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The Cannabis Cup is the most prestigious award in the cannabis industry. Growers compete for the glory, but what does is take to win?
High Times cultivation editor, Nico Escondido takes us behind the scenes and tells us what really goes on and what the judging process is like. He also discusses how to avoid the most common cannabis cultivation mistakes.
*Get the FREE CannaInsider Podcast for your smartphone, CLICK HERE.*
[2:01] – Nico’s background
[5:44] – Nico talks about his day-to-day work life at High Times
[8:35] – Nico discusses the Cannabis Cup
[18:03] – Increasing your chances of winning a Cannabis Cup
[23:53] – Nico talks about the Cannabis Genetics Institute
[27:16] – Nico talks about genetics and traits
[32:23] – Horticulture technology
[35:08] – Nico gives his opinion on LED versus traditional lighting
[38:52] – Typical growing mistakes
[42:11] – Bad growing habits
[50:43] – Photobiology and genetics to him
[53:06] – New York Medical Marijuana Legalization
[59:35] – How to find Nico’s work
Matthew: Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you an accredited investor looking to get access to the best cannabis investing opportunities? Join me at the next ArcView Group event. The ArcView Group is the premier angel investor network focused exclusively on the cannabis industry. There is simply no other place where you can find this quality and diversity of cannabis industry investment opportunities months or even years before the general public. If that’s not enough, you will also be networking with the top investors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the cannabis space. I have personally made many of my best connections and lifelong friendships at ArcView events. If you are an accredited investor and would like to join me as an ArcView member, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. Now here’s your program.
I’m really excited to have the High Times Cultivation Editor and expert grower Nico Escondido with us today. Welcome to CannaInsider Nico.
Nico: Thanks Matt. Thanks for having me. I’m a big fan of the program, and I’ve been listening in and I knew I was going to be on your show. And you guys really have a great cross section of the industry. It’s a very interesting show.
Matthew: Oh thank you.
Nico: Yeah, absolutely.
Matthew: To give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today?
Nico: Today I’m in my hometown which is New York City. That’s where the High Times offices are in Manhattan. And it’s a bit warm and a bit muggy here in New York City as usual.
Matthew: Okay, and before we jump into everything you’re doing at High Times, can you give us a little background on yourself and how you got into the cannabis industry?
Nico: Yeah sure. I guess it goes back, I mean, I’ve been growing, I’ve been a grower for over 20 years now. I started as a teenager. And then breaking into the industry back before there was an industry was a bit of a challenge, because I’ve been at High Times now for almost 10 years. And first at High Times it’s really… it’s a tough thing to find people who can excel in both industries that we have these base meetings, publishing of course and then also cannabis. So to find guys like myself, like Danny Danko, the Jorge Cervantes, the Harry Reisig [ph] guys who can write, but also know a bit, a fair bit about cannabis, it’s a tough racket.
You know for me it’s just like everything else. It’s a bit of who you know and a bit of timing. So I guess at the turn of the century, in 2002 my girlfriend now my wife, and I decided to just hit the road. And we went down to Mexico where we had some family, and we helped them do the old conversion from smuggler to grower because they’d been down here for years and the Mexican brick weed product that we all know from our youth was starting to fizzle out and get overtaken by the Canadian weed. And they needed to step up their game. So we went down there and it was a great experience. We learned a lot. We helped set up huge hydro warehouses down there. We did that for a few years before finally coming back to the United States.
And once I got back here I continued to grow, but I was also writing at a newspaper, a small weekly paper. And a few stories back then got picked up by the Associated Press, and a friend of mine saw my name. She gave me a call. She said oh would you like to write for High Times. I said yeah right sure. She set that up and it turns out her neighbor was the Associate Publisher at the time for High Times. So she made the connection for me, and the rest is history.
Matthew: So was the article in the Associated Press, was it cannabis related?
Nico: No not at all. We were living in New Jersey. It was a small, weekly paper. I was a beat writer for one of these towns here. Actually it was a snake that had gotten shipped accidently in a box in a return to Samsung, and when they opened the DVD player a snake popped out. And it had travelled all the way from Tennessee or somewhere. I forget, and I had written this kind of quirky story about this snake. Anyway it was just one of those kind of mainstream, pop culture story things that got picked up by the Associated Press. It had my byline on it, and that’s what happened. So you never know, you know, you think you’re in this rut. You think you’re doing something that really doesn’t interest you. You’re writing about snakes in the mail, and the next thing you know you’re sitting at High Times having an interview with Danny Danko and Rick Cusick.
Matthew: That’s a great story. Now what is your day-to-day life like working at High Times? I mean both there in New York City in the office and then when you’re going out on the road doing various things.
Nico: Yeah I mean the gig at High Times requires a lot of travel. When I first started at the magazine I would say I was probably on the road about 50 percent of the time. And now with the events that we do seven times a year plus editorial there’s a lot of travel, and there’s a lot of shifting of gears. You know kind of going between content production on the editorial side and then putting on the Cannabis Cups. When I first started at High Times I was on assignment probably, I don’t know, half the time. But it was really a dream job at the beginning. Not that it’s not anymore, but you know you tend to burn out with that much travel.
I got to travel the globe and visit the world’s biggest marijuana plantations. I mean Amsterdam, Spain, Israel, Morocco, British Columbia, Africa. I mean you name it, I went shooting for the magazine and writing about cultivation. And I just got to learn so much and meet so many people. It was really a blessing. These days the travel is more on the Cannabis Cup side. I’m going to probably get away two or three times a year to do a nice long piece, a good read for the magazine. But you know other than that when I’m home in New York it’s pretty standard, you know, Mondays are editorial meetings. Thursdays are planning meetings. Wednesdays are our Cannabis Cup meetings. And then it’s just trying to put a book out while trying to set up the next event.
Matthew: Interesting. It sounds like a lot of different stuff you have going on now. Everybody has heard of the Cannabis Cup, and if you haven’t it’s essentially the equivalent of the Stanley Cup in hockey in which the Blackhawks won last night, Go Hawks. Just a little plug there. Can you take us behind the scenes and tell us how growers enter the competition, how a winner is selected and what the lab testing process is? Here in Boulder I believe Native Roots came in number two with the Griz, I think one of their strains here for the last Denver Cannabis Cup. And it’s a huge deal. I mean that’s a note worthy event that goes on your Facebook timeline when you win something like that.
Nico: Oh absolutely.
Matthew: It can really help a dispensary get a lot of business to because everybody wants to try a Cannabis Cup winner. So if you would just kind of walk us behind the scenes. What’s the selection process like? How doe growers enter and how does that whole system work?
Nico: Sure. This is something I can talk about for days. So I’m not sure how much time we have. You might have to cut me off. I serve as the Competition Director as you probably know as well as the Cultivation Editor. So when it comes to Cannabis Cups this is what I do. I run the competition, and before I really get too far into it I have to say that we’ve been doing this now for 28 years. We’ve only been doing it for five or six years here in the states, but this actually goes back into the mid 90s. And I have to give a shout out to our former Editor in Chief and the founder of the Cannabis Cup Steve Hager who had the vision almost three decades ago now to hold this type of event and of course it was annual. It was in Amsterdam every year. We still do the Amsterdam Cup of course, but now with the advent of medical marijuana and legalization we do these all over the United States and some in Europe.
The process has evolved significantly since Steve had it. Back then it wasn’t nearly as big and it wasn’t as organized as it is now. So to start with the competition regularly sees about 500 entries in these cities which is a lot and we developed a system that utilizes obviously judges who score on qualitative characteristics and then we have at least two labs at every cup that runs a host of tests for us, and we get measurements on the quantitative side. What we do then is we actually have created a fairly complex algorithm which we’ve now digitized and put into an online scoring program that we call High Times Score Book. So the judges get to create accounts and login to that. All the score sheets are digital for the entries. All the judging is blind of course.
So if they’re judging, you know, we break it into 12 categories; hybrids, sativa, indica. Same for concentrates, we have CBD categories with edibles and your topicals now. Depending on the category the judge is in they login and the score sheets come up for those entries for that category. And they’re just labeled simply Hybrid 1, Hybrid 2, Hybrid 3. So it will know what the strain is now and who it came from. You know from a logistics standpoint it’s pretty hard to do this especially for a company coming out of New York City to put these on. So we don’t have a lot of time.
So typically, you know, I’m out there on the ground usually two to three weeks beforehand so is our other competition director Craig Coffee [ph] with an intake team and so the competitors have to come and show up a couple weeks before the actual event, and they have to actually submit their entries. We do that for a couple of days and then for a couple of days after that we break it all down. We actually create kits for the judges. Everything has to be put into smaller baggies and labels and put into the correct kits for the judges. We have to make kits for the photographer, kits for the labs, kits for the judges. The judges typically get about 7 to 8 days to judge the entries. We tap the categories now at 50 so they got to smell, you know, it’s work. People think oh what a great job, you know, you’re a judge for the Cannabis Cup. Don’t get me wrong it’s a phenomenal experience, but at the same time you are on the clock man. It’s a job, you’re working and we take it very seriously. And we sometimes drive our judges a little too hard and we’ve learned our lesson in that regard. I never thought it was possible to actually seen an overdose from cannabis. But if you’re an edibles judge, you can certainly disappear for a couple of days.
We’ve kind of backed off on that and kind of instructed our judges on how best to sample the edibles. Yeah it’s a process and it’s something I’m extremely proud of. The score book system is amazing. It’s customizable, it’s scalable, it’s tweakable. Judges will judge, let’s just take flowers for instance, judges will judge on visual aesthetics, on taste, on aroma, on the burnability or the flush of the product and then lastly on the effects. Now a lot of people say well geeze how do you, you know, you have 50 strains to smoke in a week, and how do you know the effects. And you know what I tell them is we’re not looking for the judges to tell me how strong something is.
I get the potency values from the lab. So I know how strong those are. When I say effects I’m asking the judges, you know, you’re a sativa judge. Is it a sativa? Does it belong in this category? Does it have a real uplifting high? Does it cut right through? How does it make you feel? So it’s a bit objective, you know, in that regard. And so we don’t want one judge versus another judge trying to tell us this is stronger than the others. We don’t want any of that. We just want to know how do you feel and does it do the job. Is it an indica? Is it a sativa? And then once they put in all of their lab scores, I’m sorry, once they put in all of their scores at the end of the week I get the lab results. I put those into the system. The lab results account for 30 percent and the judges’ scores count for 70 percent.
So the system will average all of the judges scores. And then we’ll add in the lab values and the system will score those. And you get a total score out of 100 points. And so really it’s pretty dialed in at this point. I mean we incorporate everything now from THC to CBD to terpenoids, residual solvencies for concentrates. And we show that to the judges at the end. What we’ll do is have a meeting at the end of the week. The judges will all come. They’ll sit down with their group. There’s usually about somewhere between 5 and 7 judges for each category and we sit down and we show them the results from the score book system. We give them the top five. We don’t consider anything outside of the top five, but we do allow the judges to judge to pose the positioning of those strains. The only caveat is that whatever came in first place has to place, and we do that because we put a high value and emphasis on the human element.
You know when we started these Cannabis Cups they were, in the United States anyway, they were Medical Cannabis Cups. So they really were about the patient. They really were about the product, and we didn’t want the lab values skewing that too much. So as a safeguard we have these judges meetings. And it’s a real nice evening for all the judges. We typically run about 70 to 80 judges per Cannabis Cup. We have a nice dinner on the Friday night before the event. The event expo starts on Saturday. All the judges come. They bring (15.35 Plus One) and we get it catered. And we just do breakout sessions and we break them into their groups, and we sit down and we pick the winners.
And it’s really a great process, and what I love about it is there’s a lot of transparency. Everything I just told you is sent to all the competitors so they know how the competition works. We publish it online. And then what we do is if you win a Cannabis Cup, we invite you to come and judge a Cannabis Cup at the next one. And even if you don’t win, you don’t have to. If you just came to us and said hey I’m a competitor. I entered in Los Angeles and Seattle and I’m thinking about coming to Amsterdam, can I be a judge? Fuck yeah, you can be a judge. Come out to Amsterdam, see our process, you know, see it from the other side. See how we do it. You know with any competition at the end when the people think they should have won and they don’t there’s a lot of naysaying. There’s a lot of rumors that go around. And we work very hard to bring integrity to the Cannabis Cup and make it a fair competition. And it’s the best and it’s the biggest in the world. I know there’s a lot of competitions out there these days that try to do similar things, and I support everyone in doing that. I’m a bit bias, ours is the best.
Matthew: Wow that’s an amazing amount of detail and work that goes into it. I’m glad you shared that. I don’t know how many people really know how in depth it goes, but I’m glad there really is a process. And you mentioned how the Cannabis Cup started in Amsterdam. Actually Arjan Roscam was on the show and he shared how when the Cup came there it really changed the whole course of history for him. Similar to how when your article came out about the Samsung and the snake and everything, his whole life changed with the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. So that’s fascinating.
Nico: Arjan’s been there from the beginning. Him and Falco and Greenhouse are great supporters. I actually did hear a little bit of that interview you did and it was excellent. I applaud really Matt your reach and the people you get to come on the show. It’s a great archive and history of our industry.
Matthew: Thank you. Is there anything entrants into the Cannabis Cup can do to increase their chances of winning even if that’s just eliminating stupid mistakes or little things, little pitfalls they might encounter?
Nico: Yeah there are a couple of things that I tell people. The first mistake people make is that they think that the strongest cannabis is going to win and that’s absolutely not true. We get lab values these days that hit in the high 20s, you know, 27, 28. I think I had a 29 percent in Denver this past April. While those are nice, they don’t win. What usually wins is somewhere in the high teens, low 20s, but what wins is taste. Flavor is paramount. And so there’s two things I tell competitors that they can do in this regard, and the first is obviously make sure you flush your crop at the end. And I’m a big believer in a solid two week flush. No nutrients. I might even go three weeks depends on if I’m doing organics or not.
The second is obviously cure. You know don’t bring anything that’s going to be too wet or too fresh and not burn right because the judges, I mean, they’re sophisticated. These are experts we pick from a large database now of judges. We have over 1,000 in it, and they’re all experts from the industry. So you know if they roll up a joint and it doesn’t burn white at the tip and it gets all kind of black and resin-y and cloudy, you know, that’s not going to win. And then as far as taste goes I have to say the competition has really opened my eyes because from the score book the database we’ve created and how much info we have I get to go back and really analyze the winning strain.
We have the competitors fill our entry forms of their entry everything from did you grow from seed or clone, what nutrients did you use, what medium did you use, lighting, indoor/outdoor. You name it, we have the info on every strain that’s entered. And so when we get the winners I get to go back and I really get to correlate all of that data, and I can tell you that a majority of the winners are grown organically.
Matthew: Wow that’s great to know.
Nico: Yeah isn’t that something? Not to give a shameless plug to my ole buddy Kyle Christian, but his new veganic nutrient line has produced, you know, I mean quite a few winners and a couple at every Cup. And so much so that I’ve started using it, and the organic and the veganic stuff just really brings out that flavor. You might not get as big of yield I guess, but when you’re growing a specialized crop for a competition, that’s what I would recommend.
Matthew: You bring up a good point here. It’s not about THC concentration. It’s about flavor, but there’s a few objective things that get measured; THC, CBD. What do you think the next thing that everybody’s going to want to see measured is?
Nico: That’s a great question. We just had a long talk at the office last week about this. Someone was asking me about CBDs and they were saying, how much THC do you need with CBD or do you need any THC to activate the CBD. And we had this whole long conversation, and at the end of it I said, you know, what’s funny about this conversation is that next year it will be about a different cannabinoid, and the year after that it will start to be about specific terpenoids. And after that it will be the entourage effect that we hear so much about which is how various cannabinoids and terpenoids interact to create an effect. And then once we get passed that and we figure out those different combinations, then it’s going to be how do those combinations react in each individual person’s chemotype.
So this question is immensely interesting and it is the question because what I think it shows is that this is just the tip of the iceberg here Matt, what you’re asking about. And the reason for that and the problem is that we don’t have a federal legalization bill here in this country, and so that stymies any legitimate and long term research we can do in this regard. I mean we’ve known about CBD for quite a few years now. But it’s really just coming into the mainstream, and the politicians are getting into it and doctors are getting into it. But those kind of people who aren’t in our industry with us here every day, you know, they don’t know about CHCV or A. They don’t know about terpenoids. They don’t know about mercene. They don’t know about the various effects of these other things. And then the combination of those therein.
Yeah I think the future, to answer your question more specifically, I think the future is going to push more into terpenoids because terpenoids and flavonoids produce that flavor which is really, that’s the selling point in these dispensaries and you know, in terms of marketability. All these strains are strong. You know, they’re all going to get you high. So it’s going to come down to what’s your palate, what’s your preference, what’s your taste, what’s your flavor and that’s very marketable. Oh you know, I like grape and I like blueberry and bubble gum. Who knows, you know this banana craze and the Tangie [ph] and all this stuff. So terpenoids I think is where you’re going to see it go. The question is when, how long is it going to take us to get there, and how much research is going to be allowed on this front.
Matthew: Switching gears a little bit, what is the Cannabis Genetics Institute? What are you doing there?
Nico: The Cannabis Genetic Institute, CGI we’re calling it for short, it’s a side project of mine, my latest side project. And, you know I’ve taken a little bit of a break from doing the videos in my spare time, and I decided to try my hands in genetics. So I have to say first that I’m very lucky to have a great partner in this endeavor who is one of our popular writers at High Times in Amsterdam, Mr. Harry Resin, who has moved his family from Amsterdam. And he and I together with a few of our other partners we’ve built the Cannabis Genetic Institute and it’s out in California.
It’s in its infancy so I don’t want to say too much about it. We haven’t really launched it publicly, but the aim of it is for it to be a place of education, research and development for cannabis genetics. It’s something that’s not about money. It’s certainly not about awards. I mean as far as your typical C companies and stuff like that, I could never enter a Cannabis Cup or anything of the sort. So it’s not about any of that. It’s purely about the plant and about people, about educating and about helping readers and about really reinvigorating the cannabis gene pool which is a concern of mine. It’s kind of my cannabis philanthropy if you will.
I saw a documentary I guess, you know, years back and it was about the Svalbard Seed Bank, the doomsday seed bank up there in Norway that has every conceivable plant and flower and botanical variety in seed form up there frozen. And I thought we need that for cannabis, you know. I’ve heard that there’s cannabis in that vault and I’m sure there’s hemp and whatnot, but that’s how this idea spawned, and I thought okay well I have quite a collection of genetics. We just started launching some cryo preservation freezers and started storing seeds, and that evolved into getting, we’re building a testing facility, that evolved into doing some breeding work.
And so that’s kind of where we are now. We have a good group of people in there. We lit the facility I guess maybe eight months ago. So we’re just in the beginning of our testing and our selections and I hope, Matt, that it becomes a… not a, I mean, an institute for sure, an institution, but not like a college, but a place for collaboration. A place where, you know, I obviously have a lot of contacts and access within the industry and a lot of good friends. It seems like all of my friends are breeders in the industry. So I hope it’s a place where we can all come together and do good things for the cannabis community.
Matthew: How do you feel about genetic versus environmental effects, and what traits are you measuring and most interested in?
Nico: Well they say the equation for a phenotype is simply genotype plus environment. So what that basically tells us is that you grow ten seeds, you get ten different phenotypes, a lot of that is a environmental factor. So while the genetics play a huge role it really depends on where you are in the lineage meaning what generation you are, how many crosses, how many back crosses and how stable you can get something meaning will it show the traits that you think it will show or will it show variation. And for me what I’m looking for is I’m looking for variation at this point. Every good breeder out there is looking for that diamond in the rough which is the mutant phenotype. If you want to create something new or you want to find something new you got to make crosses, and you got to get offspring and you got to grow them out and do a mass selection and really look for something different.
And that’s part of the problem these days is that everything has become a clone only strain. And what’s essentially happening is we’re losing the males. We’re losing that Y chromosome, and so that’s why you hear like oh man can I get seed to that, and they say oh it’s only clone only. And while you live on the other side of the country and now you have figure out how to ship some cuttings across the country or something like that, and it’s sad. It’s sad because that means that we don’t have the male for that plant anymore. And if you think back way back to our father’s generation and you think of the Tie Stick and the Maui Wowie and some of these legendary strains, we don’t have them anymore. You know, you might find them somewhere, but they’re not the same, and it’s because they’ve been bred out and nobody’s kept the males. So that’s part of the mission at CGI and that’s what I’m looking for when it comes to new phenos and genetic drift and stuff like that.
Matthew: So you gave us a sense there a little bit about seeds and seed versus clone, but do you think more people should be growing from seed? Do you think it’s a problem to be growing so much from clone and just getting away entirely from seeds just because it’s faster?
Nico: I think there’s a definite place for both. And I’m not sure that it’s faster. I think with the cloning, you know, you might save a week or two. But I think there’s pros and cons for both. Obviously if you’re a commercial grower and you’re doing something in large format, you know, cloning is just a lot easier. It’s the way to go. You have consistency and uniformity in your crop and that’s important. But as you know at the same time I’ve seen people growing from clones for, you know, the same clone for ten years. You know what I mean. They’re making clone mothers from clones and then taking clones of that clone mother and make another clone mother. Before you know it they’re at F20 or F25 Generation, you know. And there’s a big debate amongst growers and breeders about genetic drift and meaning what happens after you know ten years of not reinvigorating a strain with new genetics.
And so that’s what we call hybrid vigor, and that’s what you get with seeds. So aside from just the male/female issue and losing that Y chromosome, I think that using seed can really be an interesting way for growers to get something new and reinvigorate their gardens. I don’t think people really look at it that much. You have a lot of smaller home hobbyists and stuff who don’t want to be bothered with throwing down seeds and sexing from male female and then of course now you have feminized seeds which is basically why that revolution started was from a marketing standpoint and salability. But we’re in danger. I’m not saying we’re in grave danger of losing strains or the gene pool going stagnant. But if a hundred years ago we had started to think about global warming then we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in today. But we only started thinking about global warming 20 years ago. So I look at seed versus clone as the same thing. We’re not in a dire situation. I’m not opposed to clones. I use clones all the time as well. We better start thinking about what we’re doing now so that in 50 years we’re not like oh shit, you know, everything is so G Kush.
Matthew: What excites you in terms of horticulture technology that’s out there right now?
Nico: All of it, Matt really, you know, I love technology especially as a component of science because science is what begets progress plain and simple. And that’s, you know, I’m all about the evolution of the plant and the evolution of our laws and the evolution of the interaction of the plant which humans and technology is the cornerstone of that. So I get excited when I see new technology coming into our space because that tells me you know the industry is legitimizing. People are less afraid, companies, manufacturers are less afraid to market to our industry. So those are all good signs.
But what I like the most, I suspect you already know the answer to this, is indoor lighting. I don’t know, I just got into this. It’s the one little niche of cultivation that really struck me years back. And at the time I didn’t think that it would become this platform that I talk on all the time, but it has. It’s something I find extremely interesting especially with the advent of new lighting technology. I actually just finished, probably, I’m going to say one of, if not, the best feature that I have ever done for High Times in ten years and it will be out this summer in the magazine. And it’s all about the new technologies in horticultural lighting, and it covers all the new technologies such as LEDs, plasma lamps, ceramics, the new digital HPS systems. I mean you name it, we got it and we tested it.
We went out and we bought some real expensive scientific equipment to measure the light, a radio spectrometer. I’m sorry a spectroradio meter. I’m dyslexic there. And you know it takes measurements of the light. It gives you the whole spectro chart. It gives you the intensities. And it’s just something that I find to be just fascinating which is photo synthesis which is how plants harvest light energy, and you know create food from it. And then when you take that inside and you just think about light as an artificial sun and how we’re replicating these natural processes indoors and it all starts with lighting, I mean I just geek out on it. I think it’s cool stuff.
Matthew: There’s a lot of people that are really polarized on the topic of LED versus traditional lighting. Where do you stand on that?
Nico: You know in the beginning when these came out, I obviously wasn’t a very big fan of it. High Times as a magazine took a different stance. It’s a bit of a war there in house, but it’s become a big part of the industry that we can’t ignore. And I think that since the time maybe four or five years ago when it first came out until now it’s advanced a lot and it’s made a lot of leaps in terms of the LED technology. But when it comes to lighting, you know, we have to look at light or full spectrum light as nutrition for a plant.
Full spectrum is like taking a multivitamin, and plants need the full spectrum. And there’s a lot of science out there and I won’t get too technical, but there’s a lot of science out there and it likes to break down into its color frequencies. And so you see that a lot with LEDs. And you see just the red and the blue and there’s a lot of arguments for that. And to a certain extent they make sense. Plants process and absorb different wavelengths of spectrum and color differently, but they also use them differently and they each have their own place in those physiological and biological processes. And that’s the part that people don’t realize, and I try to talk on that a lot especially when I do these seminars at our Cannabis Cups, but you know. I tested and you will see in this article when it comes out, I think it’s out in August. There was an LED that came in second in our trials, two months ago when we did it at CGI.
That LED lamp, it produced a white light. You know, or whiter. It wasn’t this pink or purple hue and it was very strong and it really had a very broad spectrum and it was nice. And it’s something I can actually say wow you know, I would use that, but at the same time, that lamp costs $1,600. It uses nearly as much power has an HID lamp does and it creates just as much heat. So those were the initial benefits for LEDs was that they ran cooler and used less power. Well the truth is if you want to LEDs up to an HPS or MH type standards, you’re going to lose those benefits. So it will be interesting to see how the industry goes with that, but I don’t think LEDs are going to take over. I think really the future lies in some of these newer technologies. I was impressed with the ceramics, of course the Gavita bulbs are the new HPS, the digital HPS systems are great. And plasmas are starting to come along. So I think that’s what you’re going to be seeing more of in the near future.
Matthew: Great summary. It sounds like the consumer wins here with all of this incredible competition going on.
Nico: That’s true.
Matthew: So I want to get into some practical tips for new growers. There’s a lot of new growers coming online in Nevada, Oregon, even still here in Colorado, but in other states they’re starting to come online. They have a lot of capital but they’re trying to get seasoned growers to help them, but they’re going to make mistakes. If you were to walk into a commercial grow for someone that’s doing it for the first time, what mistakes would you typically see?
Nico: You know I think one of the biggest mistakes that new growers make is in their feeding programs, in their watering and feeding programs. You know of course there’s a lot of over and under watering. And that’s tough because there’s not a real good template that’s standardized for just any grower. It depends on your environment. It depends on your guard and your system, your lighting and all of that, how much water your plants are going to need.
Then more so than that the feeding program, and by feeding I simply mean your nutrient solutions. So you have water, and then when you feed you have your water mixed with nutrients. And I think that right there is probably the biggest mistake. And that isn’t necessarily the grower’s fault. It’s the manufacturer of these nutrients faults because they people, the growers they just read the instructions on the bottle, but those instructions are wrong. You know it’s in the benefit of a nutrient manufacturer for you to use those nutrients as quickly as possible and then go an buy their nutrients again.
So I tell growers you know if you’re going to go buy the bottle, you know, whatever that dosage is those instructions are, half it. You know if it says use X amount, use half of X because you can always add more. But once you get into over fertilizing, that really creates a whole new host of problems that a new grower will not be able to handle. And basically what can happen is, especially with the synthetic nutrients is you over fertilize and you create what’s called nutrient lockup down in your root zone. That’s a buildup of the salts that the synthetic nutrients are really made of, and they kind of bind down in your medium and they prevent your root zone from uptaking any nutrients, and that’s also why flushing is very important.
Now you should always do a fresh water flush once a week just to clean out your medium and get all that residual nutrients out of there. So when I come into grow rooms you know with new growers and they have discolorations and they have fatigued plants and drooping plants and stuff, they say yeah you know I mean I have this nutrient deficiency so I gave it more. And then that didn’t work. So I gave it even more. The problem is just that. You’re giving it too much, and you created nutrient lockup in your root zone. And so it doesn’t matter how much you give it, it’s not getting into the plant.
And so with nutrients less is more, and there’s this formula, it’s called a Lucas Formula which growers can go and Google and look up. And it basically describes how to take a minimalistic approach in your nutrient program. And that’s probably the biggest thing I think for new growers is trying to really feel that situation out.
Matthew: What about let’s say adolescent growers, growers that have been at it for a while. They’re feeling confident in their skills but they may have developed some bad habits. Do you see any bad habits that kind of across the board wherever you go where people are doing a certain thing. They’re having a successful harvest, but they’re making a couple mistakes and they’re not really aware of it.
Nico: I like to write a lot about this. For your average grower, it’s an often overlooked topic but it’s pretty simple, and it’s just pruning. Pruning, topping and trellising and they all kind of interconnect. What a lot of growers don’t realize is that you know when you go in and you have a plant that’s halfway through its life cycle, and you see those real big fan leaves, especially on the lower half of the plant, those should be removed. About halfway through a leaf’s lifecycle, when it gets really big like the size of your hand or whatever, it’s actually using more energy than it’s creating for the plant. And this is even more true the later you get in flowering and you even begin to see some of that yellowing and purpling in the petioles and stuff, those leaves need to be removed.
Every gardener should have a daily pruning program meaning they should go into garden and they should be taking several leaves off of a plant each day. Not too many leaves. I’m talking about you know, just a handful four or five, six leaves. Usually from the lower half of the plant where the growth is older, leave the newer growth at the top alone. That’s not going to shock the plant. It’s not going to stress it out or anything. The plant is not going to try to regrow those lower chutes or lower leaves. It’s just going to take that new energy that it was using and try to sustain that leaf, and it’s going to bring it to the top of the plant. All the energy is going to go to the top of the plant. And of course that’s where the top colas are and the flowers are forming, and that’s where you want the energy. You want the energy going into yields and into potency and into trichome production. So what I tell people all the time is a rigorous pruning program is one of the best things you can do for a plant. In fact I will go so far as to say that the bottom third of your plant that should be empty. I mean it looks unnatural I know that, and it requires time and it’s laborious, but taking that bottom third off and really just letting the top half of that plant flourish is one of the best things you can do for your plant.
Matthew: So that kind of goes against perhaps grower’s instincts where they say oh it looks unsightly or seems unnatural but you’re saying that produces the best harvest.
Nico: Yeah I mean people are afraid to cut the plant. You know, we forget that out in nature everything goes back to Mother Nature in how these plants are. I mean in a rain storm, a regular rainy day with some wind, you know it can lose an entire branch. And I’m not saying that you should take off branches, you know, start with the leaves. Take off the lower chutes when they’re still just coming out. Don’t go in there and take off a whole branch unless of course you have some mold or something awful going on with it. Because even then it can handle it. But if you use a good pruning technique in conjunction with a trellising system meaning just like some mesh netting or something that you put over the canopy and you take off the bottom portions, you take off the yellowing and the big leaves, and you take the new growth and you really spread it out using that trellis and you pull it through the netting, you’re going to get such great light penetration. You’re going to get extra support for your branches. You’re going to direct all that energy that would otherwise be wasted on that lower half of the plant with those little popcorn buds and stuff, and that’s how you’re going to get those nice big cola developments at the top.
Matthew: I’ve watched a lot of your videos where you’re travelling around the world and going to different places. You know on your international travels have you noticed any best practices from cultivators that you’ve turned around and use here in North America or maybe you can tell some North American grower some things you’ve seen outside the U.S. that they can use here, some techniques or ideas.
Nico: That’s an interesting question. I have to say I’m surprised I’m saying this, but the best outdoor gardens that I have seen are in the United States in Northern California. And I say I’m surprised because I have seen a lot of excellent stuff outside of the country, stuff that I mean, like Morocco. I’ve been out to the Rist Mountains, and I’ve been up in Tatyana, and I’ve also been out in the vast country in Northern Spain. I’ve been out in Switzerland. I’ve been out in British Columbia and seen huge huge grows in the rainforest there on Vancouver Island. And I’ve also been in Northern California in Mendocino and I have to say, I mean the biggest and best plants I’ve ever seen have been up there in Humboldt and Mendocino.
Matthew: Perfect weather.
Nico: What’s that?
Matthew: Perfect weather out there.
Nico: Oh geeze I know. If you think that they can grow those giant sequoias and redwoods within that climate, you can probably grow a huge plant. But no I mean I think, you know, it was funny because in Morocco for instance, they may have been doing it out there longer than us, but at the same time they’re very traditional and they’re set in their ways. And so there’s very little sexing of the plants, and there’s very little pruning. So when you go up there all the trees, all the cannabis trees are just, you know, they look like just spears coming out of the ground with one big pot cola. There’s hardly any branches and then when they cut them down, they take them and they drag them all out into the sun and make a big pile and just let them cure and bake right there in the sun. And they have all these weird practices.
And then when you go out to Mendo, you know, they have a 40,000 square foot warehouse, tin frame that they built on the side of a mountain and it’s just holding you know 1,100 pounds of primo cannabis. It’s a big difference than what you see outside of the country versus here. I think that the biggest thing though is that outside of the country when I do see growers they’re not afraid to go big, wherever they’re doing it, they’re pretty comfortable whether it’s legal or not, they’re pretty comfortable with what they’re doing. I’ve seen probably bigger plants I will say outside of the country than I have in the United States. And I’m not sure if that’s because security measures here and people are afraid of getting busted or if it’s just because growers outside of the country in other countries are you know just going for it and just letting the plants go wild so to speak and you’re getting these 14, 15, 16 foot plants. But I mean I’ve seen plants, or trees I should say that yield 10 pounds.
I think that part of the problem outside of the country is money and technology. The growers in Northern California and in Colorado I’ve seen some nice grows outside in Colorado in greenhouses. We have the money here in this country to implement automated irrigation systems, you know, whereas if you go down to Mexico, I mean you’re lucky if you find a hose running through the field with some holes punctured in it. Whereas over here each plant site has four spray emitters staked into the ground with spaghetti lines all nicely spread out. You have natural spring reservoirs with 50,000 gallons of spring water in them. Outside of the country, you know, a lot of these countries are third world that do this and that’s why they’re doing this. They’re growing cannabis because they’re poor and they’re making hash out of it, and they’re exporting it to countries like Amsterdam or the United States or whatever where there is more money. So I have to say the outdoor scene in our country is pretty impressive.
Matthew: You seem like you’re always learning. What from the genetics and photobiology side of things are most interesting to you that listeners might find helpful.
Nico: From the genetics standpoint, I mean, and this often goes back to some of the questions you asked earlier about the Cannabis Cup and about the competition, helping entrants. You know you can only do so much as a great grower. If your genetics are crap, you know that’s half the dial right there. So starting with good genetics is the key. Now people are saying well how do you know that you have good genetics, especially if you don’t have access to clones, if you don’t live in Colorado or California and you don’t have dispensaries, you have to rely on seeds.
That is a problem and that is something that we also want to work on at CGI which is the certification of seeds and certification of strains so people know what they are getting. But I find that the genetic side of things is paramount in terms of what’s the most important when you’re starting out. You know people will say is it indoor versus outdoor or is it technology or my grow medium or my grow system. The first and foremost you need good genetics. At CGI we like to work, we’re working with a lot of land raised stuff and I have a lot of seeds from the mountains of Tatyana and a mountain found in Mexico and stuff I feel is a true land raised pure sativa or pure indica. And then we put it in what I like to think is a great garden you know filled with the best, greatest, latest technologies and everything. And you can only get those strains to go so far.
I mean even the best version of a Mexican or a Moroccan is going to be, you know, and that’s grown I would like to think pretty well is going to be only half as good as some of these new hybrids that we have out there. So genetics goes a long way.
Matthew: Now you’re a New York native. How do you feel about how medical marijuana is being rolled out in New York. If I have it correctly I think there’s going to be five licenses and of those five that will entitle each of the winners four dispensaries. So we have 20 dispensaries for 20 million people in New York. I mean aside from just a numbers problem, how do you feel about in general how it’s being rolled out there?
Nico: I have a lot of problems with a lot of these medical laws in these states and it’s because the people writing the laws, the legislators they just don’t understand what they’re talking about. They don’t understand the plant. They don’t understand the science. They don’t understand horticulture. I think in New York they made some kind of weird law where I think you can’t even… the cannabis can’t even be smoked. It can only be vaporized I’m pretty sure. And all of these people who are awarded the licenses they have to grow their own so there’s no outside growing like there is in California or Colorado.
So as you said there’s definitely a problem with the numbers there. But I think they look at it more as this is a starting point and if all things go according to plan and go well, they will expand it. So I’m not too concerned on that front, but what I’m concerned about is you say something like well we’re going to be progressive and we’re going to be ahead of the curve on this, and we’re going to say there can’t be any smoking. Smoking is bad and it’s unhealthy, and so we’re going to vaporize.
So now these guys don’t even know that what they are essentially you know wrote a bill for was concentrates which means all of the flowers. You know they don’t even get it. You know all of the flowers now have to be, you know, blasted and extracted and turned into concentrates. They don’t even understand what kind of regulation that’s going to require and with these facilities and how dangerous that can be. And then how do you really expect people to consume that? So what you think that vaporizing that these vape pens that everyone is using we think that that’s healthier than smoking cannabis in a joint. You know I’ve got news for you, it’s not. These pens all come from the same two or three factories in China. There’s no sort of regulation on how they’re manufactured, what kind of chemicals and lubricants and all that kind of stuff is used in these factories on these parts. And then we go and we have these heating elements that are not titanium or medical grade ceramic or anything of the sort. We’re applying our concentrates directly on the heating element, and they’re oxidizing. We’re breathing in all kinds of chemicals and fumes.
So this is something that, you know, here’s some politician in Albany and you think okay you know I’m smart. I’m going to write this law, be progressive and the voters are going to vote for me. And he doesn’t even know half of the things that I just said. And then what really irks me is that when people like myself are Danny Danko or people at High Times, you know, we try to reach out sometimes in our home states to these people and say listen I would be happy to consult and do it pro bono and come and sit while you try to formulate these bills and legislation. And they look at us and they laugh. You know they say, we don’t want to talk to a guy from High Times or whatever. And then they go off and they write these bills and they look like clowns.
It really irks me Matt, you know, I could go on forever about it, but you know then you look at a place like Colorado which really has it dialed in. Which really has it regulated, and yeah I mean I know there’s been bumps in the road and everything there’s going to be, but there’s a template right there. There’s a model in Colorado. I mean I would love it all to just be more like California, but you know see that’s the problem is that everybody is definitely afraid. They don’t want to be the next California. They think god California (56.47 shot the bed) and all those hippies are burnt out out there and they don’t know what they’re doing and it’s a free for all. And you know what it might be a free for all out there, but let me ask you something, are there any problems in California regarding cannabis? You know, are kids smoking cannabis more, no. Is there crime, no. You know are people dying from weed overdoses, no. So here’s the politicians and they think they know better and they don’t.
Matthew: Now here’s another New York question for you before we close. I’ve walked around Manhattan quite a bit and every place says they have the original number one New York style pizza. And I’m like how can they all be number one. Which one is the true number one New York City pizza?
Nico: You know I had this same debate with my wife except that it’s over Chinese food because no matter what city I go to there’s a number one Chinese restaurant. And so I’m confused, which one is really number one. I don’t know.
Matthew: Maybe you should start the Chinese Food Cup. There you go.
Nico: I think we’ve had that behind the scenes actually. There’s a lot of munchies going on. About the pizza, I tell people. There’s a chain in New York. It’s called Ray’s Pizza. Okay. If you want a regular, old slice of pizza that’s really true gritty New York, go to a Ray’s Pizza, and I promise you you won’t be disappointed. It’s not artisanal, it’s not gourmet or anything like that. Okay, it’s just your basic New York Style pizza, and whatever it is that makes New York Pizza the best, they boiled it down I think from all the ingredients because they tried to replicate it elsewhere in the country. So all they can really ascertain is that it must be the water. It must be something in the water is what they always say that makes the dough or the flavor. I don’t really think that’s true but that’s what they say. And so you can get a decent slice of pizza at any Ray’s. But if you want, if you really want to know.
Matthew: Okay we do.
Nico: The real deal is a place called Grimaldi’s Pizza, and you will find that only in Brooklyn and Hoboken so you have to cross one of the rivers, and it’s not far, but it’s this old kind of family run. I think there’s maybe only two or three Grimaldi Pizza shops in existence. And that is a bit more or a gourmet, but New York Style Pizza. So that would be my recommendation.
Matthew: That’s great. I’m writing it down. It’s going to go on the list. Well Nico in closing how can listeners follow your work online and read more about you?
Nico: Pick up a copy of the magazine, always on newsstands. Also carried at Barnes and Nobel. Check me out on www.hightimes.com. You know I do a Q&A there. I put up some features. We republish old articles there. And just now I’ve been told I’m starting to become an old man, and I need to get more current. So I’m on social media now. And I do the Twitter and the Instagram @Nico_Escondido and there’s a lot of photos and little tips an stuff on cultivation up on there. And as everyone at High Times, and before we close I just want to give a shout out to everyone at High Times. As you know we are now in our 41st year. We’ve been around. We’re not going anywhere and the people there, my colleagues are great and they’re good friends, they’re good people and they believe in the plant. So I just want to thank all your listeners and thank you for supporting all of us over the years in everything we do. And you know just remember to grow and help the world grow too.
Matthew: Awesome, great closing. Well Nico thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.
Nico: Absolutely. I had a great time. Thanks for having me Matt.
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.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five major trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, simply send us an email at feedback at cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.
In this interview with Max Montrose, founder of the Trichome Institute, we explore how his education materials are helping budtenders and students of cannabis get valid and useful information. We also discuss how to use your sense of smell to identify good cannabis.
*Get the FREE CannaInsider Podcast for your smartphone, CLICK HERE.*
[2:03] – What is the Trichome Institute
[2:49] – Max’s background
[3:44] – Max discusses the reasons he started the Trichome Institute
[6:12] – Bud tending regulations
[10:22] – Do language barriers exist in the cannabis industry
[12:17] – What is interpening
[16:08] – Max talks about one of the biggest problems seen on the cannabis plant
[19:53] – Max explains what not flushing a flower means
[22:15] – Max talks about his favorite parts of his textbook
[25:00] – What is your Education Wheel
[29:43] – Max explains what he means by “vape pens are not actually vape pens”
[32:49] – Max talks about different terpenes
[37:13] – The difference between Phoenix Tears and Charlotte’s Web
[40:45] – Contact details for the Trichome Institute
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you an accredited investor looking to get access to the best cannabis investing opportunities? Join me at the next ArcView group event. The ArcView group is the premier angel investor network focused exclusively on the cannabis industry. There is simply no other place where you can find this quality and diversity of cannabis investment opportunities months or even years before the general public. If that’s not enough, you will also be networking with the top investors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the cannabis space. I have personally made many of my best connections and lifelong friendships at ArcView events. If you are an accredited investor and would like to join me as an ArcView member, please email me at email@example.com to get started.
The ArcView events take place quarterly and do have capacity restrictions based on the over whelming demand to attend as well as the venue capacity restrictions. As a CannaInsider listener, you will get connected with other investor members prior to your first ArcView event. Again if you’re interested in becoming a member, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now here’s your program.
The Trichome Institute provides educational courses and curriculum to current and future cannabis employees and the public, including beginner and expert bud tender training, responsible vendor training and more. I am pleased to welcome Max Montrose, founder of Trichome Institute to CannaInsider today. Welcome Max.
Max: Thank you so much Mr. Kind.
Matthew: To give us a sense of geography where are you in the world today?
Max: I am in Denver, Colorado, my home.
Matthew: Great. And what is the Trichome Institute?
Max: The Trichome Institute is a company that my partner Jim and I developed for the dire need for legitimate cannabis education and information in the industry and in the world in general. So we’ve discovered that you know there’s many cannabis school and institutions out there, but we’re trying to take a different approach by making sure that some of the more complicated things such as legal, medical and scientific information as it relates to cannabis is verified by experts.
Matthew: Okay. And what’s your background in the cannabis industry?
Max: I’ve been a cannabis user for a little bit over a decade. I use cannabis medicinally and recreationally. I first started working in the industry in early 2009 as a bud tender and slowly worked my way up and have managed a few dispensaries. I’ve done some growing, some extracting, infusing, and I’ve even done some internships at some of the cannabis laboratories and hosted Cannabis Times TV for a year, also worked with a lot of legislation and policy. So I’ve done quite a bit.
Matthew: Now you felt compelled to start the Trichome Institute because you saw a lot of problems out there in things being done in a way that you didn’t think were optimal. Can you describe why you started the Trichome Institute and what problems you feel like it solves?
Max: Sure. So as I was describing before, when it comes to verifying and certifying that your information is true one of the biggest things that the cannabis industry faces is confusion as to lots of different kinds of information, from growing to strains, legal things. And so I come from the cannabis world, and there’s this thing I consider stoner information. And sometimes, you know, when you go to courses or classes whether they’re online or not, if you just raise your hand when you hear something that doesn’t sound correct or odd, I just always ask the question well where does your information come from. And the majority of the time people’s information comes from the internet or from their personal experience or from their cousin who’s been growing forever in California. And there’s just never been this sense of you know being able to certify cannabis information.
And so we developed the Trichome Institute to do just that. And you know there’s lots of things within the cannabis industry that lawyers, doctors and scientists can’t certify such as extraction methods and things that are technical that do come from years of cannabis experience. But because we’ve been involved in the industry for so long what we have the ability to do is understand who has the most interesting and correct techniques and knows what they’re really talking about. So when we publish information about strain lineage or terpenes or cannabinoids or different hash extractions, we’re really talking with world leading experts and verifying that our information is accurate and true.
Matthew: You’re right. There is a lot of lore out there and kind of passed on information. Some of it right, some of it not right, some of it kind of combined with opinion. And that just seems to be the way the culture is right now, but this is very important work you’re doing because we need solid information from someone that’s going to go out and dig and get it. Now how about regulations as far as what it takes to become a bud tender? How do you feel about those in general?
Max: Well it’s funny you ask because 30 minutes ago I just came back from the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s office reapplying for my badge. And you know I was talking with a lot of the bud tenders in there, and the process is very easy, and I don’t think it should be hard. But I do think that after you become a bud tender or before you become a bud tender that there are elements of information and education that you just have to know. And you know in the State of Colorado you have to be trained, licensed and certified to paint someone’s fingernails because it affects someone’s health, the business that affects health, but you don’t have to be trained, licensed or certified to more or less pretend you’re a pharmacist helping cancer patients with oncology medicine.
And so there are key factors like why edibles treat people differently than smoked flower which are chemical reasons which aren’t that complex. They need to be explained to people and some of the rules, laws, regulations, how to check I.D.s, how to deal with difficult situations. A little bit of training that should be applied to this job because it’s a really important job. You are affecting people’s health, and you distributing psychoactive cookies to the public. So you know we believe that the education shouldn’t be complicated, but that it should exist. And I think a few states are starting to come onboard with some of that.
Matthew: It’s funny. Every time I go into a dispensary I just try to ask as many questions I can of the bud tenders to see what their responses are and get a sense of what their thinking is and it’s just so across the board different. You can ask, one question I like to ask is how much of these edibles should I take and hear their answer because they are so different. They say well an adult dose is this or that. They didn’t even used to say that, but now they will say an adult dose is what 10mg, but they don’t say you know, you could be a fast metabolizer or there’s not that nuance there yet, but it has come a long way. In years past it was you could be getting a 100mg brownie and not know it. So it’s moving in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of subjectivity involved in very basic questions.
Max: So specific to that, just to kind of highlight kind of how our education works. How a bud tender should suggest how edibles work is based on them understanding the science behind it in the first place. And so the world’s authority on cannabinoid, pharmacokinetic pharmacology is Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen from the Nova University. And I’ve spoken with him, and I use his research and his graphs in our textbook to demonstrate how Delta 9 THC is transferred into 11 Hydroxy THC after it’s metabolized. And we explain to bud tenders that there’s no such thing as an adult dose versus a child dose. What exists is a tolerance.
And so being able to dissect from your customer what their tolerance and experience level is and then understanding THC milligram ratios in conjunction to that person’s tolerance and being able to tell them you know what there’s no harm in just taking a nibble, maybe less than 10mg and just waiting a full 4 to 6 hours to see what happens because everyone is different. And so that’s kind of the approach on how we go about our education.
Matthew: Now is there a language barrier between lawyers, entrepreneurs and business people and politicians when it comes to cannabis? It’s still an immature industry and I don’t know if we’re all using the same kind of language. What do you think about that?
Max: Well it’s funny and it’s fascinating at the same time. And what I’m trying to do personally is be a translator between two worlds who are trying to accomplish the same task. And so you do have politicians and lawyers and businessmen who are trying to figure out what kind of public service announcements should we be putting on TV and what kind of laws should we be making. But when you’re making laws about concentrates, you know, I walk into a room full of the health department and I asked them well how aware are you of the differences between ear wax and live resin and dabbing on a domeless quartz nail versus a titanium puddle swing through your oil rig. And these people look at me like I’m speaking a different language because I am, but they have to understand they’re making laws about this language that these people speak.
The industry is creating new technologies whether they have thousands of parts per million of residual solvents in them or zero. And the way that they’re coming up with black market names still creates this language barrier. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I love the cannabis culture and the names that it gives. I think it’s fantastic and it should stay. But someone does have to be a translator and say okay this type of concentrated, this is the residual solvent breakdown, this is the cannabinoid breakdown, this is how it works, here’s how it could or could not be a potential hazard to someone’s health. And so outside of building textbooks and other cannabis tools such as interpening, we still do some legislation and work within the city to help structure and shape how the cannabis world exists in society.
Matthew: What is interpening? You just mentioned that. Can you describe what that is?
Max: Sure. So interpening is the expertise of cannabis, if you will, from a perspective that’s really similar to what a sommelier would be for wine or cicerone for beer, a monger for cheese or a cupper for coffee. And these people are experts in the ability of breaking down their particular things that they ingest. And so one of the biggest problems in the cannabis industry by far is the strain name dilemma. So you go to a dispensary and you buy Blue Dream because you went online and you read that it’s good for this or that. But when you go to another dispensary and you buy Blue Dream again and it’s a completely different herb that effects you in a different way, the reason why is because the lineage of these variety types came from the black market and people weren’t necessarily truthful with each other and sometimes clones get confused.
There’s a hundred really good reasons why the strain you think you have is probably not what you think you have. And people just can’t get over searching for strains based on their names. And interpening starts with kind of explaining to people that because of this dilemma what we have to do is stop caring about the thing that matters the least, what someone calls the bud. The thing that’s most important is being able to dissect whether it is of good or bad quality and then how it’s going to affect you. And because the strain name dilemma exists, people’s buds are confused by indica and sativa. Bud tenders are selling buds of sativa when really they’re indicas.
And so if you’re a PTSD patient and it’s important for you to avoid cannabis products that cause paranoia and you can’t rely on a bud tender who isn’t sufficiently trained, you need to be able to dissect the herb for yourself to guarantee that you’re going to get the type of effect that you want, and the same is true for recreational smokers. If you’re going to a concert and you want to party and dance around, you definitely do not want to smoke an indica and be in the couch. So what interpening does is it’s based on interpreting the terpenes. So smelling the cannabis actually can help dictate the strain type even within hybridization in conjunction by analyzing the cola structure. Because the plant’s shape from its land raised genetics from geography dictate the variety type, the strain. Whether it’s an indica or sativa the difference between the nodes on the branches and the difference between the nodal spacing will actually cause the buds to grow in a different way.
And so what I do is I teach people how to look for molds, bugs, funguses, insects, unflushed product, product with nutrient lock. We get all of that gross stuff out of the way. Now we’re looking at primo dankness and what does it smell like. Where do you smell it? What is the bud structure? And with the tools that we’ve created which we sell on our shop www.trichomeinstitute.com you can dissect for yourself what variety type you’re getting. You can actually see and smell how cannabis will affect you, and that is what interpening is.
Matthew: You mentioned mold, bugs. What are the most common problems you would see on, if you picked a hundred random cannabis flowers from 50 different dispensaries, what would you imagine if you were to see a problem you would see the most often?
Max: So you feel good about the fact that Colorado is now mandating that they have to test for molds and funguses and cannabinoid content but only for retail, not for medical patients. That’s interesting. And then second, you know, they don’t test for all the molds and they definitely don’t test for insects. So they’re not going to tell you whether your bud has spider mites or not. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a spider mite, but damn near microscopic. And so if you do whip out a microscope, a USB microscope, I have on occasion found a variety of insects including white flies, spider mites, fungus gnats. And then also because the public isn’t educated on different types of molds like: jar rot, petritis and powdery mildew, they don’t necessarily understand that when they look at a bud that’s dusted in this white stuff, they get excited because they think it’s trichomes. They think it’s that good, delicious THC crystally stuff on buds and don’t really realize that it’s a fungus, powdery mildew. And so within the interpening tools and the guidebook we have a photo gallery that will show you what each type and species of molds or bug or anything delicious and fantastic or absolutely disgusting. We teach people about it all.
Matthew: When you walk into a dispensary, if you go into dispensaries, I don’t know if you’re growing your own or what you’re doing, but how often do you find something when you whip out the microscope?
Max: I don’t go to dispensaries that often to be honest. I pretty much just work all day long on Trichome Institute stuff and then have a few favorite places to access medicine I know really well and trust really well. So you know I can’t say that I could even guess a percentage. What I do know is there are some really fantastic growers in the state of Colorado, hands down. And I just wrote an article about which state grows the best weed and talking about all sorts of fun things. But you know some of the best growers in the country from the black market rushed to Colorado to see their dream come true which is do what they love and what they’re really good at and not be afraid to do it. And that’s a really beautiful thing. So we are full of good good growers.
At the same time we’ve got multi-millionaires who are getting into the industry only because it’s profitable, not because they absolutely love it, and they don’t understand what kind of questions to ask when they interview growers and they think it’s just a plant. So hiring someone for $10 an hour to water and take care of your garden really can produce some crap weed and it shows. There is bud out here that is not flushed whatsoever. There’s bud out here that can’t even grow the glandular head on the capitate stalked trichomes that produce the amount of terpenes and cannabinoids that make you feel what you feel. I have seen some really harsh, disgusting crap out here, but I’ve also seen some of the best cannabis on the planet Earth out here. And so there’s a difference, and to be able to educate bud tenders in the industry and the public all at the same time and the government makes me really proud because that’s what I love to do. I just love to teach people everything about cannabis. And so interpening is great. It’s really fun.
Matthew: Can you describe what you mean when you say something’s not flushed and then how you can tell and maybe what’s the negative for someone that would consumer a not flushed flower?
Max: Sure. Yeah so even a lot of people in the industry who are aware of flushing don’t understand proper flushing. And so what flushing doesn’t mean is it doesn’t mean to give your plants clean water to drink, and a lot of people think that. What flushing actually means is to use clean water, hopefully filtered and ph’ed properly to literally flush and push all residual salt nutrients out of whatever growing medium you’re growing in so that it is away from the root structure for the last two weeks of the flower cycle. And when you do this the plant will not suck up, drink or absorb any of those residual salts that you’ve been pouring into that medium over probably a four or five month period.
And so when cannabis is flushed really well the bud is super clean. And so when you smoke it you pretty much just don’t cough. And I flush my buds. I’m so crazy about it that I promise you don’t cough especially after the first five or six tokes. Now somebody who doesn’t flush the medium around their bud and lets that plant suck up all the residual salts throughout the whole harvest and then cuts the plant down, those salts are still stuck in your bud. Your plant hasn’t had time to grow or sweat them out. And so when you smoke that it feels like hot, burning spider webs in your chest, and you just cough and hack up a lung. And when you see people that just cough and pound their chest they’re typically smoking on unflushed product.
Matthew: Oh no. Everybody’s had that experience.
Max: To teach you briefly how to tell for a flushed or unflushed product. Just smell the bud and you can actually smell salt. And if your bud smells really salty and it’s kind of dark looking, it’s probably unflushed, and if it smells really sweet and clean and you can’t smell any salts whatsoever and you taste it, hopefully it’s got flushed well.
Matthew: Switching gears to your textbook, you’re really getting deep here into a lot of issues that need to be talked about and explored more. What are some of the favorite things, you know, if you were going through your table of contents that you like to talk about most?
Max: So the textbook is the National Cannabis Industry textbook and it’s broken down into three courses; an Expert Bud Tender, a Bud Tender and a Responsible Vendor. Responsible Vendor is similar to an alcohol responsible vendor course which is all over the U.S. And that one is my least favorite because it’s pretty much just about like legal things and how to check I.D.s and kicking out drunk people and how to deal with the Marijuana Enforcement Division and those kinds of things. But also time to effect like with edibles like we suggested. And there’s a lot of things that aren’t required by law in responsible vendor that the Trichome Institute felt was necessary to teach people who take that course anyway.
So we try to make it fun with interesting pictures. There’s a cartoon of me that runs around the whole book. Sometimes we use slang, and we try to make that stuff fun. The Bud Tender and the Expert Bud Tender stuff is where I have a blast because outside of all of the kind of the legal jargon and some of the really fascinating scientific and medical things, we really break down products. We have a gallery of the different types of concentrates, how they’re extracted, what they’re made out of, which ones are better than others for safety reasons, and how would you recommend that particular product to which kind of customer based on their tolerance level. Whether it’s edibles, transdermals, sublingual, cannabis flower, we are breaking down cannabis products within the science and the medicine and really teaching bud tenders how to do their job at an expert level. And we really believe that this is where the industry needs to be nationwide.
We’re super proud of the work that we’ve done, and the photos that we have in our book are just unreal. We have microscopic photography of the five different types of trichomes that exist. And yeah, like graphs, cartoons, all sorts of really good stuff. So it’s going to be a fun and interesting and educational textbook.
Matthew: Can you paint a picture of what the Education Wheel you have is. Someone handed that to me at a conference, and I was just playing with it. I thought it was the most clever way to introduce someone to cannabis, in a way, what it is, what’s going on and you kind of slide this wheel around and it tells you different things. Can you summarize what that is?
Max: Sure. So that is our Weed Wheel. And that is one of the three tools that we use for interpening but also we use interpening for all of our other trainings too. If you notice on that wheel, there’s no strain name, and that’s due to the strain name dilemma as we said. And what it is is that’s a really brief way to know what smells to smell in what part of your nose and in conjunction with what type of bud structure should create which type of effect between the body and the mind based on the hybridization. And so it’s just a tool to basically show you if you know you’re looking at a variety of buds, a bud that matches these descriptions will produce this effect.
And the Interpening Loop does the same thing as a Weed Wheel in a slightly different way, but it also goes further into the good qualities and the bad qualities as well as the terpenes a little bit more specifically on that tool. And then the guidebook goes with both tools and teaches you how to use them and the science behind them and how this whole program works.
Matthew: The part of your nose where you smell different things going on in the plant, can you talk about that a little bit and give us an example or two of what part of your nose you would smell what and what that means?
Max: Yeah so this part is most likely the most fascinating aspect of interpening and is also potentially the hardest part to talk about. I do a lot of research on cannabis, and I do a lot of research outside of cannabis, and I’ve never met, seen or read anything on anyone noticing that you smell cannabis in a different part of your nose. And I have personally grown over 200 varieties of cannabis and sold cannabis to tens of thousands of people over the years in the dispensaries. And ten out of ten times there’s this accuracy between being able to smell sativas in the top part of your nose, almost in between your eyes, especially the more pure the variety type is and indicas at the bottom of your nose. And this totally sounds like BS. If you YouTube, I think it’s called The First Cannabis Sommelier and you just watch the first second of that, you see this guy just almost explode with this realization over his face when I show him how you smell the difference between the strains in the different part of your nose, and it truly is amazing.
And so I’ve demonstrated this for years to people, and I’ve had people in Virginia, in Florida, in Texas tell me that they’ve purchased the Interpening tools and they understand like where to smell what smells, and when they apply it they’re just blown away that it really works. When you smell a bud in the bottom part of your nose it’s a bud that’s going to make you feel more sedated. And when you smell one at the very top of your nose it’s more energetic and more creative. The problem is is that 98 percent of all the variety types that’s available in the dispensaries are hybrids. And so the majority of those are 50/50 hybrids which is why your cannabis experience is more or less the same. It’s just kind of like getting high. But if you do have access to genetics, chemotype, phenotype, genotype differences that are more extreme and drastic, the more extreme and more pure the genetics are to their land raise lineage, the more you can smell the differences in the different part of your nose.
Matthew: You mentioned everything’s pretty much a hybrid these days, and if you wanted to go out and be dancing at a concert, you don’t want an indica, but yet there is very few pure sativas you could get at a dispensary. Maybe you can get one or two. So you would suggest getting a sativa dominant hybrid. Would that be the answer if you can’t find a pure sativa?
Max: Absolutely, that’s exactly what you’re looking for a sativa dominant hybrid.
Matthew: Now you say vape pens are not actually vape pens. What does that mean?
Max: Some vape pens are vape pens. Most vape pens are not necessarily vape pens. And so the difference is between cartridge and cartridgeless. If you have a cartridgeless, no cartridge vape pen, and you can put in your own wax shatter, flower butter, sap, then the atomizer, as long as it’s at a low enough temperature is creating vapor and you can vape concentrates with a pen unit and it is fantastic. That’s gravy. For all of the people and the vast majority of the people who have cartridge vape pens you have to understand that hash oil, they have to make more viscus. It has to become more runny so that it can hit the atomizer, and how they do that is they cut it with a chemical so that it’s more of a liquid. And these chemicals could be propyl ethylene glycol or ethylene propyl glycol however you say it. The acronym is PEG and there’s a big debate over you know whether PEG is healthy or not. And this also involves e-cigarettes. But because the PEG that you’re hitting with the atomizer and you’re going from a liquid chemical to a semi gas is actually technically an aerosol mist. And so when you hit Lysol in your bathroom that’s an aerosol. It’s a chemical liquid that goes into a spray so it’s a semi gas. That’s an aerosol mist.
And so these are all aerosol misterizers that everyone is running around smoking. And it’s true that 50 percent of what you’re smoking is I guess cannabinoid vapor. So it’s kind of half and half if you will, but there’s not enough information to say whether inhaling the stuff is good or bad. Personally I don’t inhale it because I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, and I also don’t inhale it because it’s only THC and what the fun in that. I like all the other cannabinoids and the thing that I like more than cannabinoids is terpenes because that’s what gives you the differences between the feelings not just the percentage of the high. And so I personally smoke joints of flower because that’s what I appreciate.
Matthew: You mentioned something interesting there about the terpenes. And we’ve had guests on that highlight the fact that it’s not just THC level. That’s kind of the thing that gets headlines, but it’s the cannabinoid profile. So talk a little bit more about the terpenes and how you experience, enjoy different varieties because they’re terpenes.
Max: Sure. So terpenes are more or less the revolution of cannabis right now. People are becoming very hip to the fact that cannabinoids basically, specifically THC Delta 9 THC, that’s what packs the punch in terms of the potency. The differences between the terpenes is actually the difference between the highs. And I don’t know if this is true, but I strongly theorize that the difference between indica and sativa has nothing to do with cannabinoids whatsoever. It is strictly the terpenes. And so terpenes have a pharmacological value, and they all do different things. And they have more than pharmacological values. They do a million amazing things.
Let’s get kind of specific. So Dr. Ethan Russo who is a scientist and pharmaceutical developer for GW Pharmaceuticals in the U.K. is probably the best scientist publishing information on terpenes currently. And he has come up with something he deems the entourage effect which is not just the pharmacological value, the feeling that you get from the terpenes on their own, but how terpenes actually help cannabinoids become stronger. So one of the most prevalent terpenes in cannabis is myrcene. And myrcene helps THC actually cross the blood/brain barrier. And so having those terpenoids in conjunction with the cannabinoids actually helps the cannabinoids do their job a little bit better, but you’re also going to get a little sedation from the myrcene because it is a sedative, same as linalool which is like where lavender, the smell of lavender comes from.
And so how I explain it to people is imagine aroma therapy. Here is a bonafied medical science where you ingest medicine by smelling it. And so if you smell linalool and myrcene and d-limonene and b-caryophyllene, you know, on your cannabis and I’m detecting I know what these smells are. I know how they affect me. I’m also noticing where I smell them in my nose and the bud structure itself. I’m applying my interpening knowledge to it, I can smell the fact that if I were to smoke this linalool, I’d bet you I would get the same effect as if I were to inhale it in my nose, as the same as if I inhale it in my mouth. So terpenes are how cannabis makes you feel in the different ways that it does. And this is why pharmaceutical grade terpenes like Marinol suck.
I mean you know, here you have the federal government says cannabis provides no medical benefit whatsoever, but here’re the medical benefit of cannabis in a pill called Marinol. It’s been on the market for 20 years, and yeah it makes you happy. It makes you hungry, turns on your endocannabinoid system. Makes you feel better about things, but what about CBD, the cannabinoid that actually kills cancer cells for cancer patients. And what about all the, you know, how about some d-limonene in there to bring people’s spirits up and make people feel a little bit better. And so I guess this is kind of where interpening came from is I’ve just studied every little molecular particle of the plant to a science and jut played with it in my garden for so long that I’ve really just honed down an ability to actually see and smell how cannabis affects you. And that’s why I want to share these tools with everyone else because I actually care about the medical patients accessing the right type of medicine that they need. It’s so important. Yeah, it’s my passion.
Matthew: Can you tell us the difference between Phoenix Tears and Charlotte’s Web?
Max: Sure. So this is why I can’t wait to publish my next book which will come out maybe in a year or two, but there’s so many people, so many parents and so many people who have a loved one who is going through cancer or some other horrible disease and they go online and they just read all these things about Phoenix Tears or Charlotte’s Web or they see something on CNN, and nobody is breaking down what this stuff is. They just talk about it, and don’t really give much more information besides the fact that it apparently works and here’s its brand name.
Rick Simpson has had quite a bit of flack recently because in some of his videos where he describes how to make his THC oil extract uses Naphtha which I completely disagree with as well. He also recommends alcohol which does work. But essentially Phoenix Tears is an alcohol extraction that pretty much is really heavy in THC. And apparently Rick Simpson in this high does THC oil has cured himself apparently and he has apparently helped thousands of other people go into remission on just this oil, and that’s Phoenix Tears.
Charlotte’s Web is a brand name. You do not have to get Charlotte’s Web from a company that sells the name Charlotte’s Web. All Charlotte’s Web is is CBD oil, and that’s the difference. It’s THC oil versus CBD oil, and I’ve read a lot of articles, especially from Harvard Medical, about how cannabinoids kill cancer cells and CBD tends to do a really good job of that. It also seems that THC does a pretty good of that too, but also keep in mind that sometimes CBD cannabinoids will turn off THC cannabinoids or they’ll just take their place.
And so a lot of the time you hear people saying some of the best medicine is one to one ratio which is actually Sodavex, the binaca spray if you will that sold as a medicine all over the U.K. and Australia and Canada for MS and things. And you know maybe the one to one ratio is good, but what I would suggest is maybe a little bit of both at different times. Give your body the THC that it needs and just let it eat up that THC and then maybe give it the CBD oil that it needs. But if you’re a child or an older person and you don’t want to be shot into outer space, you should be careful with some of the Phoenix Tear stuff because you’re talking about a highly highly highly concentrated amount of THC that can, as I’ve witnessed before, blown some people’s minds. You really have to understand what you’re doing here. It’s not simple, and there’s not a lot of information out there that breaks the stuff down for people. So hopefully the Trichome Institute can help some of that.
Matthew: Max in closing where can listeners learn more about your book, your education offerings and everything the Trichome Institute is doing?
Max: The best way is to go to www.trichomeinstitute.com and in the contact page sign up for email listings. We do an email about every other month. So we really don’t bother with things, but we update people where in we’re doing interpening certifications. I do live trainings where I teach people this process, and also you can find our tools there on our shop page and then also see where we’re doing bud tender trainings or people who we license our curriculum to also do their trainings. And for any cannabis education institution who is interested in licensing Trichome Institute curriculum or education we do that too. So you can get in touch with us through the www.trichomeinstitute.com, but also we upload tons of really cool pictures of fascinating things, microscopic trichomes, insects, bugs, different hash oil extractions, famous people in the cannabis industry, all over our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MassRoots. And you can find all of our links to our social media also on www.trichomeinstitute.com.
Matthew: Awesome. Max, thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.
Max: Thank you Mr. Matthew Kind.
Matthew: Bye-bye. 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.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five major trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, simply send us an email at email@example.com. We would love to hear from you.
Interview with Jill Amen co-founder of House of Jane. House of jane makes delicious cannabis-infused coffee. Jill’s story starts with her father that encouraged her to get into the cannabis business when she was in college and progresses into an entrepreneurial empire.
[2:17] – Jill talks about how she got in the cannabis industry.
[5:56] – What is House of Jane
[8:06] – Jill discusses the compound synergies in the coffee and tea
[12:55] – How is her cannabis coffee made
[14:24] – How strong is the cannabis flavor in your coffees
[16:24] – Jill talks about the flavor profiles
[17:53] – Dosaging options
[20:12] – How do you make the coffee and extract uniform
[24:24] – Jill talks about licensing in different states
[27:21] – Jill discusses their packaging concepts
[30:15] – House of Jane contact details
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you an accredited investor looking to get access to the best cannabis investing opportunities? Join me at the next ArcView group event. The ArcView Group is the premier angel investor network focused exclusively on the cannabis industry. There is simply no other place where you can find this quality and diversity of cannabis industry investment opportunities months or even years before the general public. If that’s not enough, you will also be networking with the top investors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the cannabis space. I have personally made many of my best connections and lifelong friendships at ArcView events.
If you are an accredited investor and would like to join me as an ArcView member, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. The ArcView events take place quarterly and do have capacity restrictions based on the overwhelming demand to attend as well as the venue capacity restrictions. AS a CannaInsider listener you will get connected with other investor members prior to your first ArcView event. Again if you’re interested in becoming a member, please email me at email@example.com. Now here’s your program.
Many cannabis edibles and nips companies struggle to find a unique benefit that will entice dispensaries to buy and feature their products. Jill Amen, cofounder of House of Jane, creates flavorful cannabis medicated coffees and teas to help patients that are looking for something different than the typical infused product offerings we see out there. Welcome to CannaInsider Jill.
Jill: Thank you I’m glad to be here.
Matthew: Jill to give us a sense of geography, can you tell us where you’re located today?
Jill: We’re actually in the Bay Area of California right now and plan on staying here as one of our facilities.
Matthew: Before we get into House of Jane can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you decided to get into the cannabis industry.
Jill: I would love to. It’s a funny story. I’ve actually been… I’ve had a long relationship with cannabis, I guess is the best way to put it. In fact when I was in college in the 70s I actually cultivated with the help of my dad who actually introduced me to cannabis. Which was one of the coolest things because he was one of the most conservative, very well know figure in the community; a veterinarian, a businessman. But he saw my entrepreneurial side from very early on and he actually ended up getting some little seedlings that had come from his incinerator in the back, his veterinary yard because he was the only person in town who was allowed to incinerate the cannabis plants as they came. So he thought it would be really cut to transplant a few of these little guys over to our own back yard, and then he led me back there, and of course it was the thrill of my life, and the fact that I’m still talking about it. So I had never been a gardener. I had never cultivated anything in my life. I never had any interest, and I bought every potential book I could on growing marijuana and I put myself through part of college that way as a matter of fact.
Matthew: Wow, that’s very industrious.
Jill: So then flash forward for a few decades. I went into corporate life of course and had a family and then my children grew to college age and beyond. And we took an Amsterdam trip a few years ago, actually maybe three or four years ago now, and we absolutely obviously like most people do fell in love with the coffeehouse concept. I became reacquainted with something that I had missed for a long time. And we came back, my son and I came back and said oh my god, all I would like to do is have a coffeehouse for cannabis, but I want it to be a coffee, not cannabis. So that’s how the kind of inspiration got started. So we started cultivating again to make sure we would have a steady supply, and started our R and D and actually just launched this January with our product line.
Matthew: Wow that’s a incredible origin story there. So your dad helps you, introduces you to the cannabis, the plant itself, and did he have some success in growing it then or was it just wanted to see what happened or was there a pretty good cultivation going on?
Jill: I’ll tell you I took it… it became my business. So he handed me an opportunity and I took it from there. Yeah. It was a terrific experience and a great memory.
Matthew: Wow you must have a very interesting dad. Maybe we should get him on the show sometime.
Jill: I think about him every day. I wish he were still in my life.
Matthew: Oh sorry to hear he’s gone. Tell us more about House of Jane. As I introduced you I talked about trying to stand out in a crowd because there’s obviously some very successful chocolate bar companies for example, but I would say that road has been travelled pretty thoroughly. You came up with a great idea here, and now you’re executing on it. Tell us more about your product line and what House of Jane does.
Jill: Well I approached our product line very similarly to how I see my new relationship with cannabis and that’s one of more mainstream use. There’s definitely a medicinal factor in that, but I also look at it from medicinal, therapeutic and lifestyle. There are a lot of people like me, all ages, that prefer an option to smoking or vaping or dabbing. And one of the most likely ways to consume cannabis is not in a highly caloric or sweet form and maybe in something that we do every day in our everyday lives. Consuming coffee and team is extremely traditional. It’s ritualistic. I mean it is the ritual and in addition to that there are some huge synergistic benefits between not only caffeine and cannabis but also between teas and their medicinal benefits on their own. As they’re infused with cannabis it creates an entirely new level of therapeutic benefit.
Matthew: Let’s get into that a little bit because I’m really interested in the synergies there between caffeine and also the other compounds in coffee and tea. And in particular, let’s just take coffee to start. So when you talk about the synergies is there a big difference strain by strain, indica versus sativa. And just a reminder for listeners out there indica is often joked that is in the couch. It makes you tired and it’s good thing before you go, you rest. You don’t want to get up and necessarily do anything. You want to chill out. Sativa tends to make you more creative and go out and do things. In general, these are high level distinctions. Let’s just take coffee for example and a sativa. Now if you blend coffee and a sativa is there a big difference between blending coffee than an indica?
Jill: Well I’m going to answer that in a few steps. First of all it depends, the effect that you would like to have right. So we offer an indica hybrid as well as a sativa hybrid. And they’re not as extreme as a full indica or a full sativa. They don’t need to be and I will tell you why and this is something that is factual in the industry is that when you actually go through the CO2 extraction process a lot of the terpenes that you… the terpene interaction changes with what you pair the cannabis with, if you will. I am not a scientist. That would be my job to explain that.
So the reaction is more or less what the terpenes are and the other flavonoids and everything else that you’re getting within the coffees and teas that actually enhance the effect of the cannabis. So where we do offer sativa hybrids and indica hybrids for different types, for example sativa is in our dark roast extra caffeinated. If somebody really wants to start the morning with an amazing jolt. And I’m not talking about just hot and heavy high I’m talking about just a jolt of energy and focus and concentration then that’s how we formulated those specific products. The other end of the spectrum and I speak about this personally is that we also do something that is more of a heavy indica but it’s still a hybrid, and it is a chamomile tea which is the absolute most remarkable way in the world to take that transition from your day from work and concentration and focus to a point of complete relaxation without couch lock. And yet all of a sudden your mood is completely on a different level than it was throughout your day. But then the second you hit your pillow you’re ready to sleep. And for somebody of my age, again speaking as part of I think part of our target market, is somebody who doesn’t necessarily sleep really well. I’m post menopausal. And I’ll tell you it’s been one of the greatest therapies for sleep that I could have without any kind of residual effect in the morning. You know, nothing like a prescription type or over the counter sleep aid.
Matthew: And it’s funny you mentioned that because I’ve seen the light bulb moment for people that have sleep difficulties and they have an indica dominant strain that they’ll consume for the first or second time in their life, never having consumed before and they wake up smiling having slept like a baby saying I didn’t know this was possible. It’s an amazing thing to see. It’s like they’d given up hope that they would be able to sleep throughout the night without waking up. So that’s great to hear. I did not realize, so chamomile obviously makes you very relaxed. You add the indica on top of it. What’s your personal experience with those? Is this something where in 45 minutes you’re like okay I’m ready to go to bed after that.
Jill: Actually I would describe it more as a wave. You can ride the wave for a long, long time in this relaxation moment. You’re just very comfortable. You’re very happy. It’s not that you don’t have energy because you do. A lot of times I will do my Photoshop or my creative work in the evenings at that point. It’s just completely you’re just totally relaxed, but it’s funny is that when you’re ready to go to bed you go to sleep. There isn’t that tossing and turning time. That’s why one of things, I mean, I’ve become such a believer in this method of medication because I’ve seen it work not only with me but so many of our patients that we rely on to give us their feedback and reaction to the products. So it’s something that I’m just seeing that it’s not just me saying this which is a terrific thing. It is very factual in what it does.
Matthew: Now just to review for people listening. The coffees are available as a loose coffee as well as something like a traditional k-cup machine where it’s like a little cartridge you can put in a coffee machine and close the lid and press a button and you get the coffee is that correct.
Jill: So how we’ve tried to position ourselves is more like the Starbucks of cannabis. And so we offer flavor options and single serve options in different formats. One being ground coffee. We have a ground coffee bag , very similar to a teabag that can be used in a traditional brewer. It can be used in a gold filter, a French press or as an actual teabag style of coffee where you can actually sieve it directly in your cup. So it depends. And then so we have our of course Keurig k-cup version which is for the Keurig style machines where you just pop it in single serve. And then we also have our instant coffee which is for those who literally want the least difficult on the go experience. You add it to hot water and you’re done. And then finally one more thing we are actually coming out next month with our bottled coffee beverages, our iced beverages which are the Chocolocino and the vanilla iced coffee.
Matthew: Now I’m curious about taste here. Some people like the taste of cannabis in their drinks and other people say I want it minimized to the greatest extent possible. Where do your drinks fall in the flavor spectrum there?
Jill: I’m glad you asked that question because what we’ve done with the R and D and formulations we’ve infused additional various taste maskers. So you don’t get… regardless of how you consume our beverages you don’t get a real cannabis after taste. The higher you go in dosage of course, you’re going to have a little bit of a cannabis taste sensation somewhere during the experience of that sip. But generally on the doses of 20s, 80s there’s very very little cannabis taste. It’s true some people like it, some people can actually pick up the flavor, the distinguishing difference between if you put a straight cup of coffee and a House of Jane but it’s subtle at best.
Matthew: Just a brief interruption to the show to remind you that CannaInsider is moving to a new show schedule. Look for a fresh new episode every Monday. Occasionally we will be creating a special edition show or a rerun of a popular show that will run on Wednesday. Again look for a fresh new episode every Monday. Now back to your program.
Obviously your coffees and teas are selling well. I’m curious as how you arrived at flavor because flavor is such an intimate thing and if you get it wrong, you’re not going to get a second chance. How do you arrive at a flavor profile or different flavors where it has the broadest appeal or maybe in some cases a narrow appeal but still going after your target customer with something you feel like they’ll like?
Jill: That was also a fun exercise. We did a lot of, I won’t call them sophisticated type focus groups, but we did a lot of more home based, friend based, invite your friend over and taste test type of thing. And we did it without cannabis in it. We literally wanted to get the flavors and the blends that were the most enjoyed by different groups of people at different times. And one of the things we did is we didn’t go with a mass produced type of coffee or tea. We actually work with a local independent roaster who does only high end gourmet. So regardless of the flavors that we ultimately chose the blends that we chose are very rich and very unique tasting, very different than if… there is a difference between (17.33 unclear) and we’ve done. If you try a Starbucks and you try ours I mean you will get a 98 percent that people like the taste of our coffee blends better. Likewise with our teas.
Matthew: And where are the dosages there? What are the milligram options in terms of dosage?
Jill: We have several, and our most popular are obviously the 20 because that’s like a double dose in terms of Colorado State dosing regulation. We start at 20. We recommend that people always begin with a half of a serving or 10mg. Their next step up is an 80, and the 80 is too much for me and I would have argued with many people until I saw that I was wrong that that is just a very moderate dosage for many people. To the point where we have a lot of patients who really prefer out 200mg version. So we try to address the spectrum of very new experiences for people who are just now getting accustomed to Jane’s Brew and the option of consuming cannabis in a beverage form or edible form at all, all the way up to people who truly have medicinal needs to the point that they need a lot of medication.
Matthew: Yeah that’s a great point. I mean it’s hard for people to understand. I’ve seen people with a 5mg that’s enough for them. That’s an adult dose for them. And then you think well how is it possible that you could amp it up to 200mg and that’s a normal dose for some people, and it just really depends on the person. If they are a fast or slow metabolizer, how their body responds, how long they’ve been consuming, are they consuming for pain, what are they consuming it for. So it may sound like a wild contrast but it’s actually quite normal. Now moving on to creating a uniform beverage. This is something that I’m very curious about because let’s say we were to take a cup of coffee and just put a tablespoon of olive oil in that cup of coffee, it would bead. It would not be uniform except now you’re doing it with cannabis extracts and you have to make it uniform somehow. What’s that process like?
Jill: Ha-ha that’s the old one, oil and water don’t mix and you are so right. So how do we overcome that huge challenge, but I want to back up for just a second because I hadn’t finished with the dosing, and I just wanted to let you know that, no that’s okay, the dosing is not just in THC. It’s also in CBD. So two of the five doses that we actually produce are 20mg high CBD which is a 14 to 1 and 80mg high CBD 14 to 1. And there the THC ratios are so minimal we only use an AC/DC strain. And there the THC is so minimal that many of our patients actually prefer that version. So I think it’s really really important when people look at what cannabis can offer. It’s so far beyond just a psychoactive effect that will create that medicinal therapy that they’re looking for.
Matthew: Okay that makes sense. It’s good to have a CBD option.
Jill: Yeah the CBD is actually one of our growing segments, and I’m happy to see that. So now I’ll answer your other question as it relates to how do we mix oil and what kind of alchemy did we use. In fact that was one of our greatest challenges and in short we hired one of the best leading food scientists that we could find out of L.A. His company does extensive work with Starbuck, Nescafe, International Delight and so on. And so he and his food scientists came together and helped us create this formulation. And in essence what we’ve done is we’ve taken that CO2 extracted oil that’s already winterized, and on top of that then we… and decarboxylated, then we convert it into a powder form and that’s kind of our secret sauce if you will. From that powered form we’re able to create that substrate that we can infuse into any of our products.
Matthew: Yes wow, there’s a barrier to entry. Not everybody get into a business and figure out how to do that. So that’s great.
Jill: It is and it was an investment of time, energy and money. And you’re right. It’s something that not every person who love cannabis coffee could actually achieve. In a lot of our research, we have ongoing research that’s constantly evolving as we find new ways to do things, but what’s interesting is we are always testing different types of products on the market in terms of one ethicacy as far as dosing goes and also in terms of taste and effect. And so a lot of the other products that we’ve noticed that are beverage based so to speak have a much overriding cannabis taste, and the solution isn’t as clear as ours in terms of you don’t see cannabis specs in our products, if you will.
Matthew: Now how does licensing work? You’re in California but perhaps you want to expand to Colorado or Washington or Arizona. We’re dealing with a lot of hodge podge of different regulations in different states. It makes it very difficult to conduct businesses in other states. How do you get over that?
Jill: Well, you know, it’s interesting. It’s difficult enough just conducting business in California because what you just said about different states is true in every different municipality here in California in terms of how they interpret California state law and how they choose to implement it into their own legislative laws and everything that affect potential patients who reside in these counties etc, etc. So we’re navigating not only the states but we’re also navigating cities and counties. But in that, the word licensing really isn’t, I would say, the appropriate word for this. What we’re actually doing as we enter Nevada and Colorado, Nevada is actually happening this month, but they’re still coming up on their own legislation for their medical cannabis laws. But as we enter both adult use states and medicinal use states we are having to conform completely to the regulations that are set there. The product, the oil product is produced by their own Mips or processors in their own state based upon their own regulations. What we provide is the brand, the secret sauce. Again which is how we integrate or place that oil into a powered form, a tasteless powered form. And then provide the packaging to them that it will work with their own state laws. So it’s one step at a time with each of these states.
Matthew: Yeah it seems like it’s a very difficult thing. It almost has to be instead of a licensee, almost like a franchise model because there’s so many critical steps to ensure that they’re done correctly to maintain not only dosages and safety but the brand, your brand equity across state lines.
Jill: Absolutely, and that’s been the reason that we’ve taken our time in developing our SOPs as how we integrate them with each operating agreement that we place in a different state. Because we have stringent requirements in terms of quality and dose consistency and delivery.
Matthew: You mentioned packaging just a second ago. We’re only doing audio here so it’s difficult for people to see but they’re really really high quality packaging. It’s obvious you put a lot of thought into the design and so forth. What can you tell us about your packaging? How do you think about it?
Jill: Oh okay. I’m very emotionally connected to our brand and our packaging. When you actually start to create a brand you define your target market. You kind of visualize, you create this big storyboard if you will, and that’s exactly what we did. And it took a lot of my personality as Jane that was placed into the design and the logo and the packaging. And then it took a lot of high end creativity on the part of our ad agency who was able to put that all into place for us. But we’re appealing to our more mainstream patient base if you will. So we don’t want to look like the wake and bake if you will, product. Again we solve a problem for many different age groups, many different social situations and we want it to appeal as a discreet alternative. So we’re not trying to be the stoner on the block, if you will, the stoner brand.
Matthew: Sure. I think the piece of the pie that’s going to the stoner market is going to get smaller and smaller over time as you’re probably witnessing. Now marketing, operations, sales, licensing or partnerships, there is just a lot of moving parts as we talked about. I’m curious what it’s like to run House of Jane day to day. I mean what are some of the headaches? What are some of the things that makes you smile? I mean for people that are listening to get a sense of what you’re doing day to day, what’s it like?
Jill: I’m really glad you asked that question because the thing that is the most, I mean, I’m emotionally and passionately involved in this company. More so than any other business I’ve started. And a lot of that comes from the interaction with the other people in the industry and the patients. As far as how it is to run this business on a day to day, really we’re in an industry that’s uncertain in a state that’s uncertain and in a market that’s just (29.54 unclear) and evolving right now. So it’s like playing a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will.
Matthew: Good analogy. Jill in closing please tell the listeners where they can find out more House of Jane products online as well as in dispensaries.
Jill: I would first direct patients to our website. Patients and anyone else just curious and interested in learning more about the potential benefits for cannabis for them, to our website. We have a lot of good information on dosing, quite a bit of information on our mindset and on why we’re doing what we’re doing and what we’re committed to. But we also will direct patients from our website to any dispensaries in California from as far north as Shasta to as far south as San Diego. We work with about 120 dispensaries now, both delivery services and cannabis collective.
Matthew: Jill, thank you so much for being on CannaInsider today and educating us. We really appreciate it.
Jill: Well thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity.
Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, simply send us an email at feedback at cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.
Aj and Jen Gentile of Speedweed.com tell us how to route cannabis delivery with military efficiency. Discover why a lot celebrities in Hollywood use SpeedWeed.com to get their cannabis delivered. This may be the way that over 80% of cannabis is purchased in the future, learn now.
*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the FREE CannaInsider Podcast*
[1:14] – What is Speed Weed
[2:14] – How does California’s cannabis regulatory system work
[6:12] – The evolution of Speed Weed
[13:07] – How many spokes does Speed Weed have in the hub and spoke model
[13:56] – Why did The City of LA Shutdown competitor Nestdrop
[15:59] – What’s next for the California marijuana industry in 2016
[18:38] – Walk through of the ordering process for Speed Weed
[20:40] – How long does a delivery take
[21:38] – Most popular items delivered by Speedweed
[24:04] – The best way MIPs companies to get into dispensaries
[27:03] – Most popular, indica or sativa
[29:57] – What is Speed Weed’s market share
[32:43] – Popularity with celebrities
[39:53] – What about Gene (Speed Weed’s third partner)
[41:48] – What’s next for Speed Weed
[43:53] – Contact details for Speed Weed
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you looking for a fulfilling and lucrative career in the cannabis industry? Visit www.cannainsider.com/careers. That’s www.cannainsider.com/careers. Now here’s your program.
Many trends start in California and cascade to the rest of the world. One of those trends is cannabis home delivery. I am pleased to welcome to the show AJ and Jenn of Speed Weed. Welcome guys.
AJ: Hey thanks for having us. This is AJ.
Jenn: Hi and this is Jenn. Thanks Matt.
Matthew: Sure. Now AJ to give us a sense of geography, can you tell us where in the world you are today?
AJ: We are in Los Angeles. We cover 6,000 square miles which is basically all of Los Angeles County, and parts of Northern OC, and we are expanding rapidly beyond that.
Matthew: Okay, can you give us a little overview of what Speed Weed does for people that aren’t familiar?
AJ: Well many people think of delivery services as a mobile dispensary which is kind of a guy driving around with a big box of product, like an Avon lady with marijuana. Speed Weed is not that at all. Speed Weed is sort of a legal construct, if you will, that allows to legal patients to conduct illegal transaction in their home. So without the legal jargon we’re basically the watchdog that makes sure that everybody in our collective and our cooperative is doing things, that they’re doing things in the right way.
Matthew: Ah okay, I get it. That’s a little different than some other of the cannabis delivery services.
Matthew: I get it, and for listeners that you know aren’t familiar with California’s regulations and so forth we hear a lot about Colorado and a lot about Washington. Can you give us a little overview of how California’s regulatory environment works for cannabis and how it might be different from those other states?
AJ: California has almost no regulatory environment. Now that has advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage is because there’s not a lot of regulation there’s a lot of legal gray area. It allows businesses to sort of flourish in more free market scenario. So you can experiment with different business models. It’s sort of like a incubator for cannabis businesses because we’re not overly regulated as much as the other states are.
Now the downside to that is because there’s not a lot of regulation there is a lot of concerns. So in California products are not required to be tested like they are in other states. Plants, there’s no seed to sale tracking like there are in other states. So our company Speed Weed we actually employ all of those policies from the other states so that as California starts to catch up with the regulatory environment of the other states we’re ready to go. But it’s also about building trust with our clientele. So even though we don’t have to test our products we always do. Even though we don’t have to check all these marks that the other states have to check we try to follow all the regs of all the states because we know it’s coming. And the California legislators, they’re not sitting on their hands. They are trying to figure this out. They’re trying to work out a model that helps the businesses but also gives the patients the safe access they need.
Jen: Right and, you know, Colorado and Washington are different in that now obviously they have recreational marijuana is legal there. So they’re now trying to figure out how to change the regulatory models that they had up until now. Colorado, you know, was basically the start of the regulation movement for recreational, but they’re also very very stringent with their regulations. They used to make sure that everything was vertically integrated. If you wanted to run a dispensary, you had to do all of your growing on the premises. You had to make all of your edibles in house. Everything has to be tracked from the seed to the sale.
You know Washington is still working on its regulations now that it’s turned recreational. It’s a little different. They’re still making things happen. They’re not quite sure exactly how to do things. They’re trying to pull the good things from Colorado, but Colorado has found that they need to adjust some things. So they kind of broke down their vertical integration. Now you can just run a dispensary or you can just run a grow. Also delivery is not legal in Colorado. You have to, according to Colorado regulations, every transaction has to be on camera.
AJ: We think that’s a terrible regulation.
Jen: Right. So there’s really no way right now for them to do a delivery service unless you have your drivers wearing, you know, cop body cameras or Go-Pros on hats or something. So they’re still figuring a lot of that out.
Matthew: Gosh it’s crazy when I think about that because you know one of my friends in the business says we treat cannabis like it’s plutonium. I mean we don’t see any other industry where we treat a flower this way or a commodity. There’s still echoes of Reefer Madness in the air I think, but it’s changing.
AJ: There’s no doubt about and you know there’s plenty of dollars in Washington D.C. being spent to make sure that that stigma stays attached, but public opinion is turning and the winds are changing. I think the politicians will catch up to public opinion and then the legislation will catch up to the politicians.
Matthew: Now I want to rewind a little bit. Jen, can you tell us the genesis of how Speed Weed started?
AJ: Uh-oh buckle up.
Jen: Yes it’s an interesting story. You know AJ and his brother Gene who is our third partner have always been involved in the technology industry actually. So they were working with a company that they had started called Government Response which was government constituency management software which is about as exciting as it sounds. I mean they had clients in Congress, large cities, small municipalities, villages. It was a great incubation period for what would later become the technology platform that we use to run Speed Weed, but it was obviously much different than the marijuana industry.
So AJ was out here. I was working with him on client relations as far as Government Response was going, and Gene was kind of bi-coastal, going back and forth between the East and West Coast servicing the clients in D.C. and in New York. And then flying out here just to help us on this side of the country. He kind of really wanted a change of pace. However, Gene has always been immersed in the culture of cannabis since he was probably 15 years old. He was the kid that was growing plants in his dorm room in the closet.
AJ: Yeah. We don’t use the word stoner. We never, ever use that word.
Jen: It’s all culture. Culture folks. So he came out here, and he’s out here and he says to AJ, you know now that I’m here let’s go get our cards. Let’s get involved in the marijuana industry. You know, I am from Kansas City, Missouri. Not necessarily the marijuana mecca of the country. So it was not something that I had really ever been around. I think AJ had smoked twice in his entire life, but they went and got their cards and they went to a dispensary.
And they sort of decided let’s kind of see what’s going on here because there’s obviously a business here. AJ’s logistic in branding and marketing mind was looking around the dispensary and noticing that while it was a business, and while there were a lot of clientele, it really wasn’t being run with the type of practices and best practices that businesses that are successful are run with. So we decided to start a grow in AJ’s living room in a one bedroom apartment.
Jen: Yikes, and it could not have gone worse. Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong. From spider mites to dead lady bugs, it’s kind of a long story, but we ended up with a tent full of really potent marijuana that looked so bad that there was nothing you could do with it. We couldn’t sell it to dispensaries, you know, there was really nothing to be done.
AJ: Oh it was disgusting. It looked like something out of the cat’s litter box. It really was just awful.
Jen: It was bad.
Matthew: Did you try it yourself?
Jen: Well I was going to say. Gene being Gene said, I’m going to try to smoke some of this. So he packed a bowl and he smoked some, and he said this actually is really strong and it tastes really good. So what can we do with it. So AJ got online and started doing a bunch of research on extracting, basically like tinctures that you would extract from any other plant so that we could make edibles. Because we had seen the edibles that were out there. And at the time, four years ago, it was much different. It was a brownie in Saran Wrap with an Avery label that said like 2X handwritten on it.
AJ: I would never eat that Matt. You know, I’m the guy who will not eat the nuts off the bar. You know, I’m a germophobe. So we were not going to make those kind of edibles.
Jen: So we started looking edibles that nobody had. Edibles that you didn’t make with marijuana butter. So AJ did research on extracting tinctures and oils from the plant. And after several months we came up with a great potent tincture. And we started R and D on some different edibles, and we were able to come up with our flagship product which was gummy bears which nobody had in the state at the time. So we were going from dispensary to dispensary selling our gummy bears. And it was actually becoming so popular that we had clients that started reaching out to us. They were reaching out to us directly. So we thought well, you know instead of servicing all these collectives maybe there’s something that we can do one on one with the patients. So AJ found a series of videos about starting a medical marijuana delivery service in Los Angeles, and we figured we would give it a try. So we downloaded the operations manuals from FedEx and…
AJ: Now hold on, don’t skip one quick part. You know we followed those videos, but those videos, they worked fine, but those videos taught you the ice cream truck model. They taught you the Avon lady model of delivery which is how 99 percent of the delivery services are run. And it was working. You know, Jim was doing our operations. I was doing our technology. My brother Gene was doing deliveries. But if he was up in like Pasadena and we got an order at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and then another order in South Santa Monica that was your whole day. So even though we were getting a few orders a day and the business was running fine, we just couldn’t scale. So that’s where…
Jen: That’s where we decided to kind of upend the model. Like I said downloaded the operations manuals for FedEx, Papa John’s Pizza and Domino’s Pizza because in our minds those were the leaders in logistics and fulfillment for delivery services.
AJ: Which also focused on brand recognition.
Jen: So we pulled those apart and sort of put them back together in sort of an operations map or guideline, if you will, for us to start this different model of delivery which is more of a hub and spoke model where we would have a main location that warehouses our product, and then we would have small annexes around the city. And drivers would work out of those annexes with just enough product for the day. They weren’t carrying around large amounts of weight or cash in their cars. And it just kind of grew. It grew much quicker than we had anticipated, and it became what speed weed is today which is the leader in the delivery service industry here in California.
Matthew: So how many spokes are there? That’s a great model you have, the hub and spoke. How many are there in the Los Angeles area?
Jen: Right now we have six annex locations and we have two more coming online in the next three or four weeks.
AJ: And that will be Los Angeles then San Diego and San Jose open within the next six to eight weeks. And then we’re looking at Fresno, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs to close out the year.
Matthew: Now it sounds like you’re the first cannabis home delivery service that has any brand recognition. But in the last year or so there has been some that have come on. Particularly one in Southern California called Nestdrop, and they have an injunction against them by the City of Los Angeles I believe. Can you tell us what they’re doing differently than you and why you think they got shut down and maybe a little bit about where you think the direction of this type of regulation is going?
AJ: Absolutely. We know Nestdrop very well and the CEO, Michael, is a wonderful man. Nestdrop is just a technology company. So the reason that they were shut according to the city attorney, and he was quoted in L.A. Weekly just last week discussing this, is because Nestdrop is not a caregiver. They’re not a collective. So the argument was their app was facilitating the transaction between a collective and a patient.
Jen: Well, you know, it’s probably you know allowed for a doctor to make a house call. There aren’t any doctors that are doing that at the moment. You know getting your card in Los Angeles is an interesting experience.
Matthew: It’s super easy.
AJ: It’s easy.
Jen: It’s easy. It’s getting less easy actually though as this industry as a whole kind of grows up which in our minds is a good thing. You know, the doctors… it’s a minimal fee to go to the doctors. So for them to start making house calls I think would be cost prohibitive for them. And then also doctors are not allowed to have any type of connection or solicitation with any specific collective. So the patients actually have to go to the doctor and get their recommendation before they come to us. Now we have doctors that we like, and we have doctors that we recommend because we like those doctors. We know that they’re above board doctors and they handle their business legally, but we don’t have any type of you know, we don’t have any type of specific connection or type of marketing push with any specific doctor. It’s just not legally allowed here in the city.
AJ: It would just seem weird to have that anyway.
Matthew: Right. So Jen in 2016 what do you anticipate happening in California? Do you see recreational use?
Jen: You know there’s a big ballot push for recreational use in 2016. I would love to say that I think it’s going to pass in ’16, I really don’t know. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that California may pass some more strict regulatory codes for medical marijuana use and move the ball down the field that way. I don’t know as a state if we’re quite ready to pass recreational use. You know Los Angeles and San Francisco are sort of the Meccas of medical marijuana right now, but there’s a whole center of the state that is still much more conservative than the top and the bottom of the state. So I have a feeling it’s going to take a couple more years of education on the part of our industry in order to make that switch in California from medical to recreational.
Matthew: It was on the ballot, what a couple years back, and it was a pretty close call wasn’t it?
AJ: It was a close call, and we think it would have passed. The language of that proposition was kind of goofy. I mean what was it, a triple negative. Like do you not, not, not want not to have, not legal marijuana. I mean it was really confusingly worded. And I think it was done intentionally, but you know, I’m a political guy. I’m a conspiracy theorist. You know I’m a rock and bomb thrower. I’m a controversial guy. So I think that was kind of intentionally written to fail. This time around I don’t think the legislators will be able to do that because the citizens of California State overwhelmingly support safe access to cannabis. On the medical side it is somewhere in the upper 70s in the percent. In the recreational side you’re still over 50 percent. So the voters here want it. So let’s word the proposition of using simple language. Let’s get it passed. Let’s get it regulated, and let’s get this thing organized. Because states like Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, even Alaska they’re going to leave us behind.
Matthew: Yes. And for the people in Alaska they’re going to be like, hey, what does he mean, even Alaska.
AJ: It’s okay. There’s no one listening up there. No stop, but I love Alaska, been there many times.
Matthew: So let’s walk through what it’s like to go through an order for someone from a collective. So how does the order get initiated?
Jen: You can initiate an order with Speed Weed through a couple of different ways. We have a website www.speedweed.com. And you can go and browse the menu, and actually place the order directly through the website. You can call the 800 number and place the order with a dispatcher through the 800 number. We have a chat feature on our site where you can go and you can ask questions about your specific medical needs and what strains we may have on the menu at any given day that may help those needs. But yeah, you basically either call or you place the order directly on the website.
Matthew: Got it, and is there an additional cost for the delivery?
AJ: At this time there’s not. All costs and taxes are included in the product itself, in the purchase. We do have minimum orders based on where you are in the city. And that’s primarily just so our drivers can be compensated for dragging their cars around Los Angeles which is just horrible. So I say as for now, there is no delivery charges, taxes are included because we don’t know what regulations are coming. There could be more taxes down the road. They could require fees. We don’t know. We do know there’s a lot of legislative talking happening now, a lot of deliberations. They’re trying to figure it out. So we just have to be nimble. You know, what’s why we have a chief compliance officer to stay on top of all of this stuff. And as the regulations change, and the rules kind of get tweaked, he shoots us a note and says all right guys this is what’s coming so let’s get your model ready for that change.
Matthew: Now I know Southern California, Los Angeles County, it’s just a huge diverse area and it’s kind of a cluster from a traffic point of view like you mentioned. But how long does it take typically for a deliver to occur? If I were to jump on the website right now and make a order, let’s say I live in Santa Monica, how long would it take would you guess?
Jen: You know we tell everybody that orders typically occur within 90 minutes at the outside. Normal delivery times are anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour, but if you order at [4:30] on a Friday night, you know, sometimes it takes longer than that. So that’s why we’ve tried to place as many annexes as we can around the city. So the larger population centers are close to those annexes. So even when traffic is at its worst, and anybody that lives in L.A. knows what I mean by that. Anybody that doesn’t live in L.A. has no idea what traffic is.
AJ: I’m from New York City and I thought I knew what traffic was. I had no idea.
Jen: So typical deliveries happen within 90 minutes or less.
Matthew: Okay. Now is there anything that’s sold really well that kind of surprised you that you didn’t anticipate that was kind of a sleeper hit?
Jen: Yes actually there were three products that come to mind off the top of my head. We had somebody come to us with a hemp supplement for pets. It’s a CBD only supplement that comes in a chew. So it’s a non-psychoactive product. It’s certainly not going to get your pet high, but it does help with inflammation of joints and it gives pain relief. And we thought no, there’s no way. And we could not keep it on the shelves. It’s flying off the shelves. So that was one that was really surprising to us. Another one that was really surprising to us was a THC infused feminine lubricant.
Matthew: Oh Foria, Foria right.
AJ: Yep, Foria.
AJ: Yep we were one of Foria’s first clients.
Jen: Very popular. When I first read about it I thought there’s no way. And then I checked…
AJ: There’s no way you would sell it or there’s no way you would use it? Let’s get this on the air.
Jen: So you know I was really doubtful at first. I’m our Chief Marketing Officer. So I’m the one that works with all the new vendors that want to place products on our shelves. And so I was looking through all of their marketing materials and their packaging, and was actually very impressed. It was a very professional, very, just a very professional, very slick, pardon the pun, marketing campaign that they had put together. So we thought we’d try it. And we couldn’t keep it stocked.
Matthew: Same thing here in Colorado. It’s very popular. We had John Brandon, the CEO of Foria, on the show and it’s really an incredible success story.
Jen: It really is.
Matthew: I want to back up a little bit about you were saying, you know, you’re the Chief Marketing Officer. There’s a lot of people that email me that say hey I’ve got the best product in the world. If only I can get in front of the person that makes the purchasing decisions for a collective or a dispensary I know they would love my X or my Y. What’s a good way to do that? I mean you mentioned Foria, they have very slick marketing and packaging and so forth and messaging, but maybe someone that doesn’t have quite the budget of Foria that wants to make an impact on someone like makes this initial purchasing decision. What could they do? What would you suggest to them?
Jen: You know, the best thing to do with Speed Weed is you can actually go online on our website, and there is a button you can click, if you are a vendor and you have a product, those emails all actually come directly to me. But we follow all of the laws here in the State of California. So when a vendor applies with me, we verify that they are actual patients, if they have their doctor’s rec, that they’re uploading all of their documentation. And once we’ve proved that they’re an actual medical marijuana patient, then we have them join the collective so that it’s all part of the closed loop system that California requires. And then I meet with the vendors.
Now there are some vendors that I think their product is absolutely fantastic, but I know the quality of the packaging and the marketing of the products that we currently carry on our menu. And if I love the product, but I don’t necessarily love the packaging, I will have meetings with vendors. We’ll bring them into the office. My background is in marketing and production. I was a commercial producer for several years here in Los Angeles. And I sit down and we talk about their product, where they see it going, what their vision is. You know I try to give them as much advice as I can.
AJ: I mean if I could give a word of advice to you vendors out there that have a great product, the first thing to think of is if you’re printing your labels with your ink jet printer at home, stop that. Honestly, invest a couple of dollars into getting professionally made stickers. It will up your game so much.
Jen: And it’s really changed a lot. You know, when I have vendors in here and I talk to them, we work very much off of a good karma aspect in our business. By helping other people in this industry, it only helps us. You know there’s that phrase, the rising tide raises all boats. And as an industry the more professional will become the more… we show people that we’re actually businesses with actual products instead of hiding in the shadows, the more it just helps everybody. So I have no problem with sitting with people, giving them the names of the places where I order my stickers, where I go for my packaging for our in-house products, helping people create the most profession applications and product packaging that they can within their budget.
Matthew: That’s great advice. I really appreciate that because so many people ask about that, and there are so many people with great ideas, but then we do judge books by their covers. We don’t mean to, but even it’s because their competitors are doing a better job on the packaging, it does make a difference.
AJ: It does.
Matthew: Circling back a little bit about what surprised you, what sells well. How about the indica versus sativa? What do you see there, I mean, is it mostly hybrids that are selling or do you have a strong sativa customer base? I mean what do you see there in the terms of mix of flower?
Jen: You know in terms of mix of flowers, I would say that for us L.A. is awash in indica right now. There are O.G.s all over the place, and it just has to do with the cycle of growing the plant. Everybody seem to harvest their indicas at the same time. We tend to sell, I would say, more sativa than indica, but not by a large margin, maybe 5 or 10 percent more. What we do sell mostly with our client base is what we consider our top shelf products. So those seem to sell out faster than anything else. Those are going to be, everything on our menu is indoor. Nothing that we have on the menu is outdoor product. That’s going to be your really really high-end frosty, crystally product. That seems to be our highest seller by far.
AJ: Yeah and I want to say something that might hurt the feelings of your Colorado listeners, and it’s not my intention.
Matthew: We’ve already offended the Alaskans, so let’s try it with the Colorado.
AJ: You guys are a bunch of jerks. So our third partner, Gene, who is my brother, he did a tour from Amsterdam, to Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and in L.A. The best product he found was in L.A. Better than anything else in the world. The highest top shelf products in Amsterdam and Denver were products he considered would be mid to low grade on our shelves. So we don’t know if that’s a local cultural thing, you know, if other states are interested in different products. But the consumer base here in L.A. tends to favor the really crystally, frosty looking buds, the potent sativas with the name brands like Jack Herer and ATF and AK47 and the pure O.G. Girl Scout cookies. I don’t know if we’re L.A. and we’re brand whores. You know that could be possible. You know my Louis Vuitton shoes or whatever, but we seem to feel that Los Angeles is the center for the best marijuana product in the world.
Conversely Colorado we believe is leading the way with waxes and concentrates and dabbing. Colorado is leading the way and California is behind your state, you know, in that segment of the market. So you know every local has their specialty it seems.
Matthew: Yeah. Now speaking of concentrates and edibles what do you see in terms of market share in the last, you know, year or two and where do you see it going because you know people I speak to here say, you know, edibles are really making a huge dent. What can you tell you about that for your client base?
Jen: You know like I said, you just said it. I can actually only speak for our client base which is different than the typical client base that goes into a dispensary in a number of ways. But for our client base we’re still seeing about 70 percent flowers. I would say 15 percent edibles, and then the remainder, because I’m not going to do the math right now, would be concentrates.
AJ: She doesn’t have to do math. She’s pretty.
Matthew: AJ might get punched after this interview.
Jen: He might or sleep on the couch. So you know, I know that in Colorado it really has flipped, and I know that especially in the culture, even in L.A. on the culture side of things concentrate use, dabbing, that’s all anybody is doing it seems anymore. Our patient base is very much what you would call, you know, they’re going to be the type of people that are using medical marijuana as stress relief, as you know, obviously for medical issues that they have. They’re not really really deeply immersed in the culture. So you hand someone like that a nail and a torch and you know a concentrate and start talking about dabs, it’s like whoa, no, no. I want my pre-roll or I want something I can put in my bowl, something that’s easy and it gets all, it gets kind of confusing for them which is understandable. And I think as we grow as an industry, you know, you ‘re going to see we’re going to have to educate people to get to the point where concentrates and dabbing are more of a mainstream thing. I think right now it really is something that has a very big strong hold in the culture, but has not moved its way out to the more casual user.
Matthew: Yeah I can understand when you see the torch get pulled out for dabbing and the equipment, it looks like something that Terminator or Robo Cop might use if they wanted to get high.
Jen: Or free basing heroin or something.
AJ: We’re not going to judge. Enjoy your crack.
Matthew: Now comedian Joe Rogan has mentioned Speed Weed on the podcast, his podcast before which I listen to. Do you find celebrities in particular like your service because they don’t have to be out around town being seen going in and out of dispensaries. Is there some sort of stigma still or they just like their privacy? What can you tell us about that?
AJ: Joe who? Joe Rogan, I’ve never heard of the guy.
Jen: Joe’s been a great friend to us, and he actually also is an actual real friend of Gene’s our other partner. You know, I think celebrities in particular exactly the reason you said, you know, they don’t want to be seen on TMZ coming in and out of dispensaries. But other than that, you know, our patient base we like to say, a lot of times are people that either can’t or won’t be seen coming out of a dispensary. You know we have a 40 percent female patient base which is very large for a collective. We have a lot of soccer moms. You know they can’t drop by their local dispensary with the two kids in the back on the way to a soccer game to stop and get their medicine. It just doesn’t really work. So you know our client base really is…
AJ: It’s a great image to me though. Mom running in to shop for an eighth while the kids are in the back seat. We’ll be right back.
Jen: You know, but it is. It’s the moms that they’re very stressed. They have anxiety, but at the end of the night they don’t want to unwind with a bottle of wine. They would rather unwind with a joint. But going into a dispensary can be overwhelming with the guard and the dogs and the lime green walls and the 18 year old bud tenders. It’s just not necessarily the best environment for them.
AJ: Yeah we’re upscale. Even though we consider ourselves the Domino’s of marijuana delivery. I’m a New Yorker and Domino’s Pizza would not be considered premium with all due respect. But you know we’re kind of like the Domino’s of marijuana delivery, but in an upscale way.
Jen: Right and by that I think we mean is what we strive to provide is a consistent consumer experience with every order that you place every single day. So as we expand into other states, if you order from Speed Weed in Denver or if you order from Speed Weed in California, you know that you’re going to get the same service every time you order. And you know that instills trust in our patient base when they order from us, and what they get is what the picture of the website looks like. We take pictures of every strain that comes in. What you see up there is the actual product that we have at that time. And we’ve just really been able to instill in our patient base a measure of trust and confidence that when they order from us it’s going to be a great experience.
Matthew: Now among your customer base do you feel like there’s a shift between alcohol? I mean is cannabis eating alcohol’s market share do you feel like? Like I normally would have three beers, but I’m just going to have one and then take this edible or have a couple hits off my joint. I mean do you see that in your own customer base where you feel like alcohol is kind of losing out to cannabis?
AJ: You know that’s kind of a hard question to answer, but I can tell you from my own experience I enjoy a scotch, a whiskey, a glass of wine or three. I have never been a heavy marijuana user, and I’m not currently a heavy marijuana user. I’m that guy who likes to come home from work and unwind with a cocktail or two to turn off his brain. But I do find myself consuming an enormously less amount of alcohol and much much less than before when a puff or two off a nice indica will do, and I don’t wake up feeling tired. You know, the new vaporizers are so fantastic because you can really control your dose and your experience.
So if I want to just relax for a little bit, I can take a little puff off of my vape, and I’m good. If I want to get kind of deep in the pillows, I can take a deep hit and I go down there. But after an hour or two you’re back up and then you can make another decision. Whereas with alcohol, you drink that you know three whiskeys, you’re in for it for the night and you could be in for a rough morning. Now that’s my personal experience. I can only assume that that’s happening all over the country, and to be honest I hope that that’s what’s happening all over the country.
Jen: And you know Matt, I am not the conspiracy theorist that AJ is but, you know….
AJ: We didn’t land on the moon. I’m telling you we did not do it.
Jen: I really do, you know, believe that part of the reason why cannabis has been outlawed for so long, you know, is because you have Big Tobacco, you have Big Alcohol, you have Big Pharma and they have very large lobbying firms that are pushing to keep this plant that you can grow in your backyard out of the hands of their customers.
AJ: Right. And it’s only been illegal for a generation and a half. It’s not like when we say legalize it, we should be saying re-legalize it.
Jen: Right. You know I can’t distill vodka in my backyard, but I can certainly plant a cannabis plant in my backyard. And I think that that’s scary to a lot of those large industries. Now again just because somebody has a glass of wine doesn’t make them an alcoholic, but just because somebody smokes a joint doesn’t make them a stoner. But I do think that we can argue fairly rightly that while there are so many medical benefits to marijuana that we haven’t even scratched the surface because we can’t test it yet. You’d be hard pressed to find an argument that discusses the wide range of health benefits of alcohol.
AJ: Oh absolutely. Any time someone who is pro cigarette and pro booze and anti-marijuana would like to have a debate, you know where to find me. Because marijuana has so many benefits in so many ways and alcohol and cigarettes do nothing but damage the body.
Jen: Now that being said, if somebody wants to smoke or drink, that’s completely up to them. However somebody chooses to relax or relieve stress or alter their consciousness or whatever they want to do, that’s fine. But the argument that somehow alcohol and tobacco are perfectly fine and should be perfectly legal but marijuana should not be, it’s such a spacious argument that it’s hard not to get passionate when you’re talking about it.
Matthew: Now I saw a video of one of your drivers. I think it’s Gene or Gino, I can’t remember.
Jen: Yeah that’s our third partner. That’s AJ’s brother.
Matthew: Okay. He looks like he walks into a room and everybody explodes like he just saved the Earth from like a meteor or something. He’s like the bell of the ball. I mean he cannot be a depressed individual with that type of reception wherever he goes.
AJ: Well the thing about Gene is he’s getting those cheers first of all because he’s carrying a nice big ole bag of bud. So everyone’s happiness is about to ensure. But the thing about Gino is even if he’s carrying nothing but his personality, he gets that kind of reception. You know, our business is a three-legged stool. Without one of the three partners the business fails. So Jen is operations and marketing and she’s a star. As the CEO I guide the ship. I manage the relationships. I handle the technology. I’ve got a background in those.
My brother Gene is a natural networker. He is a good karma guy. People are drawn to him. He’s got a magneticism. So not only is he handling our VIP deliveries, he also creates the relationships with the vendors that we have out there. You know he says his business card is a joint. So what Gene does is he goes to these events and he smokes a joint with this person or that person, and he creates partnerships. But when Gene creates a partnership, he creates a friendship. And that’s a talent that cannot be understated. It really can’t. it’s a talent that I wish I had more of. So yeah that’s the reception Gene gets when he goes anywhere.
Matthew: It’s amazing. People should check that out on YouTube. It’s pretty funny to watch him enter a room. He’s the candy man.
AJ: Why go to YouTube. Just go to www.speedweed.com. You can edit out our plug. I don’t want to do that.
Matthew: Oh no, I was going to ask you, what’s next for Speed Weed. I mean now the regulations, the legislation is going to change. You’re going to adapt to that, but I mean are you going to be going anywhere else? Are you going to go to Northern California?
AJ: Or expansion plan is wider than most people think. So we are expanding throughout the state. So that’s San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, the Bay Area, Sacramento, Fresno, Palm Springs.
Jen: Santa Barbara.
AJ: And Santa Barbara, and we will cover the entire state. Then the next states we’re rolling into are Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Colorado in that order. But in addition to expanding our delivery service, underneath our corporate umbrella are these vertical ancillary businesses that generate revenue for us and for the clients that they serve. So these are businesses like our technology company. So our software, we resell to other clients. We have a security company that does secure transport and facility security, and they’re outstanding and it’s run by former FBI and Department of Justice officials. So we have a cultivation consulting firm that’s operated by name brands in the industry. And we also have marketing and branding contracts with some of these smaller edibles companies and nutriceutical companies that are still trying…. They have a great product, but they’re trying to figure out their presentation. So we have consulting contracts with those folks.
So Speed Weed is really just a segment, a vertical in what’s a group of companies that all service each other and can service other companies in the industry. So while we would love to take over the world and let Speed Weed be synonymous with marijuana delivery, and we’re confident that’s happening. We are putting the pillars in place in the businesses in place to make sure that companies like ours that want to do things the right way and elevate the industry can thrive. So we’re bringing all of those folks together, and we want to bring them under our umbrella so we can fight this fight as a single unit.
Matthew: Now in closing Jen, how can listeners find out more about Speed Weed?
Jen: Well the best way obviously to find out about Speed Weed is just to go to our website www.speedweed.com. And it not only allows you to sign up as a member, but if you just want to browse the site, it gives a lot of background on the company. It talks about the three founders. There’s some great videos on there. I suggest everybody check out Hans Von Puppet who is a great professor that tells everybody about the different properties and attributes of cannabis and what it can do for you.
AJ: But listeners, he’s a puppet.
Jen: He’s a puppet.
AJ: You got to see him.
Jen: He’s fantastic. You know and then just Googling Speed Weed, we’ve done a lot of press. We did a front page L.A. Times Sunday article. A very large magazine is getting ready to do a feature on us that should be coming out in a week or so, I’m sorry, in a month or so. And you know just keep your eye out. We’re there.
AJ: Yeah follow us on Twitter @L.A.speedweed and we’ll keep you up to date. Instagram is being goofy with marijuana businesses. So we don’t know what’s going to happen there, but @L.A.speedweed on Twitter and www.speedweed.com is where we are or I can give you Jen’s cell phone number.
Matthew: Sure that would be great. Well Jen and AJ thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.
Jen: Thank you so much Matt.
AJ: Sure, we enjoyed it.
Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five major trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.
Tradiv.com is tackling one of the biggest problems in the cannabis industry. Tradiv connects cultivators, wholesalers, dispensaries, and marijuana infused products (MIPs) companies together on one platform. Tradiv will allow participants on their platform to view, purchase, and arrange delivery all online.
Learn more at http://www.tradiv.com
Matthew: Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you looking for a fulfilling and lucrative career in the cannabis industry? Visit www.cannainsider.com/careers. That’s www.cannainsider.com/careers. Now here’s your program.
As part of an ongoing series to chronicle the innovation that is occurring in the cannabis industry, I will be profiling entrepreneurs from Canopy Boulder, the first cannabis accelerator here in Boulder, Colorado. Today I’m pleased to welcome Aeron Sullivan of Tradiv to CannaInsider. Welcome to CannaInsider Aeron.
Aeron: Yeah thanks Matt. It’s good to be here.
Matthew: Aeron tell us a little bit about your background and what Tradiv is.
Aeron: Yeah sure. So my background has been predominantly in the military, the Marine Corps specifically. I was in about eight years, and the first four years I spent doing traditional military things. You know we deployed to the Middle East, spent time there. But I was lucky enough the second half I was able to get a position with a prototype engineering facility that worked within the Department of Defense. And it operated much like a normal business. We primarily focused on engineering, testing and acquiring equipment, specifically amphibious vehicles, for the fleet Marine force.
Matthew: Okay. Amphibius vehicles, so did you get to ride around in those?
Aeron: Yeah so they’re actually, we were testing basically the next generation of the amphibious vehicles. Of the ones that I operated in the first four years of my career in the Marines.
Matthew: That would be fun to like pull up to a beach party in a hovercraft or amphibious vehicle. What do you think about that?
Aeron: Yeah they actually do these things. I think I was unfortunately never able to participate in one, but they do these sort of like fleet days where they take military equipment, they land on a public beach somewhere. Everyone thinks it’s way cooler, the people that are actually operating them, because then at the end of the day we’re going to have to spend about eight hours maintaining them. But they do do that from time to time.
Matthew: So tell us more Tradiv. What is Tradiv exactly?
Aeron: Yeah sure. So Tradiv, I like to think of it as the first online wholesale cannabis marketplace where we provide a solution all the way from the point where a vendor uploads the product to where a buyer purchases that product, and we will them manage and track it all the way through the dispatching of payment and delivery of the product.
Matthew: Okay. So is there an example you can give us of maybe flower or an infused product and how that might work from beginning to end?
Aeron: Yeah so from beginning to end, you know, if you were to use Tradiv exclusively for instance you might be a cultivator where you find a clone. And you find that clone on Tradiv, you purchase that clone, you grow that clone into flower. You then can sell that flower on the marketplace as well has take that trim, sell it on the marketplace. An infused product manufacturer would purchase that trim, process it, create an infused product and then again sell that to a dispensary via the system.
Matthew: Okay. There’s a lot, for people that don’t know, there’s a lot of gotchas and illegalities about banking in the cannabis industry which I think will be a short term problem, maybe an intermediate problem. It will be solved eventually, but if I am a dispensary, and I want to buy let’s say 20 pounds of flower from a cultivator, will I be able to go on Tradiv, look at cultivators, ask questions, look at their background see what their reputation is and then actually execute a transaction and get delivery?
Aeron: Yeah, no absolutely, and I think that’s really one the biggest reasons that people like to use B2B e-commerce, and I will use Ali Baba for an example. The reason that Ali Baba was so successful was because in the past businesses had individual relationships with manufacturing facilities in China and around the world. And what Ali Baba did was that it allowed those businesses and those manufacturing facilities to have one relationship, and that relationship was with Ali Baba. And just like Ali Baba, Tradiv isn’t just a B2B marketplace, it’s an accountability engine which means that when you do business on Ali Baba or Tradiv you get rated. And you get rated on not just the product you’re providing but were you on time. Was it within cost? Was it easy doing business with you? Did you have sound business practices?
All of those things are reported in our transparent marketplace so that if for whatever reason an individual relationship fell through with a manufacturer, you’re not starting from scratch. And this allows both businesses and manufacturers to develop and cultivate their relationship not with one person or one business but with the community. And that way when you go to the marketplace you can see what their past reputation or accountability procedures were to make sure that who you’re doing business with isn’t just a licensed business, but is also somebody who has sound business practices and is going to be easy to do business with.
Matthew: Right. If it’s showing on Tradiv I have this much trim available or I have this many infused chocolate bars available, you’ll hold the vendor accountable if they then say oh it’s not, I had it listed up there but it’s not actually available after you said you wanted it. So there’s going to consequences to a vendor that has you know maybe somewhat questionable business practices. They’ll get a one star, and then people won’t want to work with them. It’s kind of like an EBay model.
Aeron: Yeah that’s correct. So when you buy a product you can rate the product just like you would, say on Amazon. But beyond that we’re also going to, we also publish what was the response rate to orders? Did they approve the orders? What was their percentage of on-time deliveries? And on a buyer’s side what was the, you know, let’s say they want to be able to do cash-on-delivery, how often did they have the cash available to actually make the purchase and how often did that seller or vendor have to pull the product back which you know of course is cumbersome with the metric. And really from both the buyer’s side and the seller’s side when you make a purchase you can have confidence that the purchase is going to go through and that the product is eventually going to be delivered.
Matthew: Okay. One thing, I don’t know if you have built into this or not, but I notice Airbnb does and I love it is before you make a request for a place to stay, it will tell you this, you know, this person responds to 84 percent of requests within one hour. It’s like wow, it’s so gratifying to see those little tidbits of details. And it’s usually very accurate. Is there going to be something like that built in?
Aeron: Yeah that’s correct. In fact it’s already built in. So once the beta goes live here in a few weeks, all those features will be available to our beta users and eventually to all businesses with the commercially ready product. And so it’s not just response rate, but how often was the product delivered on time? Was the quality of the product, it’s sort of like Zappos, you know was the shoe size accurate? Did it fit to the claim? And that’s sort of the same things.
It’s not only was I happy with the product, but did the product reflect the description when I made the purchase? And so all of those things, all those different factors really build up to an accountability measure that we’ve put in so that when you don’t have that product in front of you, and you can’t smell it, and you can’t taste it and you’ve never done business with this person, we want to be able to give both sides of the fence, both the buyers and sellers confidence that who they’re doing business with and what it is they’re purchasing or selling is accurate and that we can measure that accuracy.
Matthew: So let’s talk about delivery a little bit. Now before we get into delivery, actually what geographies are you going to be starting with? Is it Colorado, California, what are we looking at?
Aeron: So for the beta we’re just focusing on Colorado just to try and keep one cohesive market and put our focus effort into one area, but really the model that we’ve created can operate in any state that has a regulated system. So in Colorado we can both facilitate the sale of medical and recreational cannabis. Now you go to Washington and the rec system of course is well-defined, and so we can facilitate recreational sales in Washington. But the medical side, I mean that’s such a sort vague and loosely regulated side of the market. I mean it’s almost as bad as California if not worse, and so that’s an area we wouldn’t be able to move into. So for now we’re just focusing on Colorado, but we do have the plans to expand to any regulated market.
Matthew: Sure, work out the bugs here and then expand.
Matthew: How is delivery handled, because we’re dealing with extremely high value inventory here; extracts, concentrates, mips, flower. And not only is it extremely valuable, but it’s a criminal rich target. If criminals get tipped off that this type of product’s in transport, you know, the probability of an event occurring goes up compared to other kinds of materials that are transported. So how do we deal with the delivery of cannabis products? What’s the best way to get it done?
Aeron: Sure, you know I think as the market matures, I think the supporting industry will mature as well. And you know right now there’s a couple different types of companies out there. You’ve got courier services and then you’ve got the large sort of armored car transports. And unfortunately I don’t think courier companies is necessarily the wrong way to go because the cost associated with moving the product with a small van compared to an armored truck is obviously almost incomparable. The problem is finding insurance underwriters and carriers for those types of businesses just isn’t there yet.
So what Tradiv does is we’ve partnered with Blue Line Protection group and companies like Blue Line Protection Group, and not necessarily because it’s the most efficient way to move product. It’s just the only safe and secure way to move it right now. They’re licensed, bonded and insured. And so if that truck goes off the road and that product burns up, we’re able to recoup that cost and recover it for the vendor who initiated the transport. Whereas if a courier company goes off the road, I mean, that product is lost. They’re not going to get it back. At least they’re not going to get the full value of the product back.
Matthew: Okay. What if buyer and seller meet and they say hey we want to arrange private delivery? Is that something that’s possible or is it a must that the secure courier, like Blue Line Protection group is used?
Aeron: So that’s a good question. I mean there’s really, from how we’re doing business now, I think to how we’re going to be doing business in a couple of years is going to require a paradigm shift in the industry. And so with that sort of transition, we don’t expect businesses to one day decide I’m going to drastically do business differently, and so we try to make it as flexible as possible. And so if a company or a business wants to move product with a courier or they want to meet in person, that’s completely fine. It’s just we’re not going to directly partner with those courier companies until they can prove to us that they have the insurance and the guarantees in place so that if Tradiv is help facilitating that sale and help facilitating delivery and something goes wrong, that our name isn’t on something that sort of enabled a bad event to happen, if you will.
Matthew: Sure, sure. That makes sense. Which kind of leads up to my next point which is escrow. Since we’re dealing with such high value products, if the seller says hey I dropped off X or I did my part and the buyer disagrees or there’s some sort of gray area, it’s important to have an escrow. Could you describe how escrow is integrated into the Tradiv offering in a way that helps both buyer and seller?
Aeron: Yeah, no, absolutely. I guess first on the compliance side of escrow. I don’t want to steal their thunder, but we’re partnered or partnering with a large bank in Colorado, and they’re about to make a big announcement to the cannabis industry so I will let them go ahead and let them make that announcement and perhaps we can talk again later, but basically what we’ve done is through this bank and through a payment gateway that they’ve hired to build their ability to move money on behalf of cannabis businesses is we’ve basically created a proprietary anti-money laundering policy or program that integrates the finite data that Tradiv produces for each sale which filters into or filters up into the larger anti-money laundering program of the payment provider. Which allows us in a fully compliant manner, at least given today’s laws and guidance passed down by the prudential regulators at the federal banking level, allows us to move money legally between businesses.
Now moving passed the compliance piece actually, or the mechanics of it is that essentially true what you said is when a product is purchased that buyer dedicates money to an escrow system, and it sits in that escrow so that both the buyer and the seller have confidence that the money is dedicated and it’s there, but if it needs to get pulled back at any point if something goes wrong we can do that. So when that product’s delivered the buyer is going to go through a series of checklists with the vendor, and if everything checks out and they approve and close that order, that money is then released from escrow to the seller.
Matthew: Okay. And how long do you anticipate that process taking from the money being released to actually appearing in the seller’s bank account?
Aeron: The normal timeframe associated with a wire transfer.
Matthew: Okay, two to three days maybe.
Aeron: Actually less than that. I suppose depending, you know, Mountain Standard Time, if you do it after 3 p.m. it will probably be in there the next morning. If you do it before noon that day, it will be in there the same day.
Matthew: Now do you feel like the Marine Corps motto, “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” has helped you with Tradiv because there’s lots of challenges that exist in the cannabis marketplace especially when you’re dealing with finances?
Aeron: Yeah, no, that’s a funny question actually. So by no means do I think the Marine Corps has a monopoly on “Improvising, Adapting or Overcoming”, but one thing they do do a good job of is they instill in their officers and their senior enlisted that no problem is insurmountable. And anytime you’re given a problem, there is a way to overcome it. And so take for example if I asked a group of marines to take a hill. Marines I need you to attack and seize the hill, that is albeit dangerous, a fairly simple problem. But if I said hey marines I need to craft me a winning counter-insurgency strategy that accounts for the social, economic and political implications, that’s still dangerous, but it’s far more complex. And in the military we tend to call those wicked problems.
And so when we approach this concept of establishing a B2B marketplace, you know, at the surface level that’s a simple problem. Okay we’ll create a B2B marketplace, but when you bring that into the cannabis where you have the intersection state, local, federal laws, federal banking legislation, some of it is specific and some of it is vague. A very simple problem all of a sudden becomes a very complex problem or as we might call it, a wicked problem.
And I think when I approached this idea and then of course the problems that came with it I never once went okay that’s just too complicated. And I think that’s where we sort of have a competitive advantage because a lot of our competitors and other people in the industry looked at the same issue and the same opportunity and they said, oh well that’s just too complicated and you know, somebody else will have to figure that out first. But they use words like the market’s not ready and the industry isn’t mature enough. To be honest with you this is going to be a rapidly changing industry for the next ten years. If we use that approach every time we came to a crossroads where there was a very tough or complex problem, we wouldn’t get very far. And so to kind of come full circle and answer your question, I do think the Marine Corps set me up to address tough problems and go we’re going to figure them out because they’re not unsolvable. They’re just hard, and so that’s what we, you know, perseverance and sort of attacking the problem, finding the experts, gathering the knowledge and solving the problem, finding a solution.
Matthew: And the harder the problems you solve, the greater the barriers to entry too which is the nice part about that.
Aeron: That’s true too. Yeah, no doubt about that.
Matthew: Now switching gears to Canopy Boulder, the accelerator you’re in, can you tell us what it’s like day-to-day to be in that hive of entrepreneurs with the excitement and everything going on, people trying out new business models. It’s like the birth of a star. It’s just exciting, a lot of energy. How do you feel about it?
Aeron: Yeah it’s funny when you said that I got goose bumps. It’s true. It’s really exciting, and I think you know it’s both exciting and beneficial for everybody because, you know, if you take another company and you put them in a room and you say hey I want you to build me this product, they build the product, and it’s sort of like there’s a lot of group think that sort of occurs. And it’s a little bit of a stoved-piped production. And so there’s not a lot of competing ideas or complimenting ideas that are introduced when you only have the dynamic of one group approaching a problem. But at Canopy Boulder, and I imagine any accelerator for that matter, is when you have all those different companies you’re constantly getting challenged on your assumptions, and you’re constantly getting introduced to new and creative ideas. And while you might not have an expert in some field within your team, there is certainly an expert somewhere in the room between all then of those companies, and we constantly lean on each other, and we constantly leverage each other’s knowledge. And so I believe that the companies coming out of this accelerator or really any accelerator are probably far more mature and far more vetted ideas and business strategies that you might find in an individual company trying to do it by themselves.
Matthew: Yeah great point about the group thing too because there’s people with such diverse backgrounds and business models at Canopy Boulder that you can kind of just, you know, ask another entrepreneur or founder like hey this is what I’m thinking what do you think, and you get a really valuable answer back. Or if you’re trying to make a decision from an investor point of view, someone like Patrick Rey or Micah can guide you based on what they’ve seen work previously in other investing situations. So there’s just all this incredible, rich information going on in a very small office. Everybody’s kind of in there together. All these things are going on, all these interactions are going on. I kind of liken it to a small town operator who is at a switchboard. Like when you’re at the center of everything like that plugging all these different nodes in, connecting people in the center of all this information, you just have all this value coming through you and you get to experience the market in a way that’s just not possible without having proximity to these other entrepreneurs and investors and mentors.
Aeron: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.
Matthew: As we close Aeron, can you tell us how investors can reach out to you if they’re interested in investing in Tradiv?
Aeron: Yeah sure. So we’re a young company. I think come June there’s about four investment forums that we will be participating in, and so we’ll really be sort of in the thick of the investment period of this next year in about a month. But investors are welcome to reach out to us and start that dialogue early. Unfortunately right now we’re only accepting accredited investors, but if they want to visit our site at www.tradiv.com we have our contact information there. And even further if there is dispensaries, processors or cultivators that are interested in participating in the beta, we’re kind of good on processors right now, but we can certainly use a few more cultivators and dispensaries to round out the beta class. We’ll be accepting those over the next three weeks and they can find us at the same site, and we’ve got a beta signup there.
Matthew: Yeah can you spell out your domain for everybody?
Aeron: Yeah absolutely. It’s www.tradiv.com.
Matthew: Great. Well Aeron thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today, and best of luck to you.
Aeron: Yeah thanks Matt it was a pleasure.
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[0:59] – Aeron’s background
[2:28] – What is Tradiv
[3:00] – Tradiv process Alibaba-like platform for cannabis
[4:13] – Aeron talks about the rating system on Tradiv
[8:32] – What state will Tradiv be serving
[10:03] – Aeron talks about how delivery works
[12:56] – How does the escrow system work
[15:15] – “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome”
[18:10] – Aeron talks about his experience with Canopy Boulder
[20:57] – Aeron’s contact information
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