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Steve DeAngelo is perhaps the most recognized person in the cannabis industry. You will undoubtedly recognize his ever-present pig tails and distinctive hat as well as his two businesses Harborside Health Center and The ArcView Group of Oakland California.
What you will discover in this interview:
- Steve’s background in activism
- How he co-founded Harborside Health Center, The ArcView Group, and Steep Hill Lab
- How the legalization of cannabis is unfolding in other countries
- Why Steve rejects just the two categories of medicinal or adult use for cannabis
- How cannabis helps people with their patience, sensuality and creativeness
as well as how many milligrams of THC he puts in his homemade edibles.
If you enjoyed this interview, listen to our interview with Steve’s partner at the ArcView Group, Troy Dayton.
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Each week I’ll take you behind the scenes to interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. That’s www.cannainsider.com/trends. Now here’s your program. Our next guest is perhaps the most recognized person in the cannabis industry. You will undoubtedly recognize his ever present pigtails and distinctive hat as well as his two businesses, Harborside Health Center and the ArcView Group of Oakland, California. I’m pleased to welcome Steve DeAngelo to CannaInsider. Welcome Steve.
Steve: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.
Matthew: Steve most listeners know who you are but may not know your background or how you got started in the cannabis industry. Can you give us a little history?
Steve: Well sure. I’ve been a cannabis activist since I was 15 years old. I got my start doing the 4th of July Smoke Ins with the hippies outside the White House in Washington, D.C. which is where I grew up and spent the first part of my career. So it actually goes pretty far back in time. But once I had spent about ten years as a street activist I became active in the music industry, did a number of benefit albums and concerts for Normal and other activist groups. And then in the 1990s really started my first cannabis business which was a company called Ecolution. It was for about a decade the premier industrial hemp company in the United States. We made about a 100 different hemp products from hemp that we sourced in Eastern Europe which had just become free of communism in those days, ’91, ’92, and ’93.
And I moved out to California about ten years after starting Ecolution, after playing a leading role in the passage of Initiative 59 which was Washington D.C.’s medical cannabis initiative. It passed with 69 percent of the vote. We carried every single precinct in the city which was back in 1998. But the US Congress stepped in and refused to allow that bill to be implemented because they have ultimate governing authority in the District of Columbia. And that infuriated me and frankly disgusted me so much that I decided it was time to come out to California where the first dispensaries were beginning to open.
Matthew: Now you see cannabis and hemp as one issue not two. Can you explain why that is?
Steve: Well it’s one plant. You know, we’re talking about one plant and there’s no technological reason that hemp has to be grown with a low THC content. It’s just become a legally mandated convention. But we’re actually talking about the same plant, and I think that it’s important to look at the cannabis plant holistically to understand the role that it can play in all aspects. It’s really, in my opinion, the single most valuable plant that we have on the planet. It can provide few food, fuel, fiber, medicine. You can manufacture anything that can be made out of cotton or petroleum or trees out of hemp. And you can do so in a much more eco-friendly way.
So just as medical cannabis and cannabis in general has the ability to heal the ailments of our bodies, to heal the unhappiness of our souls, to promote better relations between people, industrial cannabis also holds the potential to help greatly in the healing of our planet which is, you know, going to be one of the great works of coming generations.
Matthew: Now I’ve read that you’re advocating for cannabis to be used only medicinally and not recreationally. Can you explain why that is?
Steve: Well, you know, I reject the categories of medical or recreational. I think that’s a false dichotomy and a false choice. I see most people using cannabis for wellness purposes, and I define wellness very broadly. It certainly includes people who are using cannabis to eliminate their cancer tumors or to control seizures from epilepsy. It includes people who are managing their insomnia or their anxiety or their depression or their chronic pain. But it also includes things like extending you sense of patience and enhancing your appreciation for the flavor of food or the Sound of Music, sparking your creativity, opening yourself to a spiritual experience, waking up your sense of play or your sense of humor, enhancing sensuality and intimacy.
So I don’t see those kinds of things, which is really why people use cannabis, as just getting high. I don’t think that it equates to using substances like alcohol or cocaine or heroin. I think that we’re talking about a qualitatively different experience. When you enhance your creativity, when you extend your sense of patience, when you promote a closer intimacy and sensual experience, this is not about intoxication. If you read the definition of intoxication, it’s to lose control over what you’re doing or what you’re saying, as to become so excited or out of control that you don’t know what you’re doing basically. I just don’t see cannabis operating that way. I don’t see it being helpful to describe it in that way. So I really like to talk about cannabis not for medical purposes or for recreational purposes but rather for wellness purposes.
Matthew: That is a great way of framing it because it seems like it is isolated to those two categories. So I’m glad you’ve expanded it there. You were a pioneer in cannabis testing. How has testing evolved since you started, and where do you see it heading?
Steve: Well you know the testing of cannabis has just played an incredible role in the evolution of the industry. You know, the amazing progress that we’re seeing with CBD rich cannabis and the uses it’s being put to control seizures, especially seizures in children with intractable epilepsy conditions, would not have been possible without the creation of Steep Hill Laboratory and the beginning of the testing industry. We didn’t even know what was in the strains of cannabis that we were providing to patients until testing was possible. And so now we have this whole new category, CBD rich category, of cannabis medicines that really couldn’t have existed prior to testing.
So I think that that’s one, you know, very important contribution that we’ve made. I think that we are also seeing some real leaps and bounds in testing technologies. So when we started Steep Hill, you know, several years ago now, back in 2009, and for the first few years the only way to test cannabis was to actually send a physical sample to the laboratory and put it into a lot of extremely complicated lab equipment. Now we have a mobile device, the QuantaCann, that can be put in any location anywhere on the entire planet that has an internet location, an internet connection and cannabis can be evaluated for its cannabinoid profile, it’s moisture content and eventually its terpenoid profile remotely in something like three minutes.
So huge advances in the technology. I think where we’re headed with it is that, you know, cannabis is this incredibly rich source of therapeutic materials, of wellness materials. There’s a minimum of 65 different unique chemical compounds, cannabinoids in the plant. But some scientists believe that there’s 400 or more of them. Each of these unique compounds has its own effect on human physiology, and many have a unique effect on the human mind. So identifying all of these various different cannabinoids and then analyzing what effects that people associate with cannabis are produced by particular cannabinoids is going to be a very very rich field of research. And you know at some point in the future we’ll see a situation where people can select from cannabis products that are much more precisely dialed in to produce a desired effect.
Matthew: Many of us in the cannabis space have a Colorado, Washington, California focus, but through your travels to Chile, The Czech Republic and Spain, you have a truly international prospective. How do you see the international cannabis community evolving right now, and how is it different than what we see in North America?
Steve: We, you know, my trip to Chile was really really fascinating. And in Chile there’s a model of cannabis culture that’s quite similar to the model of cannabis culture we see in most of Europe which is that the government either tolerates or permits the sale of cannabis seeds and of horticultural equipment, and either tolerates or permits low scale, personal cultivation. However, they you know very strictly enforce any kind of trafficking laws or any kind of large scale cultivation. So Chile it was kind of like going back to California in 1991. There’s this incredible rich cannabis culture. People are using cannabis, talking about cannabis, writing about cannabis, producing cannabis art and cannabis literature and cannabis music. They had the largest cannabis freedom march in the history of the world that I know about last May in Santiago with 200,000 people. This is in a country of 15 million. So it would be like having 4 million at a cannabis freedom march in the United States, something like that. That’s a vast culture.
But unlike here where, you know, I mean I recently saw the Pot Barons of Colorado show on MSNBC, and I was just really appalled by like how the whole show was just focused on… really it was a show about making money. It wasn’t really a show about cannabis. It didn’t talk about the plant or its effects or the good of ending prohibition or helping people. It was really just focused on this race to build a new industry. And you know the contrast between that with Chile was really striking to me, and it made me realize how important it is that as we move forward into legalization, wherever we are in the world, that we make sure that we don’t lose track of the real value that this plant gives us. And the real value that it gives us it’s not simply monetary or opportunities to make profit. It’s the lessons and wisdom that the plant teaches to people who listen with an open mind.
Matthew: Now for those listeners outside of California that may not have been to Harborside Health Center, they might not understand how bustling of a place it is. Can you help paint a picture of what it’s like in there? I mean, I’ve heard there’s even an express line and there’s just so many things going on in there, so much enrichment activities. Can you tell us what’s going on at Harborside?
Steve: Sure. Well, you know, we’re really a full service holistic healing center. So in addition to having, you know, a vast selection of cannabis, we do have about 250 different products to select from on our menu every day. We also have a wide range of services and that includes acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, about ten other therapeutic services. We have a range of support groups for our veterans, for seniors, for parents who have children that are medicating with cannabis, for women. We also have a training center where we teach and incentivize our patients to become involved in activisms. So they come in and spend an hour doing activist work, and they get a gram of cannabis for each hour they spend doing that.
So we have a variety of ways that people can come in and participate. It’s true that at peak hours it can be a really bustling place with a lot of people. And so we’ve, you know, to help people move in and out quickly, we’ve instituted web ordering so people can go online and order online and then come in and pick up from our web pick up station, web order pick up station and generally not have to wait in a line and get in and out of the shop in 5, 6, 7, 8 minutes. So it is. It’s a pretty bustling place. We have, you know, if you walk into our main dispensary room, there is on the left hand side, there’s ten different sale stations. On the right hand side there’s a boutique that sells all sorts of various vaporizers, glassware, t-shirts, books and anything else that we think would be interesting to the cannabis community. Beyond that is a little alter space which is like a non-denominational alter space. And beyond that is our clone department. So it is a big and a bustling place with lots to see and lots of experience.
Matthew: Now you’re also the founder or co-founder of the ArcView Group. We often have entrepreneurs on this show that have presented to ArcView investors. But for people that may not be familiar of what the ArcView group is and does, can you give us some background on why you started it and what it does?
Steve: Sure. I, you know, Troy and I, My partner Troy Dayton and amazing CEO of the ArcView Group, began seeing two different kinds of people coming to us. One were cannabis entrepreneurs who had good ideas. They had startup businesses, they were doing well or at least the potential to do well, but they needed some money to get started or to grow their business. And they were looking for advice on how to do that. Well they came to me at Harborside because I was successful, and they figured I would know how to do this. But, you know, a lot of them really didn’t know how to package themselves or present themselves to investors properly. And at the same time Troy and I were hearing from high net worth people who, you know, most of them had been political donors to the movement, who were starting to get interested in possibly investing in the cannabis sphere. But those investors didn’t know who the players were. They didn’t know how to identify or evaluate the opportunities. They didn’t really know anything about the industry.
And so it became pretty clear to us that there was a need to create a community where the investors and the cannabis entrepreneurs could come together, where they could get to know each other, where we could begin to build a cultural bridge between those two communities. And the idea was that a legitimate and profitable cannabis industry can be one of the most, if not the most, powerful engine moving to end prohibition. And the other idea was that, you know, we decided our main focus in the ArcView Group now is what we call our ArcView Investor Forums. And small generally startup cannabis companies have an opportunity to present their ideas and their companies every couple of months to about 350 investors. And so what we hope to do is, you know, create a very vibrant and very broad based cannabis industry that’s open to a lot of people. You know, we don’t want to just create a new industry. We want to create a new kind of industry in this country that spreads opportunity more widely than others do.
Matthew: Can you highlight a pitch that you are excited about, that you heard recently to give a flavor of what it’s like at these ArcView events for listeners?
Steve: Yeah, you know, my favorite pitch lately was from a company called Canopy, and Canopy’s business model is based on the business accelerators that you see in the tech industry. And what Canopy does is it provides a boot camp for entrepreneurs who have good ideas, who want to get into the industry, but still need a little bit of help with their basic business procedures, with cleaning up their corporate hygiene, with getting themselves into shape to present to investors. So it’s kind of like, you know, a prep course for people who want to come and present at ArcView who don’t feel they’re quite ready to do it.
So I found that to be a really exciting business model both from the point of view from investors, because investors who invest in Canopy end up getting a small but still an equity interest in each of the companies that go through the Canopy boot camp. And the companies, you know, there are so many passionate, creative people in the cannabis community who because the plant’s been illegal for so long just haven’t had an opportunity to learn on how to really build a legitimate cannabis business. And so Canopy is the place for people to come and do that.
Matthew: Let’s say I’m an entrepreneur listening to this interview and I want to create something just incredible for the cannabis space, what big problems need to be solved?
Steve: It depends on what kind of product you are producing and they fall into two general categories; cannabis products and ancillary products. So if you are actually going to be cultivating or distributing a product that contains cannabis, then licensing is going to be, you know, your first objective. You have to be able to do the activity legally. In the course of the last year the landscape for acquiring licenses, for acquiring new license has become intensely competitive. So anybody who’s planning to cultivate cannabis legally or is planning to make products out of cannabis or distribute those products really needs to take a close look at the licensing requirements wherever they plan on doing business and make sure that they assemble a team that’s capable and has the resources to meet those requirements.
So in terms of folks who are going to be creating ancillary products, in other words, products like software or cultivation equipment or real estate, anything that is not the plant itself, they’re, you know, what I would say the largest challenge really is finding a niche in the industry that is not already crowed. A lot of the more attractive niches in the industry have a lot of contenders already. So for example there’s a number of companies who are contending to be the social media center of the cannabis world. And they include Weed Maps, they include Leafly, there’s another of other companies that are aiming for that same target. And so the competitive space is already fairly crowded. You’re already up against some fairly intense competitors. So for new entrance what I would say is you really want to focus on those niches, those products, those services that are not currently being provided to the industry. Unfortunately there’s an almost endless supply of those kinds opportunities.
Matthew: Now switching gear to legalization. There’s some raids even in recent memory. Are we getting close to raids being a thing of the past at the federal level?
Steve: It doesn’t appear to. I mean the Obama administration has conducted about half again as many raids in its first six years as the Bush administration did during their entire eight years. The Bush administration conducted about 180 raids, and the Obama administration is bumping for 100 now. So the pace actually seems to have been increasing under the Obama administration rather than slowing down. Hopefully that will end, but it certainly hasn’t thus far.
Matthew: There is a sense that the legalization of cannabis is such a fragile thing and that the recent progress that has been made in certain states is no guarantee of future progress. How do we ensure that we continue to move the legalization effort toward the right direction, the right way?
Steve: So I think we really need to continue focusing on the benefits that ending prohibition will bring to the entire society. A lot of the conversation in the media right now is focused on the emergence of the industry, the amount of money the people are going to make, the great deal of opportunity that’s there. And I think that that is all important. But right now the main talking point of the most effective opponents of ending prohibition, people like Kevin Sabet from Smart Approaches on Marijuana, is the specter of “Big Pot”, and I think we need to be very careful not to give the impression that the major motivation for changing the laws is so that people can make a lot of money. Rather we need to keep the focus on things like ending the racial disparities and enforcement ending over incarceration, tax fairness and sanity, actually focusing on violent crime instead of cannabis violations, and really articulate the full spectrum of benefits that are going to come to the entire society.
Matthew: Do you think cannabis will be removed from the list the Schedule I drugs? I mean that’s when the wall really comes down between state commerce. Is that going to happen?
Steve: Well I actually prefer to talk about descheduling rather than rescheduling. I don’t think that cannabis should be a scheduled drug. This is a substance that has been used safely by human beings for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. It is not a new drug, and it is in fact not really a drug at all. It’s an herbal product, and I think that that’s the way that we wanted to regulate it. When we agree to a Schedule II designation for cannabis what we are essentially doing is handing the industry over to the pharmaceutical companies. Because you cannot dispense a Schedule II substance unless you are a federally licensed pharmacists, and you cannot produce a Schedule II substance unless you are a federally licensed pharmaceutical manufacturer. So I think that there’s some real problems when you talk about rescheduling as opposed to descheduling.
Matthew: Now you’re a California native and California is such a pivotal state. What is going to happen in 2016 in California from a political and legalization point of view?
Steve: Oh well we’re going to pass the initiative in 2016, and it’s going to be the biggest and most significant victory that the cannabis movement has seen thus far. I think that it is going to be a shot that is heard around the world. We are already seeing many many countries around the world moving towards reforming their laws. Some countries like Uruguay have actually legalized cannabis already, and I think when California takes that step you’re going to see that snowball start rolling a lot faster.
Matthew: Steve you always seem to be in front of the camera steering the message in such a meaningful and authentic way. For other leaders in the cannabis space, can you offer any advice on how to successfully navigate interactions with the press?
Steve: Well it’s really important to know what it is that you want to say and to be very clear on what your talking points is. You know the advice that I always try to give people is figure out the most important thing that you want to say and figure out how to say it in seven words or less. So if you can make that point effectively in a sound bite then, you know, you can do.. you get a much broader reach. With the press often a shorter… shorter is better in terms of the amount of coverage that you’ll get. So I think that’s important. And the other thing that is important is to be honest and to be real. If you don’t know the answer to a question then say that you don’t know the answer to a question. If you prefer not to answer that question, say you prefer not to answer that question. But don’t guess and don’t mislead and try to the degree possible to speak from the heart. The cameras are very sensitive to any perception of insincerity.
Matthew: And I understand you have a book coming out in 2015. What’s that going to be about?
Steve: Well the book is The Cannabis Manifesto. It is intended to be both a handbook for activists and an introductory primer for people who still don’t know much about the issue. It is going to be a short book, about 150 pages long. There will be about nine chapters. Each chapter is a statement of belief like cannabis should never have been made illegal in the first place. And then that statement of belief is backed up with up with history, political analysis, science and personal anecdotes from my 40 years of cannabis activism. And hopefully it’s something that activists will be able to use to sharpen their own arguments and also to, you know, hand to your conservative uncle or grandfather and change their mind.
Matthew: Now to get a sense of you personally, Steve, is there a strain of cannabis that you’re enjoying right now that you’d like to share with us?
Steve: Well you know I’m 57 years old now, and I’ve smoked an awful lot of cannabis in my life. And a couple of years ago my lungs just sent a message to me and said, you know, dude that’s enough, no more. We’re not going to take it anymore. So almost all of my cannabis consumption is edible now. I prefer to make my own edibles because quite frankly none of the edibles on the marketplace are strong enough to have much of an effect on me. So I generally make my own cookies with the CO2 extract. They, you know, contain upwards or close to a 1,000mg of THC each. So that’s my personal regimen. If I had to pick a strain that I really love, I would say it would have to be Neville’s Original Haze.
Matthew: Great. In closing how can listeners learn more about Harborside Health Center, the ArcView Group, and how can they follow you personally?
Steve: So Harborside Health Center go www.harborsidehealthcenter.com. Our website’s there and you know have a good time exploring that and it will give you lots of information about who we are and what we’re about. You can also go to www.stevedeangelo.com to keep up on what’s happening with me on a more personal level. And then the ArcView Group at www.arcviewgroup.com.
Matthew: Thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today Steve. We really appreciate it.
Steve: It’s very nice to be here. Thanks for having me, and thanks for listening to me everybody.
Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.
Listen in as Julianna Carella and Lauren Fraser of Auntie Dolores discuss how to create edibles that people really want. Auntie Dolores creates THC-infused edibles that include cakes, brownie bites, and their famous pretzels. Learn more at AuntieDolores.com
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Each week I’ll take you behind the scenes to interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. That’s www.cannainsider.com/trends. Now here’s your program. As we often talk about on CannaInsider, cannabis consumers’ preferences are quickly moving from flower to concentrates and edibles. Today we’re going to talk with Julianna Carella and Lauren Fraser if Auntie Dolores. Auntie Dolores makes some of the most talked about and delectable infused edibles. Julianna and Lauren welcome to CannaInsider.
Julianna: Thank you.
Lauren: Thanks Matt.
Matthew: I want to dig into infused products and Auntie Dolores, but before we go down that road, can you tell us where you are in the world?
Julianna: We’re based in Oakland.
Matthew: And where did the name Auntie Dolores come from?
Julianna: Well we got our start in San Francisco about six years ago, and Auntie Dolores comes from—the name Dolores actually means pain in Spanish—so it’s a play on words Auntie pain.
Matthew: That’s a good one. Yeah Dolor, you’re right, I did not make the connection.
Julianna: And cannabis is the best Auntie pain remedy there is.
Matthew: Good point. How did each of you get started in this industry? I mean this is a pretty specific career path.
Julianna: Yeah it is. It sort of unfolded and become more of a career path. It started off as a little side project. I had been baking with edibles for many years and, you know, and dispensaries started popping up in San Francisco and looking for more edibles to put on the shelf, more interesting products. That’s when we started to bring my products into the dispensaries, and so the timing was really good. There seemed to be a bit of void as far as what was available. So it was nice to get involved at that time.
Matthew: Now Julianna for somebody that’s never tried an edible before, how do you describe the difference in experience versus smoking flower?
Julianna: Well the onset is going to be coming on later. So you can usually plan for at least a half hour up to, I mean we’ve talked to patients that have said it’s taken three for their edible to take effect. So there’s a wide range. Generally speaking it takes about an hour for most people for the effects to become evident. And the duration of the experience is going to last longer than smoking or vaporizing will last. And so if you’re somebody that wants to be medicated for, you know, a duration of 4 plus hours, and you know you may not be in a position to, you know, take a break from work to go smoke or vaporize, but if you need that continuous (3.23 unclear), it’s a nice way to discretely medicate. And so those are some of the reasons that we think edibles are, you know, popular and gaining popularity is just the discression factor and duration of the effects, and then being able to really kind of titrate your dosage if you’re consuming edibles that come from, you know, a reliable source and the bakery or kitchen that does a good job at, you know, really making a consistent product.
Matthew: Now Julianna let’s dig into Auntie Dolores products a little bit. Can you tell us what you offer?
Julianna: Sure. So right now we have a product line of ten different products, and pretty much all the products, we are just actually revamped a lot of our recipes to make them even healthier. Our brownies are going to be low glycemic and vegan. And then the rest of our product line is vegan, gluten free, sugar free, low glycemic, you know, incorporate super foods like coconut oil. We use coconut sugar for sweetening all of our products because it’s diabetic friendly. So we’re interested in just creating really delicious, tasty foods. A lot of our products are savory and appeal to folks that maybe don’t have a big sweet tooth, but they still like to medicate with edibles. And so between the ten products half of them are savory, half are sweet. Most of them are vegan or gluten free or sugar free, and they’re all really delicious.
Matthew: Now you touched on super foods a little bit there. Can you talk about that a little more because I don’t know if you’ve read that book, Super Foods by David Wolfe, but he goes into cacao, goji berries, coconut oil, aloe. And super food, the term gets thrown around, but can you tell us a little bit more about what that means exactly?
Julianna: Yeah, you know, it’s something that I hear a lot about, super foods that term, and it seems to run around. Actually there’s a pretty specific list of criteria that a super food has to match that list to actually be considered a true super food. Coconut oil is definitely on that list. Cacao nibs is another ingredient we incorporate in our (5.44 unclear) cookies which is, you know, between the cacao nibs and the coconut oil and then the cannabis, I mean, the three of those ingredients together are just… it’s just a really, really pretty dynamic outcome when you’ve got all that going on. I mean the health benefits of coconut oil actually near a lot of the health benefits of the cannabinoids. So that’s really interesting. And then because we do a food grade extract with coconut oil, we’re using the full plant and all of it. So the full plant extract is what’s going into our edibles and it’s made with the coconut oil. And so it’s just a really healthy approach to consuming cannabinoids orally.
Matthew: Those cacao nibs that you’re talking about they’re like little shards of really super bitter cacao beans. They take a little bit of getting used to, but I find they are really healthful and especially combining those with a little bit of goji berry, it’s like one of my favorite things. But circling back to coconut oil, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this morning regimen. I have coconut oil in my coffee with some organic, grass fed, unsalted butter. Have you ever heard of that?
Julianna: Yes I talked with someone last week who is putting coconut oil in their coffee and I’ve never tried it. But yeah that’s so interesting. I mean there’s so many things you can do with coconut oil. It’s a topical, you can use it in your hair, I mean, it’s just, you know, like anything else. If you can put it on your skin and you can eat it, chances are it’s going to be really good for you. Just another note on the cacao nibs because he brought up a really good point. They are a slightly bitter flavor and eating them alone is pretty intense. When you incorporate them with chocolate and these other ingredients it kind of takes the edge off it, but you still get the benefit of it and you get the crunch and (7.41 unclear). So that’s really nice.
Matthew: Now you mentioned that your products aren’t overly sweet, but there is some sweetness to them. How do you sweeten them if there’s no sugar? Is it like agave or stevia or how does that work?
Julianna: Yeah we use coconut sugar for pretty much 9 out of 10 products or at least, excuse me, all the products that are sweet except for the caramel corn are made with coconut sugar. And so coconut sugar is actually mineral rich and it’s low glycemic. So it’s not going to spike your blood sugar. It’s diabetic friendly, and it’s really nice. We just came out with a new product the glazed pecans. We use the coconut sugar for that glazed pecan recipe. It’s vegan. It’s made with the coconut oil and the coconut sugar, but it tastes just like any other caramelized pecan. It’s just healthier for you and it has cannabis oil in it. But the coconut sugar is just, it’s really great, really great.
Matthew: Now everybody keeps on telling me I must try the Auntie Dolores, can you guess what I’m going say, which product it is?
Matthew: Yes, what is in these pretzels? It’s like I can’t go a few days without saying, have you tried an Auntie Dolores pretzel. What is with these pretzels? They sound delicious.
Julianna: It’s so funny. Well so the story behind the pretzels is, I mean, we released them like five years ago, the first year that we were bringing them to the dispensaries that we worked with back then. We’re like, nobody’s going to want to try it because there was not one savory product in the market. And so it took a little while, but once it caught on it was like gang busters and it’s just literally our most popular product. Basically there’s 30 ingredients in these pretzels. It’s a pretzel that’s coated with a special sauce that’s just really complex and masks the flavor of the cannabis really well. And they also have coconut oil in them, and I think just because they’re savory and sugar free, each pretzel is roughly 3 to 4mg. They can really triturate your dosage. Somebody who’s got a low tolerance might eat three or four pretzels, and you know, we’ve talked to people that eat one and that’s plenty for them. And then we have other patients that are eating the whole bag of 32 pretzels. So, you know, just kind of highlights the spectrum of tolerance levels and how our products, we really try to develop products that anybody can enjoy if they consume responsibly and that they, you know, take note of what one dosage constitutes for each of our products. And so it actually says that on the product packaging what one dose constitutes, and in the case of the pretzels it’s about two to three pretzels for one dose.
Matthew: Now you talked briefly about, you know, blood sugar normalization with coconut sugar and then there’s coconut oil in the pretzels. Does that kind of help lessen the blood sugar spike? Is that one of the designs of the coconut oil or is it just a complementary flavor?
Julianna: I’m not sure we could make that claim with the coconut oil. The other health benefits are certainly there in product. But most important would probably be the fact that we’re extracting the cannabinoids directly into the coconut oil. And so it’s just, it’s sort of the medium for actually infusing the product. And then in some cases we also use CO2 oil because that’s really nice for helping to kind of mask the flavor of cannabis because we end up using, you know, less volume of the CO2 oil than you would of an infused coconut oil. And so there’s a combination in some of our products, and then some products we just use coconut oil. Like for instance our dog treats have coconut oil because of the health benefits are really good for dogs as well.
Matthew: Well that’s interesting. Can you tell us a little bit more about the dog treats?
Julianna: Sure. Yeah, we have a company that’s called Kindest Pet, and it’s a new product. It was recently we changed the name from Treatables, and so some people know us as Treatables, but we’ve changed the name and we’ve rebranded the product. But it’s been out for about six months now. It’s doing really really well. It’s basically a bag of 40 dog treats, and these dog treats have no THC in them. They are not designed to intoxicate your dog. They’re specifically designed to address your dog’s health issues. And so it could be anything from cancer to epilepsy to separation anxiety to I mean you name it, all the same things that human beings benefit from CBD. Dogs also benefit in all those same ways. And so the response has been pretty overwhelming and people are loving the treats. It takes, you know, for the dogs that have separation anxiety, it’s nice for the pet owner as well as the pet to kind of lessen their anxiety. You know, I’m really excited about it.
Matthew: That is really cool. I haven’t heard of anything like that. And you know I often hear about dog food just being filled with these terrible fillers and other crazy things. Can you tell us some of the other ingredients beside CBD and non psychoactive components?
Julianna: Yeah absolutely. Yeah, it’s really important to us that the food that we’re sort of infusing the cannabis in also has to be healthy especially, you know, if you’re giving it to your pets and you’re trying to give your pet a good diet. These treats are actually vegan. They’re gluten free. They’re made with a protein rich oat flour that’s gluten free. And then there’s peanut butter, pumpkin, coconut oil like I said, a little bit of cinnamon for flavor and then a little bit of coconut fat which is like basically a syrup that comes from the coconut. And that’s it. And by itself, even without the cannabis, they’re actually really healthy dog treats that the CBD just sort of bumps it up a notch. Also there’s hemp oil in them. That’s really good for dogs as well.
Matthew: So we talked a little bit about the pretzels. What are the other one or two products you sell that are just… would you say are the most popular?
Julianna: Well our caramel corn is really popular. It’s delicious. And let’s see, the third most popular product would probably be our toffee brownies.
Matthew: Hmm. That sounds good.
Julianna: Yeah. We also have chili lime peanuts and glazed pecans and cocoa sparkle cookies. We’ve got cheese crackers. So there’s a wide range of flavors in the product line.
Matthew: And where can we buy Auntie Dolores edibles right now? Is it still only in California or is it moving to other medical dispensaries in different states?
Julianna: Yeah we are throughout California, all the way from Humble down to San Diego. We’re in dispensaries, and you know you can check us out online at our website to find any information. But also we are licensing the brand out of state. You’ll find the product in Washington soon probably within the next six to twelve months. The adult use (15.39 unclear) shops over in Washington. And then probably soon after that you’ll find our products in Nevada and Colorado, and then we’ll be moving into East Coast states after that.
Matthew: Now switching gears to baking a little bit and some of the mechanics of that, do you prefer baking with THC oil or butter? What’s your preference there?
Julianna: Well we only use cannabis butter for one of our products, maybe two of our products at this time. The rest of our products are vegan so they’re made with the coconut oil. But we do also infuse the products with super (16.24 unclear) CO2 cannabis oil. So it’s a combination of those.
Matthew: Is there any specific challenges to baking with cannabis that someone listening might be surprised about because I’ve heard things about how it has to bind with fat and different things and there’s just probably some specific details. Can you enlighten us?
Julianna: Yeah sure. Well the cannabinoids are fat soluble so you have to find a way to, you know, infuse medium which in this case it could be coconut oil or butter. For people who are trying this at home there’s so many recipes online that you can follow and they’re perfectly good for home baking. But my suggestion is to, if you’re going to use butter or coconut oil, you know we generally use about four ounces of cannabis trim for one cup of oil. So it comes out pretty strong, but if you make it as strong as you can possibly make it, then you can always kind of taper down by adding uninfused butter or oil to that to make it weaker. But it’s suggested to get your product tested before you start working with it so that you know exactly how many milligrams are in, you know, one gram of your product so that you can do the math on calculating how many milligrams you want in your batch of brownies or your lasagna or whatever you’re putting it in and how many servings you get from that particular recipe. So those are all components for baking with cannabis at home. Those are things to think of.
Matthew: Now we all hear stories about people that try edibles for the first time and don’t understand the dosages, and they might have a very interesting afternoon if they’re not paying attention to how much they’re eating. Can you help us understand dosages and packaging so people don’t make any mistakes?
Julianna: Sure so what we’ve sort of kind of adopted what Colorado and Washington and some of these other states have determined that 10mg is one dose, and that’s about what we’ve… we used to consider 12 to 15mg to be one dose. We’re following what Colorado and some of these other states are doing because most likely that will be what happens in California. And it’s just a really good place to start because most people that are either new to cannabis or they’re new to edibles, there’s really no reason to go above 10mg.
In fact that might be more than enough. So we even suggest starting with 5 if you’re a newcomer because the effects of the edibles are so much more profound than smoking or vaporizing and because the onset is delayed. It’s sort of a perfect recipe for a surprising afternoon if you’re not quite ready for the ride. So it’s really really suggested and this is something that happens. Almost all the time we hear the story continuously from people in general that they take a sample of the edible, they wait an hour, nothing’s happened, instead of waiting another hour they decide I’m just going to go ahead and eat more and that’s usually when the roller coaster ride starts because they’ve consumed probably, who knows how much, how many milligrams and you know quite possibly more than what they need. So then it’s not as enjoyable of an experience and oftentimes that experience alone can turn people off forever to edibles. So it’s actually really unfortunate, and we don’t like when that happens. It’s really important to us to label the product. We’ve just redesigned our packaging to make it even clearer. I mean it’s just so so important for people to know what they’re consuming and how many milligrams that is and what kind of effect they can expect.
Matthew: Now how do you come up with different food items? Do you experiment with friends and family? Do you have parties with guests? I mean, I’m curious here how this works and how I can get invited.
Julianna: You’re invited, don’t worry. Yeah we, you know, that’s kind of how it started off, you know, five-six years ago when we were sort of developing our menu, but we only develop maybe two to three new products a year, and then we’ll kind of let go of some of the other ones that have been around and maybe not as good of sellers. We’re interesting in finding products that, you know, that no one else is doing. And so you’re not going to see us, you know, creating like a chocolate bar. There’s plenty of chocolate bars out there so you know, and there’s certain other products that we just won’t do because they’re already out there. But if you look at our product line, most of our products no one else is doing. And that’s partly because I think our recipes are pretty complex, and we do that for a reason because we don’t want people to copy them.
So we’re interested, you know, making products that are easy to penetrate. So like in the case of the pretzels and the caramel corn and all these loose products that come in a package and you can take one or you can take ten, that’s how all of our products are. So the latest product that we just developed would be the glazed pecans. And we just really wanted a holiday product. The glazed pecans are a great holiday product. You know, you can put them on your salad. You can throw them in trail mix. I mean there’s so many different things you can do with the glazed pecans. And that was just a great timing since it’s a holiday product. That’s kind of sort of how we just come up with ideas we think of something that would be interesting and in the market and something that we know that we could successfully infuse and make it a consistent delicious product.
Matthew: Well you’ve certainly cracked the code there on new products. Switching gears to testing, testing’s becoming a huge part of the cannabis business and the ability to test for a lot of different things is expanding. And it’s not just about keeping out the bad things like mold, but also dialing in the desirable components of the plant. Can you tell us a little bit about testing and how you think about it and apply it to Auntie Dolores products?
Julianna: Yeah, well for us, you know, we work with multiple growers and we’ve got, you know, a set amount of strains that we’re working with, and that’s you know anywhere from eight to ten different strains of cannabis. So you know you can’t look at a cannabis plant and know exactly what the cannabinoids profile is, and so I mean we make our extract and then we take it to the lab so that we can see what all the levels are like on the THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, THCV, all of those cannabinoids just to see where we land. And it’s really quite impossible to even start baking with a product until you look at the lab results, if you’re trying to, you know, produce a product that you can quantify, you know, the dosage of the product. So the testing is really important on the potency side of it all. So it’s really important because you know we need to make sure that there’s no contaminants and any other things that you wouldn’t want ending up in your edibles.
Matthew: Now switching gears to brand. I have a question for you Lauren. You know I hear about stories about Steve Jobs from Apple and he says, or he used to say, you know, we don’t do focus groups, we don’t do any of this market testing. We just make what we would like to see. Is that the secret behind Auntie Dolores’s unique brand because there’s other edibles out there, but there’s not other edibles where people are always talking to me about it, telling me about it. You’ve got all these people, these brand advocates out there talking about Auntie Dolores. Why is that? How did this happen?
Lauren: Yes that’s a great question. I mean we have a really really loyal customer base who keep coming back because they love the products, they love the taste, but they also trust the brand. I mean Julianna hit on a few points. Just the consistency, everybody talks about consistency and it’s very important not just because people want the same experience every time, but it’s because it builds trust for a brand, and we don’t take that trust lightly. We’re really committed to our customers in maintaining that trust ever day. So new products and creativity, that all comes down to.. and we do tap into our customers a lot to figure out what it is that they would want and look at the gaps on the shelves, the gaps in the market and try to fill those gaps with things that really cater to true patients with dietary restrictions. We have a wellness focus. The Every Day Edible is our tagline, and so it really comes down to not just being a medicine, not just being a food, but being the product that you can integrate into your everyday life and in a space and safe way that you trust and that you love.
Matthew: So what’s on the horizon for 2015 as we draw to a close in 2014?
Lauren: Well in 2014 we’ve really been setting the foundation for a national expansion, been kind of planting the seeds and nurturing them, and we have a brand expansion model that allows us to legally bring the products to new emerging markets in the medical and adult use space through partnerships with licensed producer/processors. So in 2015 you’re going to see Auntie Dolores products launching in some new West Coast markets outside of California. And we’re actively looking for professional partners to work with in other states.
Lauren: Yeah, yeah and also this year we’re introducing some new products, also have some exciting initiatives that are really focused on education and awareness so that we can elevate not only our brand but the industry at large. It’s something that I think the company has always been politically active and a part of the community really, you know, not one of these kind of big brands that’s a bit separate. You’re seeing a lot of shift in the market right now, and as this market shifts and becomes bigger and new players come in, having those roots in your home state and the political roots and being a part of the movement for a long time is something that you’ll always see in Auntie Dolores.
Matthew: And so just to reiterate, what states are you looking for partners in?
Lauren: We are actively looking for partners in Colorado and Arizona and Illinois, eventually Florida. So there’s… we’ve been talking to people really across the nation, and I think as these markets get closer to coming on board we just want to have… we want to know the right people. We want to know the people who are doing things with the right intentions and people that we can partner with that have an aligned vision. But in terms of, you know, the next two years we’re really focused on entering West Coast states and we will be expanding after that.
Matthew: Great. And Julianna as we close, how can listeners learn more about Auntie Dolores products?
Julianna: Well you can visit our website and I’m going to spell it out for you and then I’ll give you the special media information. So it’s www.auntiedolores.com, and www.facebook.com/auntiedoloresedibles and www.twitter.com/auntiedolores.
Matthew: Great. Well Julianna and Lauren, thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it. If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, email us email@example.com. We would love to hear from you.
Renowned cannabis investor and advisor Leslie Bocskor gives us his prescient insights into where the cannabis industry is heading in 2015 and the exciting technologies that are emerging. Leslie goes into detail as to why he believes Las Vegas will become the Silicon Valley of Cannabis very soon.
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Each week I’ll take you behind the scenes to interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.canninsider.com/trends. That’s www.canninsider.com/trends. Now here’s your program. Leslie Bokskor of Electrum Partners is perhaps one of the most recognized cannabis investors. And as the founding chairman of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association is one of the state’s most outspoken advocates. I am pleased to welcome Leslie to CannaInsider today. Welcome Leslie.
Leslie: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me on the show Matt.
Matthew: So listeners get a sense of geography, can you tell us where you are in the world?
Leslie: I’m in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Matthew: Okay, and can you tell us a little bit about your background before getting into the cannabis industry?
Leslie: Sure I’m an investment banker, and I’m working corporate finance by trade and have for the last 25 years. I was one of the first investment bankers to specialize in the internet and media back in the mid to late 90s when it wasn’t even that popular. At the time you may recall, Paul Cornman wrote an article in Red Herring where he said the internet would never amount to much. There wasn’t much money to be made on it. I’ve spent my time, I’m looking for disruptive business models and trends that would fundamentally change the way we do business, live on a massive scale, and that’s sort of what brought me to the cannabis industry.
Matthew: So we’re not too early in the cannabis thing. You think now is the time, it’s coming out on the main stage.
Leslie: Not too early. A friend of mine who is a very noteworthy invested said, “Leslie, we’re not at the ground floor. We’re still in the basement. We’re at the beginning of the beginning.”
Matthew: Oh good. That’s the right place to be.
Leslie: Yes it is. It’s an incredible time. This is an unique moment in history that will never be repeated again. It’s something that a friend of mine who is another investment banker, owns his own brokerage firm, said this is the type of opportunity that you could wait many lifetimes to see repeated.
Matthew: Great. I agree by the way. Now let’s talk a little bit about your investing. What type of cannabis investments are you interested in?
Leslie: Well great question. We are interested in investments that range over a fairly broad spectrum. I like to look at the industry as six separate segments and we’re interested in every one of them. We are interested in businesses that are in the recreational cannabis industry, and that would be cultivation, processing, retail. We are interested in businesses that are in the medical marijuana industry which is actually a very new industry. We are interested in business that will be approaching the nutriceutical and supplement market which is going to be gigantic. We are interested in businesses that are in the pharmaceutical and life science market with the hundreds of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant as well as terpenes and other compounds that are unique to it. There will likely be many, many, many pharmaceutical products being researched and developed over the coming decades based upon the cannabis plant. We are interested a great deal in the industrial hemp market. Hemp is a massive product and a massive industry in and of itself. We don’t even know the sizes. There aren’t even any whitepapers currently that document what the ultimate size of the industrial hemp market will be. It’s going to be massive.
We are interested in the ancillary markets which can be broken up into B2B ancillary products; cultivation equipment, real estate base, software and services, things like that as well as the B2C ancillary markets. So I would say that our interests as investors spans all of those industries and then we have another overlay on looking at investing which is based upon the markets that are developing as each state in the United States and Canada and other countries, but primarily the US and Canada right now start to open up states with different regulatory frameworks and new markets open up. We also look at those as each state is a separate market.
Matthew: Okay. So you’re putting together a fund right now, and you don’t shy away from investments that touch the plant. Can you just talk a little bit about why some investors shy away from that and why you aren’t?
Leslie: Sure. Other investors shy away from it because of the friction between the federal illegally and the state legality. The conflicts between the existing legal environments creates something that most people feel is a risk they’re not willing to add to the other risks that are part of investing normally. We have looked to the guidance given by FinCEN, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network that works with OFAC and deals with anti-money laundering and other issues. We’ve looked at the guidance given by the Department of Justice, and what we’ve said is if there’s existing guidance, which there is, that tells banks that they can do business with legal cannabis businesses in states with regulatory frameworks where the businesses are operating in line with the regulatory framework, then the bank can take the deposits of those legal cannabis businesses. We look at that guidance as providing a set of parameters that if we exceed that type of criteria, it is good enough for us to invest in. So the difference between us is we’re saying if it’s good enough for the federal government to say a bank can do business with that cannabis company, then it’s good enough for us to invest in.
Matthew: Now are you accepting new investors into your fund now?
Leslie: Yes we actually have many investors who have come to us and that are contemplating coming into the fund. We have not officially started accepting funds yet. We expect to be doing that within days, a week, two weeks. It has been an arduous process to make sure every T is crossed and I dotted so that we can present our investors with the best possible framework for executing our strategies. And so we are about to accept capital in the immediate future.
Matthew: And your investments will be some equity, some loans, both, what will that look like, that mix?
Leslie: It will probably be a across a very broad array, and will be a mixture of both many times. Every individual investment will be looked at differently. I feel I anticipate more often than not we will be making equity investments.
Matthew: Now I heard you give a talk on a panel about due diligence, and that’s a huge topic and for some of us who never seen a diligence list, they really may not understand how much is involved. But can you just give us a quick summary from maybe even an entrepreneur’s point of view, an investor’s point of view why it’s so important to have a diligence list and how to make sure it’s successful for both parties?
Leslie: Absolutely. Due diligence is one of the most important exercises and practices in business especially when you’re contemplating investing or bringing in investment. From the investor’s side due diligence is the system that you set up for creating a check list that allows you to go through an investment and make sure it fits your criteria. Have you checked the background of the operators and when you’ve checked what have you found? Have they had previous successes? Have they had previous liquidity events? Have they had a track record of success? Are there any outstanding issues that you should be aware of with any of the major operators? Has the business had any issues? Is there anything associated with that you should be aware of?
From the entrepreneur’s prospective the more substantial your due diligence package, the better prepared it is, the better evaluation you will be able to defend in your business in terms of attracting investment and bringing it in. If you have an incomplete due diligence package, what will happen is in the process of negotiating with your investors, they will look at your lack of due diligence. They will look at your lack of information, and they will use that as a mechanism to attack your evaluation and bring it down. Saying, wow, you haven’t prepared your outstanding agreements. We don’t understand what the potential liabilities are. We don’t have a complete record of all of your assets, and we don’t have a complete record of all of the debts of people that owe you money and you have not perfected the debts to make sure that they’re absolutely executable and that the debtors will be able to perform according to your debt because you haven’t properly structured it and things like that. If you haven’t done that when an investor is coming in to invest in you, they will look at those things and they will attack that as reasons to lower your evaluation. So what happens is your due diligence file, your due diligence practices can directly affect the evaluation and your cost of capital.
Matthew: Great points. For any new or prospective entrepreneurs out there listening, what are the big problems in the cannabis industry that need to be solved?
Leslie: The biggest problem in the cannabis industry in my opinion has to do with a lack of substantives, self-regulatory organizations. When the alcohol industry transitioned from prohibition to a legal industry in 1933 within one year they had self-regulatory organizations set up to establish standards around packaging, potency, product integrity, marketing and advertising. And since that time the alcohol industry has been incredibly successful at using the self-regulatory organizations to be able to monitor the alcohol industry so that the federal and state governments do not have to come in and regulate them. For example right now there was a recent poll that said 73 percent of children under 18 that don’t drink say the reason they don’t drink is because of communication from their parents about alcohol. That program, getting the parents to talk to the kids about alcohol, was entirely put into place by the alcohol industry through its various self-regulatory organizations. Those organizations created the material, created the context and created programs to help parents understand how to communicate with their kids about alcohol, and gave them talking points, created programs that would teach them how to have those conversations. The result is it’s reduced youth alcohol consumption dramatically.
In an industry like cannabis where many of the cannabis manufacturers market to our own inner children, the problem is that those products are thereby being marketed to children as well. They can’t differentiate that candy bar, that brownie, that cookie, that lemon drop from being something that should be for them. And we need self-regulatory organizations without a doubt to establish standards that will be promulgated throughout the industry so that we will not be having issues about products being created that will have an appeal to people under 18. We need to have programs that instruct parents how to communicate with their children about cannabis, both recreational and medical marijuana. We need to have programs that educate parents and other types and anybody who has cannabis in their home, lock it up. They should be locking up their prescription medications as well. Every 18 minutes in the United States somebody dies from prescription medication. And so whether there’s prescription medication or cannabis we need to have lockable medicine cabinets where it’s kept. We need to have edibles kept in lockable boxes in the refrigerators where it’s kept. These things need to be segregated and kept separately, and the people who can make that happen are going to be self-regulatory organizations. The single biggest problem, in my opinion, in the industry is that we are still setting up the self-regulatory organizations that will be establishing the standards and monitoring the practices of the participants in the industry to make sure that we’re avoiding the issues I just described.
Matthew: You mentioned the packaging and the childproofing education. One thing that jumped out at me while you were talking is that if there’s an entrepreneur out there that can still communicate a strong brand while childproofing, that’s a homerun. Where it doesn’t attract kids, but it’s still very esthetically attractive, but can prevent kids from getting in there. That sounds like that would be something interesting.
Leslie: Absolutely. And I couldn’t agree with you more, and we’re going to see that happen. What we’re going to see is self-regulatory organizations are comprised of the industry participants. And so we will see industry participants, the various industry leaders starting to step up and establish those self-regulatory organizations and leading them. So exactly what you’re describing is what’s going to happen.
Matthew: Now switching gears, in Nevada you’re a huge advocate for Nevada, and I want to hear why. But first can you give a brief update of what happened in Nevada in November and why that’s important?
Leslie: We had in Nevada in November a series of events take place. First off we had the granting of the provisional licenses by the Department of Public and Behavioral Health and that was huge. I think something like 260 provisional licenses were granted. We additionally turned in the petitions for our adult use initiative which will be in the ballot box in 2016. As well we had ArcView, the ArcView Investor Network had a conference here, and we had the MMJ Business Daily conference here. We also had a Women Grow event, and we had the NCIA yearly banquet. All of that took place inside of two weeks. It was a real banner month for cannabis in Nevada.
Matthew: Without having recreational use being legal in Nevada, do you really think they can become the leader, take it away from Colorado, Washington, now Oregon?
Leslie: Nothing that we need to take away from anybody. Nevada is likely going to be a leader in the industry, and we are heading towards recreational use within the next couple of years. We should have it, as I said, on the ballot box in 2016. There’s a possibility that it could get approved legislatively in 2015. And so we are already heading there in addition to having too that our regulatory framework, regardless of whether it’s medical or recreational, which is very much based upon the experience the state has had in regulating gambling which was illegal at the time that the state began to regulate it. It has positioned us to be a leader in regulating cannabis as well. And so we are establishing our leadership not based upon our market and it being recreational or not recreational. We’re establishing our leadership based upon creating a regulatory framework that is business friendly and beneficial to the state, the industry and the citizens and users as a whole. And that’s based upon our experience as establishing the gold standard for regulating another taboo subject which was gaming at the time. That is now accepted everywhere, and the gaming regulation in Nevada is looked at as the gold standard worldwide.
Matthew: Now is the permitting process too expensive and too oriented towards big business to the point where it’s boxing out small family operations?
Leslie: So the answer to that is we want to make sure that this is once again a well regulated industry. And we established a merit based system for determining who is going to be able to participate in that. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s big business or small families. It’s not about the size of your business. It’s about your ability to put together a very comprehensive and well thought out plan. There are many big businesses who put together and who spent a tremendous amount of money to get their licenses approved that did not get provisional licenses because they did not score high enough in the merit based system. And there are many small businesses that did score very highly because they assembled the right team, the right program and put together a better application. So the fact of the matter is the merit based system is going to be able to benefit those who put together the best team, the best program and the best product.
Matthew: One thing I do notice about Nevada is that there is regulations there, but they’re probably more laissez faire than the other states that are allowing medical or recreational cannabis. Is there anything else about Nevada that just makes it a homerun for cannabis there?
Leslie: Yes, I would use… I wouldn’t say we’re laissez faire, I would say that we are being reasonable. We’re having an honest conversation amongst reasonable people about the nature of cannabis, it’s use, medical marijuana, which is why we’re the state that allows anybody from any state, any jurisdiction that has medical marijuana recommendation to come into our dispensaries and purchase cannabis. And so that, in my opinion, is a differentiating factor. I think that we are not… what we have established is a very forward thinking prospective on it, and we’re getting away from the old propaganda that was based upon lies and misinformation.
Matthew: What technology or trends do you see disrupting the cannabis business the next one, three, five years? I know it’s changing so quickly, but you have a focus on disruption so I would like to hear your opinion on that.
Leslie: I think that the cannabis industry is going to actually be a hot bed of innovation because of the friction between federal and state law and the patchwork of different regulatory environments on a state to state basis. What you’re going to see is innovation that’s going to have to be adaptable and take into account all of these differences on a state to state basis; the federal laws, the banking issues, etcetera. And so what’s going to happen is the tremendous upward pressure that is coming from all of the interest in getting into this business, all of the opportunity that it’s creating, the profitability that exists in the business, the rapid growth that exists, all of that capital and that economic force is going to be creating opportunities that will result in innovation being developed to take those other issues into account. That innovation will not only be applicable to the cannabis industry, it is going to be applicable to other industries.
For example, there’s a business out there named CannaBuild. Zach Marburger who is now in Denver, he developed a tool that is going to be providing information to end users to avoid the discomfort of going into a dispensary and not knowing what to get, not knowing what the differences are. He’s created a tool that’s going to allow for a user to be able to understand what they need to get before they get there, to have an actual person walk them through that process so they can walk into the dispensary already having decided what they’re going to get and just going in to pick up their purchase. Rather than having the uncomfortable experience of going in and walking in and not knowing what to get and not understanding and feeling overwhelmed. Not all together different than the way people went into video rental stores and didn’t know what they were going to watch for the night, and walked around trying to figure out. Which is why NetFlix became such a massive opportunity and a massive business going from a $10 million valuation into a $28 billion valuation or whatever the number is right now, over a 15 year period. We’re going to see the same type of innovation come out of the cannabis industry that will be applicable to other industries as well.
Matthew: Leslie I love talking with you. You have a ton of energy, enthusiasm and wisdom. In closing how can listeners follow your work and connect with you?
Leslie: They can get in touch with me through www.electrumpartners.com. That’s www.electrumpartners.com. They can also follow me on Twitter @Leslie Bocskor. And we are very likely going to be launching a website sometime soon. We’re contemplating right now the Electrum Report which will be a daily or at least four times a week newsfeed of the most significant articles in the cannabis industry that affect the cannabis industry that we curate and then present four times a week for people to read.
Matthew: Great. Thanks to Leslie Bocskor for being on CannaInsider today. Thanks Leslie.
Leslie: Thank you Matt. Have a great day.
Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guest to you. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.canninsider.com, email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.
Understanding the changing landscape of concentrates with James Slatic, CEO of Med-West. James talks about why not all vape pens are the same and how discreet infused products like their gums, sprays and sublingual tablets are changing the game. Learn more at Med-west.com In this interview we will reveal how the market for discreet cannabis products will look in the years ahead.
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Each week I’ll take you behind the scenes to interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. That’s www.cannainsider.com/trends. Now here’s your program. Cannabis consumers are moving more and more away from flower and choosing concentrates. We’re going to find out why that is and learn about the most exciting innovations on the cannabis concentrate front with our guest today James Slatic, CEO of MedWest. Welcome James.
James: Thank you.
Matthew: James I want to dig into the extract market, but first can you tell me at a high level what MedWest does?
James: Sure, MedWest was one of the first CO2 extraction companies. We started back in 2009, and we provide a wide array of CO2 extracted cannabis medicines and soft gels, sublingual pills, oils and of course the most popular, well-know thing, the vape pen cartridge system.
Matthew: How did you get involved in extraction and concentrates? What’s your background?
James: Well I think like many in cannabis, by accident, you know. I’m a 30 year entrepreneur. I’ve been starting companies since I was 23, and we always try to find the niches. In entrepreneurial business we say in niches there are riches. And I stumbled upon the medical cannabis world back in 2008, and originally started as doing packaging. I started a company called www.popbottles.com, and we supplied, you know, compliant packaging to about 350 dispensaries around California. And just from networking through the industry I started, you know, going to the conferences, the business conferences and you know, met the OrganaLabs people in Colorado and started learning about the CO2 extracted medicines and really saw that as a thing for the future and for, you know, helping people with medical conditions and just kind of went from there and the rest is history, as they say.
Matthew: Now for listeners that are not that familiar with concentrates or maybe just have a slight understanding of what it is, how can you help orient them about what concentrates actually are and why the market is turning or pivoting so quickly to concentrates and it’s taking more market share from the flower?
James: Well that’s a very deep question. I think the simple explanation is concentrates are basically taking the flower and extracting down the essential elements, the active ingredients. A number of ways to do that, you know, we use CO2 because of the laws here in California against hydrocarbon extraction, but many other states use solvents such as hydrocarbon extraction like butane. And once you remove the active ingredients out of the flower then you can mold it into any number of delivery systems. And so, you know, everything from the famous, you know, pot brownie that everybody knew or heard of before, you know, medical cannabis, and then everything into sort of high tech stuff. I mean we have soft gel capsules with all kinds of varying amounts of CBD and so forth. And so concentrates are now just getting more scientific, and I think the consumers are learning that it provides a doseability or repeatability and you know, lack of stigma. You know, if you light up a joint or a pipe somewhere, everybody within a city block can smell it, versus a concentrate which, you know, looks medical, acts medical and both the people that use it in adult use consumption fashion as well as for medical conditions, it’s very doseable and repeatable.
Matthew: Now you talked a little bit about the categories your concentrates are in, but not everybody is familiar with the sublingual or sprays. Can you talk a little bit about what those are?
James: Sure. It’s just taking the essential ingredients and it’s (5.02 unclear) that you put it in. The sublingual is basically a pharmaceutical sugar base, and so sublingual just meaning that it’s designed to, you know, melt in your mouth. The best way is under your tongue, and it’s what’s called an oral mucosal where it goes in through the mucous membranes of the mouth, and it’s a great delivery method especially for my pain patients because it doesn’t matter what you had to eat or drink or when. It’s going to take effect the same way every time and last the same amount of time. And very similar to a spray, you know, these cannabis sprays that are coming on the market too, they’re also absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth. So it takes effect very very quickly, you know, less than 10 seconds and you know, usually very doseable.
Matthew: So you’re saying that it’s more consistent with the concentrates. You can dial in what you want to feel or a patient, what symptoms they want to treat a little easier than the flower?
James: Well definitely. You know, flower is going to, you know, it’s still always going to have a place in the market, but it tends to, as we all know that consume cannabis, you tend to get as high as you’re going to get right away. And then from that point on, you know, five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, you know, you’re going to have that gradual decrease in the effect. So you’re going to need to redose or whatever. Plus when you burn cannabis you tend to get the supporting cannabinoids tend to become fugitive on those temperatures, meaning they escape and are not inhaled into the vapor stream. So that’s why people tend to get, you know, really high and maybe get some of the paranoid effect from these high dosages of THC that are in the highly bred strains now we see, you know, 24-25 percent THC. You tend to get a big hit of that when you burn the cannabis and all the other supporting cannabinoids have a place in the effect and those seem to get across the blood brain barrier better when they’re ingested or you used another method other than smoking.
Matthew: Now you mentioned the other cannabinoids. Let’s talk about CBD for a second, and you have a CBD gum. Can you just describe at a high level what CBD does for patients and a little bit about your gum?
James: Yeah, the Cannabidiol gum is, you know made from a 99 percent, pure 99 plus percent pure CBD extract that we have derived from hemp. As far as I know the only one on the market. We have an exclusive thing to import that. The gum, you know, it’s a great delivery method because it puts it into your system and it’s really being effective for a lot of my diabetic patients with a blood sugar modulation effect. So you know, not being a scientist, you know, to go into all the, you know, medical conditions and what we’re seeing in the CBD research, I’m going to advise all the listeners to just, you know, Google it, CBD and cancer and post traumatic stress. Now we’re seeing some great indications with Alzheimer’s. But, you know, what we try to do with our CBD pills and we have a spray and now the CBD gum that you mentioned was just provide an inexpensive method to get CBD into your bloodstream.
It seems that, you know, my patients are just getting effect from… a good effect from having a modulated amount of CBD in their bloodstream all the time. So, you know, with three or four pieces of gum a day, 25mg a piece, and you can get 100mg in your bloodstream at different times during the day, and without the market and clinical research needed because of the, you know, government interference. It’s hard for me to point to multiple studies. I’d say most of our things are coming from our, you know, hundreds and thousands of patients just giving us their, you know, their personal anecdotal evidence.
Matthew: Right and I know there’s a lot of restrictions on what we can talk about because of the FDA and so forth, but CBD seems like it lends itself to treating certain symptoms more than others. I’ve heard everything from anxiety to autoimmune disorders. Is that kind of the universe of what you’re hearing as well?
James: Yeah it is. You know I’m very excited with this calming effect of CBD. Certainly, you know, it’s not, you know, putting people out or anything, but we are getting a lot of reports and I can give my personal attribute that, you know, a couple pieces of gum and you know, maybe it’s placebo effect, but I definitely do feel that it has a calming effect on the body. You know, as it effects neurotransmitters, it probably makes sense that it does that. So you know, at my age and with my family history I think I’m most excited with the, you know, research news that came out last week about the efficacy in fighting amyloid plaque, you know, which is a lot of the cause of Alzheimer’s.
Matthew: Yes, great point. You offer a cannabis oil syringe. How are patients using the syringe?
James: Multiple ways. Every way from just putting a dab on their finger and rubbing it on their gums to, you know, putting it in teas. And I have a number of cancer patients that, you know, put the cannabis oil because it has, you know, all the supporting cannabinoids and they put it in their, you know, their herbal tea at night or in the morning and just mix it in. And then of course your adult use people, you know, use it, you know, with their just smoking flower, as a bowl topper in the dabbing apparatus.
Matthew: Now are your products only available in California or in other states where medical marijuana is legal?
James: Well our, you know, because of the state laws, everyone knows the companies is you know, domiciled and owned directly in that state, produced in that state, but you know, these same medicines are produced in Washington and Colorado and Arizona and in Michigan.
Matthew: And when I walk into a dispensary I know you’ve got a bunch of different lines of products. What should we look for?
James: The name brand is our flagship and that is where, you know, the medical chocolate and the vape pen cartridges and the CBD/THC sprays and gum are all under the Bang label. So that is the best way, and I think more things are going to just migrate and that will just be our corporate brand. You know we may have one or two, you know, medical CBD pills or so forth that come out under one of the other labels, but most everything will be under the Bang family.
Matthew: Okay so I’m in a dispensary and I wanted to get a cartridge for my vape pen, what is the… let’s say, how much does it cost to get a refill on a cartridge for a vape pen? I’m just trying to give the audience an idea of the cost. I know it varies.
James: Well there’s two, you know, there’s two sizes; the half gram and the full gram. So they’re usually at retail for $30 for the half and $50 for the full.
Matthew: Okay, and the concentrate, extractions and concentrates are moving so fast. It’s really hard to keep up with them. Where do you see this going in the next 3 to 5 years? I mean it’s just unbelievable, the sublinguals and the syringes and everything, the gum. I mean it’s really… this has come about much faster than I even anticipated. Where do you see it going?
James: Well my prognostication skills aren’t that great. I would have bought, you know, Microsoft back in 1984 if I could have seen the future, but I think you’ll see more of a, you know, a trend like you’re seeing now. From the investor’s side, you know, places like ArcView that have shown us how many people want to invest in this space. There are getting to be some very sophisticated, well-funded and great researchers, scientists that are examining coming into the space at various speeds. So I think sort of like, you know, like the computer world. I think you’re just going to see an acceleration of the curve that’s started already, and there’s going to be more and more science behind more precision in dosing, more precision in blending the cannabinoids to get certain desired effects. We’re going to have more details on how CBD, CBN, CBG, THC and how these so called entourage effects work together and help certain conditions and everything from, you know, your mood on down. So I think that, you know, it’s just going to be more and better and, you know, like when the internet started and then holy crap who envisioned, you know, Facebook and everything else that’s come to pass. And I see the same thing because, you know, cannabis market is growing 67 percent a year, and upon adult use coming in California and Nevada, Maine and some other states in the next presidential election in 2016, you know, I just think that the curve is, you know, very much at the infancy.
Matthew: And as we close how can listeners learn more about MedWest and the Bang chocolate and the vape pen and all the different products you offer?
James: I think the best place to start is www.medwest.com, and you’ll see all that in there. We have a good variety of information on there for patients, dispensary owners and so forth, and that’s always a good place to start.
Matthew: Well James thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it. If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, email us email@example.com. We would love to hear from you.