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How to Cure your Cannabis to Perfection with Cole Ducey

cole ducey of autocure

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What is the difference between drying and curing your cannabis and why should you care?

Great question. Turns out that it’s a really big deal to dry and cure cannabis right. If you do it wrong you can get nasty mold, if you do it right you have a beautiful flower with all its terpenes intact.

Learn how to master drying and curing your cannabis in this episode with Cole Ducey the founder of AutoCure.us

Key Takeaways:
[3:02] – What is Auto Cure
[4:40] – The making of Auto Cure
[9:37] – What’s the difference between drying and curing
[12:20] – Risks of not curing cannabis properly
[13:47] – Most common ways to dry and cure cannabis
[16:27] – How does Auto Cure work
[20:21] – Cole defines burping
[23:04] – What is RH Threshold
[25:14] – What does Auto Cure look like
[30:04] – Auto Cure’s data logging feature
[34:24] – Is the dashboard user-friendly
[37:46] – Cole talks about most common customer feedback
[41:08] – Cole answers some personal development questions
[48:40] – Cole’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: https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Note: Just a quick note that the audio quality of my microphone is not the best in this interview because I accidently used the microphone on my computer instead of the one I was holding in my hand. So my apologies about that and I’ll be back to better audio quality from my microphone in the next episode.

In an effort to continue to highlight the entrepreneurs that are making the picks and shovels for the cannabis industry I am pleased to welcome Cole Ducey founder of Auto Cure on to CannaInsider today to discuss an often misunderstood but extremely important topic, Curing Your Cannabis. Cole, welcome to CannaInsider.

Cole: Hey thanks Matthew. I really appreciate you having me on today, and I look forward to our conversation.

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

Cole: So I am currently in San Diego, California at the Auto Cure facility. It is a beautiful day here, nice, sunny and clear and a great day to be speaking with you and discussing a little bit about Auto Cure.

Matthew: And I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland where it’s already getting dark and it’s very cloudy. So kind of the antithesis of what you’re doing down there in San Diego right now. Thanks for joining me early in the day.

Cole: Yes, yeah, you’re welcome. Yeah thanks for having me again.

Matthew: So tell me what is Auto Cure at a high level?

Cole: Auto Cure is a professional drying and curing technology. It is really one of its kind, and it is comprised basically of two components. The first being a robotics system that is run by software. The second component being a series of chambers or housing for the robot where flower contents are put into the chamber as well. The way that it functions basically is that the robot will activate or deactivate itself. During the activation phase air will be blown through the chamber system. New air will be blown into the chamber. When the robotic system is deactivated the system will close itself off to create an airtight environment so there is no air movement.

Matthew: Okay so we’ll get into the weeds on why that’s and idyllic scenario for curing your cannabis, but before we do how did you come about creating Auto Cure? Did you wake up one morning and just visualize this and say I must build it? What’s the origin story there and what was your background?

Cole: So it’s been a number of years actually. About seven years ago right out of college I was growing, cultivating and in order to compete with the dispensaries in the area in the San Fernando Valley where I was at, I knew that I needed to cure my flower. I knew that that gave the flower the best quality and it’s just the most desirable and highest value when it is cured. So as I was growing, I soon realized how monotonous and inexact of a process the curing process actually is so at that time I had the initial idea that I knew there needed to be a solution in the curing process.

So after my days of growing were done I actually went into studying to be a mechanical engineer which is what I currently do. So I run CNC machining equipment and I have a full shop. So basically after I learned the skills to manufacture such a device my initial idea came back to me and I basically put it together and I said wow I can actually make this now. I then started on the path of designing the product about two years ago, and that was a process in and of itself in fabrication and software development. Now we are at the place where everything is dialed in and we are making them in production. So that is very exciting.

Matthew: That is great. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met in the cannabis community that have created really cool products that have an engineering background. I mean it makes sense because you have this idea in your head and you’re like oh I know how make this but it’s really remarkable how many mechanical, electrical, structural engineers are just making some really cool stuff. I’m so glad people of that background are getting into it. Go ahead.

Cole: I was going to say you’re exactly right. It’s very interesting that point how mechanical engineers and machinists are transferring their knowledge into this budding industry that we got that’s the next huge growth industry. That’s really how I saw it, and so it was really an easy decision for me and I know that it is for a lot of other mechanical engineers also. So that’s a very good point.

Matthew: Yeah I mean a lot of problems that have no solutions still so it’s kind of this green field opportunity where it’s like hey there’s nobody doing this. I could just do it and there’s a lot of people making a lot of money with cannabis cultivation so they’re happy to throw money at you if you can solve their problem.

Cole: Correct yeah. Just kind of an aside, the funny thing is that the machines that I have and I run are the same exact machines that Boeing uses for the aerospace industry. So they’re made for building jet aircraft components, satellite components, highly highly precise pieces of equipment. However, I took that and other engineers alike have took that technology and implemented that precision into this new industry that really needs and desires this type of innovation. So it’s a very nice mesh that’s happening.

Matthew: Cool, some space age technology there.

Cole: Yeah exactly, exactly.

Matthew: Okay well let’s just get kind of into the bread and butter of curing, but before we do I want to just ask a very simple question. What’s the difference between drying and curing?

Cole: That’s a very good question, and basically curing is a longer more slowly controlled evaporation process than the drying process. It occurs secondarily after the drying process so just timeframe, approximate timeframes. Usually drying takes about five to seven days and that occurs right after the live plant is cut and harvested. Family foliage is typically wet trimmed off at that time and then the plant is either hung whole or in sections on strings upside down. That will take place for about five to seven days like I mentioned.

Then secondarily the curing process will occur when the flower has reached a certain level of dryness. So when the curing process starts what you are trying to do is get the innermost moisture released out of the flower in a slow enough process so that the medicinal oils and terpenes do not evaporate off with the moisture, the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Okay so it’s giving a pathway for the water to leave or the moisture to leave the plant by keeping all the terpenes and compounds that you want to keep. So it’s kind of the art and science of doing that in the most efficient way possible.

Cole: Correct, and if in the curing process if the evaporation process is too quick, then as we mentioned the valuable terpenes and oils resultantly get evaporated off with the moisture and they are lost. So the value in curing is retaining those oils while releasing the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Now I see a lot of growers, especially new growers, obsess about the soil and lights or these different growing inputs, but not spend a lot of time thinking about drying and curing. What’s at stake if a cultivator doesn’t cure his/her cannabis properly? What are the risks?

Cole: There is tremendous risks actually and very highly detrimental risks. On one side, like we discussed, if airflow is too much, if the rate of evaporation is too high in the curing process, then what you’re going to do is you’re going to over dry your flower. You’re going to lose too much of the oils. It’s just going to be dried out. You’re going to lose the smell, the taste, and it’s really just going to have that dried out grass feeling which loses end value. On the other end if airflow is too restricted, then what happens is you risk mold forming which can destroy your entire harvest if it spreads to grossly.

Matthew: Okay. How do most growers dry and cure now? I’ve been in grows and I see the plant hanging from a clothesline or in buckets and things like that. What’s the way most growers do it? Is that the way they do it or how does it typically work?

Cole: So the way I learned to do it and the most typical way that hear through our customers, we’ll start with drying. As I mentioned, touched on previously. In the drying process that occurs right after the plant is cut, the live plant is cut. So after the plant is cut from the stock there is an initial wet trim that’s done to get fan leaves and other excess foliage from the flower and the bud. Then either the whole plant or parts of the plant are hung upside down from strings, as you alluded to, and what that upside down hanging does is it pulls all the flower. Basically gravity pulls the remaining leave and the flower down so you get your typical nice bud structure. That lasts for about five to seven days, and in that time the plant drying in exposed ambient conditions which is the atmosphere within the room that its drying in.

So that’s important to understand because after that five to seven day drying period when you move to curing what you’re doing is you’re taking the flowers and you’re putting them in either buckets or jars and sealing off the jars. What you’re doing there is you’re creating a new environment for the flower that is actually protected from the dry, ambient conditions that you were previously hand drying in.

Matthew: Okay. How does Auto Cure work differently for the drying process than the curing process?

Cole: So that’s just touch screen settings that on the Auto Cure unit there is a touch screen display and there are sliders that control the venting parameters of the unit. So how often or less often the unit will actually vent itself. In drying, the unit will be set to vent itself much more frequently or in a continuous manner so there’s air constantly flowing on to the flower to dry. Whereas when you reach the curing stage you’re going to dial back the settings. It’s very easy, as I explained, on the display. So in curing when the settings are dialed back the unit will vent itself much less frequently so much less fresh ambient air is being blown onto the flower because you are slowing down the rate of evaporation during the curing process.

Matthew: Right. You don’t want that rate of evaporation to be too quick. That’s why you’re closing the vents intermittently. Is that correct?

Cole: Correct. So when the vents close the fans turn off. So at that point the unit is a airtight system. During that time the flower inside that is curing is releasing its moisture into the surrounding air inside the chamber. As that’s happening, the digital sensors that are placed inside the chamber of the Auto Cure read the increase in moisture in the air which is caused by the transference from the flower to the air via evaporation.

Matthew: Okay. So Auto Cure does measure moisture then?

Cole: Correct. So we have to be clear on exactly what type of moisture it is registering. What it is registering is actually the lost moisture from the flower that has been transferred into the surrounding air inside the chamber. So that’s different than the actual leaf moisture content inside the flower.

Matthew: So it’s measuring the ambient environment in the chamber as opposed to the plant.

Cole: Correct, and more specifically it’s measuring the change in the ambient level of humidity and that change that you’re seeing is actually coming from the release of moisture from the flower which indicates that the flower is drying or curing because it is losing moisture into the air.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about burping and what that means because these are kind of terms that are thrown around and sometimes we don’t have an opportunity to stop and define that. Can you define what burping means because I’m about to burp right now myself as a human.

Cole: Yeah. So burping is an industry term for what I referred to earlier as venting. How the Auto Cure vents itself another word for that is burping. Where burping comes from is in the traditional methods of curing you’re either using buckets or some type of a jar that becomes sealed, just like the Auto Cure seals itself off. Burp a bucket or a jar what you’re doing is you’re taking off the lid of the bucket or jar to clear out the saturated air that was inside each of the chambers and replacing that saturated air with new drier air and then sealing it back off so that the process of moisture transference from the flower to the surrounding air can occur once more. So it’s process that happens over and over. When you’re using buckets or jars that process gets extremely monotonous and when you get to a certain level of cultivating it becomes almost impossible, practically impossible to burp so many buckets or jars in a day.

Matthew: Yeah I can see where that would be time consuming and a pain to do that.

Cole: Yeah and that’s, as I mentioned, that was my initial idea in creating the Auto Cure is because the Auto Cure vents itself automatically whenever the computer knows that it’s time to. The compute knows it’s time to vent relative to the settings that user sets on the touch screen display.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about a different term here. What is RH threshold and why is that important to understand?

Cole: So the RH threshold is one of the settings on the Auto Cure that I just alluded to which causes the unit to vent and when to went. The RH threshold is one of the three toggle sliders that we have on the display, and what it does is it sets the maximum RH level, the maximum humidity level that is allowed within the Auto Cure chamber during the curing process. So as we discussed, when flower is put into the chamber and the chamber is sealed off so it’s not in a venting process what’s going to happen is the relative humidity inside the chamber is going to rise, and it’s going to rise until it hits the RH threshold value that you set on the display.

Typically that is around 60-65%, it could go as low as 55%, but the way that we use the Auto Cure and the way that most of our customers use the Auto Cure they set the RH threshold at 62 percent. So again once the internal RH hits 62%, the unit will vent itself completely, bring in new air which is then much lower than 62% right after the vent cycle is complete, then the humidity will rise again until it hits the RH threshold.

Matthew: If we were standing in front of an Auto Cure machine right now, how large is it? What could you compare it to so we can get visualization?

Cole: So the technology that we have is completely scalable so we have multiple sizes which I’ll go through right now. The smallest size that we have in production right now is our medium and that holds ten to twelve pounds. It could also hold as little as one pound because it is an air tight system so you’re not restricted to a minimum amount in that unit. Size wise that unit is two feet wide by three feet deep by three feet tall. So it’s basically the size of a large box. It could be easily carried with two people or placed on a roller table for easy accessibility, but it is designed as a tabletop unit. So it has feet on it. It rests on a table or platform of some kind.

Our next largest unit is the large. That unit is configured a bit differently from the medium in that it is on wheels. So it’s a floor unit that you’re able to easily roll around your facility. That unit holds 25 pounds. It’s two feet wide, by four feet long, by four feet tall. Our extra large holds 50 pounds. It’s configured the same way as the large and it’s double the size of the large. So it’s four feet wide, by four feet deep, by four feet tall.

Matthew: Okay. So it really depends on the size of your harvest on what size machine you’re going to get.

Cole: Correct and those are our individual units, our individual production units. From there we also make large scale production units which are actually walk-in chambers. One style of the walk-in chamber we make is actually retrofit into an existing dry room. The smallest chamber we make that’s walk-in is eight foot by eight foot by eight foot. It’s framed and lined in acrylic so it’s completely air tight. It utilizes our same technology. So basically it’s a walk-in room that burps itself. That is great for large quantities. We can fit over 200 pounds in one of those chambers and we can custom configure that for whatever type of racking the facility uses. So they’re great for the large producers.

The last style of walk-in chamber that we make is actually retrofit. It comes all in one in a prefab, insulated shipping container. So if you picture a shipping container that is completely insulated, it has full climate control inside to control the ambient. Then within that shipping container we build our Auto Cure chambers which then burp or vent the ambient that is controlled by the HVAC system of the shipping container.

Matthew: Okay so is that preconfigured then, the shipping container option or how does that work?

Cole: Correct. So that’s preconfigured and those are shipped to the customer preconfigured. They’re completely structurally sound. You don’t need to put them inside. They can be placed outside. They are very secure. They can be completely locked up. They just need a power supply hooked up to the shipping container as it doesn’t have its own generator. So it needs power hooked up to it.

Matthew: Okay. Tell us a little bit about data logging and how the Auto Cure logs the data so you can follow the progression of the curing process.

Cole: Yeah so that’s really exciting. That is something that we see has such far reaching implications for (1) the facility that’s using the product and (2) for the development of cannabis itself because what our data logging does is that we have a portal on our website where each owner of an Auto Cure has a username and password that they sign in to. In that portal you’re first going to see a graphical representation, a line graph of the current humidities registered by the Auto Cure over a period of time. So you’re going to see trends happening in your drying or curing flower which (1) allows the user to see in real time what they’re drying and curing flower is actually doing, (2) gives the user peace of mind. They know that the unit is working perfectly and they’re not even there.

They know that their flower is curing actively and they’re not even in front of the unit. (3) The data, when it’s interpreted or analyzed by the user, they’re going to be able to compile that data over multiple cures to know exactly when the flower is done curing strain specific.

Matthew: So it’s kind of like a journal where you’re saying hey this is exactly what happened and we love the outcome when this is what the log produced so let’s make sure we do that again and repeat this over and over once we dial in what works the best.

Cole: Correct. So the quantitative data, the raw data that is registered from the Auto Cure is sent to our portal and then the user will add their own qualitative data to the quantitative. So basically they see strain specific. They say Blue Dream is curing in X number of days at X RH percentage and we got the highest sales price when using those Auto Cure settings. So obviously they’re going to want to save the data so that they’re able to repeat the quality that they got when they received their highest sales price for that specific batch.

Matthew: Yeah so batch logging. That makes sense. You can then go back and see what you liked about it and what you didn’t. That makes a lot of sense. I guess people are doing it because they have to track the seed to sale stuff so this isn’t really that much of a stretch to go this far in logging the curing process. So that’s interesting.

Cole: It is.

Matthew: There’s a lot of people listening that might be saying hey this is very interesting stuff. I want to cure really well and make sure it’s all optimized but I don’t want to get a PhD in curing. Is the dashboard pretty easy to understand and is it pretty easy to learn? How long does it take to get up to speed would you say?

Cole: The learning curve is minimal to be completely honest. We made the (audio cuts) very straightforward. As I mentioned there’s three sliders that determine the venting parameters. So you’re either going to base it off a time threshold which means that if you set the slider to 24, the unit will vent itself once every 24 hours. The second slider that we already mentioned is the RH threshold. So that’s set typically to around 62 percent. The unit will also vent itself when the threshold hits 62% even if that’s before 24 hours which you set on the time threshold slider. So it’s an either or that’s going on with those parameters. So the Auto Cure is either going to vent when the RH threshold or when the time threshold is hit, whichever happens sooner.

Matthew: Okay. What about infused products companies? We’re talking about cultivators and everybody is getting their flower or trim from cultivators, but is there any unique type of needs or desires that infused products companies have or their careabouts when curing?

Cole: So instead of curing flower the Auto Cure can also be used for pre-processed drying of trim or other type of cannabis material. So pre-processed drying before it becomes extracted into oils or concentrates. So in the pre-process drying you’re actually not going for curing necessarily because the product will then be extracted into oil. You’re actually just trying to get the material as dry as possible before the extraction process. So when the Auto Cure’s settings are set to continuous venting then it’s very good to be used in the pre-process drying.

Matthew: Okay. So after a customer is onboarded with Auto Cure, they’ve had it for a couple of days, they’ve started to use it, what’s their immediate feedback to you in terms of benefits and in terms of what they like? What do you hear the most?

Cole: So the number one thing that we hear is the automation. We hear back it’s just so much less labor intensive than burping buckets. Along with that comes the precision and consistency of Auto Cure because during Auto Cure’s venting process inside the chamber a completely uniform laminar airflow which is from bottom to top, side to side completely uniform airflow flows through the chamber so that the contents inside dry and cure at a completely uniform rate. So along with the automation what our customers see is standardization and consistency which is something in the curing process and in the drying process is something that is a bit difficult to achieve is standardization and consistency because mainly in curing the manual burping process is so labor intensive and monotonous it just can’t be done on a precise or consistent level as compared to when a computer does it, i.e. the Auto Cure robot.

Matthew: Sure. What about for the people that are like hey I just want to set this and forget it? Can you really get that level of hands off? Let’s say if my mom was doing curing for my plants. Is this something where she could just throw it in there pretty much and set it and forget it?

Cole: Yeah so that’s how it’s designed.

Matthew: No offense mom if you’re listening.

Cole: Yeah so if your mom were to be curing your flower, then it would be as easy for her. She wouldn’t even have to touch the settings if you already preset them. So in the context of a grow facility the master grower or the head of drying or curing can set the settings and then the employees can come and load the device without touching any settings. They just close it right up and then the Auto Cure will vent from there. So it really is a set it and forget it piece of technology. On top of that we have the portal that you can login to on your smartphone or computer so you can check it remotely from there as well.

Matthew: Okay. That’s great. Cole, I’d like to switch to some personal development questions to let people get a better sense of who you are personally. With that 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?

Cole: Yeah you know the book that had the biggest impact on my life in the moment that I read it was, I actually listened to it on tape, I didn’t read it, but it is called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

Matthew: Sure, it’s a great book.

Cole: Yeah just an amazing, amazing book. It just really turned on a light in my mind and in my heart more specifically, and ever since then I’ve just really had a much more open outlook on life and humanity.

Matthew: Yeah he has this concept of watching the thinker. You kind of stand behind your thoughts and watch your thoughts kind of race and think about things like hey I’m hungry. What am I doing later? Did I make my bed? You can just watch all these things and you realize the entity that’s watching the thoughts is not the same entity that’s having the thoughts. When you separate those two things kind of go wow, then what am I. What’s going on here? It’s pretty deep but it really does open you up in a way that nothing else I’ve read has. It’s kind of very Zen or Buddhist like in that way.

Cole: Exactly and just to be sure that is really the biggest enlightenment that I got from that book. It was a book on tape that my mom just gave to me kind of out of nowhere. I’d never heard of it before and when I was listening to it in my car on a road trip when he got to that part it was just like I said a light went off and I was just like wow there’s a lot more to each and every one of us than just the monotonous voice in our head.

Matthew: Yeah and if you watch Eckhart Tolle, the author and video and stuff like that, it’s as close as you can see to someone that really has minimized their ego into a tiny, tiny, tiny thing because he has no affectation. I don’t know how to describe it, but you could do a YouTube video and listen to him talk. I think he’s German so he has a bit of an accent, but it’s just interesting to watch him talk, how long silences are between when he says things and he seems to feel no pressure to come up with the next word to spit out of his mouth. He’s a fascinating character. He looks like he could be a Star Wars character, kind of like a Jedi coming out with little one liners to make you think about things.

Cole: Yeah it’s really an art form. I’ve watched multiple of his YouTube videos so I know exactly what you mean. That state of consciousness is really an art form and he seems to have mastered that pretty well so he is seemingly our earthly Yoda. I like to refer to him as that.

Matthew: Yeah. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you would consider indisposible to your day to day productivity other than Auto Cure?

Cole: I would just say just basic meditation. I work in a machine shop that is very loud and there is a lot of stuff going on and I find that stepping away for even a minute or two and just clearing my thoughts and getting back to my breathing is something that always, always benefits me. So that’s what I keep a lot of my focus on throughout the day.

Matthew: Cool. I have a lot of entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs in the cannabis space and when they email me I read between the lines how much doubt they have in their selves and I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes we’re kind of programmed by the people in our life or the school system or we’re just not raised with much confidence about ourselves. I try to pass along that it’s okay to have doubts or you don’t need to be this perfect, fearless person and have 100% confidence. Is there a time you can tell us about where maybe you didn’t feel sure, but you went forward anyway to push Auto Cure forward?

Cole: It’s basically the entire process of Auto Cure.

Matthew: That’s what it’s been the whole time. It’s been doubts and I pushed through.

Cole: I mean obviously this is an invention and it’s something that we developed from ideas in our minds. So with that there’s more of a sense of lack of confidence when you’re just starting out, but as you’re focus remains more and more on what you actually feel in your heart is true, then that level of lack of confidence actually starts to fall away more and more as what you’re working on becomes more and more materialized which is an awesome learning experience in and of itself because now I look back on times when I was first starting with the product and I think a lot of that of worry and insecurity was completely useless and it was actually detrimental to what I was doing at the time. In short it’s really I feel about knowing in your heart what you truly want to do and what you truly feel like you have talent at doing and then maintaining focus on that over an extended period of time. So that is the implementation that I have done in my process and I feel like it is a great open mindset to have.

Matthew: Agree. Well Cole I know that listeners can find you on a beach in San Diego pondering Eckhart Tolle passages, but if they want to find you online, where would that be?

Cole: That would be on our website. It is www.autocure.us. That is www.autocure.us. We’re very easy to get a hold of. We have our email and contact number on our website.

Matthew: Cole, thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today and help educating us on the curing and drying process. I learned a lot today and I know the listeners will too so thank you.

Cole: I appreciate it Matthew. Yeah really appreciate you having me today and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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)cannainsider.com. 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.


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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

How to Get Your Cannabis Employees Paid – Keegan Peterson

keegan peterson

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Keegan Peterson is the founder and CEO of Enjoywurk.com

Wurk helps cannabis business get employees onboard, paid and helps business owners optimize their employees to meet the needs of their cannabis business. It may seem like a simple thing to get your employees paid, but in the cannabis world, at least in the United States it isn’t. Keegan also has some great insight into what it takes to start a sustainable and profitable business in the cannabis industry.

Key Takeaways:
[2:26] – What is Wurk
[2:51] – Keegan’s background
[5:07] – Keegan talks about realizing the need for Wurk
[7:02] – Problems arising from not having payroll software
[7:54] – The birth of Wurk
[9:14] – How to get your cannabis employees paid
[10:07] – What is labor waste
[11:42] – Feedback from current Wurk clients
[13:48] – Wurk dashboard
[17:08] – Metrics in the retail world
[18:28] – How does banking interact with Wurk
[20:07] – States where Wurk is available
[20:49] – Handling state-by-state compliance issues
[21:47] – Wurk in the future
[26:46] – Keegan talks about his experience at CanopyBoulder
[28:17] – Keegan answers some personal development questions

Learn more at http://www.enjoywurk.com

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 https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

It’s one of the recurring themes of the CannaInsider show to highlight entrepreneurs who are engaged in making the picks and shovels to support the cannabis industry. One of those entrepreneurs is Keegan Peterson founder of Wurk. Keegan, welcome to CannaInsider.

Keegan: Thank you Matt for having me.

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

Keegan: Today I’m in Denver, Colorado which is where our business is headquartered. However, I spend a lot of time on airplanes in all the legalized cannabis states right now.

Matthew: Okay, and I am Edinburg, Scotland today. Yes you don’t hear that every day so it throws people off.

Keegan: I’m don’t, I’m jealous.

Matthew: I’m doing the interview in a kilt so I just wanted to make everybody aware of that so you can get a mental picture.

Keegan: It’s weird, I’m wearing a kilt as well.

Matthew: Really, wow what are the odds of that. Keegan, at a high level what is Wurk? What are you doing?

Keegan: Wurk is an HR payroll platform built specifically for the highly regulated cannabis industry. So we help business owners in this industry not only understand the typical complexities of running a business and dealing with employees but also to understand the compliance around running a cannabis business.

Matthew: Yes and there is a lot of compliance. Now what’s your background? How did you get started in this mad, mad industry?

Keegan: Yeah so I’ve spent the last eight years in the enterprise workforce management space working with folks like PetSmart, Target and a lot of the Fortune 500 retailers to help them understand their labor strategy and bring on tools and software to support that strategy. And a friend of mine happened to own a very large dispensary here in Colorado and kept on asking me for help and advice on how he could pay his people and run a more efficient business. After a while I realized there was a real problem in the space because there wasn’t software solutions to help these business owners.

Matthew: There is so much to running a dispensary. It really is crazy. I mean, people think of it as like oh I just get bud tenders interacting with customers, but if you have the cultivation side too, if you’re vertically integrated, that’s like a whole separate business. Then there’s just manage the employees and all the compliance and marketing. There’s just a lot of hats you have to really wear well that I don’t think is adequately covered about the industry. All people think about is hey you make a million dollars. You sell pot and that’s all there is to it.

Keegan: You’re spot on. Yeah you’re spot on, and the complexities of growing and selling the product are a whole other breed that no one has had to deal with before. So not only are you dealing with the complexities of running a business, just like any other traditional business owner has, now you have this whole new set of compliance that you have to report on daily. So it’s very challenging, and I would compare them to a Fortune 500 retailer who has distribution centers and has all these different types of business under one business. However, these smaller cannabis businesses don’t have the luxury of having thousands of employees to manage these processes. They have to figure it out on their own with a very small management team. So it’s a big challenge and these folks are doing an amazing job of making progress.

Matthew: So your friend says hey can you help us with X, Y and Z. You’ve got the background for it. What specifically were they looking for in terms of help and when did you realize this was going to be beyond just a little helping a friend that there’s a business here?

Keegan: So it was a back and forth. I was asking him for labor data to try to understand how the labor in this industry works and some of the drivers that run these businesses. When I asked him that question he came back and said hey I don’t even have a payroll system to pay my employees. I have no data to even give you to play around with. So after a back and forth I realized that he was paying his employees in cash and he was using Excel to track how much he had paid the employees and how much he’d paid in taxes, and then he was delivering cash to the IRS building downtown in a box to pay for his taxes, and I realized that there was a real problem here. When you’re paying that much tax at the end of the year, we’re not talking thousands of dollars, we’re talking millions in a box.

Matthew: Yeah so it’s like a Mission Impossible expedition just to get your taxes paid. You’re running around looking over your shoulder, make sure no one’s going to jack you.

Keegan: Exactly.

Matthew: That’s got to be nerve racking. So just the basic blocking and tackling of getting payroll done was just a huge obstacle.

Keegan: Yes, and it’s a security concern for not only that person who has to pay the taxes. It’s a security problem for all the employees that get paid checks in cash. It’s a security problem for the community that has folks carrying large amounts of money around. So it’s a really big problem. It’s plaguing this industry. It’s not just here in Colorado. It’s in every single legalized state, and until we started this company it didn’t seem like anybody was really going after the opportunity to help make this a better situation.

Matthew: So when you’re not able to have data around your payroll and do it digitally and so forth do problems kind of originate from that and then cascade into other parts of your business?

Keegan: Yes. So one it’s difficult to calculate how much you’re supposed to pay employees. Then it’s also hard to calculate how much you pay in taxes. If you do either one of those things wrong the penalties are very high. So the average employee lawsuit for being misclassified or paid incorrectly is $50,000 or 20% of their yearly salary, and then the penalties for not paying your taxes correctly can go all the way to the point where you get your business shut down.

Matthew: So you were talking with your buddy, you helped him out a little bit here and then when did that kind of idea germinate like I got a business here and I’ve got to start it. Did you talk to some other dispensary owners or where there a couple of other signs you saw where you say hey this has got to be a business. It’s an itch that a lot of other companies need scratched.

Keegan: Yeah when I sat down with him and I helped him create a solution he pushed me and said look I’ve been doing this for seven years. I know hundreds of businesses I can bring to you that are having the same problem. If you can fix this issue and sustain this and create a scalable business to solve not only this problem here but in multiple states, you have a really big business on your hands. So I started doing some research and I realized at that point that there were already 160,000 employees in the cannabis industry and the majority of them were underserved.

Matthew: Yes. So there’s a lot of aspects to Wurk I want to talk about, and just so people know Wurk is not spelled W-O-R-K but W-U-R-K. So we’re saying Wurk but it’s a little bit different spelling. Let’s talk about some of the features and benefits here with onboarding and so forth and tax paperwork so people can kind of get a sense of the full range of benefits they get when they come onboard with Wurk. I really want to highlight this because you’re not creating a spot product. It’s more of a solution that kind of engrosses all the pain points of your customers in an interesting way. So I want to give you an opportunity to talk about that a little bit.

Keegan: We’re a workforce management application so we look at the lifecycle of an employee within a business from the day you’re trying to attract him/her to the business to the day that they end up leaving the business. We look at that complete lifecycle and we’re building solutions to manage it as well as automate it. So that includes payroll. It includes HR and tracking of all the documentation that you need to when you onboard an employee, all the assets that you need to track while they’re with the business, t-shirt sizes, etc. We do all the time tracking. So how are you going to collect time from this hourly workforce? How are you going to schedule these employees? So all those different aspects we’re looking at that holistically and providing a one-stop solution to manage all of it in one place.

Matthew: Okay. What’s labor waste? How would you describe that?

Keegan: Labor waste comes in several different forms. So one is over scheduling. So if you schedule more labor than you have demand for. So let’s say you have four bud tenders working the counter and you only have three customers at the store, you’ve over scheduled and now you’ve spent more money than you need to. The opposite is true when you under schedule a workforce. So you have two bud tenders when you have ten customers in the lobby. Now you are going to miss out on sales because customers are going to get upset and they’re going to walk out the door. Overtime is another labor waste. Sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes it’s not. Managers tend to lean on it a little bit too much and think that it’s necessary when they can just bring in another employee that’s not being paid time and a half.

Then having the wrong employee mix. So sometimes you have too many junior bud tenders working the counter at peak hours and now you’re going to have less customer service than you would like to have, less experience than you would like to have at the counter which is going to result in less sales. So what we try to do is look at all of these holistically and build strategies for our clients to optimize in each one of these areas.

Matthew: Do you have any recent examples of how you’ve helped some clients improve efficiency by using work where they adopted the software and the solution, embraced it and then got some quick hits right away that they gave you some feedback on?

Keegan: Yes we have a client here in Colorado that has 300 employees and where we started building schedules into our solution, when we build a schedule it creates a budget. Sorry got some background noise in there.

Matthew: Pull them in there Keegan. I want to chastise them for interrupting your interview.

Keegan: It’s actually my speaker phone. It just randomly talks to me when it’s upset.

Matthew: Okay, darn, that would be fun. Okay go ahead.

Keegan: I’ll yell at it later. So but when you create a schedule in our system, because it’s tied to payroll, it tells you how much that schedule costs. So I’m going to have 10,000 hours, each hour is going to be worth $10, now I’ve got $100,000 schedule for this week essentially. Now when that schedule gets worked over the next seven days I’m going to have my actual and that creates a variance report. Now your actual is obviously different than what you scheduled because you have people working into overtime, you have people who don’t show up for work.

So when you look at these two, variance report and schedules, it clearly shows you where you’re being inefficient. You’re creating a budget. Your business is based on that budget and now you have an actual report that’s much different. If your actual are a lot higher than that schedule, then you know that you have some unexpected costs. Now sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. That’s where you start to see the overtime waste, and with our client that had 300 employees they started seeing overtime waste where managers were allowing folks to work into overtime when they didn’t necessarily need to and they had other employees that were available who weren’t in their overtime threshold. So for them we were able to quickly with one report be able to tell them here’s an opportunity for you to save a lot of money over the next twelve months.

Matthew: Okay kind of tailoring the work needs to the demands of the business. That makes sense.

Keegan: Exactly.

Matthew: Let’s say I’m a Wurk client and I login. Is there a dashboard that greets me and tells me something and if so, what do I see at first?

Keegan: There is and the great thing about our solution is the dashboard is customized to the user. So if your role in the company is to run payroll, then your dashboard is going to be our payroll dashboard and you’re going to see all the payrolls that you’ve run. You’re going to see missing time punches and how you can quickly fix them. You can also see employee birthdays so you can notify them happy birthday, thanks for working for our business. If you’re job is a manager, it might be more time tracking and scheduling features. So depending on who the user is in the business, when they sign on they’re going to have a dashboard that’s customized to what their job role is.

Matthew: Okay. So did you name all the roles there or are there more roles than that?

Keegan: There are more roles than that. So you got the business owner who wants a high level perspective of the business. So he’s going to want reports. He might want to see that variance report of schedule versus actually, not only short term but long term. Your general manager is going to care about seeing different stores in comparison to each other so that they can keep their managers accountable. Your managers are going to care about the employees that report to them and the manager’s goal is to hit their budget for the week. So if they get $10,000 dollars of labor, they’re goal is to work towards that 10,000 hours and they got to figure out where they need to flex. And then you’ve got your employees who care about their schedule, when are they scheduled for this week, can they request time off, is their timecard accurate, did they forget to clock out and they need to go in and change that. So those are different perspectives and we try to create a customized look and feel that gets the end user exactly what they’re looking for.

Matthew: So employees can request time off within the system?

Keegan: Right within the system, yeah, and the nice thing is being connected to payroll. All of that flows over into your payroll system and gets cut at the time of payroll.

Matthew: Okay very helpful. Is Wurk hosted on your servers or third party servers.

Keegan: Yep.

Matthew: Okay that’s how it works.

Keegan: It’s all in the cloud. We have redundant servers in place. We’re going through an SSAE audit right now. We’re an enterprise level application. We take security to a whole new level and we’re making sure that we’re doing everything on our end to protect our data and make sure that our clients are safe.

Matthew: Okay. So I’m looking at the dashboard for the first time. It sounds like this is a great way to pinpoint waste and allocate resources which is kind of what your background is in, but you mentioned a little bit about how the employee scheduling and so forth kind of addresses throttling the right amount of employees to the demand, but what are some other ways that a business owner can look at the dashboard or otherwise and say hey I see a distortion here in the business and it needs to be addressed according to this dashboard or what are some other things that business owners look at the dashboard and kind of pinpoint right away that they weren’t able to get access to before because they didn’t have the data?

Keegan: The most important measurement or metric in the retail world is labor as a percent of sales. So when you marry the data coming out of our system with your POS data and we can bring labor drivers into our system and create reports off of that. You now get a perspective of for every hour of labor out of spending here’s how much I’m getting in return in sales. That’s a very important aspect. I don’t know if a lot of cannabis business owners are running their business with that in mind and our goal is to help them get to that point. That shows you very specifically if your operation is efficient or not. Then when you have multiple locations, especially multiple locations in different states, having that statistic, that metric to compare location to location really gives you an idea of okay is my managers doing a good job, is my operation there set up. Here’s my secret sauce, have I applied that to every one of my locations or is one of my locations missing the bar. So I think that’s a really important statistic that folks in this industry need to start focusing on in running their business too.

Matthew: How does it work with the banks? Do you have the relationship with the bank that you manage on your client’s behalf or is the client’s account, I mean how does that work.

Keegan: Yeah so we’ve partnered with several banks that are in the industry and our goal is to be a channel to the banking system. So for clients that are unbanked we introduce them to our banking partners and if the banking partners see that their business is compliant and fit, then they usually sign them up for an account and at that point we feel comfortable working with them. We also have clients that are unbanked. Some states just don’t have banks yet and they’re using our system as an audit trail. So their employees go into our system and sign off that they’ve been paid, even though it’s been in cash, but it still gives them the audit trail that they need in case an employee comes back and says I’ve never been paid. Now they’ve got an IP addressed signed to that person saying yes they have.

Matthew: So this is helpful for the cannabis related business that wants to get banks and isn’t when they say look I’m coming above board and documenting everything possible. Does that give the bank a little bit extra layer of comfort like okay they’re working with Wurk to document everything?

Keegan: Absolutely. That’s what these banks want to see now. There’s obviously a limited number of banks that are in this industry and there’s a surplus of businesses. So these banks want to see that someone has put the measures in place to be a compliant business and not overboard. So having a payroll and time tracking system that shows very granular who’s worked where, how much these employees are paid, how much taxes were paid is one aspect of that compliance check.

Matthew: What states are you operating in now, are you servicing clients?

Keegan: We’re in ten different states right now. So we’re in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, New York, Vermont and I believe Massachusetts, eleven states.

Matthew: Okay, good memory. And now in terms of a compliance checklist and such because each state’s compliance regulations are different. Some a lot different than others. Is there built in modules or add-ons or features for people that want to get into more compliance related tasks with Wurk?

Keegan: Absolutely. We actually rolled out a module called Comply and that module is focused on the state specific compliance that the state marijuana enforcement division is putting on to that state. So for instance in Colorado the marijuana enforcement division is the regulatory body. Here there is new hire reporting that they require. Their employees have to badged before they can work in a facility. So we work with the MED to really understand those compliance and then build it into application and we’re going to do that state-by-state. For some of these states we’re in a wait and hold pattern as they’re trying to figure out their regulatory body and what they’re going to require. As soon as those get finalized we’ll build those into our application.

Matthew: Okay. And where do you see Wurk going in the next couple years? I mean it’s kind of getting everybody into the fold and making sure their employees are paid and documenting all that, but how do you see it evolving?

Keegan: Yeah that’s a great question. There’s so much opportunity right now because the market is so underserved that we’re focusing on getting this application in the hands of business owners and helping them run a compliant business. Our goal is to service every legal cannabis state in the United States. We’re going to focus on the United States for the time being. Then we’re going to look at the lifecycle of the employees and the different things that they have to do and we’re going to continue to build solutions to support those. So we will be bringing new products to market over the next year to two years, but they’re always going to be focused around employee management and employee engagement.

Matthew: Where are you in the investing process right now? Are you looking for more investors? How many investors have you had? What can you tell us about that?

Keegan: We’re not looking for more investors, but we will have some news coming soon.

Matthew: Yeah. Okay. And you’ve had some high profile investors. I imagine if anybody does a Google search they could figure out more about that. I don’t know how much you’re willing to talk about that, but I thought I would throw that out there.

Keegan: Yeah we’ve been very fortunate. We have an amazing investor base. Poseidon is one of those investors. Rick (23.01 unclear) is one of those investors, and we have some more folks that are coming onboard that really are thought leaders in this space. They’re really connected in making a difference in this space. So we’ve been very fortunate to have them a part of what we’re doing, and they fit the standard for who we want to be working with.

Matthew: If there’s any aspiring entrepreneurs listening, Keegan, that want to know what it’s like to spot an opportunity, build a team and raise capital, what would you tell them about that process and maybe encourage them and tell them what to look out for both to and avoid.

Keegan: I’ll say it’s very challenging. The last two years of my life have been very challenging to say the least, but they’ve been the most exciting years of my career and my life. It’s a real honor to have an opportunity like this to work with amazing people. This industry is full of different people than in the traditional world and that’s what I love about it. Some of the challenges, fundraising is not easy in this industry. A lot of folks are conservative investors looking for conservative investments and I think the challenge is really understanding your business model and understanding to a point where it can become investful to another individual who may be conservative. So you really have to look at how you’re going to scale your business, how this business is going to be able to support multiple markets and how you can easily bring a business to profitability. I think the one thing that we were lucky with is there is a lot of comparables as far as payroll companies that have been created over the last five years. Business owners look for that.

Matthew: You’re lucky you’re in a niche that really business owners need. It’s not something like do I need this or do I not. It’s a staple of any business so that’s a good thing to be pitching investors always.

Keegan: It is. If you want to keep your doors open, you want to make sure you’re paying your employees correctly. It is a nice spot to be in and the more folks that we can get introduced to and help, the more we can help this industry stay alive and continue to grow.

Matthew: Yeah and there’s an additional benefit of this being kind of a sticky application. The more you use it, the more it gets woven into the fabric of your business and it’s probably hard to leave or transition which you know I’m not going to say that that would be a problem for you but that’s a benefit because as the clients commit to you they get deeper and deeper into work and it’s just woven so tightly. So that’s another benefit for investors potentially.

Keegan: It is, and the more that we can really understand these businesses and help them implement labor strategies and control their labor, the more they’re going to want to use our service. And that’s our goal is we do payroll. That’s one aspect of it and that’s a big challenge in this industry, but when you start marrying in the labor efficiencies and understanding how I deploy my labor, that’s where you really see long term value for your business and I think that’s where the industry is moving as we continue to evolve and get bigger.

Matthew: You were part of the CanopyBoulder cannabis technology accelerator program that focuses on ancillary cannabis businesses. Can you tell us a little bit about that. That’s where we originally met. I was over there and I met you and I learned about your business. Can you tell us about your experience there and what it was like?

Keegan: It was an amazing experience for me. I learned a lot. I matured as a person, as a business owner. The business matured very quickly. Our goal through that program was to mature the business model and make it investable and then prepare ourselves to scale into multiple markets and that’s exactly what we did over the three month term. So the program is led by Patrick Rey and Mika Tapman and both of them have experience in building, in investing in businesses. So they give you a whole plethora of their experience but then they bring mentors and advisors who have done similar feats that these young entrepreneurs are trying to accomplish, and help them accelerate their business in a very short period of time, and you can see from the companies that have come out of Canopy that they have figured it out and they’re really doing a lot to help these businesses grow. We were fortunate to go through that program and our business has definitely grown and seen the results of going through such a program.

Matthew: Keegan I like to ask some personal development and enrichment questions so listeners can get a sense of who you are personally. I normally ask two questions but I’m going to ask you seventeen. I’m just kidding. I’m only going to ask you two. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your way of thinking or given you a new lens or perspective on life that you would like to share with listeners?

Keegan: Yes. Never Eat Alone was one of the books that I read a couple years back, and I think the author is Keith Ferrazzi. That’s a book that really pushed me outside of my boundaries to invest in the people that are around me, the friendships, the business partnerships and it helped me learn to enjoy those conversations. That was one book that really stood out in my development.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise other than Wurk that you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity?

Keegan: Trello I use quite a bit. It’s a gant chart and I want to… or (29.08 unclear) I’m sorry, and it helps me organize what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and prioritize my tasks so that’s one thing I lean on quite a bit.

Matthew: So Trello is a web based tool where you have these cards. They look kind of like index cards or something that show what your working and then your team shows cards of what they’re working on. Is that what it is?

Keegan: Yes and how I set it up is I have a card for each department in the business and then on each card I have different tasks that are associated with what I want to get done in that department and then I can bring team members onto those cards who are associated with that side of the business. Then we can prioritize when we’re going to get these tasks done, and then we have a separate card for things that we get accomplished so that we can see how much we’ve accomplished in the last week, month, quarter, etc.

Matthew: Would you say that lends itself more to software development in general or do you think any team could benefit from that?

Keegan: I think any team could benefit from it. We use it more on the operational and sales aspect. Obviously we’re trying to grow this business very quickly. So we’re trying to look down the road 12 months at where we need to be, what policies we need to have in place, what structure do we need to have built in order to support more customers and more sales reps etc. So we use it mostly in our sales and implementation process to organize what we’re doing.

Matthew: Okay. Keegan as we close can you tell listeners how they can find Wurk online?

Keegan: So you can go to www.enjoywurk.com and you can see all the different products that we have available. You can request to see a demo, you can connect with someone on our sales team. If you would like to email us directly, you can email us at sales@enjoywurk.com and we would love to hear from you.

Matthew: Great. Keegan thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Keegan: Thank you for having me.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Medical Doctor Pivots to Create a Cannabis-Focused Practice

dr rachna patel

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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?
[27:24] – Dr. Rachna gives her thoughts on the vaccine controversy
[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: https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

 

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 www.drrachnapatel.com. 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.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

The Founders of PenSimple Are Obsessed with Fresh Ground Cannabis Flower

pensimple

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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 https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

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 mfg.com 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 brian@getpensimple.com.

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 www.getpensimple.com.

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)cannainsider.com. 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.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Dialing In Your Cannabis Experience with This Vaporizer Technology

mark-williams-firefly

Download Transcript >>

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
https://www.cannainsider.com/reviews/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  https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

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 www.thefirefly.com. 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.

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