Chris Walsh dives into the industry's exponential growth over the past several years, the SAFE Banking Act, and the frustrating process of incremental legislative change: "When something substantial actually is enacted into law is when you're really going to see things open up." Walsh also discusses the difference between the cannabis industry and the hemp industry, the state of the CBD market in the U.S., retail investments, and more.
Tim Leslie of Leafly shares with us his thoughts about how to help consumers navigate the abundance of hemp-derived CBD products and figure out which products are right for them. Leslie also discusses the importance of taking more steps toward a regulated industry in order to provide people with safe, legal products: "If you view legalization as the first step, the next step is, how do we get the illicit market into the legal industry? How do we get more dispensaries, how do we educate people that more dispensaries is a good thing, that it will propagate a safe legal industry?" He believes that education and eradicating misinformation is an important step in avoiding nascent industry hiccups; in particular, unlearning negative stereotypes and reminding the public that cannabis is, above all, a wellness product.
Andy Williams returns to talk with us about the effects of House Bill 1090 in Colorado, which made it possible for public companies to own cannabis companies. He also discusses the vaping ban in Massachusetts, the STATES Act, the SAFE Banking Act, and the MORE Act: "Some of the senators that are feeling a lot of pressure for cannabis and hemp and that issue view this bill as something that they can palate that might be good even, and if they pass this, then I think they could punt other legislation saying, 'We already passed this.'" Williams also discusses the emphasis on branding for MSOs, the idea that retail will become mainstream, cannabis in Colombia, and more.
We are joined by two guests today: Philasande Mahlakatha, UFSN, and Baphele Mhlaba, Chief of Staff, Eastern Cape Office of the Premier. Mahlakatha begins by discussing the history of prohibition and the logistics of cannabis agriculture. She also wants to make sure that the community is involved with the process: "As the industry starts to boom, to flourish, if you want, in South Africa, we would like to make sure that the people are well represented." Baphele Mhlaba then joins the discussion and talks about home grow, regulating cannabis for medical use, and ethical agriculture: "Not only did [law enforcement] disregard this government, the ongoing health implications of spraying chemicals over foodstuffs, over water resources and all those other components that are related to the injustice method against our people in the name of making sure that we enforce the laws."
We have two guests today: Ras Garreth Prince and Clara Norell. We begin by speaking with Ras Garreth Prince about the history of cannabis in South Africa and the tough battle to get where they are today: "Don't treat me worse than a tobacco smoker, or an alcohol drinker. That's what I'm asking for. I'm not asking for any privileges, I'm not asking for special treatment, just give me a chance to compete fairly, that's all that I'm asking for." Clara Norell, co-founder and CEO of Nordiska Hampa Kompaniet, joins us for a discussion on hemp in Sweden: "We want to create a network of farmers in Sweden. Also, be a main supplier of a high quality, effective, for example, food production. Later on, in a long perspective, for fiber, for textiles, for building material, and for bio-plastics."
Lesotho has recently arrived on the international cannabis scene, and Tseli Khiba, Advocate, High Court of Lesotho joins us to discuss the details of that development. She explains that, originally, investors were interested in the market in Swaziland, but ended up encountering several roadblocks there. Investors then began looking more broadly for alternative options and noticed Lesotho. Because the laws and provisions were already in place, it seemed like a much easier place to get an industry started. Khiba describes the regulatory gray areas: "The government relied a lot on the best practices internationally and were consistent with those requirements. So, even though the regulations weren't formally in place in the country, the government approached the industry in a proactive manner and basically decided to figure the rest out as you went along." Khiba also discusses the illicit market, the benefits of the regulatory market, homegrow, and more.
Today we are joined by Nial DeMena, President and CEO of Manna Molecular Science. DeMena begins by discussing the advantages of adhesive patches over inhalation as a means of consuming cannabis, especially for women: "Your lungs are a very sensitive organ -- they're hard to get to and you can't survive without your lungs. Whereas your skin, skin regenerates very quickly. You can scratch it and heals quickly. There's a lot of things that the skin can tolerate that other parts of the body can't." DeMena also discusses global expansion, the public market, the problems with vaping, the importance of testing and regulation, and more.
Professor Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, discusses the usefulness of cannabis in treating a variety of medical conditions: "Cannabis has been a medicine for 3,000 years and only hasn't been for 77. So I think we can harken back to some of the prehistoric information that we have that suggests that cannabis was useful in a number of different conditions. And those conditions are still, I think, responsive to cannabis as a medicine." Abrams shares promising findings from various studies on cancer patients, patients with HIV and AIDS Wasting Syndrome, and more. He also discusses the differences between different consumption methods, the safety of mixing cannabis with opiates, the ways in which CBD and THC interact, the problems with observational research, and more.
David Torrisi, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, joins us to discuss medical operators and adult use operators in the state of Massachusetts. Torrisi tells us about changes and progress that have taken place in Massachusetts over the past several years: "People thought the sky was going to fall, and there's still some people that think cannabis is like, 'Oh my God, the devil is here.' In five years, I don't think anyone's going to care as much as they care right now about this." Torrisi also talks about the Massachusetts vaping ban in depth and emphasizes the importance of regulation in order to deliver safe products to the public.
Saul Kaye, founder and CEO of iCAN, briefly joins us and begins by sharing his thoughts about the cannabis market in Malta: "I don't like cannabis markets that are export only. If you're not treating your own patients, you're doing a disservice to your country [...] it's a business thing, not a patient thing, and I think there should always be a balance." Kaye also discusses potential mergers and acquisitions coming up this year and notes that, although there's been a recent turndown in the industry, things will likely improve by April. Kaye believes that, across the board, hemp should legally be allowed to contain up to 1% THC. He also discusses the unending future growth of the cannabis market, the commodification of CBD, the future of adult use markets, and more.
We speak with the Boston Vaping Panel to discuss the recently decided four-month vaping ban: "The bottom line here is we have over 1200 people across the country dying in intensive care unit from something that's vaguely related to these devices. I've never felt that these devices were safe, but it's coming to a head at the moment." Because of the number of people who have died from vaping products, Massachusetts thought that a temporary ban would be useful in taking the time to conduct the research and figure out the root of the problem. While the panel agrees that enforcing outright bans does tend to drive people to the illicit market, the primary job of a governor is to protect public health and safety. The episode continues with a Q&A from the public, with questions about the medical need for vaping devices, the efficacy of prohibition, how to contact local government representatives, the necessity of regulation, public education, and more.
Kris Krane, co-founder and President of 4Front, returns and begins by sharing his experience as a cannabis activist in the '90s, which consisted mainly of playing defense and repealing bad laws. He walks us through the evolution of the industry since that time and notes that 2012 was when the industry really experienced a true turning point. Krane also dives deep into a discussion on prohibition, in particular the recent bans on vaping products across the country: "They like their vapes, and they're going to want to find other vape products. If they can't get legally produced and regulated products out of dispensaries, they're going to go to the illicit market, which is where the tainted vapes are in the first place. It's the absolute wrong solution." Krane later dives into the growth of the European market, the state of markets in Africa and South America, medical vs. adult use markets, and more.
Joe Lusardi, CEO of Curaleaf, discusses getting started with the cannabis industry when Maine passed a dispensary bill back in 2009 and notes how much the industry has changed over the past 10 years. Lusardi also comments on the public safety issue surrounding vaping and tells us that most of the problems are coming from the illicit market: "This will hopefully be, ultimately, a good thing because it will create more awareness around the supply chain and create even better, stronger regulations. And that's really what we need to move forward with a credible, regulated industry." Lusardi talks about sourcing hemp for their products, the need for proper research, and believes that both hemp and CBD are important parts of the future of cannabis.
Guy Rocourt, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Papa & Barkley, discusses the regulatory progress California has made over the past few years as well as what makes cannabis regulations especially unique. Rocourt also talks about the currently underwhelming steps that the state is taking in terms of justice and equity in the cannabis industry: "We're still kind of flailing on how best to give back as an industry as far as just social justice goes around licensing...the state really didn't take too much of a leadership position where they should have." He also dives into expungement, safe access, various pieces of legislation waiting to be passed, descheduling, and more.
Professor Mauro Maccarone, Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, discusses current cannabis research and the dangers of making product claims that are not backed up by science: "Psychiatric illnesses and, more in general, neurological diseases, are one of the areas, maybe together with cancer and pain, where people need more drugs than we actually have. And certainly, cannabis extracts can have potential, yet they can also be a menace to patients." Maccarone also dives into the notion of cannabis being potentially therapeutic for psychosis and schizophrenia, and notes that chronic use is one of the main things we should be concerned about.
Cam Battley, CCO of Aurora Cannabis, begins by discussing the importance of social justice in the cannabis industry: "It's part of the founding ethic of our company. It is what animates us. It's what delivers a sense of mission [...] We are business people, but in business, to be able to combine a sense of mission, a belief in the rightness, and the value of what you're achieving." He points out that, by being a part of a new industry, we have the opportunity to make it better than legacy industries -- for example, prioritizing diversity in the workplace. Battley believes that people involved in the cannabis market before legalization have the right to work in the legal sector, and also discusses sustainability regarding indoor growing facilities.
Troy Dayton, CEO of the ArcView Group, begins by discussing the recent passing of the SAFE Banking Act: "Forcing people to deal with cash, even if you oppose legalization, is outrageous. Everybody has agreed forever that these businesses should have access to banking." Dayton believes that this victory will make a huge difference to the industry and to the movement, but reminds us that our work is not done until we pass federal legalization and expunge records for nonviolent drug crimes. Dayton also discusses the need for scientific research to catch up with the pace of industry, the nuances of the STATES Act, the demand for CBD, and also notes that the trend of companies going public probably won't become mainstream at least for a few years.
Dr. Matthew Halpert, instructor of immunology at Baylor College of Medicine, has spent the past year studying and researching the different ways in which CBD interacts with the body: "It's become very evident that CBD can, in fact, interact with the body in a variety of ways, and exert several different health benefits. It is certainly worth it to study CBD and these other cannabinoids and how they may be very helpful." Because regulating cellular homeostasis is beneficial for controlling cancer growth and tumor development, CBD became a subject of interest for Halpert and his team. Halpert is confident that, eventually, doctors will be prescribing CBD to patients and that CBD will be reimbursable by health insurance plans.
Today, we are joined by two guests: Fleesie Hubbard, founder of FiveTen Wellness, and Jim Belushi, founder of Belushi's cannabis farm. We begin with Fleesie Hubbard, whose business focuses on three main areas: patient education, advancing clinical research, and building community partnerships. Hubbard also discusses CBD and the way its role in the industry has evolved: "The passage of the Farm Bill really has opened a door to companies that should not be in the space, that are marketing things, that are making claims that are not really accurate. I think that there's a real lack of education around the value of CBD and what types of CBD products are valuable." Jim Belushi then joins us with a discussion of the work he is currently doing in Oregon. For example, Belushi is working to establish an opiate trade program in Portland so that anyone can receive cannabis, regardless of what they're able to pay. For Belushi, cannabis is spiritual: "I believe that the cannabis that we're putting out there, like that veteran, he's talking to his wife, he's talking to his kids because of the plant. I feel we can heal families and heal the community."
Richard Parrott, Division Director for CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing of the CDFA, is currently working to transition those with provisional licenses over to annual licenses. As well, Parrott and his team are looking to set up parameters to establish a certified organic cannabis program. In order to draft correct regulations, it is essential to hear from the public, which requires engagement, participation, and discussion from all points of view. Parrott notes the most important lessons he's learned from being in the industry: "Our goal is to get everyone educated so that they can be in this regulated space and be successful. So, lessons learned are just really communicating, trying to anticipate issues that might be coming up, and get out in front of it. Start communicating and talking early."
Steve DeAngelo, cannabis activist and entrepreneur, discusses legalization in California beginning with the secret history of Prop 64. He poses the question: "Is flawed legalization better than no legalization at all?" In that same vein, DeAngelo notes that, because every part of the supply chain is now taxed, adult use has paradoxically driven some people out of the system rather than bringing them in. Correct regulation is certainly of the utmost importance: "[Comprehensive product safety testing is] what we do with every other product that's designed for human consumption in this country. That's what cannabis consumers deserve: the same degree of protection that every other consumer gets. And we've been denied that, and it has impacted our health, and it has killed us, and it's long overdue for it to stop."
Terra Carver, of the Humboldt County Grower's Alliance, joins us to discuss the best way to move the cannabis movement forward: "When we advocate...we're really trying to look beyond just making money or thinking about this as a business and ensuring that we're protecting our environment, we're protecting our communities and keeping the ecosystem of our culture really healthy." Carver also discusses the current state of provisional licenses, difficult barriers to entry, and the complications that would come if hemp were produced within Humboldt County.
While the passing of the SAFE Banking Act in the House is a great victory for everybody, U.S. Congressman Don Young wants to urge everybody who cares about SAFE Banking to call their senators and encourage them to vote yes on the bill as well. In terms of what's next, Young says that the cannabis industry should come to Congress with proposals for solutions so that Congress can stay informed and get ahead. Young also discusses the three big cannabis bills on the docket: the STATES Act, the MORE Act, and the CARERS Act. Like many of his colleagues, Young believes that cannabis reform should be a states' rights issue and that the federal government should mostly be uninvolved -- regulate at the state level so that the states can collect that tax. When it comes to making progress, Young reminds us: "If you start biting an apple before what you bit on, you're going to lose. Get this done. Get concentrated on that. You get that signed, then you go after the next one."
For U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, the passing of the SAFE Banking Act says a lot more than merely where we are on banking; he believes that it is an indicator that we are well past the tipping point on ending cannabis prohibition. He notes that we are definitely not finished with cannabis reform, especially because so many members of Congress represent states that need such reforms. Huffman also believes that if he were representing a state in the Midwest, he would be focusing on states' rights and the medical applications of cannabis, as it's hard nowadays to argue about the importance of those aspects. Unfortunately, Huffman reminds us that Congress rarely gets ahead of public opinion, which is why Congress still has so much catching up to do regarding cannabis reform.