U.S. Congressman Darren Soto joins us to discuss the passing of bills, such as the SAFE Banking Act that just recently passed in the House. As well, Soto tells us about some environmental bills and bills related to disaster recovery that are in the works. Because Congress is so divided, it has been extremely difficult to improve certain laws -- while passing bills in the House is usually doable, passing them in the Senate is much more trying. Despite this frustrating process, Soto does, in fact, believe that the SAFE Banking Act has a good chance of making it through the Senate during this upcoming election year. Soto strongly believes that the lack of safe banking for cannabis businesses is actively hurting everyday Americans: "If we're trying to legalize and normalize this industry, making it all cash is the exact opposite of that." Additionally, Soto discusses the necessity of taking care of our veterans, which includes being able to prescribe them medical cannabis.
U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce discusses the STATES Act and how local economies would play out if cannabis reform were treated as a states' rights issue. Although the STATES Act is not a full solution, Joyce believes that it's very teed up to go, as it is compact and easy for people to understand. Joyce notes that, unfortunately, the Judiciary Committee is pretty backed up at the moment, but that the Moore Act is another bill that people are talking about in Congress, especially because it addresses the issue of expungement. "Moore Act, obviously, is fully fleshed. The trouble is the more flesh you put on that, the harder it's going to be to move that." Joyce talks about the complications and gray areas that come when discussing expungement, and how one must be very delicate when setting such important precedents.
U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu has been fighting for cannabis reform for many years; in fact, he was one of the authors of the ballot guide statement supporting cannabis legalization in California. Congressman Lieu believes that the U.S. should not spend a single cent more trying to eradicate cannabis: "My opinion is that the federal government should completely decriminalize cannabis, take it off the schedule controlled substances. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend any taxpayer dollars trying to prosecute cannabis related issues." Lieu reminds us that it is important to consider the practicalities that go into getting a bill passed and making it bipartisan; because of this, bills like the MORE Act and the STATES Act may not be completely perfect. Lieu also discusses expungement, data, safe banking, automation, and more.
Narbe Alexandrian, President and CEO of Canopy Rivers, discusses the ins and outs of the cannabis investment space. Alexandrian notes that, when a company goes public, there's a lot of pressure in terms of growth, and, unfortunately, a lot of companies simply can't meet those lofty goals. He believes that cannabis companies today should be focused on product market fit; because cannabis is treated as somewhat of a homogeneous product, investors tend to look for who has the right brand and distribution: "The difference between Coke, and Pepsi, and every other soft drink manufacturer out there, isn't that they have this secret recipe, or this secret can, or it pops when you pop the can, nothing like that. It's because of distribution." Alexandrian also discusses the future of hemp, the growing interest in biosynthetic cannabinoids, and the possibility of cannabis entering the pharmaceutical industry.
Cat Packer, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, is working to transition medical cannabis operators over to California's new commercial framework. Although the state has had medical cannabis for years, it has not been regulated by the city of Los Angeles until this point, so a lot of catch up is required to make sure the industry is unified and regulated. Packer also discusses the risks that still persist when entering the market, as well as the city's steps toward addressing social equity: "The city of Los Angeles passed a social equity program back in 2017 in an attempt to try and acknowledge and address some of the harms of the drug war that particularly low income and minority communities had experienced." Soon, Packer tells us, Los Angeles will have more social equity licensees than anywhere else.
A dietary revolution is happening all over the world, Roxanne Dennant, CEO of Fruit Slabs, points out. From veganism to gluten-free diets, a higher consciousness about quality choices regarding food is certainly taking hold. Despite how widespread this consciousness seems to be, Dennant noticed a lack of health and wellness options being offered in the edible market, which is how Fruit Slabs was born. Dennant notes what makes Fruit Slabs products so special: "Our product is so different than any other edibles because fruits have natural goodness in them. They're locked full of natural terpenes, they're also packed full of other, just good things for you, potassium, melatonin, altriptofan." Dennant also discusses the tricky licensing process back in 2016-2017, the environmental impact of agricultural farming, and what Fruit Slabs has been doing to support veterans and the LGBTQ+ community.
Dr. Cristina Sanchez, a molecular biologist at Compultense University in Madrid, Spain, is working to uncover whether or not cannabinoids are useful tools for fighting cancer -- not just to combat the negative side effects of chemo, but also with actual anti-tumor activity. She notes that, in her and her team's pre-clinical studies with mice, cannabinoids do, indeed, kill cancer cells as well as many other things that block the progression of cancer. Although we don't have studies studying the effects of cannabinoids on cancer in humans, there are many testimonials from patients that claim the use of medical cannabis has, in fact, slowed down their disease. Although anecdotal evidence is not enough on its own to start treating patients with cannabis, Sanchez believes that it is an incredibly useful perspective, especially in conjunction with clinical studies.
Because Washington state's cannabis economy began with such an excess of operators, there is currently a massive consolidation process taking place, according to Alex Cooley, co-founder of Solstice. Because of that excess, there was a number of operators who conducted business poorly, and, as a result, collapsed Washington's market and price point (luckily, the economy has balanced out since then.) Cooley also touches upon the Oregon export bill and believes that legal export will ultimately lead to a better, safer cannabis industry. While limiting licensures may not be the best idea, Cooley suggests a merit-based system: so long as you can meet the standards that are put forward by the state, then you can receive licensure. And I think as more and more these states have come online, we've got a firmer and firmer grasp of what that merit looks like."
Louisa Mojela, the incoming chair for Halo Labs, Inc., joins us from Cape Town, South Africa. Within South Africa is the nation of Lesotho, which is on its way to becoming a global cannabis leader. Mojela explains that, because Lesotho was the first African country to legalize both the cultivation and manufacturing of medical cannabis -- and because cannabis grows freely in Lesotho -- the country has become a very desirable location for many worldwide cannabis operators. Hopefully, this new industry will create many much-needed jobs for the country. In order to create this desired "fourth industrial revolution", as Mojela calls it, "the Kingdom of Lesotho must make sure that it really harnesses and leverages these opportunities for the betterment of the people in Lesotho."
The Berkeley Patients Group is the oldest continually operating dispensary in the country, and has historically been a model for how the industry should operate and what corporate social responsibility should look like. Sabrina Fendrick is the Director of Government Affairs for BPG, which means that she is in charge of the policy side of things. Fendrick notes that between January and July of 2018, the entire supply chain had to be restructured, which was difficult because so many temporary licenses were expiring. Because this is the only industry - and California is the only state - that has four agencies regulating one supply chain, there have been lots of extra challenges and limitations present, especially amidst all the changes that occurred last year. Although 2019 hasn't been completely smooth sailing, the regulatory landscape has certainly improved since 2018.
Being able to quantify, harness, and ultimately control the psychoactive effects of cannabis is key in making cannabis accessible to as many patients as possible, according to Perry Davidson, founder and CEO of Syqe. When Davidson was first founding Syqe, he noticed that a majority of patients were using cannabis to treat their chronic pain, and that inhalation was the most beneficial route of administration. Since that realization, Syqe has been working to perfect their inhalation system and make it controllable enough to be deliverable to a small child. Davidson notes that "a metered dose inhalation system would allow patients and physicians to be comfortable in that treatment paradigm of cannabis." In the end, the Syqe team decided to keep the flower in its full, raw form - no chemical alterations, no extractions.
Jeff Chen, Director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, has learned that "the average physician really is, in many ways, powerless to navigate the healthcare system." Because of this, Chen decided that the best way to change the system was to learn the business side of it as well. Chen also notes that, even today, the endocannabinoid system is not being taught in medical school, as it is a very long and difficult process to change med school curricula. Luckily, UCLA is currently doing a rehaul of their med school curriculum, so Chen is hoping that this will provide an opportunity to insert some cannabis content. Chen wants future doctors to understand "some of the patterns and trends around usage and what the regulatory and policy landscape looks like" and hopes for more double-blind placebo-controlled studies in the very near future.
Pavel Pachta joins us to discuss the history and current state of international drug control treaties. Pachta shares that these treaties were drafted in order to prevent drug abuse and addiction - because of that, Pachta believes that there is no sense in controlling a cannabis product that contains no THC. Pachta also believes that it is crucial to abide by international law; failing to do so sets a bad precedent for other nations. Finally, Pachta discusses what the International Narcotic Control system must do to remain credible, and offers his advice to those in business and academic science.
Chris Call, of the Northbay Credit Union, begins by discussing public safety by way of safe banking; after all, Northbay Credit Union is one of the only financial institutions in the Bay Area that accepts cannabis money. Call is committed to offering safe banking options in order to reduce the number of operators walking around with duffel bags full of cash, though unfortunately, this is still a reality for many. Call also discusses the nebulous legal status of accepting cannabis money: "There's still a law that says you can't aid and abet an illegal operation, which is what we're doing technically, but we are actually providing a really significant resource to law enforcement. We're providing a paper trail that otherwise would not exist."
New York State Senator Diane Savino joins us to discuss legislative procedures in New York and how, unfortunately, New York was recently unable to pass adult use. Savino notes that, when drafting a bill, it is important that you don't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good: "You compromise and you start with what you got. And then you spend time working to improve it, because that's why laws are amendable." In this business, it is important that a bill has more than just a slim majority, as that is an indication to the courts that the support isn't truly there. Savino hopes that, over the next couple of years, New York can begin to stabilize, grow, and expand its medical program.
Based on her personal experiences, Mara Gordon, co-founder of Aunt Zelda's, has become passionate about using cannabis to treat patients with illnesses and injuries. Gordon notes that, based on her data, THC is the most medically useful cannabinoid, although she is also a strong proponent of medical-use CBD. She also points out that, typically, younger patients require higher doses, whereas older patients require lower doses. This could be due to number of cannabinoid receptors, metabolism speed, or mere differences in psychology. Besides science, Gordon believes that products need to be well understood with everything printed on the label.
Jeff Rhoades, Senior Policy Advisor of the Oregon Governor's Office, joins us to discuss the future of regulations in Oregon. Rhoades hopes that the cannabis industry will eventually be set up like the wine industry, and also anticipates that we will see a relaxing of federal regulations in the near future. Rhoades also touches upon equity in the cannabis industry: "We have populations here in Oregon, like other states, that have been disproportionately affected by the drug war and so, we want to make certain that those individuals aren't barred from entering into this business by virtue of some past conviction that the behavior would be legalized at this time."
As the chairwoman of the Small Business Committee, U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez is unsurprisingly passionate about cannabis business rights, such as safe banking. Because public opinion of cannabis is progressing, it is important to help businesses grow in order to positively impact local communities and local economies. In particular, Velazquez emphasizes that those who have been most impacted by the war on drugs must be given access to the capital and resources they need in order to enter the cannabis space. She firmly believes that "the potential is unbelievable, but we have to do this right." Luckily, with public sentiment on our side, the future seems quite promising.
Tjalling Erkelens, CEO of Bedrocan, joins us in our July digital workshop to discuss clinical trials and global cannabis distribution. Erkelens believes that some type of harmonization among European regulations is necessary for the global cannabis economy to continue maturing; having different regulations from country to country makes it very difficult to create a unified industry. Erkelens also notes that when medical cannabis companies begin to dabble in adult use, they often do a poor job of continuing to prioritize the patients. Regardless of the direction in which the global cannabis economy eventually moves, we must make sure that we never forget the needs of medical patients.
While most of us have heard of the STATES Act and the SAFE Banking Act, fewer of us have heard of the Veterans Administration Research Act, of which U.S. Congresswoman Deb Haaland is a sponsor. As the daughter of two service members, Haaland believes that it is essential to go out, talk to veterans, and ask them what they want; what you'll find is that, by and large, veterans want cannabis as an option for their chronic pain and PTSD. Haaland also touches upon how vastly under-represented Native Americans are not only in politics, but also in sports, film, business, and much more. Haaland reminds us that "so much of our information rests on what the media decides to cover", so if we want to change minds, it is our responsibility to personally spread the word.
Neill Franklin, of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), talks with us about policy and policing. Franklin believes that the criminal justice system is largely based on "creating evil so then we can have all these good guys to go fight it", which needs to change. Franklin walks us through the nine Peelian Principles - the guidelines under which the police force must operate - in order to explore the best and safest ways to legislate and regulate cannabis. He believes that one of the best ways to prevent crime is simply by giving people the proper tools and the right information.
Shanita Penny, of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, shares with us that the MCBA is currently pushing for as much equitable cannabis legislation as possible. For Penny, equity means "ensuring that we address the social justice and criminal justice reform aspects, that we make sure small businesses and minority-owned businesses have a place in this industry, and that we also create patient access that is real and true." Penny notes that by removing certain barriers to entry, we are then improving communities that have been most affected by the war on drugs. She reminds us that, as long as we're making enough noise, a legislative loss may actually be progress in disguise.
Steve Hawkins, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), discusses his hopes and predictions for upcoming cannabis policy in the United States. In particular, Hawkins believes that states should have the right to legalize cannabis in their own way without federal intrusion, as much more is possible at the state level. As well, Hawkins sees the legal cannabis industry as a fantastic way to create a large number of middle-class jobs - it's already on its way toward generating a million jobs for the economy. Because the war on drugs resulted in millions of cannabis convictions, expungements need to occur in similarly large numbers: "You don't make a dent with 25 thousand expungements. You make a dent with 750 thousand expungements."
Grover Norquist, Founder and President of Americans for Tax Reform, describes the inconsistencies of taxes imposed by the federal government. For Norquist, this is more than just a cannabis issue; this is an issue of federalism and states' rights: "You wouldn't want the federal government to go in and use federal tax policy to interfere with federalism on education policy." Norquist believes that when the STATES Act passes, it will help to solve the federalism question for tax policy and banking policy.
Dr. Ryan Vandrey, of Johns Hopkins University, joins us to discuss the best routes of administration for different conditions. For example, when treating chronic pain, oral administration is preferable, as it yields a more sustained drug effect. However, with a symptom like nausea, inhalation would likely be the preferred route of administration, as eating or drinking may aggravate the nausea. As well, Vandrey talks about the flawed methods of testing THC levels in blood: "If we take somebody who uses cannabis frequently and they don't use for 24 hours, they have as much THC in their blood as the person who's eating a 50-milligram edible and is highly impaired. So, blood THC levels are incredibly complicated. What you have is a high likelihood of erroneous assumptions based on blood THC levels."