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Growing Cannabis and Hemp from Seed Versus Clones with Ben Holmes

Ben Holmes - Centennial Seed

In this episode Ben Holmes of Centennial Seeds helps us understand the importance of cannabis and hemp seeds and where we are in terms of having a good seed stock. Ben also talks about why it is often preferable to grow cannabis from seed instead of growing clones from a mother plant.

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

Key Takeaways:
[1:28] – Benefits of cloning
[3:17] – How to get better seed
[4:30] – Why taking too many cuttings from a mother plant causes issues
[6:56] – Ben explains what he grows from
[8:07] – Ben talks about exciting things going on in the seed industry
[9:54] – Ben talks about the hemp industry
[12:34] – What is autoflowering
[13:36] – Contact details for Centennial Seeds

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 www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Do you know that feeling when you sense opportunity, when you see something before most people and you just know it will be successful, then you're ready. Ready for CannaInsider Consulting. Learn more at www.canninsider.com/consulting. Now here's your program.

Ben Holmes is the owner of Centennial Seeds and is a s subject matter expert on cannabis and hemp in particular when it comes to seeds. Before talking with Ben I was caught up on the efficiency of growing only from clones for a lot of reasons, but as you’ll see growing from seed is something we should all know more about. Welcome to CannaInsider Ben.

Ben: Hi, thanks for having me.

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

Ben: I’m in Lafayette, Colorado which is in East Boulder County.

Matthew: Now a lot of listeners out there don’t think much about seeds. Most cultivators today get a prize train of cannabis then have a mother plant. From that mother they then cut off little sections of that plant to create a whole new plant. Can you tell us first the benefits of cloning and then why it might be optimal to grow from seeds at time?

Ben: Well it all boils back to where the state of the cannabis seed industry at this point and over the last few decades and that is that there are sort of people operating, you know, I don’t want to say, slightly above the hobby level. You know, somewhere in a professional capacity they make seed, and they sell them into the market via the internet or what have you. A lot of those seeds are made quickly. They’re single generation crosses. It’s two parents that are unrelated that they find interesting. They make the cross. They write some ad copy, and then they release the seed.

So when it gets to the end buyer that person will germinate a dozen seeds, and you’ll get, you know, eight different types. You know it will be sort of short ones and tall ones and heavy yielders and scraggly plants. The point is that no one’s gone to the trouble of stabilizing those varieties or those seed types so that it forces the grower, the end user to rely on special plants. You get one good plant out of the packet, you save that plant and then you propagate. You cut it and cut it and cut it and clone it until it collapses, until it no longer is clonable. That’s kind of why people rely on clones.

Matthew: Okay. And what in your mind is a better way of doing it?

Ben: Well if the market would produce a stable seed that breeds true for a particular type and particular traits, those seeds can be reliable and a grower can expect when they put them in the ground for them all to product, you know, desirable plant types versus the variation we’re getting now.

Matthew: Okay so if someone’s looking to buy seed, is there any kind of diligence they can do to ensure they’re getting something better than most?

Ben: The industry is so immature there really isn’t… there’s not much to pick from. I mean you have to know your breeder, and you have to kind of ask the questions is this stable. Not just for things like gender where plants can switch from female to male in the middle of a grow, and that’s terrible for a seedless gardener, you know, that creates seeds. Stability just in a sense that you get uniformity across the individuals from seed.

Growing from seed versus growing from a cutting, the plant will always be more vigorous, all things being equal. And then that’s because you’ve brought a seed from, you know, this is billions of years of evolutions that’s created these things. They’re near perfect. I mean you take seeds that are completed on the plant, they pretty much all germinate and pretty much all turn into a plant. Nature’s really incredible that way. But we lack that uniformity and that reliability, and we really even lack metrics, you know, by which to compare these things. It’s sort of a fragmented market. There are hundreds of seed producers and really no dominant players, you know.

Matthew: Now can a mother plant become fatigued or injured over time if too many cuttings are taken?

Ben: Yes, and that’s another…it’s a function of the industry being very immature. And this is not, you know, this came out of dirt. This came out of nothing. This industry was out of the crawl spaces in the basements. So to learn aseptic technique where you clean your tools and you work on a clean surface, you clean the plant before you cut it. You clean the tool after you cut, before you cut another plant and everything is handled in gloves. It gives those plants a longer life span, the mother plants, because like you said every time you cut them, you introduce some biological insult be it a virus or a mold spore or a bacterium. You’re infecting the plant a little bit at a time. And over time the plant doesn’t have the normal resources in healthy outdoor soil that would allow it to build defenses for those, those disease, and eventually they just succumb and they die, yeah.

Matthew: Okay so a mother plant can start to look droopy or even diseased after a while. You mentioned the gloves and cleaning the scissors, but is there anything else we can do to ensure that you not introduce any kind of bacteria or foreign bodies to the mother plant?

Ben: The grow space has to be kept clean. You know a lot of these places are run, you know, they’re pretty messy. There’s a lot of opportunity for infection and cross infection of material. You can avoid clones from the community. You don’t want to take clones that come out of grow operating for instance because when they sell you their clones they’re really selling you their culls. They’re not selling you the best looking clones. They’re taking the last 12 that they really don’t think are going to do very well, and they take them out to the store and they sell them. It’s not geared to give you the best plant that they can produce. It’s not in their best interest.

And second a lot of those places have contantly overturned, perpetual, harvest-type grow rooms. Those rooms develop colonies of bugs that become super resistant to whatever measures are available to you through the retail channels in terms of pest control. So you’re really introducing bugs into your room and into your situation when you bring clones from other people’s gardens that you’re not in direct control of. It’s just a risk.

Matthew: Do you pretty much only grow from seed done yourself personally or do you also sometimes grow from a cutting?

Ben: Once in a while something comes along where there’s no opportunity to grow it from seed. A good example would be the Harlequin CBD line which is a high CBD, low THC cultivar that’s grown for a CBD extraction. It’s a clone only. It’s never been released in seed form that I know of, and I wanted to at least have the opportunity to outcross some of my material to it. So somebody gave me a clone, and I set it in a room by itself, put up some sticky traps and watered it really heavily to see if I could drive any bugs out of the soil, any fungus gnats. And then you take leaves and you go under the scope and make sure that they’re clean, that there’s no mites or any kind of thrippy looking bug, eggs. And you know you have to sort of quarantine these plants when you bring them in. Once they’re inside your room and they’re clean and you’re using aseptic technique and you’re making clean cuttings, it’s you know, then it’s inside your system and you can deal with it. But it’s just bringing that material in for the first time I think is risky.

Matthew: What do you think is the most exciting thing going on in the world of seeds right now?

Ben: I would have to say the Cannabis Genomic Research Initiative out of the University of Colorado at Boulder. That’s being administered and investigated by the Kane Laboratory. It’s Nolan Kane and Daniela Vergara. And that bit of science, most people roll their eyes. So if they don’t do it outwardly, at least, you know, sort they shy away from it because it really isn’t something that people understand, but I can tell you that the tools and the resources that are developed as a result of mapping the genome of cannabis are going to be commonwealth technologies that any company or any innovator can utilize to make better stuff, better pest control, better pest resistance, better yields. All of the things that we want, all of the characteristics that we want are traits that can be identified and screened for. And we’re not talking about genomic engineering or GMO work.

We’re talking about just very very precise technology assisted selections just like using an instrument to measure THC. You can look at their genes and decide whether or not they have more or less of the gene for expression of THC synthase. They may have a very large amount of that and it’s visible in a assay that can be done at a very young stage, maybe from the seedling stage. So the technology is so far beyond where we are right now, but it yields so many benefits to us. I would urge anybody out there to find it and support the heck out of it.

Matthew: Now switching gears to hemp, you’re really involved in a young but growing hemp industry here in Colorado. What do you see is the biggest problems and opportunities surrounding hemp right now?

Ben: Well the regulatory environment is the best in the country. I’ve read the programs from the other states and Kentucky and Tennessee and so on and so forth, even Florida has some CBD-ish kind of hemp-ish type law. And the platform is very simple. The rules are very reasonable. We have light bright lines in terms of what we can and can’t do, and it really revolves around concentration of tetrahydra delta-9 THC in the plant material. And as long as you work around that bright line it’s really, it’s a wonderful platform to watch be developed. But what’s missing right now is reliable seed. It’s the same as on the drug resin side. It’s just a lack of a reliable seed supply.

You know, this has been held under water for more than 75 years. In 1937 it went prohibited. And just now are we allowed to begin to play with it and study it and work with it, innovate with it. The seed supply has just been completely abolished. It’s gone. Whatever the USDA held in their sessions in lost to time, poorly stored, what have you, it’s seed. The biggest problem we face is without a doubt seed. Having said that, it’s also for me the biggest opportunity. It’s what I see that I can do to contribute. So I see it as both a hindrance and an opportunity.

Matthew: Now you test hemp in your lab. Does anything surprise you in your findings of samples that are sent to you?

Ben: Not really. I’m probably testing a dozen different varieties in a week’s time. You know people bring me samples of things they are growing, and I see a lot of the same material, and that’s just because of the limited amount of seed. In some ways that limited amount of seed you know that it went to people who are going to utilize it, you know, it’s put to use because they paid big premiums for it in most cases and some people went to great lengths to smuggle it or whatever they had to do to get it here. I don’t judge. But it’s clear that people are putting that seed down, and they’re trying to make more seeds. So we’ll see after this season how people do and how people are able to work around the embargo on seed and maybe bring in more material to the state. This novel material is really what we need. It’s not that we need a supplier in Ukraine or Canada to ship us seed. That’s not what we want to be is reliant. We want to be self-sufficient in terms of the industry and make our own.

Matthew: Now for people that are not familiar with the term autoflowering, you see that term thrown around a lot when it comes to seed, can you describe what that means?

Ben: Yeah. It’s a short day crop which means it will flower when the days reach a certain length. Going down from the longest day on June 21st, the day length will shorten all the way down to September 21st when the days are equal and it will lose about two or three minutes a day let’s say. So at some point around the first week of August in our latitude that’s the trigger length of day and the plants will begin to flower. So autoflowers come from material that was bred up in the Arctic Circle way up there, you know, Finland, really really high latitudes where the days are super long in the summer so they would never get that signal of a short day to begin flowering. So it does flower regardless of the day you put them down and then 45 days later you harvest them regardless of the time of year. Obviously you can’t grow in the winter, but it’s irrespective of the length of the day, it will flower.

Matthew: What an amazing adaptation that is.

Ben: Yeah.

Matthew: Great. Well Ben in closing how can listeners learn more about Centennial Seeds?

Ben: Oh you can go to my website. It’s www.centennialseeds.com. I maintain a blog. I write a lot of tech pieces and just sort of help pieces. And you know I encourage people to just check it out and see what it is that we do.

Matthew: Cool, well Ben thanks for being on CannaInsider today.

Ben: All right thanks for having 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 www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, simply send us an email at feedback at cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells – Molecular Biologist Cristina Sánchez PhD

Cristina Sánchez PhD

Cristina Sánchez is a molecular biologist from Complutense University in Madrid Spain.  She has been studying cannabis for fifteen years and has discovered that cannabis sends a message to cancer cells to commit suicide.

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

Key Takeaways:

[1:39] – How long has Cristina been researching cannabinoids
[2:13] – Cristina explains how cancer cells die when exposed to THC
[3:10] – How chemotherapy is different in treating cancer
[4:51] – How long it takes cannabis to kill cancer
[5:53] – What’s the cannabinoid profile being exposed to the cancer cells
[9:19] – Would you advise a friend with cancer to take cannabis for treatment
[13:02] – Cristina shares her thoughts on CBD
[14:17] – Cristina talks about cancer cell death
[15:11] – Are pharmaceutical companies interested in Cristina’s research
[16:39] – How is cannabis treated by the government of Spain
[18:03] – Learn more about Cristina’s research

Disclaimer: The information provided about cannabis is for informational purposes only. Please consult your physician before making any medical decisions. The opinion of the guest are purely her own and do not reflect the opinion of CannaInsider or Matthew Kind.

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 www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Do you know that feeling when you sense opportunity, when you see something before most people and you just know it will be successful, then you're ready. Ready for CannaInsider Consulting. Learn more at www.canninsider.com/consulting. Now here's your program.

Cristina Sanchez is a molecular biologist from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. She has been studying cannabinoids for more than ten years. Her research includes findings that THC induces cancer cells to kill themselves while leaving healthy cells alive and undisturbed. Cristina, welcome to CannaInsider.

Cristina: Thank you very much Matt.

Matthew: Can you tell us where you are today in the world just so listeners get a sense of where you are and where you study?

Cristina: Well I’m a biologist, and I’m currently study the anti-tumor potential of cannabinoids of marijuana derive cannabinoids.

Matthew: Okay and you’re in Madrid right now?

Cristina: Yes I’m in Madrid. I’m based in Madrid, and I perform my work, my research at Complutense University as you very well said.

Matthew: Okay great. And so you’ve been doing this for a while now. Is it more than ten years or ten years is it?

Cristina: It’s been actually around 15 years already. We study, yeah we started with this study at the late 1990s, and we published our first paper regarding this issue in 1998. So we’re talking about more than 15 years already, yes.

Matthew: Wow, and so there’s a variety of ways that cancer cells can die, but you noticed a particular way that they die when they’re exposed to cannabis or THC. Can you tell us a little bit about that.

Cristina: Well yes as you said cells, not only cancer cells, but every cell in our body can die in different ways. One could be similar to an accident, a car accident, a traumatic death which is called necrosis. And there is another way to die which is a clean death and by clean I mean no inflammation of the surrounding tissues. And this cancer cell death is called Apoptosis. And when someone’s dealing with anti-tumor compounds, one wants this particular kind of death to happen because the other one is associated to inflammatory processes and things like that that you don’t want in a patient.

Matthew: Right, and so can you talk about how chemotherapy is different in treating cancer?

Cristina: Well it’s completely different because chemotherapy attacks every single cell in our body that is undergoing proliferation. Every cell that is dividing will be attacked by chemotherapy. And which cells are dividing in our body? First cancer cells of course, those are the ones you want to kill, but also the cells of your immune system, the cells of your stomach and a lot of tissues. So that’s why chemotherapy is so toxic because it’s not only attacking cancer cells but other cells that are proliferating inside our bodies. And the difference with cannabinoids is that these compounds only attacked cancer cells. We don’t understand why yet in molecular terms. We don’t know what makes a cancer cell different in terms of the sensitivity to cannabinoids, but we know that this is a fact. Cannabinoids kills cancer cells and they do not affect the viability of non-cancer cells.

Matthew: Gosh this is incredible research you’re doing. This is so needed. So chemotherapy is like a bomb that just kills everything, and THC—from your research—sounds like a sniper that just kills the cancer cells which is exactly what we want, and it caused no inflammation or no kind of problems. It just kills the cancer cells and that’s it. Now how long does it typically take? How many treatments or exposures to THC before the cancer cells decide to kill themselves?

Cristina: It depends on the model of cancer we are using. When we treat cancer cells grown in plastic plates we add cannabinoids just once, and cancer cells die in one day, two days.

Matthew: Oh my gosh.

Cristina: But this is cancer cells culture in plastic plates not in an animal or not of course in a human body. When we use animal models of cancer, we treat the animals every 2 days for 15 days, 3 weeks, and we start to see effects basically from week one, but we have to treat the animals 3 times a week, 4 times a week. It’s not just one single injection.

Matthew: Wow this is incredible research. Now the, you say cannabinoids, but is it pure THC or what’s the cannabinoid profile you’re exposing to the cancer cells?

Cristina: Okay. We have used many different compounds, a few compounds. Cannabinoids is extracted from the plant. We have used many different tools, and our hands, cancer cells respond basically the same way to cannabinoids either if they are fewer compounds or if they come from the plant and they’re accompanied by other compounds.

Matthew: Right. I’m sure you’ve heard of the entourage effect in that the cannabis plant works best when the cannabinoid profile has some sort of complete structure with diverse cannabinoids in there. Do you think that doesn’t really matter so much, just any kind of cannabinoid or do you think one that’s from a full plant works best?

Cristina: We have tried them both pure and extracted from the plants, and we see slightly better effects when we use a botanical extract, isolations from the plant that are accompanied by other cannabinoids and terpenes where we have the entourage effect that you mentioned. But for cancer patients I think we should find the precise combination of cannabinoids that work best for each individual patient. We are testing now in the lab different cannabinoid combinations. We are combining THC with CBD in different proportions, and we think that for each individual patient a specific cannabinoid combination would work best. So our work is to find that combination for every patient.

Matthew: Okay. And now there’s a lot of different kinds of cancer. What do you think, is there certain kind of cancers that are most receptive to this cannabinoid treatment?

Cristina: I don’t have an answer for that question. We and not only our group but many others in the world are taking this anti-tumor potential of cannabinoids, and as far as I know basically every cancer model that has been tested is responsive to cannabinoids in one degree or another. In our hands I would say that those cancers that are characterized by more proliferation are the ones that are most sensitive to cannabinoids, but as I said I’m not aware of any single cancer type that has not responded to cannabinoids. So apparently cancer cells have something different from non-cancer cells that make them sensitive to cannabinoids.

Matthew: Now there’s a lot of people listening that may be suffering from cancer or they have a friend or family member that is suffering from cancer. And in certain states, the state I’m in and California and others, you can find cannabis oil and cannabis extracts. I know you can’t really advise patients over a show like we’re talking about here, but let’s say that you were talking to a friend or someone and said hey look just take as much cannabis oil as you can and that should help with your tumor, is that what you would advise?

Cristina: Well we don’t know if cannabinoids can help cancer patients in terms of the anti-tumor potential. We know and we are very sure of that that these compounds work very very well in the animal models we have used. Unfortunately there are no serious control studies performed so far in human patients. I hope these compounds can be used with them as well, but as far as I know and I’m pretty updated in this issue, there are no human studies that can allow me to say that. So what would I say to a friend or what would I say even to me if I am diagnosed with cancer tomorrow? What I would say is this is the pre-clinical information we have, and I would stress out the word pre-clinical meaning that there’s no information on human patients yet, but on the other hand these compounds are very safe. So basically you have nothing to lose. The worst that can happen to you is that the cannabinoids do nothing to your tumor, and you would probably feel better because the effects are exegetic and appetite stimulating effects and all these things that cannabinoids do.

But in terms of the anti-tumor response, no, we don’t know if they work in human patients. We hope they do, and we are working very hard to provide pre-clinical evidence to the doctors and the medical community to make them check these compounds in human patients, but we don’t have that answer yet. So again if it was me the one with cancer I would probably try the compounds. Knowing that they have not been tested in humans for this purpose, but also knowing that they are very safe. If you are not a teenager or if you don’t have psychiatric disorders, these compounds are very safe. So basically you have nothing to lose.

Matthew: Right so that’s a great point. We don’t have any evidence for human trials yet. But for people listening who are trying to get a sense like what would a minimum effective dose mean? So let’s say you have a tumor that’s the size of your thumb somewhere in your body, how much cannabis oil would even be enough before they say that’s enough, that’s the treatment. The amount you’re taking is enough. Like what would be the minimum effective dose in your mind? I know you’re not suggesting people do this.

Cristina: We have no idea.

Matthew: Okay so maybe just a lot.

Cristina: We have no idea. We have no idea because we don’t work with human patients. We just work with animals, and we cannot compare does between mice and humans. That’s basically impossible to do. What I would say is take as much as you can. And as much as you can means stop increasing the dose or stop taking cannabis as soon as you feel something that you don’t like. But as far as those side effects don’t appear, I mean take as much as you can because we don’t know the dose that is needed for this anti-tumor responses to accure, if they ever accure.

Matthew: Now let’s talk a little bit about CBD. We talked about THC, we talk about cannabinoids in general, but in your research what are your thoughts about CBD?

Cristina: Well we are big fans of CBD because we have used these compounds in the lab and at least in breast cancer which is the type of cancer I work in. CBD is as effective as THC in killing cancer cells. And it has the advantage of not producing side effects which in the eyes of the doctors at least is very good news. It is in fact good news because the lack psychoactivity allows you to use higher amounts of cannabinoids. So this is also good news. But as I said, in our hands in cancer cells grown in plastic plates, in our animal models of cancer, CBC is as effective as THC.

Matthew: Really, wow. And so you focus almost entirely on breast cancer, and from what you’re saying CBC is just as good. That’s incredible.

Cristina: Yes.

Matthew: So we don’t know how the CBD or cannabinoids or THC are killing the cancer cells, but we know they’re dying. Is that accurate?

Cristina: Not really. We have a lot of information about the molecular mechanism that produces cancer cell death. We know, actually that’s what we do now in the lab. We have been analyzing what is going on inside the cells, inside the cancer cell when it is exposed to cannabinoids, and we know that cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in the membrane of the cancer cells, and we know the complexity of the molecular signal that is occurring inside the cells. We have a lot of information about that. So I wouldn’t say that we don’t know how cancer cell death is produced. I wouldn’t say so.

Matthew: Now is there pharmaceutical companies or the government or different parties coming to you and saying hey we want to create medications for this. Is that happening in Spain and Europe?

Cristina: Well it has happened in fact in the past. GW Pharmaceuticals.

Matthew: Sure, sure, yes.

Cristina: You know who these guys are. They were financing our research for many, many years, and they are now trying to perform clinical trials on the analyzing the effect of this compound in combination with chemotherapy that is given to glioblastoma patients, to brain tumor patients. So this is the only contact we have had with pharmaceutical companies, and we would like them to be faster in their movement toward the clinics because we think that we are wasting precious time and we deserve that, I mean, we have to dedicate our time to patients. So we are trying to force them to perform more clinical trials because we think that the clinical evidence we have so far is more than enough to move to the clinics.

Matthew: It’s incredible because there’s many doctors, I would say most doctors if you’re in the United States, have no understanding, zero understanding of how cannabis could be a legitimate medicine for cancer patients. So here in the United States cannabis is a Schedule I drug. We can’t even use it for medical research. How is cannabis treated by the government of Spain?

Cristina: Well it’s a funny situation because we are allowed to perform research with cannabinoids. There is no problem at all in doing research focused on cannabinoids, but medicinal cannabis is not in the agenda of our politicians at all. And in fact they are very against these global movement around the world pushing towards legalization of medicinal cannabis. So we have general elections pretty soon, and we hope that the new government will change a little bit because what is funny is that the basic research community focused on cannabinoids is huge in Spain. We have a Spanish cannabinoid research society with more than 200 members, and it is probably one of the biggest in Europe, and there are a lot of groups, not only ours, but a lot of groups doing very good for clinical research and a lot of them on medicinal uses of cannabinoids. But for reasons that I really don’t get medicinal cannabis is not a question even for our politicians.

Matthew: Well how can listeners learn more about your research you’re doing there?

Cristina: Well we publish our papers in the regular scientific journals. So in websites like PubMed which is an NIH resource, public resource. You can find our publications. We have a small and pretty humble website, our group, where you can also find our publications and the things we do. And that’s basically it.

Matthew: Can you give out your website for people that want to visit?

Cristina: Actually it’s a very complicated name. But if they find my name Cristina Sanchez with no “H” and Cristina in cannabinoids, they will find the website very easily.

Matthew: Very good. Well Cristina thank you so much for being on CannaInsider today and educating us. We appreciate it.

Cristina: Thank you very much for your invitation, thank you.

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

Automating your Cannabis Trim Process with GreenBroz

GreenBroz Machine

Up until very recently machines that automated the cannabis trimming process were awful.

They were not designed well, they produced cone-shaped buds and they would get gummed up with resin easily. The GreenBroz automated machine just works. It is quiet, fast and treats you buds extremely gently.

——————————————————————————————————–
A very special thank you to Dylan and his team at KaringKind.com in Boulder, CO for welcoming Matthew Kind into their grow to see how they use the GreenBroz Machine
——————————————————————————————————–

Learn why growers and business owners both love the GreenBroz machine

Interview with Cullen Raichart of GreenBroz.
Learn more at:  http://www.greenbroz.com

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

Key Takeaways:
[1:00] – What is GreenBroz
[2:03] – Cullen talks about by other trimming machines don’t work optimally
[4:50] – How does GreenBroz avoid cone-shaped buds in the trimming process
[10:45] – What is ROI on the machine
[13:16] – Cullen talks about how to clean the machine
[14:55] – Costs of the machines
[16:12] – Ease of getting leaves for concentrates
[17:32] – What are the sizes of the machines
[20:26] – Contact details for GreenBroz

 

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you looking for a fulfilling and lucrative career in the cannabis industry? Visit www.cannainsider.com/careers. That’s www.cannainsider.com/careers. Now here’s your program.

As the cannabis industry grows cultivators are looking for better ways to automate harvest while still maintaining high quality premium plants. Today’s guest Cullen Raichart, co-founder of GreenBroz has created a machine that greatly reduces the time it takes to trim a cannabis plant. Welcome to CannaInsider Cullen.

Cullen: Matt, thank you so much for having me.

Matthew: Can you give us an idea of what GreenBroz is at a high level?

Cullen: GreenBroz is, we’re kind of an up and comer in this business, and we came across a different idea when we approached the trimming question and that is we decided to look at it as how can we do an excellent trim job more rapidly and efficiently than human beings. And that’s the impetus for our machine was. So we’re a complete manufacturing company. We make more than one product, but our flagship is definitely our trimmer.

Matthew: Okay. And where do you see other machines falling short? Because I wouldn’t get into that, but there’s a lot of sourness in the community from machines that tried in the past to help with trimming, but did a poor job on execution. And to be honest I was a little skeptical when I heard about GreenBroz, but then people started telling me how cool it was and how well it worked. I went out and saw it, and it’s really I’ve come around. But can you just describe what the other… the machines that doesn’t work optimally, why don’t they?

Cullen: Sure. Well there’s basically one other design of machine as far as dry trimmers go, and those machines are tumblers. They look like a dryer. They sit on their side, and you fill them full of product and they tumble, and your very delicate and expensive product tumbles over and over and breaks down and knocks off all the crystals and so forth. That’s basically the difference, the design of their machines. I think they really came at it differently. They looked at volume as being the problem, and while trimming volume is definitely something you need to address, again we looked at it differently.

We decided to approach it from the perspective of I mean how do you really automate detailed work. How do you automate that kind of attention to quality, and that’s what the impetus about the blade design, the whole design of the machine is about gentleness, the way that the material is put in, the way the material comes out, the amount of contact it has with the blade, the amount of time that the amount of the movement that the product has over the blade’s surface. All these things were considered because it is really about taking a very delicate product and valuable product and treating it as if you would… as you would treat it with your hand.

Matthew: Now I want to give a shout out to Dylan of Karing Kind a dispensary in Boulder. He was kind enough to let me in and show me how he used his two GreenBroz trimming machines. And I have a little video I took with my phone and some pictures that I will put on this post on the website of www.cannainsider.com. But I was amazed by a few things. One, you know, whenever an employee gets replaced by a machine it can be an uncomfortable thing, but I noticed the employees really enjoyed the machine. They don’t see it as a threat. They see it as something that helps them, and it really does help them. Two, it’s very quiet and fast. I didn’t realize that it was going to be so quiet and so fast. I was picturing something else. Now the cannabis cultivators in the past did not like how the machines made their buds cone shaped. They’d nurture this plant for 60 or 70 days, let’s say. They watch it grow these beautiful buds. They cut it and they cure it, and then they watch some machine take the bud and turn it into a cone shape in front of their eyes and it drives them crazy. What’s happening with these other machines that create the cone shaped buds, and how does GreenBroz avoid that?

Cullen: Well first thank you so much for calling out Dylan. Dylan has been just a great supporter. We really like those guys at Karing Kind. And I’m really glad you had the opportunity to go and see it. It’s such an important thing to see it. As you know, the industry and the machines have such a bad reputation that it really takes that moment, and when you see it it changes everything. It really changes your perspective on how the whole process is handled. And the reason that our machine doesn’t make consistent pine cone, as we call them, out of your product is quite simply there’s not a consistent form to the way that the product moves over the blade.

The blades are in a swept design so that… and the blade spacing is designed such that there’s not a lot of the product that gets into any one blade surface at a time. It’s like very small scissor cuts instead of if you look at the blade designs of the other machines, the tumbling machines, you’ll see that they’re very large openings and they’re very square, and square blades rolling around in a drum, make pine cones. So our blade designs gives the product the opportunity to hit every possible angle onto a blade surface and have the least removed. The distance between the top blade and the bottom blade is such that no bud material gets into that bottom blade surface.

And as far as people and, you know, automation its role in any business, the role of automation is to alleviate the tedious and time consuming task and make people more efficient. Give employers the opportunity to keep good employees on and give them better wages while getting productivity where they need to have it. Let’s face it, in this industry when you’re… if you’re not a producer who has a distribution point, your spending 10% to 20% of your final cost on trimming, and that’s just not a functional model. So what we’ve done with this machine is give you the opportunity to work inside the machine as it’s running, to work with the machine at whatever level you really want to.

So you can take a good quality employee and someone who cares about your business, cares about your product, and give them the opportunity to work on a machine and become a 1000 times more efficient. It’d take a single person in a day trimming and they trim, you know, a pound let’s say, which is probably pretty average, and then you put them on my machine, on the small machine and they can trim 16 to 30 pounds in that same timeframe and get the same quality. And that’s what’s really amazing about it is it gives you the opportunity to produce a very, very high quality product in a very short period of time. And we got lucky, to be honest with you, with the speed of the trimming on it because again we were focused on quality, it just happens to work really fast.

Matthew: Yeah. Now let’s walk through some scenarios here and some math for a dispensary owner or anybody that’s interested. So I’ve cured my plants for two to three weeks. They’re dry, and I’m ready to trim. Now you were saying that, you know, from a productivity point of view, let’s just say someone’s who’s trimming could do a pound and you’re saying with the machine they could do 16 pounds. Is that a pretty average or is that pretty normal what you see when someone purchases a machine?

Cullen: Yeah that’s right. That’s on the low end of the production scale for the small machine, but it’s very consistent, you know, that machine will consistently produce at that level. And one person can drive that machine all day long. Because of the, you know, trimming being so detailed and tedious, it’s very common that people while trimming trim very very well for the first couple of hours and then their productivity diminishes and their quality diminishes over time. The machine produces at a consistent rate from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. And you can use… a person can use a machine by letting the machine do all of the work or part of the work, or you know, any kind of amalgam there between those two things, you have a lot of freedom with it. The other machines on the market you don’t have the option to be inside it and look and see what’s going on. With this machine you’re right there. It’s right in front of you. You can stop the machine. You can unload it. You can reload it. You can do whatever you want to with it. It’s just very gentle and like you said, quiet. It’s unbelievably quiet.

Matthew: Yeah so there’s a couple benefits here to the automation in terms of you’re reducing theft risk by having less people as well because during the trim process is when a large amount of theft occurs, and I’m not saying, you know, some trimmers just don’t I guess have some integrity or whatever the situation is, but you know when you take down the number of trimmers you have you’re going to have less theft. Also I mean a trim job is typically greater than minimum wage. So this is a tremendous cost savings over time. What’s kind of the payback you typically see where they break even on the machine after they’ve invested in it?

Cullen: Well you know it’s probably dependent on how reliant the customer is on the machine. But if you look at, if you take for instance the average of about $200 per pound, and that’s a California kind of guessimation right there, but if you’re looking at $15 an hour and 8 hours a day, you’re looking at about yeah, $200 a day for that same pound. So say roughly $150 to $200 per pound for a human to trim cannabis. And then you use our machine, the machine does… if it runs at full capacity and gets its 30 pounds per day in that same timeframe, it’s paid for itself in an 8 hour shift. So you definitely have the potential to pay it off in the first day you own it, but most guys will have it definitely paid off within the first week or first full harvest that they run with the machine.

Matthew: Yeah those type of economics really are tough to argue with.

Cullen: It’s pretty astounding, Matt, when you think about it. I grew up in an industry where we bought a $750,000 piece of equipment to better our business, and you know that’s a lot of machine. That’s a lot of work you have to do to feed that machine, and then that machine has to produce above and beyond that so that you make profit. So when I looked at this machine, you know one of the biggest things about it was quality. You know, we have to have quality. We have to have reliability. You have to have consistency because a down machine, you know, ruins everything. And then the other thing is like return on investment because I watched my parents struggle with the cost of a big huge printing press, and I don’t want to put people in that situation. And we might be on the other side of that as far as return on investment, I don’t think you’ll find anything, any piece of equipment that produces at this level that returns that quickly. But, you know, it is what it is and we think the value point is right.

Matthew: Now what about cleaning the machine because as we know if you’re wearing rubber gloves for example and you are doing trimming by hand, you get the oil all over the gloves and the scissors and everything, the resin. So what do you do, how do you clean the machine? How often does it need to be cleaned? Does it get gummed up pretty regularly? How does that work?

Cullen: Well that’s another beautiful thing about trimming dry. You know once you’ve properly dried the product, it reduces that really tackiness to it. It still has, you know, the stickiness in the tricomes but you have to squeeze the bud a little bit to get that stickiness. So we’re not putting any real pressure on the bud so you don’t get a lot of stick into the machine itself. So we have guys that trim and they’ll trim all day and they’ll not clean the machine. And we have guys that will clean the machine once in the middle of the day and then we have one customer who doesn’t clean the machine. He’s had it for four months and he’s never cleaned it.

So yeah that’s kind of amazing to me, but that’s the nature of it. I mean you know, with a dry trimmer and the lack of… we don’t have a downward pressure. We don’t mash the products and we’re not really taking any of the, you know, we’re not putting any pressure onto the tricomes so we’re not causing any of that stickiness. So you will get some build up, and if your product isn’t properly dry, you can get some leaves that smash between the two blade surfaces and you get some streaking, and that’s when you have to you know, pull the machine apart and you just take the top blade out and put a little light coat of oil on it and scrape it with a razor blade, and then put it back together. The little machine takes about 5 to 10 minutes depending on how deep of clean you want to put on it, and then a large machine takes 10 to 15 minutes depending again how detailed you want to be.

Matthew: And how much do the different machines, different sizes cost for each machine?

Cullen: So the MSRP on the small machine is $5,250 and the large machine, I think, on the MSRP is at $10,500. I apologize. We just updated this year so I don’t have that off the top of my head.

Matthew: So how much thru-put can go through the small machine versus the large one?

Cullen: So the small machine is 16 to 30 pounds in a day. And then the large machine does 8 to 10 pounds in an hour or I should say 8 to 12 pounds in an hour. We’ve had that machine, it’s really dependent on product preparation. So if your product is properly dry it trims it so fast it’s kind of unbelievable how quick it operates, and then again so gentle. If you’re getting 10 pounds out of it, you’re getting 80 pounds a day, and if you’re getting 12, you’re getting 100 so it’s pretty good.

Matthew: And so all these precious leaves that now can be extracted into concentrates, there’s an easy way to get it. Either you just pull open a drawer at the bottom of the machine essentially and it’s all there.

Cullen: That’s right. So the small machine was designed actually with another product of ours in mind which is a dry/sift tumbler. That machine was designed to sit on top of that product, and it still does. What we found though was that people loved that machine and they do a lot of different things with their trim which is great. So we made that machine pretty much the right size. It can sit on its stand. It can sit on our tumbler. It can sit on a tote. It can sit on a trashcan with a trash liner, and basically all the trim just falls directly below it. There’s no vacuum. There’s no pressure. There’s no anything. It’s just a gravity feed as it falls right down into the next place where you can do whatever you want to with it.

Interesting note about that. We’re finding and actually doing some work with a couple of the big CO2 companies in regard to the actual size, the particle size. The trim is so fine and so perfect it makes really really good extraction trim if you will. So we’re looking at that and looking with some big partners to see if they’ll recommend it for that purpose alone.

Matthew: That’s a good idea. Now for people that are trying to visualize how big these machines are, can you give them some context there?

Cullen: Sure so the small machine is a desktop machine. If you figure a large… well they’re smaller now, but they used to be your scanner/copier/fax machine was a pretty good size piece of equipment, but it sat on your desk so it wasn’t huge. So you’re looking at about 16 inches wide and 20 inches deep. And so it’s pretty portable. It’s easy to carry. Easy one person lift. The larger machine, the commercial machine is 34X37 inches and comes on its own stand with wheels, and has locking casters on it so you can put it in a place and lock it down. The stand on the big machine has a couple of options with it. You can just put a 35 gallon bag up underneath it. It has a rail for the bag to attach where you can put a tote under it, whatever you want to do.

We’re always thinking about how to make it easy, you know, machines should be simple. And that’s what we tried to make is simple and easy and efficient. So we’re always looking at adding little bits of simplicity to help our customers work more efficiently.

Matthew: Now what would you say to the purists out there, you know, they only hand trim under moonlight with the classical music playing, and they can’t you know, even think about the idea of allowing their precious flower into a machine? How do you get them to think about this a different way?

Cullen: Well it’s an economic consideration right. I really appreciate first of all people who take that time, the diligence and the time to look at it from that perspective. And you’ll always have people who are artisans and an artisan can do a much better job on an individual basis, but that’s limited. Not very many people can trim at that level, and especially trim crews. They don’t perform at that level consistently throughout the day, but my machine does. And if you look at, we do have some lab results online, coming up online that show that our machine, actually the THC content for hand trim versus our machine comes out higher from our machine. So that’s been… that’s only a couple of lab tests, and it’s by and independent person who purchased one of our machines and decided to prove whether or not it was as gentle as hand trimming and he proved it twice with two different products. So it was pretty exciting for us to look at it and see an actual difference in our favor as far as you know, THC content after trim.

Matthew: Now Cullen in closing how can listeners see your machine in action and learn more about GreenBroz?

Cullen: Well you can always go to our website at www.greenbroz.com. It’s a great portal. We have some video coming up online and there’s information there of course. There’s some videos out there you can find on YouTube as well. We just finished up a great demo video that’s going to get posted here shortly. You know the real powerful moment is when you see it, and videos are great, but they don’t tell a story as well as being in person. So we do have representatives in Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon who can come out and do demos and show people how the machine works, specifically on their product and in their environment. So our model, our business model right now is a direct sale model with supporting our sales people in the different states, and then we also have some retail locations who carry our product.

Matthew: Okay. Well Cullen thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today and educating us. We really appreciate it.

Cullen: Well Matt thanks so much for having us and it’s just such a pleasure to actually see how big this business has become and then neat people like you that are out here spreading the word and then bringing companies like ours out to the forefront. So thank you so much.

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

Cheryl Shuman is the Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills

Cheryl Shuman

Cheryl Shuman beat cancer with the help of cannabis and went on to become the founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and a media darling.

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

Key Takeaways:

[1:13] – Cheryl’s background
[2:39] – Cheryl talks about how cannabis oil helped her fight against cancer
[4:59] – How did the eating and meditation play a role in Cheryl’s recovery
[11:12] – Overview of California’s cannabis laws
[17:02] – Cheryl discusses her growing preferences
[18:07] – Cheryl discusses how celebrities feel about cannabis
[21:01] – Cheryl talks about her fund for investing in cannabis businesses
[26:46] – Cheryl discusses cannabis stocks
[28:07] – Cheryl talks about her appearance on CNBC’s Power Lunch
[29:54] – What is the Super Pac
[31:21] – Cheryl discussing what can’t be said in a sound bite
[35:34] – Cheryl’s contact info

Ethan Nadelmann – Ending the Failing War on Drugs

Ethan Nadelmann

Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City-based non-profit organization working to end the War on Drugs. Ethan is regularly interviewed on major news outlets including: Rolling Stone, Fox News, The Colbert Report and more.

Ethan brings a unique and insightful view into as to why the war on drugs has failed. Ethan’s thesis is that we should try to minimize the harm of abusive drug use on society. 

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

Key takeaways:

[1:07] – Ethan explains the work of the Drug Policy Alliance.
[3:35] – Ethan gives his opinions on why the war on drugs was started.
[7:15] – Do private prisons have too much power?
[10:28] – Portugal’s model in decriminalizing drugs.
[19:09] – Ethan explains how he sees prohibition ending in the next 5 to 10 years.
[24:59] – How someone can get their voice heard in ending marijuana prohibition.
[28:14] – Ethan’s contact information.

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 www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Do you know that feeling when you sense opportunity, when you see something before most people and you just know it will be successful, then you're ready. Ready for CannaInsider Consulting. Learn more at www.canninsider.com/consulting. Now here's your program.
Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City based, nonprofit organization working to end the failing war on drugs. Ethan is regularly seen on television and media outlets such as the Huffington Post, Fox News, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher and more. Welcome to CannaInsider Ethan.

Ethan: Oh it’s a pleasure to be on Matt. Thanks for having me on.

Matthew: Ethan can you tell us a little bit about your work at the Drug Policy Alliance?

Ethan: Well yeah sure I mean, ending the war on drugs has sort of been my mission in life since I was in my 20s, but I’m now well into my 50s. And I did it initially as a professor at Princeton and then started this organization back about 20 odd years ago under a different name, but now the Drug Policy Alliance. And our overall mission, if I were to sum it up in one sort of complex sentence, it is reducing the role of criminalization and the criminal justice system in drug control to the maximum extent possible while still protecting public health and safety.

So if you imagine a spectrum of ways of dealing with drugs from the most punitive one policies imaginable, you know, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, you know, Malaysia cut off their fingers, whip them, put in, you know, drug test them off the streets and put them in (2.00 camps), to the most free market libertarian imagined cigarette policy in the 50s or 60s, our objective is to move drug policy, especially in the US but even internationally, down this spectrum. Just reducing that unnecessary reliance on criminal law and the criminal justice system as much as possible, but stopping short at the point where you think you would present a real threat to public safety and health.

And within that broader agenda we work on three major areas. The first one is ending marijuana prohibition. So we spend a huge amount of effort to, you know, legalize marijuana for medical purposes, to decriminalize marijuana possession, to reduce marijuana risk and now to actually set up legal regulatory systems for marijuana. The second area has been reducing mass incarceration in the United States and focusing especially on reducing the harsh punishments for people involved in dealing with other illicit drugs who we don’t think should be treated the way that they are right now. And the third has been treating drug use and addiction primarily as a health issue, not a criminal issue. So we took a leadership role in the country in the 90s in increasing access to sterile syringes to reduce HIV and AIDS, and we’re now the leader in the country in trying to reduce overdose fatalities involving heroin and pharmaceutical opiates by making an antidote available, by changing the way police respond to 911 calls and all that sort of thing.

Matthew: Now why do you think we created the war on drugs in the United States? I mean what was the purpose? Was it for political currency? I mean I try to understand why we went down this road. What are your thoughts there?

Ethan: Well there’s many ways to look at it. I mean one is to remember that we’re also one of the few countries in the Western World that prohibited alcohol. So there’s always been this sort of quasi-religious, moralistic notion about the sinfulness of putting psychoactive substances in our body. It manifested, you know, with alcohol, the criminalization of alcohol for about 14 years, back around the 20s. And it’s also manifested with the war on drugs over much of the last century. But if you ask the basic question about why are some drugs treated legally and others treated criminally and you look carefully at the history, what you realize is that it has very little to do with the relative risks of drugs and almost everything to do with who uses and who is perceived to use particular drugs.

So going back to the 19th Century when most opiate consumers were middle aged white women, nobody thought to criminalize it. But when Chinese started showing up in our country and you had all the xenophobia tied into that, that’s when you saw the first opium prohibition laws in Colorado, I’m sorry, Nevada and California in the 1870s and 80s. The criminalization of cocaine, you know, all about prejudice against African Americans in the South a hundred years ago. The criminalization of marijuana, right, deeply about xenophobia involving Mexican Americans and Mexican migrants beginning in 1913, running through the 30s, before we ever saw federal marijuana prohibition in most of the states in the Southwest and the West. So understanding that the deeply non-antiscientific roots of drug prohibition with cannabis and other drugs, and how much that is about ethnic and racial prejudice is really crucially important.

Matthew: I saw your Ted Talk, great job on that. You highlight that we have so many prisoners relative to our population in the United States. Why do we have so many prisoners? It seems insane.

Ethan: Well this is not consistent. You know, US, many people know this. We have less than 5% of the world’s population, but almost 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in per capita incarceration rates. Our incarceration rate is unprecedented in the history of democratic societies. We lock up more people in America on drug charges than all of Western Europe locks up for everything and they have 100 million more people than we do. And if you look at the incarceration of African Americans in this society, it was almost nothing comparable in the history of, you know, in history, period, more or less. I mean that’s why people refer to the war on drugs as the new Jim Crow.

But it’s not consistent, you know, until the 1970s we were closer to the average on this stuff. And I think what happened was it really emerged in the 70s, 80s and 90s. It was used for political purposes by Richard Nixon and Regan and Bush and the democrats always fearful of being outflanked by republicans on the crime issues, sort of jumped all onboard this stuff. There were real fears around drugs, but on a crazed, hysterical reliance on using the criminal justice system. In a way the drugs wars in the late 80s and early 90s were almost a form of McCarthyism on steroids, but applied in the issue of drugs instead. And we’re only just now beginning to sort of roll this stuff back.

Matthew: Do you think private prisons perpetuate the war on drugs? Do they have too much power in influencing legislation around this?

Ethan: Well I should say that we’ve been focused, there are two major thing we have had to deal with and for DPA our biggest problem has actually not been so much the private prison industry as it has been the prison guards’ unions especially in California, sometimes in New York. You know which are also all about the money and jobs. And I would just say thank god the private prison corporations and the prison guards’ union hate one another or else we’d really be in trouble. I mean they would be a powerful force together.

I think if we were doing more work than we are in the South and we’re beginning to expand that area, that’s where you see the private prison corporations playing a particularly pernicious role. It’s happening elsewhere too. I mean it’s happening now in California. It’s happening in a range of other places. But obviously their financial interest is in maximizing the number of people behind bars. It’s only a growth industry if you have a growth in the number of people behind bars as well as shift from public prisons to private prisons. So although we have not been that involved with tangling with them directly and we sometimes see their fingerprints on some problematic, you know, political efforts, I’d say that they are a very problematic force, but not one that we’ve engaged all that much directly as yet.

Matthew: What do you think would be possible if we took the budget for keeping people in cages and helped treat them for addiction or education around responsible use for nonviolent criminals?

Ethan: I mean it would be… I mean when you have 2.3 million people behind bars a day, a vast majority of them people behind bars for nonviolent offenses, either drug stuff or low level property offenses and things like that, many of them having substance abuse problems, simply shifting a significant chunk of the $100 billion or whatever it is we’re spending on that prison industrial complex and much more than that actually. You know, shifting a significant chunk, to the things like, you know, helping young kids, you know, job training, job employment, treatment or drug treatment for people who need it, literacy efforts, investing in the communities that are most impacted by the war on drugs, it would be a monumental shift in the US.

And keep in mind that rates of drug use in our country are not that much higher than in places in Europe. And rates of nonviolent crime, essentially apart from gun crime, are not that much higher here right. And even in terms of, you know, we think of Europe as this homogeneous, white place, but in fact the racial/ethnic diversity in Europe in many countries is approaching that in the US. And so what’s really going on is we’re relying on this criminal justice system in a way that no other civilized or even less civilized societies or less developed societies rely on it. And so it would have a monumental impact including reducing criminality.

Matthew: You mentioned Europe there. Can you tell us a little bit about Portugal’s model in decriminalizing drugs?

Ethan: Yeah so Portugal, you know, there’s been three really interesting models coming out of Europe. The first obviously was the Dutch Cannabis Policy, the Coffee Shop System which emerged not through legislation really, but through sort of how it began with medical marijuana here in the late 70s and early 80s and has been a relatively stable, with some you know bumps and turns here and there, a fairly stable system of keeping the wholesale production of marijuana illegal while effectively legally tolerating the retail sale through coffee shops. And by in large that’s been a very significant success in terms of marijuana use and probably relates being less than in the US, young people using cannabis less. The number of people who go on to use drugs like cocaine or heroin less than it is in the US or in other societies. And almost nobody getting arrested. Some problems with keeping the wholesale market criminal.

The second major model was what emerged in Switzerland in the early 90s and then spread to Germany, the Netherlands, England, Denmark, and now Canada which was a very advanced harm reduction policy. Whereby people who had a problem with heroin could go to clinics and get pharmaceutical heroin provided by the state or maybe they would have to pay a few bucks and good treatment services and help getting their lives together. And the evidence is now conclusive that providing pharmaceutical grade, legal heroin to people who have been addicted to street heroin for many years, reduces death, disease, crime, save tax payers money. And in fact among the principle champions in Europe, it has become the police chief who see this as a sort of win-win-win, in terms of reducing acquisitive crime, reducing black market and giving a nod to the public health approach.

The Portugal approach is the third one. What they did about thirteen years ago was to change the national law and basically say we’re not going to put anybody in jail for simply drug possession. When the cops catch somebody or find somebody in possession of illicit drugs whether it’s marijuana or something else, they’re directed to what’s called a dissuasion committee that interviews them, see if they really have a drug use problem or not. If they don’t have a problem, they admonish them, and they go on their way. If they do have a problem, they send them to get help. But there’s no drug testing, there’s no coerced treatment. The basic Portuguese approach is to essentially to say we’re not going to spend resources putting you in jail for possession of any drug. If you’re really a bad guy, we’ll catch you for something else. And the review of this after ten years shows basically significant success. No big jumps in drug use or abuse. No big jumps in criminality. Reductions in money, reductions in problematic drug use, reduction in HIV and HEP C, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So all three of these models, but especially now that, I mean (13.35 unclear) less of a model for us now with cannabis. But the other two models are very important ones for which my organization, The Drug Policy Alliance, is deeply committed to educating Americans about these options and about trying to develop them in the U.S.

Matthew: I’m really glad you mentioned heroin there because there’s a lot of people that might be listening that say, hey cannabis is one thing, but do we really want to be a society that’s handing out heroin. And I think the model you described is very helpful because A) they’re getting clean heroin; B) they’re going to get it anyway and C) it’s not driving the desperate criminal measures to get the heroin. And when they come in they’re getting that education. Say look there’s opportunities to recover here. I just think it’s a much more compassionate approach.

Ethan: Well that’s exactly right Matt. I mean keep in mind also when you’re talking about heroin, we’re not talking here about selling heroin over the counter the way that you do alcohol, cigarettes or increasingly marijuana. Right, this is about clinics. It’s essentially like methadone programs except we include another option which is pharmaceutical heroin. Heroin when you take it into the human body it becomes morphine. It’s very interesting. When (14.45 academics) interview heroin addicts and ask them what’s the toughest road to quit, most will say is cigarettes, tobacco right. So we tend to speak of heroin as a demonic drug. But a lot of what we think about heroin has to do with it’s prohibition rather the drug per se.

And there’s a very interesting analogies between nicotine and heroin. In a way legal heroin, like they have in Europe, is sort of the equivalent of these now e-cigarettes and tobacco vaporizers that we have in the US. Keep in mind, with nicotine, right. If you use it on a regular basis, it can be very hard to stop using it. Some people do, some other people struggle. Secondly the other thing with nicotine is if you consume a high dose of nicotine, like everything that’s in like an e-cig and take the whole thing in one blast or something like that, it will kill you. Right, nicotine is a deadly drug in very high doses in the same way that opiates taken in enormously high doses or taken in combination with alcohol will kill you. But it’s also the case that you can take pure nicotine in low doses or you can take pure heroin in modest doses with a reliable clean supply, and you can live to be 99 years old taking either one of these things. You can hold a job. You can function. You can drive. You can build a family. All of these things because ultimately over time both of these drugs don’t have that much of a psychoactive affect anymore. Right, they have an effect on the human organism, some of which can be pleasant. But there’s a huge difference between being addicted to street heroin of unknown potency and purity, being part of that life and having pharmaceutical grade heroin in a way that it was a stable dose in the same way that people are taking nicotine in e-cigs today.

Matthew: It’s so funny you say, you know, heroin is morphine in the body, but those two words, heroin and morphine, have different connotations depending on who’s using them in what context. If I’m using morphine in a hospital okay. Heroine on the street, you’re a criminal.

Ethan: Well Matt I will tell you something. You know, in some of the studies they do with heroin, they would do these double blind controlled studies, and they would take long term heroin addicts, and they would give, you know, half of them pharmaceutical heroin and half of them injectable methadone. And everybody could tell the difference. And then they would give them, you know, half injectable heroin and half injectable morphine and most people could tell the difference. But then they gave half injectable heroin and the other half something, Dilaudid. You know, and what was interesting was long time experienced heroin users could not tell the difference between heroin and Dilaudid.

Now Dilaudid is a drug that, you know, hundreds of thousands of Americans take each year in the hospital to deal with pain, like sometimes take home, whatever. And so the amazing thing is if you think about it, if tomorrow we could snap our fingers and all of sudden all the heroin in the world would disappear and just be replaced with Dilaudid, nobody would know the difference. If everybody, if every hospital administered Dilaudid to a patient recovering from surgery or whatever it is, if we were to substitute that with pharmaceutical heroin, the odds are nobody would know the difference, no difference in addiction, no difference in this sort of stuff.

In fact if we were to spell heroin D-I-L-A-U-D-I-D, or spell Dilaudid H-E-R-O-I-N, right, nobody would know the difference. I mean the interesting thing is it’s about the cultural historical, association with this drug or associations with the people who use it. You know the things that happen to family members when they get involved in this kind of illicit, recreational addictive use, but understanding what these drugs are really about. I mean nobody wants their friends or loved ones or kids using this stuff because it can be so highly dependent causing. But the difference between a world in which heroin is essentially legally available through clinics as opposed to one where it’s only available through the streets is like night and day.

Matthew: Now we’ve had a lot of positive progress in ending prohibition in cannabis the last three years. How do you see prohibition ending in the next five to ten years across the US?

Ethan: Well and there are plans, right, you know my organization DPA, you know, has played a key role. I mean we were responsible in big measure for the first seven states legalizing medical marijuana. From California in ’96, you know, through Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon and Maine, you know, for 2000. And MPP, Marijuana Policy Project, has played an important role as well since then with the space focusing on different states and helping one another where we can. And on marijuana legalization, once again you know, some of these initiatives where initiated by local activists as in Colorado or Washington. Oftentimes with the collaboration of DPA or Marijuana Policy Project.

What I see going forward is California is going to be one wild and crazy campaign, but it’s DPA priority for 2016. MPP has been focusing, I think, on Maine and Massachusetts, Nevada and Arizona. And in those cases we’re helping them with the drafting and they will help them with the campaign as well, and MPP will be helpful in California as well as other organizations. There may be an initiative in Ohio this year actually. There may be other states like Missouri where something could pop up. There’s going to be other states probably in New England that will begin to legalize through the legislative process rather than the initiative process.

So I think, I’d say for me and DPA, the Drug Policy Alliance, our focus really is by keeping the ball moving down field. What we want to avoid is what one might call the Montana problem, or the L. A. problem. You know, Montana legalized medical marijuana in ’04 and it spread enormously quickly, mostly in responsible hands, but the state failed to set up any, you know, thoughtful regulatory system. And certain people in the industry and some people who were, you know, problematic in other ways began taking advantage of the system. The public turned against it. The legislature changed hands, and all of a sudden Montana found it’s medical marijuana system get rolled back by, you know 80 to 90% and almost get eliminated by the new legislature.

So and L.A. was a situation also where the city council failed to establish regulations of the sort that we saw in Northern California communities and some Southern California ones. You know, you end up with a thousand outlets, you know, the public is agitated about this. And actually what happened in L.A. made it much more difficult to legalize medical marijuana around the rest of the country because everywhere we went legislators were seeing the news reports about Los Angeles and saying we don’t want that. And we’d have to keep explaining to them that, you know, we weren’t proposing an L.A. model. We were proposing something that looked more like New Mexico or a range of other places, right.

And so what I’d say here is the key is to keep this thing moving forward in a responsible way. You know, I’ve been speaking more recently to industry associations. I’ll be giving a big talk in the Bay area in a week in a half at a conference that’s going on out there. And it’s really to say to the industry, you guys, you know, are the beneficiaries of a movement that was driven by people like me and you know a number of others and who raised money from very wealthy people who weren’t looking to make money in this field right. They were driven by concerns about the state of American society or civil rights or civil liberties or racial justice or what have you. Now you’re benefitting from all of this, but do so in a responsible way. Don’t get greedy. Don’t be short sighted. If people are jumping in this to make a quick buck and they don’t give a damn about what’s happening more broadly, those folks gotta be, you know, pushed out as much as possible.

Let’s face it, marijuana legalization lies at a unique intersection in American history. It involves the intersection of a movement driven primarily by civil rights and civil liberties, with the transformation of emergence of a legal industry that is going to be many tens of billions of dollars a year, there’s nothing else like that. I mean the gay rights, civil rights, women’s rights all had major economic consequences for the country. But they did create a brand new sort of new legal market in the way that this is happening. Repealing alcohol prohibition, someone somewhere, but that essentially reinstituted a market that existed just 14 or 15 years before.

So in this unique intersection I think it comes with some special obligation that, and I will say that, you know, for me who’s been, you know, an occasional marijuana consumer for almost 40 years and who enjoys and relishes many aspects about the marijuana culture and about the way this stuff is emerged, the part that’s bittersweet is seeing this emerge into a kind of, you know, modern day industry with no emotional ideological or cultural political connection to the movement that created the industry. I accept the fact that, you know, this is America. We live in a high capitalist nation. There’s only so much one can do to constrain the way that, you know, the legal market is going to emerge, but it is the bittersweet element about all of this for me.

Matthew: Well thanks for playing that out Ethan. What’s the most effective way for listeners to make their voices heard? I mean is it at the state levels, the local level, you know, reaching out to you? Where can they have the most leverage in helping, you know, end prohibition and acting responsibly like you just mentioned?

Ethan: Well I mean the first thing I’m obliged to say is join the Drug Policy Alliance, become you know, get informed through our mailings, become a financial supporter, attend our bi-annual conferences which will be in D.C. on this coming November. You know do the same with Marijuana Policy Project, with Normal, with Americans for Safe Access. Just get involved in supporting because the more powerful the national organizations are, the more effective we will be in keeping this commencing forward.

The second thing I would say is that, you know, all politics is local. You know the old slogan, “Think local, act local” is really important. So getting involved in the local advocacy efforts in one way or another and advocating for particular models and keeping in mind that advocacy is not just stating loudly what you believe. Advocacy is about focusing on accomplishment of particular objectives and doing so in an intelligent and responsible way. You know, part of what DPA has brought to this broader movement, right is basically doing ballot initiatives, doing legislative reform, doing public education in ways that really have helped transform state laws, national laws, public opinion and all of that.

And so you know, being part of that process, I think certainly be as deeply informed as possible. The more you read, read the books about the history of marijuana prohibition and marijuana policy, marijuana laws. And keep in mind that marijuana reform needs to be seen as part of a broader drug policy reform movement. I’m always out there, you know, talking to people at conferences specializing in the field of pain management with opioid medications. And I say to them, how many of you are using cannabis, you know, or recommending it or are informed about it in terms of dealing with pain. And if the majority don’t raise their hands, I admonish them say that they are being irresponsible as physicians and scientists by ignoring this. And then the very next day I’ll go and talk to a cannabis group, all of whom are sort of saying damn the opiates. Opiates are deadly, get people off them, marijuana works and I’ll say guys, shut up already.

Obviously cannabis is safer and better to use than opiates for certain types of pain and certain types of people and you can’t die of an overdose. But cannabis is not going to deal with certain types of pain that opiates work for, and we don’t advance by one group of drug consumers or drug whatever by Banning in another area. Yes marijuana is special. Yes marijuana is unique, yes, yes, yes, but that doesn’t mean that we say let’s legalize marijuana so we can crack down on the heroin junkies or the crackheads or the people doing this and that. No, the bottom line is you make sensible policy, right, and the policy for heroin and cocaine is not going to be the same as for marijuana. But ultimately it’s about a vision of a different society in which we accept that drugs are here to stay and in which we learn how to live with them so they cause the least possible harm and in some cases the greatest possible benefit.

Matthew: Very well said, Ethan. How can listeners find you online, on Twitter or social outlets? How can they learn more about the drug policy laws?

Ethan: You know, if they know how to spell my name which is not easy, but it’s Ethan Nadelmann. You know you’ll find me on Twitter, and you can sign up for my Tweets and such. I have a Facebook page as well, but probably the more valuable on is the Facebook page and the Tweets of Drug Policy Alliance, the organization which once again you can easily find. Go to the website www.drugpolicy.org and you can sign up for our email alerts. And those also provide notices about how to get involved politically or when something’s happening.

Go to the website www.reformconference.org and that will tell you about the upcoming DPA conference in November which is the leading conference of the drug policy reform movement worldwide. And I think those will be the key ways. You know, we have offices in five states; New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, California and Colorado and an office in D.C. We’re working internationally. We’re also supporting efforts and working with allies in about half the other states in the country. So, you know, and I should say for people who are university students or law students or graduate students, if you’re passionate about this area and you’re really psyched, well we have internships I think unpaid basically, but internships at our DPA offices. So you can get involved there. If you’re looking to work at DPA, go to our website. You can see the job openings that are there. You know, the more the better. We’re building a movement here, not just about ending marijuana prohibition, but about a more thoughtful and rational drug policy across the board.

Matthew: Ethan thank you for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Ethan: Okay thanks Matt. Good luck and thanks for having me on.

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