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Update on Cannabis Legalization in Michigan with Mark Passerini

Michigan Cannabis Legalization

Listen in as Michigan medical marijuana dispensary owner Mark Passerini describes how Michigan is different than other states in terms of legalization, and how two pending laws promise to change the landscape significantly.

Key Takeaways:
[2:04] – Mark’s background
[5:24] – The reaction of officials and city officers when they visit Om of Medicine
[6:03] – When did medical marijuana become legal in Michigan?
[8:11] – Two cannabis bills that were reintroduced for a vote in Michigan
[9:56] –  How Michigan medical marijuana laws differ from other states
[11:43] – The trouble behind the medical marijuana access cards
[14:52] – Is there proposed legislation for hemp in Michigan?
[15:25] – Will adult use legalization occur in 2016?
[16:32] – Strategies cannabis advocates use to get their point heard
[18:02] – Mark discusses lab testing policy in Michigan
[19:16] – Contact details

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

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.

The landscape of cannabis legalization is very different from one state to the next. That is why I’ve brought Mark Passerini in from the front lines of Michigan to give us a brief on what is happening there. Even if you don’t live or operate a business in Michigan it’s very important to understand what is happening in different states like Michigan as regulators and politician often steal both good and bad ideas from each other’s playbook. Mark owns a medical marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Om of Medicine. Mark, welcome to CannaInsider.

Mark: Thanks for having me Matt. I’ve been listening to your show now for a few months and definitely honored to be a part of it. You’re doing the important work of getting that conversation out there for all to hear, and I for one appreciate what you do.

Matthew: Aw thank you. Now to give us a sense of geography where are you today?

Mark: I am currently in my hometown of Chicago where it’s a frigid four degrees currently. These are the kind of days that really make you question your sanity. I split my time between here and Ann Arbor, Michigan where my dispensary the Om of Medicine is.

Matthew: Okay so you spend, you split your time between one place that’s super cold and another place that’s super cold.

Mark: Yes again, I’m not sure that my sanity is in tact.

Matthew: Okay. Now can you give us a little background on yourself and how you came to own a dispensary?

Mark: Sure. So a little background on myself. I was born and raised in the city of Chicago, and since graduating from the University of Michigan I’ve enjoyed a 20 year career in sales and sales management. Before opening the Om of Medicine I was in another green sector, the renewable energy field. I worked for a company that manufactured high efficiency lighting, as well as a company based in Boulder, Colorado called Renewable Choice Energy which was recently named the EPA’s Green Partner of the Year.

Matthew: Nice.

Mark: Yeah. Back in 2010 I got a call from a good friend of mine in Michigan who had a business plan for a medical cannabis dispensary in Lansing, the state capital. And he needed some startup funds to open. So my best friend Keith and I were eager to help out, having been cannabis advocates all of our adult lives as well as having both witnessed firsthand the medical efficacy of the plant. I had personally had slipped discs in my back back in early O’s and shortly after that Keith was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. On top of that my mother is a cancer survivor, but she also suffers from horrible neuropathy caused by her diabetes, and she’s on a ridiculous cocktail of pharmaceuticals. Some prescribed just to offset the side effects of others. So really it just made perfect sense to embark on this journey for a whole plethora of reasons.

Shortly after we opened in Lansing, we decided that being silent investors and really having no operational responsibilities wasn’t very fulfilling, and we decided to open up our own collective in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So I’m not sure how much you or your listeners know about Ann Arbor, but it’s always had very sensible cannabis policies. They were one of the very first cities in the country to decriminalize possession back in the early 70s when it became a $5 fine.

Matthew: Wow.

Mark: Yeah that was, I think it was ’71, ’72 and then they adjusted it for inflation. Today it’s a $25 fine. Keith and I actually learned that fact back in the late 1900s when we were stopped by an Ann Arbor police officer after just having partaken and really our whole lives could have drastically changed if that particular law wasn’t in place. So Ann Arbor was also, they were actually four years ahead of the state in passing its own medical cannabis laws in 2004 with a whopping 74% of the vote in the city.

Matthew: Wow.

Mark: Yeah. So Ann Arbor’s really been ahead of its time when it comes to cannabis and it just kind of made sense to open in the city that embraced cannabis, and of course the fact that I spent four and a half of the most formative years of my life there. We opened back in July of 2010, and when we opened we set out to be the most transparent and compliant facility in the state. So we opened our doors to pretty much everybody that was willing to have the discussion. Since we’ve been open, we’ve had dozens of state reps and senators come through. We’ve had our past two mayors, our city attorney, the entire city council, even the chief of police actually met with us for an hour when we first opened.

Matthew: Do you see the kind of light bulb go off when people come through, officials and regulators and they say oh my god, this isn’t some crazy place. This is a sensible business.

Mark: Absolutely. I mean I think that’s the most effective way to go about it really. People fear what they don’t know, and you know, a lot of times if they’re ignorant on cannabis, cannabis culture or its medical efficacy, you know, if they don’t have the conversation with somebody and if they aren’t educated, you know, worst possible scenarios pop up in their heads. And what’s scary is that, you know, a lot of these people are making laws without all of the information.

Matthew: Yeah. Now we’ve heard a little bit about Ann Arbor. How about the state of Michigan? When did medical marijuana become legal in the whole state?

Mark: So it was actually four years after Ann Arbor did it, and it passed by a ballot initiative in 2008 and it got 63% of the vote. It actually won by a majority in every single county and district in the state, even the most conservative areas were at least 50 percent. So we’ve had the law in place for seven years now almost.

Matthew: And how have things evolved since then?

Mark: Well you know, unfortunately there hasn’t been too many positive changes. Michigan was the 13th to pass medical cannabis laws, and as you know there are now 23 states that have cannabis laws, medical cannabis of course for adult use. The country’s capital, Washington D.C. of course have passed such laws, but it’s been a struggle in Michigan. You know every state after Michigan has implemented a distribution system so that patients can safely access their medicine. Unfortunately our Attorney General has been a staunch opponent of the law and really had a detrimental affect on the implementation of it since day one.

The patients in Michigan have taken a few blows over the years from bad circuit court of appeal’s decisions to new laws that just make it easier for law enforcement to arrest patients. For example one of the laws that passed a few years ago involved transportation of medical cannabis where patients have to carry the cannabis in the trunk of their vehicle as if it’s a gun. Meanwhile of course you can walk into a Walgreens, pick up your Vicodin, throw it in your pocket, drive with an unopened fifth of Jack Daniels in your lap and that’s okay. So it’s just kind of another way for law enforcement to target patients. And most recently the community has lobbied extensively for two pro medical marijuana bills to pass through the legislature that was blocked by the Sheriff’s Association when they called their state senators the night before the vote and asked that they vote no. And this kind of swayed a few votes and ultimately the bills never went up for a vote.

Matthew: What were those bills about?

Mark: Well I mean they just got reintroduced, but the bills are about re-legalizing the use of topicals, extract, concentrates and edibles because right now it’s the flower and leaves of the plant are protected which really makes no sense. We see a lot of patients that have never smoked anything in their lives and to assume that that’s the delivery method that they’re going to want to use is pretty ludicrous. The other bill is a bill which basically regulates dispensaries or (8.44 unclear) centers and (8.45 unclear).

Matthew: Okay so the Sheriff’s Association kind of got those put on the backburner before, and now they’ve been reintroduced and will they be voted on soon?

Mark: Hopefully. They were just introduced about a week and a half ago, and you know it looks like that we’re getting some momentum. The governor’s office seems to be behind it. Pretty much in terms of the sponsors it’s a bipartisan bill. We got half republicans, half democrats. So it looks like it has a pretty good shot. We’ve been working on this thing for, the dispensary bill in particular, we’ve been working on this bill for 3 ½ years. It started out House Bill 5580 which really went nowhere. Went to House Bill 4271 which got, like I said, blocked by the sheriffs and police chiefs last session in December. So now we have House Bill 4209 and 4210 which hopefully we can pass this year.

Matthew: Mark for listeners that may not be familiar with Michigan’s cannabis laws, can you tell us how they’re unique and different from other states where medical marijuana is legal?

Mark: Sure. So in Michigan the supply is generated from thousands of small gardens throughout the state. Patients and their caregivers creating really an incredible diversity of choices of strains and products instead of a few massive corporate cultivation facilities with limited strain choices. In Michigan a patient is allowed to grow their own medicine, up to 12 plants and caregivers can grow 12 plants for each of their patients which their allowed to have up to five. So if they’re also a patient (10.27 unclear) to a maximum of 72 plants per caregiver.

So for comparison sake the state of Illinois for example is in the process of implementing its medical marijuana program where there are a total of only 60 cultivation facilities in the state Where in Michigan all of the approximately 100,000 patients are able to grow their own 12 plants. Then of course 25,000 caregivers can grow up to 72 plants. Another kind of unique thing is that Michigan also has a state registry system that includes the issuance of a license that’s supposed to make those participants operating within the parameters describe the law (11.07 unclear). The Michigan medical marijuana law also contains an affirmative defense for patients and caregivers registered or unregistered with the state. So those are some unique things about Michigan laws as opposed to most other states.

Matthew: Okay Now Michigan requires a state issued medical marijuana access card, but many residents complain the card isn’t properly respected by certain regulators of officials or law enforcement. Can you tell us a little bit why that is?

Mark: Well the licenses aren’t necessarily require. If one chooses to participate in the registry program that meets the requirements and is issued a card then that person is supposed to be immune from (11.53 unclear) and there is supposed to be a presumption of innocence when the card is presented in a law enforcement encounter . The problem is in many areas, Oakland County for example, Oakland County is considered to be the egregious. The card is pretty much disregarded and the protections are totally ignored. And really to make it worse specific strategies used by the prosecutors are often defined to circumvent the ability for patients and caregivers to use the affirmative defense that’s supposed to be available for any marijuana prosecution.

Matthew: Wow. How does that work? I mean how do they get around that?

Mark: You know again it’s really interesting. Michigan is, it’s a real patchwork policy right now. So it depends on where you are. I mean some municipalities will really kind of embrace and tolerate so to speak, while others are completely intolerant. And it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for patients, especially right now where there’s so few… there’s about 150 dispensaries operating in the state, and some folks have to drive 3 or 4 hours to access their medicine and oftentimes they have to drive through certain counties which are completely intolerant. So it’s terrifying to, you know. We’ve seen so many people get enrolled in the legal system. It’s not an ideal world just yet.

Matthew: Okay so in 2013 the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that dispensaries aren’t legal is that correct?

Mark: Well no. They actually didn’t rule that dispensaries are illegal. They ruled in part on what kind of transfers are protected from arrest and which aren’t.

Matthew: Oh okay.

Mark: Since some transfers typically occurring in dispensaries which are often in commercially zoned buildings to be consider illegal then the local government can consider it to be an illegal business or a public nuisance and find it in violation of zoning codes. But if the activity in the building is allowed under state law or if the local government doesn’t care to make an issue out of it, despensaries continue operating. Like I said there’s about 150 dispensaries operating in the state. So Matt when it comes down to it the only rule of law that it’s open to interpretation. Hopefully we can get these two bills passed so that it kind of clarifies things for local governments.

Matthew: Yeah, sometimes a gray area is good in laws, but other times it’s frustrating because, you know, you have to, individuals and businesses that have limited funds have to go up against state or municipal regulators that really have tax payer funds to prosecute your case. So it’s really an unbalanced playing field in my opinion.

Mark: Absolutely.

Matthew: How about hemp? Is there any proposed legislation for hemp in Michigan?

Mark: Actually there are two bills, two hemp bills recently passed and were signed by the governor. Yeah House Bill 5439 and 5440. One reschedules hemp in the state, and the other allows for research. And I believe they were passed and signed by the governor in December of last year.

Matthew: How great. Great.

Mark: Yep, it’s about time.

Matthew: How likely is full adult use legalization to occur in say 2016?

Mark: Well Michigan was actually the very first state to ratify the 21st Amendment which repealed prohibition. So hopefully that’s a good sign, but I would say it’s about 50/50 shot. Currently it seems that there may be two competing ballot initiative much like what’s going on in Ohio right now. But based on a few recent polls in Michigan and national polling on the issue. If the legislature is interested in expressing and respecting the will of the people or if the question were to make it to the voters by way of a statewide ballot initiative, it could very well be the law in 2016. It’s going to be interesting because we will have a bill which about to be introduced here in the next month or two which would start the conversation at the legislative level.

Matthew: Now what do lawmakers seem to respond to in terms of cannabis advocates being heard? Is there any specific tactics or strategies you’ve seen be successful?

Mark: Yeah I mean I would say that you know the law makers are concerned with a lot of things that cannabis represents. And even the most skeptical are willing to actually research the issue. They can’t deny the economic health benefits that changing current cannabis policy could bring to the people and the state. And we’re seeing both republicans, democrats, libertarians, tea partiers, they’re all starting to come on board. And I think the most effective way is to get the lawmakers to really evaluate and change their minds on the issue is really a deeply, heartfelt testimonial of their constituents. At Om of Medicine we’ve been really active in getting the stories that we hear from our patients into the ears of policy makers. Over the past five years we’ve seen over 7,000 patients and caregivers, and success stories are really plentiful, and it’s just a matter of getting those stories into the right ears. Then of course fundraisers, you know, money is always going to be a part of it. Unfortunately politics and money are so intertwined these days that it doesn’t seem like things can get done without affective fund raising.

Matthew: Now in terms of lab testing in Michigan, is there any required? Here in Colorado we kind of have the strange situation where recreational adult use cannabis testing is required but not the medical which you would think would be the opposite. But what’s going on in terms of lab testing in Michigan?

Mark: So really nothing currently. I mean there is no requirement by the state although many places like ours have been voluntary. We’ve been voluntarily testing our medicine. Right now the lab testing market in Michigan is just based on the desire of consumers and producer to know more about the medicine that’s being produced. Some like to know that it’s been screened for pesticides and molds and what the cannabinoid profile is, but there is no state law concerning cannabis testing. The language has recently reintroduced provisioning center at the dispensary bill would mandate that safety compliance centers test for things such as pesticides, molds and other contaminants. But at this it’s really just a desire of consumers to find out what the cannabinoid profile is and the potency to make sure that it’s clean. We do test all of our medicine. I think the same goes for almost, probably half of the dispensaries in the state.

Matthew: Now Mark in closing what is the best way for listeners to stay abreast of what’s going on in Michigan in terms of cannabis legalization?

Mark: There’s a really good weekly, internet radio show hosted by some of the state’s top activists called Planet Green Trees, and that’s a weekly show. I think it’s on Thursday nights, and that’s definitely a good way to stay abreast of what’s going on. There’s also an online source called the Compassion Chronicles. I think it’s just www.compassionchronicles.com, and they have a pretty thorough rundown of what’s going on in the state.

Matthew: And what’s the best way for listeners to find out more about your dispensary in Ann Arbor?

Mark: Well we have a website it’s www.omofmedicine.org. Or you can like us on Facebook. On Facebook we always have updates and events and news stories.

Matthew: Well Mark thanks for coming on CannaInsider. We really appreciate it.

Mark: Absolutely. Thanks for having me 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 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. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, email us feedback@cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

The Uber of Cannabis Home Delivery? Keith McCarty, Founder of Eaze

Keith McCarty CEO of Eaze

Picture this, you want some high-quality cannabis delivered to your door, you use Eaze to explore strains on your phone and 10 minutes later there is a knock at your door with your cannabis. In this interview with Keith McCarty CEO of Eaze will detail the promise and obstacles facing rapid home delivery of cannabis. Learn more at Eazeup.com

Eaze has raised $10 million from investors including DCM Ventures, 500 Startups, Fresh VC, and Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital

Key Takeaways:
[1:05] – Keith’s background
[1:54] – Keith explains how Eaze works
[2:49] – The accuracy of Eaze’s algorithm
[3:21] – The plan to expand Eaze beyond San Francisco
[4:02] – The number of people using Eaze
[5:27] – Platforms that support Eaze
[5:55] – Pushback from iTunes
[7:44] – How payments are handled with the use of Eazes
[10:30] – Keith explains the next step in this technology
[12:21] – Keith discusses the regulators in Southern California
[14:46] – Contact details for Eaze

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

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.

More and more entrepreneurs are creating innovative apps that will help medical marijuana patients and adult users get their cannabis in an Uber-like, frictionless way. One such application is called Eaze, and I’m pleased to have Keith McCarty, CEO of Eaze here today. Welcome Keith.

Keith: Thanks for having me.

Matthew: Keith I want to get into what Eaze does exactly, but before we get started can you give us a little background on yourself?

Keith: Yeah my background’s in technology. So, you know, most recently I helped start a company called Yammer. It’s a Facebook for the enterprise we started in 2008 and sold to Microsoft in 2012 for a little over a billion. And my passion and everything that I do now is all geared around how to be innovative in the technology space.

Matthew: So I hear the Rice O’Roni bell ringing. Are you in San Francisco?

Keith: I am, yeah, that’s the cable car.

Matthew: How perfect for a San Francisco setting. That’s great. Okay. Yes, I’ve definitely heard of Yammer. That’s a great acquisition. Kudos to you. Good job.

Keith: Thank you.

Matthew: Now digging into Eaze, can you tell us how it works at a high level?

Keith: Absolutely. So it’s really easy. I mean one of the things we want to do is enable patients an easy, quick and professional way for them to get their medicine, and so that starts with the sign-up. So you go to www.eazeup.com, and we’ll ask for information for us to be able to verify your eligibility that you’re actually a medical marijuana patient. And then once you’re into the solution it’s just a matter of three clicks to really request that delivery. So you choose your strain. You choose your quantity, and then we’ll automatically detect your current location. We’ll provide a real-time ETA in terms of deliverability time to where you are at that moment. And when you click “request delivery” we’ll automatically dispatch the nearest driver that has that strain or that medicine that you’re requesting.

Matthew: So is there some sort of algorithm that looks at the available drivers and then comes up with a estimation, and how accurate is that?

Keith: Extremely accurate. Yeah, I mean you’re absolutely right. So we know what the drivers have with them. We know what the patient is requesting. We know where the driver is, and we know where the patient is. So between, you know, those dynamics we can certainly provide a real-time ETA, and it’s as accurate as, you know, an Uber-like solution or any other one would be.

Matthew: Okay. Now right now is Eaze confined just to the San Francisco peninsula, is that correct?

Keith: That’s correct.

Matthew: Okay. And what’s the plan to expand to other geographies?

Keith: Yeah so the way that we developed the technology we can scale extremely fast, right. We partner with dispensaries that already have, are set up within each of the territories that we look to expand into. And for us it’s really just a matter of flipping on a switch. And so, you know, in terms of our expansion strategy, you know, we’re looking at the broader market and where the demand is, where the regulatory framework really makes sense for us today, and then also where that’s moving to. So yeah, like I said, from a technology prospective, you know, we’re there. We can expand tomorrow. It’s more strategic for us though.

Matthew: And how many people are using Eaze right now?

Keith: So Eaze launched a few months ago, and there’s tens of thousands of patients that are already using the solution.

Matthew: Is there a charge for using Eaze, or is it totally free to the end user?

Keith: So the business model is that Eaze is free to patients, and we actually work with partnering dispensaries to charge them for the lead generation services that we provide. As well as, you know, once the delivery is requested by the patient, we provide a lot of technology and route optimization for the actual drivers to increase that KPI of deliveries per hour per driver. And in turn that actually reduces cost per delivery for the dispensaries. So to answer your question it’s free to patients, and we actually work with dispensaries and the charges are on them.

Matthew: So you mentioned just a lead generation service. So there is no Eaze drivers per se. It’s all kind of, it’s just the technology that you’re facilitating for both parties.

Keith: That’s correct. Yeah we work really closely with the dispensaries so obviously we model our service off of the other on demand consumer services that are out there like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, you know, etc. And so, you know, we’ve learned a lot in just being in that tech hub, that tech community. And we instill a lot of those best practices from a driver operational prospective with our partnering dispensaries, but ultimately the drivers do work for the dispensary.

Matthew: Okay and what platforms is Eaze on currently?

Keith: So Eaze is mobile web, and our driver side applications are on both Android and IOS, and we’ll be offering an Android patient side application soon.

Matthew: And I know that sometimes iTunes is giving a little bit of a pushback on the cannabis applications. Did you experience that at all or was it frictionless for you?

Keith: Yeah we absolutely did. So, you know, we’ve been working with Apple since the beginning of the year, and Apple has certain guidelines around what they allow on their platform and what they don’t allow. And we could certainly build an application for what we’re doing to fit into those guidelines. We can figure that out, but there becomes a certain point where the patient experience starts to really diminish the more that you go down that path, and so strategically we made a decision to not offer, you know, an IOS app at this time.

Matthew: That’s pretty interesting. So you sidestepped them to give all the features and benefits to both the dispensary and the customer, missing out potentially on all of the eyeballs that you would get in iTunes, but you feel that it’s worth it.

Keith: We feel like the solution is naturally social, and I think that the numbers speak for themselves that although we would love to be on the iTunes store and have all those additional eyeballs, we really feel that the growth through the solution is going to come through virality, not through organic search on the iTunes store.

Matthew: Okay. So let’s say it’s a Friday night. It’s 7 o’clock. I live in the marina district of San Francisco, and I order 4 grams of cannabis. How long would that take? What would you say? I mean I know there’s a lot of variables in there, but what would you say at a high level?

Keith: So I can tell you that in San Francisco because of the algorithmic model that we’ve created around driver route optimizing, our average delivery time in San Francisco is ten minutes.

Matthew: Wow. Wow, that is fast. Okay. Now how is payment handled between driver and customer or does it go from driver back to dispensary? How does that work?

Keith: So the patient pays the driver. The driver works for the dispensary, and we then charge the dispensary. So the payment is actually processed between the driver and the patient. And then we obviously bill the dispensary who we partner with.

Matthew: Okay. So let’s say the driver does a poor job or does an excellent job, is there a way to review them or give feedback back to the dispensary in some way or back to the community at large?

Keith: Right. Yeah, that’s actually really important, and that’s actually a differentiator for Eaze in this whole on demand consumer service space within the cannabis category specifically is when you click “request delivery” your experience with Eaze does not stop there. Actually that’s where it just begins. So we keep the patient updated as the delivery is in progress with real-time delivery ETA updates. Meaning that as the driver’s getting closer you’ll actually see the counter decrease from, you know, 10 minutes to 8 minutes to 6 minutes etc. When they get to certain points in that delivery, you’ll receive text message updates, and then even after you’ve received the delivery then we want to understand how that delivery experience was.

So you will rate your delivery immediately. You know, did the driver have good ediquette, was he polite, did he understand the strain that he was delivering to you, and if you had any additional questions, was he able to answer those. So we’ll rate those, we’ll ask for a rating immediately after the delivery. And then some period after that, after we feel like you’ve had a chance to consume the medicine, we’ll actually ask you to review the strains themselves, and once again that’s a one through five star rating. And what Eaze is really trying to build is this strain graph. So similarly to what Facebook has in terms of the social graph or the friend graph. When you go to Facebook, you know, it’s wow how did they know who all my friends are. We want to build something similar for cannabis patients so that, you know, if you were to rate a certain strain five stars, we could actually recommend, based on our graph of ratings what you’re most likely to enjoy during your next order.

Matthew: That’s incredible. Uber has only been around for I think a few years now, but it has changed the game, and now we talk about what you’re doing here with Eaze as if it’s been part of our culture for, you know, a decade or two decades or something, but it’s really just changing the landscape of utilizing resources in an urban space. How do you see this type of technology evolving? What’s the next step? How do we go beyond Uber? Is it going to be drones delivering goods or what do you see?

Keith: Well obviously I’m bullish on this whole on demand consumer service category as a whole. You know when Yammer got acquired by Microsoft I was at Microsoft. I had a one year commitment. I was really looking at the next wave of technology, what is that going to be. And, you know, Uber and Lyft did a great job of paving the way within transportation. Then we started seeing other companies pop up in other categories such as food and drink or home. And, you know, I think that there’s this whole other category called healthcare that Eaze is really paving the way with. You know, I think the possibilities are kind of endless. Once you have those algorithmic models built into a solution to provide a really relevant experience to where people can with a click of a button get what they want and need, yeah, it’s going to be fascinating to be part of that. And I absolutely think that robotics delivery will be the future of this entire space. But, you know, I think Google made a strategic investment in Uber because of the self-driving cars that they’re building, and I absolutely see drones in the future of cannabis delivery with Eaze.

Matthew: It sounds like science fiction, but I’m sure it’s going to be here faster than we can even realize. There’s an app on my phone called Relay Rides and I can use other peoples’ cars and there’s like three people within a mile of my house that participate in Relay Rides. You just approach the car, it lets you in. It’s just unbelievable. I can’t believe how fast this is changing the game. But there is a couple of threats on the horizon for Eaze type technology. I know in Southern California right now, at this moment, as we’re speaking the regulators down there are kind of making a stink about the Eaze type technology. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you feel about that?

Keith: Yeah I mean I think the regulatory landscape is ever changing for one, right. So I can give an anecdotal evidence of that, right. So when we started this project last October, I would ask the lawyers, you know, when is A, B and C going to happen. You know to their best judgment they would say well it’s tough to predict but maybe you know that’s a couple of years out. And you know fast forward six months I would ask them the same questions, and they would say well we’ve really made a lot of progress there, that’s more likely going to happen in six months. So not only are the laws kind of changing in the right direction, but they’re also moving exponentially. And I think that, you know, to your earlier question around expansion where is Eaze expanding next, the regulatory landscape today is certainly part of it, and we are in cities or territories where we’re absolutely following all the local laws and have a great relationship with, you know, the health department and authorities here. There may be other territories where we’re really gearing up to launch there, but we haven’t launched there because of the current regulatory landscape, but we view that changing very quickly, and L.A. may be one of them.

Matthew: Okay. Now is there any parallel markets where you would like to take this existing technology and say just to apply it to another market vertical at all?

Keith: Yeah so Eaze is, you know, we kind of brand ourselves as a on demand healthcare delivery service starting in medical marijuana. To be honest I view the medical cannabis space as a big enough category that we may not need to or want to kind of enter into these other, you know, ways to deliver other types of medicine. But I can tell you that from a technology prospective we hedged our bets in that we’ve developed a technology in a way where you can very easily start to introduce other types of prescription type medicine and with a click of a button also, you know, receive those. Really at the root the technology is all about verifying eligibility, being able to receive the medicine, an easy to display menu based on where you are, and provide real time ETAs and with a click of a button have that dispatched to the closest driver that can fulfill that need. And that’s applicable across, you know, any other type of medicine.

Matthew: Keith in closing how can listeners learn more about Eaze?

Keith: Yeah the best way to learn more about Eaze is to go to the website. It’s www.eazeup.com. And everything you need to know is there.

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

Keith: Thank you 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. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, email us feedback@cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

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

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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 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.

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 www.aubreymarcus.com, if you go to plant medicine and FAQ, you can see some of those. But there’s a place called www.biopark.org, 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 www.onnit.com 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 www.aubreymarcus.com, 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 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. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, email us feedback@cannainsider.com. 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 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.

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 www.crclalaska.org.

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 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. That's www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com,

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 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.

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 www.vimea.org, 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 www.facebook.com/vimea. 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.

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