The initial Cannabis Economy Digital Workshop took place July 30-31, 2019. Each day we had 15 straight hours of content resulting in 38 sessions from Science, Policy and Business leaders.
Thank you to our presenters, partners and sponsors for making the event such a success.
Whether or not you participated, we’ve taken the opportunity to capture key takeaways as well as asks or guidance from each session in the words of the presenters themselves. We’ll leave analysis for another time and place — this is what happened, as it happened…
DAY 1 – JULY 30:
Professor Hinanit Koltai – Ministry of Agriculture, Israel
What should folks be focused on in academic science from your perspective?
Academic science in cannabis cannot be detached from the environment. Sometimes as scientists we are just detached and live in our own world – this cannot be in this case. In this case, we scientists must keep a very close interface with doctors, hospitals, with the farm industry, with society, really. Because what we do affects all these interfaces in such a way that when we do our research, we need to do it in close collaboration with physicians, with doctors, with hospitals, with the industry, in such a way that our research will lead to impact. Another interesting interface is policymakers and the actual regulation based on the policymakers. It is so important, I believe, that policy makers – at least in this case – will follow science. They should recognize the scientific advances and then build a policy that will rely on the new approaches that are being brought by science. It is so important, as I see it, for us scientists to interface also with policy makers. This is not something we are used to do, frankly, but it’s so important in such a way that we will be able to really promote cannabis medical use, and not just stay in our labs and have nice scientific papers. Not enough. Not in this case.
How can academic scientists relate to the policymakers, and how can the policymakers and enforcers relate to the academic scientists so that they can have that comfortable symbiosis that you have achieved in Israel? Science working with policy – what’s the best way, the easiest way for that to happen?
In Israel, we are very lucky in our ability to work closely with policymakers and regulators. It’s so important to have this close connection with these people and to have their attention to what we say. This allows this whole reform of medical cannabis, I believe, to take the right direction. In other places, the only thought that I have is the need to talk – to sit together, talk, to try to have the same language as much as possible. And then us scientists to try and affect policymakers at least in the way that we think is right.
What would be your ‘ask’ as an academic scientist for businesses all over the world, whether they are in cannabis or getting into cannabis or thinking about getting into cannabis. What’s your ‘ask’ for that constituency?
For business, first of all, without business in this case nothing would have happened. Private money is the money that allows research, development and then production of cannabis-based products. It is clear that without that close collaboration with the industry nothing would have happened. We are in a very unique situation where interests are coming together – our interest to make science and private companies’ interest to make products that rely on scientific evidence. Due to this situation of common interests, we are able to promote science and products that are based on science – products and medicine, evidence-based medicine. This is what we want.
Roei Zerahia – CEO, Canndoc
For the academic scientists, what would you share, or what should they be working on over the next 12 months? What should be the focus from your business perspective?
Five years ago, when I went to one of the biggest libraries in Israel and asked the library: “I want to check the articles in scientific journals about cannabis.” You know how many articles they had? Almost nothing. And today, there is a very, very big improvement, yet the number of things we don’t know is really huge. So, if you’re a scientist, and you want to go into this amazing cannabis world, there are many verticals that I would suggest to start checking. One of them is the growing process – how you can optimize the yield while making sure that you are doing the same thing time after time, and making sure that when you take a cannabinoid profile into a process of growing it throughout the different phases, and you get to the point when you harvest. There are so many things to do in this process that in other crops already exist for years, but in cannabis nobody tried it. On the other hand, once you have the floors, the inflorescents, the flower – how you should better use your post-harvest facility, how you should better use the drying process, the curing process. We are doing that for years. But if you are asking me: are there any new ways that we can use in order to do that in a better way? There are for sure. And the last thing: clinical trials. If you are a physician, take it. Please help us to better help patients; help us to take what we have as a product and go to as many medical indications as possible in order to prove what we know. Because today, we know it according to what we did. We want to be in a point we can prove what we know.
What would you say is a good thing for policy folks and regulators to focus on?
There is to be a separation between the pharmaceutical world/industry and the non-pharmaceutical world/industry. Because the terms – the conditions – are different, and when people are going to drink wine or whiskey, there are a couple of things any person that understands the industry should check. And most people are not checking the alcohol levels in the bottle of wine. The same thing goes to cannabis – the patient shouldn’t check only the percentage of the THC or CBD. There are many other things that should be checked. And if you are really a patient, the only thing you should check is if this product helps in your medical indication. And it doesn’t matter what is the percentage of THC CBD terpenoids flavonoids – we need to find a remedy, not to see the numbers.
Yuval Landschaft – Israel Medical Cannabis Agency, Ministry of Health
What is your ‘ask’ from academic science? In your humble opinion, what should academic science be focused on as of right now?
Open your minds. That’s the goal of everybody that likes to invent something. Investors are running after the inventors. Keep an open mind and open attitude but be focused on the goals that you have to accomplish.
When you look at business, whether it be Israel business or anywhere around the world, what is your ‘ask’ from them? What should they be focused on?
Do good. Cannabis became a hype all over the world, also in Israel – not only hype, because we already have some quite big production. So, I cannot go into the point, but cannabis is always a very interesting issue. Whenever somebody speaks about cannabis, it’s getting a lot of interest, so we have to be with focused eyes. We have to put it as near as we can – as similar as we can – with other pharmaceutical companies or things. And not to get too into, “cannabis is a mysterious and magical plant” – it’s a plant that has very unique cannabinoids inside it, and also the terpenes and the flavonoids and others. We have to be very, very focused – we have to measure the EBM – the evidence-based medicine – we have to put some more efforts in the EBM making and the development of it. I believe that in the next coming years we are going to see a blossoming of this field. And when blossoming is coming, then major pharma is coming as well.
Catherine Sandvos – Office of Medicinal Cannabis, Netherlands
What would be your guidance for business, and what would be your guidance for everybody else involved – patients et cetera? Just personally, what would you say to pay attention to and to do more of and do less of as far as CBD is concerned?
That’s difficult to say. I can only talk about the Dutch companies. At the moment, how our legislation is that even CBD oil is illegal. So only pharmacies can make it when they are GMP certified. But what can I say? At the moment, in the Netherlands, we are working on making peer regulation about CBD. So, colleagues are still working on it. At that moment, then there will be more quality control.
As far as the academic scientists are concerned, what would be your ‘ask’? What would be great to hear from them that would be helpful in executing international regulations?
Just clinical results even if the studies are not finished yet. Just give the temporary results and share it.
What about business? When you speak to business leaders, when they speak to you, when you see international business occurring, what would be your ‘ask’ for them to make your job easier? And what might make their job easier in the long run?
If a business is making products for patients, then also follow the rules, which count for making a medicine. Look at the goods regulation and be in touch with the goods regulators. If you work for patients, you have to do it in the good way, not just doing it to earn money.
Professor Zvi Bentwich – Ben Gurion University
Your fellow professors, academic scientists – what would you provide guidance to them, what would you say to them and what would you ask from them?
It is going to be one of the most important advances in biomedicine in the next two decades, so I can only say that catch the opportunity now – it is truly the very golden opportunity for any scientist, I would even say that any scientist in the biomedical field, but of course each one has its own interest and limited fields. But because the cannabinoids are there in this cannabis plant apparently has some influence or involvement in most systems and it’s certainly not just the central nervous system, it’s certainly not just the immune system, so the ramification and implication of science and what it will generate is almost unimaginable in my mind. So, it is an opportunity, it is a challenge. There are limitations with regard to funding with regard to the big players with regard to the regulation, which will really make the big difference, but again, coming back to the question, I think it is a huge opportunity for anybody who is inquisitive enough and sees the challenge and what it may imply.
You mentioned both policy and business there at the end. And so, taking policy next – regulators and legislators.
The policy is critical, and I would even start from Israel. There is growing criticism of the current policy and the way this special unit of medical cannabis has functioned in certainly the last year or two. So that’s one element. The second element – I think we look on the Canadian story and the Canadian regulatory framework as a very good and positive development. So much so that, if you ask me as an Israeli, I think what has to be almost copied for us is the Canadian model. Every doctor can prescribe. It should be regulated in the way any medicine is regulated, but it’s not necessarily like any pharma, but I think the Canadian model is a good model. And so, you find me at the time that I’m writing an article on the reform needed for the medical cannabis situation in Israel and it essentially says go for the Canadian model because it’s a good model and we should adopt it. This would make things much easier both for the patients and for enabling a much faster growth of clinical trials as well.
Turning to the business community, what would your guidance be for them, what would you expect from them?
The hype of cannabis is all over certainly across the world and very much in Israel. So, we are actually witnessing what is very like the gold rush, with all the dangers and disappointments that it would carry, I believe, in the near future. However, there’s no question in my mind that serious investors, serious companies that are not looking for immediate gains but have a more long-term view – they are extremely important at this stage of the game. And it’s still quite clear that big pharma is not in that game yet, but they are bound to come in, I would say, in a relatively short time. But, whether I’m right or wrong, it is now the time for larger investment in this growing field. It will not grow unless more money is put into this. So, all clinical trials, all investigations which are in huge need – in other words I cannot over-exaggerate how critical it is to have as many and much more clinical trials on issues and topics that need the clinical support and without which we don’t know. So, there is a big gap between expectations and even anecdotal information and the hard, solid facts of clinical investigation.
Tjalling Erkelens – CEO, Bedrocan
As an operator in cannabis for 16 years, what would be helpful from regulators and legislators that are a part of this – that are listening to you speak right now. What would you share with them and what would be nice to have?
It’s very important that they need to go into their own organizations and get, as soon as possible, to the highest levels in order to come to an internal conclusion first on how to further regulate – but everything in the light of global harmonization. I would really and very strongly advise regulators to get together internally, but also between countries, so on a more global level. Get together very specifically and start organizing this effort around harmonizing cannabis as a medicine – the regulations not only for how to use it, when to use it, where to use it, but also product standards, production standards. Can we export? Can we import? All those questions need to be properly answered and all the regulations need to be in place. I would be fine if my regulators tell me you can only produce in a country for that country – there’s no export or import. Or you can export/import. But then it should be the same everywhere, and that’s one of the major problems. And I think it is time for the regulators now to step up and say, this is how we are going to do it. And if we wait another 10 to 20 years, it will be devastating to the course we are working for here, and that is basically patient access to a product that they’ve already known a long time, but it’s very difficult still to have that access for many patients around the world.
For the academic scientists that are listening here now, what would you share and what would you look for from them?
A comprehensive approach also on a global scale, so don’t do everything tenfold or twentyfold. Organize also on a level between universities, for instance, between university hospitals. Start setting up some cooperation and find organizations that are trying to do something in this field and start cooperating rather than competing. I know that competition in business is very normal, but I know among academia it’s also quite normal to be in competition, but then it’s about publications. For the sake of patients, for the next 10 years, please try to cooperate as much as possible, and then afterwards start competing when a patient’s case is being covered the right way, doctors are able to prescribe the products – then start competing on an academic level as well. But, for now, we do need that cooperation and that effort to get there as quickly as possible and comforting patients with the right products and also with the right knowledge around it.
Your fellow business leaders around the world who are listening, what would you share with them and what would you ask of them?
Share with them that we need a full separation of products that are meant for patients, products that are meant for adult use. I’m totally fine with everything as long as things are legal, but don’t mingle. Separate it. I see companies doing that – they are separating their businesses – but there are a ton of companies that don’t care, they do everything, and they sell medicine and adult use from the same jars, and that is something that cannot be. So be very aware of that. Make your business legitimate, because this is another thing: the outside public and the regulators and the politicians are looking at you as well, and if they see you do things double – let’s call it double dipping, kind of – nobody likes that. So, you have to make your choice, and please do it.
Mike Gorenstein – CEO, Cronos Group
As far as academic science is concerned, what guidance do you have? What ‘ask’ do you have from that constituency?
One of the things that we have to do is start making sure that the data that’s generated […] is data that we can use for regulators. So, I’ll actually connect these really early in the question. You see this with the FDA asking questions about CBD. We see other governments want to know, “what type of safety data do you have?” Well, you talk about fast onset and offset. Do you have anything in blood levels that can prove that or is this purely anecdotal? I think understanding effects, being able to do the types of trials. They don’t have to be full clinical trials and all the way, phases one, two, three, going through phase four. It’s really just being able to put together for whatever specific claim people want to make that we can actually see something to back it up, some level of consistency, and I think measuring and doing those studies the same way we would for any other compound is going to be important to building the credibility and lay the success and sustainability of the industry.
As we’re connecting that delta to steal a symbol, what would be your guidance or your ‘ask’ from your fellow business folks in the business community, feeling that drive to a policy, science and business?
We have to look at what the successes and failures of other industries before us have had, and I think understanding that when we go out and we make claims, we step back and think logically, “Does it make sense for me to say that one product can both wake you up and make you go to sleep?” If that is something that you’d like to say, we need to understand why – how can two opposite things happen from the same product? Often, when you dig in, and you work with the scientists, they’ll give you an answer that you can give to regulators. I think that we need to make sure that we’re a little bit more reserved sometimes, and it’s an industry and what we ultimately say. It’s okay if cannabis doesn’t do everything, but it has a lot of powerful effects, a lot of big positive effects, and I think making sure that we focus on the ones that we can put data behind, and that we know has real efficacy is important because we might lose credibility for those and those real effects if we try and stretch too far.
I do want to give you the opportunity one more time for policy because you brought that into the other answer. Is there a separate kind of guidance or ‘ask’ from that group either lawmakers or enforcers, regulators or legislators? I know that you’re there in Canada, so this could be Canadian based or global.
From a policy perspective, and a lot of it is going to be focusing on cannabinoids and maybe not just cannabis because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all regulatory framework. We do believe that there’s a pharma side. So, the simplest way to explain it, there’s going to be products that need a prescription to buy, will be products that you need an idea to buy. So, you have to be over 18 or 21 depending on the jurisdiction, and there’ll be products that you just need a credit card to buy. So, you can openly buy. I think making sure that we have a framework that fits each of those and understand depending on what the effects of cannabinoids that are being used in the product are serve us really well. I know it’s a little bit more complex, but that’s where, I think, the long-term things can end up. Then there is a balance between getting enough support to actually legalize cannabis in the first place. But depending on what the policy objectives, I think being too strict in the regulations, making sure we’re able to communicate a new product to people so that brands can be built that consumers understand what they’re buying is really important.
If displacing a black market and making sure their safety is a priority, we have to be able to communicate why buy the legal products and what those legal products do. So, I think that’s a really important aspect. Then this goes back to data. This is why we need data. Regulators feel comfortable to allow that type of education from the business, but I think we should have a route, and we’re able to educate consumers, and that does come from regulators to give us the opportunity to do that. Another way of displacing the black market is really by taking the black-market participants, bringing them into the legal market. I think if you get to remember how we got here, the opportunity’s here because, of course, there have been people that have been using cannabis that inform us that this is a big opportunity. I think if you block out people that have been operating in the industry for the last 20 years, and that’s their livelihood, and that’s their passion. They’re not just going to say, “I’m going to move on. Maybe I’ll start building websites.” This is their passion. This is what their experience is in. So, I think making sure that there’s an avenue to welcome people who have been in the illicit market into the legal market is really important.
Josh Hendrix – President, U.S. Hemp Roundtable
We’ve had your policy hat on for the most part during this conversation. So, I’m going to ask you about the two other groups of folks that are paying attention. First off, academic science/research. What’s your guidance for that group, or what would you ask from that group?
As someone that’s grown hemp and knows that it’s not just: go up there and throw some seed on the ground and come back and boom, you get a crop, I really hope the agronomists at the state schools and the state grant schools will really get into this. The Texas A&M, the University of Kentucky’s, the Colorado State’s, the folks that have the agronomists there to say, “Okay. These types of seeds work well in this area, and this is when you plant it, how you plant it. Let’s start to get some pesticides and herbicides and things figured out,” hopefully organically. I have an organic farm, so I’m definitely not a non-organic supporter. But, regardless, that’s how agriculture works. You got to start having things either approved to be spread on them, and hopefully hemp can change it in that right direction. But the agronomy starts first. We got to figure out the best, most efficient ways to do it. And with that, there’s not just agronomists at these schools; there’s mechanical engineers and things that can figure out better harvesting equipment, hopefully better processing things. And then I think from a business point of view, for the scientists to really figure out the economics of this. I mean, the ag economists have to figure out where the rubber meets the road. What is the most efficient way to grow hemp? There’s a lot of people growing this horticulturally – like marijuana or flowers or something – where they’re out there manicuring individual plants. Well, if you spend that amount of time on individual plants – and I have a combine that can drive through and harvest thousands of plants – even if they’re not as perfect, they still meet this high standard of qualities that we’re all developing. There’s an efficiency thing there. So, where do those two paths cross, where the value meets, and then where can we see the market of hemp flower, hemp straw, and hemp seed going so that we can anticipate how much we need to grow. In terms of hemp extracts on the scientific data: how much should we be picking? Is this safe for pregnant women? Is this safe for children that don’t have any serious issues and haven’t been diagnosed by a doctor with anything? At what age do we start to realize that we can switch them over from CBD in its acid form, which is really just an anti-inflammatory that can still have great effects, to regular activated cannabinoids, such as CBD or CBG or CBN? Where is all that going? So, the more scientific studies we can do – obviously we support as many as we can at CV Sciences – but the more that other companies can support, the better. I think if we flush all that data together, we’re going to end up with a pretty cool industry that we’ve all helped build that is obviously safe and reputable.
For your fellow business executives: what would your guidance be, what would you ask from them aside from, “Hey, let’s do this right” – beyond that?
Let’s try to work together on this as much we can. We’re not going to agree on everything, and there’s people on the Roundtable that we don’t agree on everything with. But we come to the greater good, the greater compromise, and we work together. I think the other thing I would say is, if you’re not looking at this from a dietary supplement angle, if you do not have an attorney – if you’re in the extract business, I should say – if you do not have an attorney that specializes in the FDA, then you’ve already lost. I mean, you’re behind. So, if you’re out there saying, “Save CBD from the FDA,” and all these nonsense things, it’s not going to happen. The FDA exists for a reason. They will regulate everything. Once marijuana’s federally legal, they will regulate it. And so, people have to understand that we’re working with the system that we’ve been given. I think we’re doing a good job, and I think if you’re not willing to work within that system, then you’re going to be out of business anyways. So, it’s not we’re allowed to listen or worry about. So that’s kind of what I would say. If you’re a business executive, I guess a good way to put it would be to get your shit together.
Professor Gil Bar-Sela – Head, Cancer Center, Emek Medical Center
What guidance would you provide to policy, and what would you ask from them, from your academic science perspective?
There are side effects and there are problems with cannabis. And it needs to go through a medical system, I think. I’m not saying what kind of medical system. It can be in the community, it can be on a specific clinics. I’m not saying anything about it. But someone need to deal with the people. I don’t know about patients, but with people who are using cannabis on a regular way to know what’s the side effects, what can happen, possible interactions. People are taking a lot of medications. Even just blood pressure. It’s changing the blood pressure. People are taking sometimes three to four drugs for blood pressure. And if you are adding cannabis, it will change the whole system. So, someone need to take handle on it. And the level of the federal or the state or who’s responsible for the medical system, he needs to know.
As far as the business folks that are listening, what guidance would you give to them? What would you ask from them, of course, aside from simply providing money for research?
The problem with businessmen is that they really want to get the answer two hours after they are giving you the permission to use their money. They don’t want to understand there’s a scientific way of working and it takes time, and you need to do second and the third the same experiment, to really publish things and to be sure what you are publishing. What I’m saying businessmen want products. “All the time here I will give you the money, you will give me the product. And everything will be happy.” But it’s not working like this. So, of course, they need to invest money, and I think should be part of the system. And I think people are looking different and I’m here for the patients as well, on their opinion on the different companies who are giving cannabis. So, of course, part of it is the service. Is the company giving a good service? But also, if the company is involved in research, in studies, if they support the studies, they are doing some kind of research – it’s really important for the patients, and I think the businessman should know it that it’s part of the business to do studies, that the medical community can trust the businessman as well. Because there’s the medical people and the business companies that are trying to push ahead as cannabis and not really doing it with good study and good research. Because in the end, the medical community should support the use of cannabis. I think that in the industry, it’s how I’m understanding it, that they should work together.
Equity Panel: Shaleen Title, Kavyan Khalatbari, Shanita Penny
As far as equity policy guidance, as far as moving forward. Kayvan, I’ll start with you on this one. What do we need to do from this day forth, as far as equity policy?
We’ve figured out probably some pretty good recipes for licensing and making sure that that’s available to people. I think we need to have less conversation at the state level and more on the local level because a lot of these new states coming online are being driven, especially in adult use market by local municipalities and that’s where we can really, I think, find the opportunities to make sure that the folks that should be getting those licenses and should be getting employed and should be getting their records seals and expunged. That that actually does happen. But, at the end of the day, even if we, again, have these licensing structures in place that in theory make it possible for people to get involved, we need to follow up with the resources. And that comes, in my opinion, primarily from the tax revenue, that in most states is being allocated to places that, in my opinion, are not appropriate. None of the money is going to finding a place for people of color in the cannabis industry. And even if, I want to separate one thing really quick, I think it’s really important, we’ve had a lot of discussion with MCBA about this lately. I want to see people with color be licensed. I want to see people of color have jobs in the cannabis industry. But, at the end of the day, most people of color have zero desire to be involved in the cannabis industry. So, we need to look at that cannabis money going to – that tax money going to – community reinvestment. Whether that’s workforce, technical assistance, housing, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse service. All these other things that matter, that have been an outcome of these communities being thrown under the bus. I think that’s really where we need to start to make sure that we’re making the broadest positive impact.
I echo his sentiment in prioritizing community reinvestment and not just thinking about cannabis commerce. The fact that you have to address the real issues and the trauma that these communities have suffered because of the war on drugs. The only way to do that is to lead with providing access to mental health services, general health care, food and nutrition. Because if your mind isn’t right and your body isn’t right, how can you even think about an entrepreneurial opportunity. I think that seeing cannabis impact the community in a positive way will help shift that lack of desire to even touch this regulated industry. And the reality is that there is still an unregulated industry, and if we can begin with community reinvestments, we may wrap our arms around some of those folks and be able to help them transition into the regulated space. And then you’re really starting to break down that barrier that exists with these communities and trusting a government agency, a state regulated industry.
I agree with both of them, but I want to flag something that Kayvan said and make it the last word because it is so important, and it’s the one thing that I would change if I could go back. And that is focusing on the local level, because I think every state consistently that has tried to focus on equity has run into this issue and talking about community reinvestment. Every city or town that gets local tax revenue should also being making these same decisions. And it’s a lot easier to make change at the local level. You can get ten committed people to show up to meeting and make a difference. So, if you’re in a state that’s about to legalize, and you’re watching this and you want it to be equitable, make sure you’re focusing at the local level now, from the beginning.
As far as research is concerned, what numbers, what studies, might help you, Shaleen, do your job?
I would direct you to masscannabiscontrol.com. At every meeting we give extremely clear statistics on diversity, racial makeup or owners of employees of equity program participants. And if you’re trying to make case, you can absolutely use our numbers. I know Maryland and Washington collect data as well and these bodies of research are growing more by the day. I would love to see more statistics on ancillary businesses because the barriers are so much lower. And our equity program has a tract for ancillary businesses, but that data has been hard for me to find.
I’d like to see some really accurate data in terms of plant-touching ownership in the industry as well as that data around ancillary businesses. I think the information that we’re currently working with is self-reported. There aren’t clear divisions of the two and, again, like Shaleen said, there are such higher barriers to entry if we’re talking about moving the needle on things like banking legislation, access to small business administration services. We need an accurate base line to be able to assess the impact that these programs are going to have.
If there’s people out there that care about data, to push these different regulatory bodies to collect that data. That’s something that we had to go through with Colorado here recently. We went through our sunset provisions for our state cannabis programs here and we were talking about equity, and they wanted to know what they could do better that department of revenue to encourage equity in the cannabis industry, and we go: “well, can we see some data?” We keep saying that less than 1% are owned by people of color and you keep refuting it, but you don’t give us any evidence to say that this is why it’s not less than 1%.They say that they don’t collect it or they don’t have it or it’s not organized in a manner that is distributable, so that was a part of some of these recent bills that were passed, to start having this data collection be a part of it, but it’s so important you can’t react to information that you don’t have. Unfortunately, outside of the three that Shaleen mentioned, I don’t know that many states are really doing a great job at collecting data period on demographics of who’s participating in the industry.
What would be your guidance for your fellow business men and women? Or what would you ask from that same group?
We talk a lot about what cannabis business have an obligation to do because of the past inequities that have been created by especially the war on drugs, but a lot of other institutional issues that are existing in this country. I don’t agree that cannabis businesses should automatically feel obligated. I think businesses should feel obligated to participate in their communities and to be positive horses. I look at what my pizzerias are doing. If I can offer folks fully comped health insurance and dental insurance and make sure that nobody is getting paid less than $15 to $20 an hour. To do PTO and to do retirement plan match and to do meal plans and profit sharing and not converting into an employment company and still make money. Cannabis businesses can do that as well. It’s very easy to do this and, at the end of the day, it’s actually a differentiator because nobody really is focusing on substantial programs within their communities. Take race out of it, take all of that, just positively impact the communities in which you operate. I think businesses in general have an obligation to do that and I think that if people would take a chance at that, that they would really realize a lot of value in that. I would encourage people to get involved. Not just because it’s the right thing to do but because I think it’s going to affect your business and your bottom line positively at the end of the day.
I’m in the wonderful position that I don’t have to ask; I get to tell them. License used in Massachusetts must have a plan to positively impact communities, and we’re seeing a lot of them go above and beyond the requirements. We’re seeing incubator programs, we’re seeing very innovative grant programs with no strings attached and we’re soon going to be looking at renewals, in which case they have to show that they have stuck to these plans and how it’s gone and we’ll be able to get a lot of data from that as to what’s helpful that big companies want to do to help. Because I know that there are a lot who do want to help, so I thank them for that.
To Kayvan’s point, as an individual company, you are creating a business that should, first and foremost, ask the community that you’re coming into, how can I help improve this community? And so, when you do that, and you’ve got companies that operate that way, we as an industry can now set an example for other age-old industries and companies that have not made this a priority, and they are facing the repercussions of that. The bottom line will absolutely continue to be affected if you are a company that’s focused on not only doing the right thing but doing the right thing. And so, with that, I think it’s important for us to again, really fulfill our obligation as the pioneers in this industry and lead by example in being helpful to the movement for equity in this industry.
Former U.S. Representative Carlos Curbelo
What is your guidance and/or ‘ask’ from academic science? Same for business. Let’s do academic science first, and now we can dive in on cannabis specifically.
You certainly want to show hard evidence, data, statistics that back your proposal or that make the case for it. That’s where having relationships with universities, with think tanks, with organizations that produce reports and generate studies. That all matters. Also, we already talked about the business community, the labor community, nonprofit organizations. All of these different constituencies will help you make the case. But again, I go back to the critical importance of humanizing the policy. Why is it important? Why do we need it? Because people will be better off, and not just people, but what people? Show us, show us who they are, and yes, tell the academic institutions and the chambers and the labor unions and the nonprofits to help you make that case, but always with an eye on the people who will benefit, on the people who perhaps are suffering today, and in cannabis, I think that’s a story that can be easily told. I was oftentimes moved by veterans coming to my office sharing their war stories, talking about how much they’ve struggled since they came back from war, and then explaining how cannabis has improved their quality of life and how they are able to live in peace, and how they have better relationships with their family members and relatives. That’s what moves not just people obviously, but members of Congress, which many of whom have a heart, even though most Americans might not believe that. These stories are compelling, and that’s what is going to make the difference, and a lot of times it does take that kind of human element to convince members to cosponsor or to vote for legislation and see how this all kind of is interrelated. That’s why you need to be able to build those coalitions and have relationships with those child advocacy groups or with those veteran advocacy groups that will help you find not just one, but many, many individuals who need the federal government to get cannabis policy right.
If I’m someone in business or academic research and I had something to share with you, I don’t get the meeting with the actual member, where am I?
The first thing I’ll tell you is that it’s important to show up. Emails are okay, telephone calls help, but sitting down across from an individual, whether it be the member or a staff member, there’s no substitute for that, and again, why? Because it allows you to humanize a story. It’s human contact. You can look someone in the eye and share sincerely. If you can make it to the district office, that’s wonderful. If through an organization like the Cannabis Trade Federation and other advocacy groups, you can actually make it to Washington D.C., that’s ideal. I’ll tell you from personal experience, when I had people from the district care so profoundly about an issue that they traveled to Washington D.C., it means you’re from Miami. You got on a plane, you bought a ticket, you’re probably paying for a hotel room at least one night. I really listened when people were in my D.C. office explaining to me some issue or some challenge that they were facing or asking me to take a particular position, so I know it’s difficult. I know most people cannot do it, but if I had to suggest, recommend, the best way to make a heavy impact on a member of Congress is to show up in their D.C. office. Aside from that, members just like seeing people from back home because D.C. is such a crazy town and members are always on the go that to get to pause for five, 10, 15, 20 minutes and have a conversation with someone who you actually represent is quite refreshing.
Maj. Neill Franklin – Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)
For other policy folks, regulators, legislators, that are looking at cannabis but also of course the big picture, what would be a good suggestion from your seat to theirs? If I’m in the office of the governor, if I am the governor. If I’m a sitting, an elected congressman or elected congresswoman, if I regulate this county, what should I be thinking about as far as law enforcement?
Think about this: decades of prohibition that has been costing this country, states, cities and towns, ungodly amounts of money in enforcing prohibition policies. One simple arrest can cost 30 to $35,000 for possession. Anywhere across this country. Not only, and now that’s just hard costs. Now somebody is saddled with an arrest record for marijuana. Now they can’t get a job. What happens when they can’t get a job? They’re not paying taxes. They’re not spending money in the local store or car dealership or buying houses which puts people to work. It’s way more than the 30 something thousand dollars in hard costs for the arrest. It’s costing us a lot of money. Let’s quickly move to regulation for adult use. Now, you’re building businesses, you’re putting people to work. Those people are paying. First of all, you’ve eliminated all the cost of police departments, prosecutors and cops, courtrooms and judges, is what I call it. You’ve eliminated all of that and now you’re on the other side, you’re now out of the negative side into the positive side, putting people to work. They’re paying taxes. They’re buying goods. Not only are they buying goods, buying cannabis, but now they’re making money. They’re buying cars, they’re buying groceries, they’re buying and owning homes, real estate market goes up. The companies are paying taxes. Come on, policy people, come on elected officials, this is not rocket science. Stop the fear mongering. The sky is not falling anywhere in this country. Policy makers, we can put a lot of people in good places and financially get out of a lot of holes across this country.
Moving onto academic scientists, what kind of studies would you like to see? What would help you as far as policy is concerned from the academic research community? What kind of work would help?
Right now, we already have begun a lot of studies, but, unfortunately, they’re really new because we are still new in recognizing the value of good data. Let me put it this way: I think that we still need to do a lot of work surrounding biased policing. We need to do a lot of data collection and analysis of culturally established systems. Yes, we have people who say, “No, I don’t practice this. I don’t pay attention to race when I’m out looking for people committing crimes or arresting people.” What we fail to realize that the systems have a racial overtone to it. Here’s the thing, though: when we continue to look at biased policing and throughout our entire criminal justice system, not in just in the arrests that are made but in who’s charged with a crime, who’s sentenced and the conviction rates, the entire criminal justice system, we got to make sure that we’re collecting the right data to begin with – data sets. And then we have to make sure that we’re comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. I’ve seen a lot of studies where we’ve collected data for one period of time, and now we’re collecting data from another period of time, but we were collecting different samples. We’re not looking at the same criteria and we’re trying to compare the two. It doesn’t work that way. We have to be patient, develop the right data sets, collect the right data and then analyze it the right way.
If I’m running a business, a small community business, a big international operation, either one or all the way in between, what should I be focused on? How can I help as far as kind of getting back to the concept of Peelian Principles? What can I do to help law enforcement?
The first thing you can do is go to our website – the website is lawenforcementaction.org. The reason I say this is because it all begins with education. That’s where it began with me. To get me out of this isolated policing bubble that I was in as many of us are. To start learning about drug use. To start learning about addiction. To start learning about the history of policing. We don’t teach that in our academies. To start learning about the history of drug policy in this country. We don’t teach that in our academies. Education, go to our website. Look at the work that we do. Look at the four basic silos of work which is police community relations, look at incarceration, look at drug policy, look at harm reduction and under each one of those silos, we’ll talk about many, many topic areas. Many issues. That’s the first step, educate yourselves and then contact us, and we will tell you exactly how you can help and what you can do in any or all of those areas.
Nancy Whiteman – CEO, Wana Brands
As far as academic science and research is concerned, what would be your guidance for that community, or what would be your ‘ask’?
This is an area that’s of just absolutely huge interest to Wana and to me, personally. I really believe that the future of the industry is going to be driven by innovation, and by the ability of companies to bring products that are truly effective to market. And to do that, we need partners in academics and in technology and in science. We really, truly need each other, because it would be very hard for your average brand – even a large brand like Wana – to employ all the PhDs in all the various functional areas, everything from plant genetics, to extraction, to recombining cannabinoids, to terpene analysis, adding different supplemental ingredients. The list goes on and on in terms of the ways people are innovating – quick onset, quick offset. We can’t staff for all of that, so we really need our counterparts in academia and science to be our partners, and to take what they do well, which is innovation, but most of them are not licensed producers, so they need us as well. What I would say in terms of my advice to them is just keep abreast of who’s out there in the marketplace and who is making a serious commitment to innovation, and let’s start forming those relationships early. I think that that’s really going to separate long-term brand winners from those who are not.
As far as legislators and regulators, policy folks, what guidance might you have and what ‘ask’ might you have?
My biggest ‘ask’ would be for everybody to really begin with best practices. So, look at states that have been doing this the longest and the most successfully, and to start there rather than reinvent the wheel. I do understand that states need to review, and they need to put their tweaks on stuff, but this sort of need to start from scratch on everything, I think it slows things down and they’re losing tax revenue. Patients and consumers are losing quick access to products, and I don’t think it’s necessary. I think there’s some very good models out there that policymakers can begin with and fine tune from there.
Jeffrey Rhoades – Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Governor, OR
What is your guidance – what is your ‘ask’ – from academic research and academic science? Do you have further thoughts there for that constituency that is listening to you right now?
Please help out with figuring out how we can get that meaningful research to convince policymakers, to convince doctors, to convince the world at large, that there’s something here, which is something that we all know. As I’ve dove into this policy area, one of the things I’ve learned is cannabis is an incredibly interesting plant. The matrix is very complicated. Each particular strain operates very differently depending on how the discrete elements in the matrix work together. And I would love to see some research into that. We’ve got THCA and we’ve got THCX and we’ve got different types of CBD. And how do all of these interface together? And how do they work on the human body? And, specifically, are there strains that – as we know anecdotally – folks will say, “I think this strain treats my back pain better than others.” Is there something there? I think that’s really important. Really, there’s limitless potential here. I’ve had conversations with everybody from doctors to, frankly, Jim Belushi, who’s a big proponent here as well, about opioid replacement therapy and what it would mean for folks to have something like cannabis available to them as an alternative for pain management. And I cannot say how important it is that we do the appropriate research that’s up to the standard of the medical community in order to prove that effort.
As far as the business community, what would be your guidance? What would be your ‘ask’?
To keep working with us. I mean, for us in Oregon here, we enjoy a great partnership with the business community in the cannabis sector. And a lot of the best policies that we’ve been able to put forward, we couldn’t have done without the input of the business community. So, I think that, particularly when you’re talking about states that are legalizing for adult use for the first time, there can be some wariness to engage with state government, but that is hugely important, that you stay engaged with the process. Here in Oregon, we make certain to have rules advisory committees that convene with heavy input from the industry. We have now appointed an individual to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission with a lot of cannabis know-how. So, staying engaged with the process is hugely important because this is new ground for a lot of states, and this is really exciting policy and you want to make certain to stay engaged with lawmakers as they are figuring out how to move forward. So, I just would say, yes, please. Stay engaged and keep working with us as we work through all this.
Lori Ajax – Chief, CA Bureau of Cannabis Control
Guidance and/or ‘ask’ from academic science and research. What would be great from them as far as you’re concerned?
A lot of things we always hear when I go out and do presentations is the need to have more research here in California. We do have in charge of the 10 million dollars from the tax revenues to award to public universities for research, and it’s all laid out in Prop 64 what that research can entail, and most of it is regarding implementation of Prop 64. So we are working on that application, because we need to get that application out so we can start letting the public universities and do a call for their grant submission so we can get that money out the door, so they can start some of those research projects. I think it’s going to be a real big benefit for California to see what they have come up with, because we’ve already got universities doing some cannabis research, and so we’re looking forward to engaging those folks and getting that money out.
As far as our friends in business, what would be your guidance for them? What would be your ‘ask’?
We correspond quite a bit with businesses, and I think probably the biggest ‘ask’ I would have is when we do email and call is to respond back. And I think sometimes it may be intimidating to talk to the regulator, especially if we’ve asked for a lot of things, but I think I want them to keep in mind it’s okay if they say they don’t have everything we’re asking for. It’s okay to just say, “This is what I have right now and I’m working on this,” and I think I want to give them the confidence to have those conversations with us and to ask us questions. Maybe it’s better to communicate with people through text or things of that nature, and so we go back to government and sometimes we’ve got to think about being innovative on how people like to communicate. Everybody has their phone, so maybe we’ve got to get better with communicating by phone. Or ask for our help. Maybe it’s something we can help them with, or at least point them in the right direction, so we’re okay with that. I think it’s like anything else. We’re all like this, in a way, whether it’s cannabis or in our daily lives. If somebody’s calling to, “You need to pay your bill,” or something, nobody wants to call them back, right? So, I would encourage them to respond.
Julianna Carella – CEO, Treatibles & Auntie Dolores
For regulators and legislators, from a business person who has been dealing with regulations and self-regulating for years, what guidance might you give, or what ‘ask’ might you have for policy folks?
My biggest question, first off the bat, would be, if we know from the scientists that CBD is safe and non-toxic – in fact it’s one of the safest chemicals that the scientist that discovered it has ever researched – can we focus on how to regulate these products according to their safety and efficacy as opposed to their history and stigma?
Now, for academic science, maybe how can that group help what you were just talking about with policy? How can you dovetail those two points?
The most important ask there is: can we get the scientists and the lawmakers together in the same room making decisions together? That would be a real step in the right direction because, as far as we can tell, the scientists are being completely ignored when it comes to lawmaking around cannabis and hemp.
Adam Bierman – CEO, MedMen
I want to start with the academic scientists, researchers – what would be your guidance for that group, or what would be your ‘ask’? What would be great to have from academic science and/or research?
You know what’s not out there, what I’d really love to see? I’d really love to see us start to get our arms around the differences in efficacy around hemp-derived products, hemp-derived CBD oil, hemp-derived whatever versus the type of cannabis that we have licenses to grow. There is so much confusion, and I’m not saying I have a dog in that fight necessarily, but for the industry to evolve as we talked about, consumers and the public have to become more informed. I would love it if we could have more information around what the differences are. There’s a ton of efficacy around hemp. I love hemp. I’m a big hemp guy. But it would be great, even for me, to understand the differences, the public to understand the differences, so that we can actually move on and get away from the trickery and the marketing garbage that is going on. I think that’s just bad for everybody.
As far as policy, legislators, regulators from around the world are with us. I wonder what your guidance is to them, what your ask is from them?
Just look at the data. I mean, stop the nonsense and just look at the data and get out of your own way. New York not expanding their medical marijuana program at the end of this last session, let alone not legalizing adult use, was probably the single biggest failure that I have been a part of, witnessed, paid attention to since I got into the space 10 years ago. You have actually not done what you could have done to help right the wrongs of our criminal justice system. You have not done what you could have done to give people access to this amazing plant and all of its properties. You have continued to allow criminals free reign, essentially, to operate criminal enterprises and benefit from the fact that you haven’t legalized it, yet it’s still acceptable, available and nobody’s fearing loss of liberty over running around and selling it in Manhattan. Get out of your own way. The facts are there. States where legal marijuana is available, paid use goes down. That’s just a fact. That’s not some crazy lefty from LA hoping. That’s data. Look at the data. It exists. Property crimes go down. Teen use goes down. Criminal element goes away or gets negatively impacted. Jobs are created. All of that. We now have the data. The data is clear as it can be. Getting in your own way, talking about, “Well, it’s not perfect enough so we’re going to wait longer.” I think if you look at the legalization of cannabis, it is so positive in so many facets. It literally makes people healthier and happier. That should be the primary reason to do anything from a lawmaking perspective. That’s the job is to help people live their fullest lives.
Karan Wadhera – Managing Partner, Casa Verde Capital
I wonder what your guidance is and what your ‘ask’ might be, from either of those groups. So academic science, research first, what would be your guidance? What would be your ‘ask’ from that constituency?
From an academic and scientific purpose, we want more research done. We want more funding towards cannabis-based research, till the drug is, you know, rescheduled or de-scheduled from a federal standpoint so we can actually do, I think, the necessary work. Again, we have some research from Israel, we have some anecdotal evidence of where these things can be helpful, but we need to be held to these full standards of scientific rigor. So, I think the ‘ask’ is for more researchers to focus on cannabis, and then also to get the appropriate funding from private resources until the rules change.
And a great segue into wanting the rules to change from a policy perspective, right? I think there is no question that, at the minimum, we should be rescheduled immediately. There is no reason why cannabis is a schedule one drug, and cocaine is a schedule two drug – that’s just absurd. There is a lot of history and politics behind that, and then, yeah, I think we are moving in the right direction from a policy perspective. I think it’s very rare in any country that policy is moving as fast as the consumers and constituents want. It almost never is, so I think that’s reasonable, but it does feel that the momentum at the state level will absolutely be influencing federal policies soon.
Amanda Reiman – Flow Kana
What’s your guidance or ‘ask’ from the policy community? Legislators, regulators that are paying attention here. What would you say? Please do this, or at least can we please talk about that? What would that conversation be?
I’m very heartened that my home state of Illinois is on the precipice of legalizing cannabis. Sad that New York didn’t make it across the line. I think that that’s a very good cautionary tale about what happens when big business starts to get involved. What I would give as advice in the policy realm is: let’s not forget that this is a movement first, and that before we start listening to businesses talking about home grow and all of this BS about how people are going to cut into profits, let’s focus on expunging records. Let’s focus on releasing people from jail. Let’s focus on giving equity and opportunity to people that were negatively impacted by the drug war. Let’s stay laser focused on that. Every state’s regulatory system is going to look different because every state regulates business differently. I mean, look at the way that Maine and California regulate everything else. It’s different. It’s all going to be different. So instead of trying to put a one size fits all regulatory scheme into all of these states that’s going to do nothing but turn off states that hate the way California regulates things, let’s focus on the real issue, which is that people should not have criminal records or criminal justice involvement because of cannabis. And I think if we can stay true to that, then it doesn’t matter what state you’re in.
The next question fits right in with where you are in your conversation. To the business community, what would you share beyond what you just said and what would you ask?
I am one of you. I don’t have a business background. You know, I don’t have an MBA. I am a social scientist in the business sector, and I think that that’s an advantage in a lot of ways, mostly because I don’t really care about making money. Nobody becomes a social worker if you want to make money. I guess I would have a very similar thread of advice for the business sector, which is: learn the history of this movement. I mean, there’s a lot more people coming into the cannabis space now who are not from the cannabis space. They’re brilliant people and they’re coming to us from these other industries where they’ve moved mountains and done the most innovative, interesting, exciting things – which makes me so excited for the innovation of this industry – but they don’t necessarily know who Dennis Peron is. And they don’t necessarily know why Prop 215 was written. And they don’t necessarily know about the federal tax fights that Steve D’Angelo has endured with the federal government for decades. So, I feel like from a business perspective, it is your responsibility to educate yourself on the social history, and also to make sure that every employee that works under you has that knowledge as well. And it needs to be built into the culture of your business. And this can’t just be like every other industry in that way.
Finally, to the research community – to science. What would you ask? What do we need more of? And what might be your guidance?
To the research community, I would say, young people, get into cannabis research! Now is the time. It was really hard when I was coming up. There was no money for cannabis research. There were no professors that were studying cannabis. There was no cannabis think tanks or research centers or anything like that. And now there are. UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, everybody is developing these amazing cannabis research programs. And so, it’s a great opportunity of a new scientific arena, especially endocannabinoid medicine. I mean, this is going to be so exciting. I really would encourage young people if you’re like, “I’m really smart and I want to go into science, and I really like cannabis.” You can actually do that now. And it’s very exciting for young people. For people that are in the field, I would say the same thing. There’s a lot more opportunity now.
I think it’s best for us to lend support through helping gather data, helping reach out to people that want to participate in the research, reading surveys and giving feedback to researchers based on our knowledge as an industry. But don’t give them money. Give money to the community center, give money to the library. Give money all across your local community, but don’t give it to research, because I do feel it’s going to put us in a position of finding out great results and then having to just downplay those because the accusation is going to be that it’s only coming out that way because of who funded it.
Dr. Ryan Vandrey – Johns Hopkins University
With those policy folks in mind, with your research in mind, and understanding that there is more coming, what could they do to make your job easier or what should they know that you are doing to make their job easier?
What people can do to make my job easier is give me lots of money and stop making it a hassle to do research with cannabis. Those are two really simple things. What we’re trying to do here to make other people’s jobs easier is to just provide information, right? We are not in the business of saying that cannabis is good, saying cannabis is bad. We’re not in the business of telling people what to do. We’re trying to give information to the people that make those decisions. What’s your question? What’s your issue? If I have the data, I’ll give you the data. If I don’t, you give me money and I’ll get it for you.
What would you expect from the business community? What is needed from the business community?
What’s needed right now is more data, and so it’s not just me. It’s taking the care and the time and properly developing these products. Right? Let’s understand them before they go to market. Also, just thinking through and utilizing the data that does exist, and that has been published from the perspective of is this a safe product. Is this a product that the first-time users going to get knocked out and be curled up in a corner of a hotel room in a panic attack, or is it something that’s going to not do that? Right? So, I think that we just need to think about the regulation of cannabis products just broadly speaking, and to look to how other things are regulated. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I think the blueprint is there. Let’s follow it.
DAY 2 – JULY 31:
Dr. Pavel Pachta – Former Deputy Secretary, International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), United Nations
First up: academic science and research – you’ve plainly stated we need more. Beyond that, is there any guidance or ‘ask’ from that group?
If you consider all these, for example, WHO recommendations, and if you see that some countries are questioning the appropriateness of these recommendations, it’s a lot about the medical usefulness of cannabis. So, any type of research, which will continue in this area regarding the medical use of cannabis, will be extremely useful. You should bring the results of your research to your competent authorities, because these people are very busy, and your competent authorities have many issues; this is only one part of the agenda. It’s your agenda more than their agenda, and now they should be well prepared for this international meeting. And perhaps the scientific industry may organize some kind of support for the authorities looking at the recommendations, looking at the problems that some countries have with these recommendations, and providing explanations or arguments in support of the industry, over the patients, over the science would like to see in these international declarations. So, a kind of cooperation between industry, between scientists and the competent authorities providing explanations, clarifying the ongoing issues. I think this would be helpful.
As far as that business group, when speaking to business executives, a business community: what would be your guidance and what would be your ‘ask’? How can they help?
I think they should, again, talk to the authorities, know clearly what the situation from the legal point of view is, and then bring their argumentation to the authorities, help them to understand all these issues. Bring to them maybe examples with industries from other countries, how it works, how it is regulated, because I think regulation is important. We speak now about what is covered by the international narcotic drug control treaties, but in many areas like CBD use as a food supplement and so forth, for example, this also needs regulation and you have to build a reasonable regulation for all these areas. I would really be very happy if the industry would really invest in the research. The industry would really invest into these clinical studies, support science, ensure the high standards because the patients deserve it.
Boris Blatnik – CEO, KannaSwiss
A third of the audience essentially is business folks, a third of the audience is policy – so, the folks that you’re maybe referencing, or at least their colleagues – and then a third is academic science. So, when you think about setting up this infrastructure, what are good ideas and what are ideas maybe to avoid as far as tax?
Like I said before, it will really take all these different sections of the business to come together, figure out exactly how to best regulate the market and then, once that’s there, then we can figure out how to best tax it. Right now, everything’s so much in the air that it’s difficult to just say, “Oh, we’ll just put a flat tax on it and call it that”. Whether it’s for medical use or whether it’s for over the counter or recreational, I think it has to be a bit more thought out, and the only way to really do that is to bring everybody to the table and have open discussions and really see how to best move this forward.
If we are at a virtual table as we speak, what would be your ‘ask’ for policy makers and policy enforcers? The legislators that are viewing this, the regulators that are hearing what you’re saying, what should be the focus, what should not be the focus?
First, you have to set a framework of priorities. One needs to be done first in order to set these regulations. In my opinion, being able to get as much data as possible on the effects of these various cannabinoids on the human body or all mammals should be step one. And then from there do the clinical trials. Obviously get those results back and then share that with the regulators, and then I think it would be easier to come together and come to an agreement once we have that data.
Understanding that academic scientists are, again, right here at the table and realizing that you, in business, are looking to policy to say, “Hey look at the data, look at the science”, what would be the ‘ask’ for academic scientists to focus on from Boris’s perspective?
The ‘ask’, I guess, is put your hand out and ask for some donations in order to do these studies, right? I think if you have an idea, go to one of the major companies and see if they’re willing to help fund. Ideally, you want the government to help you fund this so it’s unbiased, but I think the way the world works, that’s not going to happen. One needs some sort of funding in order to do these trials because they can be time consuming and expensive. And, yes, I would definitely start asking these companies that are interested, because putting your name to a scientific study that comes back successful is a huge credibility boost for any company that’s involved.
Einav Gati – Director, Israel Gene Bank
You’ve just shared, “Hey, we need to make sure to respect these seeds, and we need to be able to replicate these seeds.” Aside from that, how could global regulators, legislators, folks in policy help?
The first understanding should be or try to differentiate between the research for medicinal cannabis, and other use of this plant. I will not debate on the recreational use of cannabis, but I think that this is a huge potential for different illness, for different patients, and we should consider them first. The regulator especially. So, I think the first regulation should be to different research organizations. Make sure that they have the ability, they have the right to use this plant, and to do whatever you need to do to replicate it or to do research on it or to make it available or to produce Phytosanitary certificate for that. It doesn’t matter. But as long as it’s available, the knowledge and the material itself.
The other community that’s with us is business. What would be your guidance to them, or what can they do to help?
Pressure, I guess. I mean, if we’re going to build a new economic field of medicinal cannabis, and we want to make sure that we’re going to make the best varieties, or the best whatever products that we’re going to produce in this field, we want to have the material available for us – because we now have is not enough. And there is around the world a lot of collections, which are not available for research due to regulation. So, if you have the power, just make the pressure.
State Senator Diane Savino
As far as academic science, what do you need? What would you like?
Because there’s so much misinformation about cannabis, and the one thing that comes up regularly from members is there’s no research on this. The FDA doesn’t approve it, as if we’re the only country in the world, right? Like Canada has legal cannabis, Israel’s been a trailblazer on this. But for members, they don’t know how to answer a question. They will generally shy away from it. And so, what some of them need is just scientific support, because the opposition is very well funded. What we need is more support from the academic community to talk about why we should do this and what we can accomplish. And, in addition, this is an emerging industry that could be very lucrative for a lot of people. What can our universities do to see to it that there are career paths for people, and how we can properly train them?
As far as business, what helps, what hurts as far as being a legislator from that community?
Show up. It’s amazing, there’s a young man here in New York called Josh Weinstein, he runs this monthly event called CannaGather. And they’ll get someone to donate food and there’s an open bar and it’s a great networking event. And it’s an opportunity for people who are either in the business, want to be in the business, curious about the business, who are just into marijuana in general. And they come, and it’s great, and they all talk to each other and they never ever talk to anybody like me. Why is that important in a place like New York? Because we are a legislative democracy. There is no public referendum. So, having all the support in the world out there in public doesn’t change anything. You have to talk to your legislators. And if you’re in the business, it’s even more important because this is the most complicated business I’ve ever encountered. When you get elected to office, you know what you know, that’s it. Whatever got you there. So, you may come in with an expertise – I came out of the Labor movement, so I knew everything about labor – but I now have been asked to vote on issues about agriculture or energy policy, things that I have absolutely no idea about. How do you learn about it? People who are in the business, I know lobbyists get a terrible rep, but truth is they serve an incredibly valuable purpose. But you’ll have to come to the legislature and talk to them. If you don’t want to travel to Albany, go to your legislator’s office, write a letter, pick up the phone, call them, talk to them about this, the way every other interest group does. If we’re developing the rules and the regulations that are going to affect your livelihood, we want to make sure we have an understanding of it. That’s the simplest way to put it.
Dr. David Gorelick – University of Maryland
From your perspective, as far as policy is concerned, policymakers, policy enforcers, regulators, legislators, what can they do? What should they be doing? What should they be looking for? What’s your guidance for them or how can they guide science?
My suggestion, which, again, is not unique with me, I think it probably represents a majority opinion among most scientists and clinicians, is to better align U.S. law and regulations with what we know scientifically about the various cannabinoids. I think many countries, as you’ve said, have already started down this path more than the U.S. One prominent issue which has been brought up, and there actually is proposed rulemaking, is to change cannabidiol – which is not psychoactive, so it has probably very little or no abuse liability like THC – take that out of schedule one. In general, the way a certain form of plant extract cannabidiol for use of childhood seizures has already been taken out of schedule one. That would also make it easier to do clinical research with, in this case, cannabidiol without the extra layers of regulatory review and approval needed and probably therefore make it easier to attract funding for such research and so on.
The business community, what is your guidance for them? How can they help science? What would you say to the group?
Maybe learn some of the lessons from the tobacco and alcohol industries or even just the standard pharmaceutical industry. Certainly, private enterprise can help in terms of research and development funding. NIH will never have enough funding to do all the work that needs to be done as we know, and that’s true throughout the world. At the same time, these medications, however they developed, particularly ones that have THC in them, will have abuse potential. You could argue, unlike tobacco, hopefully they’ll have some therapeutic potential, but still we want to make sure that the promotion, the advertising is appropriate. As you mentioned earlier, we wouldn’t want certainly THC-containing compounds to be promiscuously used by people under 21 or 25, whatever the age turns out to be. I think that’s the balance. There’s concern, at least in the legislature and in the public, about large venture capital funded companies coming in from other states trying to build nationwide brands or companies – in some cases, by allegedly getting around the Maryland state regulations. I’m not a business expert, but again, as I said, this mirrors what we saw in the tobacco industry decades ago, alcohol industry. There’s often a tension between the business commercial imperative and what clinicians in public health who may see the public health issues. This is a tension that exist with standard pharmaceutical companies, as I tell trainees. They’re not in the business of doing scientific research or healthcare. They’re just making money for their shareholders.
Be good corporate citizens.
Homegrow: Shaleen Title, MCC & Andrew Freedman, Former Cannabis Czar, Colorado
What’s your guidance and what’s your ‘ask’ from academic research? We’ve almost plainly said it and then also the same question for business. So, Shaleen, will you take it first?
My guidance is straightforward: I would follow the Massachusetts model, at this point, for home cultivation. In terms of research, I did talk to our research department. I reviewed what’s out there. Again, I don’t see any causal relationship between home cultivation and any significant problems. If anyone disagrees, I’m very happy to take a look at it. I would add that, in terms of energy use and environmental efficiency, any guidance or recommendations on that, I’d love to see.
As far as business is concerned, what I heard you say earlier, I want to make sure that we explicitly state it here, is almost your shooting yourself in the foot if you try to legislate home grow out if you are a business.
Yes, we seen that happen so many times. Just scale your greed back, just have your greed under control enough to allow a small amount of home cultivation and it will work out well for everybody.
Andrew, as far as guidance or an ‘ask’ first from academic research and then business.
This question on home grow is always so hard because it’s one of those known unknowns. “How big is your illicit market” is really a hard question to answer. But it is one right now that’s only being answered by what have generally been seen as partisan groups. I would love to see an unbiased view of what does it do to communities and what are the actual community impacts on these? And maybe taking three different places. Maybe someplace as loose as Colorado, a Massachusetts model, and a mature Illinois model. And really start to look at those things and see if there’s an impact.
My ‘ask’ of businesses in this area. What I would say is, essentially, I would look for businesses to come to a bargain right now on how you allow for future home grows. If you are being honest in the reason you’re against home grows, which is that, what I have heard from them is that there’s an immediate community danger and that they get blamed for that community danger. So, if that’s honest and what you’re not trying to do is just settle all of your market share, then what does this look like in three years, six years, and 10 years and how do you commit to that today? And I think the more that they can put that down in words, the more they are clearly being honest about what’s going on.
Next 20 Years of Cannabis Policy: Steph Sherer, Betty Aldworth, Ethan Nadelmann
Steph, as far as your guidance or ‘ask’ from academic research, I know that you’re closely intertwined, what would it be? What would the guidance be, what would the ask be for that group?
I think that it’s time to stop looking at one-off grants and doing simple, non-repeatable studies. I know that’s where a lot of the funding is with NIH and some of the companies, but the reality is that this plant is one of the most researched plants on the planet, and yet we can do very little with the research that’s been done, because it can’t be replicated. So, my request within that community is to reach out to ICCI. We’ve been creating priority maps that can actually help build the research into gaps that are missing, and that there’s opportunities to connect some of the research you’re doing with some of the research that’s being done in the private space.
Betty, what would be your guidance or ‘ask’ from industry, from business?
I think that to Steph’s point, industry can actually fund quite a lot of research, and there are excellent opportunities to do so now, and to do so in a clever way. So, I would echo everything that Steph just said. I do think, though, that there’s a real mandate for all companies now across industries to do better – to do better by the planet, to do better by people, and to ensure that we’re not destroying the world while enriching ourselves. That is a call that is particularly loud from millennials and Gen Z folks who are really deeply attached to the notion that both their workplace and the businesses where they spend their money ought to do better. We’re seeing more and more of that, and the cannabis industry has an opportunity to stand up and show what that really looks like. Just like Ethan said, on equity we are further along than perhaps any other industry. We can do that across the board, and it will end up helping that bottom line. So, let’s get on it. Let’s really do something there. Then, of course, as always, we still have a lot of work to do. There’s so much that needs to happen, and the folks at the organizations that have been doing the work hold that expertise and are ready to go. It’s a very big initiative, and what we need is the support of the industry, both intellectually and financially in order to get it done. 2020 could be a huge year. It’s not going to be unless we have the support that we need to get it done.
Ethan, policy and/or business, your choice, guidance and ‘ask’ for each one or both.
Given that all of these zillions of dollars of profits and this massive stuff that’s emerging was only made possible because of the efforts and commitments of people who fought for freedom, who fought for public health, who fought for various types of justice without any interest in the profits to be made – that, from a moral perspective, does impose an obligation of sorts, a moral obligation, on those people who are profiting today. If I’m being realistic, I realize that a growing number of people in the industry don’t even realize, don’t even know this history. They think that these opportunities just fell in their lap like the creation of some new gadget or something that now they can all sell or something like this. So part of my pitch to the folks in industry was to almost introduce the notion of a tithe, you know, the way in which religious people will tithe 10% of their earnings or 10% of their profits towards doing good, towards helping their fellow impoverished man and woman, and there should be some obligation on that. And in the absence of people feeling so morally compelled – and the vast majority of people don’t feel so morally compelled – then that’s the role that government needs to play in compelling them to do what they should be doing morally in the first place. So given that we are still in the early stages of an industry that is going to do fantastically well, and given what its origins were, I’d say there is this special obligation, and better if the major players come at it from a moral place and not just from the perspective of tokenism to do the minimal you need to do in order of keep us off their backs and the regulators off their backs. That’s my hope.
Saul Kaye – CEO, iCAN
When you talk about academic science and research, do you have guidance for them or an ‘ask’ from them? You do know how long a clinical trial takes. Understanding that, what guidance might you have for that community? What ‘ask’ might you have?
The guidance is you can do very effective clinical research very competitively and cheaply in Israel. That’s one of the selling points. We have done clinical trials. We’re in clinical trials. It is very cost-effective to do it here, and from the regulatory perspective, there is no better place to do it than Israel. It’s fast and it’s cheap at FDA level. So, it’s good, which you don’t usually get in that triangle fast, cheap, and good. You can choose two. We actually get all three here. My ‘ask’ is invest more in the research. Yes, the early opportunity of cannabis is putting a product to market in California and yes, you will get sales. But when the FDA comes in in two years’ time and when the industry starts to get squeezed, the only thing that’s going to save your company is strong IP, strong brand. And you’ve got to start building that now. Don’t wait until you’ve got the money in the bank, until you’ve hit that point. You’re probably too late at that stage.
As far as legislators and regulators, as far as policy in general, do you have guidance? Do you have an ‘ask’ from that community – that global community?
In regulation, one of the things I think I’ve learned – and I’m helping regulators all over the world – is concentrate on driving quality. And that will help you succeed. Because, at the end of the day, everyone’s saying you’re fighting this market. You’re fighting big pharma; you’re fighting big tobacco. You’re not. You’re fighting a black market. If a patient can receive the product at a better price and a better quality on the black market, he will go there. So from a government perspective, that’s all you need to concentrate on. That the quality is good, and all of this crazy labeling doesn’t help. If you can concentrate on quality, then the rest will solve itself out.
Evolution of Cannabis Capital: Tahira Rehmatullah, Emily Paxhia, & Jessica Geran
Legislators, regulators. What can we do maybe together? What can we do separately? Guidance for research, academic science, or requests from that group, and the same question to policy.
I think, for the research/science group, is finding ways to fund research or utilize research that’s done in other parts of the world. You know, Israel has done quite a bit of research in this space and hasn’t necessarily produced in other parts of the world, and how do we use that information from places that are already trying to do or have been trying to do it? And I think it’s also on the private market as well to get behind those initiatives, because it only makes the market better. It only makes the products that are in this space better. So, I think we have to get a little bit creative and would challenge that population to think of what are alternative methods that maybe we haven’t thought of, because most research is funded by federal governments and that’s a difficulty.
I also think that there’s hundreds of thousands, if not millions of doctors within the United States and only a very, very tiny portion of those even willing to speak about the plant. So, a little effort amongst peers within the industry to get feedback out to the general public and for true believers to come forward and write, however, provide some real meaningful information to their patients, who trust them.
To round that point out, I would also hope that we could see some form of an SRO, or a self-regulated organization, in the industry, whereby we call to task the groups that are making claims about their products that aren’t really real or not, putting lab-tested products out there, or not using the right channels to get products out there. One of the things I’m just seeing everywhere is CBD-labeled products in stores all over New York, stores all over the country. And from what I can gather, these products are questionable at best. And I think that if we continue to have products infiltrating the market that are not put through the ringer of lab testing, that are not representing the ingredients appropriately. I think that would be a great thing to see the scientific community and the industry come together on creating what we think are the standards we want to hold ourselves to, so we can get in front of that. Because the last thing we need is a lot of people having bad experiences with products that either don’t really have CBD in them or have other ingredients in them that make them feel bad.
Vermont Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman
What is your ‘ask’ to the academic science community, understanding you’re wearing your policy-hat when asking? Because a third of this audience is academic science.
I think certainly the biggest place where we need research is: how can cannabinoids help with opiate addiction? Number one. Number two, what other medical uses are available with cannabinoids in terms of really doing studies to figure out? Does it really do something about joint pain? Does it really do something about the nausea? I mean, clearly it does from anecdotal millions of stories. And frankly, even if something works as a placebo, that’s all part of the mind-body connection anyway. But fundamentally, I think a lot of it is around the medical side. I think some study and research should be done on the physiological side, particularly with young people, and as they’re developing, what is it that makes it lead to you having a higher likelihood of addiction later in life? So that if we have some solid science on that, which I think there already is starting to be, we can go to young people and say, “Look, there is a difference when your parents have a glass of wine versus when you have a glass of wine or a beer. There’s a difference between someone at 35 taking a little bit of cannabis around a bonfire versus when you’re 12.” Having the science really clear on that and putting research dollars into that, which our country won’t do, are important questions to ask.
What is your ‘ask’ for the business community in the cannabis economy? We’ve got a global cannabis economy with businesses of all shapes and sizes at this point. What’s your ‘ask’ to that community?
My ask on that side, and it’s an ask of almost any business or industry but really specified here, is let’s do this in a responsible way. Don’t take advantage of naïveté. Don’t market it as something it isn’t. Don’t do what Camel cigarettes did and make it appealing to young people in your forms of marketing. Let’s talk about this plant with the respect that it deserves, as a medical use, as a recreational use, that it’s something that can be beneficial. It’s also something that can be harmful. And just don’t be gold rush oriented; there’s plenty to go around. Let’s be smart about it so that we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by just being gold rush based.
Steve Hawkins – Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
Your guidance for academic scientists, or at least what they could be thinking about or working on that would make sense and help the policy arena. What would your thoughts be for that group?
Just any further research that is made possible on cannabis in so many different areas. I mean, there’s of course medical research to be done. I think any development of further information that teaches us more about cannabis and its impact on young adults is helpful. I think all these questions about cannabis and driving impairment, it’s all sort of anecdotal. It’d be fascinating to know more about what the science can teach us in these areas.
You’re already talking about business folks, so what’s your guidance for them? What would you like to see from them? And I’ll ask you in two different ways: more of X and less of Y. Take whichever one you’d like to begin with.
More of X is an understanding, I think, that all of our boats will rise ultimately if we come together. One of the lessons, I think, we’d learned from the state legislative work is that it does not take nine different companies running around in a state capitol, each with their own lobbyists. If we could all sit down and agree on one set of lobbyists for the R’s and another set for the D’s and then use all of that other money for media work, for organizing in those swing districts. That’s what was missing in places like Connecticut that could have made a difference. A little less being an island unto ourselves and a little bit more collective work is, I think, needed. And in other industries, companies that are normally competitors with each other, they will come together around legislation that is of common interest and I think we have some lessons learned.
Then, to answer the question, “What do we need more of?” perhaps is resources itself. We have to think about how we invest in these campaigns. To compare to states, Michigan, which passed through a ballot initiative in 2018, and it’s interesting that the Midwest has gotten in front of the Northeast. No one would have ever thought that would happen. Michigan is a smaller state than Illinois, but it costs seven times as much money. Illinois was done at about 500 thousand dollars. Michigan was seven times that. If we can figure out the legislative work, it’s a lot cheaper but the money has to be spent upfront. It’s not the kind of thing that you can win in the last two weeks. It’s a marathon. There can be a sprint to the finish, but you got to have done the investment upfront or it’s not going to work.
Ben Kovler – CEO, GTI
What governance might you have or what ‘asks’ might you have from policy makers or enforcers, legislators or regulators, outside of Illinois? So anywhere else. What guidance might you have? What ‘asks’ might you have?
This is a hard industry, and this is a hard movement as it progresses. I would use the current operators in various different states to ask questions to learn about it. Starting anew with new operators is going to not build on the back of the experience that everybody’s had. And with the kind of growth that’s coming, there’s plenty of room. So, I think really relying on the experience just as the operators rely on the experience from others – both the guidance and, really, the ‘ask.’ You can size these markets. We can understand pretty clearly how big they’re going to be, what’s going to happen, what that means for tax revenue, what that means for stores and sort of patient flows and customer flows, so I would rely on the people that are doing it.
What about academics? Science? I would imagine the list is very, very long as far as what the ‘ask’ would be from academic science. Do you have guidance and what would be a particular ‘ask’ from that community?
Anything that would give credibility around the data. We have an overflow of anecdotal evidence, and none of it is scientifically done. There’s no real testing that we can heavily rely on. You’re starting to see some of it. There’s Journal of American Medicine, there’s some things going on at various universities, UCLA, but it’s very one-off and starting as simple as possible to understand what this product is doing for people, studying the data from medically technical to societal. So, the alcohol/cannabis substitution or compliment relationship – how does that work? Binge drinking, drunk driving, accidental deaths, opioids. I mean, the list goes on and on. The more data, the better. Like I said, on the other side, we believe in the power of education and the more facts and the more credible tests that are going on, the better this is for everybody.
Aaron Smith – Executive Director, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
As far as the other two constituencies – academic science or research, and business – and you certainly know the business guys, what would be your guidance? What would be your ‘ask’? Let’s do academic science first, research. What would be the guidance for that group or what would be the ‘ask’?
We desperately need more research on cannabis. One of the paradoxes has always been that cannabis being Schedule 1 makes it really, really difficult to actually access for research. Then, the opposition will say, “Well, there’s not enough research on cannabis to take it out of Schedule 1 status.” So, it’s a circular catch-22, so to speak. But it’s great to see that there is a lot of momentum now. I think everybody, at this point, agrees there should be more research. I don’t want to discredit research that has occurred outside of the U.S., in places like Israel that are light years ahead of us, but one area that we really need to see more substantive research around cannabis that, in the U.S. especially, is around things like how to test for impairment roadside. Nobody wants people to get behind the wheel after using cannabis or being impaired on cannabis. But just like beer, using a bit of cannabis does not necessarily equal impairment. There are new technologies emerging, but we haven’t had, until recently, a lot of impetus in the private sector to create those testing techniques, like they have with alcohol, where they could just test using a breathalyzer. So those are the kinds of things that I’d like to see, in addition, of course, to the medical research, which is vital.
As far as the business community, what would be your guidance? What would be your ‘ask’?
Anybody who’s been in this industry more than a couple weeks knows that this is not the green rush, easy street that sometimes the mainstream media makes it out to be, to be in the cannabis industry. We’re heavily, heavily regulated, overly regulated and in many cases, over-taxed in states across the country. Then at the federal level, of course, here in D.C., marijuana’s still a federal, Schedule 1 federally controlled substance, meaning that every time somebody’s in the cannabis industry and they open their doors, they are committing a felony. Nobody should be entering this cannabis space without also investing in the work that we’re doing here, in the nation’s capital, to change that. Many of the problems that are seen locally, even challenges people are having, say, with their zoning commission in their hometown, where they’re looking to open a retail facility, for example, often stem from the outdated federal laws. Cannabis businesses large and small need to support groups like NCIA, of course, but also support candidates for office at the local, state, federal level, that support the industry, show up to town halls, ask questions, be seen, contribute financially, if you can, to these campaigns, to help elect more forward-thinking members up and down the ballot, from city council, all the way up to the presidency. This is still not just an industry. It’s really the tip of the spear of a long, long social movement.
Ben Larson – CEO, Nanogen
You’ve got legislators and regulators paying attention. What would you either guide them with or what would you ask from them?
We find ourselves often in the middle of: is it hemp or is it cannabis? And just from starters, from a high level, understanding that they are the same plant. At the end of the day, do we really care about the plant or do we care about the cannabinoids that are within the plant? By dropping into these very large ambiguous buckets of time, we’re not doing ourselves any favors and we’re making it very difficult to actually manage this. We can already forecast some of the complications that are going to be coming down the pipe. For instance, CBD, THC are talked about very broadly in the cannabis and hemp conversation. What about the hundreds of other compounds that are not only within the plant, but can be found in other organic sources from around the world? Now we’re having bio-synthesized seeds these that are producing cannabinoids. If I have a kilogram of non-plant derived CBG, which sits on no list, am I just free to use that wherever? Are we going to have this conversation over and over and over again or are we going to come up with some reasonable management of how to deal with cannabinoids?
As far as science, academic scientists, what is your guidance? What do you ask from them?
Just put forth the effort and the study. We are very excited about participating in clinical studies. If there’s a particular area of interest and you’re looking for reliable ingredients to do studies with, we are more than happy to participate and lend our networking connections. We have a great pharmaceutical lab here in the Bay Area that we’re working with to do bioavailability studies, toxicology studies, understanding applications for various cannabinoids or solutions of various cannabinoids. I mean, there’s just so much to uncover. We know very small amount of the plant, but now that legalization is kind of loosening things up, we have the opportunity to really accelerate our learning.
For your fellow business folks in the community, the business community, what would your guidance be? What would you ask from them?
I’m a startup guy at heart, so I’m going to talk mostly to the people that have an idea, the people that are driving towards creating their dream. I guess my biggest advice is that your idea is your inspiration. Your company is the vehicle, and your product is the solution. That solution is a result of building a strong brand foundation, understanding what your vision, your big, hairy, audacious goal, what your habits, what your promise, your persona of your brand is, and then execution of the scientific method. Your idea is not your product, right? Your idea leads you to forming a company, which is your vehicle to solve a problem. As a community, or as practitioners in the cannabis space, we have the ability to uncover uncharted territory. That’s what people involved in this industry should be excited about. If they’re not there, they’re missing the boat and they’re being opportunistic. Really, there’s so much to uncover here that every day in this industry is incredibly exciting.
Professor Dave Schubert – Salk Institute
Policymakers and enforcers, legislators and regulators – what guidance would you have for that group? Or what would your ‘ask’ be for that group?
The main thing is that we’ve got to get to a point where we can use these compounds in a scientific setting without the regulatory oversight that’s required. Because up to a few months ago, I could not even use CBD in the lab without a schedule 1 license. It’s still not clear whether I can or not. And so, we were hoping to get around the THC problem, the cannabis problem, is just to use hemp. I’m not sure if I can go and buy some hemp product from a non-schedule 1 vendor. Because for me to get any schedule 1 compound I have to purchase it from a company that has a schedule 1 license. So, that immediately eliminates a vast majority of almost any cannabis related product. This is crazy, where you can go down the street and buy it, and I can’t bring it into my lab and work on it. So, for the regulatory, you just got to loosen things up. It’s counterproductive. I mean, it just makes it so difficult and discouraging for people to work on, even if they have really good ideas. We want to do something, the paperwork, and I work in a great institution that I can get the paperwork done very efficiently, but other people it will be very tricky to do. And so, from that perspective, from the political perspective, they just got to change things.
As far as our friends in business, what guidance would you give? What ‘ask’ would you have?
The money’s driving Pharma. So, the business people, you have the retail, people are interested in that, but what is lacking is, from my perspective anyway, it’d be sort of what used to be the realm of venture capital people and drug discovery. They start up a business which is based on science usually done in an academic lab. But something that will lead to a profitable entity at the end, which it’s something like a synthetic cannabinoid, which can be patented and sold eventually to a big Pharma for testing in clinical trials. So, you have the two ends, but what’s missing, you have the retail side, the Pharma side, and then in the middle, what used to be there would be the venture capital guys. And they’re putting their money into the retail part, but I haven’t seen any really interested in the sort of the medical development for medical use aspect. And they may be out there, but I was at a meeting at UCSD last week, and they got to California research funds for working on mostly on pain, the cognitive effects of marijuana, or very basic science medicine-oriented stuff. But I haven’t seen much in the type of thing that we’re doing anyway.
Dr. Ethan Russo – Research Director, International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI)
Derek Smith – Resource Innovation Institute (RII)
If I’m in state X, if I’m in country Alpha, what should I be thinking about if I am in policy? If I’m either at the beginning or I feel like I do have a pretty good plan, what are the keys here? If I’m in policy, either a legislator or regulator?
I think the first thing is we need data, right? And we need to create venues for the exchange of best practices. We need to start capturing data before we just set arbitrary targets on “you must be this efficient.” Also, that the industry needs to be at the table. I think every jurisdiction has different objectives with climate and energy goals, right? And what we’re hoping to do is help them connect their objectives to what works for the industry and make sure that that can move forward in a productive manner for everybody. And ideally what we’re doing is stitching together a consistent regulatory landscape instead of creating patchworks on a state-by-state or province-by-province level. We are talking with the country of Canada, we are talking with, we get calls from states on a weekly basis. And we’re going to be interacting on an international basis beyond North America, soon here. And we know that, like I said, we know all this is coming and that’s, I think how government needs to approach it.
I want to phrase it differently for business. If my jurisdiction simply doesn’t have regulations in place, how can I self-regulate in a way that works for my business and that will anticipate what I’m going to have to do anyway?
And also, how can I just be selfish and make sure that I have the most efficient operation? I think everyone fills out these license applications and they say they’ll do things from a social equity standpoint, and sustainability standpoint, and question the is, are the objectives they’re writing good objectives? Are they engaging with a nonprofit like Resource Innovation Institute that is helping advance this stuff? That’s what we hope people are writing and we hope people are joining us in all of our activities to create a better industry future. I think that if new facilities are being built with HPS lights and inefficient HVAC that is still resembling old school basements, you’re not going to survive, at the end of the day. And you’re not going to have a good reputation. You’re not going to be super welcome in a community. It behooves everyone to understand the technology that’s working and to set things up right at the beginning. For example, it’s always cheaper to start right the first time than to retrofit. So, if you think, well, I’m going to start with HPS lights because my grower tells me that that’s what they need to produce a quality product. What you’re going to end up doing is sizing your HVAC system to the heat load that’s coming off of those lights. And if you want to retrofit later, you basically paid for too much HVAC, you are literally wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in that decision. And I think the LED technology of today is proving that it cannot only save energy, but it may be improving quality. And there’s ways now to verify manufacturer claims and we can help people do that.
For our friends in academic science, where could we use some help as far as research is concerned?
We actually put together, with the help of Dominic Corba up at University of Washington, a list of research questions in a handbook that he’s publishing: the Rutledge Handbook. And so, we’ve got probably 30 plus recommendations on what should be studied. But, in essence, we need to measure what’s going on. We need to invest in baseline studies, right? And we need to recognize that the industry of today is nothing like the illicit market of yesterday. And there are some elements that still are, but there’s also a lot of innovation. Again, as I said, most of it privately funded. We need to recognize that that private investment can be leveraged by governments and utilities, and if everyone joins together, we can accelerate. And so, the research community needs to study all those technologies and most efficient ways, and, frankly, support what we’re doing.
Charlie Bachtell – CEO, Cresco
As far as academic/science is concerned, what guidance might you have for that group, or what ‘asks’ might you have from academic scientists or researchers that are paying attention?
We’ve always been a big proponent of it. Again, the research aspect of this has been one of the most difficult challenges – its lack of a lot of, or traditional, existing research, or at least at the levels that would be considered clinical research. That’s always been a challenge. It’s nice to see that it looks like it’s going to get better, but still, at this point, we’re really reduced to a lot of, either foreign research or epidemiological studies that are just aggregation of database, which, again, are all valuable, but more clinical research is definitely needed. I think the ‘ask’ would be for the institutions that are traditionally at the forefront of that to continue applying the pressure and increase the pressure, because it’s going to be incredibly helpful. It’s almost like a cyclical argument of, well, we can’t make that change because there’s not enough research. Well, we can’t do the research because you won’t change this. But the one thing I can say is, if we just keep that pressure on there, I think the industry is in a better position now to help the researchers be able to push that issue. So, that would be my ‘ask’ – keep the pressure on, we’ll help you. I think, together, collectively, that’s how you’ll make change that’ll allow it to be more traditional going forward.
Do you have guidance or an ‘ask’ from whether it be legislators or regulators, anyone in policy?
From a policy perspective, again, there’s lessons to be learned by every state that’s evaluated this, whether a positive outcome or a negative outcome. I think one of the things that is clear now, and one of the keys to the success, and I only will reference Illinois to be the bridge to get to the other states, is, you can’t have a conversation about adult use cannabis without looking at the social equity discussion at the same time. That was a hundred percent confirmed. And rightfully so.