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Hemp, Ayahuasca, DMT, Flotation Tanks & More With Aubrey Marcus

aubrey marcus of onnit

Interview with CEO of Onnit, Aubrey Marcus.
What you will discover in this interview:

– When hemp is mixed with this one ingredient it becomes an aphrodisiac
– Why ayahuasca is the psychedelic that will change your life
– Why healthy gut bacteria is so important
– How Aubrey quiets his mind in flotation tanks and gets his best ideas
– Aubrey’s suggestions for an optimal mind and body


Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Get 10% off your order at with this coupon code, deal code, promo codes.
This includes all Onnit supplements, food, and clothing.

Onnit Foods Included:
Coconut Oil, Coffee, Dark Roast Coffee, The Dolce Whey, Hemp FORCE, Active Hemp FORCE, Vanill-Acai, Himalayan Salt, Macadamia Cacao Cherry Trilogy Butter, Matcha Chai Latte, MCT Oil, Emulsified MCT Oil, Oatmega Protein Bars, Walnut Almond Cashew Trilogy Butter, Warrior Bars.

Onnit Supplements Included:
Alpha BRAIN, Alpha BRAIN Instant, DigesTech, Earth Grown Nutrients, Krill Oil, Live Coral Calcium, New MOOD, Shroom TECH Immune, Shroom TECH Sport, Spirulina and Chlorella, Stron BONE and Joint, Total Strength + Performance, Total Gut Health, Total Primate Care, ViruTech, Vitamin D3 Spray in MCT Oil.

Kettlebells, Legend Bells, Primal Bells, Primal Steelbells, Zombie Bells, Ballistic Medicine Balls, Speed Rope, Battle Ropes, Fitness DVDs, Fitness Essentials, Multi-Mat Sandbag,s Quad Mace, Steel Clubs, Steel Maces, Si Board, Weight Vests, Wooden Indian Clubs.

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at That’s 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 Now here's your program.

One little note before we get into the interview with Aubrey Marcus. We do talk about hemp, but a lot of the subject matter in the podcast in this particular show is somewhat outside the scope of cannabis. We talk about DMT, Ayahuasca, the Gut Biome and a whole sleuth of interesting things, but I just wanted to let you know that this is somewhat of a personal enrichment podcast. So I really hope you enjoy it, and if you hear a little trickling noise in the background that’s Aubrey’s bubbling brook water fountain. As you’ll see Aubrey’s a fascinating guy so I really hope you enjoy the show.

I’m really excited about our next guest, Aubrey Marcus. Aubrey is the founder and CEO of Onnit which provides nutritional and health supplements like Hemp Force, which we’re going to discuss today. Aubrey also has his own podcast and website called Warrior Poet. Aubrey is a very hard guy to introduce because he’s doing so many cool things, but if I had to put a bumper sticker on it, I would say Aubrey is somebody that is focused on optimization. Optimization of consciousness, optimization of health and optimization of lifestyle. Welcome to CannaInsider Aubrey.

Aubrey: Thank you. Pleasure to be on here Matt.

Matt: Aubrey I want to dive into everything you’re doing with Onnit and elsewhere, but can you give a little background on yourself and how you came to start Onnit?

Aubrey: Yeah you know OnnIt’s really been the culmination of a lifelong passion to just be as good as I could possibly be in whatever endeavors I had. You know when I was growing up my mother was a nutraceutical doctor that worked with a lot of NBA basketball teams, all of Pat Riley’s teams and worked with a lot of other athletes and top performers. And so you know on game day I would have a stack of vitamins that would be on a paper towel for me to take. And on test day I would have a different stack that looked differently, and I was a young man and I didn’t really, you know, pay attention to what I was doing, but I got used to the paradigm of not only the supplements I was taking, but the nutrition that I was ingesting, the food that I was ingesting, how that would affect performance.

And then going on from there all the different other practices like meditation, different psychedelic experiences, how those could optimize my mental and spiritual state so that everything could work together and allow me to achieve my highest goals and my highest potential.

Matthew: Now you talk a little bit about, you know, plant is medicine and Hemp Force is one of your flagship products. You have some other things in there, besides hemp. I’m interested in your thoughts about, you know, a lot of people are taking protein supplements. But how is hemp, how is that bio-available to us versus maybe an animal source protein. And also how does it interact with Maca and some of the other things you have at Hemp Force?

Aubrey: Sure yeah, so the Hemp Force chocolate flavors is really what you’re talking about there. We have two flavors. One is vanilla and one is chocolate, each with different super foods and other nutrient profiles in there. But the Chocolate Maca, as we call it, I guess first of all talk about the hemp. Hemp has a lot of advantages over the rest of at least the vegetarian proteins. For one it has a complete amino acid profile, something that like brown rice protein or pea protein can’t claim to have. And second it has also Omega 3 fatty acids in there which are really under found in the typical American diet. We get a lot of Omega 6 fatty acids, but very few Omega 3 fatty acids. And that’s super important for a variety of bodily systems. So that’s found in hemp, big advantage there.

And then another advantage is that hemp is actually comprised of two compounds that are readily found already in human muscle, edestin and albumin. And so when the body is digesting this it’s really easy to translate those two compounds directly into a muscular structure. So really it’s one of the most bio-available proteins on the market period. Now if you’re comparing it to, you know, a good grass fed rib eye, you know, a lot of that protein is going to be really bio-available as well, but your body is going to have to work a lot harder to break it down. You know, the hemp protein is going to cause less inflammation in the gut, which means less gas, which means less fatigue, which you know the inflammation cascade has a host of issues associated with it. So it’s really perhaps, you know, one of the best protein sources available to humans.

Matthew: Now at first you also integrate Maca powder into Hemp Force, and I first became aware of Maca powder from David Wolfe’s book Super Foods and reading about, you know, it has qualities that can help you at high altitudes. Some say it’s an aphrodisiac. Can you talk a little bit about what Maca is and how there is potential synergy between the hemp and Maca and why you included it?

Aubrey: Yeah, it’s interesting. You know, nature has an intelligence to it and Maca is found in the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia growing naturally. So it makes sense that it would help with high altitude conditions and issues. But really there’s a lot of reasons to fall in love with Maca. It’s got vitamins, minerals, amino acids, trace minerals like iodine, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, just to name a few of those. But it also is pretty well known for improving libido. And you know the exact mechanism of action is not always easy to pin down in those, but there’s been some good studies to show that Maca is beneficial in optimizing kind of hormone levels. And that could be because it’s feeding the different glands and the different source engines basically of our hormones with enough of the micronutrients and minerals that they need to perform optimally or it could be some other compound than the Maca. But across the board it’s one of the best super foods we can have. And you know it pairs really, really well with the cocoa which has a variety of other micro nutrients in there as well. Flavanols being one of them, neurotransmitter precursors. It’s really a super food in its own rite.

Matthew: Now you mentioned a little bit about Omega 3 and there’s Omega 6 and 9 as well. I think there’s a lot of noise out there about Omega oils and their importance, but not a lot of a drill down as far as how we should be thinking and framing our thought about Omega 3, 6 and 9 and how they relate to each other and how much we need. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Aubrey: Yeah Omega 6 fats are pretty readily available. The Omega 3’s and to some extent the 9’s but really the Omega 3’s are what most people are deficient in because it’s very difficult to get those. Certain seeds like flax has Omega 3, obviously hemp seeds have Omega 3. And then the only other real sources that you can get are a fish oil or a krill oil. So unless you’re really actively seeking out Omega 3’s, and there’s a little bit, there’s trace amounts in a few other things, but unless you’re actively seeking out Omega 3’s you’re not going to have enough. And that’s a really crucial brain nutrient and really valuable for anti-inflammation. And really has, you know, the more you talk to doctors, you’re realizing how important it is to control the inflammation response from these, what’s called, pro-inflammatory cytokines that are produced when you have inflammation. They affect everything from your brain to your joints, to long term immune related issues.

So getting enough Omega 3 in your diet is really something that you should focus on. You’re going to probably naturally get a decent amount of Omega 6’s just from a variety of the fats that are in a common diet, but really kind of paying attention to make sure that you’re targeting 3’s specifically is important.

Matthew: Now Shroom Tech, I want to learn a little bit more about that. I just recently became aware of kind of the spectrum of mushrooms out there. Like most people I just had a limited knowledge, but there’s reishi, and there’s all these different kinds of mushrooms that do different things. Can you tell us a little bit about, you know, which mushrooms you think are important and how and why you put them into Shroom Tech?

Aubrey: Well the Shroom Tech sport which is our preworkout formula, we really focused on the cordyceps sinensis mushroom, and that was based on the research that has shown its ability to help people improve oxygen utilization. Again this is a high altitude mushroom naturally found in the mountains of China and Tibet. And really adaptations that it’s made, perhaps because of the altitude and the low oxygen levels, whatever may have come across, what they found is that people who have been ingesting cordyceps sinensis utilize oxygen better. That means so every breath they take, they’re able to bring in more oxygen to the body. And so when you’re working out all of that huffing and puffing is really designed to supply your muscles with oxygen. So a supplement that can help you utilize oxygen better is going to help, you know, the fatigue cascade and feed your muscles with more oxygen.

There’s also a variety of other benefits. I believe that cordyceps sinensis has raw adenosine which is important for the ATP cycle which is the cellular energy cycle that, you know, gives us true energy. Not like, you know, kind of stimulant based energy. And, you know, a variety of benefits for the immune system too including beta glucans which directly help stimulate the immune system in the body. So really all around just a powerhouse of nutrients and functions in the cordyceps sinensis. And there’s a couple of other great ones as well that we put in the Shroom Tech Immune like the reishi mushroom line. We actually have a big chaga, we have a big blend of those in there from a mycologist in Nevada named Dr. John Holliday. He put together a great blend, and that’s really targeted at the immune system, again focusing on these compounds called beta glucans which the body… they’re called xenobiotics. The body recognizes them as something foreign. So it helps stimulate an immune response even though the compounds are benign. And then those immune cells can help be repurposed for other jobs.

Matthew: So do you sometimes, you know, look to mushrooms when you feel maybe you are getting run down or sick or something like that?

Aubrey: I look to mushrooms a lot, but maybe not the mushrooms you’re talking about.

Matthew: Okay.

Aubrey: But yeah, no absolutely. I think the, you know, with the Shroom Tech Immune, you know, you’re not going to be able to take any pill and it’s going to be some kind of miracle cure for your cold or your flu. But anything that can directly help out your body. Your body is the one doing the heavy lifting, but anything that can help your body do it more efficiently and you know, do its job better is going to be beneficial. Especially because a lot of us have really compromised gut flora, and the gut is where a lot of these immune cells are produced. So we’re generally pretty chronically deficient in immune function based upon our gut flora. So taking something that can directly stimulate that is highly beneficial.

Matthew: Gosh that seems to be such a new and broad topic with the gut flora. I mean it seems, it’s almost hard to understand there’s so much going on down there. I heard that there’s 90% of our serotonin’s manufactured in the gut, and people are starting to understand the gut biome. It just seems like a whole new world that’s being opened up. It’s incredible.

Aubrey: Yeah it really is. I think that’s going to be one of the main frontiers of medicine and people are just realizing that right now. So much is involved in the gut, and I think figuring out the proper ways to get that right is going to be the key. I mean so many links, even to personality. You know there’s been studies on rats where they switched, you know, they had some really extroverted rats, really frisky and bold and brave rats and really timid rats and they kept those separate. And then they, I think through a fecal transplant, they switched the gut biomes of both of those rats and then the extroverted rats became introverted, and the introverted rats became extroverted just by switching their gut biome, their flora in their gut. And so so much of what makes us up is involved from both health and now they’re, you know, evidence potentially linking even to personality based upon our gut flora. So really honing that in, I think, is going to be a key frontier in medicine.

Matthew: I definitely agree with that. Here at home we make a rejuvelac which is fermented cabbage and distilled water and it helps replenish the lactobacteria. And I can tell a difference after a few days of having that, but I mean my understanding is there’s kind of three broad categories that make up most of gut bacteria, the lactobacteria, the acidophilua, and bifido. And getting those three right, it helps in a lot of ways, and I’m just beginning to understand it, but fascinated by it.

Aubrey: Yeah I mean those are three of the main categories. I found that one particular strain that when I take is probably the most beneficial thing that I can do. There’s a strain called Saccharomyces boulardii, and that one strain alone does a lot more than taking, for me, than taking a real full on, multi-strain probiotic a lot. I think both are good in synergy and I love eating those kind of things, kimchi, goat yogurt or grass fed yogurt if you can tolerate it. All of those things are going to be, you know, incredibly helpful.

And then I think there’s also some really interesting research coming out about you know, fecal transplants. You know, really approved right now only to treat one the most difficult stomach infections called C DIFF, that’s the only way you can get it, but it treats it with like a 95% success rate, whereas usually you would have course of antibiotics is just massive destruction to your entire biome or they actually strain all the actual poop out of there so it’s not as gross as people think. But, you know, just replacing somebody else’s gut, a healthy gut biome with yours, you know, can get rid of that infection. And I would be interested to track long-term what other kind of health changes came from it.

Matthew: It almost sounds like a Saturday Night Live satire commercial like fecal transplants, but you know I keep on reading about how it’s just transformational for people that just can’t get things worked out in their gut any other way. It’s just life changing.

Aubrey: Yeah, no, no doubt. And there’s actually a company in Canada that’s making them in pill form so they isolate all the bacteria, and then they coat it in enteric capsules and you can actually take it in pill form. So you don’t need to directly swap. I think that’s the gross part. And you see these things, because it’s illegal there’s like people doing it themselves. So you see these do-it-yourself fecal transplant websites which are pretty hilarious and pretty gross. To see a blender full of poo is shocking to say the least.

Matthew: I think listeners would be really interested in your daily habits and routines.

Aubrey: Yeah it’s not anything involving blenders full of poo.

Matthew: I mean you have so much knowledge in your head about, you know, optimization and diet and lifestyle. I can hear like a water trickle, waterfall in the background. I know you do floatation links.

Aubrey: I probably should have shut that off.

Matthew: I’m kind of Zenned out by it so you can leave it on. It doesn’t bother me. But you do floatation tanks, you have so many different things that you’re doing. You’re kind of on the frontier of things that most people will start to hear about in 3 to 4 or 5 years. Can you just tell us a little bit about your routines, what you do to optimize your health, your lifestyle, your diet, all those things?

Aubrey: Yeah, you know, there’s some things that are pretty consistent and that’s, you know, just staying away from putting chemicals in my body like unnatural compounds. Like you’re not going to see me drinking a Diet Coke or some shit like that, you know, or some diet gum or any of that kind of crap. I mean those are like nevers in my diet. And then I really try to eat as many nutrients as possible. Now does that mean that I won’t go out and get a double cheese burger, no. But if I do, that means my next meal is going to be steamed kale salad or something that’s really nutrient dense to kind of counteract that, and I’m going to be sure to take some digestive enzymes with it as well.

I’m not like particularly strict with anything, but I try and just maintain balance by keeping a pretty wide spectrum of possibilities. And then as far as getting my head right, yeah a variety of methods from yoga. Onnit just acquired Black Swan Yoga which is a great yoga brand here in Austin, something that I’ve been a part of for many years. Floatation tanks, another excellent way to quiet the mind and find that still space. It’s really difficult to have the great ideas when your mind is running on these short loop programs where you’re constantly just problem solving and figuring out your daily task and being stressed. Really the best ideas come when you can drop into that stillness and floatation is a great way to do that. Meditation is a regular practice, and then when I really need a reset and go to the deep, deepest cycle as possible that’s when I go to South America and do something like Ayahuasca or Wachuma.

Matthew: Yeah that’s a great segway too. And the first time I heard you was on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, and I felt like I was pretty familiar with psychedelics until you came on and started talking about Ayahuasca and some of your experiences in Central and South America, and I was just blown away. I think there will be some people that have heard of Ayahuasca, but they really don’t know what it is and what it’s capable of doing. I would love it if you could just give a little into in what that is and what it’s done for you personally.

Aubrey: Yeah they call Ayahuasca down in South America the “Master Medicine”. And it’s never referred to as a drug. It’s always referred to as medicine, and it’s a combination of at least two plants. One is the caapi vine or the Ayahuasca vine, which is what’s called monoamine oxidase inhibitor, which is something that breaks or prevents the breakdown of certain compounds such as DMT. And the DMT comes from a plant called Chacruna. There’s other plants that they use, a few other different plants like that, but primarily Chacruna, which contains a high concentration of DMT relatively. And they boil those two together and you get a orally active form of DMT because of the MAOI that comes from the vine.

And really the character of the experience is deeply cleansing for one, both physically and mentally and spiritually. I mean you feel like everything that you’ve been holding on to literally flushes out of your body either through purging through vomit or, you know, going out the other direction. I feel like this is several time we’ve mentioned shit in the same podcast. And then the DMT creates, you know, what really feels like an opening to a source of knowledge that’s beyond ourselves and a lot of time that involves interaction with other beings, and sometimes it just involves really incredible insight into your own life put together in this beautiful, fantasmic kaleidoscope of colors and lights and sensation that you’ve never really experienced before.

Matthew: Now I really feel like the listeners who are cannabis enthusiasts will be open to this probably much more than the typical person you meet on the street. I mean you were talking about the purging of the body, and that’s kind in a way to prepare you for what you’re going to go through. Would you say that’s accurate?

Aubrey: I think a lot of times people put a false distinction between mind and body. And the Shamans down there and the curanderos who are like the plant doctors down there, they don’t make that distinction. You know the body and the mind are the same. If there’s a traumatic thought, it has a presence in the body. If there’s a trauma to the body, it has an associated thought or an associated energy in your mind. And so Ayahuasca is called the “Master Medicine” because it works on both levels. If there’s some psychological trauma, it’s going to take care of that as well as the physical trauma that’s associated with that. Whatever you’re kind of holding onto in your body.

And I think that’s one of the main lessons from, you know, going down there is that kind of as above, so below. You know, what’s in your mind is in your body, what’s in your body is in your mind which is one of the reasons why other cleanses aren’t as affective and life changing as Ayahuasca perhaps because some things can help, you know, good psychotherapy that can help treat some of the conditions in your mind and help you work through those. But if it hasn’t gotten rid of the root issues that are in the body, those thoughts will be easier to come back. And vice versa, a good physical cleanse like a juice cleans or a fast can help remove some of the physical residue in the body, but if you haven’t changed your mental patterns, those can come back. And sometimes it’s enough to just clear out one or the other. And I’m not saying those aren’t great practices, but the reason why Ayahuasca is called the “Master Medicine” is because it hits you on both levels simultaneously, and it’s really unlike anything else out there.

Matthew: God, that sounds incredible. Do you think there’ll start to be kind of curated experiences where North Americans looking for kind of an experience where they could have a North American guide take them to some place where it’s been vetted out so they can, you know, don’t have to research it too much on their own and just know hey this is a safe Shaman to visit in Peru.

Aubrey: No doubt, that’s already happening. I mean I’m doing that currently. And that’s another thing. It a real caveat. You know, not all Ayahuasca centers, not all Ayahuasca brew is really safe and up to standard. You know, it’s pretty much the Wild West out there. You know, there’s some great opportunities and then there’s some that are downright dangerous. So it’s really important to do your research. I can personally vouch for a couple of places and I have those on my website, if you go to plant medicine and FAQ, you can see some of those. But there’s a place called, that’s the website, then there’s also Temple of the Way of Light. Both of those are outstanding.

Temple of the Way of Light, I just sponsored it. A gigantic study from an organization called ICEERS. So it’s the International Center for Ethnobotanical Research, and they’re going to do a major flagship, three year study at the Temple of the Way. Really, really excellent medicine being offered there. And I would highly recommend that. And then my original Shaman is also there Maestro Orlando Chujandama. Those are three different centers that I can really vouch for and recommend. And there’s some other good ones out there I’m sure. I’ve heard some good things about a Center called Blue Morpho and some other good things. But you really got to know what you’re doing and certainly don’t just show up in Peru and start asking people if they have Ayahuasca because you’ll get something, but it might not be something good.

Matthew: Now is this equatorial part of South America then where there’s, you know, did you bring like a mosquito net. I mean is there any other kind of concerns that you kind of make sure you want to address before going down there?

Aubrey: Depending on where you’re at, usually where you sleep will have a mosquito net, but you definitely want to bring mosquito spray. You’re going to get bit. You know, it’s not like a highly dangerous area where malaria and dengue and all of these things are just rampant, but it’s possible. You know, so you want to try and minimize your bites and things like that, but you’re going to the rain forest. You’re paying homage to the home where the mother earth is the strongest. You know, whatever that presence is, you know, they call it Pachamama, but whatever you want to say, that kind of presence of life teaming on life is real energy of creation is never stronger than in the rain forest. I mean per cubic foot there’s more things alive there than anywhere in the world.

And so that’s part of the medicine, you know, paying homage to that energy. Too often we as humans try to escape from that and get away from it, put ourselves in a skyscraper 40 feet above the Earth where nothing is flying around us. There’s no insects, there’s no life and that’s not necessarily what we’ve been used to being around growing up as an organism. In our past history we slept close to the ground and we were part of the Earth, and now we’re very isolated from that. So part of the medicine is going down to those areas, you know, paying homage to that energy and that place and that can be really valuable and a great teacher in itself.

Matthew: Now did you see that documentary on DMT, The Spirit Molecule?

Aubrey: Yeah, I’ve actually been working with the producer of that, Mitch Schultz, and we’ve put out one documentary already on Wachuma, and we’re coming out with another one on Ayahuasca in about a month or so.

Matthew: I thought that was an absolutely fascinating documentary. So I will be interested to see what you’re working on here, but interested in your opinion as far as we have this gland in the center of our brain that many people have heard of called the pineal gland. I think it is about dead center of the brain. And this contains DMT, so I’ve read, and in the documentary they talk about the possibility of the, you know, when you go through extreme stress or you’re dying or you have an Ayahuasca experience that this becomes very active and this may serve as kind of a gateway for us to other dimensions as you were kind of alluding to earlier. Is that accurate? I mean how would you describe it?

Aubrey: I mean it’s certainly very possible. You know, it’s difficult for me to say things that I haven’t directly experienced or that the research hasn’t shown, you know, with 100% certainty, but it makes a lot of sense to me that there would be a physical manifestation of this and kind of mechanism for this spiritual experience because if you’ve been there, you know, and experienced these things, you know it’s something different and it normally makes sense that it would have a root in the body, a root cause. And you know, yeah, it’s just that DMT it’s a compound that’s found in every living thing. Every living thing has a certain amount of Dimethyltryptamine. So it seems like an essential component to life. And we have receptors in the brain that are ready to receive these floods of this compound. So it’s not an accident that people discovered ways to provide the body with DMT to get these experiences. And I think there’s certainly ways that in times that it happens as well. And I think, you know, near death and on these other experiences certainly seem very akin to the DMT experience.

Matthew: And one last thing I wanted to ask you about was the floatation tanks, and you talked a little bit about that, but can you kind of describe what it’s like when you get into a floatation tank? Is it similar to a sensory deprivation tank and how much water there is in there and kind of how long you stay in there and what you experience and then what you experience when you ‘re done?

Aubrey: Well floatation tank is a sensory deprivation. That’s what a sensory deprivation tank is, and what that means is you’re floating in water that’s the same temperature as the outside of your skin. So you don’t really feel anything, and you’re in complete blackness. You’re in complete darkness, so you can’t see anything. Hopefully it’s perfectly quiet so you can’t hear anything, and you’re floating in Epsom salt in a room which has no smell. So you don’t smell anything. So all of a sudden all of your senses shut off, and the part of your brain that’s worried about processing all of this incensory input is just like, ah, okay well nothing to do here. And so that part kind of quiets down and whatever is left, which is that kind of higher theta state processing is allowed to really flourish in that state. So it’s really deeply meditative, relaxing and restorative in many ways by just allowing your hyperactive brain that’s dealing with all these stimuli 100% of the times you’re awake, just allow that to quiet down, you know, almost go to sleep you know in some regards and allow that other part of your brain, that higher consciousness, to rise to the surface.

And it’s really kind of like, you know, a lot of people say oh yeah I meditate but they just kind of sit around and feel around and try and not say anything for a little while, but they don’t really know what that state feels like. You know, and until you’ve done something like a psychedelic experience or a floatation tank, you may not even know what you’re actually going for with meditation until you really drop in and can feel what that feels like. Even some of the great monks and the great people like the Dalai Lama and other people, it takes them hours of meditation to get to these states that I think you can reliably get to in a float tank in minutes. So it’s really like, it’s a great facilitator of that kind of meditative process and I highly, highly, highly recommend it. I love meditation too, but I think it’s really important to know what you’re shooting for. And it’s okay if you don’t always get there every time you meditate. There’s still some benefit, but at least if you know what the final goal is, I think it’s going to be a lot more effective to implement in your life.

Matthew: Aubrey I could talk to you all day, but we’re going to close the show now. But as we do, can you tell listeners how they can find Onnit, where they can go to your website and how they can find you on Twitter and follow your work?

Aubrey: Sure yeah. Onnit’s easy. It’s and yeah you can just click on the Hemp Force, really delicious, great protein. And you know, we’ve got a lot of other great products there, a lot of good clinical research and you know, a lot of integrity behind it. And if you want to keep up with me, everything is at, Twitter is Aubrey Marcus. Facebook is Aubrey Marcus. Instagram is Aubrey Marcus. So you put in my name, and you’ll find me. It’s pretty easy.

Matthew: Well Aubrey thanks for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Aubrey: Absolutely Matt.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at That's Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on, email us We would love to hear from you.

Update on Alaska’s Legalization with Bruce Schulte

Bruce Schulte

In this interview with Bruce Schulte from the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation in Alaska we get an update on where Alaska is on formalizing adult use of cannabis. Discover the key dates and how legalization is unfolding in Alaska.

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the free podcast for your iPhone or Android Device*

Key Takeaways:
[1:56] – What is the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis responsible for?
[2:32] – Bruce explains what happened in Alaska in November of 2014.
[3:12] – State of Alaska’s cannabis movement.
[5:29] – What happens if you’re apprehended with a certain amount of cannabis at this point in time?
[7:22] – Everything is on schedule and happening according to plan.
[11:25] – Will licenses be categorized?
[12:44] – Plans for cannabis social lounges.
[16:54] – How hard will it be to get a license for cannabis in Alaska?
[19:05] – Bruce explains what it’s like to live in Alaska.
[23:00] – Contact details for the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation.

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at That’s 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 Now here's your program.

Want to know what is going on in Alaska from a cannabis legalization point of view? Today we’re going to find out. I am pleased to welcome Bruce Schulte from the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation to CannaInsider. Bruce is going to give us an update on what is going on exactly in Alaska. Welcome to CannaInsider Bruce.

Bruce: Hey Matt. How you doing?

Matthew: Great. Bruce, give us a sense of geography. Where are you today?

Bruce: Well I’m in Anchorage which is about, oh my gosh, about 500 miles north of Stockholm, Sweden if that helps anybody. Gosh, I think we’re about 900 miles from Seattle, northwest of Seattle.

Matthew: Okay. What’s the population of Alaska? I know Anchorage is what around 300,000 or 400,000 and then the state as a total, is that around 700,000?

Bruce: Yeah, yeah. The total population I think we’re actually now to like 730,000 to 740,000 statewide. About 40% of the population lives within 30 miles of Anchorage.

Matthew: Okay.

Bruce: Yeah. So you got Anchorage and Wasilla, Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Those are kind of like the two main population centers.

Matthew: And what is the coalition your part of responsible for in terms of cannabis?

Bruce: Well the CRCL was founded about two years ago during the signature gathering phase of this voter initiative. And it was founded by some guys from Alaska, from Fairbanks actually. And the whole focus of that group really was to first of all see the voter initiative passed, and then to see the rule making process done in a way that would result in a viable marijuana industry.

Matthew: Okay. And let’s rewind a little bit. So what happened in Alaska in November of 2014?

Bruce: Okay November 4th everybody went to the polls, and about 53% of the voters voted in favor of Ballot Measure 2 which was the measure to regulate and tax regulate marijuana like alcohol. And it’s interesting to note that that voter initiative actually gained more votes than our gubernatorial race, our congressional race and our US Senator. So that tells you something about the motivation up here.

Matthew: Yeah. And what has happened since then with the cannabis movement? Where are we now?

Bruce: Well we’re kind of in, I sort of look at this as kind of a phase process. The election was certified on November 24th and under our Constitution, the voter initiative becomes law 90 days later. So the key milestone coming up here is February 24th, and that’s the date on which this voter initiative becomes law. In the interim what’s been happening is our legislature gaveled back in January, and they have been furiously working on a couple of bills. Their main focus right now is to bring all of our criminal statutes into line with this voter initiative because things that were previously illegal will no longer be illegal as of February 25th. So that’s kind of phase one the way I see it is bringing all those criminal statutes into place before, well close to February 24th.

Matthew: Okay. And then what’s phase two and three?

Bruce: Okay so the second phase will be February 24th kind of starts the clock ticking on the regulatory process. Under the measure, the state has 9 months, up to 9 months to create the rules under which this industry is going to operate the commercial portion of the industry. And so that gives them until November 24th of this year. Then 3 months later, February of 2016, the state is expected to begin accepting applications for permits for growers, for processors, for retailers. And that in my view is sort of phase three of the actual commercialization, the commercial part of this whole thing. And they have 90 days to turn around those permit applications. So we’re sort of hoping that somewhere around May of 2016 we’ll see those first permits issued and the first legalized businesses opening their doors.

Matthew: So while you can’t buy cannabis legally right now, if you’re apprehended with a certain amount, are you just let go or how does that work?

Bruce: It sort of depends on the circumstances. We’ve kind of had an unusual legal climate up here for a while, but as of February 25th, possession of up to 1 ounce will be lawful. You can have it in your home. You can be driving around with it as long as you’re not consuming it. You can give it to a friend. So also a person can grow up to six plants, only three of them mature in their home. And they can give the six plants to a friend. So they can grow six, they could grow three, they could take three clones, give those to a friend. And that friend can give three clones to another friend free of any penalty whatsoever. As long as no money changes hands, that’s totally lawful.

Matthew: Okay. So you’re thinking in the first quarter of 2016 we’re going to see the first license applications? Is that what you’re saying?

Bruce: Yeah, that’s sort of the expectation. You know, if the schedule holds and at this point we’re on schedule. We would hope to see the first permits issued April or May of 2016. Ideally those will be for growers so that those guys can get started because of course they’ve got to grow their crop and harvest it and cure it and so forth. And so I’m sort of looking forward to August/September, maybe October of 2016 to see the first retail stores opening up with Alaska grown products.

Matthew: So the people that are in charge of changing the statutes and organizing the rules and so forth, they’re staying on top of it. It sounds like it’s happening how it’s supposed to and according to plan.

Bruce: It really is, and it’s interesting because our group is very closely engaged with that process. We’re working with the state legislature and with local governments in many of the larger urban centers on those rules. And some people get frustrated because they don’t see anything happening. I’ve heard people say hey we voted this thing in, how come it’s not law yet? I almost have to laugh at that because there is so much energy being devoted to this. Our legislature has a lot on their plate, but at the same time they are working on this. And they’re doing a good job of it too, I think. Even the legislators that are a little sketchy on the whole concept, like yeah maybe they didn’t really vote for this initiative or, you know, they might have been adamantly opposed, they still get the fact that the voters want it. And they’re moving that way with respect, you know, for what the voters asked for.

So yeah, they’ve got to get the criminal statutes in line by February 24th, and then immediately there after there’s going to be a couple of bills coming out, I suspect, that will define kind of a regulatory framework, kind of the broad brush strokes for the regulatory environment. And then they’re going to hand it off to a marijuana control board to work out the details.

Matthew: Okay marijuana control board, and so in a lot of states it seems like the people that are in charge of regulating alcohol become the default same people to regulate cannabis. Is that’s what’s going to happen then or does it sound like a different group all together?

Bruce: Yes and no. Under the terms of this initiative, the default regulatory body is the Alcohol Control Board, and then the state legislature has the option of creating a separate Marijuana Control Board. Our position all along was that we wanted to see a dedicated Marijuana Control Board so that they could focus on marijuana specific issues and also not bring with them any potential conflicts of interest of historical baggage associated with the alcohol industry. What’s happened is sort of a hybrid. It sort of looks like what we’re going to end up with is a separate marijuana board, but housed underneath the Alcohol Control Board or actually the Director of the Alcohol Control Board which is actually an okay thing.

And there’s a few factors driving that. One is just the schedule. To create a separate Marijuana Control Board, you know, the legislature has to create a bill, and then they have to, you know, the governor has to sign off on it then they have to staff it. They have to find a home for it, and you know they wouldn’t get started on a regulatory process until June or July. And then there’s also a budget consideration, and we’re kind of hurting right now with oil prices being so low. So both of those things combined sort of point you towards sticking with an existing body which brings it back to the existing Alcohol Control Board.

The director of that board, Cynthia Franklin, is actually, she’s dialed in. I met with her the day after the election and talked with her at length about this. And she was already pretty up on a lot of the issues related to this initiative and marijuana legalization. So what we’re sort of hoping for at this point is that she will be the director, but there will be a separate dedicated Marijuana Control Board working with her and with her staff in her office to craft these regulations. So in terms of budget and schedule and everything else this sort of hybrid approach I think is going to be the best.

Matthew: Okay, and in terms of licenses will it be a cultivator and then maybe a processor and a dispensary license? Is that ironed out what they’re thinking?

Bruce: Under the terms of the initiative there was sort of four general categories and you identified three of them. So there will be a grower on one end, a retailer on the other end. And then the other two permits would be a processor, you know, somebody that’s doing edibles or concentrates, and then testing, testing labs and breeders. I’m trying to think of the right term for that, but research I guess would be a more general category. So those are sort of the four that were articulated.

I have a feeling that we’re going to end up with a few more permits at the end of the day. For example on the grow side we might have a number of permits. Sort of a tiered approach where you might have, you know, smaller growers, larger growers, you know, and somewhere in between. And then I would envision having sort of specialty permits for, you know, special events like a cannabis cup sort of thing. They have something similar on the alcohol side, and so I think at the end of the day we’re going to have more than just the four permits on the marijuana side.

Matthew: Okay. Now I heard there is kind of some talk about creating some cannabis social lounges and things like that. Is that just rumor at this point or do you know anything about that?

Bruce: Yeah I do. It’s more than rumor, I mean there’s definitely some motivation to that, and I think that there’s definitely a market for that. The real question is timing. You know we’re in the midst of a huge social change, you know, with regard to the attitude towards marijuana. And so I’m perhaps overly sensitive to the optics associated with it. You know, if somebody wants to set up a club and you know, invite people in to smoke marijuana, that’s okay to a point. But I think, you know, folks just have to recognize that anything that they do early on that reflects poorly on the industry could hurt us in the long run. So I’m hoping that most people will kind of sit back and let the regulatory process play out and open those kinds of facilities next year when the rules are really clear, when everybody’s kind of comfortable with the rules as they exist at that point.

Matthew: Okay. And so you mentioned before, you know, a lot of people came out to vote, but on the street level it’s just to reiterate people are kind of like what’s happening with this, what’s going on, why isn’t it law yet, but the majority seems to be in favor of it still would you say, at the street level.

Bruce: I think so. And you know it’s hard to say because I don’t think there’s been any polling done since November. Our goal is to see, you know CRCL, we want to see this done in a way that even the 47% of the population that were the voters that did not vote for this, we want them to be comfortable with us. Because at the end of the day it’s kind of a group thing. I mean this is public policy at work. And I think it’s really important, not just in Alaska but nationally that you know, people are sensitive to the fact that social change is tough. Some people have a hard time recalibrating on the fly like this. I mean obviously I’m okay with it. So I’m comfortable with the marijuana culture, you know, I understand what it is and what it’s not. Some people don’t have that background, that prospective on it.

And so I think it’s really important for advocates to recognize that we got to go slow and we’ve got to be sensitive to other people’s legitimate concerns. Yeah there are legitimate issues of, you know, child safety and you know packaging and marketing and stuff like that. So I’ve got to run around the tree here on this, but my sense is that support has not diminished, and I think it might actually be growing. I think people who were opposed hopefully they see that rational, reasonable people are involved with the rule making process, and if we can do it right, you know, I think this can become a reference point for other states to follow us.

Matthew: So just in reviewing here, November 2014, Alaskans voted to make legal recreational or adult use cannabis. February 24th is when all the statutes and so forth have to be changed?

Bruce: Yeah that’s when the law goes in effect, and that’s when the criminal statutes really need to be changed because you know, like right now, today, if my buddy was to go to his friend and say hey here’s a half ounce of my best bud, knock yourself out, so to speak. You know that would be a criminal offense. On February 25th, not at all, zero offense at all. Not even a misdemeanor.

Matthew: And for people in Alaska or outside of Alaska that want to create a dispensary or grow cannabis in Alaska, how arduous or difficult does it sound like it’s going to be to get a license compared to other states? Is it something, you know, where there are some states in the Northeast where you have to demonstrate you have $2 million of working capital or, you know, is it going to be something like that or is it going to be a little of a lower bar?

Bruce: You know it’s hard to say because that rule making process hasn’t begun yet, but I think there’s definitely, well, I suspect that there will be a biased toward Alaska based business, you know, residents of Alaska starting a business. There may well be a regulatory require that you know 51% ownership has to be somebody who has lived in the state for a period of time. That’s needs to be ironed out, but that kind of thing has been part of the discussion pretty much since the day after the election. In terms of actually getting a permit, I hope that it’s a fair process. So you know not a lottery system for example. I don’t think that that’s the way to go. Most of us agree on that. I’m hoping there will be some sort of a weighted system where, you know, where you show up and you’ve got a business plan and you’ve got a security plan and company personnel profiles and so forth.

The local, the community input is going to be significant. I know in Anchorage for example, the Anchorage Assembly has already said that they’re going to look to their individual community councils for guidance. So for example in my part of town, if my community council is supportive of a marijuana business of any sort, that’s going to help me get a permit. If they’re opposed to it, that’s going to be a huge obstacle to overcome. Again, that’s just another reason why we collectively need to be super sensitive to public opinion on this because, you know, if a hundred people show up to a community council and say heck no, I don’t want anything like that in my community, there’s a good chance we won’t get a business in that part of the city.

Matthew: Sure. So on a lighter note what’s it like to live in Alaska? I know a lot of people listening have never been there and may never get there. I mean we kind of have this vision of people wrestling with grizzly bears and eating every meal from a salmon out of the river and having pet bald eagles. I mean what’s it really like?

Bruce: You know it is much of that. Alaska is an amazing place. I came up here 19 years ago. I actually ran away from Los Angeles to be a Bush Pilot.

Matthew: Your story is just like Northern Exposure it sounds like, on a micro scale.

Bruce: Right, right except in that case the pilot Maggie was a different gender. Super cute, but yeah it’s a lot like that. And it’s funny because, you know, for anybody who is familiar with Northern Exposure, there are towns in Alaska that are just like that. It’s fascinating. I mean tiny little communities of a hundred people where everybody’s got the most fascinating life story. Yeah it’s very much like that.

But then on the other end you’ve got places like Anchorage and Fairbanks that are, you know, they’re small, urban cities like you’d find almost anywhere else. You know we’ve got paved streets and stop lights and stuff like. We do occasionally, actually we do often have moose walking right down the middle of the street. That’s not at all uncommon. I get them in my yard all the time. But it’s an amazing place. You know, I can drive up into the hills here and I could see glaciers on one hand and active volcanoes on the horizon, and they erupt on a fairly regular basis. So it’s a remarkable place. The people are cool. The scenery is breathtaking. It’s a pretty cool place to be.

Matthew: And how do you deal with the darkness that, what for how many months out of the year it’s just really quite dark? Is that an issue at all?

Bruce: You know it affects people. Different people react differently to that. In the summertime, you know, we’re all outdoors. In this part of the state we get like 20 hours of sunlight in the height of the summer and even at 2 o’clock in the morning the sky is light enough you could read a book by it. And that’s when everybody is outside playing. They’re hiking, they’re biking, they’re fishing. They’re doing all their outdoor stuff.

And then in the winter time everybody sort of moves indoors. You know there’s more movie watching, more hanging out with friends, more indoor concerts, you know, that kind of thing. So it definitely an effect on lifestyle. I just save up all my home projects and all my reading lists for the winter time, and then pretty much from Memorial Day to Labor Day I’m outside. And it’s an interesting dynamic. I mean the pace of life up here is very much driven by the cycles of the sun. Some people react negatively to it. You know they get really depressed with all the darkness and stuff. I don’t. I like it in the winter time. I mean on a sunny day an January this place is amazing. I’ll bring my camera out with me during the day just driving around because it’s an amazing place. And even in the winter it’s worthy of pictures.

Matthew: Wow, it sounds awesome.

Bruce: It really is. I was just going to tell you a brief little anecdote. Years ago I was flying along and I was coming back from a flight into Anchorage, and I called my niece on my cell phone. Don’t tell the FAA I did that. And I was describing it to her. I said yeah, you know, I’m looking off to the right, there’s these glaciers that are flowing out of the mountains down to the water, and the water’s all greens and blues and shades of ocean colors. And back behind the left wing there’s a volcano erupting. My brother got on the phone and he goes are you making this up? I’m like no, dude this is real. This is where I live. I’ll send you a picture.

Matthew: Gosh, that’s definitely a unique place.

Bruce: It is.

Matthew: Now for listeners that want to learn more about the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, how can they connect with you?

Bruce: Okay well they can find us on Facebook and it’s just Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, or they can go to our website and

Matthew: Awesome. Any other information you want to give out?

Bruce: You know I think we covered all the main points. You know, we’re just, we’re looking forward to I think there’s going to be a lot of celebrations on February 24th. Hopefully everybody, you know, does consume responsibly and you know indoors and so forth. We don’t want to startle the rest of the population. But it’s going to be interesting. You know, I see even amongst those people who were initially reluctant, the elected officials, I’m seeing kind of a change in attitude. You know they’re kind of accepting that this is the direction we’re going in. You know it’s a fascinating process. You know, culturally, you know, I’ve kind of seen personally a 30+ year evolution here and I would not have dreamed 30 years ago that we would be here today talking about this. So it’s pretty cool. It’s pretty exciting, and you know, hopefully we’ll see some other states go this way.

Matthew: I agree. Well Bruce thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider. We really appreciate it, and I also want to give a shout out to listener Joshua for connecting me with Bruce. I appreciate that. Everybody have a great day.

If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at That's Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on,

The Napa Valley of Cannabis – Vashon Island with Shango Los

Shango Los

In this interview with Shango Los, Founder of Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneurs Alliance, we explore how an island near Seattle that has been zoned for cannabis cultivation is working hard to be the Napa Valley of cannabis.

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the free podcast for your iPhone or Android Device*

Key Takeaways:
[1:09] – Shango’s background.
[2:32] – How did Vashon Island become a place to grow cannabis?
[5:27] – How do Vashon Island residents feel about legalization?
[6:53] – Frictions for the small minority of residents that don’t approve the legalization.
[8:39] – Growing limitations for cultivators.
[10:26] – Shango gives tips on how to have a successful crop in the Pacific Northwest.
[13:15] – Shango talks about the Vashon Grown label.
[16:17] – What are residents embracing besides cultivation?
[19:34] – How do the black market growers and the new cultivators getting along?
[23:00] – Shango talks about things he would do differently if given the chance to go back.
[26:18] – Shango discusses the 25% excise tax in Washington.
[28:09] – Contact details for Shango and VIMEA.

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at That’s 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 Now here's your program.

Washington State’s Vashon Island, often referred to as Weed Island, has been designated as a place where cannabis will be allowed to be grown by state officials. We’re going to find out the challenges and opportunities facing Vashon Island today with our guest Shango Los, the Director of Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneur’s Alliance, also known by its acronym VIMEA. Welcome Shango.

Shango: Yeah thanks Matt. Thanks for having me on the show.

Matthew: I want to dive into what you’re doing on Vashon Island, but before we do that can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this industry?

Shango: Sure. Well I’ve been involved in the cannabis industry in one way or another since 1989, but most of that has been as an enthusiast. In 2012 though when recreational marijuana was legalized here in Washington, my clients started to change. My primary career’ as a Brand Strategist and Product Developer. And I found that all my new clients here in Washington were interested in bringing legal cannabis products to the market. And here on Vashon Island we’ve been producing marijuana for years. But all of my clients who are coming to me were concerned with how they would be seen in the community because even though marijuana is grown here, not everyone’s in favor of it. And so they were resisting starting their businesses because they were concerned with how they’d be received in the community. And so I got involved with legal cannabis and started VIMEA as a way to do some outreach in favor of marijuana in the community, to make the island feel safer for Vashon Island growers.

Matthew: And can you help listeners understand how Vashon has become a place where residents will be growing cannabis. There is a sequence of events with the regulators and so forth. Can you just let us know how that unfolded?

Shango: Absolutely. It hasn’t been very linear or smooth here in Washington unfortunately, but the first thing that happened was 15 years ago Washington passed legal medical marijuana which really got folks talking about cannabis as medicine. Certainly people had been thinking about cannabis as a recreational intoxicant for a long time. But it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that people really started thinking about what it could do for us as a holistic adaptogen for the human body. Then just two years ago in 2012 the state legalized recreational cannabis through I502, and that brought a whole new wave of folks interested in the money making aspects of marijuana, more than interested in either recreation themselves or using it as medicine.

However, you know, Vashon Island has been producing prohibition era marijuana for almost 40 years, and we’ve got a reputation far and wide for some of the best indica and unique growing practices anywhere. So it’s been something that’s been part of our culture for a couple of generations. But legally in Washington that landscape has begun changing just in the last 15 years.

Matthew: Now what is it like living on Vashon Island in terms of cultures and values and people? I mean, give us sense of how big the island is and what it’s like to live on the island.

Shango: Sure. Even though we’re close to Seattle, it’s very rural here. Vashon Island is a small island that it can only be reached via a 20 minute ferry from Seattle. So it’s a rural farming community, but we also have got easy access to Seattle both to buy fertilizer and hydro gear and lights, but also as a market for our produce as well. Vashon has the highest number of advanced degrees per capita than any US city. With that said, again our primary activity is organic and permaculture, agriculture.

The values of the community are pretty diverse. Some see Vashon as a vacation destination. Some see it as an artists’ enclave, but most everyone values the farms though because that’s usually what brings people to Vashon. They come to Vashon for whatever reason, and they get a taste of what it’s like to shop at a farm stand and buy organic and permaculture produce directly from the farmer without any middleman. And you see the health of the produce like you don’t in the grocery store. And people just tend to move here to be closer to that kind of eating experience. And so you know, we’ll talk a minute about kind of the culture split around marijuana on the island, but one thing that brings people together is the love of the rural living and love of the organic food itself.

Matthew: Where do Vashon residents stand in terms of favoring legalization versus say the rest of
Washington State as a whole?

Shango: Well when legalization was voted upon two years ago, 70% of the residents of Vashon Island voted in favor of it, where as the rest of the state was just above 50%. So when our King County officials, where we live, come out and talk to us about incorporating marijuana agriculture into our island, they speak to us with an assumption that we are in favor of it, and that’s probably why they zoned the entirety of our island for outdoor grows.

Matthew: Yeah that’s pretty crazy that they zoned the whole island.

Shango: Yeah it’s actually really humorous here. When we originally saw the maps, and we thought that the color chart was off because the color for an okay place was to be shaded green. And the entire island was shaded green, and we thought it was an error, but indeed it was not. It’s because the way that the zoning works. You have to be on agriculturally zoned land, and almost the entire island is.

Matthew: Well so there’s a culture of agriculture on the island. Is there anything else about the island? We’ve got 70% of the population that is in favor of legalization. You’ve also got an agriculture background. Is there anything else? And also for the other, the small minority that’s not in favor, is there any problems there? Is it causing some friction?

Shango: Well friction, yes. Not as much as some would have thought though. Mostly the folks who are concerned are concerned about marijuana getting into the hands of their kids. And so that’s something that you’d have to deal with on the island regardless of legalization because marijuana is just such a part of the island and was even in the prohibition era. I don’t think that the availability of cannabis on our island has increased at all with legalization. It’s just the same, you know, if you’ve got a full cup, you can’t fill the cup up any more. But I understand some of their concerns with specifically edibles.

We had an issue in the last year where edibles producer, EdiPure, was planning on moving to the island and purchasing the largest building on the island to grow and produce their candies and other edibles here. Well unfortunately EdiPure mostly shows their candies and gummy bears and things like that in their advertising, and that’s what the concerned parents focused in on. They didn’t want cannabis candy being produced on the island. And some folks pushed back against that, and we did quite a bit of outreach. In the end, EdiPure decided that the location wasn’t appropriate for them mostly because of the zoning laws here in King County. But it did cause a lot of grief in our small 10,000 person island, and it did cause a schism. Other than that though, people are pretty much behind the legalization of marijuana on the island, and especially as it relates to medicine. They’re just not as much in favor of the candy aspects of it.

Matthew: And how much are cultivators limited in how much they can grow.

Shango: Well that depends on what set of regulations you’re participating in. So for example many producers are medical producers, and so if you can pull together yourself and two other people, you can put your three medical authorizations together and grow up to 45 plants. And that’s what you see mostly here on Vashon Island. If you get a recreational license from the state, you can grow up to 30,000 square feet of canopy, which is a very significant grow. As of now we have one licensed grower on the island. We have five more that are in the licensing process, and we’ve got a whole sleuth of new folks that will be submitting license applications when they reopen the window, whenever that may be.

For most folks though, they are not legally allowed to grow. So the vast majority of folks are growing for themselves, for their medicine and that is strictly black market because in our state you’re not yet allowed to grow for personal consumption. So I would say the majority of the growers are black market, but they’re small growers. And then the next step up are medical growers of which there are many, many of those who are all around 45 plants. And then the newly arriving I502 growers which can have up to 30,000 square feet of canopy.

Matthew: And now being in the Pacific Northwest and having a strong tradition of growing outside as well, I’m sure it presents with the moisture some specific problems and issues. Is there any tips or advice you can give people that are growing in those type of geographies on how to have a successful crop?

Shango: Yeah you’re right about that. Where we live in the Northwest is not necessarily the most opportune place to grow. Even our friends over in Eastern Washington have got longer, hotter summers than we do here on Vashon Island. The big advantage we have is just that we’ve been doing it for so long. We’ve got a collection of artisan growers who have been collecting genetics, and have been designing their own adaptive land races over the last 30 to 35 years. When you get a set of genetics that you really like and you can really work with, and then you grow that and you seed it year over year, your best plants, what you end up with are plants that have got a short blooming cycle. They are resistant to mold and rain. And because of our short seasons we tend to specialize in indicas because the sativas just simply don’t have the time to finish outdoors. And really outdoors is the preferred way.

I mean people have had to move indoors because of law enforcement and the prohibition of it. But I would say that the tendency towards Vashon growers to grow them under the sun so that you can get a wider terpene profile, better taste and you know certainly better the environment. We’ve got an island full of environmentally aware folks. And as much opportunity as people can find to decrease their electrical use, the better. So what we find, we collect genetics from Vancover BC, Canada and from Oregon and some stuff from Humboldt. And then we year over year adapt it for our region, and that’s what people tend to use. People don’t flirt with a lot of strains. We’ll find a strain and work with it year over year to adapt it for where we are which is not so as common in Seattle where a lot of our friends are, because a lot of our friends in Seattle are growing indoor. And so with indoor they can grow seeds from anywhere, and strains come and go a lot more quickly in Seattle than just 20 minutes away out here on Vashon where truly is handled more like marijuana agriculture than it is a seed could grow in a warehouse.

Matthew: Now you want to create a Vashon Grown label which sounds like a really good idea. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and maybe some thought on how other communities can do something like that because that really maybe adds a value? And also as time goes on, you know, you want some way to stand out and maintain a profit margin as more and more cannabis comes on the market. So if you could just talk a little bit about the Vashon Grown label.

Shango: Sure. So we see Vashon Island as an Appellation region like Napa is for wine or Champaign, France is for Champaign, or even our friends in Humboldt County for cannabis flower as well. All of these places produce a certain kind of product that people can rely on that region to grow. And with Vashon Island Cannabis because we are primarily are growing outdoors, we’ve developed these seeds that really explode in our environment, and just the quality of indicas that come from our island. People have come to know that they can rely on Vashon Island for high quality, organic marijuana for, you know, either recreation or for medicine.

And you know when I started VIMEA originally it was to help make the island feel more comfortable for growers so that people would come out of the woodwork and participate in the community as a grower. But as people came out and growing became more normalized on the island, we moved into more of a marketing stage because VIMEA the organization itself does not produce cannabis. We are a community outreach and marketing trade organization. And so we do things to support the growers themselves. We do things like have a booth at the farmers’ market where people who have questions about cannabis medicine or growing or the law or how to keep it out of their kids’ hands, so they can come and ask questions. And we do all sorts of, we do a monthly visiting expert series so people can get educated.

And so by doing all of this we’re creating an environment that is beneficial for growing cannabis. And so when you feed and water this environment it grows, and so we extend that into the national community by telling people what we’re doing, and people start to understand that. I understand, you know, if I want a pinot noir of a certain kind I’m going to go the Willamette Valley region or Oregon. But if I want really fantastic, organic, outgrown indicas, well I want that from Vashon Island. Also we’ve got a great deal of folks here who are into creating value out of product medicines, you know, salves and tinctures and things like that. And when you see Vashon Island Produced on labels people just feel like they can trust it a little bit more because we are rural, and we have been doing this for a long time, and we’re not just a new company that’s popped up, you know, just because of the I502 recreational movement.

Matthew: Now you mentioned that some of the residents are creating tinctures and salves and things like that. Is there any other residents that are doing things besides cultivation that are somehow embracing the end of prohibition on the island?

Shango: Sure. Well we have so many homeopathic healers on the island. It’s amazing. We’ve had people who are making non-cannabis tinctures for generations to heal themselves and their families. And a lot of those folks they used cannabis as medicine but just didn’t talk about it to many people because it wasn’t as socially acceptable yet. But now we find that those same holistic, herbal healers who were using other plants are now feeling more comfortable to use cannabis in their tinctures and their salves, in their lip treatment. What do you call it, like the chap stick, you know, lippy, and in all these different applications. And because they are already so experienced with making these medicines with other plants, just swapping out to cannabis is an easy jump.

Yeah I would say, you know, we’ve Vashon Botanical Society who produces a lot of things for the medical dispensary market here on the island. And Vashon Seed and Mercantile which produces medical specific genetics for the rest of the Northwest. So with the island already being rural it was just a natural extension of what we do here.

Matthew: How have people from Seattle and off the island shown interest in what’s going on in Vashon?

Shango: Well first of all they love to get on a ferry and come over here and buy some mota directly on the island. We’ve got a medical dispensary here that specializes in Vashon Grown flower. Also, you know, it’s just available around the island. It’s not all that hard. So people enjoy either coming over and staying at a bed and breakfast, and coming across some cannabis while they’re here. We’ve got a beautiful island with lots of trails and they experience those. And if you’re here at the right time of year you can go to the beach and watch orca, you know, killer whales off the coast and that’s great.

Matthew: That’s awesome.

Shango: So you know it’s very much a wonderful vacation-y place to be, you know, even if you just come for a weekend. And you know, living on an island has got a certain aspirational quality to it. And so I think that’s one of the reasons why Vashon Island marijuana is so appreciated in Seattle proper because when you’re smoking organ cannabis from Vashon your headspace is that of an islander. And you’re like, you know, this came from the island and this was grown with care for me, and you know it kind of warms the soul a little bit. And I think that’s part of the image and the marketing that people enjoy about Vashon Island is that Vashon’s a calm, good place with nice folks and they grew this cannabis just for me.

Matthew: Now how are growers that have been doing it in the black market way getting along with maybe the new cultivators? Are they the same parties, are they kind of cross pollinating or are they kind of like the Montague’s and the Capulet’s where they’re totally separate?

Shango: That’s a really good question actually. They don’t interact all that much honestly. The prohibition era farmers are still pretty spooked. We had DEA enforcement and helicopters, you know, all through the 90’s. And you know the bigger prohibition era farmers on the island, it’s how they afford the clothes for their kids to go to school. And it’s very real and important income for these folks. And so the larger prohibition era growers they simply haven’t come out of the closet. They are still invisible. They have not picked up medical licenses. They don’t have medical authorizations because they don’t trust the government. And with what we’ve seen here with enforcement over the last 30-40 years there’s good reason for them to feel sketchy about coming out into the light so quickly, and so I don’t blame them.

So luckily they reach out to me because they know that I’m a good resource for them and I’m not a threat. And so I get to go and visit grows and help them get in contact with the people they want to get in contact to get exotic genetics. But mostly they stay pretty invisible. The medical growers, many of them are prohibition era growers who have decided to take the risk to be a little more public, and those folks are very social. They work together, they work with VIMEA, and we get together with bulk orders for certain fertilizers or to have a big truck of soil, specialty soil to be brought to the island or things like that. And so the medical folks, there’s much more social in that.

When people come out to the VIMEA meetings I would say that it’s a vast majority medical growers with some prohibition growers, you know, mixed in. And then you’ve got the mom and pop folks and that’s the part that’s taking off are folks who just feel confident to grow, you know, six or ten plants for their own use on their property, mixed in with their other crops. And those folks are downright gregarious about it because with the possession of marijuana being legal here and with the amount that they’re producing being so low, they just feel like there’s little to no risk. And so you’ll get folks that are just nice neighbors and you go over to their house for tea on their porch and you just happen to see they’ve got six nice plants out in the back. And, you know, it’s a little bit a joke to them, but they’re not really concerned about it anymore.

It’s not like it used to be where if your neighbor knew that you were growing five or six plants that they throw you under the bus and call the sheriff. I mean if you call the sheriff there’s nothing going to happen anymore. And so people are feeling much more comfortable to grow for their own personal use, and I think that’s part of the normalization of what’s happening where people are just, the fear is going away. And as the fear goes away, we’ll see an increase in diversity of growers and what they’re growing and of the medicines. And I think that will be to everyone’s benefit.

Matthew: If you were to do this all over again and start from the beginning with the advantage of hindsight, what are one or two things you would do differently that you might suggest to other communities that might be in a similar situation?

Shango: Well that actually brings up two different lines. So I’m going to give you two different answers. The first thing is that I would probably choose to use the word cannabis in the organization’s name instead of marijuana because the primary complaint I’ve gotten from people is by using the word marijuana and what they believe it to be a negative term and a slur which I was never aware of. And where I was brought up it was just what it was called. It was just a colloquial term. But as the organization gets more national and international exposure, I think I probably would have used the word cannabis instead of marijuana in the name.

That aside, other communities in the country are actually reaching out to us to learn from the mistakes that we have made and how they best can integrate marijuana agriculture into their community. And the thing that they invite me most to speak about is I invite folks in these communities that just approaching legalization to embrace their local pot farmer. Because you know, we really want members of the community who are already upstanding, friendly, good folks who are involved with the schools or their churches or they already own a business. These are the people that we want moving into the legal marijuana sector to produce the product.

What we don’t want is that a stigma continues to exist around farming cannabis so that the good folks in the community shun it and stay out of the game. Thus making the only people who are interested in growing cannabis the fringe folks who already may not care about the community values. And because they don’t care about the community values is why they’re choosing to grow. What we encourage folks to do is if you’re in favor of cannabis, if you understand that it’s healing, if you understand that the prohibition of it hurts our economy and is racist, go to your neighbor and say, hey neighbor I just want to let you know that if you got into the cannabis business I would be in favor of it.

Take a proactive position to just openly speak to folks and saying I’m into it. So go ahead and feel comfortable to grow neighbor of mine because if we don’t make our communities open to cannabis when it does come, and it’s going to come. We can see through the most recent elections, that the cat’s out of the bag, the genie’s out of the bottle. This is going to be national now, and the best way that we can integrate it is if communities are open to it so that good community folks who have got the entrepreneurial knowledge and hopefully they can partner with an experienced grower. They get together and do something. So the profits are going back into the community and the company itself is working in a way that benefits the community.

Matthew: Now switching gears a little bit to regulation and tax issues. There’s a 25% excise tax for cannabis in Washington. Does that seem punitive and unfair, and what has been the reaction to that?

Shango: Well it’s actually even worse than that. It’s actually 75% because it’s a 25% tax at each level. So the grower gets taxed 25% on their sale, and then when the producer sells to the retail store there’s a 25% tax there, and then when finally purchased by the end user there’s a 25% tax there. Yeah it’s huge. And so unfortunately the I502 recreational marijuana that is on the market now is exceptionally expensive. You know it’s $25 to $35 a gram right now. And while we do expect that number to decrease as more growers get licensed and there’s more in the market, the going price is $10 in the medical and black markets. So it really makes it hard for anyone to see why to go to an I502 recreational store and pay $25 to $30 for that gram when you can actually get a better gram for $10 at the medical shop.

So most of us expect that the 75% tax will be amended more than like this next legislative session and to decrease the burden. Some of the bills that I have seen that have been prereleased for this legislature do that, and we’ll have to see how it goes. But they’ll have to increase the number of I502 legal growers first off to be able to decrease that price, and then they’ll probably have to decrease the taxes a bit as well.

Matthew: In closing, how can listeners learn more about what you’re doing on Vashon Island and follow your work personally, Shango?

Shango: Sure. You can go to our website which is, and we’ve also got a fantastic Facebook page where you can get some flavor about what’s going on here and see some great photos, and that is And I’m Shango Los, and if you and your community are interested in learning more about the experiences that we’ve had and how you can benefit from the good things and the bad things that we’ve done, feel free to reach out and we’ll see if we can help you help each other.

Matthew: Well Shango, thanks for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it, and we also appreciate all the work you’re doing to help the community where you are in Vashon. That sounds like a lot of fun work you’re doing.

Shango: Well thank you very much. I’m a fan of the show, and I’m grateful to be on it, and thank you for hosting me.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at That's Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on, email us We would love to hear from you.

Exploring the Cannabis Genome and Its Promise to Revolutionize Growing

Nolan Kane

Nolan Kane PHD is mapping the cannabis genome at The University of Colorado (Boulder) and Kevin Frender is a Managing Partner at BlackDogLed. They help us digest and understand the promise and opportunity of genetic study as it pertains to cannabis.

*Guess What? You could be listening to this interview on your commute. Get the free podcast for your iPhone or Android Device*

Key Takeaways:

[1:35] – Nolan describes his research
[2:52] – Kevin discusses the promise of genetic study in cannabis
[3:36] – Nolan explains what determines the genetic profile of a plant
[4:43] – What is synthase?
[5:38] – Kevin talks about Epigenetics
[6:29] – Nolan explains how his research helps cultivators
[11:08] – Broader look at Epigenetics
[13:59] – Nolan explains hybrid vigor in the context of genetics
[16:41] – Kevin explains what hybrid vigor looks like
[17:30] – What aspect of Nolan’s research is exciting businesses
[18:52] – Kevin explains the benefits of LED lighting
[20:33] – Nolan gives information on how to donate to his research


Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at That’s 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 Now here's your program.
We are going to do something a little bit different today. We are going to explore the cannabis genome and its promise to transform the cannabis industry. With me are two special guests. First is Nolan Kane. Nolan is leading a groundbreaking effort to map the cannabis genome. Nolan holds a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Indiana University/Bloomington. Nolan is currently an associate professor and researcher with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Next is Kevin Frender. Kevin is a managing partner of Black Dog LED and has an incredible combination of horticultural knowledge and first hand growing experience from his 20+ years of growing. Nolan and Kevin welcome to CannaInsider.

Nolan: Thank you.

Kevin: Thank you very much.

Matthew: Nolan let’s start with you. Can you describe the research you’re doing at Colorado University in Boulder?

Nolan: Sure. Basically what I do is I study actually quite a few different kinds of plants, mainly sunflowers and some wild mustards of different kinds and now cannabis. And what we do in my lab is we sequence all the genes, in other words, the whole genome. That’s what we call all of the genes that make up an organism. And we use that to understand what makes that particular species interesting and unique, how it differs from other related species, what some of its evolutionary history is, and a lot of the work that we do ends up providing a lot of applied tools as well. Because basically as you sequence the whole genome and understand how a plant or animal works, then that helps anyone who wants to study that plant in the future or animal.

Matthew: Now Kevin when you look at Nolan’s work and the mapping of the cannabis genome, how do you understand this? Where do you think the biggest promise is here?

Kevin: Well I think it really holds a lot of promise in terms of the implications for better understanding the plants and allowing for better breeding and cultural practices to get what we really want out of plants. Once we understand what the plants are really capable of, what their genetic constructions allow them to do and how best to use those particular instructions to our advantage, we can grow crops a lot more efficiently and get what we really want out of them.

Matthew: Now Nolan when you say the genetic profile of a plant, for someone that’s a novice, what does that mean? How can you frame that for someone that really doesn’t have that big of an understanding of genomics?

Nolan: Yeah that’s a good question. So what determines the genetic profile is the DNA of a plant. So what we do is we sequence all the DNA which is really the instruction book for that organism. And for instance if a particular plant that we sequence has the sequence for THC synthase, we know it has the capacity to make THC. But if it instead has the capacity to make CBD, it will have CBD synthase sequence instead, and some plants have both in which case they can make both of those compounds. So that’s just one example, but that tells us a lot about the plant, helps us make sure that we’re growing what we want to grow, and it certainly could be used by people on the private side to make sure they’re growing what they want to grow.

Matthew: Can you just back up and explain what synthase means?

Nolan: That’s a good question. So synthase is just a protein that makes something. So THC synthase makes THC. CBD synthase makes CBD. Any other number of compounds are made by other types of synthases or related types of proteins.

Matthew: So Kevin when you think about the genetic profile, what’s the most important thing you think about when you think about a plant’s genetic profile?

Kevin: Well the genetic profile is basically the set of instructions on how to build that plant and get it to live as well as generate any other compounds or fruit or flowers or substances within those fruit or flowers. So it’s important to understand what a plan is really capable of. Epigenetics is a fairly recent discovery compared to genetics. And it’s basically like bookmarks in this set of instructions telling you, “Hey follow this,” or “Ignore this section”. And only by understanding both can you really understand and figure out how to make changes that you really want either through breeding or cultural practices to get what you really want out of the plant. And by understanding everything involved, we aren’t poking at something in the dark anymore. We can actually make educated guesses and make a lot more progress.

Matthew: Nolan, how can your research help cultivators identify and select the best seeds and plants. Because at the end of the day, I mean this is incredibly interesting, but they’re saying, okay now what can I take away from your research to help me as a cultivator?

Nolan: Yeah absolutely. It is a challenge because we cannot work very easily directly with most of the growers and breeders. However, the information that we’re providing to the public can be used by growers and breeders to do all kinds of things. So as more and more people are interested in breeding for high CBD, for instance, a number of people have become interested in using genetics to do that. And instead of growing the plants up to maturity and letting them flower and then testing the THC level and the CBD level, they can throw out a good portion of the plants that they don’t want by just looking at the genes. And if they don’t want THC to be created, they can just toss any seedlings very early on just based on the genes that those seedlings might have. If they have THC synthase, if you don’t want THC, you can just throw those away. On the other hand if you want some level of THC and CBD, you can select plants that have both of those. If you only want THC, I suppose you could just select the high THC plants.

So that’s just one example. In our own work we’re also interested in flowering time and all kinds of other traits. And as we develop a better genetic understanding of all this, we can develop the tools so that people could select any combination of traits that they wanted at the seedling stage. That would allow them to grow potentially thousands of seedlings, select which should be the best three or four out of those, grow those up to maturity and see which ones have the traits in the best combinations that they want.

Matthew: Kevin, on a practical level how big of a benefit is what Nolan just described in terms of being able to identify a seed or a seedling that has optimal characteristics for a cultivator?

Kevin: Yeah Nolan actually covered most of it. Just like any other crop cannabis has and will continue to undergo selective breeding and modification. And being able to understand the genetics which effect the whole process allows us to selective but conventionally, without direct genetic modification create hybrids which perform better than their parents and demonstrate the traits of combinations of traits that we are really looking for. So being able to correlate specific genes with traits you’re looking for and being able to easily test for those allows you to select the so called perfect seed from among thousands.

So with traditional breeding you might cross two plants and end up with a thousand seeds, and the only way you would be able to tell which of those seeds were the best in the past was to literally plant every one of the thousand seeds, grow them up and wait for them to show what they were going to do which takes months and a lot of space, time and effort, not to mention money. So with genetic testing you can test the seedlings at a very small stage and literally pick the two out of a thousand seeds that you want to grow up and look the most promising and not waste your time, space or money on growing the other 998 that aren’t going to be of use to you.

Matthew: So that’s huge. So we have the confidence of a cultivator saying I have near complete confidence what this test will produce that, you know, these plants, these three out of a hundred or a thousand will have the optimal results which means better return on investment for a cultivator, speed and taking out a lot of the variables, and then an optimal harvest not just for the cultivator, but also for the end user that’s looking for a certain characteristics that are totally dialed in. So that’s pretty transformative. Now Kevin you touched a little bit on Epigenetics, and I’m going to show my ignorance here. My understanding of Epigenetics are somewhat a plant interpreting it’s environment to express its genes in a certain way. Can you talk a little bit about Epigenetics and what that means?

Kevin: Certainly. So if genetics are the instruction book for how to grow a plant. Epigenetics are like bookmarks that say, “Hey read this section, do this or skip this one”. And a lot of research is just recently started looking into Epigenetics over the past decade or so. And we found that interpreting the genome is a lot more complex than we had originally thought it would be. Without understanding how this Epigenetic instruction selection, I guess, is actually being interpreted by the plant. The plant may have a gene. For example, the codes for CBD production, but if it’s not being triggered into actually creating that it does you no good. So you have to understand whether or not that gene is turned on or off and that is Epigenetics, and it turns out more research that’s being done into Epigenetics that a lot of Epigenetic factors come from cultural practices as well as even previous cultural practices. So the plant may remember essentially that fact that 3 months ago it went through a period of drought, and that may have triggered some Epigenetic changes. And being able to figure out how to trigger those ourselves or undo those if we need to is really important for getting the most out of our cultural practices with plants.

Matthew: Wow, Epigenetics just sounds like a fascinating field of study. Nolan, are there any other examples of plants using Epigenetics to respond to its environment so it can thrive that you can think of?

Nolan: Yeah plants use a combination of genetic and environmental signals to interpret their environment all the time. They can’t move like animals can. So instead they respond to their environment in all kinds of complicated ways. They grow differently depending on whether they’re in the sun or in the shade, even on what kind of shade. They can sense when they have neighbors nearby that are plants and grow differently in response to that. So our understanding of Epigenetics is only, people have done a lot of good work on it, but I feel like it’s only beginning to be at the point where we can actually use it in a non-model plant like cannabis where there’s a lot less research than some other species.

Matthew: Now Nolan can you introduce the idea of what hybrid vigor is and how we can understand what that is in the context of genetics?

Nolan: Yeah. Hybrid vigor is just any time when having… Well I guess let me start all over. So I guess hybrid vigor is when yo have two parents that are very different from each other and the offspring does better than if you have two parents that are very much the same. So for instance in humans there’s all kinds of laws about who you’re allowed to marry. You’re not allowed to marry siblings or cousins and that sort of thing because there are a lot of genes where it’s really really harmful to have inbreeding. The hybrid vigor is the opposite of inbreeding really, and we take advantage of that in plant breeding to cross very distant relatives. In many cases that leads to something superior compared to crossing two things that are very closely related.

Matthew: Nolan, is there an example from human genomics that can illustrate hybrid vigor?

Nolan: Well yeah. So the Hapsburgs famously died out because of all kinds of genetic inbreeding, same thing with Russian Princess’s royal family there. Many of them had hemophilia which is a recessive gene, and they wouldn’t have… They would’ve still had that gene, but that gene is masked by the normal gene. So if they had married a Russian peasant instead of their close cousin, they would’ve had offspring that were perfectly healthy, but because they married somebody else that also had that same hemophilia genetic background, a lot of their kids, even in some cases, all of their kids had hemophilia and all of the health problems associated with that.

Matthew: Interesting. So is it fair to say, Nolan, that nature loves diversity?

Nolan: Sure that’s one way to put it, absolutely.

Matthew: Okay. And Kevin, just in your day to day growing practices, have you witnessed hybrid vigor? What does that look like in action?

Kevin: Oh absolutely. Oftentimes you can cross two different plants and end up with a child that is two to three times the size of its parents and just grows much more vigorously, produces much better. It’s a genetic play of the lottery any time you cross two things. And the more different genes you have, the more chances your lottery ticket is going to have of winning it big I guess.

Matthew: Okay. Now Nolan, your research is really important. A lot of people are watching it. What kind of businesses are approaching you, and what kind of questions are they asking? What are they getting excited about concerning you research?

Nolan: Well so my research has a lot of different applications. I mean a lot of the stuff that I do is really fundamentally valuable science from basic science point of view. In terms of more applied side of things the main interest has been on CBD breeding efforts as well as breeding hemp that will do better in Colorado due to flowering time and other environmental signals making it so that it will really thrive in the Colorado environment.

Matthew: Now Kevin we had you on the show a few months back talking about LED versus traditional lights. And I think there’s still a lot of confusion out there about, you know, the benefits of LEDs and how they compare and contrast to traditional lighting. Nolan’s using the Black Dog LEDs to grow some of his plants. Can you just describe again the benefits of using LED in particular, you know, usable light? There’s one thing that you mentioned in the past about, you know, infrared just being entirely unusable, yet that’s what so much of the traditional lights put out there.

Kevin: Right so plants evolved over millions of years to exploit the environmental niche they had to grow in, and LED lights allow us to tune the spectrum for exactly what plants want and what plants need to grow. It turns out plants don’t typically use a lot of light in the yellow and green area of the spectrum. That’s why they look green to our eyes. They reflect most of it. And so it’s wasteful to actually give a plant a lot of that light as opposed to the light it actually can absorb and use. So LEDs allow us to tune that spectrum to not create wasted light that the plant isn’t going to use and is gong going to serve to heat up the growing environment and the plant’s leaves.

Matthew: Now Nolan, watching the Black Dog LEDs in action as you grow your plants at the university, what’s your feeling about them?

Nolan: We haven’t done any formal tests of LEDs versus anything else in sunflowers or any of the other plants that we’re growing, but the plants that we’re growing are certainly very healthy . And I feel like the… I’ve been very impressed by the quality of the lighting and the performance of plants under them.

Matthew: Now Nolen in closing, how can listeners learn more and support your work because I understand you operate under donations at the university. How can listeners support what you’re doing?

Nolan: Yeah. So we don’t have any big grants to fund any of this. It’s hard to get funding for any science these days, especially this kind of potentially very politically sensitive topic. It’s really hard for federal agencies to find money to support us. But fortunately we have had some very generous donations from some private individuals through the CU Foundation. If you’re interested you can go to my website There’s a lot of different ways that you can donate to my work or work from related nonprofits that my colleagues are in, but really the neat thing is that the university has set up a fund to make my research easy to fund. And you can donate to the University of Colorado Foundation Fund 0125196. And so the next time the University of Colorado calls to ask for your annual donation, you can have it directed towards my research if you’re interested.

Matthew: Great. And Kevin how can listeners learn more about Black Dog LED?

Kevin: Probably just to go to our website. We’ve got a lot of information up at

Matthew: Excellent. Well Nolan Kane and Kevin Frender, thank you so much for coming on the show today on CannaInsider and educating us about, you know, the cannabis genome and how to think about it. We really appreciate it.

Nolan: Thank you.

Kevin: Thank you very much.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at That's Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on, email us We would love to hear from you.

Cultivating Hemp and Creating Hemp Coffee with Veronica Carpio

Veronica Carpio

Veronica Carpio is on the cutting edge of cultivating hemp in North America. She tells how we can think about the hemp opportunity, the ins and outs of growing hemp and about her tasty hemp coffee, called Colorado Hemp Coffee.

Key Takeaways:
[1:22] – Veronica explains how she became involved in the hemp industry.
[2:08] – The evolution of hemp importation to now domestic growing
[3:25] – How hemp seed is sterilized
[4:11] – Characteristics of hemp
[5:51] – Compare and contrast hemp and cannabis
[8:13] – How does hemp help restore the environment?
[10:20] – Federal guidelines on hemp
[12:24] – Extracting CBD from hemp
[16:33] – Most common questions asked by people looking to get started with hemp
[18:36] – Veronica explains hemp coffee
[22:27] – How to learn more about Veronica’s coffee and hemp farming

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Our next guest is a hemp advocate and business owner. She’s the owner of Colorado Hemp Coffee and actively cultivates hemp herself. I am pleased to welcome Veronica Carpio to CannaInsider today. Welcome Veronica.

Veronica: Hi everybody, thanks for having me.

Matthew: Now Veronica can you give listeners a sense of geography, where are you in the world today?

Veronica: Yes, I’m located in Boulder, Colorado. I’m a native from Colorado, and I currently work and live in Boulder.

Matthew: A rare native. They’re elusive.

Veronica: Yeah it used to be everyone was a native, but that’s changed.

Matthew: Now what’s your background on hemp? How did you get involved in the hemp industry?

Veronica: Well my background came from the marijuana world originally. I was involved with dispensaries and stuff like this for quite a while. And then I would say I evolved to hemp. So I started doing hemp quite a while ago. I would say about three years ago, and I started that primarily for my hemp coffee product. So I wanted to try to grow the hemp instead of import the hemp seed I use for my hemp coffee, and it escalated from there.

Matthew: Great point. So a lot of people don’t know the background here with hemp and how you have to import it and so forth. Can you give us a little background on how you previously used to have to get hemp and how you can cultivate it now in the US?

Veronica: Sure. So basically you can only import viable hemp seed, that’s still the problem now because the DEA is currently in our way when it comes to importing viable hemp seed. So the only kind of hemp that can be really imported into this country is sterilized hemp seed and/or “hemp concentrate” that passes at 1% THC or below. So that’s traditionally the only ways that you can get something passed customs is having non-viable seed and/or a concentrate material of hemp that is 1% or below.

So that was, you know, the seed that is viable from Canada or is non-viable, I’m sorry, the seed that’s non-viable from Canada that I was using for my hemp coffee, it’s been sterilized. It doesn’t taste as good as fresh seed. Tasting fresh seed is just completely a different experience than a sterilized seed. It doesn’t taste the same at all. So that was one big difference why I tried to grow it.

Matthew: How do you sterilize seed? I’m totally unfamiliar with that?

Veronica: There’s a few different ways that they sterilize it, but it makes it so it can’t grow. It does seem to change some of the compounds too and definitely the taste I think is affected significantly as well. Nobody really is used to eating fresh hemp seed in this country for at least 80 years. So when you taste the difference between sterilized hemp seed and viable hemp seed, you can tell a significant difference.

Matthew: And, you know we’ve all heard this kind of factoid here or there about the strength and versatility and health benefits of hemp, but can you go into some detail about the promise of this plant?

Veronica: Oh yeah so hemp is like a super food, I would say like the super food of super foods. The seed itself has amazing super food qualities such as Omega 3, protein, insoluble fiber. This seed itself or the oil from the seed is a wonderful thing to put in your body every single day. It does also have small amounts of cannabinoids such as CBD or THC, but in those countries where the oil comes from, the hemp press seed oil, they consider those contaminants so they don’t list them or label them. In this country we don’t consider cannabinoids contaminants. So the hemp press seed oil is a really great product just for anyone in any country, at any age to take.

The potential with hemp is so diverse. I would say that the industry is going to be much bigger than like for example marijuana which is a thriving industry right now here in Colorado. The ability to use hemp in fiber is really promising for example. Hemp fiber less like to hold on to germs and viruses unlike cotton. The fabric itself is much more durable. We can make biodiesel out of hemp. We can, you know, do some animal feed. Theirs is really an unlimited potential using the whole plant in hemp. It’s super diverse. So the opportunities are just unlimited.

Matthew: Now you’ve grown cannabis and you’ve grown hemp. How do they compare and contrast?

Veronica: Okay well first of all cannabis would incorporate hemp. So you have cannabis, the species cannabis, and then under that you have marijuana and hemp. So marijuana and hemp are kind of like you could say cousins or sister and brother maybe. But cannabis describes both hemp and marijuana. So the difference between growing marijuana and hemp is actually quite significant. You don’t really want to use your marijuana cultivating skills and use them, apply them to hemp growing.

So hemp takes less water. It has an extensive root system. Usually the biggest difference with hemp is you’re growing male and female plants. So you have pollen. And in marijuana you usually only have female plants and there is no pollen. So the pollen is basically a marijuana grower’s worst nightmare. But to the hemp people we love it. So, you know, in Colorado it’s important that marijuana growers and hemp growers become educated and learn how to work together versus a future hemp/marijuana war because of the pollination issues.

Matthew: So for a typical crop that you would be supervising of hemp, what was the last crop? How long did it take from germination to harvest?

Veronica: Well you can cultivate all year round. So when people ask me, you know, that question I say it can vary especially when you’re doing indoor cultivation. When you’re doing outdoor and you’re going solely by the natural environmental factors of the sun and nature itself, then you know, I plant anywhere between April and May, and then I will harvest in October. So that’s usually kind of the life span for hemp here in Colorado outdoors. Although we are able to also cultivate year round and part of those cultivation efforts, I would say the majority of the cultivation efforts for indoors is solely focused on production of more seed.

Matthew: Now I’ve heard hemp referred to as a restorative crop that can help the soil and the environment. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Veronica: Oh yes. So hemp is a great soil reclaimer. It’s been used in the past for toxic disasters to kind of clean up the environment. It’s really important that people do understand that hemp does this especially with soil remediation because for example if a Kentucky farmer acquired some seed from Colorado, they could have soil that is really not ideal for the first few harvests, and the soil itself will start being reconditioned by the hemp itself.

So people may not have the best soil to work with, but the hemp itself will start fixing that problem, and it may also reflect in their harvest. So harvest may be affected by conditions of the soil while the hemp is doing its thing. So when you leave hemp in the ground, like the hemp roots and stuff like this even over the winter, it actually will become more nitrogen rich. There’s not a lot of work to do for, you know, getting your soil ready every year once you’ve already started growing hemp. The hemp is actually quite amazing when it comes to soil restorations or fire damaged areas or if there’s been like a Chernobyl situation with radiation exposure. So hemp is an awesome plant that can do all of that.

Matthew: And you mentioned that you can only have sterilized seed come across the border. Can you give a snapshot of where we are at the federal level and at the state level on hemp because I know there’s people in other states that will be curious, you know, how they can get involved with hemp, what the regulations are and are those regulations loosening.

Veronica: Sure. So hemp has been quite easy to get through different legislative levels, both state, local and federal. Federal there is a farm bill that was passed that basically allowed research and development in the states to develop hemp as well as some other actions that have went recently saying no more Department of Justice money can go into, you know, enforcement or raids. Like stuff like this into legal hemp states.

So regarding the importation of the seed, unfortunately the DEA is still in our way. They don’t really want to let go. Last year when the Kentucky Department of Agriculture tried to bring in seed and they seized it, they decided to sue the DEA. DEA came back to Kentucky and Colorado and said that we would be able to import seed under special circumstances with the DEA approval for those individual applicants. Most people do not want to go through the DEA. They don’t believe they should even have legal authority over seed. So until something changes at a federal level which it will but what will happen is that it will change it on an interstate into an interstate commerce level so we can start shipping it in the mail. The oil can kind of go back and forth as long as it’s a hemp extract. So this probably will be our first step federally to kind of allowing interstate commerce between the different states that are legal. But federally importation of seed is not gonna probably happen for quite a while.

Matthew: Now extracting CBD from hemp is something we do with the cannabis plant with either CO2 or butane hash oil. Can you talk about that process a little bit, why someone would want to extract CBD, what it is and how you extract it from hemp?

Veronica: Sure so hemp is a plethora of different cannabinoids sometimes not often found in marijuana strains. So in marijuana we call them strains and help we call them cultivars. There are cultivars that are dominant in CBD that are hemp cultivars that are meeting 0.3% or below in dry raw material. So the CBD some people seem to be confused that CBD from hemp is different than CBD from marijuana. That’s not the case. The compounds are exactly the same. CBD is CBD.

So now the levels of CBD in hemp tend to vary. Some people want high CBD like 30% and it’s almost impossible to find that realistically in hemp. The levels of hemp and CBD are much lower, and what happens is when you concentrate the material that’s when you start raising that potential or the actual amount of active CBD, CBDA, sometimes CBDV if you’re lucky.

So extraction, I’ve never seen anyone successfully extract hemp with a CO2 machine so far. I do know one person who has been successfully using butane to make some hemp concentrate CBD dominant, and then I use alcohol process. I run big batches and do an alcohol extraction process because that seems to be the cleanest, safest, healthiest way for someone who’s ingesting CBD, especially if they’re sick or they’re immune system’s compromised, to get quality intake versus other contaminants perhaps.

Matthew: That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of the alcohol extraction method.

Veronica: Yeah that’s an adjustable version. I only do a pure concentrate. There’s no, you know, other solvents or emulsifiers or there’s no dilution in my concentrate. You can dilute it if you choose, but when I make concentrated it’s the core raw concentrated material CBD dominant oil.

Matthew: And I know sometimes when you look at some of these concentrates they’ll say, you know, tripled filtered and so forth. What does that mean exactly?

Veronica: Well so all of the products on the market are primarily imported. I would call them imported crap material from other countries that has been reprocessed here in this country or comes in some kind of paste. Dixie Elixir kind of was the first one to do this back in the day. So all of this material coming in is imported and then either reprocessed here in this country. So when they filter it, they filter it because they probably use different solvents and they do filtration of different solvents so it can become consumable and not poison people. Al though unfortunately a lot of confusion has happened with all these CBD companies that are importing with labeling or really discernment of what it really is or what’s in those containers or those syringes because there’s no real quality control and no testing or over sight for any of this right now. So they’re kind of free to label whatever they want. So there’s a big lawsuit actually going on right now regarding some of these CBD oil companies and misleading the public about the truth regarding contaminants and toxicities and other stuff that has been found in them.

Matthew: Interesting.

Veronica: Yeah so it’s really important, you know, buyer beware. Do your best to educate yourself. You know, CBD oil should not cost $500, it’s not realistic.

Matthew: Now I’m sure you get a lot of emails and phone calls from people that are interested in getting involved in hemp. What are some of the most popular questions you get asked?

Veronica: Well the number one question is where do I get hemp seed. And then the other question is where do I get medical hemp seed. Well there’s no such thing as medical hemp seed at all. This was a definition that the Stanley brothers made up. It’s not recognized anywhere in this country at this point. So no such thing as medical hemp seed. I do get the call all the time for hemp seed. Then people also want to, you know, know how to grow the hemp. They want to know the laws behind the hemp. They want to know how to sell their hemp. That is probably one of the other biggest questions. If I grow the hemp, can you help me sell it. So, you know, people want to get involved, but since it’s such a new industry there’s a lot of other considerations.

Matthew: Sure. Now do you have one or two recipes that with hemp seed that you could recommend to people that are just trying to get started consuming it as a health food or super food?

Veronica: Oh yeah hemp seed is like the best, easiest thing to integrate into any food you have and really the best way to trick your kids to eating healthy. So we use hemp seed at my household for every recipe from eggs, to our salads, to our pulled pork, to our enchiladas and tacos. So I literally add hemp seed in either the hemp hearts or the crushed whole hemp seed and use it in almost all my recipes because it brings out the omega 3s. It gives us fiber, protein. You can’t even tell it’s in there half the time. My kids never know. So it’s a great way to kind of trick them. They’re eating of healthy stuff. So you can implement hemp really into almost any recipe you currently, you know, is your favorite or you utilize often at your home.

Matthew: Now switching gears to your coffee. What is hemp coffee?

Veronica: Hemp coffee is a special blend of organic free trade coffee beans and now Colorado hemp seed together. So it’s a special blend. I also have a mushroom blend and hemp seed which is kind of cool because mushroom has different health effects. But the benefits from the coffee primarily is some Omega 3s. It also helps kind of to help people with their acidity when people have a hard time drinking coffee or it upsets their stomach. The hemp seed kind of counteracts that so they don’t usually get like upset stomachs or have that reaction, and it gives a little bit of a nice flavor. So those are the benefits of the hemp coffee.

Matthew: Now you said mushroom coffee. I know, what kind of mushroom do you have in some of the coffees?

Veronica: It’s ganoderma mushroom so it’s real good for, you know, I would say outside cancer, some other inflammation issues. You know in America we can’t cure for things like this, but that’s commonly what this mushroom is used for is anti-cancer properties and anti-inflammation, stress.

Matthew: Do you taste the mushroom or does the coffee pretty much over power the mushroom and it’s just an additive?

Veronica: Yeah it pretty much overpowers, sometimes there’s like a slight kind of taste, almost chocolate. Most women tell me that for some reason. The men, you know, they just like the coffee, you know for the coffee drinkers or people who aren’t coffee drinkers. I also supply a hemp leaf tea. The hemp leaf tea is more dominant, is dominant in CBD. So that’s a different kind of product for people who aren’t coffee drinkers, want to drink tea and also get some CBD.

Matthew: Right. And so we’ve talked a lot about CBD, but the people who use it generally are looking for relief from a lot of should we say autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, those type of things. Is there some others that I’m missing?

Verionica: Sleep, a lot of people yeah they experience good rest off CBD. Like on the hemp leaf tea, a lot of older people will tell me that they sleep better when they drink the tea. So that’s been great, great news. You know, the CBD is really popular right now, but again hemp has a lot of other cannabinoids that people aren’t familiar with such as CBDV or THCV. These will be big, big down the road. There’s just not a lot of information on them right now.

Matthew: Right, I’ve kind of joked that CBD is the Justin Bieber of the cannabinoids right now. It’s so popular, stealing all the headlines.

Veronica: Oh yeah exactly, yep that’s a good way to put it.

Matthew: So any other hemp related products you have coming out down the road?

Veronica: You know I am pretty much focused on my hemp tea, the hemp coffee and the oils and then whatever special remedies I kind of make for people or special blends. I do a lot of wholesaling, people do private labeling. You know, hemp stores are becoming kind of popular either online or physical storefronts. So people are looking for inventory like this to carry. My biggest focus is providing seed, cultivating more seed and really, hopefully working on seed certification to become, you know, one of the first few people to actually have certified seeds in this country.

Matthew: Oh great. And how can people learn more about you Veronica and follow your work and get your coffee?

Veronica: Sure, they can go to either and check out kind of that product list, or they can go to That site is currently being revamped and it will be up at the new version in about a week. So that is a free open source website that has tons of information on hemp and videos and audio and a bunch of new relevant information if you really want to stay updated.

Matthew: Great, well Veronica thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Veronica: Thanks for having me.

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