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The Optimal Soil for Cannabis with Michael Beck

Michael Gold of Royal Gold Planting Mix

In this interview Michael Beck of Royal Gold reveals the optimal growing medium for cannabis plants. He also tells us to avoid the most common problems new and veteran growers make.

Key Takeaways:
[2:04] – What is Royal Gold
[2:39] – Michael discusses how he got started in the soil business
[3:13] – Soil’s role in creating a healthy plant
[4:16] – What makes a thriving plant
[5:54] – Overwatering, the biggest mistake made by first time growers
[6:54] – Michael discusses healthy microbiology
[10:33] – Michael talks about oxygenation
[11:18] – Advice to veteran growers
[12:30] – Trying new techniques in your grow
[13:53] – How to optimize cannabis yield with fertilizer
[16:22] – Michael talks about ph levels
[19:15] – What is EC
[24:32] – Treating water before using it on plants
[26:46]- -Fertilizing for small grows and earthworm casting
[30:34] – Signs of too much water
[33:15] – Michael talks about what makes Royal Gold stand out
[34:33] – Contact details for Royal Gold

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the FREE CannaInsider Podcast*

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.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. 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 feedback@cannainsider.com 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 feedback@cannainsider.com. Now here’s your program.

What are the ideal soil conditions for your cannabis plants? Michael Beck of Royal Gold is going to help us sort through all the different options and help us understand the optimal soil conditions for cannabis. Welcome to CannaInsider Michael.

Michael: Thank you very much Matt.

Matthew: To give us a sense of geography, can you tell us where you are in the world today?

Michael: I am in Northern California in our production offices in Arcata, California.

Matthew: Now I want to get into how to make cannabis plants thrive, but before we do can you tell us a little about, a little bit about what Royal Gold is?

Michael: Well Royal Gold is a coco fiber based soil company. We’ve been at it about 10 years now with the goal of improving gardens, cannabis and otherwise, from the bottom up. There’s so many packaged soil products out there that are made with ingredients that we consider inferior for soil building. We saw the writing on the wall moving towards a more sustainable, functional alternative to those products and began making these coco based mediums with performance in mind.

Matthew: How did you get started in the soil business?

Michael: You know I studied plant sciences as a way to get through high school adding college credits, and at that point my interests were peaked and you know dove down that road into plant nutrition and plant sciences and just been focused on that ever since.

Matthew: Now we hear a lot about hydroponics and aeroponics and obviously your preference is for soil. How should we think about soil and cannabis plants and plants in general? What role does soil play in really creating a healthy plant?

Michael: Well it all gets started in the soil. All of your nutrient absorption, all of the metabolic processes, using the microbes to convert your nutrients into usable forms, all that’s happening in the soil or the medium in hydroponics. We are focused on mediums. Soils are definitely a big part of what we do, but soilless mediums are also a big part of what we do. We’re trying to provide the same concepts that people focus on in their soil into hydroponics allowing the medium to do the work, to cycle the nutrients, to be the home for the beneficial biology and to actually provide that safe home for your roots.

Matthew: Now I’m sure you agree there are dozens of things to keep in mind when you’re trying to maximize harvest of cannabis plants, but if you were to rank them in terms of importance, I mean, obviously light, water soil conditions. What are some other things that growers should really keep in mind when trying to create a thriving plant?

Michael: Balance is the key. You know all the things you mentioned are absolutely the roots of it. You have to have healthy soil which is going to really hinge upon your balance of oxygen and water and the ability to retain both and keep both in balance. You’re also going to be definitely focused on the gas exchange. You need the CO2 and the oxygen levels in the atmosphere around your plant to be correct too, so it can breathe and respirate the way it wants to outside of the soil as well as within the soil. And really the other super paramount, important thing is the biology. You really need to be focusing on the microbiology that’s occurring on your leaves and in your root zone because that’s really giving your plant the tools to break down the things it wants. And it’s acting in concert with your plant.

Your plant’s releasing things to the microbiology in the soil in exchange for other things from the microbiology. The plant is saying, here I’m going to give you some sugars, but I really need some phosphorus, and they’ve got an exchange going and that does not happen unless you’re bearing that biology in mind and giving it the things it needs.

Matthew: What would you say first time growers get wrong with soil that would be easily changed?

Michael: The number one thing we hear about with beginning gardeners in all walks of life is overwatering. You hear that from garden stores. You hear it from soil companies, nutrient companies. Everyone has the same thing. Everyone’s overwatering to start and overfeeding is the number two. People think oh this plant needs food. It’s dying, I need to give it more food. Well a lot of times you do need more food, but most of the time if you’re providing a full strength, full nutrient program, everything’s there. You don’t need to increase it. You need to make sure the plant’s using it properly, and part of that is allowing the soil to go from a wet to dry cycle so the microbiology is living and functioning and cycling the nutrients for you.

Matthew: So I hear about microbiology a lot, and I’m familiar with, you know, compost tea and things like that. How do you create healthy microbiology? I’m sure it starts with a healthy soil. How do you continue to regenerate that healthy microbiology during the plant’s lifecycle to ensure optimal plants’ conditions?

Michael: Well you nailed it with the compost tea, and the earthwork casting teas are a great place to start.

Matthew: Can you back up and tell us a little bit about what that is because I just threw that concept out there, but I didn’t explain what it is. What is a compost tea in warm castings?

Michael: Basically a compost tea or a earthworm casting tea is where you take a small quantity of compost or earthworm castings and you take it and put it in, you know, like a tea bag and put that in a container of water. And you take the two million or so bacteria that are in your compost, you add some sugars to the water, you aerate the water so you’ve got this tea bag with two million bacteria sitting in a tub of oxygenated water with food for the bacteria. And all of a sudden these two million replicate into two billion or three billion or ten billion bacteria. So you’re taking a small amount and growing them into a much larger amount and applying those directly to your root zone or in a foliar way, to the surface of the leaves. And that is really a great way to kind of bring these bacteria in to kind of reinoculate and keep the bacterial populations healthy. Much like eating a yogurt a day keeps the intestinal bacteria healthy.

Matthew: Right, and plants really do love that compost tea. I mean can you screw up compost tea, aeration so there’s bubbling oxygenated water being added to this compost tea. If you have a handful of good compost, and you put it in a cheesecloth or a nut bag or something like this so it’s porous, is that really all there is to it? There’s no, it’s not any kind of scientific process. It’s pretty easy to do.

Michael: It’s not rocket science. You know there is science behind it, but it’s not something everyone has to have a complete understanding of to get the benefits of. You know that’s the beauty of compost tea. As long as your water is oxygenated, and you’re getting a little bit of a food source and you’re getting an inoculant, your compost or earthworm castings in there, you’re going to have success. It needs to be oxygenated, aerobic bacteria, the ones that thrive in oxygen rich environments are much more beneficial as a blanket statement to your plants. So you want to avoid creating these anaerobic or bacteria that exists without the presence of oxygen. Those are most of the time leaning more towards pathogens and things you don’t want going on in the soil. So it’s important to aerate and it’s important to provide a sugar source as food for those bacteria, but really it’s pretty simple. You know you get the couple ingredients together. You keep them aerated and you’re going to have success with that.

Matthew: Okay. And what’s the sugar source you typically use?

Michael: You know some people swear by molasses and you know there’s a lot of people saying now, oh we don’t want to use any sugars. You only want to feed carbohydrates, but molasses works. Unsulphured, organic molasses is a great way to introduce people. As people dig in deeper and want to get more advanced with the specific microbes they’re nourishing, it’s a worm hole. You could go forever learning more and more about the microbiology and how to tailor it to your wants and needs, but a good, safe way to get started is using that unsulphured, organic black strap molasses.

Matthew: And when you say you oxygenate it, how do you do that? Do you just pick up some sort of electrical oxygenation device from a hardware store and drop it in the bucket?

Michael: Yeah that works great. You know, just a standard aquarium style air stone will get the job done. Water also oxygenates well when it’s falling so a lot of people will use power head style pumps where it pulls the water up and then dumps it back in on top of the surface and forces it down into the water. There are several ways to oxygenate, and those are the two most popular. Either a power head style oxygenator or just air stones.

Matthew: What about veteran growers? We talked about first time growers, but veteran growers tend to get somewhat stuck in their ways at times, good or bad. Is there anything that you would suggest in terms of soil quality or how to think about soil in a way that could help a veteran grower?

Michael: The important thing with veteran growers and you know we’re in Humboldt County, we deal with a lot of veteran growers who come in here and they know exactly what they want and how they want it done. And one thing I want to remind people to do is to keep learning. Just because it’s worked for you one way at one time doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways or more effective ways. Everything works once you dial your system in. There’s so many products on the market and so many different ways to grow plants effectively. Everything works. It’s a matter of what works best for you in your situation, and we find that our coco mediums work better for more people in more situations and that’s really the goal we’re looking for is to provide success consistently in a way that works for people.

Matthew: And if you’re a new grower, you don’t have to bet the farm on some sort of new process. You can just take a couple plants or make a small sliver of your grow room into an experimental zone and just try out new things in a controlled environment where if you lose a few plants or if you do something wrong, it’s not a big deal.

Michael: I’m so glad that you mentioned that Matt. That is the way that our company has built from the beginning is you know let’s try something new. And let’s try it versus what’s working. You know we’ve got this system that’s working well. Let’s side-by-side and do 30 percent just to see. You know you have to give something a fair shake. You can’t do one plant or one little row and expect to get an even idea of how your system is working. So you really want to do an accurate, comparable side-by-side comparison to really see the differences, and we encourage people to do that with any product they’re switching to or trying for the first time is give it its due diligence on its own next to something else that works.

Matthew: We have a lot of new growers that are moving into large grow spaces in Nevada, in Oregon and soon Alaska that are not really that familiar with all the plant management that they need to be. They’re coming up to speed, but can you give us a little bit of an intro to fertilizer? Typically on the side of a fertilizer bag you’ll see N for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorus and K for Potassium, but how do those three things work together and how should we think about that in terms of optimizing our cannabis yield?

Michael: Well the basis of the NPK is that those are the three most primary plant nutrients, right. They’re the most, they’re absolutely required. You cannot grow any plant without nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and different plants require different balances of them. And specifically with the cannabis plant it requires very different balance of NPK from say the beginning to the end and throughout the cycle as it goes through its changes. You know in the beginning of a plant’s flowering cycle, it’s going to be using a lot of nitrogen to stretch to produce extra vegetive growth to create the groundwork and foundation to build the flowers. And after it pushes through that kind of hormonal growth after the first two weeks of flowering, you start consuming more phosphorus and more potassium as you start to build the plant tissue that is your flower.

They’re absolutely important and you really want to look at how the plant you are growing is consuming your NPK. If you’re growing a ten week plant, it’s going to be different than if you’re growing a six week plant. You’re going to need more nitrogen for a longer period of time on a ten week plant, and you’re going to need to pushing that phosphorus and potassium harder, earlier in a six week plant. So it’s really important to know the plant you’re doing, and to look at those details based on the plant you’re doing not just a blanket statement, not just a blanket number on a fertilizer bag. You really need to look at the cycle of your plant and the timing to apply it.

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’ll 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.

How about Ph, that’s relative acidity and alkalinity, but how do you think about that? I mean how would you explain that to someone that’s pretty new? And then if you have too alkaline or too acidic, how do you dial that in to get it back to the right spot?

Michael: Well that’s a very deep question. I’ll try and keep it simple on that one, but ph is 100 percent the basis of how things are going to happen in your soil. Like you were saying it’s the acidity versus alkalinity, but really on a more basic level it’s the amount of hydrogen in existence in the soil that is affecting and controlling that alkalinity or acidity. And you have a range of optimal and a range of tolerable ph. In most situations you’re going to be looking at an optimal range of about 5.8 to 6.3, that’s going to be exactly what your plants are wanting. They’re going to be able to provide all of the nutrients. They are going to be able to assimilate all of the nutrients from the soil. The roots can get in there and exist comfortably in about a 5.8 to 6.3 soil.

Your plant’s going to tolerate, you know, anything down to 5 or 4.8. It may not tolerate it well, but once you start getting down that low or up above the low 7s in your ph, your roots can’t absorb the nutrients anymore effectively. You may be able to absorb one nutrient more effectively than other, but you’re not going to have a balanced nutrient absorption right. So that’s really you just got to make sure to keep that in control. And you do that with ph up or down by adding an acid or an alkaline. And the easiest way to do it is to start with a medium that’s going to remain in your happy zone, and it’s going to stick with a buffer. Coco fiber, our coco products come out in the mid sixes typically. And they’re going to hold that ph or the ph of the water that you continue to feed with.

So if you’re adjusting your ph of your nutrient solution say to a, you know, 6.0 or a 5.8, you’re going to go through and check that medium a week later after you continue to water, and your medium is going to be holding at a very steady range right around that 5.8 to 6.0 mark and your roots are going to be happy. A lot of mediums like say peat moss, it’s acidic. You’re going to always be fighting to keep that ph happy because the natural ph of the peat moss isn’t in the ideal range of what your plants want. So you’re going to continually be bringing your ph up or down to adjust it, to keep it in that ideal zone.

Matthew: How do you measure that ph? Is there like a little stick or something you put in?

Michael: There are various electrodes and ph meters ranging from simple probes that are more or less effective, not super accurate, but they’re going to give you a decent idea. You can buy those at any home improvement store or Lowes or a Home Depot. You can find an affordable ph meter that you moisten your soil, you stick this probe in, and it’s going to give you an idea of where you’re at. If you’re looking for a real, exact understanding, you’re going to need to go into a specialty hydroponics store and talk to an expert about it and get yourself a ph meter where you’re analyzing the water or the runoff of your medium to get a much more accurate reading.

Matthew: Okay. Now there’s a somewhat esoteric term. It’s pretty new to me and that’s EC. Can you describe what that is and how we should think about that?

Michael: Well EC is another tricky one especially for beginners. As you start to get into a deeper understanding of plants, EC becomes a little less daunting. And the EC stands for electrical conductivity, right. So that kind of expresses the conductivity and ability to move current through your plant or through your nutrient solution or soil, right.

Matthew: Is this kind of how we would think about electricity moving through copper versus silver versus water versus wood, like how easily it flows?

Michael: Similar, similar. You know most people end up basing these EC readings on parts per million. So it’s kind of a tricky thing. You’re really looking at what your nutrient contains. You know people are looking at EC and plant matter in your material like in your soil, and they’re looking at nutrient solution EC as kind of the same thing and that’s not always the case. So this is a very tricky subject to kind of dip into on a short term conversation. But the EC say on your nutrient solution is very very very important. If your EC is too high, you have too many dissolved solids or parts per million suspended, you’re going to cook your plants. There’s too much nutrient there for your plant to assimilate properly, right. And vice versa with your EC being very low there’s not enough in there to provide the nutrients you need for your plant.

In soils it’s very similar but you can have a much different reading. In the soil you can have an EC reading of 2.0 maybe higher, but it’s showing everything that’s in that soil. You know you’re taking a run off of your soil to test EC typically, and you’re showing everything whether it’s available or not that is in that soil. You’re showing the tiny little bits of pearl. You’re showing tiny little bits of bat guano and non-available nutrient and any particular that comes off in that runoff is going to be showing as a part of your EC or a part of your PPMs. And that’s always directly assimilable. If you are checking your nutrient solution, you’re looking at pretty much directly assimilable nutrient. So a 2.0 on a liquid nutrient is going to be much stronger than a 2.0 on a soil.

So really these EC numbers can be very deceiving. I get calls all the time from people saying hey I checked the runoff on my Mendo Mix, which is a very strong soil. It’s heavily amended with organic amendment. So it’s not all directly available. They’re getting these high EC readings, and they’re worried about burning their plants because they have experience with nutrient solutions where hey that 2.2 EC burned my plants. Well it’s not necessarily the same with a runoff from your soil because of availability.

Matthew: So it sounds like it’s say something that you look at, but it’s not something that maybe you get a granular depth of knowledge from, but it’s something that you take into your entire calculation of to what’s going on with this plant and so on.

Michael: Absolutely. If you’re starting with a soil that’s very high in EC, you’ll want to start with a nutrient solution that’s a little lower in EC, and as your plants consume what’s available in that soil, you’ll be bringing your EC of your nutrient solutions back up. It’s just kind of a balance.

Matthew: Once of the things that I find so troubling is that you know you and I are talking about creating this wonderful soil environment , and then we get tap water from a municipality such as the one I’m in right now and most across the United States, only San Diego and I believe Portland, maybe one or two others have forbidden the use of sodium fluoride or fluoride in the water. So there’s fluoride and typically chlorine in the water which are toxins. And they really can hurt a plant or a human being quite a bit. They may only be in 14 parts per million, but it’s still something, you know, I take out with reverse osmosis. What do you… how do you think about that? I mean are you treating water or do you suggest the water be treated in some way before going to your plant?

Michael: I absolutely do. I also am blessed enough to live in a place that doesn’t put that in the water.

Matthew: Oh lucky. Well see you know it doesn’t surprise that Humboldt has figured that out. So that’s great.

Michael: It’s actually not even all of Humboldt. I few of our larger municipalities do have fluoride and it’s a couple of the smaller once that are still holding out. So I think as more and more people become aware of this it’s going to fall out of being introduced in our water source like that. Fluoride is great for your teeth, but it’s not meant to be consumed in the way that people are putting it in the water. But with any of those toxins I absolutely agree with you Matt. Those need to be filtered out. If you have any ways or means to filter them out, reverse osmosis is a great way to do it. If you don’t have any other means, even just filling your water and letting it bubble through an air stone like we were talking about oxygenating your compost tea. That’s going to break down the chlorine and help to off gas some of those other chemicals. And while it may not be a perfect solution, if it’s the only solution you have, at least oxygenated your water for 24 hours before use to kind of do everything you can to off gas those toxins.

Matthew: Great point. Great point. The problem then with reverse osmosis is that it strips everything out. So you have no trace minerals or trace elements left. That’s why I typically add a pinch of sea salt into a gallon of water that’s gone through the reverse osmosis process. So you’re solving one problem but introducing another that’s not that bad of a problem, but you know you’re trying to get trace minerals. I didn’t think about the oxygenation, but that’s a great suggestion there. Now we talked about the large scale grow. Let’s just take it down to someone that just has one or two plants. Can you take coffee grounds or egg shells or anything from your kitchen, your compost pile and throw them on top? It seems like coffee grounds are very easily digested by a plant’s root system. They’re ready to go. It’s already broken down quite a bit where some other things aren’t. Do you suggest something like that or is that just too much nitrogen to be—and I’m thinking it’s nitrogen I’m not sure—to be throwing on a plant?

Michael: You know my main concern would not come from a nutrient. It would be coming from the ability to harbor some sort of pathogen or pest. And I personally would not add anything to my garden that hasn’t been composted properly. You don’t want to add those egg shells. You don’t want to add those coffee grounds unless you put them through a worm composter or compost them yourself first to kind of do that initial process, to let the bacteria do the work to remove the pathogens and get those nutrients available. Most of the time if you were to add that immediately to your plant, it’s not going to be available in the time that your plant needs it anyway. You’re running a six to ten week plant most of the time. That’s not a whole lot of time for composting processes and things like that to happen within the soil.

Matthew: Good point.

Michael: So it’s nice to have them pre-composted, pre-ready to go, ready to absorb when you put them in your container or onto your plant.

Matthew: Worm casting, from earthworms, everybody knows what that means and why earthworms are farmers’ best friends, but are you actually talking about getting perhaps a container of worms that can eat your food and compost and such? Is that what you’re referring to?

Michael: Absolutely. Home vermicomposting is one of the best things you can do for our environment, for your own backyard environment, for your own waste stream in general without even getting into the benefits and glory of worm castings for your garden. There’s a great book called Worms Eat My Garbage. I encourage everyone to look up vermicomposting on some level or another. It’s super easy to do. Kids love it, and you get a great great return for it.

Matthew: Some people call the worm castings gold. I’ve heard them refer to it that it’s just so valuable for their garden that they call it gold.

Michael: Yeah absolutely, and you know earthworms are these amazing creatures that have the ability to take soil pathogens and even human within the soil, e-coli and things like that, and the bacteria that the worms create literally eats and converts these pathogens to beneficial bacteria and this wave of beneficial bacteria literally radiates out from the worm hole. As they tunnel in through the soil, the good bacteria just grow and radiate out from their tunnels and reclaim and revitalize the soil. So it’s an amazing thing that the worms do.

Matthew: If you had a gallon bucket of worms then you’re throwing in compost to feed the worms, can you give us an idea of how much they can eat through, how quickly so people get a sense?

Michael: You know they can eat through, in a five gallon bucket, you’ll eat through several pounds of food in a week depending on your environment. It’s tough to generalize, but temperature, humidity, all of your outside environmental influences play a huge role with worms just as they do in your garden. You’ve got to give them the proper environment to get them to thrive the way you want them to. So what they eat will be directly dependent on their environment.

Matthew: I want to circle back to something you said earlier and that was that the number one rookie mistake or rookie grower mistake is too much water. What are the symptoms of too much water? I mean I’ve been guilty of this myself, and you kind of, you know, like a watched pot never boils. Well when you’ve got, you know, a small amount of plants you’re just looking at them all the time and trying to tweak them, and you’re doing too much typically. But what’s the sign that you’re giving too much water?

Michael: It’s tricky because it looks a lot like you’re under watering. It will start to droop a little bit. They’ll start to kind of just lose that little bit of vigor. The leaf tips will curl down. The tissue will start to lose that nice glow that it has. Healthy plant tissue just seems to emanate light. It tends to glow when your plant’s healthy. And as it tends to go into over watering it, it just kind of looks murky. You know you start to lose that vibrance, and you can kind of see a little bit of a tightening of the leaves and just kind of down turns. And people think oh it’s wilting. I need to give a little water. Well they give some water and it just doesn’t help. And the problem is you open the door for all sorts of pathogens; fusarium and pythium and root diseases that once that is established, letting your plant dry out and get back to a proper water and dry cycle isn’t necessarily going to save the day.

While you may recover somewhat from over watering, you’re never going to cover all the way unless you catch it right at the very beginning. So you know, it’s very important to make sure your soil dries out between waterings. It doesn’t have to get bone dry, but it has to dry to the point where your plant has oxygen.

Matthew: What’s the cadence here or interval you’re speaking of when you say between water and dry. How long is that typically?

Michael: It also depends very very much on your medium. In a hydroponic situation people use our Tupur which is our soilist medium, and they’ll water it, you know, two or three times a day because they’re keeping it in a smaller container. It breathes well and the plant sucks that water out of it quickly. Most people in a hand watered garden, the most common style where you dump some soil in a pot and water it with a hose, you’re going to water about every two to four days. And in those initial waterings when you plant up, you water, you’re probably going to wait up to a week before you need to water again. You want to let those roots stretch out and occupy the soil before you begin starting to push the water. The plant can only absorb as much water as the roots can absorb. So you have to have a healthy root mass to be able to support a heavy watering program.

Matthew: If I’m walking into a hydroponics store, my local garden center where Royal Gold is, let’s say there’s Royal Gold and Sunshine #4. How should I choose? What makes Royal Gold stand out?

Michael: Well as I said before all these things work, and they all work in different ways for different people. If I was choosing between Sunshine #4 and a Royal Gold medium, I would reach immediately for the Tupur. The Tuper is our aeration style formula. It’s coco fiber based. So it’s going to cycle nutrients a little more effectively, and it’s going to hold a better balance of air to water, and it’s not going to degrade as quickly.

So you are going to start with the same medium as you finish with. With peat moss based mediums it’s all cellulose. So those bacteria we’ve been talking about this whole time are chewing through the cellulose in your medium and breaking it down creating silt and sediment, taking these larger particles of peat moss and breaking them down into smaller and smaller particles. It causes more ph swings. It causes more variance in your water and air holding capacity. Our coco fiber based Tupur is going to provide a much more stable reality for your roots in that you’re going to be able to water as aggressively. You’re going to hold the oxygen you want to in your medium, and you’re just going to have a better all around result.

Matthew: Michael as we close, how can listeners learn more about Royal Gold?

Michael: Well there are a lot of ways to learn more about Royal Gold. You can look us up online at www.royalgoldcoco.com. That’s www.royalgoldcoco.com. We’re also all over social media under Royal Gold Soils. You can search us there on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. We’re also available on MassRoots which is really taken off. It’s kind of a new social media.

Matthew: Sure we’ve had Isaac Dietrich, CEO of MassRoots on here. A great platform.

Michael: Yeah it’s really blowing up quickly out there. So it’s a cool things those guys have going. But yeah we’re available all over social media. Just search Royal Gold Soil online, and we’ll be popping up right towards the top of every search you do.

Matthew: Great. Well Michael thank you so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Michael: Well thank you Matt. Thanks for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it.

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.

Scaling Up Hemp Production to Meet Demand with Shaun Crew of Hemp Oil Canada

Shaun Crew

Shaun Crew, the founder and CEO of Hemp Oil Canada discusses large hemp cultivation in Canada. Discover all the products and food made from hemp, and how the demand for hemp is growing around the world.

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the FREE CannaInsider Podcast*

Key Takeaways:
[1:13] – What is Hemp Oil Canada
[1:53] – Shaun talks about his background in the hemp industry
[4:57] – The early days of Hemp Oil Canada
[6:25] – What is the prime growing period of hemp in Canada
[9:54] – The amount of hemp that Hemp Oil Canada produces annualy
[10:57] – Plans for future US facilities
[12:08] – The most popular products at Hemp Oil Canada
[13:20] – What is Finola
[14:52] – Sterilization of hemp seeds when arriving in the US from Canada
[16:08] – Shaun talks about hemp as a building material
[18:03] – Shaun talks about private labeling services offered by Hemp Oil Canada
[20:59] – Contact information for Hemp Oil Canada

Read Full Transcript

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.

The public has fully awakened to the incredible promise of hemp and its myriad of applications as food, building material and many other uses. I’m pleased to welcome Shaun Crew, CEO of Hemp Oil Canada to CannaInsider today to help us understand where the hemp market is and where it’s going. Welcome Shaun.

Shaun: Good afternoon Matt.

Matthew: To give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are today?

Shaun: Yes absolutely. We’re located in Ste. Agathe Manitoba, Canada which is about 25 miles south of the City of Winnipeg.

Matthew: Okay and what is Hemp Oil Canada?

Shaun: Hemp Oil Canada we’re a producer and processor of hemp food products and ingredients. We’ve been in business now since March of 1998, so just over 17 years. And we are producers and processors of hemp seed oil, hulled hemp seeds, toasted hemp seeds. There’s two grads of hemp protein powder that we manufacture, hemp flour a byproduct or coproduct we call a course hemp powder which is a fibrous powder. And we also produce a hemp coffee.

Matthew: Okay. You really picked a great industry to get into. What’s your background? How did you get started with hemp?

Shaun: Well that’s the interesting part. I’m an entrepreneur since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. So I was made aware of industrial hemp and particularly the legalization of it in Canada back in January of ’98, so about 3 months prior to it being releagalized here. I thought there was an opportunity there, and I saw kind of the planets aligned. We had farmers in Western Canada looking for new cash crops because there was the end of the what were called Crow Subsidies which allowed farmers in the middle of Canada to get their products to the ports on either side of the country at a reduced rate, and those ended making their product too expensive to try and ship to the port.

So they were looking at cash crops. We have, both levels of government are provincial and federal governments, both offering grant opportunities for rural development for Eggery [ph] food industry, for you know the development of rural agriculture in Canada and very supportive of the hemp industry during its infancy and even today but during its infancy. We had the number one laboratory for testing for THC, was located here. And we had numerous colleges, universities and food development centers all ready to assist in terms of product development and process development, and market development for this new industry.

So in my mind the planets were aligned and the opportunity presented itself to me, and I though well let’s go after this. I saw, you know, a great opportunity in that the consumer was beginning to flip around packages and notice that there was a nutrition facts table there, and they’re looking for nutrients and ingredients in the foods they’re eating that are more nutritious and more beneficial. And getting away from saturated fats and this type of thing. So looking for alternative protein sources and so on. And you take all these things together happening at the same time, and I just saw a great opportunity to get involved with something that was truly ground floor and trailblazing in the sense that nobody had done this in over 60 years, and any technology that was around 60 years was well-dated to the technology and the electronics and controls and monitoring that we have available today for food processing.

But I had absolutely no background in food processing and/or agriculture. So you know my background was in sales and marketing, and I saw an opportunity with the markets and for me everything starts with the market. And until you have that you don’t need machinery to process or buildings and desks and computers to operate. You need to make or create demand and have a sale before you do anything else. And so that’s where we were in about March of 1998 when we started the company. You know, great opportunity, and I decided I’d be one of the guys to go for it.

Matthew: So did you go out and raise capital back then? What were the first early days? What did it look like?

Shaun: Yeah exactly. I mean it was, you know, what’s commonly referred to as love. You know, it was mothers and brothers and best friends and whoever else I could entice with my smiling face and business cards. That’s basically how we got the company up and running. It was small, well relatively small, investments of $5,000 each that got the company going, and I mean we’re just talking a handful of people that I was able to raise that kind of money with. But then I was able to take the money that we raised and obtain a provincial government grant that gave me a loan guarantee, and I was able to go out and borrow money at a bank because the government was guaranteeing it. And in addition there were also, there was a grant program that was available for developing new processes.

So I was able to take the money we had and basically double it with a government grant. And that’s how we basically launched and got off the ground by buying our first oil press and some of the accessorial equipment that had to go along with that in the way of conveyance and seed cleaning and so on and so forth.

Matthew: Now what portion of the year, I mean I know there’s different environments temperature-wise in Canada as you move further north, but what part of the year actually is available for growing hemp in Canada.

Shaun: Well typically our growing season is about, you know we’re just a few weeks away from it here, about mid-May until about the middle of August up to September is sort of the growing season. Once we get into September in our part of Canada, and I’m referring to the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta which is where we contract all of our hemp seed production. You know we can typically get until about the middle of September before we’re starting to see a frost. And once you see a frost that’s when all growth of the plants will die out, and they’ll dry down at that point.

Typically we’re harvesting when about 70 percent of the seed resists compression and so it’s kind of a window of opportunity. And you know we’ve got maybe a week to ten days to kind of harvest after you’ve reached that point, and hopefully get your crop off by then, but occasionally in the fall we’ll see rains and that kind of thing that can delay you. So if it happens that a farmer can wait until that first killing frost, either because of a later planting date or we get an early frost, you know, it does help dry down the plant and it doesn’t affect the seed at all if it hits the frost. And in fact it can help with harvest because it will dry down the fields.

Matthew: Now when you look at North America, can you summarize where you see it now in terms of both the challenges and opportunity for hemp and personally yourself as an entrepreneur what excites you about it?

Shaun: Well I mean I’ve been at this now 17 years, Matt, and I would still suggest that we’re only touching the tip of iceberg in terms of the potential demand for hemp food products and ingredients. You know 17 years ago there was no products out there. You go to just about any, certainly any grocery store or natural product or organic store or fine foods store in Canada and/or the US for that matter now, and you’re going to find something hemp in there whether it be one of the seed products or one of the oil products or a value added manufactured product like an ice cream or a cereal or a nutrition bar.

So the demand is increasing all the time. Consumers are certainly becoming more and more aware of hemp. You know a lot different today than it was 17 years ago when we would, you know, present hemp foods at a conference or a trade show and people often thought you know what are you even doing here. Is this even legal? Always that relationship with its cousin is what is the first thing people are thinking about when they see hemp foods and wondering if they’re going to get high from eating. Obviously we know now that that’s just all myth and mystery. And we’ve been able to proves there’s really no consumption of hemp food products that you would be able to intake and never build up enough of the THC metabolite in your blood stream to trigger a false positive. So using hemp in defense of a false or a positive drug screening test really isn’t possible to do, and anybody that’s tried to do it in the past has found that out I’m sure. So that’s the situation.

Matthew: Now to give us a sense of how much hemp you process a year, can you tell us how much is growing through your facility or how much you’re contracting for?

Shaun: Yeah, well we’re currently contracting about 25,000 acres a year. That’s producing oh about 20 million pounds say roughly of hemp seed that we would process in any given year. Now in 2013 and 2014 we were fortunate or unfortunate enough to have bumper crops. So consequently we’ve ended up with more seed supply than we were anticipating when we were seeding which is a good thing on one hand, and on the other hand, you know, it does allow us a little bit of wiggle room this year in terms of the number of acres that we’re having to contract. We’ve actually gone down a little bit because we want to be sure that we’re taking up the inventory of seed that’s already been produced and keeping everybody fresh that way.

Matthew: So as hemp becomes legal in the US, are you going to be adding facilities in the US at all or what’s your game plan there?

Shaun: Yeah exactly. We certainly have the intention at some future point to position a production facility somewhere in the US. We have reserved the trade name and registered the trade name Hemp Oil USA over ten years ago in anticipation that this would happen one day. So you know we’re planning to, no firm plans that way right now. Certainly we’re in the midst of a major expansion here at our facility at Ste. Agathe, Manitoba that will more than quite easily handle the demand and capacity needs for processing for a number of years to come out of this facility here. So you know on the other hand I recognize that it’s important to have a presence in America and I know how much you Americans like to buy American so I will definitely try to appease you in the long term.

Matthew: Okay, and now I know you convert the hemp into finished products. Which of those finished products seem to be the most popular at the moment?

Shaun: Oh absolutely, not at the moment, from day one until today and I could only imagine going forward is the shelled or hulled hemp seeds is by far the most popular product and it has been from the start and will be going into the future. And the reason for that is it’s just the most versatile of the products to utilize as food ingredient. And I mean as a product on its own the nutritional benefits are pretty much second to none in terms of 50 percent of the content of a hemp seed nut is the oil which is your Omega 3 and 6 fats. And there’s a good whack of protein and vitamins and minerals and dietary fiber is the balance. So it’s really a complete little food on its own. So, you know, it’s got a nice nutty flavor. It’s a soft little nut, easy to utilize as you would any other seed or nut in a food product. And so it’s from day one been the most popular and continues today to be so.

Matthew: What about Finola ? What’s that?

Shaun: Finola is a variety of industrial that we grow quite a bit of in Canada. In fact I think the last numbers I’d seen was somewhere in the region about 40 percent of the production of hemp in Canada is this variety Finola. It originates out of Finland. My good friend and colleague Dr. Jase Calloway is the breeder of record for Finola. And we were able to obtain the plant breeder rights on behalf of Dr. Calloway back in about 2005 for the variety, and since then we’ve been the plant breeder rights agent for the variety here in Canada and we’re also now supplying growers in the US with it.

So it’s a short, maturing variety. In other words the stature is about, I guess in terms of inches or feet, it would be about three and a half foot tall plant, but about three feet of that is typically a seed bud. So it’s one of the highest yielding varieties. It’s definitely the highest nutritional variety in terms of the nutritional content in the seeds. And it typically yields really well for the growers, particularly those that are under irrigation and/or those that are growing an organic regime. So it’s a super little variety to work with.

Matthew: Now is it true that some hemp seed when it comes from Canada to the United States is a requirement that it’s sterilized by US customs? I’ve heard some talk about that. I just want to know if you have more information.

Shaun: Yeah actually, it’s a little bit of a mixed message there. What the law is, and this goes for either side of the boarder Matt, that we as a processor cannot produce or distribute a viable seed product. In other words a seed product that you could take and plan in the ground that would grow into a plant. You know, it’s illegal for us to sell the viable seed to anyone else other than another licensed processor and/or a customer that’s authorized and permitted to import viable hemp seed.

And so that’s why we have to put it through a process of either sterilizing it or toasting it. Somehow we have to process it so that we can kill the germ on the seed and it won’t grow into a plant if somebody was to pop it into the ground. And that’s really what that’s all about.

Matthew: Now there’s a lot of people that reach out to CannaInsider talking about hemp as a building material, and there’s almost like a religious fervor about that there’s so much excitement around Hempcrete and some of these building applications. Do you see any of that?

Shaun: Yeah we do. Again our focus is on the seed and on the food, but obviously in this industry, you know, rather small even when you look on a worldwide basis, we’re certainly aware of the capabilities of not only Hempcrete, but other hemp based building material such as insulations and there’s fiber boards and moldings and all kinds of wonderful things that we’ve seen come out with hemp as the base product. In fact in our new facility that we’re in the midst of building across the highway from our current location, and we’ve incorporated a number of hemp building materials into the facility so that we can hemp it up is what we call it. Everything from drop ceiling panels to moldings and door trims to a hemp block wall in the reception area.

You know so different things that we’re trying to incorporate into our own facility, but you’re right there is a lot of excitement around hemp building products. And I think it’s a fantastic application to pursue. You know if you’re looking at the fibrous side of the plant because the opportunity to be producing the raw material for Hempcrete and/or for insulation are fantastic. And I think that’s an opportunity for some other entrepreneur to pursue, but we’re certainly excited about where that’s going. And at the end of the day it becomes a win/win. If we can now start buying fiber from our farmers as well and selling it as a raw material source to these companies looking at the building material side of the business.

Matthew: Now you offer private label services for other companies that don’t have the resources or processing facilities that you have. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Shaun: Okay. Yeah that’s actually part of our business. In addition to supplying bulk wholesale hemp food products and ingredients, the other piece of our business is private label packaging all of those eight core products that we produce. So what that means is that we would package a product in a retail brand size of packaging labeled with our private label customers’ artwork and design. And so we’ll assist companies you know going through that process and help them to some degree with the labeling. We don’t want to get into the printing business ourselves, but we will help them with making sure the required elements are on a label whether it’s for Canada or the US. And then we can certainly offer them a variety of different types of packaging that they could consider. Everything from very eco packaging to more standard laminate type pouches and canisters and bottles and so on and so forth. It is a full service that we do offer our clients.

Matthew: Now is there anything looking out in the future that gets you really excited about hemp in terms of applications that are not quite ready for mainstream yet but you see the potential for?

Shaun: Well you know certainly the proliferation of foods products that we’ve seen come out, this is all good. I think the more hemp foods that you can get, you know, folks consuming on both sides of the border the better. I mean it’s certainly one of the most healthy food and food products that people could consume. So that’s certainly, you know, my number one goal is to see everybody with something hemp in their cupboards. In addition to that, and it’s particularly happening down a lot closer to you Matt, is the proliferation of interest an research and development around this whole idea of various cannabinoids that are found in both hemp and other cannabis species that you know there’s been a lot of interest in and a lot of health benefits and research surrounding.

So I’m certainly excited about those future opportunities. Right now it’s in a regulatory stalemate here in Canada, but I think in the US it’s been a little bit more of a free-for-all in terms of where you’ll find these cannabinoids and in what products and edibles and so on and so forth. But we’re keeping an eye on that, and we’re certainly watching the further development of other foods that again get some into everybody’s hands and everybody’s diet.

Matthew: Great. I just finished a hemp smoothie myself. So I’m a great advocate for hemp.

Shaun: Wonderful, good for you.

Matthew: So Shaun if listeners what to learn about Hemp Oil Canada, how can they do that?

Shaun: Well certainly you’re welcome to always visit our website at www.hempoilcan.com. And we spent a number of years rewriting our website to try to put it in more layman’s language, but at the same time giving people a lot of really good solid, fresh, technical information on hemp foods and the benefits of the ingredients and the nutrients that are found in the food products. So certainly welcome anybody to visit our website. You know if there’s a direct question that you need answers you can always email us as well at info@hempoilcan.com, and somebody from our customer care department will be happy to answer any questions that your listeners might have.

Matthew: Great. Well Shaun thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Shaun: You’re very welcome, and thanks for inviting us along. Good Luck.

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.

Treating PTSD with Cannabis? Dr. Sue Sisley Tells Us How

Dr Sue Sisley

There is perhaps nobody that has more experience understanding how cannabis can help PTSD than Dr. Sue Sisley, especially when it comes to helping veterans. Learn why big pharma is trying to stop Dr. Sisley’s groundbreaking research.

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the FREE CannaInsider Podcast*

Key Takeaways:
[1:53] – Dr. Sisley’s background
[3:51] – Dr. Sisley talks about where the cannabis is obtained for her research
[10:12] – Understanding PTSD
[16:31] – Dr. Sisley talks about what CBD is best used for
[21:36] – Dr. Sisley discusses the conflict with the University of Arizona
[31:24] – Are there sinister forces blocking cannabis legalization
[33:56] – The effects of opiates on the liver
[35:58] – Dr. Sisley discusses how her research is progressing in Colorado
[44:13] – Dr. Sisley discusses if psychedelics are helpful with PTSD
[47:21] – Follow Dr. Sisley’s work

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. This interview is brought to you by Dixie Elixirs, makers of premium cannabis infused products. As for a Dixie Elixir product at your favorite dispensary. Dixie Elixirs: The Future of Cannabis. Learn more at www.dixieelixirs.com. Now here’s your program.

Today’s guest is Dr. Sue Sisley. Dr. Sisley is the principle investigator for the only FDA approved randomized trial looking at the use of whole plant marijuana in combat veterans with treatment resistant post tramatic stress disorder, commonly called PTSD. In June of 2014 Dr. Sisley had all three of her university contracts taken away by the University of Arizona and she was dismissed from her job there. Since that time Dr. Sisley has been able to continue her research thanks to a seven figure research grant by the State of Colorado. Recently Dr. Sisley was honored by Americans for Safe Access as Researcher of the Year at the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington D.C., and was also featured in CNN’s Weed III with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Wow that’s a mouthful. Welcome to CannaInsider Dr. Sisley.

Dr. Sisley: Thank you so much. Yeah, that’s a lot, but we really appreciate all the kind words.

Matthew: Well I’m so glad to have you on, and thank you for your research. To give listeners an idea of your background, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing with your research and who you are?

Dr. Sisley: Sure yeah. I’m basically a primary care doc. I’m trained in internal medicine and psychiatry. So mostly I just see patients full time here over telemedicine actually. So I see patients strictly over video conferencing. I take care of a lot of military veterans and police and fire that have PTSD. So that’s slowly become an area of specialty for me. Basically about, I don’t know, it’s been about five years now that we submitted our initial study design to the FDA, and that study, as you described, a randomized control trial looking at veterans with PTSD and hoping that we could… we planned to look at four different phenotypes of smoked marijuana in these vets. And what was surprising was the FDA was really welcoming of this concept.

I think people presume that the FDA is the blockade, but they’ve been working collaboratively with their physician investigators primarily so they understand the need for whole plant marijuana to go through the entire FDA drug development process. And I think they’re eager to see that happen. So it was only a few months later, you know, we worked with the FDA to optimize the study design and finally in April 2011 is when we got our FDA approval. But as you can see since then we’ve been battling the government at all levels to try to get this underway, and we still have not been allowed to implement this study five years later. We’re still struggling to move forward.

Matthew: Now do you get the cannabis from their Mississippi grow. I know the federal government has like a grow in Mississippi where they’re… I don’t know how much cannabis they’re cultivating. Do you use that, or can you get it through your own means or how does that work?

Dr. Sisley: That’s exactly right. There’s only one legal source of marijuana in the country for any FDA approved trials and that is through the cultivation center at the University of Mississippi. So the DEA has licensed only one site in the country through NIDA. So the National Institute of Drug Abuse holds a government enforced monopoly on the only federally legal supply of marijuana, and it’s deeply frustrating because after years of fighting we finally managed to persuade the public health service to approve our protocol. They approved it with no changes required, and that happened in March of last year. And here we are now in April, you know, over a year later and we still do not have the marijuana study drug to get this process underway.

And I think that’s what we’re all deeply frustrated by fact that this NIDA monopoly continues to obstruct research. There’s proof of this over and over again where they are unable to produce the variety of marijuana that scientists are requesting. They’re unable to produce it in a timely manner. They’re unable to provide competitive pricing. So any other expert grower in the country could have had study drug grown to spec for us within three months, but only the federal government, it takes them over a year and they still don’t have all the phenotypes we’ve requested. And so we’re still in limbo waiting for NIDA to produce this fourth strain of marijuana that we requested back in 2011. So it’s nothing new. It’s just that it’s clear they’re not competent.

Matthew: Yeah, yeah. That’s frustrating. And what kind of varieties do you want to execute your research in a optimal way?

Dr. Sisley: So we requested, one the study is a high THC strain which is something that they are, you know, NIDA has certainly mastered that. So that was no problem. They already had high THC, and they already had a placebo control. You know NIDA makes a zero percent THC marijuana that, you know, they basically take the plant and leech out all the cannabinoids. So you have an inner plant material that looks the same, smells the same. And then the other two arms are particularly important though. Those are part of our hypothesis is that we suspect that CBD rich strains of marijuana may perform the best in these veterans with PTSD, but that all remains to be tested. But that’s what we suspect just from interviewing vets over the last few years.

And so we requested also a high CBD formula, you know, a high CBD strain that would be basically 12 percent CBD with under 1 percent other cannabinoids. And then the fourth strain is the one that is perplexing NIDA is the 1 to 1 ratio of 12 percent CBD and 12 percent THC. And we have provided NIDA with numerous examples of other outlets that are growing this exact strain without any difficulty, and we’re not sure why, NIDA is asking us to accept a suboptimal strain that they have managed to produce. I think it’s 4 or 5 percent THC and a similar amount, a similar ratio of CBD.

I think it’s just disappointing that this is what we’re stuck with, that we have to accept the substandard product that NIDA is able to produce when in fact there’s growers all over the country who would be delighted to participate, and many of them have offered. As you can imagine, they all want to see independent research move forward. So they’ve all offered to donate study drug to us for free, but unfortunately we can accept any of that because we have to go through the NIDA monopoly which really should be dismantled. And I’m hoping that our experience, you know, being able to show the public the ridiculous hurdles we’ve had to go through dealing with NIDA, that it’s clear that they don’t deserve this monopoly anymore.

They’ve proven over and over again that they cannot meet the mandates of this monopoly which requires them to provide an adequate and uninterrupted supply marijuana at cost and at competitive pricing. And they haven’t been able to do, I mean I would hardly say that waiting… it looks like we’re going to be waiting a year and a half to get study drug. I would hardly call that an uninterrupted supply. Especially when you’re talking about a study with such a dire need. You know, the sense of urgency around this study is so clear that you would think that the government would absolutely instead of stonewalling the study, you’d think the government would make this a high priority and expedite this. But instead it’s been five years of struggles with the government at all levels.

And yet here we have a real epidemic of veteran suicide. We’ve got vets that are killing themselves each day in this country at a very high rate, much more than the 22 a day that’s being reported by the VA. And so the need… could marijuana help some of these vets? Could this marijuana have curbed this epidemic of veteran suicide? I think that’s what we’re all wondering. If there’s a chance that, you know, if the suicide rate is related to untreated or undertreated PTSD, then could marijuana have helped. These are the questions we hope to answer with this study.

Matthew: Wow that sounds like quite a bureaucracy. It’s hard to even fathom a system being that broken, but kudos to you for sticking with it. We really appreciate it. With PTSD, I mean, that’s an acronym we’ve all heard and we know it stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but what’s exactly happening? What’s going on there with PTSD with the human individual behaviors? Can you help us understand that better?

Dr. Sisley: Yeah sure. It’s clear there’s some changes in the brain that occur when people are exposed to trauma, profound trauma. Sometimes they manifest early, you know, right after the trauma and sometimes there’s a delayed reaction months later. Symptoms can suddenly appear. It’s a constellation of varied symptoms that include everything from… I would say the hallmark of it is probably sleep disturbances that are mediated by nightmares and flashbacks that prevent sound sleep at night. So that’s the hallmark, you know, that’s the chief complaint that we hear that usually brings people in the office who said they have chronic sleep deprivation from these relentless memories, recurring memories at night, what we call flashbacks and nightmares.

So yeah that’s… and then there’s a whole other list of associated symptoms that are common with PTSD such as a downturn in mood where people feel either overtly depressed or just vague vegetative symptoms like apathy and they’re unable to get motivate. Sometimes they don’t even want to get out of bed. They feel either so fearful or so apathetic, so hopeless about the future. And then you know there’s all kinds of other symptoms like anxiety is really a paramount problem. Anxiety and panic attacks tend to be clearly associated with this when PTSD is not well-controlled. People can feel constantly fearful, on guard all the time, you know, in kind of a war… what we call a hyper vigilance. They’re constantly worried that they’re under siege. So that’s typical.

So what happens is the medicines that we have on the market are really ineffective. There’s only two medications that are available with an FDA indication for PTSD and that’s Zoloft and Paxil. And those two meds are really problematic because often they don’t work, but yet they’re riddled with all kinds of side effects like impotence, weight gain, a feeling of lethargy. So if you’re these guys, the vets come back and want to reintegrate into their family and their community. Their top priority is getting a full time job and being able to enjoy their family life again, and yet they’re plagued by all these frustrating medication side effects. Because the problem is when Zoloft and Paxil don’t work, then we physicians turn to all kinds of off-label uses of other FDA approved medicines. So we’ll use all kinds of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers and benzodiazepines and fleet meds. We’ll use them all off label to treat all these other target symptoms because we don’t know what else to do.

We feel, the physician community feels equally helpless as the patients do because this is such a complex syndrome and typically in psychiatry we take a different prescription to target each of these different symptoms. And so you can imagine how devastating this is for these vets because the first medicine doesn’t work and then we add two or three more and then the next time they come in they’re still having all these breakthrough symptoms that might be different. So they may have the added three or four prescriptions at that point. Suddenly these guys are on six to ten different prescriptions all for one diagnosis, PTSD.

So that’s why I’ve become so fascinated by marijuana because it appears that these veterans are using marijuana as monotherapy for their PTSD. So they’re able, with a single plant, able to manage the entire constellation of PTSD symptoms and actually be functional. So my impressions of marijuana before I started listening to these veterans and hearing their claims, their successful experiences with the plant, I was under the impression that this plant was really undesirable for patients. That it was really… it caused a lot of problem in people’s lives, a lot of dependency and that it was riddled with tons of side effects. And then I come to learn from patients that in fact some of my most high functioning patients are the ones who are using cannabis every day to manage their PTSD. A lot of them just use it at night for instance to help them initiate sleep. And then they wake up feeling refreshed for the first time. The first time users that’s what they report often is that they got their first good night’s sleep of their life in years, and they wake up feeling functional again. Like they can take on the day and really… and the drug is so short acting if it’s smoked or vaporized that they can actually wake up feeling alert, rested and not impaired, able to take on a full time job if needed.

Matthew: So we talked a little bit about CBD earlier, but we didn’t go in detail. Something like an indica which helps you become more restful and sleep that would make sense for a night time usage. Are you seeing or considering a CBD heavy strain of medicine to be something that would be more applicable for the day to keep the paranoia or under siege type of feeling at bay?

Dr. Sisley: Yeah I wish we knew. We talked at one point about actually adjusting protocol to meet the real world use. It’s clear that these veterans are often alternating strains. They’ll use a more activating strain in the daytime, and then a more sedating strain before bed time. And so I would like to be able to do that at some point, but unfortunately this study they get assigned a single phenotype for stage one. They may be rerandomized, I mean they will be rerandomized into a different strain for the crossover on. There’s a stage two where they’ll be assigned a different phenotype of marijuana, but they won’t get to adjust, you know, and utilize different strains during the same day. It will only, they’ll be assigned one strain for the entire three weeks and then rerandomized after that.

Yeah, but I think that’s a great point. I think that CBD rich marijuana certainly offers a lot of potential, but the import thing in our studies we don’t want to discount these other phenotypes that may also provide benefit or may be detrimental. I mean that’s the whole point of the study is to figure out if marijuana is helpful and then if so which strains might be best for this illness and which ones they should avoid because it’s possible, certainly we have concerns about high THC strains promoting psychosis or possibly exacerbating somebody’s existing anxiety, panic attacks. So we want to really study that aggressively in all of the strains to make sure that hopefully there will be data later that will shed light on all of these questions.

There’s a lot of vets who have not used marijuana yet. I know that everybody thinks that all the vets are active. In fact many of my patients have not tried it yet and they’re waiting for this study to get underway because they’re fearful about the side effects, and they’d like to do it in a controlled environment where they can be medically managed. So I’m excited to see them go through that process. But there are a lot of vet who won’t embark on marijuana until this data is available because these are veterans who value science. They don’t want to put things into their body that haven’t gone through the proper drug development process. So I think I admire that as much as I admire these other veterans who have the courage to try this on their own and experiment with their own observational studies.

Matthew: Now how many vets would you estimate you’ve worked with over the years?

Dr. Sisley: Oh I would say probably over a thousand that I’ve dealt with one on one, and then probably several thousand over the, you know, I first became acquainted with veterans during my residency training here at the Phoenix VA Hospital, and I was immediately enchanted by them. Their candor or just… those were my favorite rotations. They would let us rotate at the Phoenix VA. Everybody else dreaded it because the system there was so inept. But I loved it and I really welcomed it.

But anyway, so I’ve been seeing veteran patients now for about 20 years since then, and I worked at the Phoenix VA for a few years. But the system, I could handle how dysfunctional that system was. So eventually I left, but I continued to see them here in my private practice. I have a sliding scale indigene clinic where they would pay $5 and come see me here.

The veterans are the ones who’ve been teaching me. I didn’t know anything about marijuana except this sliver of information that I got in medical school that condemned marijuana as a deeply dangerous drug and something that should be avoided at all costs. And so the veterans have been teaching me about their experiences with various phenotypes of marijuana, various formulations. And I’ve been really fortunate to have so much insight from them because otherwise I wouldn’t know anything. And only recently has the medical community started to talk more openly about the potential medical benefits here.

Matthew: Now I want to get into what happened with the University of Arizona because it’s kind of like a reality TV show in terms of the drama they put you through, but I think it’s important for people to understand. Can you kind of describe your at the University of Arizona, what happened, how they let you go and how you’ve come to Colorado to continue your research?

Dr. Sisley: Yeah well what happened was I’d been working there. I think I was on faculty there about seven years in a variety… I had three different contracts there. So I was an Assistant Professor. I was Assistant Director of the Interprofessional Education at the telemedicine program. So that was how I started most of my work there in telemedicine. And then my third contract just started last year where I was the Director of a grant. We received a three year, fully funded grant from the state health department to educate physicians about the medical marijuana law.

It was a huge breakthrough because I’d been fighting for years to try to persuade… our health department in Arizona had at that time about a $9 million surplus, and it was really fascinating to me that that surplus was voter protected. So it couldn’t be swept by the legislature. It was just sitting in the health department trying to figure out what to do. The law, the ballot initiative language didn’t allow for that to be used for research. They claimed it could only be used for administration of the medical marijuana programs.

So the physician community started an outcry saying hey we think it’s negligent that the state would sell 60,000 card, medical marijuana cards to patients without actively conducting clinical research. So we were arguing that that money should have been allocated to research as part of administering the program. So we felt it was within the language of the law to use that money. And so that’s how I started to get in the crosshairs of some very extremist legislators here. I don’t want to just chastise the Republicans because I’m a lifelong Republican and there are plenty of good, sensible, pragmatic Republicans here, but there are a few extremists who have gone on record to say that they believe that marijuana research is kind of a sham. It’s just a strategy to promote marijuana legalization, and I think they’re very fearful that rigorous science like this type of study might actually uncover some of the benefits of marijuana. And they have to make sure that that data never sees the light of day.

So they were adamantly opposed to the point where Senator Biggs, one of our… our Senate President actually tried to initiate an amendment to a bill buried deep deep into a long, a lengthy bill where nobody would have seen it, but we managed to get a copy of it, and it said that basically no state dollars would ever go to support marijuana research at the universities. And that was really alarming to me because that would have basically decimated any future of doing marijuana research anywhere in Arizona. And so I of course notified and took that amendment and sent it out to all the media and told them look, this is what we’re up against here, and the media descended on Senator Biggs office and he immediately retracted that language. So fortunately it didn’t go through as legislation, but it could have.

Things like that obviously get buried in bills and suddenly become policy without anybody noticing. And so that was a huge, really important intervention, but it put me in the crosshairs with the legislative leadership, and I sense he’s been gumming for me ever since then. He was the one, he was quoted in the New York Times articles as saying that he contacted the University of Arizona at that point and told them that he wanted me fired. And that was sort of the smoking gun in that New York Times article where he was quoted and this was fact checked by the way. They came back to him to confirm that he really meant to say this, but he said he contacted the U of A and said that Dr. Sisley was advocating too vigorously for this study, I think was the language.

Matthew: Too vigorously.

Dr. Sisley: Yeah, and the University of Arizona came, they said well we’re looking into it, and then Tim B. who is the chief lobbyist there, he was also quoted in the New York Times saying we are taking care of her. And then literally a couple of months later I was terminated. But I had already, you know, I knew this was under way because I had already received a call from the Vice President of Health Sciences at the University of Arizona had confronted me on the phone and said that he was getting a lot of flak from the university President and the Vice President, Terry Thompson. So it was clear that the university administration had serious problems with my research because there were so many legislative leaders, not so many but there were a few legislators, who had deep concerns about the universities hosting this kind of work. And the problem is those legislative leaders are the same one who also control the university budget.

And so, you know, I knew that I was doomed at that point. I knew that my existence at the… but what was even more interesting to people is that I was just embarking on, you know, this grant from the health department would have enabled us to educate physicians statewide about how the medical marijuana law works. And we had just finished, you know, we were prepping a speaker’s bureau. We had amassed an incredible team of super talented, really conservative physicians to go around and talk to their colleagues about medical marijuana law and the notion that you can participate safely in that program without being censured by your licensing board. These are all messages that the mainstream medical community was not getting.

So here in Arizona we’ve got 60,000 card holders now, but none of them go to see their doctor and get a card because no regular MDs or DOs will write a recommendation for these patients because they’re so scared of their license being harmed or the DEA coming down on them. So what happens is all of these patients are stuck going through these certification centers which are basically naturopaths who work there full time seeing patients in bulk and authorizing cards. That’s not an optimal way, you know, ideally what we want is a patient to go have a private discussion with their doctor who’ve they’ve known for years and they would have an intimate dialogue about the pros and cons of marijuana. Is this a good choice.

That was the idea, but that’s never been able to happen here, and that’s why we started this educational campaign. So we were just getting ready to launch this speaker’s bureau when the contract was stripped, and I would say the University of Arizona even blindsided the health department. The health department was so pleased with our work. We had vetted all of the educational tools, you know, what they call the deliverables. We put together a training video. We put together all these educational drop off materials and a website, and all of it had been vetted through the health department, and suddenly they get this letter from the University of Arizona saying, thank you very much for your money, but we are returning it all back to you. We no longer want to participate in this grant, and thank you for the offer.

And so they ship back all the money. They terminated the process so we couldn’t even embark on the educating. So that’s how scared people are here in Arizona about the mainstream medical community learning about medical marijuana law because that might actually grow the program if regular MDs and DOs started certifying their own patients, that’s very damaging to the opponents of this program who are really mad. Our legislators are angry that the voters here in Arizona passed medical marijuana law. They feel that this is a huge devastation and they are determined. Every year they try to repeal the medical marijuana law. They do everything they can to denigrate it. They’ve created a crusade now called Marijuana Harmless, Think Again. And it’s a so-called educational campaign that was developed by our county attorneys here to go take this statewide. And I would argue basically to brainwash elected officials that marijuana is a deeply toxic drug that will cause generational genocide.

Matthew: Wow. Now is there some force behind this you feel like besides… because it seems like politicians are motivated unfortunately just by campaign contributions. It’s hard for them to do anything unless there’s some sort of campaign contribution behind it. Do you see, or in your opinion is there any group behind funding this type of misinformation?

Dr. Sisley: Definitely yeah. I think there’s three groups that are clearly involved. We have law enforcement so the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Association here and other law enforcement groups are clearly behind the opposition effort. And then we also have private prisons. In Arizona private prisons dominate the landscape here, and they have a very aggressive lobbying team that will work at all costs to try to end medical marijuana in this state. They are really upset because you can imagine with 60,000 card holders, now suddenly those are 60,000 patients that are protected from being thrown in their cages. So they’re really unhappy about this law, and they’re working hard to try to make sure that elected officials know their displeasure with this.

And then of course the biggest obstacle we have is Big Pharma. The pharmaceutical companies have a deeply vested interest in thwarting any marijuana research because they know that if whole plant marijuana ever was allowed to go through the FDA drug development process, that would be a huge threat to their business model. Already we’re seeing that threat playing out in the veterans community where more and more veterans are having the courage to walk away from all of their FDA approved medicines and utilize cannabis alone to manage the whole variety of their medical ailment. So it’s been impressive. So that’s, you know, you can imagine how threatening that is to Big Pharma because they see their profits diminishing as more and more people are embracing marijuana as monotherapy or even just, you know, imagine all the companies that make pain pills. If patients are not so heavily dependent on their mega dosages of opioids and instead are utilizing marijuana as an adjunct to pain control. Then that means that rather than receiving 300 oxycontin per month, they are only picking up thirty. That’s very problematic for pharmaceutical companies.

Matthew: And what happens to someone’s liver if they take that much of a opiate in pill form? That’s got to be destructive I would imagine.

Dr. Sisley: Yeah it can be. Yeah over time if the liver’s exposed to mega dosages of opioids for years, you know on a daily basis for years, and then you combine that with other potentially liver toxic meds like a lot of the opioids have Tylenol in them. A lot of patients drink along with their pain pills. So if you’re drinking that’s a lot of stuff that’s toxic to the liver. So yeah over time that can diminish liver function and possibly even cause liver failure down the road. So we want to try to examine the possibility of marijuana as like a harm reduction technique that possibly people could utilize marijuana in lieu of being dependent on so many highly addictive prescription meds. Apparently it’s okay in the eyes of the DEA. It’s acceptable to use mega dosages of oxycontin, but as long as you’re not using marijuana. So the way the scheduling of drugs is done in this country.

Matthew: Yeah, gosh, that is so disturbing, those three interest groups you mention; private prisons and Big Pharma. Especially when you think about the revolving door between Big Pharma and a lot of the regulatory agencies combined with lobbyist pressure and money. But obviously grassroots does have an effect. I mean calling state senators and representatives in particular, they do listen and tally what people are calling in about, probably less so at the federal level. But I encourage everybody to let their state representatives know how they feel about what they see going on and what Sue’s describing here. Sue, you know, Arizona’s loss is Colorado’s gain. Can you tell us a little bit about recent developments with your research in the State of Colorado?

Dr. Sisley: Yeah, well we were so fortunate that you guys in Colorado passed the bill that we could not pass. Yeah we tried so hard to take some of our support’s money and allocate it to research, but the forces against us were too severe. So in the end Colorado took, out of their $13 million surplus, they took $9 million and allocated it toward ethicacy research. And I would say, you know, I really applaud Colorado because that’s probably some of the first money available to study the effectiveness of marijuana. All the other marijuana research money in the country through NIDA is only looking at safety studies, meaning the harmful side effects of marijuana or the abuse potential of marijuana, but there’s very little funding at all to look at ethicacy.

So this is it, you know, the Colorado Health Department took about $8 million of that $9 million and allocated it to 8 different projects. And our project received a $2.1 million grant.

Matthew: That’s awesome.

Dr. Sisley: Yeah, to conduct this randomized controlled trial. So the good news though about Colorado’s funding is it doesn’t preclude me working anywhere in the country. And since this is where the research was originally conceived, and this is where our opponents exist, I think the only victory for scientific freedom is to conduct this research in the state where it was barred, you know, where it was terminated. So our goal is to try to keep this right here in Arizona and keep it in the backyards of our opponents so that they’re forced to examine it and see that there is really nothing to be afraid of. And I hope that’s… we’re planning to actually sign a lease here in the next week out in North Scottsdale, and we intend to enroll… we have about a half million veterans living throughout Arizona. And I refuse to turn my back on these vets.

Many of them have been fighting side-by-side with us for the last few years trying to help us kick down the doors of the government and get this study underway finally. So I don’t want to walk away from them. Part of their hope was that the study, you know, that not just it would be implemented, but it would be implemented in a location where they could take advantage of that. And so I’m hoping that we can start screening people here. We already, the good news is we already have IRB approval. So even though all three universities in Arizona failed to embrace this study despite our best advocacy efforts, not a single state university had the backbone to find a home for this work. It was really sad.

So in the end we went through a private IRB, Copernicus, and got our letter of approval a few weeks ago. So that was a huge triumph because it proves that we don’t need a state university. We never did. We just wanted to, you know, we wanted the optics of being aligned with a prestigious public institution, and unfortunately universities, the soul of our tax payer supported universities have changed so much. The soul of these institutions used to be… used to take pride in creating a sanctuary for this type of rigorous, kind of controversial research that was cutting edge. They used to be that sandbox of innovation, but now they run from studies like this.

The word marijuana is so politically radioactive that they don’t want to come near it. They just could never wrap their head around the optics of how do they allow veterans to smoke pot on campus. They couldn’t figure out how to do that, and we gave them so many opportunities. We made it so easy for them. We said that all we needed was a simple office space that we could construct a very straightforward air scrubbing system, but they couldn’t fathom how to do it. And instead of thinking through and trying to be ingenious they shut us out. So in the end we’re going to be much… I think we’re going to be able to prove that we can do the study much more efficiently and inexpensively by being independent and outside of the university system. There’s so much bureaucracy within the universities. The process would have been slowed down tremendously by all the ridiculous signature gathering, a need for a myriad of approvals at every turn.

You know here we’re still going to continue to have very aggressive monitoring. Just because we’re independent and unaffiliated we are going to have a relentless amount of internal and external monitoring from the FDA, from the IRB, from the DEA. It’s going to be unbelievable. I feel sorry for our study coordinator who’s going to have to be managing. But it’s worth it to us because we want to have true data integrity. We want to be 100 percent transparent with the public. So when we get underway everybody’s going to be allowed to examine. Our doors are open to anyone who is interested in looking at how marijuana research is conducted in this country.

And we want… we intend to put all of the data out into the public domain, the good and the bad. And that’s really important to me. That was the only reason I was willing to work on this project is because I knew that unlike previous studies I’d been involved in with Big Pharma where you do studies where there’s so much pressure to make the numbers look a certain way. And then when the data does not make their drug look favorable, they simply suppress those studies. But we don’t do that. Here this data is all going to be put into the public domain for everyone to scrutinize, to evaluate, to understand what, if any, therapeutic value marijuana has in PTSD.

So I’m really excited. And I think that’s really what I wanted to emphasize for your audience is just that we are going to collect the most objective data. It’s going to have supreme data integrity and we’re all blinded, independent investigators. None of us have any agenda here other than to collect data that is truly unassailable and be able to publish that in peer reviewed medical journals so that we can share some enlightenment with our mainstream medical community. So I’m really excited about that. That’s my only… I’m not part of… I’ve never used marijuana personally in any formulation. I’m not part of the industry and I don’t own dispensaries. I have no vested interest in the outcome of this data. I only want us to try to help answer questions for the public. Obviously the public is, you know, with the growing number of states that are adopting medical marijuana laws, I think we have a duty to all of these patients to collect objective data and get it published, and see if we can create some enlightenment here and see if we can push the need for science over politics.

Matthew: Now some people are saying that there’s certain psychedelics that may be helpful for PTSD or other neurological disorder. I believe you’re involved with MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Do you believe that at all? Is there MDMA, maybe psychedelic mushrooms mushrooms or anything else that might be able to help people with certain disorders?

Dr. Sisley: Yeah I think the data is already available from MAPS that’s showing remarkable results with MDMA and PTSD. And MDMA, also known as Ecstasy. What MAPS is studying is a very purified form of research grade MDMA in minute dosages that are delivered to patients within the context of a very structured psychotherapy program. So nobody’s arguing that MDMA is a treatment for PTSD, but MDMA assisted psychotherapy seems to be extremely valuable. So much so that the FDA has now allowed MAPS to move into Phase III, and that is incredible.

So MAPS has been doing Phase II trials on MDMA and PTSD now for a few years, and they’ve finally gotten approval to move into Phase III. And you know after Phase III, if the data looks feasible, then the FDA could approve MDMA assisted psychotherapy to be on the market as a legitimate treatment option where patients could actually get MDMA through an insurance company formulary. So that would be an incredible breakthrough, and I think that’s the goal is to put MDMA through the entire FDA drug development process just in the same way MAPS is trying to do that with marijuana.

And so I think that this is exciting, and what’s even more thrilling about that intervention is that the Phase II trials look like… I think their data showed that they were getting 80 percent of the patients were actually going into remission. I might be wrong on that number, but I know it was definitely a majority of the patients were finding that their PTSD was going into remission. I mean that is extraordinary because that’s completely different than marijuana. The profile of marijuana is that it seems to be very effective in symptom control, but nobody, not any veterans are arguing it’s a cure for PTSD. They’re just saying it seems to be useful in managing daily symptoms. But the notion that MDMA could actually put PTSD into remission eventually is a tremendous gift to these folks that are suffering. And so we’ll see what Phase III show, but I’m really excited. Phase III is usually, you know, 1,000 patients over many many different sites around the country. So we’ll see how quickly they can enroll people and start really elucidating that further.

Matthew: Well thanks so much for educating us about PTSD and all the work and research you’re doing, Dr. Sue. This is amazing what you’re doing here, and we really appreciate it, the cannabis community. As we close, what’s the best way for listeners to follow and support your work?

Dr. Sisley: Yeah actually I would go to MAPS. So www.maps.org is the best. They update their website regularly, and you can even sign up for a newsletter there and get an update in your email learning about, you know, and this is particularly important right now because hopefully NIDA will eventually have the final arm of our study drug and we can… we hope to get underway this summer. So if the NIDA monopoly gets dismantled or if NIDA finally figures out how to grow the marijuana we need, then we may be screening patients as early as June and enrolling people in July and getting this study rolling finally. So if your audience has veterans that have combat related PTSD and want to be screened, that’s the way to do it is go through the MAPS website and they’ll start advertising probably an 800 number they can call.

Matthew: Okay. Well Dr. Sisley, thank you so much for being on CannaInsider today, we really appreciate it.

Dr. Sisley: You bet. Thank you for the invite, and I look forward, hopefully you’ll let me update you down the road once we get started.

Matthew: Oh for sure.

Dr. Sisley: That would be great. All right thank you again.

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.

The PotBot will Educate and Help Dispensary Customers Find the Right Strain

David Goldstein of Potbotics

David Goldstein is the co-founder of Potbotics. Potbotics flagship product is Potbot. PotBot is a unique medical marijuana recommendation engine that uses cutting edge neural-net algorithms to recommend cannabinoid levels and custom strains to medical marijuana patients. By combining scientific data and crowdsourced reviews, PotBot’s desktop and mobile app will guide patients toward the appropriate strain and consumption method for their specific ailments, eliminating the need for patients to experiment with different strains themselves.

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the FREE iPhone app or Android App*

Key Takeaways:
[1:09] – What is Potbotics
[1:31] – David’s background
[2:39] – Epilepsy and cannabis
[3:26] – David explains what Pot Bot is
[5:48] – David talks about his robotics team
[6:39] – Decision making process around purchasing the Pot Bot
[7:56] – David talks about Brain Bot
[11:50] – David talks about the restrictions on the medical cannabis law in NY
[13:31] – David explains the changes that cannabis has on the brain
[14:38] – What is Potbotics Nano
[16:45] – Contact details for Potbotics

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Do you know that feeling when you sense opportunity, when you see something before most people and you just know it will be successful, then you're ready. Ready for CannaInsider Consulting. Learn more at www.canninsider.com/consulting. Now here's your program.

As more first time patients and customers arrive at dispensaries, they have questions. Those questions center around how the cannabis plant can help them with their specific needs. David Goldstein of Potbotics aims to introduce technology that will help patients get their questions answered. Welcome to CannaInsider David.

David: Hey, pleasure to be here today Matt.

Matthew: To give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today?

David: I’m currently at our New York Office. We’re bi-coastal. We have offices in Silicon Valley and New York.

Matthew: Okay great. And what is Potbotics exactly?

David: So Potbotics is a software and technology company, and they’re really aimed at elevating the education and the overall cannabis industry to higher standards to really add some more transparency to the cannabis buying process.

Matthew: Okay. And what’s your background? How did you come to start Potbotics?

David: Actually I’m an integrated marking communications background, and I was actually looking at my father’s work. He’s a cofounder here at the company. And he was working with pre-Alzheimer’s patients doing diagnostics with them, see the cognitive abilities and then following up with them with pharmaceuticals to see if their cognitive abilities improved and whether they were actually fighting off dementia. And I became very interested in quantifying neuro responses to pharmaceuticals and general cognitive testing. And I kind of came to him with the ambitious goal of can we quantify the effects of cannabis? Can we start basing some of our recommendations in a more quantified format versus subjective patients coming back and saying, you know, I feel better. From a one through ten model this is how this benefitted me. I wanted to see if we could actually break it down into a little bit more of a stronger, scientific foundation.

Matthew: Any general anecdotal evidence so far that you can talk about in terms of pre-Alzheimer’s or just dementia patients benefitting from cannabis at all or is it still too early?

David: Well we actually haven’t dived into Alzheimer’s patients and cannabis, but we did start looking at epileptic patients. One of the reasons that epilepsy was a great first target for us was that epilepsy is very strongly grounded in the EEG spectrum. In fact it’s right now used to diagnose epilepsy and to help treat epilepsy. And epileptic spikes on an EEG spectrum is very clearly defined. So that helped us really move forward with giving different cannabinoid dosages. Can we see relief from those epileptic spikes and really start building ground work for different bio markers and indicators that there is relief thanks to different cannabinoids.

Matthew: Now tell us a little bit about Pot Bot. What is that and who uses it?

David: Absolutely. So Pot Bot is a cannabis recommendation engine, but it is very different than what’s currently out and available in the market. Rather than recommending patients strain names, that we have found in our research really are only marketing level, branding level indicators of what the medical benefits of cannabis really are, we wanted to add a little bit more transparency. So rather than recommending the strain outright, we ask a patient to fill out a brief for about their age, their weight, what ailment they’re currently suffering from, what they’re looking to get relief from. And then rather than recommending the strain outright, we recommend a cannabinoid level and a cannabinoid ratio.

And only then do we say these strains tend to fall into this category of having these cannabinoids. So that when a patient goes to a dispensary they know what they’re looking for. Either some level of CBN or level of CBD and an education as to what science is behind recommending that cannabinoid so that they have a better understanding oh I understand where my medicinal benefit is coming from. It’s not coming from something called White Widow. It’s coming from the ratio of cannabinoids within the actual plant. And that’s a mobile phone, a desktop app and also a robotic kiosk that can be placed inside dispensaries to give some third party validation to actual cannabis recommendation.

Matthew: And since we’re only on audio here, how would you describe what the Pot Bot looks like? Because when you say and engine it’s actually something like a moving kiosk or like a robot looking device isn’t it?

David: Yeah it’s a robotic kiosk. That’s the one that goes into dispensaries, also a smart phone app and website a patient can visit. But the actual robotic kiosk is about a 4 foot high lime green… it’s really a robot with a monitor on it. The first model that we have is mobile, but as we actually roll these out to dispensaries and find that they want them to be a little bit more customized. So the Pot Bot green one is kind of our signature model. I definitely spent a lot of time working on it so we actually found it almost has a personality for me. When you see them rolled out that they’ll be in different colors and really customized to different dispensaries’ needs.

Matthew: Now do you have a skill set in robotics or do you have someone on your team that has a skill set with that? I mean how does that work?

David: Yeah we have a robotics team with us. We were originally working on security features for the cannabis industry, and out of that really came the necessity to have a medium that patients interacted with, something that had inventory, something that helps the dispensaries meet state regulations and compliance issues by making sure that prevalent information was presented in an easy way. And that was really where Pot Bot orginially came about, but as we dive further into that robotics we saw that an actual engine was of much need because of again, the kind of lack of transparency on the medical side of where those medical benefits come from.

Matthew: So if I’m a dispensary owner and I’m considering a Pot Bot, what’s my decision making process? What’s the cost? Can this replace a human being? What are some of the considerations there?

David: Well the way that we see is that the Pot Bot wouldn’t replace necessarily a bud tender completely, but it would help expedite orders from the waiting room, and it also helped dispensaries meet those state compliancy issues. So the conversation that we usually have with dispensary owners when they come in is that we talk about okay what solution are you looking for? Are you looking for this to have security capabilities? Are you looking for this to integrate with your POS? And are you looking for more of like an information portal? And depending on really what the dispensary’s needs are we create a customized Pot Bot for them or a customize several stationary kiosks that really fit the model of what their dispensary is trying to achieve. So maybe a recreational dispensary would be more interested in a different type of interface than a more medical one that would really want to focus on the medical process, the different consumption methods and educating patients in that way.

Matthew: And what do these retail for, Pot Bot?

David: Yeah so we’re doing a leasing model right now. Usually the bot runs around $2,000 to $2,500 and then we work out a leasing model with the actual store to make an affordable plan for them.

Matthew: Okay. Now you have another product that measures brain waves. Can you tell us about that?

David: Absolutely. So what Brain Bot is is that it utilizes EEG technology to better understand and quantify the neuro response to cannabis. This is something that hasn’t launched yet. We’re looking at about a Quarter 3, Quarter 4 launch in 2015. But what we envision is that it will enable general practitioners and doctors that are already recommending cannabis to better personalize the cannabis recommendation based on a patient’s actual neuro response to cannabinoids. The way that works is that we ask patients to come into general physicians office that have Brain Bot, and to run a baseline EEG to understand base brain activity. And then after a few visits of getting post cannabinoid dosages, we could start creating a model of relief and specific to that patient to better recommend the cannabinoid levels and really make the cannabis recommendation process that’s very personal for them so that they understand when they go to the dispensary that this is the cannabinoid level that we’re looking for for my actual ailment. And it’s been shown to have relief and have followed up with those doctors and in quantified format to see oh wow these different strains actually have been benefitting this patient in these great ways.

Matthew: So can you give us an example of how you see this being ideally used, perhaps a symptom or disorder that you could dial in with the Brain Bot?

David: Absolutely. So we started our research with more neurological disorders because those were much more clearly based on EEG spectrum foundations. And I would like to use again, I think the case of epilepsy is just very clear. So on an EEG on an EEG spectrum that is epileptic spikes are very clearly defined. It’s really what any emergency room or a neurologist, what they would be looking for. So what we would do is that we’d actually give different dosages of cannabinoids. We’ve been working with inhalers and we’ve been working with actually pills. No one’s actually smoking in a doctor’s office.

But we have different variations of those ratios that are very clearly controlled, and by giving patients different ratios we could start understanding oh wow, this patient reacted really well to this ratio of cannabinoid. We saw that his epileptic spike went down by this percentage. Let’s have him come in one more time. Let’s have him have a different percentage and see was there more relief, was there less relief. And then slowly a model starts to come together that’s much clearer on the actual cannabinoid levels that are benefitting that patient. It’s a very different approach than what the current industry is taking with kind of a general cannabis recommendation and then it’s really up to the dispensary to fill out the other side of that agree to actually give the patient something that will benefit them. Just to add some more transparency to actually create a protocol for a doctor to actually examine medical history and run a test to actually start understanding what is best for this patient as an individual rather than sending them to a dispensary or even just talking to a bud tender.

Matthew: Right so even though New York the outline of how the laws will work there for cannabis seem harsh to those of us in Colorado or perhaps California. Since the cannabis will be in oil form, I believe, it might lend itself more to being prescribed by doctors in the way you’re describing. Then a doctor’s not going to say, like you mentioned, like hey here’s a gram of White Widow. They want something a lot more technical and objective that has some sort of science behind it, and this might be kind of the first step in that direction. So that’s a silver lining with New York being somewhat repressive. And then it depends on your perspective. Maybe you don’t think it’s repressive, but compared to Colorado or Washington, it certainly would be for sure.

David: Definitely compared to Colorado and Washington, it’s a very different approach to medical cannabis. It’s one that New York has been dubbed “vape state” when they really only want people vaporizing instead of smoking. How does the logistics work behind that? How is that enacted? Those are still questions up in the air, but one of the main reasons that we really wanted to have representatives and offices on both coasts is kind of that different mentality. The West Coast in our opinion is a little bit more relaxed with smoking, and general cannabis laws. I know as the East Coast starts adapting more medical cannabis laws, it’s much more strict.

I think there’s a lot of different reasons why the East Coast has chosen a more medical approach, one that is more grounded in other medical practices. But I wouldn’t say that New York is necessarily hindering, and nonetheless it’s very exciting that New York enacted a law that will help medical patients and as Potbotics moves forward on the East and West Coast, we’re excited to see a state take on this type of a law because it really does correlate and really merge well with our vision and with our ability to again based more on medical history with an actual analysis, and make more of a real medical setting. Which I would argue California was missing when they first enacted their medical law.

Matthew: Now just back to Brain Bot for a second. I’m curious and I’m sure other listeners out there are curious as well. When someone hasn’t taken cannabis or they’re not high and then they consume cannabis, what are some of the typical changes to brain function you see when you’re measuring waves and so on and so forth? Is there any generalities you can say what happens to people in general when they consume cannabis in the brain?

David: I can say from a generality. Of course it very much differs on what we’re looking for on the EEG spectrum, what ailment there is. But some of the very basic things that you see is that you see a slowdown of the Alpha brain wave. Alpha brain waves usually represent a deep concentration in something. So that gets a little bit slowed down, but in the meantime Beta starts to actually become more active. There’s a higher frequency of Beta and Beta represents a state of relaxation of Beta meditation. So you definitely do see a calmness. Some neurologists will argue that Alpha, large spikes in Alpha represent stress. So you definitely see a type of stress reduction and then from Beta you see a rise in relaxation. That’s kind of like a general, you see that often when people give… when they’re taking cannabis and wearing an EEG at the time, one of the first baseline things that you see. But again depending on what the person is suffering from on an actual medical standpoint looking at an EEG, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Matthew: Now I know Nano is not ready yet, but can you tell us a little bit about what that might be?

David: Yeah it’s really it’s a future thinking product. It’s something that we really wanted to already start doing research on, but something that isn’t going to launch until next year. What we wanted to do is that we wanted to look at the actual, the genetic fingerprints of cannabis seeds. And specific what we’re looking for is the protein makeup, the enzyme makeup. In order to start actually building a growth model actually from the seed that helps understand how to get that plant to it’s highest natural yield. So things like lighting. Things like irrigation. Things like nutrients. All that could be really understood from the genetic fingerprint of the seed.

Really the next step that we want to take it to is how do you take that information and start understanding, how can you better grow specific cannabinoid levels and how can you add more transparency to replicating successful growth. That’s actually one of the biggest issues in the industry. We can clone plants but still not get the same results of a great grow. What were some of the factors that got us to that amazing grow, and how can we replicate that or how can we produce an environment where we know the seed has potential to be a high CBD, somewhat lower THC content? How can you really grow it to those parameters that will really help it reach its own natural ability.

Matthew: And how is Potbotics funded and are you still looking for investors?

David: Yeah we’re actually, we’re still in our seed round of funding. Our goal was to raise $3.5 million. We’ve raised about $2.2 million, and we are still looking for funding and that has been through friends and family. All of our investors very much share a long term vision, are people that are big advocates of this industry, and like our approach to really basing our recommendations on science, and really like the fact that we’re software and technology, that we’ll constantly scale and adapt itself to this industry to better patients health.

Matthew: And in closing how can listeners find out more about Potbotics online?

David: They’re welcome to visit our website, sign up for our newsletter. We’ve got a bi-weekly newsletter. I think it’s great. It offers tech insights to the industry. Something a little bit different than maybe some other cannabis newsletters do. We really focus on what is going on in the industry, examining trends and giving in general updates on where we are as a company on development. We actually recently opened up user testing for Pot Bot right before we launch it. Or they’re more than welcome to email me directly. My email is davidgold@potbotics.com. And I would be happy to answer any quotations any of the listeners have.

Matthew: Great well David thank you so much fro being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

David: Okay Matt it was such a pleasure. Thank you very much.

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.

 

Leading Cannabis Cultivator in Canada Shares Outlook – Greg Engel of Tilray

Greg Engel

Learn why Greg Engel left a lucrative position in the pharmaceutical industry to become the CEO of a cannabis cultivation company called Tilray. Tilray is part of Privateer Holdings portfolio and it considered among the best capitalized and most well run Canadian cannabis cultivation companies. There are significant differences between how the government regulates cannabis in Canada in the U.S. We go over some of those differences and more in this interview.

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the FREE iPhone app or Android App*

Key Takeaways:
[1:12] – What is Tilray
[1:37] – Greg’s background
[4:00] – Greg discusses innovations he is excited about
[5:04] – How Greg’s friends and family feel about his move to cannabis
[6:06] – How Canada and the United States differ in cannabis regulation
[8:17] – How medical marijuana distributed in Cananda
[10:14] – Greg discusses Tilray’s cultivation facility
[12:26] – Greg talks about clinical trials
[14:57] – Automation in cannabis cultivation
[16:04] – Greg explains how Tilray stands out in the industry
[19:09] – Why can’t we produce synthetic CBD or THC
[20:23] – Greg discusses Tilray’s expansion plans to Uruguay
[22:59] – Dispensaries in Vancouver
[25:08] – Contact information for Tilray

Read Full Transcript

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.

Greg Engel is the CEO of Tilray a Health Canada licensed producer and a national leader in the production and distribution of premium medical cannabis. I am pleased to welcome Greg to CannaInsider today. Welcome Greg.

Greg: Thanks Matt. Nice to be on.

Matthew: To give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today?

Greg: Yeah so I’m Nanaimo, British Columbia which, Canada’s West Coast. We’re right dead center of Vancouver Island which is off the West Coast of Vancouver.

Matthew: Now can you give listeners a sense of what Tilray is and does?

Greg: Sure we’re a license producer under Canada’s legal, national/federal medical cannabis system. We have been in operation and producing medical cannabis since the regulation changed in April of 2014.

Matthew: Now Greg I believe you came from the pharmaceutical world in background. Can you tell us about that and how you came to join Tilray?

Greg: Sure. My background had been 25 plus years in pharmaceutical and bio tech. The last 15 years I’ve been a head of a number of different companies either pharmaceutical or bio tech here in Canada and/or globally. So you know I have a lot of experience in startups. And what really excited me about Tilray and the opportunity to come to the medical cannabis industry was really three key things. One was that medical cannabis has been a pharmacopeia for thousands of years as you know. And you know the opportunity to really be at the forefront of a federally regulated system and building a company that’s going to operate under that structure, you know, was very exciting for me.

The other was, the second thing was there was a lack of innovation happening in the pharmaceutical work. I mean certainly bio tech companies are innovating, coming up with new solutions for rare diseases, but pharmaceuticals was getting a bit stale, and it was really exciting to come in to and industry in the early stages. It’s almost and lots of parallels too, the early days of tech boom and you know how that works, but one that was going to impact and affect patients’ lives. So a very exciting opportunity.

And the third for me was really a personal connection. I had a sister-in-law who passed away from a brain tumor who turned to medical cannabis and really had significant benefits in her quality of life towards the end of life. And I saw that firsthand and it really, you know, motivated me to be a part of this industry. So lots of things, both business and personal, that have brought me to Tilray.

Matthew: People coming from the pharmaceutical background, I think, it intimidates a lot of people from kind of the grassroots cannabis movements. But I’ve recently had an awakening. You know not everybody that comes from a pharma background is Darth Vader, and there’s a lot we can bring from the pharmaceutical industry into the cannabis industry. Safety, automation, innovation. In terms of innovation you said you were excited about what can be done in the cannabis space. Is there anything in particular you’re really excited about right now where you’re saying hey there’s some innovation happening here, there are some opportunities that I’m looking at closely?

Greg: Yeah there’s a couple things. I mean one you know we’re involved in some clinical research programs, and I think that’s really exciting. Now that we have a federally regulated system and we’re producing, as you said, medical cannabis in a quality environment that undergoes rigorous testing that we can move in to help Canada improve clinical trials with that. So that from an innovation perspective, you know, not that there hasn’t been a lot of work done in the past, but we’re doing it I think at a higher standard. So that’s very innovative, and that’s really exciting.

And I think the other is in the future we’re going to see, you know, continued evolution in the forms of delivery that, you know, companies are working on and patients are looking for. Not just in Canada, we’re restricted currently to selling only dried flower or a dried leaf product, you know, that can be smoked or vaporized. But in the future potentially there’s going to be a lot of opportunities to develop other methods of deliver. So that’s really exciting as well.

Matthew: Now on a personal note, what was your friends’ and family reaction when you said hey I’m getting into the cannabis industry?

Greg: Yeah you know what’s really interesting because you know you don’t always know, you know, it’s not always a topic that comes up amongst people. You don’t know what their personal views are. But you know everybody has been really supportive and understanding, and they’re saying it’s about time that the government made these changes and bringing this to the forefront and it’s legitimate. You know I have actually been overwhelmed with the amount of positive support and feedback I’ve gotten from people. Everyone has really been supportive and said, you know, because everyone has a personal connection. I mean that’s what I’ve found is you know themselves or through relatives or through friends, everyone is aware of someone who has had or has uses or is currently using medical cannabis in their life. So I’ve had great support.

Matthew: Oh that’s great. Now can you give us a little bit of a understanding of how the legalization, how legalization is unfolding in Canada versus the United States and how you view it as different or the same?

Greg: Yeah no it is very different. So go back to 2001 in Canada and there was a system put in place called the MMAR, which allowed individuals to grow for personal use and then up to two other people. So they actually would be given authorization to grow for personal use. And that allowed people who needed medical cannabis or wanted access to it to produce their own. There was one Canadian approved company called PPS that was also supplying medical cannabis, but unfortunately over time, you know, certainly lots of people were growing for themselves or growing in an environment that’s produced, you know, a safe product and it was produced in the proper or sterile areas and you know there weren’t concerns about, but over time there were also some growers that were taking advantage of the regulations and were, you know, producing product which may have been produced in really unsanitary, unsafe conditions and they were reselling that product on the marketplace.

So Health Canada was very concerned that a product was going to the marketplace that was putting people at risk. So they moved towards a regulated system where license applicants would have to be corporations, would have to undergo security background checks, meet a number of criteria and really grow product under a, you know, a safe and sterile conditions under good production practices and meet test criteria, really rigorous testing in terms of release of that product. So today there are 25 companies in Canada that are authorized as licensed producers to sell medical cannabis in Canada under that regulation.

Matthew: Do you anticipate more licenses being awarded or is that kind of fixed at least for the time being?

Greg: No, I do know. A Health Canada presentation recently, they still have over 300 license applications pending right now.

Matthew: Okay. And so you said only flower can be sold, and that’ is only done via the mail correct?

Greg: Yeah so the way the system works is physicians have to write a prescription, not unlike a prescription for a pharmaceutical product. And then that prescription is provided to a licensed producer like ourselves. And then we work with the patient to determine the strains that are appropriate and their ordering. And the only limits that are placed on that prescription is the number of grams per day and per month that a patient can access. And then we ship directly to the patient. So every patient receives product directly at their home.

Matthew: So with your background in pharmaceuticals, do you see an evolution where oils at some point will be available for doctors to prescribe so they can say hey take 10mg of this 2 times a day. I know what it is. It’s a standardized strain. This is what it’s called and I know what the likely outcome is for the human biology. Do you see that coming and when the tipping point will be for doctors who are routinely beginning to prescribe cannabis for different remedies?

Greg: Yeah it’s certainly as you said. I mean there is a desire out there in the medical community, and they are looking for that type of product. I certainly can’t predict when the regulations and when things would change to be able to allow that, but we certainly hear that consistently from the physician community that ideally like to have, you know, an oil or a tincture, some form or an extract that you know has a consistent make up in it and more like a pharmaceutical as you said.

Matthew: Now switching gears to the cultivation facilities Tilray, I think it’s hard for many Americans to understand that the cultivation facilities in Canada are enormous in relation to the cultivations facilities in the United States, and that’s because there’s much fewer of them, as you mentioned, 25 currently. How large is Tilray’s cultivation facility and can you tell us a little bit about what it’s like?

Greg: Sure, great question. We have a 60,000 foot facility, and from the outside it really looks like a production plant. We grow everything indoor, in designated flower, you know, clone mother and then veg in flower rooms through the process. And you know when you walk in you know there’s gowning processes, not unlike you know a pharmaceutical or food environment. People are wearing gowns and suits and hair cover and hair nets. And it really is focused on production and output, and we’re actually continuing to see improvements in our processes here too, you know, get greater yields and to get higher levels of CBD and THC in those strains that we have.

So, as I said, it really feels like a production facility when you come in and it has that sense. And with that we also have a lot of security. It’s a very secure facility because not only is that required by Health Canada, but we also want to protect our product and our employees working on site. And also you know as I said on our product, we wouldn’t want have a loss of product because that would mean we can’t medicine to our patients. So I’ve heard it referred to as the Fort Knox of the region because it definitely is a highly secure environment.

Matthew: Now how many kilos of cannabis do you anticipate being able to produce a year?

Greg: Yeah so we are currently… we were working through restrictions with Health Canada. They were only allowing certain parts of our facility be operational. So even today we’re only at 90 percent. We’re in a position right now to, we’re going to be releasing over the next couple of weeks 130 kilos, because we had a number of rooms that were approved at the end of last year. And then at our current size we’re going to be consistently providing a minimum of 50 kilos per month.

Matthew: Right. And for the American listeners a kilo is, I believe, 2.2 pound.

Greg: Two point two pounds that is correct.

Matthew: Now you mentioned clinical trials, and I’m really interested in that because there’s a lot of naysayers on the fence that say well show me the proof, show me the proof and you know people that have personal experience, they say I already know the proof. This is for you, but what can you tell us about clinical trials? I mean PTSD, is there any clinical trials that you’re doing right now that you’re really excited about or that you feel like could be done and you would like to do in the future? How does that work?

Greg: Yeah so and I think you’re betting on that in terms of that there’s a lot of anecdotal, personal experience here and a lot of small scale studies that have been done. And in order to get to the point where you know, the payers and the reimbursement side of the industry is going to look at covering medical cannabis more routinely. We need to show harder evidence and that’s what our goal right now is, as you mentioned, PTSD. So we currently have a post traumatic stress disorder study which is, you know, is a psychological condition effecting veterans, first responders, sexual assault victims, and that study is partnered with the University of British Columbia and will be starting in the next quarter and ending next year. And the goal of that study is really to assess the effect in that population, you know, a couple of different strains and really to collect, you know, that’s an early study, a Phase II study which we need to further research.

We’re also looking at other studies in both adult and childhood epilepsy. There’s been a lot of work done in those areas, and we feel that you know again doing a study that would support, you know, at a pair perspective and also support what the regulatory even sees. Hard clinical proof is going to make a big difference here, and that’s why we feel… and other companies here are investing in clinical programs and we know in other jurisdictions in the world there are other clinical programs ongoing. And I think we’re seeing a shift from you know a lot of the early stage trials to a more regimented structure of clinical trials which will provide hard clinical proof and allow us to really elevate the status and elevate the conversation which is the important thing.

Matthew: So it sounds like your production facility is very secure and clean and modern, but the next step in evolution is always automation. And I think of robots or different ways to automate a growing facility, especially one that’s as large as yours. Do you see in the next couple of years getting some, borrowing from other industries, maybe even the pharmaceutical to automate routine tasks within your cultivation facility?

Greg: Yeah absolutely. So we’re looking at automation in packaging right now. You know one of the other LPs here in Canada is automating their packaging. We’ve even looked at automation processes within the grow facility. You know our facility, while 60,000 square feet is a great size, we have potential expansion plans that we’ll be working on. We’ve purchased the property next to our facility, and we’re looking to build a facility that will be four to five times the size. And when you start to get to that size, you know, even within the cultivation process you need to look at some automation aspects or some improvement. Yeah, point well taken, I’ve had lots of experience in that in pharma, and it’s one of the things that are going to be critical as we continue to scale up.

Matthew: Now how does Tilray stand out relative to the other licensed cannabis cultivators in Canada. I mean you very well capitalized with Privateer behind you which is… actually you would think everybody is, but it’s not the case necessarily that everybody is well capitalized, but apart from that, how do you feel like Tilray really stands out?

Greg: Yeah I think, and as you said not everybody is well capitalized. You know we are aware certainly of some companies in Canada that are really struggling from a capitalization perspective on both publically and privately held companies. So we’re fortunate to have the backing of Privateer which is great for us. You know what really differentiates us I think is two key things.

One is that you know our patient and customer experience, you know, the experience our patients have with us is top notch. We have an incredible team of customer service personnel, and we offer the only 24/7 actually call center in the country. We have an online portal so patients and physicians can register and order product online, order their medical cannabis that way. And we were the first company to do that as well. So just the whole patient experience is very positive.

Then the other point is the quality of the product we produce. I mean we have 47 different strains, you know, we’re consistently producing products that our commenting on just the quality of what they’re getting from the whole flower perspective. You know, the smell, the taste. We measure terpene levels and we’re reporting those now so patients can get a sense of what the terpenes are, to give them a sense of what the smell and flavor will be of different strains. We’re producing a really high quality product for our patients and giving our patients a great experience at Tilray.

Matthew: Wow that’s a lot of strains, and one thing that pops in my head is (A) that’s great, but (B) is that as a business owner you’re looking at velocity like how fast is this turning over from harvest to actual sale, and is it lingering around more than these other strains. What’s the 80/20 rule? What are the 20 percent of my strains that make up 80 percent of the revenue and how do I reconcile that. Should I be growing more of these strains over here and less of these over here, but that hurts the spectrum of strains I offer. I mean how do you balance those interests as a business owner?

Greg: Yeah, no, it’s a great question and you’ve outlined exactly what we do. So we have a core group of strains that we consistently are providing to the marketplace, and then we have other strains that are limited edition and have a certain point of the year or some seasonality associated with them. We can’t produce, you know, consistently producing all 47, but we have a core that we do produce across a range of indica, sativa, you know, high CBD, hybrids so that there’s a great mix and offering there. But then we have some really nice limited editions we put out at different times. So that’s working really well for us right now and it gives us an ability to meet our patient demand but also give them something unique at certain times.

Matthew: I’m interested to your answer in this question because I have people that email me that are just kind of coming on to the cannabis scene and they say, you know, we have all this sophisticated chemistry and pharmaceuticals. How come we just can’t make synthetic THC or synthetic CBD and I have an answer, but I would love to hear what you think about that.

Greg: Yeah I mean we do know, you know, in Canada we do know there are two synthetic forms that have been produced that are on the marketplace. You know and I think the difference, as you know, is really the chemistry and the makeup of you know how the THC-A form and how the acidic form is metabolized in the body. So we still see that the best choice and the choice is a grown product, you know, an agricultural based product. But the one question I think that highlights to that is that there are potential beneficial effects of some of the other minor cannabinoids as well. Those are not fully understood yet. I mean there’s a lot of research that is going into the effects of those minor cannabinoids and even terpenes potentially. So I think that is part of the makeup of medical cannabis that why there is a difference between a synthetic form in terms of its effect and a natural form that is being produced.

Matthew: That’s a great answer. So there’s a lot we don’t know. There is a lot that is coming into focus, but there’s a lot we don’t know. The mysteries are still being revealed how it all works together.

Greg: Exactly.

Matthew: I’ve read that you are expanding or considering expanding to Uruguay, can you tell us what you’re doing down there?

Greg: Yeah so we applied for a license application in Uruguay when their medical cannabis approval happened in the government, and we are looking at other jurisdictions throughout the globe where medical cannabis is legal. You know that stage, you know, I can’t share really anymore on what’s happening in Uruguay because it’s still very early stage. We’ve applied for a license. We haven’t really gotten any feedback yet on what that looks like, but you know we’re really, as a company, are going to look at opportunities where they arise, where medical cannabis is becoming legal and those opportunities exist we… our goal is to become really the global leading medical cannabis producer in terms of most respected, leading company in the world.

Matthew: Uruguay is an interesting market because they are very pro cannabis. They’ve accepted it culturally and politically, but the government down there continues to kind of say hey let’s make this legal, but then they go we want to control it all. So it’s this back and forth where you’re saying well wait a minute, can we create a commercial operation down here or are you trying to nationalize this. So they’re kind of of two minds on the subject still and hopefully that will clear up soon.

Greg: Yeah hopefully that gets resolved in the near future. And you know and again we’re operating today and that’s one of our advantages. You know Canada is the most restrictive and was the first really true federally regulated program that was structured in this manner. So we’ve been operating under that environment. So we’re used to tough, tight regulations, and that positions us very well for expansion into other markets.

Matthew: So any other markets besides Uruguay that you can talk about?

Greg: Not today. You know as other markets come to being we’re certainly going to look at them. You know as you know there are movements in Australia towards legalization soon. There are other markets in the world that are looking to legalize certainly. But yeah we’re really, you know, we’re going to look at any market that comes up and does it make sense for us and is it a good market for us to go into.

Matthew: Now just one question before we close about the cannabis culture in Vancouver and British Columbia. One thing that’s interesting to me is that dispensaries aren’t allowed legally, yet they exist. And here, you know, we have states that cannabis is legal like here in Colorado, even though it’s illegal federally. How does that work in Vancouver where there’s dispensaries but it’s not legal?

Greg: Yeah so again, you know, certain things I guess I would comment and say, as you said, they’re operating illegally. You know one of the misconceptions, unfortunately, is that they are… there’s a misconception that they source their product from licensed producers like ourselves which they do not. We’re not allowed to sell to them. They are operating illegally, and it really comes down to the law enforcement in terms of taking action against those. I mean a lot of people, because of the way they’re structured and the way the experiences when people go to those dispensaries which has been shown on the media, people feel that they’re actually legal and that they’re walking out with a card that authorizes them to whole product and they’re legally authorized, but they’re not.

As you said, they’re clearly illegal. We have seen a few of them shut down, but certainly, you know, we’ve not seen full action by law enforcement against them as of yet. There are a couple of court cases that are pending. One at the BC Supreme Court and one at the Federal Supreme Court that I think many law enforcement agencies are waiting to see the outcome which would impact their decision to move forward on enforcing in closing those facilities down.

Matthew: I feel like Canada and the U.S. have so many great things about each of their programs, but they lack so much too, but together if we could take the best parts of the Canadian model and the U.S. model because in Canada, banking is legal, mailing flower is legal, but dispensaries and edibles are not. So if there’s some way we could fuse the best of both of these it would really be a home run. So I’m hoping that we’ll watch each other closely and kind of get closer to that.

Greg: Absolutely. I agree. I think there’s things, as you said, the edibles is a good example where you know there is definitely an interest in that area, and we will see as legislation moves forward. You know, if change has happened we would be really happy to work under that regime, but you know lots of things to watch, and as I said, one of the reasons I joined the industry is that this is very early days and lots of innovation and changes ahead.

Matthew: Well Greg in closing where can listeners learn more about Tilray?

Greg: Yeah so our website is www.tilray.ca.

Matthew: Great. Well thanks for being on CannaInsider today Greg, we really appreciate it.

Greg: Yeah great. Thanks for having me Matt, we really appreciate the opportunity.

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