yummari bar how do you create a formulation that tastes great, has shelf life and then get the distribution for it because it seems like there’s a lot of people that may be able to create a great bar but they don’t get the other components right. Is there any words of wisdom there?

Jason: Yeah you’ve got to be 100% in. So my wife and I worked corporate jobs for just about a year and a half while Yummari was getting launched and we were doing about 120 hours per week and the bulk of that, 60 hours, was basically just into this one food company, the Yummari product, and we were not getting paid. It was something that we wanted and felt passionate about and that I think is an ingredient that most entrepreneurs overlook. How many dark days you’re going to have, how isolating it can be because it’s just going to be you, the product and whoever you’re working with for a long period of time. You’re not going to get a lot of congratulations and way to go.

This is something that you’re going to be buried into and basically your passion is going to get you through those dark times and you have to believe that what you’re doing is necessary and it’s something that you want to really follow and I think that is overlooked by a lot of people thinking they can just jump into the food business and not really understanding it takes a lot of hours and time. If you enjoy it, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you hate it, those early mornings where you’re producing and then you’re selling that afternoon and then you go home and clean up so you’re really not having any breaks or down time or you’re not taking long sleeps anymore, but at the end of the day if you feel this is something that you want to have people experience, it’s definitely worth it. I think it’s a big lesson I’ve learned.

Matthew: So looking at how you spelled Yummari, Y-U-M-M-A-R-I, was it on purpose that the first three letters make the word yum? So kind of set the stage like this tastes good.

Jason: Yes so Yummari actually comes from the tribe of runners in the Copper Canyon in New Mexico. Yummari is a dance to the native culture in the Copper Canyon. They’re called the Raramuri Tribe. They’re known for their long distance of running. So Yumari is their dance for good luck. I was inspired by their culture because of their healthy eating habits and they’re able to run long distances. We incorporated the second “m” into that word to really make it our own and kind of acknowledge that we have this connection to their tribe and respect for their food.

Matthew: Interesting. Let’s talk about cold brew coffee. Nitro coffee is really just getting started in a lot of places but can you describe what nitro is and why people are putting it in coffee?

Jason: Sure. So nitro coffee adds a really great benefit of taste and flavor and texture to coffee. So cold brewed coffee I feel is kind of the first generation that kind of broke out of the standard model, went into the cans and glasses that we see on the shelves at Whole Food. I think nitrogen is the next evolution of coffee where you can actually have this great tasting coffee with silky textures, the nice smooth taste to it. So it just adds another benefit without adding calories or sugar content.

Matthew: Yeah, the head on the cold brew coffee is like a Guinness and that’s what it looks like and kind of tastes like. I have to admit that I’m really in love with nitro coffee, but I haven’t tried the CBD coffee yet. I see all the coffee shops with the taps now. They’re starting to spring up. At first you’re thinking is this beer. What are they having there? When you see a tap now in a café it’s typically because they have a cold brew there that they’re serving of some kind. A lot of times it has nitro in it, but I find that at least half of the ones I try in cafes or coffee shops stink like they’re sour or there’s something going on and then I go to another one and they’re excellent. I was like why is there such a huge disparity between the excellent cold brew nitro and then this crappy stuff? I take a sip and then I have to throw it away. I mean it’s really not good at all. What would you say the reason is there?

Jason: Well I’ve experienced that as well and I was kind of baffled to where the sourness came from and I kind of figured out and learned that it’s actually if the baristas at these coffee shops are not using a properly mixed gas, if they’re using a beer gas which is part CO2 and nitrogen, they will get a sourness to their coffee because the CO2 will incorporate into the coffee faster than nitrogen and spoil the coffee. I would always ask if it’s a clean nitrogen, if it’s 100% nitrogen you should be fine. There should be no issue with it, but if they’re using a beer mixture which is a combination of two gases, the CO2 again will leech into the coffee. It doesn’t ruin the quality. It just ruins the taste. How about that?

Matthew: Okay so there should be no CO2, there should just be nitro?

Jason: Yeah 100% nitrogen. That’s all they should use.

Matthew: Okay that’s good to know.

Jason: Yeah it’s important.

Matthew: So Native Jack has nitro in it and CBD. Can you describe the ingredients in there so we can get a sense?

Jason: Yeah so the first launch of our beverage line is Native Jack and that’s a Thai cold brewed coffee. So this is a Thai coffee if people are familiar with that style. It’s a sweetened condensed milk, cardamom spices, almond extract is something I’ve added to it. Then we use the hemp plant oils. So all that incorporated we have this nice Thai cold brewed coffee that has great benefits of the hemp plant oils.

Matthew: How do you source your CBD?

Jason: I have a local farmer here in Boulder that sources it from Europe. So he has two options. If you want to do local Colorado hemp, obviously I can’t use that hemp because I want to sell this so I bring this across state lines. It has to be European hemp and then from there he actually takes the hemp in the raw form and does his extractions in his facility.

Matthew: There’s a certain amount of THC in hemp but does this satisfy the threshold so it’s legal in all 50 states? Can you tell us about that?

Jason: Yeah so the threshold is .3% so it’s very low. He tests his own batch sheets and he’s been recently getting where his CBD has actually had 0%. This is the first time he said he ever really gotten this low but I think he’s been really developing this method to really protect his customers from any type of litigation from the FDA. So his CBD is high quality and it’s a very low or zero THC and well under the federal allowance of .3%.

Matthew: How much CBD is in each can?

Jason: So it’s 15mg of CBD per can.

Matthew: Okay how does that relate to what people would consider a normal adult dose?

Jason: So under CBD the dosage really varies from 50-100mg a day. It’s really up to the consumer to determine how much is necessary. So the part of the 15 is really just a part of their daily routine. So if they’re doing let’s say 100, they can say alright I’m having maybe two cans a day I’m already at 30 and then I have pills and some supplements that have CBD. So it’s part of their daily routine or their weekly habit of incorporating CBD.

Matthew: Now I recognize the CBD oil taste, but how do you incorporate the CBD oil into the Native Jack can? Do you taste it or do you don’t taste it? How does that work?

Jason: I try to mask it out as much as possible. I think with new users and consumers if they did taste the CBD flavor, they may be off put by thinking maybe the coffee is bad or the dairy went bad. So I use with the condensed milk, since CBD is a bitter product, the best way to mask out bitterness is with sugar and that’s where the condensed milk comes in. It works together with the CBD bringing down the bitterness and kind of leveling it out.

Matthew: Okay I’ve had Vietnamese coffee before and it has condensed milk in it and so the Thai coffee is a little bit more of a spicy coffee would you say?

Jason: Yeah it adds cardamom is the Thai version of the Vietnamese coffee. That’s the biggest difference and cardamom is great for inflammation properties. It has a lot of benefit that I like. I’m part Thai. So my mother grew up in Thailand and we had Thai coffee as a kid all the time. It was more like a dessert and when I was thinking about flavors I was like this could be interesting to incorporate a specialty coffee into a can and it’s not a black coffee on the market. It’s something different.

Matthew: What’s the help market like in Colorado? Is it starting to mature more? I haven’t got an update in a little while. You’re closer to it. What would you say about it?

Jason: I would say it’s pretty much like the whole country. Misinformation is the biggest thing I deal with. People not understanding when they say medical marijuana and CBD hemp they often combine the two and I say once you say marijuana that’s when you’re drawing the line and saying it’s not marijuana. This is hemp. Once you get that out of the people’s minds of how they confuse the two is a challenge and it takes a long conversation to say two different plants for different reasons. One is CBD, one is THC and then go on from there to explain the differences and why this is legal to sell in all 50 states.

Matthew: Where are you selling Native Jack now?

Jason: Right now I did a few test runs or sales in a few grocery stores in Boulder. So it was the first production run we did and it went extremely well and now we’re doing a second production run to kind of improve the actual texture of the coffee and that should go back on shelves into alfalfa stores and Whole Foods here is interested in bringing it in as well, hopefully. I have a call with them in November but it looks promising. I have to say anything can happen. At the last minute they could say no we’re going to move a different direction and not bring in the coffee, but at least I have a meeting so that’s always a positive. We launched on Amazon about a week and a half ago.

Matthew: Okay and do you sell on your website as well?

Jason: Yeah direct to consumers. So both pricing models on Amazon and my site are very competitive. I try to give a little bit better pricing on my site, but with Amazon you get free shipping so there’s kind of a tradeoff.

Matthew: Okay. How do you figure out what the buyers from grocery stores care abouts are? I mean obviously they want the product to sell but what are their other care abouts that you try to address so they help get Native Jack on the shelves?

Jason: Well most of the grocery national stores that I’m selling into have a banned ingredient list and you can look that up on the Whole Foods website, any local grocer will have say you can’t have these ingredients in our store. So that’s a big check box. If I produce this product, I want to make sure I follow the guidelines of let’s Whole Foods is like the master guideline. You can construct a lot of your recipes and guide yourself through the process developing products if you follow their method in how they like things incorporated. And too they like to have local companies in so it helps to be in Colorado and I want to sell in Colorado and then they really like the story of where this product came from and how it helps people and who actually the owners are.

I think the last one is if you can support the brand. So you go there into the store and demo the product, discuss any type of questions you have with consumers and help them feel more comfortable about the product. Again since this is coffee it’s a little bit different from the market. There were a lot of questions that initially came in asking different types like how can you sell this, will I get drug tested. So I’m there to really calm people down and educate them at the same time. If you work with them, so all those components together, right ingredients, supporting the brand and having a story to sell to the buyer, you should be good to sell.

Matthew: Okay. People are looking at cans of coffee on the shelves. How do you quickly display to them that there is CBD in this coffee? Do you make that larger somehow? How do you get that across when they’re just glancing?

Jason: I really call it hemp because not everyone knows what CBD is. So I call it as a hemp plant oil. One, I think just the term hemp gets people interested. Wow, this is hemp and then they dig a little deeper and they can read about the benefits. So I don’t hit them over the head with new terms that might take a little longer for them to digest, but if I say this is a nitro, my label is a nitro hemp coffee. And if (19.08 unclear) just a cold brew black coffee right there I’m a little bit different. I’m a little more interesting and they can pick it up. Most consumers understand what hemp, but they don’t get the finer points and that’s why I try to be a little broad with my labeling.

Matthew: Yeah you hit on something there. More unique, that’s back to having a unique selling proposition. I get emails all the time from listeners that are creating kind of a “me too” product and I try to encourage them. Do something different here or else you have no special sauce. So you’ve got the hemp infused nitro coffee plus the cardamom flavors that’s unique in a few different ways. So I think that’s compelling.

Jason: Yeah, no, I think the more you can offer a consumer within a category that’s been understood, so coffee obviously is a huge category. If you go to Starbucks people are putting spices on their coffee, whip cream. So people do like combinations of flavors in their coffee. Not everyone loves black, bitter coffee. I prefer it black myself, but I understand that 90% of the country is into flavored style coffees and this is something that is it better for you product and it has different options as well.

Matthew: What is it like producing a drink like this on a commercial scale? Do you have a machine to do this or contract partners? How does that work?

Jason: It’s kind of a mixture of two. I am considered I guess the brew master for the coffee line. So I have a facility where I can produce about 600 cans at each run which isn’t a huge production. It’s a good start. Then after it’s been produced I have a mobile canning company meet me at my facility and they actually hook up all my kegs onto their canning line and they actually fill cans for me. So it’s a two-part operation.

Matthew: Wow that’s pretty clever. Clever business on their part as well.

Jason: Yeah because it helps me with overhead. I don’t have to spend money investing in equipment but I can lease it from them technically for a few hours and they will can everything perfectly and I know I have a safe can on the market. It’s clean and I can go out and sell it.

Matthew: How long does it take when the mobile canner arrives to get 600 done?

Jason: Just roughly under three hours depending on how efficient everything is.

Matthew: Very good.

Jason: Yeah not a lot of time.

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

Jason: Yeah I think there are a few books. I’m a big fan of nonfiction. I read a lot of biographies of people from the past. I read from Jefferson to basically all the founding fathers. I kind of respect them. I’ve read all their bios. Currently I read the Mark Cuban bio and Sam Walton for Walmart. I think that’s a great one. That kind of really changed the way I thought about a lot of different things because everyone knows the Walton family being the richest family I think in the world. Sam Walton, he came from nothing and he started his empire of really trying to get pricing and be more efficient in helping the end consumer. So I thought his book is great.

A few of them I recommend to anyone starting out is one that’s called the Myth of the Robber Barons and they talk about basically the capitalist families in the early part of the century of industry. You’ve got the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys and Morgans. They come off really poorly in history but what they did for this country of really consolidating railroads and oil and gas and really producing lower cost products but at really high quality and be more efficient. Then after time of their retirement they’ve donated basically billions of dollars back into the community. I think it’s a good model for a lot of people. I think you can see that today with Facebook and Warren Buffet and the guys today are actually going back to that model of making their billions and then giving it back. These guys did this before it was popular.

So I kind of thought that was interesting. The last one is I, Pencil is a good book. It’s about how you actually build a pencil and how involved it is where you have to actually source probably 15 different parts of the pencil all over the world and how global trade is important. How one pencil is used by the whole world, but it actually takes countries to build a pencil. And at the end of the book you realize you’re not alone. There’s lots of parts. When I get my ingredients it’s all over the country and all over the world just to make a can of Native Jack. It’s the same thing with the pencil.

Matthew: That’s interesting yeah. I never would have thought of that. You got graphite, wood, rubber, little metal band. That’s crazy.

Jason: Yeah the supply chain is always interesting when you start a business and you have to go beyond your boundaries of your backyard, your local grocery store. You have to really think other countries, how can I incorporate better ingredients from parts of the world. Maybe it’s a little intimidating to say I’m going to call up Bali for chocolate or start sourcing coffee from Thailand and before you know it you’re pretty much internationally supply chain management guy.

Matthew: Is there one of the founding fathers that kind of leaps out to you as being interesting or compelling in any way?

Jason: Thomas Jefferson is probably my favorite of all the founding fathers because of basically his writings, his passion for knowledge was, at such a young age I feel like I was nothing compared to this guy. What he was doing, you know, it went from year to year but it’s inspiring to kind of do better and really understand and to learn as much as you can so that’s where I kind of followed that kind of thought.

Matthew: Yeah the Federalists Papers and all these original documents were so compelling to learn about where their ideas came from. They also borrowed a lot from the French. Having witnessed the French Revolutionary War were they got a lot of their ideas for liberty. It’s really cool. I sometimes think about how they talked about taxes being such a burden and there should never be a personal income tax and don’t let that ever happen and don’t let the banking cartels control money supplies. All the things that they warned about we’ve done and somehow it still has stuck together, but I think about those things sometimes. Like wow we’re kind of teetering way way away from the original thesis that these guys brought back hundreds of years ago. So I’m glad that there’s people reading it out there.

Jason: Yeah just the fact that even the cannabis plant itself is banned and is a federally Schedule I drug.

Matthew: Right, right.

Jason: I’m all for personal freedom so if people want to make decisions on their own and test a drug. I’m always baffled how you can say tobacco is fine. The whole argument is if one drug is legal, I think they all should be.

Matthew: Yeah. Yeah certainly Portugal is trying that route and they seem to be having success with it. They’re like we’re just decriminalizing everything. We don’t have the resources or time and if we do, do we really want to put people in jail or help them recover if they’re nonviolent. So that is an interesting argument.

Jason: There are laws when you’re violent there’s a law for that, assault and battery and that’s fine, but if you’re on an ingested drug in your own private time and not hurt anybody, what’s the big deal.

Matthew: Now is there a tool web based or otherwise that you would consider indispensible to your day to day productivity and you could not imagine living without?

Jason: I would say my iPhone. It really extends my desktop from anywhere I have to be. If I have to try to try to spend a lot of my time in production but I can also be physically writing emails back and taking phone calls. I didn’t have that when I started in ’99 with my first job and you were pretty much tied to your desk. You got back to your desk, checked your emails. This extended unfortunately my day is a little longer but it’s more efficient. I can have maybe ten emails instead of 50 before I get back to my office. Being a small business owner I think that’s the most important. I put down fires much faster and I respond to customers quickly with any concerns. So the desktop I feel like it’s an extension of my desktop, my iPhone.

Matthew: Yeah I hear ya. I’ve been experimenting with new morning rituals and right now I’m trying to not look at anything internet related until after all my morning rituals are done; eating, showering and all that stuff. I find I have a much clearer mind because as a great of a tool it is it kind of takes away the attention to focus on one thing. There’s all these background processes going on when I have emails to respond to and these things to do. In other words, if I don’t look at it, I don’t think our evolution has caught up to the technology. I don’t know if it ever will. I mean it seems like that’s growing exponentially and we’re still here in these primate bodies trying to figure out how to use these effectively.

Jason: Yeah there’s definitely encouragement on family life. I have on kid, a baby. He’s one year old. So I think we’re going to probably put a lot of parameters on his uses of technology until he gets old enough he can have a reason for it. When I visit families they’re always on their iPhones. They’re not even making eye contact. A lot of social interaction is lost. I think conversation is important. People have to learn how to have that. Networking is such a powerful tool when you have a small business to go into a room or a bar or any location and go up to people and start introducing yourself and speaking and that could be lost art. It could be something that could die away.

Matthew: Right. I see sometimes now in restaurants there’s these baskets where everybody puts their smart phone in the basket and if anybody has to get their smart phone out and look at it, they have to pay for the whole group’s meal. So it’s kind of a way of incentivizing focus on the group you’re with and what you’re doing now. So that’s kind of a welcomed change. It’s a little sad that we have to do it that way but it is still kind of cool.

Jason: No, it’s great. I think conversation is important. Just talking to someone, someone brand new and just understanding where they came from and what they’re doing and why they’re here. It’s more fascinating than social date.

Matthew: Tell us, are you still looking for investors for Native Jack?

Jason: I did a first round with investors and I did a safe note so if anyone is interested in learning more about that, it’s basically a simple agreement for future equity. So it’s a different level than a convertible not. It doesn’t bring any debt in the company. It’s more of a promissory note to investors that when I do convert into equity everyone converts at the same time. There’s no time cap to actually raise in that trend. So the note is always open. It never really closes until you do your next round. So if I do speak to an investor tonight or tomorrow and he’s like oh I would like to do 50K, I can easily have that note offered to him. Yes I’m looking for investors, but it has to be the right one too.

Matthew: Okay. If someone is interested in investing in Native Jack is there a way to reach you or reach somebody at Native Jack?

Jason: Yeah you can go directly to my website at the contact page. All the emails get sent to me or you can just write me directly at

Matthew: Jason can you tell us your website url one more time?

Jason: Sure. It’s

Matthew: Okay Well Jason you have a great sounding product here. I’m really excited about it. I want to try it soon. I’m going to be purchasing some to give it a try. Thanks so much for coming on the show we really appreciate it.

Jason: Great well thanks for having me.

Connecting with Dispensary Customers to Create Deeper Relationships – Joel Milton

joel milton baker technologies

Key Takeaways:
[2:20] – Joel explains what Baker does
[3:51] – Joel talks about when he decided to get into the cannabis space
[4:57] – Voids Joel encountered when entering the cannabis space
[7:37] – Joel talks about benefits that are most popular with dispensary owners
[11:04] – How Baker drives dispensary customer engagement
[12:46] – Open and click through rates when a customer first starts using Baker
[14:12] – Using Baker to send text messages
[16:01] – Joel talks about expanding customers’ interests without alienating them
[17:15] – Does Baker have an API to the different software systems
[18:31] – Baker’s loyalty features
[20:40] – Joel talks about training staff to use Baker
[22:54] – Joel discusses Baker’s user interface
[24:51] – Joel’s book and web application recommendations
[27:37] – Baker’s fundraising process
[28:35] – Contact details for Baker

Many vendors have sold outside “solutions” to the cannabis industry. As a result, dispensaries are running on a hodgepodge of systems. To make matters worse, none of these systems talk to each other, costing your staff time, and dispensaries money.

These vendors don’t understand the cannabis industry and its inherent challenges, but Baker does. Running a dispensary is not like running your local pizza shop learn why in this interview with Joel Milton, co-founder of Baker.

Learn more at:

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

Read Full Transcript

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

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

All businesses want solutions to help them attract, retain, and delight their customers and cannabis businesses are no different. That is why I’ve asked Joel Milton, Co-Founder and CEO of Baker Technologies to join us on the show today to discuss how to drive cannabis customer engagement? Joel welcome to CannaInsider.

Joel: Hey thanks for having me.

Matthew: Give listeners a sense of geography. Tell us where you are in the world today Joel?

Joel: Excellent. I’m actually in San Francisco. I split my time between here and Denver which is where our company is based and headquartered and Baker itself started off in Colorado and that’s where our initial dispensary clients were. This year we’ve expanded into Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, California, and even Toronto, Canada.

Matthew: Oh wow and give us a high level overview of what Baker does?

Joel: Absolutely. So Baker is a software company and first and foremost our goal is to help dispensaries really build their brand, keep their customers happy and loyal, and ultimately make more money as a business.

Matthew: Okay.

Joel: Yeah.

Matthew: And are you from Colorado originally? Are you from the Bay Area? Where are you a native of?

Joel: I’m actually a native New Yorker so I grew up just outside of Manhattan and I spent about six years living in New York City working in the tech startup scene and that’s where I met David and Roger my now co-founders. We got interested in the cannabis space, found out that between the three of us we had the product, the backend development, and the sales capability and we headed west and got involved.

Matthew: Does every place just seem vanilla after living in New York City? I mean you’ve got that tempo, the cadence of life there is just so ba, ba, ba.

Joel: It’s a lot. I think it’s a really exciting place to live and work and you do a lot of things in a very short amount of time while you’re there and I always will have a soft spot in my heart for New York but excited to have moved on and be spending a lot of time in Denver and the Bay Area. When you live in New York it’s easy to think the rest of the world doesn’t exist and when you go elsewhere you realize hey New York is a great place but there’s more to life too.

Matthew: True, true.

Joel: Yeah.

Matthew: Was there a particular aha moment when you realized you wanted to bring your skills to the cannabis space?

Joel: It’s funny you know it actually wasn’t my idea. David and I were working together doing a bunch of freelance work in New York City helping companies come up with and iterate early stage tech ideas and someone was telling me about the cannabis space and what was going on and I really started digging in and looking at the space and took a trip to Denver and I was really excited by the whole industry. I thought it was amazing. I met with a handful of dispensary owners and really talked to them about what their current challenges were and what sort of solutions existed and I realized there weren’t that many people solving problems who had a true technical background and it was there that David, Roger, and I really started evaluating where we were and it just so happened we were all at a decent point where we had the bandwidth to take on something new and it started off as like a side project and before long we were full time on Baker.

Matthew: What was the void? I mean aside from the background expertise that you’re like hey we want to go in and solve this problem or scratch this itch? Was there anything in particular?

Joel: Absolutely yeah. So two things one in Colorado at the time rec had just passed and you had these pretty long lines or at least crowded dispensaries and all of your customers waited in the same line whether it was a customer who shops once a week and buys a 100 dollars at a time and know exactly what they want or whether it was a tourist or a first time shopper who walks in and says hey what’s Indico, what’s sativa, or how many milligrams should I eat in an edible? So originally we built Baker to be an online ordering tool to help dispensaries keep their 20% of customers who accounted for 80% of the revenue right typical 80/20 rule. Keep these small group of people who really drove revenue and spent a lot of money happy and let them order ahead get in and get out so that the bud tenders could spend more time with people who had questions talking to them and explaining.

So that was the original void and it worked. We did that. We had early success. It was solving a pain point but pretty quickly we realized there was an even bigger void in the market which was dispensaries were spending a lot of money on customer acquisition. Advertising in print paper, digital, as well as the different listing sites getting their menu out there, trying to get eyeballs but they weren’t really spending any money on customer retention. So if you look at any other industry you see in typical retail it’s actually six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one but for some reason in cannabis it was all about driving foot traffic, driving foot traffic and we found that a lot of these dispensaries didn’t actually fully realize the economics of every dollar they spend on these new customers many of them would come in for a deal, buy whatever product was on sale, and then not come back again.

So the ROI was actually negative and we started working with dispensaries who start to understand this and realize that it doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom. It’s not just about having the cheapest A or having the best deal that you can get people in your door. It’s really building that brand loyalty. The same way if I buy one brand of sneakers over another I’m not trying to buy the cheapest sneakers right. I like the brand that I like. Likewise there’s a real opportunity here for dispensaries to build their own brand, really connect with their customers, and drive repeat business. So we’ve really evolved Baker to be a full set of software tools that do just that which is really help build the relationship between the dispensary and their customer, drive that loyalty, keep the customer happy, and ultimately help the dispensary make more money.

Matthew: So it sounds like you’re saying segmentation and customization are some of the big primary benefits when you sit down with the dispensary owner. What are the top two or three benefits that you really try to drive home and that they seem to like the most?

Joel: Absolutely. Well first and foremost it’s building your customer list right. I think everyone knows that at the end of the day as a dispensary it’s really important to know who your customers are so helping them capture those customers pretty easily and for that we use an Ipad that we’ll give you that sits in your store or a tool that goes on your website. A lot of the times these websites are dead ends for dispensaries. If a customer does happen to find them there’s no real call to action. It’s just an address, maybe store hours, sometimes even they have a live menu, often not. With Baker we give you a shoppable menu so if a customer does land on your site they can actually order something and take an action or if they want to they can enter their cell phone number and sign up for personalized alerts.

So really it’s about capturing that customer data and then the second thing you said is exactly right too which is personalization and segmentation. So if you have one generic list that you send out to all the time there’s going to be a lot of people on there who are getting a lot of irrelevant messages and just like when you log on to Amazon part of the reason it’s such a powerful platform is because every time you log on its personalized to you. You see things that are on sale or available or recommended based on your needs and interests. With Baker we try to do the same thing so rather than send out a text to every single customer every Wednesday about Wax Wednesday half off two thirds of your customers never use concentrates which means two thirds of your customers are going to be getting spam every single Wednesday and they’re going to be very likely to opt out of all messages because they don’t want to keep getting that annoying text every Wednesday.

So with Baker we make it really easy to segment your customers based on their interests, send them what feels like a personalized relevant message so that they get excited every time they hear from you and they’re not like oh another message and I’m just going to instantly delete without reading but they know hey if I get a message from my dispensary it’s because they have something I want and it becomes that exciting feeling where you’re going to rush when you get a message and then the customer takes action and they actually click on a link and make a purchase.

Matthew: Yeah you’re kind of training your customers in a way that your emails mean something and your text messages mean something.

Joel: Absolutely and it’s not necessarily training them in a bad way right. We’re not manipulating the end customer. We’re actually making them happier and again that’s the same reason Amazon is great right. It’s not that they’re training us. They provide a valuable service. I know when I go on and I click recommend for me it’s going to be interesting and likewise we help these customers have a better experience and another feature that we offer is called strain alerts where if you have a really high demand product that you love right. Maybe it’s Blue OG a special hybrid that just is your favorite and it’s always out of stock. You can actually sign up to get a personalized message so as soon as that product comes back in store I get like hey Joel good news Blue OG is back in stock and I know I can either reserve it right there from my phone or run into the store and get it before it’s gone again and now that’s providing a really valuable service for the end user and ultimately if you make that end customer happy they’re going to become more loyal and be a better customer.

Matthew: So it sounds like what dispensaries that aren’t using Baker are doing wrong is they’re treating everybody and that they’re putting everybody in the same bucket, they’re sending them email blasts that don’t really tell them what to do next. Hey we have some announcement there’s no way for you to take any action. There’s no call to action. With Baker you’re saying hey we have this in stock now, I know you like it that’s why I’m sending it to you, and hey you can reserve it right here on your phone. So it’s taking it to a much deeper level.

Joel: Exactly. I mean the analogy I use is imagine if you got an email from J. Crew saying hey Matt pants are on sale today but there was no link or no image even. It was just an email that said those four words. They’re going to expect you to get in your car and find the nearest J. Crew and walk in and say I’m here for the pants right. It doesn’t make sense right. Of course not there’s a big picture of a model wearing the pants where you can see what it looks like and you can read a description and you can click on it and order it right from wherever you are your mobile device or your desktop. We’re providing that same experience. So when you get that Wax Wednesday text or that Blue OG alert you can click on it. You can see the specific product, you can read about it, and you can actually order it.

So it’s providing that next level. Closing the loop if you will on all messaging with a call to action and that also lets you track it because if you don’t have a call to action it’s impossible to know which messages are better than others right so a lot of times dispensaries don’t know what an effective messaging campaign looks like because they have no way to track it. They say oh I think we were a little bit busier on this day but maybe it was due to the text or maybe not. With Baker you can actually compare click through rates so you can see that hey 20% off did much better than five dollars off. We should do that again next time or hey the deal on this strain performed a lot better than they do on this strain. So it’s really important that you get that data, that feedback loop so you can actually improve and continue to do what’s working and change what’s not.

Matthew: Interesting. So when a dispensary implements Baker for the first time and they start customizing and getting deeper into the customization and segmenting of a customer’s interest what do you see in terms of open rate and click through rate? I mean is there like a doubling or what’s the general there?

Joel: Absolutely. Yeah it’s pretty exciting. We see typically after the first 30 days or so of collecting customer phone numbers with the iPads. Our clients usually send out their first marketing campaign and we’re surprised that they don’t do an incremental 10,000 dollars worth of revenue that initial day or two or three days and often times we have dispensaries say when they first really turn on Baker it’s the highest revenue they’ve ever seen and we get these unsolicited messages. We got one early this week. The subject was happy Monday and it was; it was to Glen, our Head of Customer Success. Hey Glen just wanted to let you know we did 10,000 dollars this weekend thanks to your message, 10,000 dollars more than we usually do thanks to your message.

It’s completely unsolicited and I think what these guys don’t always understand is they don’t believe that it will work because it seems almost too good to be true and that’s part of the reason we’re priced so competitively and that’s honestly our biggest challenge is that education piece because the notion of customer retention is not something that’s fully wide spread yet in the cannabis industry. So we’re still trying to help educate our customers, our clients on what this really means and why it can impact your business and more importantly the best way to actually implement it and to start using it.

Matthew: What about sending text messages? Most people are familiar with getting emails from businesses they like but what about text messages? Is there any kind of protocol or etiquette or things to do differently or think about differently there?

Joel: Absolutely and it’s the same things but it’s even more important on text because your phone, your text messages are very personal right. They have a 99% open rate right. Everyone reads their text messages and it’s because usually you only get them from people you care about or you know versus email everyone’s used to getting spam which is why the open rate is so low but if you start getting spammed via text message that feels much more like an invasion of privacy then getting spammed on email and that’s why it’s even more important that you only send the right messages to people based on what they like and at the right time of day. Our unsubscribe rate on text message is actually; the typical unsubscribe rate on text messages is actually 300% larger than ours.

So ours is less than a third of what the typical unsubscribe rate is and it’s because we really understand these customers and also we can help our clients understand the best way to send these messages right. We work with 150 dispensaries in 8 different states. We have a really good understanding of the cannabis market as a whole and obviously every state is very different and that’s why we have a full team of customer success that really understands each local market and every dispensary thinks they’re different and many of them are in a lot of ways but at the same time when you have that high level overview and really understand the market you can really work with your clients and understand the best way to send out these messages so you don’t get an unsubscribe and that you actually take advantage of the tool to drive revenue.

Matthew: Okay so let’s say you have Baker software implemented and working. You know your customers’ interest, you’re sending them emails kind of contoured to their personal interests, but how do you start to expand the possibilities of what they might be interested in without alienating them?

Joel: Great question. So a few different things one in the store like I said we set up an iPad where customers can select their preferences for what types of products they like. We also offer that full online order right so the more you use Baker the more we can understand what types of products you like and you order and then down the line as we start to integrate deeper and deeper with the different POS systems then it becomes even easier for us to build a customer profile to make sure you’re getting the most relevant information possible. So there’s a number of ways right and the goal is that the longer we’re around and the more we’re working with each dispensary then in this industry we’re going to continue to refine our platform to be smarter and smarter to provide a better and better experience.

Matthew: How does Baker enable online ordering for dispensaries but then integrate with the point of sale systems which you just mentioned? I mean it’s really valuable to be able to reserve and eighth of Blue Dream but if I go in to the dispensary and its gone then that turns from a benefit to a liability pretty quickly. How does that work? Is there an API to the different software systems out there?

Joel: Yep great question. So we do work with a number of the biggest POS solutions out there as well as a bunch of the smaller ones that are up and coming and Baker is designed to be complementary to a point of sale right. If you look at most industries your point of sale is very different than your customer retention platform and your marketing tool. In cannabis a couple POS systems are trying to do all of it themselves and many of them offer some basic functionalities that we do but at the end of the day all we do is focus on that and we do it really well and many POS providers understand that and they say hey you know what if we integrate with Baker we can give our client the best experience possible. We can give them our point of sale, Baker can handle the online ordering and the loyalty and the messaging, and if it works well together that client is going to be really happy and they’re not going to churn and that’s great news for a POS company as well.

So we are really working closely with these POS companies to do just that and insure that if you order something online that order shows up directly in your point of sale. If we’re not integrated with the point of sale that order will show up in Baker and you’ll pull it off the shelf but obviously it’s a much smoother process when we have that full POS integration.

Matthew: Tell us about the loyalty features in Baker and how we get customers to be more loyal in general?

Joel: Absolutely. Yeah so loyalty is interesting right. A lot of people understand that they need it, a lot of people don’t understand the best way to use it, and we provide a number of different tools that are pretty customizable to fit whatever the dispensaries needs are but we also have our set of best practices and that’s really important because at the end of the day like I said you start to see certain things that really work well and for us we’ve found that one of the best ways to drive loyalty is have almost like a digital punch card, like a check-in system so every time someone comes into the dispensary they sign in on the iPad, they get points just for coming into the store and we know that driving foot traffic means that customer is going to be more likely to see something and maybe buy something else and just keep them coming back builds good will.

And we find that’s actually more effective than a points per dollar because then you get this long tail where you have these really high spending customers on one end and they actually take up the bulk of your loyalty resources and the majority of your customers don’t benefit from it because you have to build your system to cater towards these really high spenders. So Baker has actually designed at its base level to just be points per check-in. So every time someone comes they sign into the Ipad they get points, once you get a certain amount of points there are certain rewards that you’re eligible for, and it’s not a static list of rewards and it’s not like you have to get this at this milestone. So after you accumulate points think of it as like a ticket at an arcade right.

You can spend 100 tickets and get the gumball or you can spend 1,000 tickets and get the stuffed animal or you can save up for 10,000 tickets and get the race car. So we let people choose do they want to redeem their points now for something smaller or save up for something bigger and this allows them to choose rewards that again are relevant to their interests because if you have a reward that’s a free pre-roll once you get to 100 points a lot of people don’t like pre-rolls right. People like to roll their own. If they don’t like to smoke whatever it is so again it all feeds back to that customization.

Matthew: What about getting the dispensary staff trained up and up to speed quickly so they can use this without their being a huge learning curve? How does that work?

Joel: Yeah. So when you’re a new client you get a box in the mail and it comes fully ready to go. It comes with an iPad that all you have to do is turn on. It has an instructional video when you first turn it on. It’s preconfigured for your store specifically based on your color scheme and logo and everything else and our generic loyalty system or whatever you decided upfront is also preloaded. All you have to do is just turn it on and sit it there. People like it. They walk up to it, they use it, they sign up for messages. All of a sudden you start building your customer list and it really is very easy to do from a dispensary standpoint. We have a full time onboarding specialist who does nothing but help their staff get trained when you first get started and we have a full customer success team that works with you over the duration of your time with Baker to constantly evaluate what’s working, what’s not, tweak your messaging profile, figure out what sort of deals to offer, and really make sure that you understand what’s working.

And most importantly it’s for the feedback and it’s really important to know that everything we’ve built has been built based on feedback from our client’s right. We’ve been working on Baker for two years now and every two weeks for the last two years we push updates and those updates are constant reflections of what our clients are asking for. So for example someone says hey I’d love to write a bunch of messages on the weekend and schedule them to go out for the next month because I’m going out of town. So we built that functionality right and now a marketing manager can sit down and in 30 minutes schedule all of the messages for the next four weeks and then walk away and it automatically happens or the ability to customize certain things in the loyalty platform right. We listen and work with our clients so customer success not only makes sure you know how to use Baker but their job is also to be a conduit for feedback between the client and our development team so we can continue to build Baker for our clients.

Matthew: What about user interface? It sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into the experience. All you have to do is open the iPad and turn it on that’s a great convenience but what about the user interface in general? I know sometimes when development teams are working on something they’re so close to it that it’s hard to imagine someone looking at it for the first time. What can you say about that?

Joel: Absolutely. So David, one of my co-founders is a really talented user interface guy. He was top of his class at Cambridge studying architecture so very visual with the design and understanding how people interact with spaces and technology and then like I said we spent six years in New York building mobile web apps, iPad applications, Iphone applications, and really doing a ton of user testing of how people interact with technology and not only technology but the world around them and so his main focus is really taking all of that knowledge as well as all the knowledge we’re gaining from this space from our clients to build the simplest and easiest tools out there and we understand dispensaries are really busy places right. We see it firsthand. You have inventory challenges, long lines, new bud tenders that just started, I mean regulatory challenges. There’s always something going on that the last thing these guys need is complicated software.

So Baker is designed to actually make your job easier. Our menu takes a minute to manage as opposed to managing a menu elsewhere which can take 30 or 45 minutes. We have one button that lets you export your menu and print it versus other people who say it takes them 20 minutes a day to print out their menu or again we have automated stain alerts where we have dispensaries that are writing down your name and what strain you wanted and then when that strain came back in stock they were manually texting or calling every single customer and spending hours a week doing that. So our goal to automate as many of these things as possible, make everything one click, super simple because we know how hard it is to run your business and the last thing we want to do is be more work. We want to make it less work and help you be more efficient.

Matthew: Joel I want to transition into some personal development questions to let listeners know a little bit more about who you are personally. As you look over the arc or your life is there a book that stands out that has had a big impact on your way of thinking that you’d like to share?

Joel: That’s an interesting question. I studied psychology and philosophy when I was in school so I’m a big... I’ve always been curious into the way people think and what we think about and I would say Malcolm Gladwell does a pretty good job of helping us understand some of the odd tendencies that people tend to exhibit. We call them biases and there are certain predictable behaviors that we all fall victim to right because our brain takes these shortcuts and I think really reading that and understanding that helps me understand if I’m being irrational about something and really take a step back and look and say okay is this actually the right thing to do or am I just caught up in X, Y, or Z? So I think understanding that has been really helpful in shaping the way that we think about problem solving.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise besides Baker that you consider indispensible to your productivity?

Joel: I mean I think Slack is the first thing that comes to mind. Our team is all very active on Slack. We have like I said the majority of us are in Denver but we have sales people in different markets and I think it’s really important to always be communicating and Slack makes it really easy to do that. I think email can get messy and the more the rest of your team knows what’s going on the better we all can be and make sure nothing gets dropped. So Slack is certainly the most important team wide tool and then personally I like an app called Wunderlist which is just a to-do list that syncs with my phone and my computer so no matter where I am if I have to jot something down I don’t forget to do it. It keeps it organized in one place.

Matthew: That’s great. I use a list app as well called Anylist and my wife and I we can share different lists of things we need while we’re out and so forth.

Joel: Yeah.

Matthew: It’s really handy that way.

Joel: Yeah it’s great. I have lists for myself, I have lists for different people on my team, I have a marketing list, I have an operations list, and then I have a shopping list that my fiancée and I both share.

Matthew: Yeah.

Joel: So no matter where you are you add something to the right list and you make sure it doesn’t get forgotten about.

Matthew: Yes. So well back to Slack do you think that’s cut down significantly on the emails that you have to look at and take some action on would you say?

Joel: Absolutely. Yeah I think it’s so easy for something to get lost in email purgatory and once it gets dropped it’s never to be seen again. So Slack is a great way just to get quick little updates and also channel wide updates without really clogging up everyone’s inbox. So I think there’s a reason they’re growing so quickly. It’s because it works.

Matthew: Joel where are you in the fundraising process? Is Baker looking for more funds currently?

Joel: So we closed a 1.6 million seed round that we announced earlier this year and we’ve been growing very quickly so from a money standpoint we’re in a pretty good spot but that said anytime you grow from 6 to 16 people in a year and we’d like to hire three or four more you’re always needing more resources to fuel growth at that pace. So we’re fortunate that we have some really fantastic investors who will continue to support us and also really well connected investors and we’re constantly getting interest from new and exciting people. So I guess my rambling answer is we’re not aggressively fundraising but we’re always keeping our ear open and there’s a very good chance we’ll put some more money in the bank soon when the opportunity that’s right presents itself so always is the answer.

Matthew: And how can listeners find and connect with Baker online?

Joel: Our website is It’s and there you see most of our B to B tools right so if you’re a dispensary out there or even a ([28:48] unclear) an edible company looking to figure out how you can better engage your customers check out and you can see all of our tools and if you’re an end user you can go to We’re a mobile web app because Apple won’t let you do cannabis commerce in the app store but if you go to you can see all the different dispensaries that are on our platform and actually see what products they have in stock and if you see something that catches your eye you can place an order and reserve it right there.

Matthew: I got to say this is what I really love about the cannabis industry is that there is smart entrepreneurs doing really interesting things but also the industry as a whole doesn’t have to many legacy systems particularly in software so they can just boom go right to Baker or some other software that helps them a lot right away and get kind of the best and greatest from nimble little teams like you have. So this is an exciting time to be alive and congratulations to you. Good luck with everything and thanks for joining us on the show today.

Joel: I appreciate it. Yeah I think you hit the nail on the head right the tool that you use to manage your pizza shop should not be the same tool that you use to manage your dispensary right.

Matthew: Right, right.

Joel: Cannabis is a unique and special industry and we’re excited to be focused just on it alone because there’s enough there to keep us busy.

Matthew: Thanks Joel.

Joel: Alright thank you. Take care.

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