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Creating Quality Cannabis Infused Products That Customers Embrace

nancy whiteman wana brands

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s cannainsider(dot)com. Are you an accredited investor looking to be part of some of the most sought after private cannabis investment opportunities? Get on our free private investment alert service at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Once you have subscribed to the investor alert service you will get access to curated opportunities that the public will simply never see. Again that URL is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. That’s cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Now here’s your program.

As the public interest and appetite grow for edibles and infused products certain companies are assuming leadership positions and grabbing market share from competitors. One of those companies commanding a leadership position is Wana Brands. I’ve invited Nancy Whiteman, Founder of Wana Brands onto CannaInsider today. Nancy welcome to CannaInsider.

Nancy: Thank you so much Matt. Thank you for having me.

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

Nancy: Yes. I’m in beautiful Boulder, Colorado.

Matthew: Great and how did you get involved in the cannabis industry and come to start Wana Brands?

Nancy: Well initially I became involved in it. I had a neighbor who was making infused soda pop and we ended up teaming up with him. It turned out to be a short term partnership but I really was intrigued by the whole industry. So initially it was more of a business opportunity that attracted me but once I got into it and I started to get feedback on how our products were helping people I completely fell in love with the business and got very committed to it and very dedicated to it. I like to say it’s the only thing that I’ve done in my career professionally where people out of the blue contact me and tell me how much their products; how much my products have helped them. So that’s a pretty cool thing.

Matthew: Yes that’s very rewarding; keep you going.

Nancy: Yes.

Matthew: What are your most popular products?

Nancy: Our most popular product is our sour gummies which come in several different flavors but they are artisan made. We make them from scratch. They’re infused within the gummy not sprayed on and they’re absolutely delicious and we sell a boat load of them.

Matthew: That’s a good point there infused versus sprayed on. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference there in some of the other gummies out there?

Nancy: Yes. So other gummies when we actually make the gummy itself and our gummy actually is a vegan gummy. It’s made with pectin rather than gelatin. We are actually putting the medicine right into the gummy mixture itself and that way first of all it tastes really good because we’re very careful with our recipes and it’s very homogenized. Everything is exactly the same. When you spray hash oil or something on top of a gummy first of all you can usually smell it. You can open up the container or the bag and you can smell a big whoosh of kind of hash oil and it’s usually a pretty harsh taste and it’s also very difficult to get it consistent from gummy to gummy. So we think that infusing it is really a better way to go for gummies; really for all products.

Matthew: Yeah I actually read some research reports about how well the gummies are doing at dispensaries so well done.

Nancy: Thank you so much.

Matthew: Can you tell us a little bit about the extended release capsule and how that works?

Nancy: Yes that’s actually our Wana Caps and they come in three different THC/CBD formulations. We have a high THC which is a 10 to 1 THC to CBD, a balanced which is equal, and then we have a high CBD which is 10 CBD mg to 1 THC and the thing that makes this product really unique is that we have partnered with a pharmaceutical company in Israel who developed this extended release patent and we use their technology in the product and what it does is well several things. It basically extends the life of the product if you will. Most people report getting benefits for 8 hours and some people even up to 12 hours but the other really important thing it does is it smoothes out the experience. So unlike edibles where they can take up to 2 hours for onset this you feel the first wave of this in about 20 minutes because it’s very bio available and then it kind of builds up in the system and then as it starts to decline the second part kicks in; the extended release portion kicks in and so it’s very, very comfortable for people. They don’t have big ups and downs like they can have with edibles sometimes.

Matthew: That’s pretty interesting. How does that work? It’s like the second stage of a rocket that comes off after a period of time.

Nancy: Yes. It’s actually called fractions and they’re two different mixtures that we make for the capsules with different parts of the formulation going into each of the fractions and the first fraction releases quickly in about 20 minutes and then the second one kicks in about 4 hours later.

Matthew: And how did you arrive at what products to launch when? Is it through customer feedback, gut intuition I mean how do you come up with that?

Nancy: Oh that’s such a good question. In the early days and we’ve been around since 2010. There was a little bit of hit or miss about it. We would try stuff that we thought would be delicious and we would see what sold well but as we got into the business a little bit more what we realized is that our sweet spot if I can make a little pun here was things that had a long shelf life. We ended sort of moving out of more of the baked goods arena and more into the confectionary products. So we have the gummies, we have a lozenger called a jewel, we have the most delicious caramels in the world. I love them. Unmedicated they’re just so yummy. We’ve got drink mixes. We’ve got a chocolate roll type product. They’re all things that have a very stable shelf life and in a state like Colorado that has a pretty big geography we can only deliver to the Western slope which is the farthest most part of the state once a week.

So what we found is that the baked goods just didn’t hold on the shelf long enough. So then we’re thinking about what products to release we start there. We also have to be thinking about whether they can be clearly delineated into 10 mg serving sizes. So packing is a part of it and then of course we look competitively for what’s on the market and we try to develop products that are not just me too products but have something unique about them.

Matthew: Now in terms of the ratios; let’s circle back to the caps. You talked about a THC heavy cap, equally weighted cap, and then a CBD heavy cap. Which are most popular?

Nancy: The two most popular ones are the balanced ones and the high CBD. I think people; it’s a really interesting thing. So of course we have medical and recreational in Colorado but what we are finding is that a more medicinal product like our high CBD caps or our balanced CBD caps are actually very popular within the recreational market because a lot of people do want the medicinal benefits without all the THC but they don’t want to go through the trouble of getting their red card. So we do see it tilting towards more of a medical usage the high CBD products.

Matthew: That’s interesting and how about getting in front of dispensary owners or buyers for dispensaries? I mean at this point it’s probably not difficult at all for you because you have relationships in Colorado but if you’re going outside the state or looking to expand I mean how you present a unique value proposition to get dispensary owners interested?

Nancy: That’s a great question because the biggest challenge is that most dispensary have relatively limited shelf space. So it really is a battle for shelf space. We do I think what probably most companies do which is that we provide samples so that their patients can try them or their customers can try them, their bud tenders can try them but I think it’s gotten so, so much easier obviously now that we are better known but it really is being very persistent, being very professional, following up with people, really listening to them about the products that are working or not working, and also really wanting to work with and to understand what works for their dispensaries. So encouraging them to try some products understanding that we’ll take them back if they don’t sell and replace them with things that are selling better; that sort of thing.

Matthew: You kind of reverse the risk proposal. You put all the rick on yourself instead of them and that really makes it easy to say yes.

Nancy: Exactly because we’re very confident that our products will do well once people have an opportunity to try them and of course a lot of this business is about winning the hearts and minds of the bud tenders. So we also try to do a lot of customer events and bud tender trainings just so that people are really familiar with us as a company and are familiar with our products.

Matthew: Looking back from 2010 or even the soda pop; the cannabis soda pop days how have you seen the infused product market segment evolve since you got started?

Nancy: Oh my gosh it’s changed so, so much. When we first got it started there really was not a lot in the way of really professionally made edibles out there. A lot of them looked like something that people had made in their home kitchen and had wrapped in Saran Wrap and thrown a label on. So all of those people really either upped their game or they’re just out of the business at this point and time so there’s a lot more professionalism now then there was then. I think the second thing that I’ve really seen change is that there’s a lot more consistency in the products. I know for us we actually used a third party lab to test right from the beginning because we didn’t know how much tincture to put into a product if we didn’t know the potency of it and we adjusted that tincture with every batch but not everybody did that.

Now that we have laws in place that say basically you must third party labs and you’re held to very strict standards in terms of what the potency on the label says and what the lab says it is the products have gotten a lot more consistent and that makes me a lot more comfortable with edibles in the market place because they can be very strong for people.

Matthew: Right. Good points. Now how do you educate customers about the ways that Wana Brands differentiates itself? I mean you have a very limited label space to do that.

Nancy: Yes.

Matthew: So how do you do it? Is that more back to the bud tender as your ambassador to do that?

Nancy: Yes. That is a big part of it. We also try to provide materials that are educational both as a company and as an industry so we often are putting information pieces into our packages for example, doing bud tender trainings, making PowerPoints available to people so that they can review them after the training. I’m also the chair of the Edibles Council for the Cannabis Business Alliance here in Colorado and we’ve really worked as an industry group to put educational materials for people about edibles and safe use of edibles in general. So you have to come at it from a bunch of different angles.

Matthew: Circling back to the extended release capsules you can tell I’m interested in this is how do you or what kind of feedback do you get from customers that have used this; especially the maybe 1 to 1 CBD/THC or the CBD heavy capsules? What kind of conditions are they using this for medicinal linked use?

Nancy: Oh my gosh yeah so we’ve gotten amazing feedback on it and I should say before I even get into that one thing that I would like to mention is this is very exciting to me. It’s actually in full clinical trials in Israel right now with cancer patients and specifically looking at contribution to improving appetite, increasing weight gain, pain reduction, and just general quality of life and feeling good about life and that’s really exciting. We’re just starting to get the first round of feedback on those clinical tests but in terms of what we’re hearing here we have people who are using it for Multiple Sclerosis, we have people using it for cancer, people who are using it for Crohn’s Disease, all kinds of different conditions. People have found it to be extremely helpful and some of the testimonials we get are really, really touching in terms of what a difference it’s making in their life and often making much more of a difference than prescribed medications that they were using sort of Western medications if you will.

Matthew: Gosh that’s so true. I can’t wait for this to be widely adopted. It’s really going to have a huge impact on society; especially just even the cost. The cost of pharmaceuticals are just so high.

Nancy: Oh my gosh yes.

Matthew: ([14:51] unclear) cannabis. So what are some of the challenges in being in the infused products business? I’ve heard others in the infused products business say you’re really in the regulatory business. I mean that’s what you have to cover first. What do you see as kind of your day to day challenges and long term challenges that you have to surmount?

Nancy: Well certainly I would agree with that. I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Marijuana Business Conference and my topic was about building a sustainable and strong infused products brand and my comment was it’s sort of like trying to build a brand with one hand tied behind your back because of all the regulatory constraints that are put on us as an industry and there’s challenges really constantly. Literally every year if not more frequently than that there are new regulations we have to comply with in terms of packaging, labeling, dosages. The one that’s coming up soon in October is that every product is going to have to be sprayed or stamped with a universal THC symbol so that anybody picking it up knows that there’s THC in it.

There’s just a host of regulatory issues that we’re always dealing with but I would say even beyond the regulatory issues I think the challenges for infused products have a lot to do with as an industry us doing a lot of education with people in terms of using products judicially and slowly and safely so that people have good experiences with them and don’t have any kind of a situation where they’re uncomfortable or feeling like they’re too high or they’ve taken too much. So I think that’s a really important part of our challenges as an industry as well and then just the ongoing demonizing if that’s a word cannabis both as a medicine and a form of recreation. I think that that’s clearly still a challenge for the industry when we have a substance as helpful and benign as marijuana still classified as a Schedule 1 substance you know we have a long way to go.

Matthew: You covered the challenges there how about the opportunities? What opportunities excite you the most in the next few years?

Nancy: Well certainly just for us we do have a lot of opportunities in terms of expanding our brand outside of Colorado through licensing agreements. So that’s a very exciting opportunity for us. I would say that’s probably our biggest opportunity although I think even within Colorado we have opportunities for innovation and more product introduction which we are actively working on.

Matthew: Looking at the price of wholesale cannabis and the wholesale market is the price surprising to you? High, low I mean is it where you thought it would be roughly?

Nancy: Well you know it’s funny when the recreational market was legalized there was a seed change in terms of growers. So for the first time people were allowed to be independent growers which they really were not able to do under the medical market. They had to either have their grow tied to a manufacturing or a MIPS license or it had to be tied to a dispensary. So I think we were all predicting with all of these independent grows on the rec side that the price of trim which is what we use for our products would sharply decline. In fact for the last year or so it actually didn’t decline at all and in fact went up which speaks to the growing popularity of infused products because so many people were trying to buy that trim. Just in the last month or two I’ve started to see it look more like we were expecting which is that the prices are falling but it’s always sort of a supply and demand issue. My guess is over time as these recreational grows kick in and are more consistent that we will see it stabilizing somewhat at a lower level than we’ve seen.

Matthew: If you could wave a magic wand and change just one thing about the cannabis market for infused products what would it be?

Nancy: Hmm... magic wand. Gosh I would love one of those. I would like to see some stability around the regulations. I think Colorado has actually done a pretty good and reasonable job about putting good regulations in place. I think public safety has been addressed. I think child safety has been addressed. I’m a mother myself and I care about that stuff but I’d like to see some stability. The constant change makes for a very challenging business environment and it doesn’t allow us to focus on the things we’d like to focus on like innovation and brand building.

Matthew: Yeah I think that’s one thing I noticed. The regulators in Colorado do seem open to feedback which is great and not the case in other states but there’s not always a sense of like hey we’re going to change something here with the flick of a pen and they don’t understand the huge cascading effect.

Nancy: Yes.

Matthew: On the lives of so many people and how that one turn in the cog at the top just affects everybody so I wish there was a way to do that. To have them understand at a gut level what this does to business and people’s lives when they make a change; especially one that has to be enacted quickly.

Nancy: Yes and that is very key. I think just the way you put it is perfect and I will say about the MED or the Medical Enforcement Division is they are open to sitting down with the industry groups and discussing that stuff and they have I think come a long way in terms of understanding that there are things that we simply can’t implement that quickly and so building that into their timeframe’s a little bit more but certainly a year without major upheaval and major change would be fantastic.

Matthew: Alright. Just one that’s fine.

Nancy: Yes just one would be awesome.

Matthew: Are you beginning to license the Wana Brand outside of Colorado?

Nancy: Yes we are. As a matter of fact we are eminently about to launch our brand in Oregon and we’ll be launching in Nevada sometime in the summer. So that’s really exciting and we’re in discussions with several other states as well.

Matthew: Okay. Any reasons you jumped at Oregon and Nevada first?

Nancy: Oregon for the obvious reason which is it has both medical and recreational and in fact it’s just beginning it’s recreational program sort of in baby steps on June 1st which is exciting. Nevada is an interesting one. Right now Nevada is just medical but it is widely expected that the 2016 initiative to legalize for recreational is going to pass and then Nevada will be an enormous market. There’s forty million tourists that go to Nevada every year. So it has the potential to be a truly huge market.

Matthew: When you talk with partners in other states is there an expectation gap at all in terms of what they think they should get as a licensee and how you have to educate them on intellectual property or anything like that or are people pretty much in line; perspective partners?

Nancy: Well you know that’s an interesting question. I think even before we get to sort of the licensing piece of it that sometimes people will have unrealistic expectations of just what getting into this business is going to look like in general and that’s something that I’m now I’m always when I talk to a potential partner I’m always trying to probe and understand what got them interested in this? What are their expectations for the business and gauging whether they feel realistic based on what I know about the market. So for example if people think in Illinois that they’re instantly going to make a huge amount of money and they’re just getting in they don’t understand how much the restrictions on the medical conditions allowable is going to limit the patient count.

A lot of times I’m just having some discussions with them about sizing the market and understanding what it takes to build marketshare within a market. So that’s a part of it. In terms of the licensing stuff we’ve been pretty satisfied with our conversations and discussions with people on the licensing end of it. I think what’s happening is that a lot of these states now are requiring people to have pretty significant investments before they’re going to grant a license and so people do understand the importance of speed to market and while we had five years of luxury of experimenting and building their brand etc., etc. with investors expecting paybacks and all of that they understand the value of going with a brand that is already proven. So we haven’t had too much of a misalignment yet on the licensing side of it.

Matthew: Yeah I really see it as a great deal for a perspective licensee because they get the full download of all your trial and errors.

Nancy: Oh yes.

Matthew: So they can see everything that worked and didn’t work without having to try it themselves. So there is a lot of benefit to that.

Nancy: Agreed, agreed and believe me we’ve made lots of errors along the way. So if we can shortcut that for people and get them to market quicker I think it’s a huge benefit to them.

Matthew: When you look at California and that market and obviously we have a big vote coming up here in November but how do you gauge the California marketplace? What are your thoughts about it?

Nancy: Well I would say that just strictly from a population point of view and the size of their economy point of view there’s no doubt that California is going to be a hugely important market. What will be helpful is when they have a clear regulatory structure in place so that companies can go in and really be confident that their brands won’t get caught up in anything that you wouldn’t want your brand associated with. So I think it’s in the process of becoming an amazing market and it just needs a little bit more structure and regulation around it. Who would have ever thought I would be saying it needs more regulation but I think it does.

Matthew: Okay and what about women entering the cannabis space? Do you have any suggestions or tips for women listening that maybe would help them get success earlier, a more direct path, and avoid some pitfalls?

Nancy: That’s an interesting one. I’ve been involved with Women Grow which I think is an awesome organization and I support women entrepreneurs and I think risk taking is just an amazing thing but I tend not to divide up the world that way from a business point of view. I don’t think about these are good opportunities for women and these are good opportunities for men. I would say the same thing to a woman that I would say to a man is figure out what it is about this industry that fascinates you and what’s in best alignment with your skill set and your experience and try to be creative and figure out how to enter it in a meaningful kind of a way. I don’t think there’s anything that is closed off to a woman in this industry because she is a woman and as a matter of fact some of the statistics that I have read indicate that the cannabis industry has more women in key positions than many other more traditional industries that are out there. So I think women are already seeing the opportunity and taking advantage of it.

Matthew: I would agree with that. It seems like its compared to other industries I’ve been in in like technology that’s top heavy male I just don’t see that in the cannabis space. People tend to be more open minded in the cannabis space because they got into it early and they see the light about this plant. So it just doesn’t seem to be any kind of things preventing women from getting to where they want to go.

Nancy: I agree, I agree. I think it’s wide open and women and men should jump in with both feet. It’s fascinating.

Matthew: Nancy let’s turn to some personal development questions. As you look over your life is there one book that stands out that has had an impact on your life that you would recommend to listeners?

Nancy: My favorite book when I was in high school and it’s still one of my great favorites was; I don’t know that this is what you’re looking for because it’s not really a business book but it was “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Matthew: Sure, sure. That’s great.

Nancy: A classic book but I think it said so much in terms of social justice and kindness and people caring about each other and Atticus of course was one of my all time favorite father role models. So yeah I think there was a lot in that book that I would recommend to anybody if they haven’t read it in a long time to have another read.

Matthew: Yeah that’s a great suggestion. I know Harper Lee has a second book I think out. I haven’t read it yet or heard any feedback about it but she just had that one “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Nancy: Yes.

Matthew: And I’ve been curious to hear what the second one is like so we’ll see.

Nancy: Yeah.

Matthew: Now if you could go back and talk to the 18 year old version of Nancy what advice would you give her?

Nancy: Well I think what I would tell her is to take more risks, to travel more, to experience other cultures more, to live life fully before settling down into a more conventional lifestyle, and just to not be afraid of trying things and having them not work out that that’s part of the process.

Matthew: Great point. I’m heeding that point myself. I’m trying a new experiment every month in my business just to see what works and I fully expect at least a chunk of them to fail and I’m alright with that. So it’s not a big deal.

Nancy: Yes. That’s great. That’s fantastic and I try to keep that philosophy in this business too. I really do think if you’re not blowing it every now and again and failing every now and again you’re probably not taking enough risks.

Matthew: Well Nancy as we close how can listeners learn more about Wana and find you online?

Nancy: Probably the easiest way is to go to our website which is w-a-n-a-b-r-a-n-d-s and there you can find out all about our products and a little bit more about our company. So that’s probably the easiest way or if you’re in Colorado go into almost any dispensary and you’ll see all our products there.

Matthew: And when can listeners in Oregon and Nevada look for Wana Brands?

Nancy: Well in Oregon we should be hopefully on the shelves in the next couple of weeks. Nevada I’m thinking probably August.

Matthew: Okay. Nancy thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider. We really appreciate it.

Nancy: Oh thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

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

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.

Nancy Whiteman is the founder of Wana Brands. Wana has emerged as a clear leader in the world of cannabis-infused products. Most notable among Wana’s products are their sour gummies that are frequently the most sought after infused product in cannabis dispensaries. Nancy shares her secrets and outlooks on licensing her cannabis brand, what she thinks about wholesale trim prices and more.

Key Takeaways:
[1:32] – How Nancy got in the cannabis industry and started Wana Brands
[2:27] – Wana Brands most popular products
[4:05] – Nancy talks about Wana Caps
[6:05] – How do you decide which products to launch
[8:57] – Nancy talks about getting dispensary owners interested in her products
[10:31] – Evolution of infused products
[13:22] – Medical reasons for using Wana Caps
[15:11] – Nancy talks about challenges of being in the infused products business
[19:25] – One thing Nancy could change about the infused market
[25:16] – Nancy talks about the California marketplace
[26:17] – Nancy’s advice to women entering the cannabis space
[28:13] – Nancy’s book recommendation
[30:21] – Contact details for Wana Brands

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

Huge Leaps in Cannabis Tech Happening in Israel

saul kaye

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. Are you an accredited investor looking to be part of some of the most sought after private cannabis investment opportunities? Get on our free private investment alert service at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Once you have subscribed to the investor alert service you will get access to curated opportunities that the public will simply never see. Again that URL is Now here’s your program.

We often focus on North America when we talk about cannabis but today we’re going to shift our focus abroad to Israel to hear about the innovations going on there. I’ve invited Saul Kaye to talk about his international cannabis forum called Cannta. Saul welcome to CannaInsider.

Saul: Thank you very much for having me.

Matthew: Saul to give us a sense of geography where are you in the world today?

Saul: So Israel is a small country embedded in surrounding countries; Arab countries in the Middle East. It’s one of the only democracies and it also happens to be the center of cannabis research for the world. One of the oldest cannabis programs in the world and of course Professor Raphael Mechoulam who discovered THC in his lab in Hebrew U. So Israel has been at the forefront of cannabis innovation for a long time and it’s lucky for us that we get to live in a time where we get to bring that out and educate people about the opportunities in Israel and some of the innovation that’s going on here which will lead the future of cannabis in my opinion.

Matthew: And what city in Israel are you in?

Saul: So our co-working space; our cannabis co-working space is in a little city called Bet Shemesh. It’s halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv the two major centers. The country of Israel has eight million population so small population in terms of a market size but a very good environment to do research and development and test your products in market and commercialize that over in the USA which is a large part of what we’re involved in doing.

Matthew: So a cannabis co-working space that’s a great idea. How many people are in your co-working space?

Saul: So our co-working space is about 70 seats. We have right now two cannabis companies, 12 people, and we have some other companies that are non cannabis related but this is being built out into a full cannabis incubator for technologies that we’ve seen throughout CannaTech pipeline by getting involved in the education side, by getting involved in the conference side of things bringing together for the first time when we did our CannaTech Conference investors, regulators, governments to the table to speak about cannabis reform and cannabis as a business and the medicalization of cannabis which is our focus. It’s a unique opportunity in Israel and we believe it will grow significantly in the coming years.

Matthew: Interesting. How did you get involved in the cannabis space? What were you doing before and what motivated you to jump in?

Saul: So I’m a pharmacist by trade. I studied at Sydney University in Australia. I came to Israel around twenty years ago and operated retail pharmacies specifically caring for nursing homes, palliative care. In the last few years my partner Jason in CannaTech and Israel-Cannabis fell ill and we tried the pharmaceutical route, we tried diet and nature, and we ended up with cannabis. This was about two years ago and it opened my eyes to the effect that the plant can have and the ability for it to heal and we dug into it. So I come from a SEO optimization and operations background in the pharma industry and we’re going to try and apply that to the new cannabis which is coming.

Matthew: How would you say at a high level the people of Israel treat cannabis and compare it to how we treat cannabis, cannabis research, and the whole cannabis eco system in North America?

Saul: So the major difference is it’s federally legal in Israel to research the plants; the medicinal effects. We have a program here with 22,000 registered patients, a well established program including many the disease states Crohn’s, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ALS, Parkinson’s with an ability to do clinical studies in Israel at a federally legal licensed level that doesn’t exist in the U.S. So that’s definitely our advantage. On top of that the program has existed since the 1990’s and all the data has been heavily recorded and it’s one of the first programs that we can actually take and understand what has happened both with the medical use of cannabis and what happens when they’re on cannabis to their other prescription medications and lifestyle and there’s a lot of data behind it which obviously we need to now bring to light.

But the industry is very well established. The eco system was a little disrupted here. There were only eight licensed growers and obviously in a very tightly regulated environment with very few players and there was some monopoly but the government has moved to change that. The major move the government is introducing is that cannabis will be dispensed through the National Pharmacy System. So they’re not looking to re-regulate it, they’re not looking to make it a recreational commodity. It is a medicine and will be considered a medicine through the regulatory environment in Israel. So it’s quite unique.

Matthew: Now you talked about the inner play of cannabis with traditional pharmaceutical drugs. Is there anything there that as a pharmacist you’ve noticed how that inner play exists that people can maybe start to think about that in a different way; the marriage of the two or using them together?

Saul: Sure. So again cannabis certainly to people in the industry is often a one solution for many, many things and it is but it isn’t the only solution and pharmaceuticals work and interrogative health care program is very important and especially with cannabis. I say to patients here in Israel often the effort that go into it to get a license is the journey they think they need to be on whereas the journey they really need to be on is once they have a license which cannabis medicine will help you because as you know there are thousands of different strains and we can modulate the effect through other chemicals and we really don’t know enough and it always comes back to that. That the clinical research in order to be accepted by the medical community has to be done in a way that a medical community understands and there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there but that’s not yet translating into evidence based medicine that the medical community can get behind.

So cannabis is kind of hard because we need both education and a changing in attitude. We need to demystify and at the same time we actually need to research and find out what is in this plant that is so healing and can help so much.

Matthew: It seems like the dosaging and coming up with a uniform way to prescribe cannabis will really be a way that doctors will begin to embrace it. I mean from a pharmacy side do you think that’s true when they can start to say hey you need 10 ml of this oil or that I can prescribe and I know what it is and it’s uniform and it’s consistent. How big a part of the puzzle is that being kind of uniform?

Saul: It’s probably the largest piece of the puzzle and it’s something that’s very hard to crack on the cannabis plant. When you have a normal plant that delivers an alkaloid; something like Digitalis it’s very easy to extract. It’s one compound and we know the effect of it. With cannabis because you’re dealing with so many compounds that you have to stabilize the genetics. You have to have a methodology that grows it the same way each time so that the yield; not the amount of yield but the cannabinoid yield is always the same; the terpene profiles are the same. So standardization is a key element in this industry and it’s something that hasn’t been cracked yet.

On the flip side of that you have the whole plant movement where it’s important to have all the components in so the traditional farmer approach would be to break it down into its components and rebuild it in a protectable formulation and the push from the market at the moment is whole plant medicine with evidence behind it but it’s very hard to prove evidence where one strain helps for Epilepsy in 60% of the cases but in 40% a different strain helps. So there’s a lot of noise. There’s a lot of noise around the strain issue that needs to be removed as well. So Israel has a program where essentially they’re putting cannabis into categories.

So there’s neurological, gastrological and they’re breaking it down into THC and CBD profiles and percentages, ratios inside that to give a guideline to doctors. So okay it’s a neurological disease here’s the best place to start. So it would be low THC, high CBD and these are the available commercial products available in that category and that’s an essential part because a doctor can’t say to a patient take two puffs and come back in the morning. Doctor’s don’t understand that. They need to be able to prescribe it like they do other medications and it’s a crazy situation if you really think about it. Doctor’s are happy to prescribe medications that we know will kill you. We do it all the time with chemotherapy and we do it with opiates and there are 200,000 plus deaths from opiate abuse in the U.S. every year.

That is okay but cannabis we don’t know so we can’t prescribe it for you. So it’s kind of weird and that’s why education is very important to us. But yeah it’s going to be one of the challenges. There is an Israeli country who’s stepped up to the challenge. They have a medical cannabis delivery device. The company is called Syqe and interestingly enough they were invested in by Phillip Morris who are a tobacco company.

Matthew: Wow that is interesting.

Saul: Yeah.

Matthew: What’s the investment scene for cannabis like in Israel? Is there an eco system or an angel network that helps to invest in cannabis companies?

Saul: It’s part of what we’re building through the CannaTech pipeline. We’ve seen a lot of the innovators and entrepreneurs out there who need both a program to accelerate or incubate their idea to commercialization and through our network being invested in the high tech eco system that exists in Israel they are interested in the cannabis space as everyone else is. They’re kind of sitting on the side and waiting to see what happens but we’re building a funding vehicle so that the public can invest in new innovative technologies through an incubation like model and it’s being built out now. So the eco system is young but it exists. We had 300+ investors come to our CannaTech event and these are family offers, private equity, and some small cannabis funds. But in the U.S. there’s no really leading cannabis fund with significant volume behind them. So Israel might lead the way there as well.

Matthew: And let’s dive into CannaTech a little bit more. Can you give us an overview of what that is and why it’s important?

Saul: Sure. So we started with CannaTech because we came to some of the conferences that are going on in the U.S. and we met some of the players and the U.S. is very focused on the U.S. market and to a degree where it’s focused on a hyper local market. So it’s down to which territory, which county you can participate in cannabis activities in and because of the regulatory environment you can’t commercialize a product over multiple states and we saw that across the world. We visited the Czech Republic and Holland and Germany and Australia. All these countries are emerging cannabis economies without a global force or conference expo that can showcase what cannabis is, speak about the regulatory issues, look at the deep medicine inside cannabis and of course bring investors into a network that makes sense.

Because investors at this stage are under educated and they are taking their time to put their big toe into investing in this space because there’s a lot to learn. Cannabis is a very broad term. Is it the genetics? Is it the cultivation? Is it the process? Is it dispensing? Is it branding legal ancillary services? All of these things are playing in each VC. Each investment group we meet has a specific sort of slant towards a certain part of the industry without understanding that the industry is very wide and of course we haven’t even included hemp inside there as well so it’s very broad and we’re trying to narrow it down so that investors can make smart moves in winners rather than what’s going on in the industry unfortunately which is grabbing up low hanging fruit.

So the industry is focused on cultivating and dispensaries whereas if you look at another disruptive model say Uber. Uber came along and traditionally taxi medallions or taxi licenses were worth a lot of money and all of a sudden you disrupt that environment and that goes away. There’s no value to a taxi license and I see the future of cannabis that everyone now is protecting their license. I have a license to cultivate right now. In ten years I see a free open market so what really differentiates you when a license isn’t going to be a differentiator.

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Matthew: Gosh I think that would be a great vision when license isn’t a differentiator but at the same we’ve got a crazy Puritan streak over here in the U.S. Saul and a lot of regulators that have big pens and they might regulate up this industry even more than it is now. So we don’t know. We could still be divided up into fiefdoms and then every place outside of the U.S. and potentially maybe Canada. Canada seems more liberal but every place outside the U.S. could be this free open market and we’re divided up into fiefdoms and the regulatory red tape. We’ll see. I hope your vision sounds great if that can happen.

Saul: Yeah well I kind of look at the liquor market in the U.S. Liquor stores and their licenses. Their licenses are not as valuable as they were ten years ago and similar to pharmacies. I’ve operated pharmacies in Israel. There was a limitation you had to have 500 meters between every pharmacy and that eventually went down. So I think the progression will be to a more free open market and the concentration should be on building excellence and brands that can last through the fact that you may have competition at the end of the day on cultivating and dispensing.

Matthew: Let’s pivot to the last CannaTech Conference. What was that like? Can you paint a picture of who was there, what went on, and what the general vibe was like?

Saul: Sure. So it was described in the media as the Darvis of cannabis conferences. It was a level of science and dialogue that hadn’t been expressed before and we got that feedback from many of the players. Some of them who have been on your show like New Frontier who go to a lot of conferences in the U.S. and there is a form of conference fatigue going on in the U.S. People are tired. They’re seeing the same thing at every conference. There’s not a lot of progression. Okay so we’ll miss this one, we won’t miss this one. What happened in Israel was for the first time really serious investors came to the room. The regulator was there, the top scientists from Professor Mechoulam who gave the key note through many different scientists in Israel who presented their findings from clinical studies.

It’s not really going on in the U.S. where investors, operators, entrepreneurs, and scientists are coming together for this industry. So you’ve got very medical focused conferences like Patients Out of Time and you’ve got the big shows in Vegas which are more expos and tradeshows but this was the first one that brought the global cannabis community together to talk about hang on this is a big opportunity than what’s going on locally in the U.S. and how do we take the various opportunities that are going on all over the world and put them into a platform that other investors and other entrepreneurs can gain value from that eco system and we executed on that. The media came through. We had a huge following. We were quoted in many media outlets from CNN to the New York Times, Tech Crunch, and we made a splash and I think the industry needed a splash. It needed a wakeup call to say hang on it’s not just a U.S. focused market especially not Washington, Oregon, maybe California by November.

This is happening all over the world. It’s happening in Australia right now. They approved medical cannabis in the fastest regulatory process I have ever seen. It took about four weeks and they passed it. They begin clinical studies now for Epilepsy. That’s really, really quick. So the globe is happening and the focus of what’s gone on in America in the U.S. that IP; that technology is ready to be deployed outside of the local states and economy that currently exist and that’s what CannaTech was really about.

Matthew: Now at least my perception is is that the flavor of how cannabis is working in Israel is that it seems kind of a fusion of technology and cannabis. I don’t hear about people that are just interested in cultivation. It’s always some sort of technology application. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I mean the name of your conference is CannaTech. Besides Syqe which you mentioned Phillip Morris invested in is there any other emerging technologies that are coming out of Israel that you’d like to highlight that are perhaps interesting to you.

Saul: Sure. We’re seeing some new technology in extracting and refracting off the terpenes. We have a company in Israel that’s deeply involved in terpene research and they’ve actually been able to modulate the effect of sativas and indicas and change them up by changing the terpene profiles added back in after the extraction process. We’ve got technology here in metrics on the grow side. We’ve been very good on the ag tech side of things and how to grow; industrial growing and often what happens in cannabis unfortunately is a master grower is someone who grew six plants in his basement or a collective of 60 plants. The farm we have partnered with in Israel grows 50,000 plants. So it’s a totally different scale of cannabis production than what’s happening. We also live in a very good climate to grow cannabis so we can test indoor and outdoor and again it comes back to the regulatory environment which allows us to test.

So we have a piece of test land up north in Israel where we’re able to run side by side tests and look at lighting, look at extraction methods, mediums to grow in, nutrients, sensors and we’re trying to integrate all of that technology into a package which can be commercialized where the industry is happening which is in my opinion California. It comes down to California. So the industry is prepped here. It’s also an industry you have to remember that when you optimize growing tomatoes you have to grow so much weight of tomato to make that optimization process worthwhile investing in whereas in cannabis raw THC is currently traded purified 99.7 percent. THC is traded around 130,000 dollars a kilogram. So if you can optimize your process whether it’s on the grow/cultivation side or the extract side to increase your yield than you’ve got money to invest into the innovation and I think that’s why cannabis innovation is happening and why the investor segment is looking at it because they see this is a very large economy.

I’ve heard numbers of 60 billion, 100 billion. We don’t know. It’s one of the first commodity items ever released in the digital age that has a core user base already. So we don’t know how big this market can get but we know that there’s a lot of technology that can be used to optimize the process to bring stability and transparency to this industry and take it from the dark into the light and that’s what Canna Tech and cannabis technology in general we now refer to it like you refer to Ag Tech and Water Tech. We need to start referring to it that oh I saw this great CannaTech and to that note we’re also trying to promote cannabis is not really a pharmaceutical and it’s something more than a nutriceutical and I believe that we’ve coined the phrase of the cannaceutical which fits somewhere between a nutriceutical and a pharmaceutical so.

Matthew: Interesting.

Saul: Yeah.

Matthew: Now when you had the North Americans, Canadians, Americans, and perhaps people from Mexico in that CannaTech did you kind of see their outlook and mindset broadened as to the terms of the possibilities that exist? Maybe some ah-ha’s and how they could pivot and think about their businesses?

Saul: Absolutely. So first of all it widened their reach to international cannabis companies that have new technologies whether it’s Greenhouse, black Cap technologies whether it’s part of the extraction process and typically the focus has been in consulting on the U.S. side. They’re the ones that have been doing it in small collectives somewhat legally for some years but this is taking it to a new level industrial growing and optimization and standardization that I don’t even think those terms have been used in cannabis and I just came back from a five week trip in the U.S. and I traveled down from Seattle all the way to San Diego looking at the cannabis space. All verticals and all aspects of it and there really isn’t medical cannabis in America unfortunately. There is a recreational cannabis and there’s recreational cannabis used for medical purposes but if we want to understand medicine and repeatability and stability and it does the same thing each time the industry is not there yet.

Matthew: Okay. What’s next for CannaTech? How do you see it evolving in the years ahead?

Saul: So it’s definitely a flagship once a year event in Israel. We believe the core of the industry and new technology will be coming out of Israel and we’re nice and close to Europe so that event will be every March and we’re looking to do a satellite event to raise funds for some of the companies who are in our pipeline so that will be coming up in New York most likely and we’ve had a reach out from the government in Puerto Rico to do a CannaTech over there. So there is international interest. We want to keep the platform exclusive. It’s not going to grow to the size of a show in say Las Vegas but by keeping it exclusive we get to cherry pick the best of the technology and handpick the investors to come in and we keep it at the highest level of cannabis conference that exists today.

Matthew: So before we close I’d like to ask a few personal development questions so people can get to know you a little bit better. Is there a book that as you look over the arc of your life that has had a big impact on your thinking that you would recommend to CannaInsider listeners?

Saul: Sure. That’s quite a hard one because I read a lot. But a book I recently read sort of cemented a lot of my philosophy in how I operate this call it technology startup and that would be “Linchpin” by Seth Godin which is essentially a book about how to re-educate ourselves not to be robots. We were in an education system that needed robots and that sort of stuck around and a robot today is a worker and a computer. It’s not a person pushing a bun and if we can get technology to do the menial tasks of humans than humans can use their brains to do something much better. So that was quite a pivotal book and its part of our corporate structure and policy. We try and not give names to our employees or associates because everyone has a skill and I like to hire people based on their CB; not based on their CB but based on who they are and what they’re passionate about and if I can find something that they are passionate about that fits my business model that’s the person I want inside and I think “Linchpin” sort of cemented that in a cohesive way for me.

Matthew: Oh good. Now you say you spent some time in Australia. When you first arrived there and when you started spending time there how did you feel like was there any contrast to Israel that really came out to you and you said wow this is quite a different culture and what were some of those things that if you were to compare Israel to Australia just so people can understand different mindsets and how different cultures work?

Saul: Well Israel is kind of a very highly stressed environment both with the threat from outside which is constantly on us plus all of our kids go to the Army and there are random stabbings and things like that. Australia is a very, very laid back environment. So it’s kind of completely different but Australians and Israelis get on very well. Israelis like a good lifestyle. They like to be happy and try new things. Australia is really all about sport. The whole country is sports nuts. So if you can find the common denominator between that I guess you can have a really good conversation but I grew up in Australia so I am Australian more than I am Israeli I guess but cannabis wise actually Australians are very, very conservative. They’ve really bought into the myth that it’s a dangerous drug and it’s a gateway drug and there’s a lot of education that needs to change there to move it forward and all of my friends surprisingly in Israel it’s quite common that there is cannabis around in my social circles. In Australia it’s quite uncommon. I find that quite interesting.

Matthew: That is interesting. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you use daily or weekly that you would recommend to listeners?

Saul: Absolutely. We use OnBoard Technology quite often. I try not to get married to the technology. We do OnBoard because it’s never perfect and it never always suits your needs and there might be something else out there that works really well. I use my email is gmail based and we have an extension on top of gmail called Sortd. We found it on Product Hunt. Product Hunt is a good website if you’re looking for new technologies usually by invite only and be the testing at the first stage but Sortd essentially takes your dream out and creates tasks from emails and a way to sort them and it’s definitely increased mine and my teams productivity.

Matthew: Oh that sounds great. So you can assign the task to others within your team that use Sortd as well?

Saul: Correct and you can delay it and it pops out of your inbox and comes back when its necessary and you can divide it into five; it essentially takes five columns and allows you to name those columns and you can drop an email from your inbox into one of those columns keep your inbox clean and my columns are for example to do follow up and I create essentially a pipeline within my Gmail that allows me to become more productive.

Matthew: Wow that sounds like a great suggestion. Thanks for that.

Saul: My pleasure.

Matthew: Saul as we close how can listeners find out more about you and follow your work in CannaTech?

Saul: Sure so our website is Israel Cannabis. We commonly refer to our company as Ican; Israel cannabis because we can and we’re looking to make change and CannaTech the yearly event is and we’ll be launching some new web assets in the future regarding the incubator that we’re setting up and the fund but all that information can be found on Israel-Cannabis.

Matthew: Saul thanks so much for joining us today on CannaInsider. We appreciate it.

Saul: Thank you very much. It was a great conversation.

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

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.

Saul Kaye of iCAN joins us from Israel to discuss the huge leaps in cannabis technology coming out of the country and the cutting-edge cannabis tech conference called CanTech.

Key Takeaways:
[3:46] – Saul talks about how he got in the cannabis industry
[4:54] – How is cannabis treated in Israel as compared to North America
[6:57] – Saul discusses using pharmaceutical drugs with cannabis
[8:56] – Uniformity in prescribing cannabis
[11:56] – Saul talks about the investment scene in Israel as it relates to cannabis
[13:05] – What is CannaTech
[18:08] – Saul describes the CannaTech Conference
[21:14] – Emerging technologies coming out of Israel
[26:13] – Future of CannaTech
[27:24] – Saul’s book recommendation
[30:26] – Saul’s web-based tool recommendation
[32:02] – CannaTech contact details

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

Cannabis Grows – Solving The Light and Heat Challenges

joseph dimasi

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

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

More cannabis entrepreneurs are thinking big. Joseph DiMasi Founder of Suncast is one of those entrepreneurs thinking really big. Joseph’s company is developing a technology that promises to route or bend lights to dramatically reduce the cost of lighting a cannabis grow. Joseph welcome to CannaInsider.

Joseph: Thank you Matt. Happy to be here.

Matthew: Joseph to give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today.

Joseph: Sure I’m one of the lucky few who gets to live in Boulder, Colorado.

Matthew: Yes.

Joseph: I came out here for graduate school in 95 and haven’t been able to leave since.

Matthew: A lot of people are saying like wow a lot of your guests are from Boulder and it’s just happenstance that there’s just a lot of cool things going here. A lot of innovation in the cannabis space so it’s nothing intentional I’m doing it’s just a cluster like Silicon Valley for technology I’d say.

Joseph: Well apparently Boulder has the largest number of PhD’s per capita of any city in the U.S. and it’s on all the top entrepreneur cities in the U.S. too.

Matthew: Gosh yeah. I didn’t realize there was that many eggheads going around. I had to think I had a lot of triathletes so that’s like a weird combination.

Joseph: Right.

Matthew: So Joseph if you would give us a little background about yourself. Your education, your career so we can get a sense of who you are and how you came to start SunCast.

Joseph: Sure Matt. Gosh, so my background is largely engineering. I’ve got an undergraduate degree in engineering and then a graduate degree in optical and laser engineering where my research thesis was in holographics and optical computing so some real advanced stuff. So for the last 25 years I’ve been in and around technical projects. I’ve run my own consulting firm since 2000, done about three or four million dollars worth of Government grants for high tech, run lots of multidisciplinary engineering teams, been in engineering sales, technical marketing, and for the last four or five years have been pursuing this project now with SunCast.

Matthew: So tell us at a high level what SunCast is and what’s it do.

Joseph: Awesome, yes. SunCast is a new solar cogeneration technology and those are a bunch of fancy words. What cogeneration means is we’re doing two different energy technologies with sunlight. So we scoop up sunlight and we split it into the half you can see and the half you can’t see. The half you can see and that plants can use we cram that into fiber optic cables. They are like pipes for light but they’re skinny and flexible like your shoe lace and we can route the sunlight deep into buildings. The other half of sunlight is heat. It’s infrared. It’s what makes your hands and arms and body feel warm when you’re in the sun. Well the plants don’t use it and you don’t want it in your building because it’s just going to run your air conditioning costs up. So we split that off and we send that to another technology which turns it into electricity more efficiently than a solar cell.

Matthew: Wow. That is really interesting. You know I’m probably one of the many people out there that equate the suns energy and think of the heat component as so important and don’t think about there’s an aspect other than the heat that’s going on in the light spectrum that’s doing such incredible things. So that is really interesting and now when you say you move the light around how exactly does that happen?

Joseph: So yeah it’s a technology called fiber optics. For example most any telephone conversation you have like our conversation we’re having right now is going over the internet and the internet is communicating the light pulses that are going through these pipes for light called fiber optic cables. So once you can cram light in it it will just go down it like water goes down a hose. We’re using a different kind of fiber optic cables and we cram light into them; sunlight into them and just like water goes through a hose you can route these cables and bring the light into your building.

Matthew: So who do you picture as the ideal customer for SunCast. I mean obviously we have a cannabis focused show here but who uses this technology ideally?

Joseph: Well the ideal customer is any of the pioneers in indoor agriculture. Some 90% of legal cannabis grows are still inside. There’s a lot of benefits to growing inside. You get superior number of crop rotations, better yield control security but the challenge is always trying to replicate the sun. Well we can make that challenge much, much less for them by bringing the sunlight that’s hitting their roof inside their grow and lower their costs dramatically and we believe increase their yield.

Matthew: Yeah there is a lot of pioneering efforts in the indoor growing space apart from cannabis. I follow some of these container companies that are growing food crops in they look like shipping containers and they’re doing it in a way that looks so efficient and incredible that I hope we see some breakthroughs there.

Joseph: Yeah indoor agriculture the time is coming. If you even look up the information from the USRDA they talk about a nine billion dollar market; target market of people growing food indoors and there’s a lot of reasons for that. That average fruit or vegetable you eat probably travels 1,500 miles to your plate. So a lot of what you’re paying for is the cost of the transportation, you’re paying for the cost of refrigerating, the cost of spoilage as it comes to you, and there’s now a new hyper local movement going on; people care. Even if you buy organic food you don’t know if your next door neighbors have GMOs or not so indoor agriculture is coming.

Matthew: Yes. Now tell us a little about your connection with the Department of Energy and their interest in SunCast.

Joseph: Yeah so well I’ll just say it right now. The Department of Energy did not give us several million dollars to grow weed for people right. So this technology was funded through the Building Technologies Program and it’s for commercial lighting. So commercial buildings represent some 70% of electricity used through buildings and the number one cost of energy use in buildings happens to be lighting and you could say oh if you want to be green about it you can put up LEDs and solar panels but the truth is once you get above two stories you just can’t get enough energy from solar panels to light up LEDs due to all the efficiencies. So we are really a breakthrough in green building design.

SunCast is the company that’s taking it to agriculture and taking it into the cannabis industry. So there’s two sister companies that are working with each other and we do have to keep church and state separated a little bit. Make sure we’re not using federal money, taxpayer money to grow weed. There’s some concern there so SunCast is the one that’s allowed to use the technology for that.

Matthew: Can you tell us a little bit about the upfront costs to implementing SunCast in a grow?

Joseph: Sure. Well you know that’s one of the really exciting parts that we want to provide our customers. There’s a company called Solar City. Have you ever heard of them?

Matthew: Yes. I have.

Joseph: Yeah. I mean what Solar City did solar panels have been around a long time and the technology has advanced but it hasn’t changed that much. The real breakthrough is when Solar City provided financing for its customers. So it was able to put the solar panels on a person’s house for free or little money down and then only charge for the electricity that the solar panels deliver but charge that electricity less than what the utility would charge for electricity. So it’s a no-brainer right? Who wouldn’t want free, cheaper, green energy on their house and they’ve been crushing it and the solar energy industry has been one of the fastest growing clean energies ever, ever seen. SunCast will be the Solar City of cannabis. So we intend for just a fraction of the install costs to put these systems on a grower’s rooftop and then only charge for the full spectrum daylight that we deliver at a cost cheaper than any full spectrum electric light lifetime costs that they could run it for.

Matthew: Wow that’s fascinating. Now is Solar City is that an Elon Musk company as well.

Joseph: It was actually Elon and his brother, Kimbal. We’re talking to their cousins and I can’t remember their cousin’s names. So actually the cousins of Elon and Kimbal are running Solar City and the majority owners although I believe both Kimbal and Elon are on the board and involved.

Matthew: We got to figure out a way to clone these musk family members here because their clearly having a huge positive impact on the world.

Joseph: Yeah well maybe everybody out there can cross their fingers for me. I was told that I’m going to get an introduction to the family in the months to come so hopefully we can all work on this together. It would be a great strategic entity to work with. We would really get some great leverage there.

Matthew: Oh yeah. So tell us a little bit about; we talked a little bit about how sunlight is different than normal electrical light. How the sun is a better growing medium than artificial light but can you tell us anything more about how growers should be framing this concept in their mind of the sunlight versus artificial light and what it means to them on a practical level day to day running their grow?

Joseph: Absolutely. I mean first I’ll talk a little bit about electric lighting. It is the largest cost to the grower. The lights; energy is the largest cost to the grower and it can be anywhere from 30% their costs up to 50% their costs depending on where they live and their circumstances of their grow and it all starts with the lights. Not only does it take a lot of energy to run one of these lights; you can have a 1,000 watt light spaced anywhere from 4’ to 6’. When you talk about a grow one of the first questions the growers will talk to each other is they’ll say how many lights do you have right? Actually they don’t even talk in terms of square feet.

Matthew: Right.

Joseph: How many lights do you have right?

Matthew: Right.

Joseph: And each one of these lights is actually producing more heat than light. I mean up to 80% of the energy that you’re getting out of the electrical socket is being turned directly into heat. So there’s an enormous amount of energy that has to go into the air conditioning. A single 1,000 watt HID lamp can take anywhere from 5 to 6,000 BTUs of air conditioning and even the high end gavita’s, ePapillon’s, double ended lamps still take 3 to 4,000 BTUs. So they’re talking about HVAC in terms of tons of HVAC and then this extra heat depending on how it’s hitting the plant can heat it up and drive its respiration. Respiration is the way the plant defends itself from that extra heat. It will pull up more water out of the soil and then it will pump it out the surface of the plant. Well then you have a dehumidification problem so that’s the other great energy sucker right and dehumidification is actually a double problem because if you don’t manage that quite right that extra vapor can turn into mold and take down crops.

Matthew: Yeah. A big problem there.

Joseph: Right. So there are lots of options in the lighting space. I just mentioned a couple. The vast majority are standard HID lamps, high pressure sodium, metal hay light. There are some up and coming technologies the double ended lamps will get you anywhere 10 to 30% more efficient than standard HIDs. There’s ceramic metal hay lights they are great for vegetation. They may be 10 to 20% more efficient than other HIDs. There’s plasma lights and then of course the one that everybody loves to talk about is LEDs. That stands for light emitting diodes and for all the talk about how efficient and how great LEDs are a lot of third party research has shown that even the best LEDs are just about as efficient as producing light as double ended lamps but the upfront cost can be anywhere from 5 to 6 times the upfront cost of double ended lamps.

Now LEDs will get there. I work with the Department of Energy Solid State Lighting Group so I do know a lot about that technology and it will be; the costs will be coming down in the next few years. They will be getting more efficient the next few years but not that much maybe a factor of two. So it’s still going to be a big pain area and it’s still going to be a big cost. There are other advantages to LEDs that I could get into they use light more efficiently and spectrum more efficiently but when we talk about spectrum of sunlight versus man made light. So a photon is a photon so if we’re actually creating a photon with some kind of electric light it’s a useable photon. That photon isn’t too much different than what comes off the sun. It’s really the collection of all the different colors and we call that spectrum and there’s a particular range that horticulturists know and talk about in terms of light spectrum. They call it PAR, P-A-R and I’m just going to geek out a little bit here.

The way they talk about that spectrum is they use a unit called nanometers which talks about the wave length; how long that wave is and the PAR spectrum is generally regarded from 400 which is a deep, deep purple out to 700 which is just beyond what we can see; what humans can see in red. In fact humans see differently than plants see. So it’s really important to get a spectrum. You don’t really care about lumens, you care about how it feels out this McCree Curve of plants. So different lights will do that but still if you look at all the spectrums of different electric lights they’re choppy. The high pressure sodiums kick out a ton of this yellow/orange light that isn’t actually ideal for flowering. It’s just better for flowering than the metal hay light lights that don’t have any orangish/reddish light. It’s really the deep red that plants really like.

LEDs have spiky; they can really hammer certain frequencies. You can have a blue and you can have a red and it kind of gives this purple light and then new LED vendors are putting these white phosphorus in there to give a nice even glow. In general they’re all compared. If you go to all the literature they always compare it to sunlight. If you look at all these lamps they compare it to sunlight and why it’s because sunlight is the gold standard and it’s what the plant has evolved to use and they’re even showing that these plants will use wave lengths, frequencies, colors of light that go beyond this PAR range and well beyond what we can see into the UV, into the IR, into the near IR. So sunlight is kind of what you want to recreate and we’re just bringing it in your building.

Matthew: Are you an accredited investor looking to be part of some of the most sought after private cannabis investment opportunities? Get on our free private Investor Alert Service at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Once you have subscribed to the Investor Alert Service you will get access to curated opportunities that the public will simply never see. Again that URL is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Now back to your program.

Wow that’s fascinating. I have heard some of these terms before but you put that into a nice easy to digest context so I appreciate that. In terms of men sequestering or separating the heat into a useable form of energy what are the exact mechanics there that allows that to happen? So we’ve separated off the sunlight into a useable format for our plants and now we’re going to separate the energy or the heat to create energy can you walk us through some more of the mechanics there?

Joseph: Yeah and let’s talk a little bit about this magic word heat right because heat is a tricky one. So when you have an HID bulb okay the heat comes out the bulb itself. That thing is several hundred degrees. You don’t want to touch that. You don’t want that near your plants. It’s going to burn them okay. That’s a high temperature and it will come into your building as heat that you have to remove.

Matthew: Okay.

Joseph: Okay but you know honestly in the light you can see there is heat there too. It’s just the plants can use that energy so it doesn’t turn into extra heat load for the room. LEDs similarly give out just as much heat although they’re at a lower temperature and it’s out the back so they feel cool out the front but you’ll notice they’ve got these big heat sinks out the back. Now sunlight has the full spectrum. The plants use a portion of it and what we’re saying is that the portion of light that the plants don’t use would just land in the room as extra heat. So that infrared spectrum, that infrared energy would be heat because the plants don’t used it. If the plants didn’t use visible light that would be heat too but they suck it up.

Matthew: Okay.

Joseph: Now we split the visible and the infrared with a technical term called magic. No we have some patent pending technology but I can’t fully get into here and after the light is split off we have a very particular chemistry of solar cell that is sensitive to infrared light and not to the visible light and so that research is part of what’s been funded by the Department of Energy.

Matthew: That’s fascinating. Okay so how much cooler would you say a grow would be that is using SunCast or supplemented by SunCast than a traditional grow?

Joseph: Yeah. So let’s talk about how do I want to say that? I guess I want to talk about in terms of there are electric light usage and then there’s SunCast usage right because they’re each kind of separate. Let’s say they’re using just as much electric light as they were before and they’re adding our sunlight to it.
Matthew: Okay.

Joseph: So adding our sunlight to it would only add the extra visible photons that the plant could use. We are not adding extra energy that the plant can’t use and because of our delivery we’re not spraying unnecessary light around the room. It’s either going directly on the plant or we have some exciting technologies that allow us to deliver light throughout the canopy of the plant which is really cool. We can talk a little bit more about that later. In that case we would hardly change their heat load at all right so if they had a certain tonnage to manage their existing lights adding our cold light to it will keep their heat load just about the same. It will increase a little but not very much.

Now some growers may want to save electricity and save costs so they will have much, much, much less electric light. You still want some maybe as much as a cloudy day which isn’t very much just to keep the plants going to extend the cycle and the timing or as backup whenever it’s cloudy outside. So in that case their heat load is only going to come from their electric lights which are say maybe reduced to a 10th of what they were before and their heat load is going to be a 10th of what it was before and then again we won’t add very much to that.

Matthew: Okay. Now for people that are listening and saying well how much; if I’m renting a building or leasing a building would I have to make huge substance changes to the roof or how do we get the SunCast technology into the building in a minimally invasive way?

Joseph: Right.

Matthew: Impact on a grow facility.

Joseph: Right. So the first thing we have to say is every rooftop is wildly different. So every installation will be custom and we will work with the customers and with structural engineers to work with their rooftop and their needs. The first and most important consideration is structural load. Most buildings at least here in Colorado have at least a four pound per square foot structural load. Many are as high as ten pounds per square foot structural load. We will be under that and largely you don’t want to affix things to the roof. You want them floating on the roof. So our systems are modular which can work around other things like HVAC systems. We can fit our technology around that upon their roof.

Now we do have to get the light in the building right. Now we concentrate the sunlight thousands of times into these fiber optic cables. So what that means is for the amount of light we’re letting in our penetrations into the roof are thousands of times smaller. So in general when they put an HVAC system on the roof they’re cutting a big hole sometimes 3’ x 3’ and they’re making huge structural adjustments to put the extra HVAC load on the roof. So our penetrations will be much, much smaller than that 4’ x 4’ hole but there will be more of them right because we have to let the light in more often throughout the roof. We want to work with the growers and the building owners. A lot of the people who are renting facilities the landlords know that hey this is a big business and I can charge a certain premium to these cannabis growers. I’m going to let them put the HVAC on the roof, I’m going to let them make penetrations, I’m going to let them modify the electric.

We’re going to work with those building owners and show them that this is going to be improvement to their building and when it’s all done we can take our modular systems off their roof and we can seal up those penetrations with a professional roofer and let them reuse their building how they see fit.

Matthew: You mentioned a little bit about how to use the light in the canopy. Let’s circle back and let you talk about that a little bit in terms of maybe running a light for the canopy under the canopy or in different ways.

Joseph: Yeah right thank you for that. We have a couple other really cool things that I haven’t even talked about so I’ll talk about this and one other thing. When you have a cannabis bush outside I mean it’s really a tree. If you go to an outdoor grow these things are huge 12, 15 feet tall, sometimes taller. They’re enormous.

Now when they are outside the sun walks around the whole surface of the plant and its fruit, its flower, its bud grows around it like ornaments on a Christmas tree right. That’s an outdoor grow where the plants have lots of space around them and that’s what the plant is built to do. Now if you have an indoor grow your economics have changed. You now have to think in terms of how do I maximize my yield per square foot and the way people maximize their yield per square foot when the number one cost is the lights is they cram the trees together and at the very top where they get the light from the electric light they form a canopy and that canopy is where all the bud, all the flower grows, and then they cut the undercarriage. They spend a lot of time and energy trimming that undercarriage because the plant will spend extra energy creating vegetation down there but there isn’t enough bright light to create any bud down there because of the shadowing of the canopy.

Matthew: Right.

Joseph: So because our light is in these skinny, flexible fiber optics and because we have eliminated all the heat from the fiber optics or from the sunlight we can actually take the sunlight and drop it under the canopy of the plant. We can have light go down through the body of the plant and create more vegetation or I’m sorry more flowering under that bright canopy. So if you’re canopy say all your profit centers come from a 12 inch plane right that’s where your flowers are the top 12 inches of your plants. Well if we can bring light under the canopy and maybe double or triple that profit center plane to 24 inches, 30 inches, 36 inches then we can actually leverage the output of the entire facility. Now that’s a huge gain for the growers. No one else can do that except LEDs because they don’t have a high temperature; they have a lot of heat but not a high temperature but the problem with LEDs is they’re expensive. So if you want to have an LED bar every few feet the cost of that adds up and they still use a lot of electricity too.

So we think the fact that we can bring in cold light that’s full spectrum and under the canopy is a real disruptive aspect to this technology and we do think it’s going to change the face of indoor growing and it’s going to make indoor grows comparable or better in many regards to a greenhouse.

Matthew: Fascinating stuff. Now for growers that are listening that want to start to implement something like this or want to make it part of their long term planning when will this be available to commercial growers?

Joseph: Thank you. We are in late stages of development. We have to ramp to manufacturing levels and we hope to do that in early 2017. However right now we are looking for BETA test partners. We’re looking for grows that can really take measurements of our system and compare it to an electrical only system and give us results, give us feedback, and give the industry honest feedback from horticultural people, from people in the trenches growing day in and day out to show what our product can do and to show how we can improve our products. So we’re looking for those BETA test partners and I ask them to reach out to me at the website or either by email and let’s start talking. Let’s start talking about your grow, about your needs. We can go through some of the fine details of what our technology looks like and we can get that conversation started.

Matthew: Now let’s talk about where you are in raising capital. I mean you recently pitched at the ArcView Group can you tell us a little bit about that and where you are in raising capital and if you would like any investors listening to reach out to you? Can you do that?

Joseph: Yeah. I mean ArcView was great. Oh man what a great community. Everybody was connected and sincere and really excited about the industry. We had an especially good time. From the pitch we got first place which is really exciting.

Matthew: Well yeah that always makes it fun.

Joseph: Oh it was totally fun and people were coming up to me and chatting the whole time. We just pitched early. We are just actually starting our fundraising now so although we had talked to a number of investors we are just starting that process now and I do invite you please come talk to me and we are doing a seed round right now and would love to discuss our business model and where we think the business can go and how we’re poised in this industry. It’s all extremely exciting. As the judges showed us when we got the results at ArcView.

Matthew: For investors specifically how should they reach out to you? Go to your website or is there an email? What’s the best way?

Joseph: Our website right now. So here’s our website Our website right now is really pretty fluffy and vague. We are in stealth mode and the reason your listeners get to hear it is because this is CannaInsider right.

Matthew: Right.

Joseph: Yeah. So we’re not to market yet and we don’t really want to let the cat out of the bag. We do have a contact portal there so you can fill in the form and that will send me an email or I can just give you an email right now.

Matthew: Whatever; it depends how brave you’re feeling.

Joseph: Oh I think you have good people here.

Matthew: Okay. Go ahead.


Matthew: Okay great. Well let’s talk a little bit about a couple personal things here. It’s something I’m trying and we’ve gotten good feedback and that is is there a book that has had a big impact on your life. I mean it sounds like you’ve been very immersed in technical subjects and the world is about to get the benefit of that but is there any book when you look back over the arc of your life that maybe opened up a crossroads for you or helped you to develop a lens on your life and where you wanted to go that you would like to share with listeners that you’d recommend?

Joseph: Absolutely. Yeah I mean I’ve definitely had a strong technical background my whole life but that’s not really my north start and it came out. Boulder is a very open mind, progressive town and when I came here I was like a sponge with different spiritual traditions and I have to say that having a deep spiritual connection whatever that looks like for you right. It could be a particular modality. It could be nature right. It could just be enjoying a sunset or enjoying other people. Whatever that is for you I invite you to go deeper because that’s going to provide a richness to your life and it’s going to provide you a more finely honed moral compass which is really going to help you in the tougher questions and ultimately business is all about people anyway and for me it was my spiritual path that really made me want to take technology and have my life be a contribution. So there is about a ten year process of me looking at spiritual paradigms and saying God I’m just a nerd. What can I do that actually makes a difference in the world and then for me I learned about climate change and what a mess that is and I said okay how can I do something about that and after about seven years of looking and working in the solar space I stumbled on this technology.

So I would say develop your spiritual north star. A book for me when I was in my early 20s was “Autobiography of Yogi” and that’s the life, autobiography of Paramahansa Yogananda. I was never his teacher or anything but he’s just a beautiful example of a humble spirit with an open heart who was always willing to take more and more and miracles happened in his life and I think we all need to hear more stories and miracles to show us what’s possible.

Matthew: That is a perfect place to end Joseph. Thanks for sharing that. Can you give out your website one more time for our listeners?

Joseph: Sure. and my email is

Matthew: Joseph thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today and educating us. This was really a fascinating subject to learn about and we appreciate it.

Joseph: Oh what a pleasure.

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

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.

Cannabis grows are challenged by heat caused by traditional grow lights. This often results in cultivators having to invest a lot in chillers, special HVAC systems and more. Also, as much as we try we can’t replicate the perfect energy of the sun when lighting our plants indoors. Joseph DiMasi of Suncast believes he has solved both of these problems, listen in to learn more.

Key Takeaways:
[1:59] – Joseph talks about his background and how he started SunCast
[2:58] – What is SunCast
[5:16] – SunCast’s ideal customer
[7:12] – Joseph talks about his connection with the Department of Energy
[8:40] – The cost of implementing SunCast in a grow
[11:30] – Sunlight versus artificial light
[19:16] – Joseph talks about separating the heat into usable energy
[21:22] – How much cooler is a SunCast grow compared to a traditional grow
[26:32] – Joseph talks about using the light in the canopy
[30:03] – When will SunCast be available to commercial growers
[31:22] – Joseph talks about pitching at ArcView and how investors can reach out
[34:02] – Joseph’s book recommendation

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

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The State of Cannabis Angel Investing with Troy Dayton

Troy Dayton CEO of the ArcView Group

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday 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(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)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(dot)canninsider(dot)com/consulting. Now here's your program.

It’s long been known that there is a group of insiders in San Francisco who see angel investment opportunities before anybody else. These angel investors meet with entrepreneurs just as they are beginning and often make investments in these companies while the valuations are still very favorable. Similar to how this has happened in the tech scene for decades. There is a group in the cannabis industry where cannabis focus entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to well healed angel investors. This group is called the ArcView Group and I’m pleased to have the Founder and CEO of the ArcView Group Troy Dayton with us today to talk about all the incredible things going on in the cannabis investment scene. Troy welcome back to CannaInsider.

Troy: Thanks for having me Matt. It’s good to be back.

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

Troy: I am in downtown Oakland in ArcView’s offices that overlook Lake Merritt.

Matthew: Great. You didn’t start out in the cannabis business side of things you were an activist. Can you just give us a little brief on your roots in activism?

Troy: Yeah. Well when I was in high school and I tried cannabis for the first time it resulted in me being in handcuffs and put in the back of a car. It turned out it was a joke. My friends played a joke on me with a security guard and luckily I didn’t have to experience the pain and the downstream effects of a criminal record for that scare but what it did do was give me a sense of the fact that marijuana prohibition was wrong and that I wanted to change it, and so when I got to college I got involved with the Marijuana Policy Project when they were just getting started that year in 1995 and got involved in a local group on campus and that was the beginning of it. And then I helped Co-Found Students for Sensible Drug Policy during my senior year at American University in Washington D.C. and then worked in many different roles in the drug policy reform movement in the years until I started ArcView with Steve Deangelo in 2010.

Matthew: Troy we had you on CannaInsider in 2014 and we learned about the ArcView Group then but for new listeners can you give us a brief on what the ArcView Group is at a high level?

Troy: Yes. So the ArcView Group has had a number of groundbreaking ventures in the cannabis space. The one we’re probably most known for is the Investor Network where we have over 500 high net worth accredited investors that have placed more than 70 million dollars behind a 111 companies in the cannabis sector. And we’ve also raised just under a million dollars from stage at those events for the legalization movement. And then we also put out The State of Legal Marijuana Markets. We just put out the 4th Edition of the State of Legal Marijuana Markets this time in partnership with New Frontier, and this is sort of the definitive market report for the cannabis industry. It’s over 300 pages and it just goes deep dive into each of the state markets and some of the big trends in the sector and that’s mentioned in the news about a dozen times every day. And then we are also partners in Canopy, Canopy Boulder which is now expanding to a number of other cities which is a seed stage mentor driven accelerator for businesses in the cannabis sector.

We’ve had about 29 companies graduate or 20 companies graduate and then another 10 that are in there now and some really amazing companies coming out of there. And then we’re also partners in Cannasure which is an insurance company for businesses in the cannabis industry and we did that back in 2011. So that’s kind of who we are.

Matthew: So my key takeaway there is you’re lazy.

Troy: Yeah we’ve been busy.

Matthew: Yeah that is a lot. Now when we had on back in 2014 you gave us a brief of the investment scene and what it’s like at ArcView Events. How has it changed in the last two years?

Troy: Well let’s see 2014. When was it in 2014? Do you remember when we talked?

Matthew: It was about October-ish I think.

Troy: October okay. So by October of 2014 a lot of what we’re now seeing today really kind of started around then. Prior to about midway through 2014 really high quality entrepreneurs and really serious investors putting really serious amounts of capital into this space were kind of hard to come by, but I think after people saw that cannabis was being sold openly and legally in Colorado and that the federal government was going to take a hands off approach and more and more states started to pass I think that really woke people up. Both great entrepreneurs as well as great investors to come in and really start making deals and we’ve just seen that trend continue. We just get such higher rated entrepreneurs now and more and more serious investors coming into this space. To give you a sense of that 70 million of investment from our members into companies that have come through ArcView, 45 million of that occurred in 2015. So we’ve been doing this since November of 2011.

Matthew: Right.

Troy: So that just shows you what happened since the last time we spoke. I mean people really opened up their checkbooks and it was a massive flood of investment from the year before, and I will also say that it’s still very nascent. It’s still quite; it’s not like raising money in or investing in the tech space for example right? I mean it’s not even close. We’re still very nascent. It’s still very hard for companies that are looking to raise more than two or three million dollars to do that, and the amounts are still pretty small in comparison to other industries but in comparison to our industry, boy it is really increasing at a remarkable rate.

Matthew: Tell us a little bit about the best pitch prize. I mean you hear a lot of pitches from stage and this prize to create a best pitch prize came up and now there is a fund around that. Can you tell us about that?

Troy: Yeah. So the great thing about ArcView is we’re not the ones choosing the companies right. It’s our members that choose them. So we hear from about a dozen companies every week that want to present and we choose the top three or four each week to put on a webinar and they get paired up with our Chief Mentor Francis Priznar and are kind of helped to prepare to give the best pitch that they can on that webinar and on that webinar there’s usually 30 to 50 of our members are on that webinar and they vote on the companies. They rank the companies and if a company gets a certain high enough rating they auto qualify for the next big event that we host that’s live where our members come from all over the world to attend.

And then there’s a selection committee that chooses the rest of them that make up the dozen or so companies that present from stage and then at the events people who are members get to rank the companies and vote on the companies and so we now award the best pitch prize at the end of each of the meetings to the company that received the highest votes. This time in just a week from now we’re doing something we’ve never done before which is if the company has a deal with our internal deal platform capital partner New Way and their ancillary is not available to companies that actually touch the plant then they can be in the running for a Winner’s Fund which is a $50,000 dollar investment at whatever terms they pre-negotiated with New Way prior to coming to the event and it’s going to be chosen by the members.

And so now when members are in that audience they are; their votes really matter. There’s actually going to be a $50,000 dollar investment made and that money is money that ArcView is putting up for it and so we’re now putting money behind companies but we trust the wisdom of our crowd, and so we’re hoping that the members make a great choice.

Matthew: Let’s back up to a little bit about how you said Francis preps the entrepreneurs because it’s really important to put your best foot forward when giving a presentation to investors. How does Francis help the entrepreneurs maybe go from an okay pitch to a better pitch and have a lot of questions answered ahead of time? What can listeners listening thinking about how to improve their pitch in terms of being more relevant to investors?

Troy: Yeah I mean I think Francis is able to just seeing so many pitches and understands this particular batch of investors really well because that’s how he got the job. He was an investor member who had made a bunch of investments and was mentoring companies through the group. So then we were like when we came up with the idea for this role we knew he would be a great fit for it. But the tough thing about being an entrepreneur is that you’re “in the weeds” right. You are looking so closely at everything that it’s hard to see the forest for the trees and having somebody with an outside eye who is knowledgeable can make a big difference in being able to help you kind of see that and really simplify things and help people understand things that they might not understand because you’re talking to a unique audience.

And so that’s really what’s helpful there and in terms of advice for entrepreneurs I think people spend a lot; I think people spend too much energy on their pitch decks and not enough energy on their relationships. At the end of the day investment is all about relationships. A good pitch deck might give people the sense that you’re really sharp but at the end of the day an investment is like a marriage right. This is a five to ten year relationship and an exchange of value and where someone is going to trust the entrepreneur to be a good steward of their resources. And so the relationship becomes so important, and so how are we looking at people not so much for what they can invest but also for what kind of person they are and what kind of relationship can I build with them and how can I make this exciting for them and how do I stay in good contact and good touch with them. That’s probably the biggest thing I think people miss.

Matthew: Now early on in the process there was more trepidation around investing in companies that touch the plant versus not touching the plant. Has that perception changed? Do you see a shift more where people are or investors are more likely to invest in companies that touch the plant because it’s perhaps more of a straightforward business model than a speculative ancillary business?

Troy: Absolutely. That’s one thing that’s changed in the last couple years. People are much more willing to invest directly in the plant and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that there is state licensing. Look if the state is going to give somebody a license and they’re going to take tax money from it like I think a lot of people feel like okay the water is warm. There are many, many investors who don’t fit in that category though and particularly a lot of new investors that are coming in particularly if they’re investing other people’s money. I tend to be a little more cautious on that and focus on the ancillary businesses. Also because investors tend to invest in things that they know and understand and the cannabis industry is not something most people understand but they may really understand point of sale software or online marketplaces or social media or they may understand packaging or they may understand lighting technology right and so for them they start looking where they know how to evaluate a business and so that’s often one of the reasons people wind up investing in the ancillary businesses.

But certainly there is much quick returns usually in a business that touches the plant because usually you’re talking about limited licensing. So if there’s only a small number of people that are able to have a license to do that in a given state you’re getting a bit of a protected market and you’re looking at cash flows pretty quickly. So it tends to be a bit of a different value proposition for investors but you’re unlikely to have a 100X return on a dispensary whereas when you get into things that have an exponential growth potential that rely on network effect and specialized technology that’s either going to be a zero out or a big win and so it’s a bit of a different investment game.

Matthew: You mentioned you been doing this since 2011. Looking back these last five years is there a certain type of entrepreneur or a market segment that seems to appeal to the investors at ArcView?

Troy: Well I think the best teams are always a mix of cannabis knowledge and experience and business knowledge and experience. I think there is a tendency for cannabis people to get together and start companies. People that what they’re bringing to the table is their experience in the cannabis industry. Those teams are not likely to succeed and the reason is because while they’ve been spending the last decade learning about the cannabis industry, the cannabis industry where it’s going is not where it’s been so by its very nature they probably won’t have the skills and requisite experience to really build that business.

Vice versa if you’ve got a group of people who’ve only spent the last 20 years really immersed in other types of businesses and not the cannabis industry they’re going to misunderstand the consumer. They’re going to misunderstand the idiosyncrasies of this market. They’re going to miss out on cause marketing and other things that just are very unique that you just can’t get unless you’ve really worked in this industry and understand where it’s going and how it’s getting there. And so I think both teams like that are at a disadvantage and I think when they build teams that are a mixture of the best suited to succeed in this marketplace and also there often tends to be some cultural translation and sharing that needs to happen there as well so it’s more challenging but ultimately overcoming that challenge really sets those companies up to succeed.

Matthew: That’s a great point. People with different backgrounds and different experiences can often see around a corner that other can’t so it sounds like a diversity of thought backgrounds is really kind of key as we evolve faster and faster in this industry.

Troy: Absolutely.

Matthew: Now how about investors? I mean is there a profile of investor that you say hey this is a typical ArcView investor or is there a lot of diversity there in terms of backgrounds, where they come from, how they think, and who’s a good fit as a potential candidate to become an investor?

Troy: Yes. There’s a wide range of investors that are part of ArcView. I think at the top end you’ve got people who have a couple million dollars they want to place into this space, whether they are small funds or they are ultra high net worth individuals billions, etc. We have those people, family offices, etc. that are part of our group, and then on the other end of the spectrum we have people who are high net worth because say they’ve owned a restaurant or they sold their small business and now they’re kind of retired and they’ve got a couple million dollars from their work that they’ve done and are looking to invest in the next great American industry and they want to put a $100,000 dollars or $200,000 dollars into the space. Those are great investors for this as well. Even people who don’t have any angel investing experience but this is the industry that really inspired them.

We also have people who sold companies and active in the Silicon Valley Angel Investment world. We have celebrities that are members as well. We have people who are doing that piece and then we also have some of the top, the biggest people in the whole space the heads of the biggest companies Tripp Keber and Steve Deangelo and the heads of Open Vape and all these who are there and are really looking to make acquisitions and partnerships and so it really runs the gamut.

Matthew: There’s probably a lot of listeners that are thinking hey am I a fit for this. What’s it like at an ArcView Event? Are people doing bong rips and playing hacky sack? What’s it like here? What’s it like to be a fly on the wall at ArcView? I mean.

Troy: That would be great Matt. I wish we had more hacky sack and bong hits on the tables. It’s very professional but it’s professional with a lot of more excitement right. I think when a lot of people think about business conferences or investment conferences they picture people kind of being all business and I would say that at our events I think you’d be very impressed with the caliber of people that are there but I think you’d also be really surprised to see how relatable and how relating and collaborative they are. We’ve really built an interesting and valuable community because a lot of these people come to each of the events throughout the year and they’re engaged on the webinars and everything so it’s really become a family and the kind of intimacy that builds in that kind of a space.

I remember someone telling me I can’t remember the last time I was at a business conference where people in suits were hugging each other and so there’s a real and I think it’s because we’re doing something different. I think for a lot of people either they’ve been cannabis consumers or have been really excited about this opportunity for a long time but maybe they come from a place or come from an industry where that wasn’t really accepted. They couldn’t talk about that and so they finally find their tribe of people where they can talk business and everything else but they’re also are involved in something somewhat irreverent in the world and they’re changing the world in a powerful way and they’re up to something together that’s special and that I think is what makes it unique at ArcView and I think a lot of people come for the economic opportunity but they stay for the people, they stay for the change, and they stay for the value that we’re creating in the world by making it more free.

Matthew: Now what about investors that come maybe for the first time and they hear some pitches and that sounds great. They’re considering investing but they don’t really have context yet. Maybe they see the promise of the industry or they’ve heard some things that are interesting about cannabis so they think they know something but they don’t have the full context of what’s important or considerations.

Troy: Yeah.

Matthew: How do other investors or kind of the ArcView eco system help to orient new members?

Troy: Yeah. I think that this is the reason why we started ArcView right was because so many people were making bad decisions or doing it without the benefit of collaboration and so one of the first things we do when a new member signs up is we introduce them to either other investors or other companies depending on where they are in their process. If they’re really early in the process before we introduce them to companies we introduce them to their investor peers so they can find people who can kind of welcome them to the crew and figure out what they’re interested in and kind of start to build that peer network to build that kind of comfort and then some people are like no send me the; I want to make some moves here introduce me to the companies and I say what’s nice about it is that we have a whole internal deal platform where people can look at deal after deal after deal.

You can watch the pitches that they gave on the webinar or from stage. You can look at all of these various aspects of the deals because one of the biggest problems in investing especially in a new area that you’re not familiar with is that we don’t have a way to judge deal against other deals like it to see whether the company really matches up, if the team is strong, if the opportunity is good, and all those pieces and so they say when you’re going to buy a house you should start looking months ahead of when you plan to buy because you want to look at a dozen or so houses before you choose one and I think similar with investments in the cannabis industry and so it’s all about building that peer network and it’s also about getting face to face time with entrepreneurs so that you can look in their eye and say hey is this somebody I believe in, is this somebody I want to be in business with for the next few years, is this somebody I think is going to be a good steward of my resources.

And then the other thing I would say is maybe start small. One of the nice things we have at ArcView is the opportunity to in many companies invest as little as 5 or $10,000 dollars in a company when that company may have a minimum of $50,000 or $100,000 and that’s because of this internal deal platform that we have and this relationship we have with our capital partner to be able to create what’s called single purpose vehicles. It works very similar to how AngelList works and that allows people to diversify over a wide range of investments and it allows them to get their feet wet without betting the farm.

Matthew: Right.

Troy: And so the way to learn is often by doing and so if people invest 5 or 10 grand in a couple companies they think are interesting it’s through that process that they’ll start to really get a feel for what they; where they really want to place bigger bets.

Matthew: Well let’s talk a little bit about BreEZe. It’s an online investing platform. If we were to log on right now and take a look at it just walk us through what we’d see and how it works.

Troy: Yeah. It’s where all of the deals that come through ArcView go and so entrepreneurs upload their pitch deck and their deal terms and then we upload videos of their presentations and the Q & A that happens afterward from the members. So whether it’s the webinar or from stage and then there’s a space where the investors can talk to each other and evaluate the deal together and express in a deal through that as well and this is great because you can really search through a wide range of deals to really see what’s out there and be able to narrow it down by sector or by stage of the company, look at their ratings, look at only highly rated companies, or etc. so and then on some of those companies have a pre-negotiated deal with New Way Capital and for those companies that have a pre-negotiated deal with New Way Capital there’s a little button that says invest now and that allows members, accredited investor members to click that button and reserve a slot in that company and that’s where you have these special purpose vehicles where the investor is not the person on the cap table of the company right. They invest into kind of a pooled vehicle and then the head of that particular SPV is the one that represents all those investors on the cap table of that company. It works very similar to how AngelList works.

Matthew: Yeah that really makes it easier for your first couple investments. It takes all the different permutations and variables out of it so you can just kind of focus on whether you want to do it or not at that valuation. So it’s a nice way to get your toe in the water.

Troy: Yeah. You also get the benefit of having somebody professionally negotiate and manage and keep up to date with the company because some people don’t want to do that and that’s valuable. You also; there’s also other obviously a lot of the funds that are in the cannabis sector are also members of our group too so it’s not uncommon for somebody to come in, maybe they make a few small bets but they ultimately decide that they really met somebody that runs a fund at the events and that they really trust that person. They really like their strategy, their investment thesis, and so they want to just put money behind the fund and that’s not uncommon for people to kind of play on both sides of that.

Matthew: Pivoting to ArcView market research. You recently updated The State of Legal Marijuana Markets and I believe it’s the 4th edition.

Troy: Yes.

Matthew: What kind of jumps out at you? Was there any nuggets where you were kind of leafing through when you’re creating the research and you’re like wow this is something that I probably would have not expected from last year that really is an interesting bullet point?

Troy: Yeah. I mean one of the things is just the growth of the market. I mean it’s looking at a 31% compound annual growth rate between 2015 and 2020.

Matthew: Wow.

Troy: That’s unheard of. We’re talking about in 2015 this is a 5.7 billion dollar industry growing to a 22.8 billion dollar industry by 2020. That’s remarkable. You will not find another market that’s growing at that kind of pace. That’s a multi-billion dollar market where there aren’t any big multi-national players or big banks making plays in it and so what that presents is probably the most amazing business opportunity for the small of medium sized player to really take a crack at this before they’re competing with big multi-national companies. It’s a very unique moment in economic, social, and political history and we have a really unique opportunity to succeed there.

I would say another thing that’s really interesting is the price wars that are happening between Washington and Oregon because this is the first time where you have two adult use markets that are contiguous where they share a border and their key areas of population are also fairly close to each other. I mean Portland and Seattle are not that far apart and so you also have very different regulatory structures. Oregon has a very loose regulatory structure and low taxes and Washington has high taxes and a pretty tight regulatory structure and so being able to see some of the numbers and how they interplay of what happened when Oregon came online with its adult use market and how that may be impacting the Washington market. So I think that’s a fascinating exploration which we’re going to keep an eye on for sure that came out of the report.

Matthew: Now half our listeners are in California which is kind of a shocking statistic but California’s cannabis market is just so huge and deep that it really just wharfs almost everything else.

Troy: Yes.

Matthew: And I think it’s for people that might be new listeners might have a difficult time understanding just how big it is but it’s absolutely enormous. When you look ahead I mean California do you think it is kind of moving into a leadership role where Colorado and perhaps Washington were kind of the early runners in terms of hey it’s legal here for adult use but now the pole, the capital, technology people and resources are moving to California in a bigger way?

Troy: Absolutely. People are salivating over the California market right now because it’s really; there’s a lot of pent up demand for innovation and investment and growth in California because it’s really been hampered by a lack of regulations, a lack of state regulations, a lack of clarity as to how that relates to the federal priorities. A patchwork of different regulations in each city as well as a nonprofit requirement meaning the companies had to be set up as not for profits and so that really kind of but despite that it became the largest market and it was the first market. So you’ve got this really interesting conundrum there. It’s also the core place for culture around cannabis. I mean it’s like this is where the cannabis culture has really created when most; when you ask people what state do you associate with cannabis prior to 2014 everybody would say California.

So it’s both; it’s got a lot of elements of that and what’s changing is now that there are state level regulations and also there is a ballot initiative that looks quite likely to pass people are really lining up. But it’s something a bit paradoxical about that because in our report we predict that the medical market actually is going to be losing a little bit each year. It’s probably the only market that’s not expected to grow and that’s because these new regulations are quite tight and onerous and so we expect that there will be a bit of a constriction in the market. In part because elicit cannabis is so widely available here. So you don’t need to push consumers much to have them be like screw it I’m going to the dude down the street.

Matthew: Right.

Troy: And so I think that’s going to be interesting but with the advent of legalization coming in 2016 by 2018 that adult use market goes actually online right because it takes a while for them to implement these regulations and that’s when you see really big growth start to happen once there is adult use legalization in California and so we’re looking at by 2020 at a 6.4 billion dollar market just in California and that’s not even a fully matured market because it will only be online for two years and it won’t be fully online in that first year. So 6.4 billion I mean that’s bigger than we put it out in 2015 right. So the whole market in the U.S. So it’s really a unique opportunity and also one of the challenges that you have in this market is the fact that you can’t have interstate commerce right so if you’ve got a facility in Colorado or in Washington that facility can only serve Washington or Colorado. Well these are relatively small states in terms of population.

In California you get to have economies a scale so it’s much more interesting for a business owner to own something in California because it’s more like; it’s one of the largest economies in the world. So if you have a business in California it’s like being able to have interstate commerce with your business for the whole Eastern seaboard right.

Matthew: Right.

Troy: Which you can’t do even if all of those states passed those laws. So you get a much more efficient market and marketplace. Of course the big pull on that is that at least what’s presented in the ballot initiative in 2016 and what’s in the regulations that passed for state level regulation for medical wow in both cases they’ve really gone overboard with the regulations in ways that are going to create some pretty remarkable inefficiencies in the marketplace that is going to ultimately raise prices and impact consumers in a negative way. My hope is that we get some reforms on that. We don’t need to treat cannabis like its plutonium. I think we can have reasonable regulations and follow in the footsteps of these other states. But of course California has got to do it California’s way and so we’ll live.

Matthew: Troy before we close just a couple personal development questions. Is there a book that has had a big impact on you that perhaps over the arc of your life you look back and gives you a different lens on how to perceive your life and where you want to go and what you want to do that you might recommend to CannaInsider listeners?

Troy: Yeah. I’m actually reading a book right now that I’m about a quarter of the way through that’s kind of blowing my mind. It’s called “Originals” and I don’t know the name of the author but it’s a fascinating look at people who’ve been innovators and people who’ve made really big impacts on the world and looks at the psychology in the data behind what makes people succeed in that way in creating a really unique imprint on the world and so it’s a lot less; it’s not just fluffy right? It’s not just like; it uses really solid research. So it kind of reads a lot like a Malcolm Gladwell kind of a book.

Matthew: Okay.

Troy: About that topic but I think it’s interesting and I think for anybody that is looking to make a unique mark on the world it’s important to challenge the conventional wisdom about who does it and why they do it.

Matthew: And if you could go back and talk to the 18 year old version of Troy Dayton what advice would you give him?

Troy: I would just say that maybe be careful what you wish for right that you actually have more of an impact then you imagine that you do or you have the capacity to have more of an impact then you imagined it and also that when you look up to people as people who are really; that you look up to as mentors or you look up to and say I’d love to be like that someday or whatever that it doesn’t look that way as you get there right. At the end of the day people just put on their pants one leg at a time and you don’t need to be that special or that perfect.

Matthew: Right.

Troy: In order to make such a big impact and as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve spent time with celebrities or spent time with people who are just at the very, very, very, very, very top of their field. There are some differences but they’re not the differences I imagined when I was eighteen.

Matthew: Okay. Do you boil it down to persistence or just focus? I mean when you see that just this person knows what they want?

Troy: Yes. That’s really well said Matt and also in luck and the power that luck has on people. The confidence that luck can give you can take you places right.

Matthew: Yes.

Troy: I mean I think that our consumer culture has really created a nation of insecure people right. Everyone’s insecure. Am I enough of this? Am I enough of that? Am I this, that and it creates this overall sense of insecurity and it’s only when you achieve something that the society kind of rewards you with praise for that you get to move into the sort of God given sense of security and confidence that we should all have all the time.

Matthew: Oh this could be ammunition for a whole other show here. I mean these are great topics.

Troy: Yeah don’t get me started, don’t get me started.

Matthew: Well Troy tell us about your next ArcView Event and how listeners can learn more about it?

Troy: We’re going to be in Oakland, June 18th, 19th, and 20th and that’s going to be cannabis week because on the 18th during the day Canopy Boulder is going to be doing their demo day so that’s going to be the companies that are graduating from this class are going to present at that demo day and then we have our two days of our event and then after our event it’s the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Annual Conference. So I highly recommend that people participate in that as well and then the other thing I would just say that we didn’t address here today that I just want to make sure people understand because there is a really short timeline on this which is that we’re on the ballot in nine states in November. Nine states are either going to be voting on medical or adult use legalization and those ballot initiatives are severely underfunded right now because we got on so many ballots and so I just really want to take this opportunity to remind your listeners to really consider what kind of impact you want to make and make a donation.

Whatever is meaningful to you? Some people a meaningful donation is $20 and other people a meaningful donation is 200,000 dollars. To really think about what kind of impact they want to make this November. It’s a rare opportunity to really; to basically put the final nails in the coffin of marijuana prohibition. If we do well on election day we will be waking up in a very different world on the next day and so I invite you to participate with me and others in making sure that on election night you’ve got something really at stake where if we win you feel like I was part of that and if we lose that you feel a loss from that. Make sure there’s something at stake for you in it other than just armchair politics.

Matthew: Well said. Troy what’s the best way to connect with ArcView online and social media wise?

Troy: So that’s best then there’s or ArcView Group in Twitter I’m #Tdazzl without an E and then if you’re looking to make a donation one place would be and you can do if you’d like to let them know that you kind of heard about it here. But however you give and whoever you give too please do it soon.

Matthew: Thanks so much Troy for coming on CannaInsider today and thanks so much for being an early activist and pioneer to make this happen. I think you really need to be recognized for that because as you’ve mentioned before a lot of think it’s inevitable now that cannabis prohibition will end but it was the people like you and Steve Deangelo that were doing it way back when and really, really driving and pushing this change and it couldn’t have happened with you. So thank you so much.

Troy: Yeah. My pleasure and thank you for acknowledging that and there’s still a lot more work to do and a lot more room in the history books.

Matthew: Good point.

Troy: You’ll be in it too.

Matthew: Thanks Troy.

Troy: Thanks for having me.

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

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.

Troy Dayton is the co-founder of The Arcview Group. The Arcview Group is best known as an angel investing forum where cannabis entrepreneurs and investors meet to get deals done. To date Arcview’s 500+ investor members have invested over 70 Million dollars in cannabis-focused companies.

Troy and Matthew discuss the most interesting aspects of the cannabis investing space as well what prospective entrepreneurs and investors need to know right now in order to be successful.

Troy was recently named  one of the 7 Most Powerful People in America’s Marijuana Industry by Fortune Magazine.

Key Takeaways:
[1:42] – Troy talks about his background in activism
[3:13] – What is the ArcView Group
[8:10] – Troy talks about the Best Pitch prize
[11:08] – How are entrepreneurs prepared for pitching to investors
[13:54] – What types of companies are investors investing in
[16:33] – Certain types of businesses & market segments that appeal to ArcView
[19:12] – Who is a good candidate to become an ArcView investor
[21:22] – What’s it like at an ArcView event
[24:03] – Troy talks about how new members are oriented into ArcView
[27:23] – The Breeze Online Cannabis Investing Platform
[30:42] – Troy talks about the growth in the Marijuana market
[39:23] – Troy’s book recommendation
[43:28] – Information on the next ArcView event

Learn more about Troy and the Arcview Group at:

Important:  You can use coupon code: CI100 to get $100 off the most compelling industry research in the cannabis industry, visit,

The Top Stories in Cannabis Trending Right Now with Alex Halperin

alex halperin of weed week

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Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)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(dot)canninsider(dot)com/consulting. Now here's your program.

Today we’re going to discuss the latest and most important stories in the cannabis industry. To help us on this journey I’ve invited Alex Halperin to the show. Alex is a freelance business and cannabis reporter based in Denver. Alex’s work has been published in the New Yorker, Mother Jones, Fast Company, Fortune, Al Jezeera, Business Insider and Rolling Stone. Alex has launched Weed Week, a newsletter that captures and distills the week’s most important cannabis news in a brief and digestible format. Alex, welcome to CannaInsider.

Alex: Thank you so much for having me.

Matthew: Alex before we get started can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you got involved in the cannabis industry and writing about the cannabis industry?

Alex: Sure. So my background is mainly in journalism. I’ve worked for Dow Jones and Business Week and so on, and as a freelance reporter for a bunch of different places. I was working as a freelancer in 2014 and I had written one story about the industry for Fast Company, and then they were nice enough to send me to the big conference in Las Vegas in November and I was coming from New York and I was just blown away by what a big deal it seemed like it was going to be. I thought wow, and I instantly was fascinated by there’s so many different avenues and issues involved. Everything from culture to the shadow economy that’s grown up around the industry that sort of mimics the real economy and some of the people involved. And I thought wow this is the business story of the decade. So I moved out to Denver in March 2015, a little more than a year ago and since then I’ve been writing about the industry for various publications and that’s what brought me here.

Matthew: Got it. And what’s Weed Week?

Alex: Weed Week is a weekly newsletter that I started last summer and what it tries to do is in the industry there are so many different aspects. There are legal aspects. There about business aspects, political. Political especially since it’s happening in 50 different states at once as well as in Washington. Culture, health, both the benefits of cannabis as well as potential dangers of it. So I wanted to put together a newsletter primarily for people in the industry or people who are interested in the industry that would really capture everything that’s going on in the industry in a digestible form and with links to articles so that readers can find out more about the stories that particularly interest them or apply to their business. Subscriptions are free and confidential and you can subscribe at

Matthew: Great. Well I know your Weed Week newsletter for the week comes out tomorrow. Is there any stories we can go over now with listeners?

Alex: Sure. It was a pretty interesting week and I think pretty illustrative of how cannabis news is everywhere. So one interesting story comes from Rhode Island where a Catholic bishop who is opposed to legalization feared that it would turn people into zombies. Rhode Island is a Catholic state and it’s also a state that’s seen as one likely to legalize soon so it carries some weight. What I think is interesting about this story is it sort of shows that while there are compelling arguments for opponents of cannabis to make, a lot of them come from different fields. Some for Watch Out for the Children, some for health aspects, some have an aesthetic distaste for it. The bishop seems to share all three, but what’s interesting is there is still a fair amount of opposition in this country, but it’s really not a unified movement.

The groups that oppose it generally have very little money and very little traction. So whatever valid arguments they might want to make often get buried or don’t get the attention they need. Oftentimes also, and this is certainly the case with the bishop, the opponents aren’t really up to date on what’s going on in the industry so regardless of the validity of their concerns the optics aren’t necessarily very effective to promote their agenda.

Matthew: I’ve got the story up in front of me right now. It actually almost feels like it could have been in the Onion or something, but it’s from the Cannabist and it says Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Toban, that’s his name, he’s worried people will become “zombie like”, completely stoned, filling public places. Now this is something that’s really strange. When I talk to people that have not visited a recreational state where recreational cannabis is legal they have this image in their mind of oceans of people stoned out of their mind hanging out together. Every day, like they’re just going to arrive in Colorado and just going to be oceans of people all stoned, staring at the not stoned person as they arrive. It’s really funny.

Alex: Yeah, no absolutely.

Matthew: And the article ends it says, “The bishop was disturbed by a recent report of a woman smoking pot in the back of a cathedral during a morning service.” So maybe that’s what got his hair up. Who knows. He does say one interesting thing in this article and I’m glad you have this in here. One thing I thought that was a valid point is the technology has the young people so engaged. They’re head’s down and they’re not even living a real life. They’re so consumed by the digital world. And recently going to San Francisco, I mean you see it everywhere in every big city in the world now, but some cities adoption is just higher than others. And in walking around San Francisco I was really like wow we’re kind of merging with these machines that are supposed to be serving us. They’ve totally captured our attention. A lot of us can’t go five minutes without getting a little fix, like a little update of what’s going on. That point, I thought that was a pretty good point he made about that. The technology probably could be more of a threat than the cannabis in that way but I did feel like he did deserve some recognition for that one point.

Alex: Sure absolutely.

Matthew: How about any other stories in Weed Week this week?

Alex: A fun, not a fun story but sort of an interesting story was that in Colorado it turns out, at least in one county near Denver, probably fair to say in other areas of Colorado as well, there’s been a big uptick in dogs getting sick because they ate marijuana or ate some cannabis or ate some edibles or something like that. It says it’s rarely fatal but there’s a tradition I guess blowing smoke in a dog’s face and watching him sort of stumble around a little bit. If you put some gummy bears in front of a dog, it’s going to eat them all and it could get very sick. So it’s an issue and sort of an unexpected one but an issue.

Matthew: Yeah especially since dogs have no throttle. Like oh I’ll just eat this whole thing, whatever it is. I wonder though if it’s one of these situations that you can’t hear the dogs that don’t bark. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that expression, but when cannabis was illegal in Colorado it’s like people would probably be scared to report that because if my dog ate pot, that means I had pot. You know what I mean.

Alex: Yeah sure. I mean that’s actually you thought of as an explanation for the increase in humans visiting the emergency room as well. They’re not as scared as they would be in an illegal state.

Matthew: Yeah that’s a good point. Please keep an eye out for your dogs. Keep it locked up because no one wants to see a dog have a bad trip.

Alex: Yeah. Dogs and kids, keep it away from them.

Matthew: Yes. Okay anything else in Weed Week this week?

Alex: There’s an interesting story in the Atlantic, I think the headline is a little overdone, but it says “The Failed Promise of Legal Pot”. It’s an article about economics and it talks about why the black market is still in business, although in greatly diminished terms than it used to be in states like Washington and Colorado. The reason for is pretty simple, price. People who have sort of street dealers often pay less for it. And there are different ways that states can try and break the black market. Both Washington and Colorado it says taxes but not very much. And as a result there’s still a gray area between the profit margins that legal businesses want and the profit margins that illegal dealers are willing to accept. And there were similar issues coming out of prohibition. Sort of a compliment to this piece was a piece in Buzz Feed which talked about a report from Colorado that came out a little while ago where it says that arrests, since legalization, arrests of black and Latino youth have actually increased. It plays to the racial disparities that have always accompanied illegal drug markets in this country and remain probably one of the most compelling arguments for legalization.

Matthew: Yeah. That is a tough dilemma. I think states are always loathed to, they’re like hey this is a golden goose. We don’t want to get rid of our tax revenue, but they can increase the base by cannibalizing the black market if they lower the taxes enough. Also the arbitrage opportunity with the medical cannabis because there’s no tax. It’s a tax free sale for medical marijuana in some places. So if you can avoid that tax you automatically have a double digit percentage cheaper cannabis than the rec cannabis so there’s an arbitrage opportunity there where you can go make a little spread if you’re a street dealer. So that’s definitely something. Gosh it seems like it’s a problem of both opportunity and there’s a lack of opportunity and then there’s an incentive for profit. Those are kind of the two driving forces. At least from my outside perspective. It’s hard to tell for sure, but it’s like how do you balance those.

Alex: Sure. One interesting thing about this article is that it did some reporting in Seattle and it hung out with a small time dealer who is also a dishwasher. And while it made clear that this isn’t the case for everyone, this sort of swinging a few bags of weed. It’s really not a very glamorous life although some people may think it is or aspire to it. He was doing this, he started doing it when his mom lost her job.

Matthew: Yeah, The Failed Promise of Legal Pot. You know I think about there’s this perception like when cannabis becomes legal everything isn’t perfect than the detractors say. There you go, especially in the beginning there’s kind of this balancing act, the working things out I feel like it’s kind of tipping over a Coke machine. You go back and forth a few times before you get it right.

Alex: Sure, no, exactly. There was also a chart I’ll bring up in the newsletter this week just on industry profitability. Since so many of the companies are private it’s really hard to get an idea of how much companies are making. It’s not necessarily a huge surprise but companies seem to be doing pretty well. And it’s the companies that report themselves to be the highest rate percent of being very profitable, ancillary services firms. Whereas dispensaries tend to be less profitable, but pretty much across the market companies seem to be doing pretty well.

Matthew: Yeah it’s interesting that everybody has this perception that once you get into the cannabis industry you’re just printing money, but the ancillary businesses do the best. I wonder if it’s because they have a lower risk, lower startup cost perhaps, not always but sometimes, and then the regulatory burden is way less because they’re not dealing with a controlled substance.

Alex: Exactly. I could say technically Weed Week is an ancillary services firm and I’m probably not profitable yet.

Matthew: So any other surprises on that chart where you felt like; so there’s ancillary services, cultivators, who else? What other categories?

Alex: Wholesale cultivators do pretty well because it sounds like they can basically be cash flow positive as soon as they start harvesting. I was a little surprised, I believe this data is all self reported so it’s hard to say what very profitable and modestly profitable is, but I was sort of surprised that infused product manufacturers seem to be doing better than dispensaries because if you’re making products you need all sorts of expensive equipment and there are pretty strict regulations. Of course there are regulations for dispensaries as well but it doesn’t necessarily involve the sort of machinery and fixed costs that manufacturers have to deal with.

Matthew: That’s true, but at the same time that is a little counter intuitive, but now that I hear you talk about it I’m thinking okay if you’re processing, you’re buying some cannabis wholesale, you’re infusing it with some fat of some kind like a butter or an oil and then you’re making something and then you’re selling it to a dispensary. So you don’t need a staff, a retail staff and you don’t need this big grow operation. So I guess that makes sense in some ways.

Alex: Yeah, no definitely.

Matthew: Well any other stories for Weed Week or is that a wrap?

Alex: Usually in the newsletter I get through about 20 stories in 1,000 words or so, but just one more I’ll bring up was a piece in the Guardian and it was picked up by Fortune as well about the so called ex-pots and these are people moving to Colorado from other countries essentially for medical reasons, for the same reasons that kids have; some American families have done the same thing when they have sick children. I think it’s a cool dynamic and it illustrates how the weird asymmetries in this industry lead to unexpected changes. I think that’s what makes this such a great story and why I’ve enjoyed covering it so much.

Matthew: Yeah that is an interesting trend with this cannabis refugee type situation. I interviewed a family from Australia that moved to Canada to support their two kids that had a degenerative lung disease and the only thing that could help them was cannabis oil but when they consumed the right amount they essentially became symptom free. The mom was saying I haven’t seen my kids like this in years and they were worried about going back to Australia, but it sounds like they’re coming around in Australia which is great but it’s like sometimes you can’t wait for that to happen and you’ve got to do something. It does frustrate me a little bit because it raises the question are we truly free people. If you can’t do what you need to get a plant that makes a massive difference in the quality of your life from a medical perspective, are we truly free. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I feel frustrated that we even have to ask that from like these gatekeepers. It’s a crazy thing.

Alex: That’s a big, big question.

Matthew: You’re right. One of the things I love about Weed Week is how brief, digestible and distilled it is. You really break things down into great bullet points and I do read it every week and I recommend it to a lot of friends. I forward it to friends and so forth. So you’re doing a great job with it. Two more questions before we wrap. Personal development type questions, Alex. Is there a book that has had a really big impact on your life where you look over the arc of time and you say looking back this really had a big impact in my life and I would really recommend it to CannaInsider listeners?

Alex: Well it’s not really a cannabis book, well it’s not a cannabis book but forms to some extent my journalistic sensibility which is Friday Night Lights which was subsequently made into a movie and then a TV show as well. It’s about a year in the life of a football team at a high school in West Texas and the reporting is so immersive. It’s about football but it also uses football as an entry point to discuss so many of the other issues of life in this rather desolate city in West Texas. It talked about race issues and class issues and sort of the ambition an all of these important things, and football serves as sort of a unifying node for the author, Buzz Bissinger the great journalist, to explore so many other things. That’s sort of how I think about cannabis. I kind of think in some ways the least interesting thing that happens to the football team is what happens on the field. And to some extent, to least interesting thing that happens with cannabis is what happens after somebody takes it. I mean from my view I think the most interesting thing is all the crazy dynamics that have surround the emergence of this legal industry.

Matthew: Yeah. Great points. I went to a football game in Texas. Being a northerner I went to one once, a high school football game about 20 years ago and I was absolutely floored at the scale and size and the athleticism of these kids because it almost seemed like a college or pro game. I mean it was a huge stadium, there was so much energy and enthusiasm I just couldn’t believe this was a high school game. I don’t know if anybody has had that experience going to the south for a football game but it’s really quite a spectacle. Pivoting to the next question, is there a tool web based or otherwise that you use daily or weekly and feel like it’s really indispensible to your life that you would recommend to CannaInsider listeners?

Alex: Actually the tool that’s indispensible for me to put together Weed Week is an app called Pocket and it’s just a way to save stories that I come across on social media and then at the end of the week I can go through the list of stories and put together the newsletter from them, but it’s just a great way to save things you want to read if you don’t have time right now to read them and you can also save videos or whatever else.

Matthew: Wow, I haven’t heard anybody else talk about Pocket but I use it daily. It’s this little icon that goes on your browser. If you see a story, you click on the Pocket, it saves into your Pocket account but also you have an app on your phone so when you’re out and about you can read it if you didn’t have time when you came across a story. But then there’s this other app that works with Pocket called Audiofy that I use and will take all of your Pocket stories and read them to you in this computerized voice while you’re walking around or doing whatever if you can’t read. I love Pocket, I love Audiofy so I’m glad you mentioned that.

Alex: Cool. Well Audiofy I will have to check that out.

Matthew: Yes it’s really cool. Well Alex as we close tell us one more time how listeners can find Weed Week.

Alex: Thanks so much for listening. You can get a free and confidential subscription at and the newsletter comes out on Saturday mornings.

Matthew: Alex thanks so much for being on CannaInsider and good luck with Weed Week.

Alex: Thanks so much for having me. It was a lot of fun.

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

Key Takeaways:

[1:21] – Alex’s background
[2:49] – What’s Weed Week
[4:19] – Weed Week’s top stories of thew week
[21:15] – Alex’s book recommendation
[23:48] – Alex’s indispensable tool recommendation
[25:09] – Where to find Weed Week

Matthew Kind and Alex Halperin sit down to discuss the top cannabis-related news stories that are trending right now. Topics include; Which kind of cannabis businesses are most profitable, why dogs are eating more pot, A Catholic Bishop coming out against pot, and why the black market isn’t disappearing entirely in states where cannabis is legal.

About Alex Halperin:
Alex Halperin’s work has been published in the, Mother Jones, Fast Company, Fortune, Al-Jazeera, Business Insider and Rolling Stone. Alex has launched Week Week a newsletter that captures and distills the week’s most important cannabis news in a brief and digestible format. You can follow Alex’s work at:

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