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Silicon Valley Comes to Colorado – Tom Bollich CEO of Surna

Tom Bollich CEO of Surna

Tom Bollich was the co-founder of Zynga which created some of the most famous Facebook games to date, including Farmville which had ten million daily users at its peak. After leaving Zynga, Tom saw the opportunity in cannnabis and founded Surna in Boulder Colorado. Surna is solving the biggest technical and engineering problems in cannabis cultivation. Surna’s chillers and air handlers are arguably the most efficient at removing heat from grow rooms, they do this by removing heat via water instead of air. Listen in as Tom describes how he is bringing Silicon Valley’s best technology to the cannabis industry.

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew Kind: What is it like to be one of the creators of Silicon Valley's most successful online games and then peeved to the cannabis industry and take on its biggest technical challenges. We are going to find out the answer to that question today in our interview with Tom Bollich, CEO of Surna in Boulder, Colorado. Welcome, Tom.

Tom Bollich: Thanks, Matt.

Matthew Kind: Tom, for people that aren't familiar with you and your background, can you give us a little background of yourself in Silicon Valley and then how you transition to the Cannabis industry in Colorado?

Tom Bollich: Sure. Well, I guess in the beginning, I use to work on AI for robotics. I actually did work in some online casino stuff for a while -- I was one of the co-founders of Zynga -- and then decided to jump into cannabis not too long after that. I guess I really don't like to sleep very much.

Mathew Kind: Yeah, Zynga is, I mean for many people out there, most have heard of Zynga but almost all people out there got a invite for Farmville one time or another or some of the other games, but I remember distinctly Zynga so that's well done, congratulations.

Tom Bollich: Thank you.

Matthew Kind: And you're totally done with Zynga now and have moved on to Cannabis industry.

Tom Bollich: All hands on this one, that's for sure.

Matthew Kind: And how about a little background on what Surna does in the space?

Tom Bollich: Well, I mean Surna, the way we positioned it is that it is an engineering and manufacturing firm. I mean there is a lot of stuff that is missing on this industry right now; a lot it has been in the underground for so long. There is not a lot of science. There is almost no real engineering so were focused on that. I'm pretty positive we spend more of engineering hours on this industry than anyone else has. We're about to see the fruits of that labor soon.

Matthew Kind: For the growers that are listening to the show, what can you tell them about the chillers and air handlers so they can understand what Surna does for technical specs standpoint.

Tom Bollich: Yeah, because one of our key stones right now is climate control so we deal with the thermodynamics inside of a grow, and our first product was kind of a small scale, very affordable water chillers. Water Chillers tend to be very expensive and as a system, there are two or three times a cost of H pack. We've brought the price down considerably. In fact, we're probably in line with regular H pack. Because at the end of the day, if you remember, is that a grow has to be treated more like a server farm than like a comfort cooling which is what H pack is good at. So we are able to provide a lot of cooling for a lot less energy.

Matthew Kind: I like the way you frame that there. It is . . . I can see that the Silicon Valley coming into at it. It is like a server farm. That's a very great point.

Tom Bollich: You have to remember like every thousand watt bulb, it's kind of a weird term but it's about half a ton of heat. And then for instance, if you have 1,000 lights, that's 500 tons of heat you have to deal with. We're normally, let's say you're in the middle of Nevada, the heat from being in the desert is about 20 tons so you can kind of get mentally the scale of things when you're dealing with this much heat. So the most efficient way to process this is with water. It's not with like a swamp cooler. What we have is like a closed loop chilled water system.

Matthew Kind: Very interesting. Now people . . . The chiller technology is just something that not everybody has their head 100% around. Can you just give us a brief overview of how chillers actually operate?

Tom Bollich: Sure, so what we will do is we are going to take like a thousand light system and what we'll do is we'll install the chillers system outside of the building. It has a loop that goes through all the chillers. It's usually built in redundancy. We're very careful about power usage and what we'll do is we will pipe that cooling system across the entire building. And then we can tap into this loop wherever we want control the temperature and humidity. So that's why it's very efficient. The thermal conductivity of water is 20 times that of air so you can just do so much more with it and that's why we are growing so quickly right now.

Matthew Kind; Yes, I learned that lesson when I got my scuba diving certification. They said that water takes away your body heat so much faster than air. It's really even hard to comprehend so keep that in mind that . . .

Tom Bollich: You can die in 65-degree water. You cannot die in 65-degree air.

Matthew Kind: Yes, yes, it just pulls it out. That's a great way of looking at it, just pulls it out so much more efficiently and faster. Now, I understand you have a new product that will be available soon. Can you give us a little background on that, an idea of how it's going to help growers?

Tom Bollich: Sure. What we've done is kind of evolve all of this into something more cohesive. It's almost essentially like a water cool platform that we have an entire system running on. One part of this, one of the keystone parts of it is we actually have a water cool reflector so that we actually do the heat exchange within the reflector as opposed to the way you're currently designing a grow is you have a light that puts half a ton of heat into air and then you have a cooling system that puts half a ton of cooling into the air.

There is an insulate. It's very inefficient so we've actually designed a reflector that does all that heat exchange locally. It's way more efficient. We've spent so much engineering on this. It's really incredible but it looks like this will be the most efficient system on the planet for cooling lights. So the light will plug into this water-based platform. We're going to have a new trend chiller that plugs into it. We're going to have a system that dehumidifies. We are going to have a system that does the drying process maturing, so all this stuff is just going to run together.

It's going to be way more energy efficient. Some of the buildings we are looking at, putting this into, I believe we saved about 1,000 amperes on their service. So that cost alone saved the company I think almost a million dollars, and we are trying to keep this very price sensitive so it's not going to cost an arm or a leg.

Matthew Kind; Sure, that's incredible. Is there any ROI calculators or anything that customers ask for? How do you frame the cost savings for them so they can get an idea, "Okay, if I put this system in, this is what I am looking at on my ROI?"

Tom Bollich: This platform could . . . Well, I mean at the end of the day, you have to have lighting. You have to have some form of temperature control and you have to run power to the building. The amount of savings we can do on [inaudible [00:09:04] because you have to remember if you have this water cool reflector, then you need far less cooling before you need far less power to the building so you ROI could be as quick as a year, sometimes two.

Matthew Kind: Apart from just the ROI, there is a comfort factor too that's different. I mean, you have a more comfortable room I imagine, as well.

Tom Bollich: Well, the cooling is more evenly distributed so you don't have a centralized system that trying to cool all these lights. Each individual light is cooled by itself. It's highly redundant, it's highly efficient, and the photometrics on our light are incredible because what we did is we mathematically prove what's the best way of getting light to the plain canopy and then we were able to engineer a solution to that.

Matthew Kind: That's incredible. How many customers are using a Surna chiller or air handler right now?

Tom Bollich: Well right now, the chiller we've been selling, I believe we're in over 20 very large grows that stretch all the way from Canada to all across United States but a lot of this chillers we've been selling for home use for like five years. It's a very well proven product and it's very cost effective.

Matthew Kind: That's a very good point you bring up, home use. Do you have some customers that are saying, "Can I use this for my home?"

Tom Bollich: Sure, yeah. There're several people that've been using over the years for their home so typically you'll see people doing 5 to 10 lights at home. It's pretty popular here in Colorado because legally, you can have a home grow. It's proven to be a good update.

Matthew Kind: Does Surna have any competitors right now and everything is so new that I have no idea? Is there anybody on the horizon that looks like they're going to be a challenge?

Tom Bollich: No.

Matthew Kind: Good, that's what you want.

Tom Bollich: Frankly, we're so far ahead of the curve especially when this new platform's rolling. That even when federally legal and train was going after this market very heavily, even they wouldn't have this system. It's very unique. The engineering behind it is pretty incredible. Our head of engineering did the thermodynamics on the Mars rovers so I believe he can do a grow.

Matthew Kind: Let's go to market strategy especially with so much change going on. November 4, we have the potential for Oregon and Alaska to go fully legal at adult use, and then now Florida as well for medical, and possibly for adult use in Washington DC. I mean it's a changing landscape. How do you adapt your marketing strategy as all this different landscape changes?

Tom Bollich: Well, I mean the heart of our strategy is to have the system you have to have. That's the keystone to the whole thing is that if you're using our system and your competitor isn't, there's a good chance you're going to put them completely out of business because the cost of your product would be so much cheaper because we can save your energy, we can save water, we are getting more light more efficiently. It's just having the go-to product is key to it. And then after that, it's mostly some traditional marketing. It's [inaudible 00:13:23]. There's a few other things we have in the works but I think that's the key to it all.

Matthew Kind: And can you tell us a little bit about your recent acquisitions and how they play into your strategy?

Tom Bollich: Where a lot of this product came from was Hydro innovation, which was a small company that made chillers. And then we kind of took that and grew it. We're still kind of looking around, seeing what other technology we can bring into the fold. I love this stuff. We think we are either going to JV with the other companies, train new products to the Cannabis market or just build it ourselves.

Matthew Kind: I read somewhere that Surna's acquiring some intellectual property in the cannabis space apart from the acquisitions, but is that true and what's the strategy there?

Tom Bollich: No, that's mostly with the Hydro innovations, was the IP.

Matthew Kind: And with your background in robotics engineering and working with artificial intelligence, do you see any opportunity to bring the technology to the cannabis industry? You talked a little bit about a server farm. I mean I think a little bit about what VMware is doing in the virtualization space where they're making servers so much efficient. Is there an opportunity to have lighting or different energy resources move around to where it's needed, when it's needed?

Tom Bollich: Yes, it's a very long and complicated process but yeah, I plan on bringing what I know. I know software in a level that no one in this industry does so I plan on bringing that to bare very soon.

Matthew Kind: Now Zynga, I don't know how much overlap there is here but I would love to hear your opinion. I mean one of the key things about the games with Zynga is that they are more fun to play when your friend's with you and there's incentives to get your friends involve and there is kind of viral growth aspect to it. I mean is there . . . We're not dealing in the world of bits here but matter now. Is there a way or anything you learned from Zynga you can carry over into Surna as far as, you know, getting more people on board faster or is just that impossible on the world of matter?

Tom Bollich: I mean that's more of a B2C play. We're more of a B2B. I mean there are a few ideas we're working on. I mean one of the things we definitely learned at Zynga is how to make something that's usable and that's why C is we're bringing to Surna.

Matthew Kind: And where do you see Surna in five years? What's your vision?

Tom Bollich: Hell, there's no way of telling that. I mean no one can tell you where this industry is going to be in five years. I mean it almost feels like the entire industry changes every six months.

Matthew Kind: It does.

Tom Bollich: Yeah, because it is a very similar feel to when I was at Zynga. It was kind of a wild, wild west. No one really knows what's going on but everyone knows something going on but they don't know what.

Matthew Kind: Right. That feels like there's a huge opportunity though.

Tom Bollich: Yeah, I mean there is huge opportunity but you've got to be careful because this industry is . . . You can think of this as being a bubble. If anything it's like a hobble bubble because you can have a product like if it's Cannabis-based, you actually can't have a product cross the state border so each day is its own private little bubble and it's going to do its own thing.

Matthew Kind: Yeah, that's why it's smart to be in the ancillary part of the business. I see your strategy there, that's great. I see grower's kind of fall into two buckets; maybe you disagree but let me know. There's the growers that are just totally onbored with technological change, "This is what I am doing." And then there is another bucket where there is a total resistance and I don't seem to see like a middle bucket where there is, "You know, I'm open to some change." Are those the group that's in the bucket where they're not adopting change? Are they going to be left behind? And if so, how quick?

Tom Bollich: For sure. Honestly, if you can't get your head wrap around the new stuff that's coming out, you're going to get left behind almost immediately now. I mean the scale of things first seen happening at Colorado is pretty massive. I mean there are growers online here, there're 1.2 million square feet. So if the way you are thinking of things is small little rooms with 10 lights or so, then you're just going to be left behind.

Matthew Kind: How do you feel like LEDs come into the picture versus traditional grow light? How do you feel about those?

Tom Bollich: They're tough. I mean it's . . . The problem with LEDs' they've had a very mixed history in this industry. You have to remember is that they came out probably 8, 10 years ago. It's the new way to grow. People spend several million dollars on them and then they didn't do anything so there is still that kind of a bad taste in everyone's mouth that got those. But there are product coming online, they're LED-based. They seem to be working and we are looking to incorporate those into our system.

Matthew Kind: Okay. As you look into the future, what aspect of the technology is the most exciting to you?

Tom Bollich: Well, I mean at some point you know, this is going to be a big data play. At some point, you're going to have one grower able to manipulate massive grows without a bunch of hands-on.

Matthew Kind: So robotics?

Tom Bollich: Robotics, I mean there is a lot of thing you can do with algorithms based on just what's happening on the grow and analyzing that . . . I mean there's a lot to bring into play.

Matthew Kind: So you are seeing something where all the variables of a grow room and plant are parsed by some software and you get a sense of the health of the operations from that and then optimize from there?

Tom Bollich: Yup, I mean that's kind of it in that show. The problem is if you have an investor who is putting a ton of money in a grow, he may or may not know how to grow, most likely not; hires a consultant group or brings on his own growers and he has really no visibility in to how well this thing is doing because the grow can look fine for a long of time and then suddenly it's not.

Matthew Kind: Right, good point. Some people say that we're entering period of exponential technological change that may be difficult for the human brain to fully grasp what's happening and I think with you background with AI and robotics, you might be able to understand this little better and learn some insight. Do you see technology in an exponential growth curve anywhere that might not be obvious to other people?

Tom Bollich: Yes, there is a lot of stuff happening on periphery especially in Silicon Valley that really needs to get, brought into this industry more.

Matthew Kind: I agree. That'll be exciting. As that happens, it sounds like you're on the bi-way of making that happen so best of luck. As we close, what's the best way for people to follow Surna and learn more about Surna?

Tom Bollich: We have a new website out and that's probably the best way to know what's going on. We always have Surna Inc. on twitter so . . .

Matthew Kind: And just for everybody listening, Surna is Okay. Well, thanks so much to Tom Bollich. I really appreciate it. If you have any questions or comments, just please put them in the show notes in the comment section. We'll try to address those. Thanks so much, Tom.

Tom Bollich: Great. Thanks, Matt.

Arjan Roskam – Amsterdam’s King of Cannabis & World Famous Strain Hunter

Interview with Arjan Roskam

Interview with “The King of Cannabis,” Arjan Roskam.  Arjan is best known as a strain hunter and his famous strains have won over 30 Cannabis Cups. When he is not in Amsterdam he spends most of his time traveling the world looking for the best strains of Cannabis to be brought back to his lab with the goal of making the best strains of tomorrow. His most famous strains are: White Widow, Super Silver Haze, Hawaiian Snow, Super Lemon Haze, Flowerbomb Kush and others.

Arjan has been joined by actor Woody Harelson and Sir Richard Branson in his efforts to legalize cannabis worldwide.

Arjan is the owner of the Amsterdam based coffee house, Green House Coffeeshops as well as Green House Seed Company and Strain Hunters.

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

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Interviewer: Arjan Roskam is often referred to as the king of cannabis. He is the founder of Green House Coffee shops in Amsterdam. Arjan is best known as a strain hunter, and his famous strains have won over 30 cannabis cups. When he's not in Amsterdam, he spends most of his time traveling the world looking for the best strains of cannabis to be brought back to his lab with the goal of making the best strains of tomorrow. Welcome, Arjan.

Arjan: Welcome. Thank you for the beautiful introduction.

Interviewer: For people that aren't familiar with you, can you give us just a little bit of background on who you are, and how you got into the cannabis business?

Arjan: Well, my name is Arjan Roskam. I'm the Founder and Owner of Green House and Strain Hunter Companies. I started growing in '85. I grew up in Africa.

Interviewer: Huh.

Arjan: And when I was 17 I was traveling through Asia, and I met a very interesting character up in the north of Thailand who was curing heroin addicts with marijuana. And I was just a young guy passing by with my rucksack and I started talking to him. I stayed one day. I stayed three days, and I stayed seven days. When I left, I thought, "Mm, this guy's pretty crazy" but I got more and more interested in his work. And when he left, he gave me a bunch of seeds, and he said, "In the future these seeds will overthrow governments."

Interviewer: Ah.

Arjan: And I thought, "You're really crazy, you know" because I'm 49 now. So this is 32 years ago.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: So, you know, 32 years ago was a different world, no?

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: And I went back to Holland and didn't really know what to do. So I started working in the restaurant business. I was a chef for a while, and then I picked up those seeds and started growing. And the rest of the story is history.

Interviewer: Ah, and how many packets of seeds do you sell a year now?

Arjan: A lot.

Interviewer: [laughs] Okay. And you really have a large market share, particularly in Europe. I mean, do you have an idea of what percentage the market share of your seeds take?

Arjan: Yes, between 15 and 25%, depending on the country.

Interviewer: Okay. Well, how do you think you got so much of the market share?

Arjan: Well, look, when we started Green House Coffee shops in ... Basically I started my coffee shops in'92 because I started growing in '85, and '84 basically. And '85 we started selling marijuana, and at one point I was making ... Are you still there?

Interviewer: Yes, I'm still here.

Arjan: I thought you dropped away. I heard some sound. Me and my wife, I started growing other varieties then. I started breeding and working, and I made special sativa strains, and I was bringing them to the most famous coffeeshop at that time, like four of them. And I gave my new varieties, and they all said after two months, "You can come and pick it up because nobody's buying it."

Interviewer: Huh.

Arjan: At that time the owners were friends of mine because I was selling them the regular skunk, and on the side I was selling them other stuff.

Interviewer: Okay.

Arjan: But I underestimated the intelligence of the guy who was selling the marijuana. So I thought he would put more effort in it, but he was not really interested in my marijuana because he didn't like it. So I also did advocate it to the public. So after two, three months I took it back. I got my two kilos back from each shop. I gave them all one or two kilos. So my wife said, "If you really think that the product is so good, why don't you start your own club?"

So in '92 we started our own club. And the philosophy of our own club was to make something different, not the regular coffee shop at that time. It was looking like a Jamaican hangout, with a Jamaican flag on the wall and these kind of things.

Interviewer: Right.

Arjan: So we made a very artistic cafe where your mother and my mother would possibly go inside for a cup of coffee and would not notice there's a marijuana place. It was very artistic. We made all the shop ourselves, decorations, mosaics on the wall. We made our own lives because we were pretty crazy. My wife is an interior architect, so interior designer. So this is how our first club started.

And then, again, I had the same problem because indeed the Dutch really didn't like toe marijuana that I was making.

Interviewer: Ah.

Arjan: And don't forget, 90% at that time was smoking hash until the mid-'90s.

Interviewer: Okay.

Arjan: So '93 the Kennedy family passed by on high times at that time, and they said, "Listen, would you like to join a contest Thanksgiving. November." It was the first marijuana competition in the world. And that time, of course, yeah, marijuana competition was one of the most crazy things to do. Of course, it was really illegal.

Interviewer: Right.

Arjan: So CNN came, BBC, there were like 25 television stations because which idiot in the world was going to make a marijuana contest? The cops were going to raid it. You know, the whole story, noA?

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: Well, to make a long story short, we completely forgot about the whole event because this was in April, and the event was in November. In November it was 3-400 really high Americans in front of my door. I had this little place in Toolstrat [SP] south of Amsterdam, a little neighborhood. And suddenly I was confronted with all these people there. They're lucky I didn't have good thoughts. I just thought smoking, all the Americans said to me, "Oh man, this is really great. This is really great. We've never smoked this."

So, okay, I thought, yeah, yeah, sure, you know. Yeah, you're happy now because you get something for free and blah, blah, blah, you know how it goes. But okay, five days later was the election. At that time in the Red Light there was a big hotel, and they got a club there. And then I won five of the six main prizes, main cups.

Interviewer: Oh wow.

Arjan: I was a 28-year-old boy, very young. And so full television was on, CNN and BBC from that day on, things went very, very fast. So that's a little bit of history how the Green House started and then, of course, people started asking for the seeds. So in '95 we established the seed company, and after we established three, four more clubs. Then the king of cannabis came, and the kind of cannabis was created.

Everybody thought, "Yeah, this is some marketing thing and blah, blah, blah" but I just had an idea at that time. I became A spokesman for the cannabis retailers association for 12 years, and we had a very bad vibe in that period from the public and from the press and all these kind of things.

And I wanted to look better. I already realized that at the time when I was really young, especially my father said to me, "Listen, boy, this whole story in 10 years is going to be finished because Sweden is complaining, France is complaining. Mr. Reagan is complaining. You guys are all going to get closed here. So if you want to be legal in the future, you're going to have other countries coming and support us."

So one of the ideas was, "Why don't we create a king of cannabis?" That was me. I made all the best varieties, and we started getting international famous people who smoked to Europe and to the club here and tell them our story. Tell them how good this product is. Go back to your country and help us out.

Interviewer: Sure.

Arjan: Well, that happened with Woody Harrelson who became a very big advocate who was a great friend of mind, and all these kind of people and all the rappers came, and this is why I created the kind of cannabis. And then they went back to America, and this is where Steve DeAngelo who was from Harvard, for example, who's got now 125,000 members. It's the biggest club in the States. And he saw what I was doing in the club, and one moment, guys ( Arjan is talking dutch to some people in the background, because they are too noisy). So all of those guys went back to America and started their own clubs, and from there on we created the king of cannabis.

The king of cannabis, yeah, was a thing for the regulation, and then in 2006, 2005 I came up with the idea of strain hunters. So now it's time because America's getting open and more things are happening, strain is happening. I said, "What will be really good is to show the world what really is happening on cannabis?" And then I started Strain Hunters. What I always did was go to the jungle and find species, but they said, "Let's film it." And you probably saw some of those episodes.

Interviewer: I did, I did.

Arjan: Well, one of the ideas was to show that 200 million people around the equator really depended on marijuana and how important marijuana is and to more show people what's really, really going on about marijuana. Then, of course, National Geographic picked it up, and now Vice picked it up. And we're going to make a few more episodes for Vice.

Interviewer: Good.

Arjan: It was just all part of the regulation process to make people more aware of our industry and normalize the business.

Interviewer: Okay. For people that don't know what the term "land race" means, can you describe that because that's a big part of what you're doing with strain hunting?

Arjan: Well, yeah, the discussion about land race in science is a little bit diverse, but basically it's a species that grows for a certain time, They would say, this is the argue, like minimum 30-40 years in a certain area or preferable hundreds of years that is known to this local area.

Interviewer: Okay.

Arjan: Again, there could be a Malawi, Golden Malawi or Durban Poison in Durban or whatever.

Interviewer: And it has some unique qualities that make it strong for growing in that environment so it's been able to thrive in that environment. So you want to take back that particular seed and do something with it since it's done so well in that particular environment. Is that the idea?

Arjan: Well, very partially. The idea is also that we could have different profiles in these plant profiles, cannabis profiles. It could have different tastes because of the terpene so you can use it for breeding purposes. It could have some medicinal values that we don't know now, that maybe in the future could be helpful to autistic, epileptic, or cancer treatments, or whatever. We don't really know.

It has all kinds of value. One of the other values is that in some areas it's getting really wiped out. So we have to protect it also for the future. So it has all kinds of reasons.

Interviewer: So other than ... A lot of people out there just think, "Hey, you're looking for the highest THC value possible, but there's a lot of other variables you're considering." I mean, CBDs, germinations, speed, how well it's resistant to diseases.

Arjan: Yeah.

Interviewer: What other things do you look at when you're evaluating seeds where you say, "Hey, this is something I really I think is a desirable seed."

Arjan: Well, basically all the ones you just mentioned, but also, for example, mold resistant can be a very important factor.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: Sativas, some areas are really, really good sativas. Like in America, it's all kush. In Holland it's all Indica. In Spain, but you could mix those strains and create something really, really nice. So it has numerous interests.

Interviewer: Okay. And on the Vice episodes you were on recently, you were really excited to find the Punta Roja landrace strain.

Arjan: Yeah.

Interviewer: Can you tell us a little bit about that strain and why you're so excited about it?

Arjan: Well, first of all, there are three races there. There's Lemon Verde and the Mango Veecha. Nobody really obtained a proper one. So it's an accomplishment to have those, especially Lemon Verde. We all know there's a big war going on there for the last 25 years.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: And basically we were the only people going in and out there without being kidnapped. So and it's a really, really good country for growing, and unfortunately a lot of cocaine took over there. And now we see marijuana coming back. One of the things we showed in that movie, "Colombia" where you see all the lights that it used to be all cocaine plantations, and now people are growing grass again, like in the '70s.

Interviewer: Well, good.

Arjan: What I see is very encouraging and very important for everybody. So this is one of the main reasons we went there is because we heard about a lot of growers are going back to pot again. And secondly, the varieties are really nice. They have some nice strains. They have some nice smoke. Basically marijuana, you can compare to wine. How many times do we drink the same bottle of wine? Rarely, huh? Every restaurant we go we get another bottle of wine.

Interviewer: Right.

Arjan: And this makes marijuana very interesting, and it's also very important for you as a smoker to smoke very diverse. If you smoke one variety all the time, at one point you have to smoke more and more of it which is not a good thing. And so personally I really advocate to smoke different varieties. So this is one of the main reasons I like to have a lot of varieties on my menu.

Interviewer: Oh good. And are you using any genetic modification techniques in your lab or is it just hybrids? How does that work?

Arjan: Oh nobody does. It's a big myth at the moment. Nobody is using genetic medication techniques in the marijuana world as far as I know. We just make hybrids and that's it, very simple.

Interviewer: Now I've heard the term "hybrid vigor" which means when you create a new hybrid, they kind of thrive in a way that's interesting. Do you witness that firsthand?

Arjan: Yes, of course, but that doesn't always work. Of course, you try to create a new hybrid with a new taste. You try to bring the best threads from both species together, and you hope that the bubble gum from one and the lemon from the other comes together, you know? But that doesn't always work, of course.

Interviewer: Right.

Arjan: This is the doctor who's working.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: It would be too easy now if everything goes like that.

Interviewer: Right. What is your most popular strain? I guess that probably changes over time, but what do you think the most popular strain is right now?

Arjan: Well, Past [SP] the world's most famous strain is Past due to the California ones. At the start of the business it was the Skunk.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: Later it became the White Widow, my most famous strain from the early '90s. Past was the Super Silver Haze in '98 until early 2000s. And now it's the Cheese and the Super Lemon Haze. Super Lemon Haze is probably the most famous strain ever. That one won three times the cannabis in high times. It was the most smoked, and if you go to all international seed banks every seed bank with this that's the number one seller. It's a very good sativa, a very good grower and, yeah, it's a fantastic plant and a great smoke. And that's probably your main one, to say.

Interviewer: Okay. Do you see any threats from the best seeds coming to market? Is there any entrenched market interests or big companies or governments getting in the way from the best seeds coming to market?

Arjan: Well, let's not hope. Let's not hope. I hope it will go in the same way that the wine industry went. Of course, there will be a few big players, but as in France, as in Australia, as in California, as in South America, in Chile, there's still a lot of very good little wine houses.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: You never can stop the capitalist industry. We all know this. We have to be honest about this, but I hope guys like me will not get crushed by big tobacco companies to take over our business. But who knows? This is the future. It's getting more legal, amigo. Let's hope that Hillary Clinton gets elected in 2016 and changes the Federal Laws. You see now very good movement in America with letters coming out from the White House from Eric Holder that it's ... back off of the dispensaries and let them do their work if they're legal.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: So you live in the center of the center. You know better than anybody else. It's going pretty good in Colorado. I understand that the first $40 million on tax has been spent on the schools.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: So a very, very, very intelligent move from the Colorado State, and I hope it goes like that in the future.

Interviewer: Yes, I'm very optimistic. It's been going really well here in Colorado.

Arjan: Yes.

Interviewer: Who do you feel like benefits from keeping cannabis illegal?

Arjan: Politicians.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Arjan: Politicians are too stupid to organize anything or solve any problem if the economic crisis starts speaking about drugs because they can't speak about economics. Of course, a little bit of tobacco or a pharmaceutical or the alcohol industry. We can see that very, very clear in California where the alcohol industry is against us. I even heard that the owner of Starbucks is putting money in the lobby against us. So even the coffee industry is against us.

Interviewer: Oh no.

Arjan: Yeah.

Interviewer: Now you've travelled all over the world looking for great strains. How have you seen different cultures, like you mentioned in Thailand? How have you seen them use cannabis as a medicine?

Arjan: Oh well, you can see that in a lot of my movies, especially they use it for all kinds of things. First of all, they don't have anything else there. I'm from Africa. You have to understand there. Very poor families have three fields. They have a mini field that's a cornfield basically. They have a vegetable field, and they have marijuana fields. They don't have money for fences so this is the reason the children don't go to school. The children have to guard the cattle. If the cattle goes into the vegetable field, they just die of hunger.

So the marijuana they make to sell. Now one of the things they use is if the kids are really sick, for example, and they have stomach problems or they have not enough food, it's sounds a little bit contradicting because in America you get the munches when you smoke really strong marijuana. But in Africa and other places they give the kids a little bit of seeds and a little bit of marijuana because the seeds have a very high nutritional value. We all know there is Omega 3, 6 and 9 im there in there.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: And there's a lot of seeds available in marijuana so they feed the kids seeds. We can see even the chickens are much more healthy in Africa. The eggs are much more bigger in Europe when they eat the marijuana seeds. It's a very scientific thing what you see. The meat is also much nicer of the chickens, but they use it in all kinds of ways. They make oils. They use it in all kinds of therapeutic ways, like in South America, for example. They use the cocoa leaves or they use the ayahuasca, all kinds of other herbs. In Africa they use it to treat themselves because they don't have money to obtain pharmaceuticals. And pharmaceuticals are in many ways, anyway, not the answer as we all know. We have too many people who are addicted to sleeping tablets, tranquilizers, and all kinds of other things. And they should indeed take some cannabis instead of all these bad things for you.

Interviewer: Now you recently interviewed Sir Richard Branson. I'm not sure when that was, but why do you feel his message is so important to get out?

Arjan: Well, it's the same as when I created the king of cannabis. I wanted to have all the famous actors and movie stars and singers to advocate our issue. You see my site, for example. Now Rihanna, you see these big people that are very important for young people telling, "Hey, listen, I smoke. I don't care. It's not dangerous."

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: And you can think whatever you want to about this message, but for me this is a very good message. Now there's another very, very big league, the league of Paul Allen, the league of Sir Richard Branson and these kind of people. For me this is very important because these people are respected businessmen, and now they are standing up and advocating our case. And they are also financially contributing to my organization a lot. Sir Richard Branson donated 150,000 Euros last year for our Congress and a lot of mayors attended and a lot of people from America.

And these people have money. They can help us, and they are much more creditable than us. And they are now telling the world that this is a good product. And that's why it's very important that these people come in. Unfortunately, these people are only in America and in England and not yet in the mainland of Europe and in Holland, but this is the beginning. And he's also part of the Drug Commission of the United Nations where he's with Kofi Annan and Madeline Albright.

So these people are very, very important to us for the regulation process.

Interviewer: Great. Now you've been growing plants since the '80s. Aside from new strains, is there any technology in the cannabis business that really excites you?

Arjan: Yeah, well what excites me more is, of course, the whole regulation process in America what I think is great, but, of course, yeah, you have the whole new edible industry, of course. That's very important where people don't have to smoke anymore but can take a cookie or whatever which is a new interesting thing. But I'm a real, real original grower and breeder and that's what excites me the most.

Interviewer: Is there any tips or suggestions you would give to people in Colorado and Washington that they can take away from your experience in Amsterdam, you know, with legal cannabis there that they can make sure they do here to get off on the right foot?

Arjan: The most important thing is to buy Green House seeds.

Interviewer and Arjan: [laugh]

Interviewer: Okay.

Arjan: That's a joke. Now listen, what I hope and what I hope will come to Spain one time. Yesterday we had Allison the woman who wrote the thing for Washington.

Interviewer: Okay.

Arjan: The whole proposal. I hope we can make clubs like in Amsterdam, like in Spain where you would have food, where you would have drink and where you can smoke marijuana and obtain your marijuana. I think this is the future. And you also go to a restaurant to eat food. You don't only eat food in your house. You go to Starbucks to buy your coffee. You go to Apple phone to buy your phone, yeah?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Arjan: So also when you come together and you smoke marijuana, you talk about social problems, this is very important. Holland is a very international country.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: We're a very open country. We have legalized abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage. We are famous for showing the world in which direction freedom should go. And I think it's very, very important to understand it. In a coffee shop in Holland there's a black guy. There's a white guy, and there's a Chinese guy at one table sharing a joint and talking about daily problems. And you don't see that much in other countries. Marijuana, it's nice people. And I think that is the strongest message that we give out with those coffee shops, and that's why I think it's so important to have the coffee shop system in America in the future.

Interviewer: Great point. It would be a lot of fun.

Arjan: It's nice for this interviewer.

Interviewer: Yes.

Arjan: You probably have more questions.

Interviewer: Well, where are you up to next?

Arjan: I never mention my trips because of security reasons, I'm sorry.

Interviewer: That makes a lot of sense. I could see why after watching the Vice Colombia.

Arjan: You have to keep it a little under the radar. I hope you understand.

Interviewer: Sure. And for listeners that want to follow your work and learn more about your seeds and your coffee shop, how can they do that?

Arjan: Well, we have a very big, famous forum on the

Interviewer: Okay.

Arjan: That's one place to log in. We have, and these are two main websites where everybody can find us and everybody comes together there. Another nice thing is to watch us grow, HD.TV where there is a lot of people putting their little things on. And, of course, Instagram is really, really important, strain on Instagram where they can follow our trips and see a lot of nice pictures. And, yeah, that's basically the way to follow us.

Interviewer: Great. Well, Arjan, thanks so much for the interview. I really appreciate it.

The Benefits of LEDs Vs Traditional Grow Lights with BlackDogLed

LEDs for Cannabis

LEDs (light emitting diodes) are now ready for prime time. The technology is mature and has incredible benefits. Listen in as experts Kevin Frender and Noah Miller of BlackDogLed.Com compare and contrast the benefits of LEDs versus traditional lighting. We provide details for both the business owner and growers. Learn more at

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi. I'm Matthew Kind. Each week I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at Now here is your program.

As cannabis prohibition ends, entrepreneurs are coming up with new and innovative ways to evolve the lighting of their plants. We have two entrepreneurs with us today to tell us how light emitting diodes or LEDs may replace conventional lighting. We are pleased to have Noah Miller and Kevin Frender from Black Dog LED of Boulder, Colorado on the show today. Welcome, guys.

Kevin: Hello.

Noah: Hello.

Matthew: Can you give us a little bit of background on yourselves, how you got into LED lighting and growing and this technology?

Noah: Yeah, this is Noah Miller. Hi, Matt. Basically, I had started myself, when I moved to Colorado about five years ago, did some work in the periphery of the industry and decided that I really thought there was a lot of promise and a good future. I chose to stay on the periphery versus the actual growing, but stumbled across Corey, who is the founder of Black Dog LED, who couldn't join us today, and at that point joined him and have been involved with Black Dog ever since.

Kevin: And I am Kevin Frender. I have been a plant nut basically my whole life. I have been growing plants under artificial lights for about 23 years now, mostly as a hobby and just playing around with a bunch of plants in my basement for a long time, trying to always find the best lights possible and tried out a number of LEDs, was very disappointed with them, until I tried my first Black Dog light and was so impressed with it that I actually quit my day job and came and joined Black Dog LED.

Matthew: I love it. That's faith, faith in LEDs. I want to get into some of the earlier, crappy LEDs. We'll dig into that in a minute, but for people that just have a very, very limited understanding of what LEDs are, can you just give a real high level overview of what LEDs are and their benefits. What people need to know, both a grower and a business owner?

Kevin: Sure. LEDs basically are electronics which are capable of producing light in a very different way from traditional lighting systems. Rather than getting something hot enough to the point where it actually starts glowing and producing light, LEDs work differently by actually using semiconductors to create light directly without the intermediate heat step. They are inherently more efficient than a lot of the traditional lighting sources out there. They also have a number of different advantages in that they actually produce light of specific wavelengths, so you can tune the spectrum of the light that you're getting out of it. That actually is a disadvantage if you're trying to create lighting for human purposes, because you want a broad light spectrum light to make things look normal for humans, but for plants, it's ideal. We can give them just the light colors that they really want.

Matthew: Yeah, that's something that became very clear to me when I dropped by your office. You were explaining that traditional lights, yes, they produce all this light, but a lot of it's not usable. It's kind of akin to the human hearing spectrum. It's like we can only hear in a certain spectrum of sound. Similar to light for plants, only a certain spectrum is usable. That was something that was very interesting to see. If you could describe in a few bullet points what's wrong with traditional grow lights, you touched on it a little bit. What's really the problem with traditional grow lights?

Kevin: Well, traditional lighting, what people use as grow lights, was actually designed for humans. It was not designed for growing plants. Someone just happened to notice that that streetlight they took down from their parking lot was able to grow plants, and so that's where traditional plant lighting comes from. The problem is that human eyes see primarily yellow light best. Our eyes are just inherently more sensitive to yellow light, so traditional lighting tends to really emphasize yellow light. Plants, unfortunately, don't want yellow light. They absorb a little bit of it and make use of a little bit of it, but they really want red and blue light and so traditional lighting has not been designed to create that because it's not useful for humans.

Matthew: I know on Ebay, and different places, there is a lot of LEDs that I would say are sub-optimal, to be kind. How do you steer away from sub-optimal LEDs and how do you know you're dealing with high quality LED?

Noah: That's a great question that we spend way too much time in this office on the phone with prospective customers discussing with them, why, just because they heard LEDs don't work, that's not necessarily the case. There are a few key things that we tell people to look at. One of the obvious ones is outrageous claims. You know the old saying, "If it's too good to be true, then it probably is," and in this case, we find that all the time. A good indicator is outrageous claims about wattage. For example, if they are selling a 400 or 500 watt LED and they say that it can perform or outperform 1,000 watt HID, that's just a flat out lie. Now someday we might be able to do that, but with today's technology, that's just a marketing claim that never holds water and it just doesn't hold true. Claims that are just outrageous are a good way to know you're dealing with a company that isn't really in it for the long haul and they're not standing behind their product.

Another thing to look at is time in business. There are a lot of companies that come in and out. In the four-plus years I've been with Black Dog, I can't even count how many companies we've seen come into the industry, the LED grow light industry, just to disappear six or eight months later, so looking a little bit into the history of the company, we recommend. Also, proven grows, if you can find well documented grows by either the company that's putting out the lights or their customers on YouTube or all the grow journals that are out there and the different forums around the web. Reputation, of course, plays into that and like Kevin was talking about, spectrum is key. We don't believe that lights that only use two, three, or four, maybe five different colors of LEDs are optimizing what you can do with LEDs and really taking advantage of the technology. Looking for a good, complex, often referred to as a full spectrum, is another indicator of the quality of the light you're getting, so it's those kinds of things.

We also spent a lot of time putting up an FAQ page on our site to help answer some of these questions and outline things they can look at and help demystify the LED, because a lot of marketing claims are just mystified marketing terms that really don't make any sense and so if you can cut through to the meat, that helps a lot.

Matthew: How do LEDs compare on heat cost and crop yields? I asked a lot of growers questions before the interview and those things come up a lot. What can you tell them about that?

Noah: Well, there is a huge advantage there. While we do say that one of the major advantages of LEDs is the spectrum, the advantage there, but heat is another major benefit. There are two benefits there. One, LEDs are more efficient at turning energy, the electricity you're putting in, into light instead of heat as Kevin described, the intermediary step in most traditional lighting, so you save heat there. Plus, in addition to that, we're going to be putting out some additional research that shows you actually need to and should be running a garden much warmer, about nine degrees warmer, than with HID traditional lighting. You can turn your thermostat up and anyone that's lived somewhere hot or tried to use AC to cool a building, if you can raise your thermostat a few degrees, in this case, nine, you can see some big savings there as well.

Matthew: Okay. Let's say I have a traditional grow operation with HPS lights. I purchase enough Black Dog LEDs to replace these lights. How long does it take to recover the cost with the additional savings that I have from the LEDs, on average?

Kevin: There are a lot of different variables involved there. It really depends on the size of your operation, your cooling needs, which has a lot to do with the ambient outdoor temperature, and seasonal variations thereof. There are a lot of variations, but typically, on the low end, it can only take six months in certain situations, and at the high end, within 18 months you will have paid off your investment in LEDs. Then you get to just keep reaping the benefits over time, not having to replace bulbs every six months, not having to replace reflectors, not having to pay the extra electrical bill for the cooling and creating the light in the first place. Plus you get a higher quality yield, a higher quality harvest, out of your lights.

Matthew: When you say "higher quality harvest," can you give some detail on what that means exactly?

Kevin: Absolutely. High pressure sodium bulbs, which are traditionally used for blooming cannabis, contain absolutely no ultraviolet light. In addition, because of the way they work, they unintentionally put off a huge spike of true infrared light, about 818 nanometers, which is well beyond the visible spectrum. It's well beyond the spectrum the plants can actually use and all it does is serve to heat up the plants. It's why, when you put your hand under a high pressure sodium light, it feels so darned warm. It's actually putting off more of that infrared light than it is any of the visible light, so most of the electricity is going into creating that extra heat. That heat is just stressing plants out and that's why you have to have massive air-conditioning units to keep flower rooms around, most people recommend, 75 degrees. Without that heat stress and with the ultraviolet light that we include in our LEDs, the plants are happier, healthier, and the ultraviolet stresses them in just the right way to produce natural sunscreens, which include CBD and THC so we typically see a 2% to 5% increase in CBD and THC concentrations when we test plants grown under our LEDs versus HPS lights, even the same strain.

Noah: And just to be clear, that 2% to 5% is the increase we're seeing at laboratory results, so it's actually up to 20% and such increase because we've tested cannabis side by side, same genetics, same grow medium, everything, and then had them laboratory blind tested again to see which light produced what, and we've seen increases from let's say 18% or 19% up to 23%. While 5% might not sound like a lot, we're talking a 20% jump in THC production in the same exact genetic.

Kevin: And in addition to the increase in the desirable chemicals in the yield, the flower buds tend to be a lot denser and tighter with our LEDs than they are with HPS.

Matthew: You talked a little bit about the color spectrum, the reds and the blues, and for someone that's never seen an LED grow light, it kind of looks like you're wearing those old-timey 3D glasses, everything is kind of red or blue. Can you talk about what the ratio is of red and blue light, and is it different from a vegetative to flower, or is it a consistent ideal color spectrum throughout?

Kevin: Yeah. We actually used to sell different veg and flower lights. The flower lights had more red in them compared to the blue. We did that because it's conventional wisdom on the internet that that's what plants actually need, cannabis specifically. You want blue light for vegetative growth and red light for flowering. The way that people came to that conclusion is because they had two choices, between a metal halide kind of bluish light and a high pressure sodium kind of reddish light. They found, rightfully so, that one works better for veg and the other works better for flower but that doesn't necessarily mean that that's what the plants actually want or need. After selling various different red and blue veg and flowering lights for a couple of years, we did enough experiments ourselves and enough research to show that if you have the proper combination of red and blue, the proper ratio for both life cycles, the same ratio works better than if you switch it in between veg and flower and we've done grow after grow demonstrating this. It actually cuts down on your time to your harvest, because the plant typically stresses out any time you change the color of light on it. It takes three to five days to get its footing, basically, again and adapt to that new light color. Without doing that and keeping the ideal ratio, we keep the plants more compact all the way through flower, which means they're expending less energy growing stems and more energy actually growing flower buds.

Matthew: Do you feel like that idea of keeping the spectrum consistent from veg to flower is finally penetrating, or is it still most people don't understand that?

Kevin: It really just depends on who you're talking to. The people that have grown with HID lights their entire lives will still argue that blue is better for veg and red is better for flower, and that is true when your only choices are between two technologies of HID lighting. Once you actually have the ability to fine tune the spectrum to whatever you want it to be, that LEDs actually gives us, then you can actually get beyond that and really discover, hey, one spectrum that's finely balanced works better for all life cycle stages. If you think about it, the sun doesn't change color between summer and fall. A lot of people think it does, but it actually changes color more between the morning and midday than it does between the seasons. Plants didn't evolve to get different colors of light at different stages in their life cycle. People have just come up with reasoning to explain what they're seeing in HID, even though it doesn't really match up with what plants actually want.

Matthew: Now you say lumens don't matter. Can you explain what lumens are and why they don't matter?

Kevin: Absolutely. Lumens area measure of luminous intensity weighted specifically for the efficacy of the light for human vision. Lumens are by far the best way of measuring a light and comparing two lights for purposes of illuminating areas that humans need to occupy. It is a measure of how well you're going to be able to see with that light. Now for plants we don't care about whether or not we can see the plants well, we just care about growing them well. It turns out that plants really don't like yellow light. In fact, the most efficient, in terms of lumens per watt, lighting technology out there is called low pressure sodium lighting. There is a reason you have never heard of anyone growing with a low pressure sodium bulb because it actually will not grow a plant at all. You put a plant under a low pressure sodium light and it'll be dead within a week but that's what gives you the most lumens per watt. Yet no one actually grows with them so that's just a good demonstration of why lumens are not important when actually comparing grow lights. They are a measurement intended for human use, not for plant use.

Matthew: Okay. You know, there's going to be a lot of growers listening and business owners that really like the promise of LEDs, and I think most people see it as inevitable. I think maybe one of the questions that's lingering is that, "Is this technology mature enough?" How can you assuage those fears so they understand that we are there now?

Noah: It's mostly a question of they need to either have somebody that's used the right LEDs, such as a Black Dog LED, or grow with it themselves. We often encourage... We have people calling in and asking about 50 or 60 lights and we say, "Look, make sure it's what you want and make sure it meets your expectations. Get one, get two, get three, and try them out. We stand behind the product and really the only way to really believe it is to see it yourself." That's one of the reasons we have the plant room that you saw when you came in, so they could even walk into our office and see what the lights are doing with plants in use. It's really a question of they need to try them to get a feel, or walk into somebody else's garden that's using them. The challenge, as we talked about before, is if they talk to somebody that maybe used an LED that was lower quality, they're going to hear it didn't work at all, and unfortunately, that might have been true for that light, but that does not hold true for the whole LED grow light industry. It's a question of trial and error at this point, I'd say.

Matthew: Okay, so let's say a grower does decide, "Hey, I'm ready to move into LEDs." Aside from changing out all their lights, what else do they need to do? Is there anything else?

Kevin: Well, there's really only two things we've actually noticed that are important to keep in mind when switching over to LEDs, and they're both related to the lack of infrared heat put off by the LEDs that HPS lights actually do put off. All of that extra heat that HPS lights put off mean that you have to run your air-conditioner more to keep the leaf surface temperature cooler, because it's important to understand that the ambient room temperature is not the same as the temperature of the leaves of the plants in the room. It's really the leaf temperature that's most important for considering the plant's metabolism, how fast it's going to grow. Just like with humans, plants have an ideal temperature range that they grow and metabolize best in. You need to actually increase the temperature in your grow room with our lights about nine degrees, as Noah said earlier, to get the same ideal leaf surface temperature and get that optimal growth rate out of your plants.

The second thing is because the soil isn't being hit with all of this infrared heat as well, the soil doesn't dry out as quickly. One of the things that often causes an issue there when moving to LEDs, if you're growing in soil, is that you're not having to water the plants as much, and that means you can't cycle through nutrients as much as you would want to with the plants. To get around that, we have discovered that using fabric pots not only create a better root system for the plant, but by allowing the soil to dry out on all sides, you can still flush through the nutrients in your plants at about the same schedule that you would with HID lighting in traditional plastic pots. We do recommend fabric pots for soil and then increasing your room temperature by about nine to 10 degrees.

Matthew: Kevin, you know a lot about growing, so I just want to ask, what do you think the ideal growing medium is in your mind?

Kevin: It really comes down to exactly what you're trying to grow, your style, what nutrients, your growing environment. I personally have had success with a number of different growing media over the years in different situations. It really just comes down to exactly what you're trying to do. I have had success with cocoa. I have had bad luck with cocoa. I have had great success with peat based mixes, as long as you have the right environment and you can dry out the soil in an appropriate rate. I have done hydroponics. I have used completely soilless mixes. Actually, one of my favorites is not really appropriate for cannabis use because it's way too expensive. It works very well, but for growing a plant that's only going to live three to four months, it doesn't make economic sense, but if you're going to grow a tree inside that you want to keep around for a decade, it's perfect, and that's something called arcelite, but again, I wouldn't recommend that for cannabis.

Matthew: Okay. I'm going to try something a little different here. I've had so many grower questions that I want to just kind of do a lightning round for Kevin and Noah to answer these kind of quickly. Here we go. How much better is a 5 watt diode in comparison to an HPS in terms of light intensity or saturation of light?

Kevin: So, there is a lot of different sizes of HPS lights out there, but when comparing with the 1,000 watt HPSs that most people run, 5 watt diodes have much better penetration. We typically see almost 24%, 25% better penetration, and more of that light that does penetrate is usable by the plants. In my own personal experience, I used to have plants under high pressure sodium and metal halide lights that I was struggling to keep healthy more than three feet tall. Now they are five feet tall under our LEDs and I've got a secondary layer of plants underneath them which is growing happily.

Matthew: Great. Is the LED strong enough to penetrate the canopy and/or reflect well off surrounding surfaces?

Kevin: Yes, absolutely. We always recommend reflective surfaces for any grow light. It doesn't matter what kind of grow light you're working with, if you have reflective surfaces around it, you're going to see an increase in the actual light hitting the plant.

Matthew: Are there better grow methods to use with LED, like "sea of green" so plants are small and LED can be kept close?

Kevin: So, technically "sea of green" is many small plants kept close together, although some people use that term to also describe plants that are just trained to be flat, so they'll use special trimming techniques to keep the plants more or less with an even canopy. Sea of green is very important if you're working with underpowered lights such as 1 watt or 3 watt based LEDs, because the light just does not penetrate very far into the canopy so having that very flat, very thin, even canopy is very important in that situation. It still works great with our 5 watt lights, but it's not as necessary to do that because we actually get the penetration power.

Matthew: What is the growth rate of a plant in comparison to an HPS or MH bulb for LEDs? How do LEDs compare to an HPS or MH in growth rate?

Kevin: Well, that's kind of a tricky question because it depends on what you're measuring as the growth rate. Plants will grow faster with the LEDs in terms of the number of leaves they're putting on, in terms of the number of flowers, but they're not going to grow as tall. If you're only measuring height, plants will grow less under LEDs, if you're only measuring height, but that's a good thing. You're expending less energy on growing stems and more on growing the things you actually want, the leaves and flowers.

Matthew: Great point. Let's say, I know you've done side by side comparisons, but let's say you've got a plant in veg and you put it under an MH bulb and you have one that you put under an LED. What's the difference going to be like one month later?

Kevin: So, the plants that were grown under metal halide are probably going to be a little bit taller and the plants that are grown under LED are going to be a little bit bushier and stouter. In terms of overall weight of the plants, they're probably going to be about equal. The difference is that more of the actual weight of the plant under the metal halide bulbs was going to be put into stems, whereas under LEDs it's going to be mostly leaves getting ready to absorb more energy and have a great flower.

Matthew: So, will the price of LEDs come down kind of how computer chips are coming down? Are they at the same rate or is it a little slower? I mean where do you see the cost in one or two years versus where they're at right now?

Noah: Overall we see the price staying stable and maybe even going up a bit, and then coming down. The reason for that is if you look at a technology, LED lighting technology in general is still fairly new, especially compared to how old HPS and metal halide are. In general what we see is a trickle down technology. As the technology improves and we can take advantage of it, we will, and that will keep costs up for a bit, but just like we're seeing now where you can buy a laptop for $500 or even less, which was unheard of years ago, and as the technology catches up and stabilizes, we do think costs will come down. That's probably a couple years out.

Matthew: If we can just review. What's the biggest benefit for a grower to switch to LED today?

Noah: For a grower, it would be healthier, more disease and pest resistant plants, easier to maintain, better take rates in terms of cloning and going from seed, just healthier plants all around. We see constantly people switching from HPS to LED and they take a plant they're used to growing for five or 10 years, they put it under LED, and suddenly the leaves are thicker, the stalks are healthier, everything is better in the plant and that just makes it easier for a grower all around in their day to day operations.

Matthew: And then how about for the business owner that may be on the fence? He likes the idea of LEDs but not totally sure.

Noah: Well, obviously as a business owner, what they're most concerned with is the profitability. The reduced operating costs of LED is unquestionable at this point. There is no doubt that it does reduce costs, as Kevin talked about. There is a payback period, a sort of an ROI on the LEDs of six to 18 months, but once you get beyond that, you're making more money than if you had gone with the HID solution. You have reduced operating costs also in terms of HVAC that we spoke about and then of course there is also the increased quality that we covered earlier where if you have a higher end product, you're going to be able to sell it for a higher price point. You have increased profit in terms of lower operational costs and increase in terms of your profitability, in terms of your costs of what you're able to charge for your product.

Matthew: Kevin and Noah, as we close, what's the best way for people to learn more about Black Dog LED?

Noah: The best way is probably our site. We spend a lot of time maintaining it and making sure it's up to date with current information, as LEDs do tend to change rather quickly. Like I mentioned, our FAQ page is a great educational page and we do have a blog, a knowledge center on our site where we're constantly releasing new information, new findings, new research that we're doing so the website is a great resource. To be honest, we love talking to customers. We spend probably about half of our day here talking on the phone and chatting with customers on our site. Everybody that answers the phone has to grow with our lights and we've added it up and we're about 100 years of growing experience between the guys answering the phone here, and/or gardening specific experience. Even if it's not lighting specific, we get people calling with weird diseases and questions about their garden and we're happy to answer those as well, because we do love what we do, so gardening is just part of the fun.

Matthew: Well, thanks so much to Kevin and Noah from Black Dog LED. We really appreciate you taking the time to educate us about the latest technologies in LED.

Kevin: Thank you.

Noah: Thank you.

Matthew: Thanks so much.

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

Adam Scorgie – Documentary Filmmaker of The Union & The Culture High


Don’t miss this candid conversation with Adam Scorgie creator of two gripping documentaries about the cannabis industry, The Union: The Business Behind Getting High and his most recent work, “The Culture High.” Adam has unique and entertaining way of breaking down both the dysfunction of marijuana prohibition and the opportunity that lies ahead. The Culture High interviews some of the most outspoken cannabis advocates including: Sir Richard Branson, Joe Rogan, Dr. Lester Grinspoon and more. Visit

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Each week I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry a little more at that is C-A-N-N-A One of the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years. Find out with your free report at That is C-A-N-N-A Now here is your program.

Today we have with us Adam Scorgie who produced and narrated the documentary The Union: The Business Behind Getting High in 2007 and his latest The Culture High that was released this month. Adam's documentaries are gripping, entertaining, and very informative and I highly suggest if you haven't seen The Union please go see that and The Culture High just came out. We'll tell you how you can see that, but it is incredible as well. So I'm super excited to have Adam on the show today. Welcome Adam.

Adam: Well, thank you very much for having me.

Matthew: Sure. For people that aren't familiar with you can you just give a little bit of background about who you are, how you got into documentary filmmaking and specifically into the cannabis genre for your first two documentaries?

Adam: Sure. I'm a comedian producer. I went to film school in New York, I actually started in front of the camera and was acting in stuff first and then when I came back to Canada in 2003 really a lot of people that I went to high school with and stuff had now gotten into the marijuana business in Canada and British Colombia. So I wanted to do a film about how this billion-dollar industry seems to function while remaining illegal and why was it so accepted by culture for everyone that we point the finger at growers for being the bad guys yet they were the life source of a lot of their businesses.

So we dove into this film The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, which we thought, would be something we put together in a year and four years later we finished this film and it became an accidental gold classic. It went viral online and almost everyone that has ever tried to look for any research on marijuana has come across The Union and has accidentally become which is total honor to us, kind of this like the one you want to get into to be in there understand what's going on start with The Union.

Then when we thought we were done with drug policy films and cannabis films then The Culture High came about. We were done we didn't want to do another drug policy film or anything about cannabis. But really this online audience that we built up over the years had said they wanted another one and then we just received thousands of emails and social media messages and everything else so we just finally said we embraced it and said, "Okay let's do it." Then we went to Kickstarter and the audience supported us loud and clear. We raised $240,000 in 42 days and people said, "Damn right! Let's go make another one."

Matthew: So get some context there. I mean that's way, way more than a normal Kickstarter right?

Adam: Way more and at the time it was actually, it was like the sixth highest grossing in film and video project in Kickstarter history. But since then you've had Veronica Mars go on there, Zack Braff, some other really big people are coming and not just out of there but it was, at the time, it was the largest, six largest film and video and it was like the third largest or second largest documentary and it's still is in the top 20. I mean it's really hard to raise anything $100 especially in the film genre. So it's amazing to me this audience that had fell I love with The Union that just was like, "Yes, go please make another one."

Matthew: It's so funny you say that because it seemed to be people that like documentaries or have Netflix I bump into them and we are taking about a couple of things. We talk about The Union and it comes up and immediately the conversation deviates for like 10 or 15 minutes just about all the things that you saw on The Union. So I think you've got a very passionate following that's interested in the subject matter for sure.

Adam: It's a total sloop and something that it's an honor I mean it's weird for us to even say it because we dot consider ourselves those kind if guys we are small-town guys and it's weird to say to people are like, "I'm a big fan." And I'm like, "Wow! That's weird we have fans." And then they want to take pictures and things and of course I'm honored. I'll take any picture, I'll do a thousand of them if people want and sign photos whatever. I can't even believe people want to take pictures with me and sign photos it's awesome. But it's just weird that this film because we did everything you are not supposed to do. We borrowed family money, it was our first film, we did a documentary which just documentary stands for making no money and we did it about cannabis which.

It seems like now everybody thinks, well everybody is getting into cannabis business and there is TV shows, but we The Union like it was really taboo. Before I found my director Brett Harvey and the original crew Steven and Brad the three of us no one wanted to touch it because like it's so controversial. That's why even at the time getting Joe Rogan in the first film to talk about and not just talk about it but talk about his personal youth back in 2005 that was a big thing for mainstream NBC guy that was hosting a couple of shows to come out and be like, "Yeah, I smoke weed. I don't just think it's okay for people to smoke it I smoke it."

Matthew: Yeah, he spoke about it in a way that was just so candid but also made people look at it in a different way and that was very refreshing. I mean 2007 wasn't that long ago but in the evolution of what's happening with cannabis now it kind of is. How do you feel things have changed since your first documentary The Union and now The Culture High?

Adam: Things have changed so much and that's what's actually made it really tough for us to do The Culture High because The Union really kind of opened the door for a lot of people with knowledge of like basic knowledge. If you were someone that had any experience or done some research on cannabis like you'd get the hardcore activist going, "I knew everything in there." and it was like, "Yeah, but this wasn't targeted for you. it was targeted for people like us the film makers and we went into it just wanting to do an expose of this industry and we were like holy cow what we knew about cannabis and the drug world is completely wrong." So we evolved from there. Then now doing The Culture High people are way more sophisticated and smart. So it was really tough for Brad, the director and myself and the team to really find a way to be different, bolder.

We've got better filmmakers and the expectations on us was incredible. There were times where Brad and I were in tears because some people literary were expecting our film to change the world. The messages we get they are like, "You guys are the key." And I'm like, "Wow!" Pressure is so overwhelming. Majority of the time when you make a sequel it sucks. Dog shit film that just cashed in but that wasn't the case for us. we certainly didn't cash in because we went and borrowed more money from my dad again to make this one on top of Kickstarter and everything because to make something bigger and better than The Union we had to really step it up. So it was really a big challenge but I absolutely think Brad fucking ...excuse I don't know if I can use that language.

Matthew: Sure, sure, go ahead.

Adam: He absolutely nailed it on this one. I'm not saying that because I'm the producer. I watch a lot of documentaries and I know story structure and I know cinematography and everything else and I think Brad, and I man I'm just reading the reviews online from the audience and some from the critique world. 70% from the New York Times and everything and News Weekly and Film Journal were all really positive. Yeah Hollywood Reporter and LA Times smashed us but that's to be accepted that's just the way, you can't win them all. But when you look at the audience reviews it's like Brad's vision connected perfectly with what we were trying to do and with what I think the audience wanted to see.

Matthew: Yeah, and I should take a pause here and say that the way this is edited or made I'm not sure what you guys did here but I'm used to this long pauses or things in documentaries. This is just going and going and going and going and you get one great tip and then you get another and then it circles back to an earlier point and it's just there is the sense of moving. There is no slowness about it. it really keeps the attention so that was incredible. How did you do that?

Adam: Matt I'm so glad you noticed that because even though you say you don't know that's a skill that that's new. That's something in the new age and it's Brad's style and actually I know some other really big directors that copied that in their last films because like you said docs have this thing where they hang on things for a long time.

Matthew: Yes.

Adam: It's like a long drawn out thing and Brad is the new generation that grew up on YouTube where it's quick cut short videos, quick points don't linger there too long. So it's really cool that actually you noticed because that was something that Brad was really like literary as soon as there is nothing to the moment, there is no more emotion that can be added, no more education, no more hanging on. Actually because I come with this generation when I watch other docs and like they are winning all these awards and I go and I'm like, "Whoa! Can I move this scene along? Like could have cut it." and I hate doing that as a filmmaker because I hate it when people do that to us because when you have your point of view whenever you get nods like that from filmmaker to filmmaker, it's a style thing. There is no longer something to make the film better just your style would do it one way my style would do it a different way. You have to be very cognoscente of that when people, other filmmakers are like, "What do you think?" and do notes.

A lot of times when I do notes, I'll just say, "Listen I would have done things differently but that's my style. As far as your film and what you are trying to do I think it's great? Don't adjust that. But it's interesting to see that you and I'm just reading all the stuff online and it's really resonating with the audience, which is what we hoped because we made this film the audience demanded it so we made it for them. We didn't make it for us and we didn't make it for anything other than them. So even if the critics were smashing us although it as really tough on Brad because he had never been ousted that bad before because The Union kind of went under the radar so we didn't have the big critics looking at it. That's why I look at kind of differently and Brad is like, "Dude the guy from Variety just smashed me and ripped my name like four times," and I'm like, "Dude its Variety who cares. It's huge.

Not many docs even get a review on Variety so just got in there." But here is what was pretty nasty because he was deliberately trying to get people not to watch the film you could tell. That's the interesting thing and we talk about this in The Culture High where people are defending their egos and defending their badge of identity so the facts wont penetrate on them because they are so stuck in their team versus the other team that you can throw all the information in the world and they are not going to move just because then it makes them challenge who they are as a person.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: So you can see even in some of our reviews that it's like they are totally targeting the issue and not targeting the film. In fact, I won't say who, but one of the negative reviews actually opened up saying, "This film is only for stoners and people of that mind," and I was like, really? I was like we involved Richard Branson; we're getting invited to Parliament to screen it. It is far more than just something for stoners. But you clearly put yourself on one side of the argument and then you are branding people into a certain category, which is what we are trying to get past and look beyond that. The Culture High really steps further the marijuana and talks much more about human culture and why we get caught up in this argument. So it's fascinating to see everything you talk about in the film is even apparent in some of the reviews we've got.

Matthew: No you mentioned Parliament; was there some members of parliament that watched The Union as well?

Adam: Yeah, we were. The Union got invited to parliament hill in Canada, which is our congress building. I thought it was a prank at first. I got an email and they were like, "We'd like you to screen your film first hand and there is MPs," and I was like get out of here. I called them I'm like, "Is this real?" and they are like, "Yeah, yeah would you come?" and I was like, "Yeah, this is like the parliament hill in Odawa?" they are like, "Yap, yap." And I'm like, "So would be like a building down the road or?' and they are like, "No, we want you to come." And I was like, "Hell yeah." so yeah, we had a full screening, it was 35 people; there was two senators, several MPs from all different parties; there was the liberals, the conservative, and a whole bunch of junior members that came through. It was amazing to see this.

When I was talking to kind of our host I said, "Why made you guys invite us?" and he said, "Honestly we've received so many dumb letters about your movie that finally we were just like let's just bring here. We've received because the way we think ..." and he made an interesting point that, "Handwritten letters are still very important to your local congressman or politicians because they equate each handwritten letter, not a signed petition but something you write about a pint. They think that about 500 other people agree with your letter you are just the only one that's taken the time to write it." and they received hundreds of letters about the same subject they equate that into thousands.

Matthew: Interesting.

Adam: So that's why they finally brought me out there and now they are looking to bring a second role. We are actually looking. There is talks about getting Justin Trudeau to attend because he's seen union and he is looking at a decriminalized or legalization model for Canada so it would be interesting to see if someone that's potentially the new wanting to be the prime minister of Canada would be attending my movie. We'll do the screening in Odawa on November 26.

Matthew: That's incredible. That's incredible.

Adam: Yeah.

Matthew: Shaping the national debate there. That's great.

Adam: It's opening minds, I mean, that's ultimately when we finish the film is what our goals was because people say, "Oh, if you are an activist." I'm like, "I'm not an activist I'm a filmmaker." "But you make these films." I'm like, "Yeah and a great filmmaker goes for truth. That's what we do." So you can say I'm on one side or the other but the other side has been presented so long for Canada and the drug war that now you are just hearing them on the side. That's what we will say is like, "Look don't take everything we say verbatim. We are filmmakers; we could have made a mistake. But if our film gets you after either one that you are watching, you go start doing your own research and come to your own informed conclusion, that's a great film. We've won at that point. That's all that matters because if a film resonates with you so much like you even said in conversation you guys end up talking about it, makes you want to do more research, makes you want to look things up, that's what a great film does it inspires you to go learn more.

A shitty film is like the ones that you forget you've even watched. "Have you seen that movie?" "Oh yeah I've watched this one." That's a bad movie. You want it to be other way around and we know we've accomplished that with The Union because it's become this little film that nobody should have seen that's been viewed well over 10 million times if you add up all our views in all the various different platforms. Now it appears that The Culture High is right on that next step. I mean we've only been released for five days and already there is porn sites all over which there is good and bad with that, I'm hoping all of it people that porned it they did like it. I think people often with the movie industry think like, "Oh you guys made a movie, so you are making it like you did it so I don't need to pay for your shit." But that is not the case especially for documentaries. We have not did it or done it. We are struggling all the time like any other person out there, like there is months where it's like, "Do we have enough for groceries this month? Do we have enough to pay our bills?"

Matthew: Sure.

Adam: That's why we took kind of like a hybrid model because we couldn't do just a Louis CK model. We wanted to but we had to get presales to get into production. So like I mentioned earlier on top of Kickstarter I had my stepfather put in another 150,000 into this film and we had presales from those four films, we have presales from super channel, we had our tax credit all those things that you get a gap financing from the bank. So the total budget was around 650.

Matthew: Okay.

Adam: Right and people are like, "What did you spend that on?" Well traveling, when Richard Branson is going to give you a free 45 minutes, you have to just be there on the day and usually they give you three days' notice, "Oh I'm ready this Friday at this time so be here." So it's like fly the whole crew, all your equipment, hotels and then I'm paying my guys because this isn't a hobby for us. Brad Steven my director and the other producer if they are not paid, they've got to work on reality shows and stuff so a regular production. Then you've got your payroll. Anyway not to get you bored with that.

So we couldn't do the hybrid, we did a hybrid release we wanted to do like a Louis CK thing and just say, "Here it is $5 everyone in the world is going to have it boom!" So filmmakers if you are not on Netflix and you are not in certain markets then you don't exist and when we go to try to do something else if we weren't on those platforms people don't even care that you made a film. You're like, "Oh, It's been viewed in the internet 100 million times." They'll be like, "I don't care. Is it on Netflix, did you go through proper distribution channels?" Like you are shunned in the industry.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: So we wanted to do a hybrid so we presold it before phase four they bought the first film, jumped onboard, and bought the second film right away. So then we thought like well we don't want the rest of the world to wait so then Vimeo approached us with their new VOD platform at Sundance and we were like, "Listen with your following and because this is a film of purpose this is what you guys need to do." And we agreed and we actually disagreed with our sales agent. He wanted to do a traditional release that would have held it up to where Europe and stuff wouldn't have been able to see it for probably another year and we said no way. We said we want to go to Vimeo and we sealed it. For the first couple of days, we had it just download only and now we've made it available for rent so essentially for $5 you can rent the film. For a price of a cup of coffee or hamburger you can support filmmakers that put four years of their lives and 150,000 of their parents retirement money, you can support them. I think that's a fair price for the content we put together.

Matthew: Yeah and then also you can watch it right on your phone very easily without any plugins or anything like that which is very convenient.

Adam: It's got one although it's supposed to be, there has been a few messages out of the couple thousands but not many. They've had struggles. Now I'm not a great guru of that but they are able to transfer and they can put it right on their Apple TV or Hoku or which is in there?

Matthew: Roku.

Adam: Roku. They can put it all in that as well so you can watch it on your TV as well as your mobile devices. But just this way it's available and there is 65 countries that have purchased it already. I mean we've had the Philippines, Israel, you name it, I look on their, I'm like, wow Norway, Philippines, Malaysia this is awesome. Even if it's a couple of sales, you would have never gotten anything there before so we are really hoping and we really went against the industry. The industry was saying "Absolutely not. You guys have made an incredible film, we are going to do a traditional release, we are going to go here in Europe, we are going to do this, we are going to do that." and we were like, "No we think it's better to go this way so the whole world can have it at the same time." So on October 17 just a few days ago, the Vimeo on demand made it so that if you are in the UK and you want to watch the film, it's there.

Matthew: That's great. That is great. Things are changing really fast. When you talk about Louis CK, just for the people that don't know, he is a standup comedian that released one of his specials or I think $5 and kind of disrupted the industry with that because it was just no comedy central, no HBO, just on a website, boom! Download it; watch it and a lot of other entertainers and filmmakers are kind of following that model. I welcome that because it seems why not disintermediate where we can? I mean there is still opportunity for other channels but I like the direct channel myself.

Adam: That's the thing it's like because I've written I take my time to connect with the audience like, "Why didn't you just do Louis CK?" I was like, "Two big differences; one Louis CK is super famous and he has incredible following. He is arguably probably the comedian that is at most at the top of his game right now for standup comedy I would say. He is probably at the top. Then the second thing is, is that to go shoot an hour special I'm not taking anything away with like writing and everything else but actual physical production is much easier than going and shooting a documentary that took us two years by travelling all over the world as far as cost.

And he's got other jobs where if he puts it out there and it doesn't work he's got his writing job, he is on TV, endorsement. For us if we put it out there and it doesn't work the risk is all on us, we don't pay our bills, we are in trouble. So we wanted to do a hybrid of that and that's why like I said that's why we liked the Vimeo thing where it's like men we can still offer something like to our fans plus we had presales in place. We had certain distributors and buyers so when you do that they own certain rights to your film so you can't just say, "Well I'm going to do this." they are like, "No, no I pre-bought it a year and a half ago so you can't do that."

Matthew: Okay.

Adam: So just giving people a heads-up because I love the model of Louis CK and it's really interesting for filmmakers like especially if you are in the spot. Because me and the director Brett Harvey keep talking about like if we could find a way to do real Hindi film like for $100,000 or something and then just totally say, "Hey guys we are putting it out here for you guys pay $5." It's kind of that model now where it's tough for anybody else to say that it should be much more. Like Joe Rogan talked about this on this podcast too because he did an online special like that and he was just like, "You can't charge more than $5 because he is like even Joe respects Louis CK to the fucking nine" and he was like, "Louis CK is a man and if he is charging $5, you have to have a real big ego to think you can charge more than him for an hour special."

Matthew: Right.

Adam: So Joe is like that is kind of shaped the industry standard that's what it did. It's $5 for an hour special.

Matthew: Now switching gears back to The Culture High film, is there any moments where you are in a screening and the audience reaction surprised you?

Adam: I get that all the time. Brad added a lot of humor to the film that you notice so much more when there is an audience. So there are certain parts where I thought, "That's kind of humorous," but when you see an audience and everybody is laughing you are like, "Wow! This is a documentary and we are making them laugh like a comedy." Then also there is parts I love, I guess it's not surprised but I love to see is when the story of Jason and his son Jayden comes on and I start seeing people. I look and I see the guys trying not to cry because they don't want to be like, "No, I did not come to a documentary so that I can cry." So they are trying to rub their eye on their shoulder and kind of look tough. The girls are just there letting it go. So I love it. It's my favorite part.

I actually usually stand up and I get back in the audience and I love to see like that's the part for me as a filmmaker that you are just, it's like I can't do anything else. When you see your film affecting an audience like that, affecting emotions, possibly affecting future change how do you go back to your paycheck that just says, "Here is numbers on a piece of paper. You did it." It's just never as fulfilling as that. Those parts I love. Then the one part that actually that has really surprised me is the opening scene with the archival footage of the raid. I didn't realize how many people found that really emotional. There's been a lot of people actually cry from that because they are such animal lovers when they show the dog getting shot. Spoiler alerts for people listening here, there is a lot of them.

Matthew: My wife cried during that section with Jayden, maybe we talk a lot about this subject of seizures and CBD and so forth on this show but maybe you can give a little background on what that part of the film is about with Jayden and his dad.

Adam: Yeah, well that is I mean right now and you've heard the National Epilepsy Board come out and say this is some strong evidence. I mean there's parents that are going from their kid seizuring three to 500 times a day. They take an organic non-psychoactive cannabis oil, which is usually high in CBD low NTHC, really tough to get right now because of a lot of snake oil out there because it's not regulated and controlled. But people go their children go from that many seizures a day down to one to two a week or sometimes a month. Then parents are like, "I don't care if I am breaking the law you are going to have to come in with an army to get me to stop giving something to my child that's giving him his life back."

Matthew: Right.

Adam: Right, and at that point, I'm even at a thing where even you still get amazed there saying, "Oh, pseudoscience" Like, "Listen I have children, if my children from having that many seizures to living a good life, I don't care if there is even a placebo effect benefit and you are not going to tell me. I don't care if it's regulated." That's where actually in Colona when we did a screening; we donated a majority of our ticket sales to this young girl Kayla that suffers from the same thing. She is only a year and a half and her father was former RCNP and he was totally against and thought, "Oh this legalization and medical cannabis is all bullshit. It's just people who want to smoke weed." Until it happened to his own granddaughter and now he's come out saying, "I was wrong and I now understand why people have been fighting so hard and why this point is important to them."

As you saw in the film in the culture, I loved the way Brad did it where then he showed some of these key arguments that the other politicians have said right. After that powerful section where you have Barbara Bush and then you have Mitt Romney and these people saying, "Isn't there things of importance you want to ask?" I will give the broadcaster a credit in that because she tries then she is like, "This is important to some people." And he is like, "Shouldn't we be thinking about things like the economy, like the Iran situation. We have tremendous things but you want to talk about pot? Sure, sure I think it should be." And it's funny because some of our critics go, "That's out of context."

And it gets completely in context. You see where you think this is a stupid issue because cannabis isn't in your life, you are like, "Your argument is stupid I don't really care. I'm not into this kind of movie." Until it happens to a family member and given the ending of a film, he is like, "You believe it until it happens to your daughter, your sister, your brother or somebody you care about." Then you go, oh wow now I get it. But do you?"

That's what's changing things now and that's what we talk about in the film and what I think what's really changed drug policy from when we did The Union is access to information through Smartphones and sharing has quadrupled. Now you can do it like a bazillion times from when we did The Union. So now information, personal stories like this of children that are having dramatic results can be shared around the world with this person's iPhone. You can put it there show the results and boom! It's real-time they are filming it in good quality, it goes on the internet and it can get attention and you can share it in ways that you couldn't before. Politicians can be called on their bullshit like they couldn't before too. I bring this up in a lot of interviews when in a clip we are having a trailer and it's in The Union we have Ron Reagan, he's doing a press conference, he is like, "This new information and I'm disappointed that the media hasn't shown it more than they already have. That they believe marijuana can be the most dangerous drug that is in use in our society today."

When Ron Reagan said that on that platform, you thought even if you had personal experience with it you are like, "Maybe I didn't do it or maybe he's got some information I don't know about. Holy shit! He is running for president. He became [SP] shit." But nowadays when somebody starts arguing like you would Google pot med and be like, "What study are you referring to because I'm going to look right now so I can get the information for myself. Because I understand pot gets pretty hawky and it's based on money more than it is about serving the people so why don't you tell me what study you are referring to. Oh you don't have it off the top of your head because you are bullshitting? Got you." You couldn't do that before. You can do that to them now which really makes it interesting which is why we added that internet section into the film because that's where you are seeing in our opinion why drug policy has changed so much more in the last five years than it has in the last 40.

Matthew: It's unbelievable the contrast. These news actors seem to be regurgitating the same talking points over and over and over again and then when you have someone like Richard Branson come in and you can tell he's thought about this and he also is a person that kind of bridges several generations. He appeals to a younger generation all the way up to my grandmother and he can speak in a way that's like, "Wow this is so much more real than the news actor big network just regurgitating points from their teleprompter."

Adam: The whole thing of the way music needs to change. I love how Joe Rogan brings up in his podcast all the time. Think about some the very premise of how music's presented, it's fake and bullshit.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: You've got people pretending they're not reading from a teleprompter when they are. You've got advertisers that pay for your airtime, so you have to adhere to them. You're putting on makeup as a fucking guy right, to try to look good to appeal to some idea, which they think the news should be told. The whole thing is bullshit. You are wearing a suit, you're doing all these worth, I'm sure most of them would rather show up in T-shirt and jeans and have no makeup. But this is the whole design that we're in it's just bullshit and then even the way they got to do their voice they like, "Tonight at seven we have some major issues coming across." Instead you say like, "Tonight at seven, there are major issues or some crime in fact we're going to bring it to you at seven." Right? The whole thing is bullshit and the whole way it's presented is bullshit from one step to the other and then when you really understand how the advertising dollars work around it, you see Russell Brunt is coming on bigger games just right now saying like look, enough is enough, the news always spreads bullshit.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: And like we bring up in the Culture High is that Houston is just people defending their egos or defending their badge of identity. So even though they know what they are saying is bullshit, they're hired by this company, it's the people they play baseball with and the team sports thing and that is their badge of identity. They're not going to step outside of that and really kill themselves from their immediate team. We're on Blue Team or Red Team like if I step in the middle, then I'm no longer on red team.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: That's what we try to show in the Culture High in which you're trying to see again with the internet and shows like yours and podcast and videos like, that's shifting. People are now getting shift to that right, and that's why I think podcast and stuff are so popular now because you can now hear, like somebody for two hours and someone can bullshit for 10 minutes. So I do regular mainstream media interviews still because you have to view them and there can be a lot of bullshit in there. You only up there for a couple of minutes right. Very easy to just kind of tore the line and say the generic things and you know what kind of questions they're going to ask and the talking points but when we do a live podcast or do something like that for an hour or two hours, it's really tough to pretend to be someone you're not. If you're on there for long enough keep looking to get a sense of who you are.

Matthew: That's true.

Adam: And it's funny because actually that's where talking with some of these people I know they do podcast they say some guests are like no way. My guess not coming on there for an hour and a half and I was like why, because then you actually get a sense of who he really is or she is.

Matthew: Yes. The long format is totally different. It really is so much more comes out, it's amazing.

Adam: And you've gone in there relaxed, kind of situation where just someone can be themselves and they can talk as they want and it's the way the future for me. And you are going to always have radio and news for the most part because they're localized right, and that's where a lot of them now are realizing because they're losing so they just focus on that. They just stay localized so they can stay relevant in their local community but this new age I mean I'm a podcast fanatic and that's why literally when someone says, hey I'll just podcast to the young guys. Try to explain to me why I should do the show and I joke I'm like you had me at podcast, I mean, I love that platform I'm down.

Matthew: Yes.

Adam: You don't have to tell me what you did and who you interviewed. I want to help you, I like what you're doing and I've been there to and in create of hustle, I just, I hope you do well. I want to see you do well; you want to take time with me, awesome. I'm flattered that you want to these flats for a while.

Matthew: So you did a great job of highlighting the evolution of police from kind of this protective layer into really it seems like soldiers now, there's no other way to say it with the equipment and so forth. Do you feel like that's accelerating, getting more militant or do you think it's waning in a little bit now that the spotlight is being put on this police forces and for example on Ferguson, we got a good look of these in actions. Do you feel that it's accelerating or slowing down?

Adam: That was the part for me that shocked me the most. Of what we learnt going into this one is talking to the ex-cops and how they saw it breakdown. Like from when they started their careers, Neil Franklin is now a member of law enforcement against prohibition he's like, "I personally experienced it. When I started as a beat cop [SP], I grow in communities and kids wanted to see my handcuffs, they wanted to ask me what the job was like, it was like we were part of the community. By the end my career, nobody wanted to talk to us like even if we wanted to help a lady cross the road, she's like don't touch me pig, you're going to rat on my friend or whatever."

They connected and this is why they became members of law enforcement against prohibition, almost directly to the drug issue. Because you had seen family members, friends or neighbors or relatives get nailed for non-violent offences where cops are trying to get their string of arrest because they get paid by arrests and the easiest way to get is simple possession. If you have it on you, got you! That's all the evidence I need, possessing boom I get my quote up for so many arrests per month. So what that did is not only just to breakdown the community or breakdown the trust with the cops but what the cops told us when we're interviewing them, these ex undercover cops said, in order to prevent crime, we have to be in with the community and get information from them.

That's how we can prevent a violent thing from happening. But when the community no longer wants to talk to you because you keep squeezing on their relatives, family members and friends for minor drug charges to just try to get the bigger drug dealer, well now we can't prevent crime. So when we can't prevent crime, the only crimes you want to go after are the ones we can solve which is easy one, which is just simple possession or minor trafficking.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: While the big drug dealers rarely got caught because they have the money to defend themselves and the court system is one with money. You're a multi-million dollar drug dealer, you win, right? If those police made one fucking mistake in your arrest, you'll have the lawyer that you're paying half a million dollars for, he will find it and he will get you off. So the cops are even discouraged like, why go after those guys. Let's go after simple possession and minor trafficking. We can nail the guy while he has it on him, got him! Don't have to do anymore, we get our quote up and that was a part he was like, wow I'm listening to this and that's why murder conviction rate. We talk about this in the film, back in like the '80s was actually like really high, I mean like 85%, 85% of the time there was a murder, there's was a meaning that they arrested somebody charged for that murder.

Now that it's got to 60% despite having crazy advancements in technology with GPS tracking and cellphones and DNAs and forensics and everything else and the cops say that it's almost directly because the community looks it as us and them. They don't want to help cops anymore. The whole thing when the DEA analyst have interviewed Sean Dunagan talked about this when we interviewed him that his dad was a beat cop to and stayed in New York when went to work he put on sports coat, he put on his vest and his gun and his badge in jeans and boots. But he leads you look like a civilian other than when you have a hidden gun and his badge, like walking in streets and he'd work the community, he's like now cops are always wearing like military gear and don't even seem welcoming to go talk to them.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: It's so crazy to think and this is the part that gets me because I'm not a real activist. Like I said I'm a filmmaker but this is the part that really pisses me off and why everyone should be upset with this issue is that, cops do not have a financial incentive to go out after murders and rapists, okay.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: I'll say that again, they do not have a financial incentive to go out after murders and rapists. To the most heinous crimes that you can possibly do, you know what they do have a financial incentive to go for, drug dealers. You know why, because they get proceeds of crime, they get seizures of assets. So literally me as a father, if my daughter gets raped, I want that clarity number one. It's not the precinct clarity number one because if they vouch the guy that did it, they don't get seizures of assets, they don't get proceeds of crime, they don't get to congress and ask for more money.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: They don't have incentive to go after them. Yes you're going to get good cops like anywhere else that are like, this is disgusting, I want to help but the precinct itself does not have a financial incentive to make that arrest because it's one arrest. If they spend three years working on that one arrest, like we say in the film, they even go out to the street massacres and 15 arrests.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: So they don't measure by this one is a drug dealer he's worth this much, this one's a rapist he's worth this much, they'll always the same when they go to congress they're just numbers on a page. So that part is the most broken part to me, works like wow so precinct literally say we putting 80% of our time just go after drug dealers and proceeds of crime. All other crimes get 20% of our effort. That's bullshit!

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: That's the way it is. And this is why there are so many ex-cops, there now part of law enforcement against prohibition because they've seen it. They've seen families let down. They've seen that this is not working and they've seen that the way if you want to stop that big drug dealer that's a violent criminal, the only way to do that is to take wave as profit margin and the only way to dry them up, is to regulate and control the product, then he's no longer needed and he goes down.

Matthew: Yeah. That kind of does tales with the private prisons. Could you talk a little bit about that because that was alarming to hear the details about the private prisons and the private profit motive?

Adam: Well that's it. I mean James puts a bet where he just like, he just shakes his head and you're junked either from the young Turks which is an awesome online news site where they can be honest. And he just says, we've lost a handle how ridiculous some of the things we do in our society. He's like we're going to give people a profit motive to put people in prison. I wonder what's going to happen, oh the United States starts incarcerating their public more than any other nation in the world, weird. And with the easiest conviction that we just went through in the interview, simple possession.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: You've got it on you and stop, oh I think I smell something or oh you look suspicious, stop frisk boom got it, done. Possession charged. And then I don't know if your listeners or any of you guys have been through the justice system, I have for a few things and the justice system, and we say this in the film to, spoiler, spoiler, spoiler, spoiler, there's clearly one law for the rich and powerful and one law for everybody else when it comes to the drug law. The drug law is clearly demonstrate that because we have celebrities they got caught with all kind of drugs everything from heroin, crack and it's a big joke, ha-ha he's in rehab again. And how come you can still travel to other countries?

How come you can still do all this stuff that other people lose when they give you exact same thing. If you're an average American citizen and you get charged with simple possession, you lose your right to education, you lose your funding grand that you can get, you no longer travel to other countries, you have a federal offense that'll prevent you from getting a job.

So it really fucks you far more than the drug itself. And that's the part that is really starting to sink in with people, people were like, oh yeah great, like we need people harming themselves with something else and I was like yeah. But harming them with a criminal conviction taking their right to education and preventing them from travelling so that you and I as taxpayers have to pay for them to go through the justice system? That's far worse. I'd rather someone just smoke weed; I don't care even if he does cocaine in this house, really? I don't. You're harming yourself, if harm is the issue because that's what people are concerned about they sold it very well.

If harm it's a legitimate issue why we should make something illegal or legal, then the North American diet should be made illegal tomorrow because it puts far more people into the medical system than all illegal drugs do, all! If you combine all the illegal drugs every year and the deaths from them, it's below 30,000. The deaths from the United States alone, poor diet and physical inactivity are well over 150,000 every year. So its harm is the thing, the number it's just not there. But that's not the truth, that's the thing that we're trying to show is that isn't it. That's what you can sell it on, it's a great platform. We need to protect the children, the children, what about the children? We always go back to the children.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: Right well if you want to protect the children you need to educate them, you need to put faith cards in place and regulate and control the product so that somebody doesn't sell your 10-year-old weed if you have the money to buy it. That's what you need to put in place and then it's not around shady characters that are going to introduce some two other dangerous things and put them into other bad situations.

Matthew: So true.

Adam: And then if you again if that's the thing it's like I've had my family go through addiction, I've had one of my best friend go through addiction and people are like, "Wow! You've experienced, so like don't you think?" And I was like yeah and you know what would have been the worst thing for my family members and my friends, is criminalizing then when they were trying to battle their addiction. Both of them are lucky they never got caught, right.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: Because we also came from pretty well of families that could help us go to rehab and get us on track but I couldn't imagine that their struggle was hard enough. I couldn't imagine how that is from someone that is coming from a poor economic situation and how they're trying to get their life back on track even if they wake up in the morning and they like, "That's it. I'm going to be sober and get my life back on track and I'm going to do this." But they have criminal record and they go to job after job after job after job and they're like, "Do you have a record?" "Yes I do." "Next." "Do you have a record?" "Yes I do." "Next." "Do you have a record?" "Yes I do." Can I get hired? Well of course every one of those is like getting rejected by the girl that you fell in love with.

It's just more depressing, more depressing, more depressing and then the whole reason someone was usually addicted to a substance anyway it's their trying to self-medicate and the addict is trying to find an outside double means source to him. Connect with the world better or try to solve his problems through some kind of self-medication and then he gets rewarded trying to get his life back on track by getting rejected. He gets depressed he goes right down the rabbit hole and then if he has a criminal record, and you're going through the justice system, you don't have money to defend yourself, good luck. You're fucked. You're never going to get out of that situation.

Matthew: Now it is really that stacked against a lot of people when they get into that.

Adam: No. And this is the thing with people like what I don't care they shouldn't have made those mistakes, wrong because you know whose paying for them to go through the justice system? You.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: The taxpayer, right? So you want them to get like I do, I want them to get a second chance to get their life back on track, be contributors to society, pay their taxes. But when they can't get a job because they've got community damages for the same thing that our President, the current President, the current Prime Minister, pretty much everybody has done. But they didn't come from the White Family. To give them moral guidance, to help them off their feet when they made a mistake. They came from a shitty environment, they didn't have the money to help them in the justice system or given that right career goals to move forward and their life should be over because of that?

I disagree. I've made lots of mistakes. I would be one of those people. I've made mistakes, not drug charge, but I've had some other incidences where I've been through the justice system and luckily I had a very loving and supporting family that helped me, I could pay the legal bills you could get off because I was right, I wasn't doing anything really that wrong but the courts don't care, you have to provide evidence, they cost you a large money. You have to in gage a lawyer and if you don't have that, you fucked!

Matthew: Yeah. One of the facts that jumped out in the documentary was that the US has 25% of the world's prisoners.

Adam: And 25% of the world's population.

Matthew: Yes. That is a shocking statistic as you know, we're indoctrinated with land of the free and all these things growing up and it's like that cold hard fact suggests something else?

Adam: Well. And then to add to that is five the prisons where even when crime goes down in certain areas, the state has to pay for them to maintain an 80 to 90% occupancy rate. Even if the police go do their job and they reduce crime, the prison has to stay in a certain occupancy rate. So where did they get those numbers from? Easy arrest, simple possession. Got you, you're in prison. They're not getting the white collared crimes like the made-offs and stuff that are ripping off 1000 of people, those take forever. Like that guy was in a 6-year court process for one arrest.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: Way to much work for a cop and to be honest, most cops like in last year like really in an accounting major you don't even really know to get a guy like that.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: I'm not dissing the cops, white-collar crimes; we mention it in the film. HSBC was caught laundering billions of dollars for the Mexican cartels, red-handed. Nobody was jailed. They got fined and they got slapped on the wrist, that's it. What is the difference in them, as we say in the film we use a harsh other side, a mother of four gets caught selling $31 of marijuana and she gets 10 years. Like where is the justification of that? If you're laundering billions of dollars for the Cartel, you know that's blood money and you have deaths on your hands and a lot of them but no problem, it's a fine. He probably just wrote the check as soon as they walked out of the courtroom. So yeah, no problem that's it. It's like paying interest, here you go.

Matthew: And not only that, you can't find that HSBC story anywhere near the news as other big stories. It almost seems like it was buried.

Adam: Yeah. You have to really look, right? That's what's the great thing about docs and things like these. I know a couple of screenings people are like I'm quitting my HSBC account today. I'd no idea they did that, I'm done. It's cool I didn't even think about other people like in the audience were like you think that it hurt some I'm like listen, they're a giant company but I know as one of my best prime as a branch manager of a bank and they hate every account they will lose. So, hey if you own a couple of 100 accounts quit because of our movie, we bankrupt them but it might make them not shake my hand if they met me in person.

Matthew: Sure. Now turning back the clock to the Union, all your friends that were or still are in the industry like electricians or the realtors all the different people they are part of that network, is that still as liquidize as it used to be as legal...

Adam: Now and that's kind of the interesting thing where people always said, oh do you legalize own work? Almost all the guys I know that were breaking the law, they just went and got their federal licenses through Canada now. So now there's a legal option I'll just do it legally. Sure prices came down but a lot of people rather not risk going to jail like 10% lasts or 20 or whatever, I don't know the numbers but almost all of them, the only ones that didn't were the ones that already had a federal offence and they can't get their medical licenses.

Matthew: Okay.

Adam: I would say now I mean because there's so many people getting into the medical business probably not as liquidize but I know some guys who did then and still do it now because now a lot of them supply for the medical outlets and for the pharmaceuticals. The venture capitalization getting into the legit side of it, so there's opportunity there, right? To get into just a new market so it's still is very liquidize in BC there's no doubt. Matthew: Good. And I know that your father died and you inherited a nightclub, could you tell us a little bit about how that were like and how it changed your perception of alcohol safe, cannabis unsafe?

Adam: Alcohol is not safe.

Matthew: Hey, can you tell us how a little bit about how that was like and how that changed your perception of alcohol safe, cannabis unsafe?

Adam: Alcohol is not safe. In a night club there's no more destructive force than alcohol. In the all the people I know they are addicts it's that and alcohol it's the one that you can see somebody that they can be the coolest guy sober and then seriously get drank it's like they want to fight their best friends, they are just absolute retards, there's nothing worse than alcohol. I see in my family it's caused lots of problems, there's no more destructive drug on the planet and I used to sell it and it was okay and they advertise it as cool, sexy and awesome. Right, that's what everybody should do. That was kind of I had that epiphany. We didn't really talk about it in The Union but it was something I just had where people would totally look at these growers, it's like, they are grower with a scumbag.

I was like yeah but then I'm a night club owner and I sell you shit and people puke and get in a fight and they are like I'm going to fucking degenerate a business and I make profit of you getting wasted and hurting yourself to, what's the difference? And then of course night clubs, a lot of them not just mine but all over the world, really carter to drug dealers because drug dealers have disposable income and when you are in a cash business, who's your favorite client? The one that has trouble getting his money into banks and his much more willing to spend it than the guy that has troubles. Even someone who makes a million dollars legitimately a year, with tax with everything else, they are much more, they know how hard it is to earn that dollar so it's tougher. Even an average grower, even if he's only making a 150 grand a year he gets his big cash payout and it's tough to get all that money in the bank.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: So what do they do? They like to come to the nightclub and spend a lot of money. So we would treat them with more respect because we're like, "Oh, hey yeah. Use the VIP table, here's your bottle service, here's all these." And that's where I start looking at my soul like, "How am I any better?" Frank I'm going to point the fingers to you, he's drug dealer. I'm a drug dealer and I love your money and if I really have an issue with anybody selling any kind of drug whether it's cannabis, cocaine or whatever, then if you know they are selling it, you should reject their money when it comes to your business but nobody does.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: Somebody goes to Georgia or Oman who wants to buy a $20,000 suit, so I go ahead and say, Oh how are you going to pay? Cash. No problem, we'll take your cash. Or you want to buy a new car? I know guys who worked through the car dealership where I grew up that they got $50,000 in cereal boxes. One of my buddy's was an account processor; he'd get it and would just like, "Oh my God, what do I do with this?" And then they're like, "Put it here there's a form, do this and we'll slowly put into the bank account." Totally knowing where the money is coming from but that's the thing is. Okay if you have such issue with this industry, don't accept the money but every business does. So I think every business it's just as guilty. If they are going to point a finger and say that they're bad, then they should deny that business from their work but they don't.

Matthew: That's a good point. Can you tell us a little bit about TAG and how people could organize a screening?

Adam: Yeah. TAG is still going on now and I'm glad you brought that up because people think to think because now with the film is out on Vimeo, that oh what's the point of TAG? But TAG, TAG is a platform where if you or anybody in the United States, and sadly it's only in the United States for now. Once they organize the satirical screening, you log on like Facebook it's free not an intricate as Facebook to put I think an email and a password and a full name and maybe not even that. And then they will give you, you put in your zip code and then they'll give you a list of feeders that TAG works with and then you can pick a feeder.

You pick a backup feeder and you pick a date that works for you, how to organize a feeder to do all the heavy lifting and then they'll come back to you and say okay, in order for the screening to happen, you need to sell 70 tickets. You sell 70 tickets and you just bought the Culture High to your home theater for you and your local community to watch. The best part is if you don't hit the ticket threshold, no problem, nobody gets charged and the screening simply doesn't happen, it's that easy, like Kickstarter, it's all or nothing but it's the but, if you do make it happen, which means it's about 70 tickets. Which if you think about it, that's five of your friends selling five or 10 of your friends selling five tickets each and your pretty much there.

Matthew: Right.

Adam: You've got a local screening and you've got the best platform to see this movie because this movie was shot cinematically for the big screen, it plays best in there. We spend 21,000 on our sound so that's 5.1 Dolby digital sounds. It's 5.1 surround, it's made to theater and watching with your local community it's really the best way to experience it and to reward you for doing that and putting that together, you 5% of the ticket sales. And on top of that if you want to you can add a fundraiser function, where people can pay an extra dollar or two for every ticket and how to raise money for your local charity, maybe drug policy or awareness group or whatever on top of the event. So, anyone can do it, literally like I've had friends that hosted and in 24 hours they'd sold it out.

Well it's a great platform and even though it's already out on Vimeo, it doesn't matter because films like ours don't get a large, you don't get this giant commercial budget to be on your TV and all this places for advertisement. So, a lot of people you are going to invite won't know that's already out, right, so when you do the screening and they go after, "Man, where can I get this film?" I loved or maybe they didn't like it but they're like where can we find out more, and you're like actually it's available right now. So you doing a screening in your local community it's like kind of like the commercial for your local community that's it's coming out. And it gives you great opportunity that if you want to bring awareness to this issue, watching it in a full theater with your community is the best way for it to make an impact.

Matthew: I agree, that's such a cool; I'm pretty new to TAG that's sounds like a great tool.

Adam: I'm just waiting for it to go worldwide because it's so good, I love it, it doesn't cost to view anything and it gives them the opportunity, 5% is not a lot but the part that's cool about it for me is like I said earlier in this interview. Watching the film with an audience and seeing them being moved or react to it is so inspiring; it's what keeps us battling through despite how hard this industry is. And if you can get to be the filmmaker for a day where you get to host it and you get to say like, "Hey, I'm the young guy, I'm just out of high school, I'm in high school I organized this and made it happen." That's pretty cool.

Nowadays where there's a film maker you into and you can reach out and touch him in offense, you can say I want this work to come to my local theatre and you reach out, pull it, make it happen and it happens right, and then you get rewarded with 5% and you can call it your event. You can call it 'Stoner Jesus, Jesus Possessed' right, and you can make it whatever you want, it's your event for the night, it's not about us. It's your event so you can go up and thank the community and everything, it's awesome.

I love that people get that opportunity and that's why I'm in Houston but Buddy Robert put one together, he sold it out in 12 hours, he has a really cool broadcasting community down here, it's awesome to see him like so excited. You just met with a theater, they got into this beautiful brand new theater in Houston, they sold it out twice, they had to put it into a bigger venue and he so excited because its podcast presents and he gets to be the host and a film maker for a day, it's awesome. And it is like I said I can't stress enough it is the best way to see the film because if you want people to really as you've seen it, this film because it captures so quick, because we're hitting in so much information. If you distracted and you check your twitter and you look away and then you look back, you'll miss the section then later on you're like I don't get it and the film whatever you thought it was, this film is not a film where you can miss 10 minutes.

Matthew: Yeah.

Adam: They really throw things off and the only way now it is because people seem to be so all over the place to really get their attention, is in the theater. You're going to have to shut that damn phone off for a little bit right, and actually pay attention and when they go through the ride of the film with the theater, it will have way bigger impact than just trying to send them the DVD or get them to watch a link.

Matthew: Good points. And the lighting is amazing; you really did a good job on that.

Adam: We stepped up. We wanted to make sure that and that's the funny thing if you can tell some of our, and like I said, overall the critics have been great but the few of the negative critics, the one thing they can't knock us on, it's the quality of the film. That was even the LA Times said, he's like hey that Brett Harvey has his lighting and cinematography down! Looks amazing but then he went on to say some other negative shit. He couldn't knock us there right, he's like our cinematography and everything else was really good, so we did what we could.

Matthew: As we close, how can people follow you Adam?

Adam: Please go to my twitter, which is just @adamscoreG like a goal with a big G, a-d-a-m-s-c-o-r-e-G, you can go to The Culture High and follow that on twitter or you can Google either the Union of business behind getting high or The Culture High, they're both on Facebook. I'm really interactive with all of them, as you know you reach out connect your twitter and we connected I'm pretty, it's getting tougher these days, but I'm pretty respondent so if you want to reach out to me, I'm there.

Matthew: Awesome. Thanks so much Adam. We really appreciate this and again the film is The Culture High.

Adam: No problem. Thanks for having me on.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us review on iTunes, every five star review helps us to bring the best guest to you. Learn more at One of the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years. Find out with your free report at That's C-A-N-N-A Have a suggestion for an awesome guest at Email us We'd love to hear from you.

MJ Freeway – Managing your Cannabis Business from Seed to Sale

MJ Freeway Interview

Interview with Amy Poinsett (CEO) and Jessica Billingsley (COO) of MJ Freeway. MJ Freeway provides hosted software solutions for Cannabis cultivators, dispensary owners, and marijuana infused products companies.

Compliance, operations, and marketing is a huge part of running a successful business in the cannabis industry. Learn how to create an operations plan that will successfully manage all aspects of your business.

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Each week I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry. Learn more at That's C-A-N-N-A What are the five disruptive trends that will shape the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at That's C-A-N-N-A Now here's your program.

What is it like to be in the dead center of the cannabis industry creating the software that literally runs the operations or cultivators, dispensaries, and infused product companies? We're going to find out the answer to that question today in our interview with MJ Freeway executives. We are very fortunate to have on the show today Amy Poinsett who is the CEO of MJ Freeway and Jessica Billingsley, the COO of MJ Freeway. Welcome, Amy and Jessica.

Amy: Thank you so much. We're delighted to be here.

Matthew: Great.

Jessica: Thanks for having us.

Matthew: Can you give us a little background on yourselves and how you got started in the cannabis software business?

Jessica: Sure. This is Jessica speaking. I guess back in 2009 Amy and I had, each had businesses in kind of the techie geek space already. I had an IT company and she had a web development firm and although we didn't work directly with each other we shared a lot of friendly clients in common that used both of our services. I had invested in one of the first dispensaries in Boulder, Colorado and as the owner that owned an IT company was tasked with choosing, picking out, putting in software for the business.

Matthew: Okay.

Jessica: To run the business and there really wasn't anything super appropriate that worked to use and Amy and I were meeting on well how can we get involved, what can we do. I was sharing my investments and we were talking about how we could get involved more at the stuff that we knew how to do, the geeky stuff. Right?

Matthew: Yeah.

Jessica: And so she said, "Well, I've kind of been thinking about this transaction system," and I said, "Well, I think they really, what they really need to start with is a point of sale system." She very famously said, "Well, point of sale. How hard could that be? Let's do that."

Matthew: Sure. Wow.

Jessica: So, four and a half years later. Well, three products later. We have three products now.

Matthew: Wow. For people that don't know what MF Freeway does exactly, I mean obviously point of sale, but can you summarize? I know there's three parts to the suite but just kind of give a high level overview of the MJ Freeway package.

Amy: Absolutely. We're a business software platform and we were built from the ground up specifically for the cannabis industry and we've got two main things that we do that always, that have guided us through the years and through our future development. The first is our tag line. Track every gram. So we provide really robust inventory tracking from seed to sale, so plant tracking all the way through to the point of sale of a finished product and we also do compliance. We really believe that regulation is the way forward to bring marijuana to the country and want to help with that in any way that we can. The main way that we see being able to contribute to that effort is by providing software that meets state of federal compliance requirements for tracking marijuana and making it really easy for our clients to use that to stay in compliance and meet their reporting requirements.

Matthew: Yeah. Compliance is a huge issue. Have they rolled out penalties for being out of compliance? I mean you could straight up lose your license in some places but is there big monetary penalties for not being in compliance as well? I guess I'm talking about in Colorado but elsewhere as well.

Amy: Absolutely. Every state that's putting forward a regulated model includes in their rules a whole section on the various penalties, which might range from a relatively small financial penalty if maybe their signage is not up to requirements to much more significant penalties including, as you said, losing their license and the very large both time and monetary investment that with it and even in some cases looking at criminal charges. We don't like to hear about that too much in the regulated cannabis industry but unfortunately there have been a couple examples of bad actors and the regulatory agencies have had a structure in place where they were able to crack down on that and really support a legitimate regulated model, which is of course what we want.

Matthew: Okay. Can you tell listeners what hosted software means? I mean I'm sure most know but there still might be some people out there wondering what hosted software means and what the benefits of hosted software is.

Jessica: Sure, sure. So essentially hosted software means you're getting rid of having to maintain all of your own hardware. So it means that you are essentially paying a fraction of the cost of maintaining your own hardware to have much better, much more secure hardware in a off-site location. So the main benefits are better security, better performance, the ability to respond quickly to any change in regulations. This hardware is hosted in a facility that's monitored to the absolute nth degree biometric scans for, and only certain people with access and just a level of security that nobody can do in their own store when somebody can just bust the windows.

Matthew: It makes a lot of sense and having come from the IT world myself too and knowing about servers fail and there's security patches and all this maintenance and upgrades and there's so many things that just need to done and this outsourcing that to professionals is a huge, huge benefit in my mind. I think about Tim, not Tim Cook, the gentleman from Intuit. I can't remember. His name eludes me. Scott, Scott I think his name is. The gentleman that started Intuit and how he got so far ahead was he actually sat down and watched how people used his software, Quickbooks. How they installed it. how they used it and then just made it easier and easier. When I was asking people about MJ Freeway and people were volunteering information about you they were talking about how you got feedback from people that are actually in the industry.

Can you tell us a little bit about that? Because that's so important because I feel like so many software companies create software, then try to jam it down their clients throats instead of finding out what the needs are, understanding those intimately, and then building a solution around that.

Amy: Absolutely. We really feel like that's one of our big competitive advantages. Because we did build MJ Freeway from the ground up just for the cannabis industry, we were able to put in place certain things that are only relevant if you're looking at a product like this. So for example, obviously this is an agricultural product it changes over time, maybe dehydrates, maybe becomes shake in the jar, things like that and our inventory tracking algorithms, which are patent pending, take into account the nature of cannabis and how it changes over time whereas a regular point of sale system for a t-shirt shop or something like that doesn't have to worry about like a sleeve of the t-shirt falling off over a period of time.

Matthew: Right.

Amy: Those kind of inventory adjustments just aren't relevant for most of the rest of the world so it's something that we were able to put into MJ Freeway based on feedback from clients and on observing actual operations as you've described.

Matthew: Yeah. That's great. There has been tremendous positive feedback so you're doing something right. Let's dig into the weeds a little bit. Let's say I own a dispensary or I just applied for a license, I'm an applicant. I win one of the Florida licenses. That's apropos because they have a ballot measure coming up. What are the things I need to do once I win that license and how could MJ Freeway help me do that?

Amy: Well, first I would say before you apply you should get in touch with us and get some of our application support materials.

Matthew: Huh, gotcha.

Amy: We've assembled over the years obviously a tremendous amount of intellectual property and experience around inventory tracking of cannabis and we provide that in a few different formats to people who are applying their licenses, applying for licenses. That ranges from a free document that we put together for every new state where we go through the proposed regulations and respond point by point on how we meet every requirement related to tracking cannabis and then goes all the way up to very detailed plans that can be used in the development of the business plan for the operation. For example, an inventory control plan or transportation plan. Things like that that we've prepared to help people through that process that can be quite arduous to put together an application.

Matthew: Yes.

Amy: So we want to provide insight where we can. Then I guess after winning the license my advice would be to get started early with training, setup, configuration of all your systems, not just MJ Freeway. I would say that the most successful new businesses we've observed are the ones that have really planned ahead rather than waiting until the last minute. You know maybe they're focused on their construction build-out in the early days and then all of a sudden they're a week out from opening and realize that they haven't put in place MJ Freeway and maybe the security system and maybe their payroll system and then they're really trying to scramble at the last minute to get a bunch of stuff done and I think planning ahead and getting started with things early lets you be more thoughtful in your setup and configuration and training.

Matthew: How long does it take to get set up for, let's say, a dispensary owner with MJ Freeway software? I mean what's the roadmap to onboarding?

Amy: We provide support to all our clients through our support team, which is a fantastic group of people, and we provide through them remote training for all clients as well as an extensive knowledge base with a lot of recorded demos and training sessions in video format that give people background both of the software as a whole and on various specific features. We also offer scheduled training lab classes on a regular basis. We encourage our clients to take advantage of those. To come get classroom style training on MJ Freeway.

Matthew: Okay.

Amy: Then as far as the software itself, it really ranges. People have gotten set up and configured and ready to go live within a 24-hour period in some cases. Other people, especially new operations, want to take a little bit more time to think about how their standard operating procedures should best be developed and they'll take a little bit more time but we can be accommodating to whatever the time frame is that the client is looking for.

Matthew: Okay. And digging into the weeds again, let's say I have, I'm the owner of a infused products company. I make chocolate that is infused with THC. How do you, how does MJ Freeway help track dosages because I keep on hearing stories about people coming to Colorado, eating a whole candy bar, having an issue, and top of mind for me is dosage, there's not clear dosages. I mean 10 mg is a serving. Most people know that but when you look at a candy bar most people are thinking, "Oh, I can eat a whole candy bar." So that has me thinking in terms of dosages a lot and how can you help a infused product company, with MJ Freeway, keep track of those critical dosage levels in their products?

Jessica: Sure. Our mix tracker product is the product that's used for tracking manufacturing and processing. In that product we track quantities of inventory as well as the conversion or preparation process whether that involves cooking or not regarding how much inventory is used to create any number of candies. So dosage can be determined by the amount of concentrate used to create any number of products, edible or otherwise and during the infusion process or the cooking process MJ Freeway will notify if the default amount defined up in the inventory creation doesn't match the actual amount being used based on the amount of concentrate versus the number of candies being used. So mistakes such as too much concentrate used in a batch can be seen really easily by checking inventory levels to make sure that what was entered in the software equals what was physically mixed.

Matthew: Huh, that makes sense.

Jessica: And there's a certain amount of the process that is somewhat out of the software's control and that involves mainly making sure that things are very, very well mixed.

Matthew: Sure. I mean there's technology is just one piece. You need the people, the process, and the technology all working together, a three-legged stool. That makes sense.

Jessica: Certainly.

Amy: But our reporting can go a long way toward helping.

Matthew: Sure. Now as far as MJ Freeway being mobile friendly, can users use tablets and phones as well?

Jessica: We are totally mobile friendly. Since we're a web-based app we work great on any internet enabled device. We actually have a mobile theme specifically designed to ensure that we work well on phones and tablets and our clients use mobile devices at the sales stations in their stores, at the grow, for delivery drivers, or for taking inventory.

Matthew: Okay. And I know that there's mobile scanners you use. Correct? For barcodes and things like that.

Jessica: Yes. We have sourced and tested a couple different pieces of mobile friendly hardware that connect via Bluetooth and so connect really nicely to mobile devices to make sure that they work nicely and can be used with a mobile device and our software as well.

Matthew: Okay. Now I'm kind of going to ask this question jokingly but maybe half serious, too. It's so hard to get the United States to move over to the metric system. We're still using these measurements from medieval times or something but, horsepower and so forth, but do you think since cannabis is largely measured in grams that that might be the catalyst that pushes us to the metric system?

Jessica: Not likely.

Amy: I don't think so.

Matthew: Okay. No I know most people are familiar with HIPA, the government protocol to keep the patients' information secure and private but, and it sounds like MJ Freeway is HIPA compliant but most people don't know what PCI is and PCI compliance. Can you tell us a little bit about what this is and why that's important?

Jessica: Sure. So HIPA protects patients' personally identifiable information and PCI protects sensitive payment information, so your credit card or your bank info, something like that. What MJ Freeway does is we actually connect securely to the gateway that actually processes the credit card payment.

Matthew: Mm-hmm.

Jessica: So that's how we enable PCI compliance. We make sure that when you're payment information is processed and sent through the internet that it's sent through completely secure channels to where it ultimately gets processed. We don't actually store any credit cards or payment information in our system.

Matthew: Okay. Now as more and more dispensaries roll out and, I mean there will always be strains and customer service that kind of makes certain dispensaries stand out and customers and patients want to go there. I know that MJ Freeway has some marketing modules like text messaging and emailing. Can you kind of tell us how some of your clients that use that really well use that to make sure that that their clients are loyal because you know, at some point there's a supply, there's going to be more supply and demand will level out so dispensaries are going to have to do things and be unique and have better customer service and really a good marketing plan to ensure that they get their share of the market. So if you could share how you see clients successfully using the text messaging and the email marketing that would be great.

Amy: Yeah. Absolutely. Our text and email marketing engine gives our clients the ability to send text and email communications to their customers who've opted in. Those can be automated so those might be things where a message goes out on the customers' birthday or a certain number of days after their last visit to the dispensary. They can also be outreach to the customers to encourage them to respond in the case of a specific promotion. So, for example, you might advertise at a show or in a local paper and say text code 1234 to this number to receive a discount and then they'll receive a coupon code discount in return. That lets our clients really do some very proactive outreach to their patients and customers but it also gives them, it ties in with our reporting as all our marketing tools do to give them really clear insight into the ROI of their various advertising and marketing efforts.

Matthew: Great. Now we touched a little bit about, on education about getting new users up to speed. Let's say I have a brand new bud tender that was starting today at my dispensary and I know you have a knowledge base and some videos and stuff but as a business owner of a dispensary what would I practically need to do? Say this person's of average technical competence. Do I start with some video modules and to say, "Watch these as many times as you want until you're comfortable." What would you suggest?

Amy: You know I think the recorded demos are a great place to start and the knowledge base information. Our support team is also always there to answer any questions or help get people up to speed. As I mentioned earlier, we're getting great response from our training lab classes on classroom style training so that people get some exposure to a full experience of the software, not necessarily maybe just the one or two things that seem critical to learn on day one. We give them a full grounding in aspects of the software they need for their job.

Matthew: Yeah. In person is always great if that's possible. Now I know MJ Freeway really has an international focus and I think your software is in at least two or three languages. Is that right?

Jessica: We're very excited about that. Yes. We're available in English, French, and Spanish currently.

Matthew: That's great. Now I saw on your website that you recently had a trip to Spain and there's, being here in Colorado my focus tends to be on Colorado and somewhat in Washington too. Can you just paint a picture of what it looks like in Spain? Like what legalization looks like and I know there's clubs and things but just for the audience, how is it different? What did you like about it? What didn't you like about it? Just any detail is great.

Jessica: Well, what was really interesting and what I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I did not know until I was there in person was that it's not actually a medical program. It's just an adult use -

Matthew: Huh.

Jessica: program.

Matthew: Okay.

Jessica: So, uh, who knew? It's not even medical.

Matthew: Okay.

Jessica: So what's interesting is that they don't have regulation, not at the national level and not at the state or region level. Spain has a few different state regions that have their own governing bodies as well and they don't have any regulation at that level. They've had some cities pass some regulations here and there and it really varies from region to region, city to city and so in that respect it's a lot like California, that there a lot of operations are operating under somewhat gray guidelines for what's legal and what's not legal in which area and at what given month so that makes it a little bit challenging for the clubs. But I did find the clubs to be really interesting and I think we really enjoyed the trip and thought that it was, we're excited to be more involved with that market as it progresses.

But the clubs have dispensaries located within the club but then they are actually a club in the traditional sense of they usually have some kind of a hangout area and they usually have some kind of a bar that serves coffees and alcoholic drinks as well as just sodas and what have you. So it was definitely, you know the whole focus was on kind of adult, legal, recreational, social, club use.

Matthew: Was your sense that less of the total population as a percentage partakes in cannabis or more? I mean it's a hard thing to quantify I know but I mean, just trying to understand how large a part of the culture it is in Spain.

Jessica: I think it is very much a large part of the culture but what I found interesting was that at a number of clubs that we visited the owners, operators, or even some of the people in the club were cannabis refugees you could call them.

Matthew: Okay.

Jessica: So a number of them were people from other European countries or states that had moved to Spain so that they could use cannabis openly.

Matthew: That's interesting. It's kind of like Amsterdam in that way, it sounds like.

Jessica: A little bit. A little bit.

Matthew: Okay. What do you think the cannabis industry is going to look like in five years? What's going to change? It seems like there's so much change every day but what do you see?

Amy: Well, I mean it's exciting times. We're approaching half the country, half the states in the country that have some kind of marijuana legalization in some form or another whether medical or adult use or CBD only that's on the books and that's really becoming, it's becoming a watershed moment I think in the changing landscape. We've got two states, of course, with adult use measure up this fall. It will be really interesting to see what happens with that in a couple of weeks.

Matthew: Yeah.

Amy: And certainly we've got our fingers crossed for positive direction there. I think that it's the million dollar question. Isn't it? Of when the Federal Government will de-list or take some other action and I think people are going to be watching really closely over the next five years to see when that happens. It certainly feels closer than ever before, at least to me.

Matthew: Yeah. I mean that's the true, big, the break when the wall comes down is when it's taken off the Schedule I list of prohibited drugs. I mean is that what you think in your mind? That's when everything would change pretty quickly?

Jessica: We think so.

Matthew: Well, as we close is there any information you'd like to share with listeners how they can find out more about MJ Freeway?

Amy: Absolutely. Check out our website, We've got all kinds of resources there. We're actually launching a new website in just a few weeks that's going to have even more great information about cannabis laws across the country and other resources like that. We're also on Twitter and Facebook at mjfreeway and our phone number is 888-932-6537 and we'd sure love to hear from anybody who has any questions. We'd be happy to help.

Matthew: Well, thanks so much, Amy and Jessica. We really appreciate you taking the time for the interview today.

Amy: Thank you. It was great to be here.

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