What We Learned From the SXSW Cannabusiness Track

The Mary Jane Experience spent last week in Austin Texas covering the SXSW Cannabusiness Track. Besides the freaks the geeks on the streets at the festival, SXSW has a huge conference dedicated to all walks of the industry including this year’s Inaugural Cannabusiness Event. We covered as many of the events and talks as we could with 2 reporters, and here is our “readers Digest” super short re-cap of what we learned.

For starters, the name Cannabusiness is a little misleading. The conference was not just about how to become an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry. There are many talks related to business, but topics included everything from Cannabis and Wellness, Blockchain in Cannabis, Women in Cannabis Meet-ups, the political side, the activism side, the list goes on.

Listen to the Podcast Re-Cap >>

The lineup of speakers was incredible. Just a little taste of the names we saw: Sue Sisley (research scientist), Bruce Linton (founder and CEO of Canopy Growth), Cannabis Feminist, Julia Jacobson (CEO of Aster Farms), Hannah Davis (CMO Heavy Hitters + Mammoth Distribution), Ricky Williams of Real Wellness, Taylor Pendergrass of the ACLU, Nancy Whiteman of Wana Brands, and MORE

Kind of a sexy line up…

This Article Will Cover These Events:

  1. Cannabis Research Shackled by Politics Since 1968
  2. The Global Cannabis Industry Explosion: Can U.S. Entrepreneurs Ride the Wave?
  3. Cannabis Brands and Investments
  4. Females in Cannabis Meetup
  5. Blockchain in Cannabis: Boosting Market Efficiency
  6. Cannabis and Wellness: The Body and Beyond
  7. Can We Heal Ourselves From The War On Drugs?
  8. Non-obvious Trends in The Cannabis Industry
  9. Cannabis and The Aging Brain
  10. Cannabis Research Shackled by Politics Since 1968

1.Cannabis Research Shackled by Politics Since 1968

Speaker: Sue Sisley (Scottsdale Research Institute)

(see a complete recap of Sue’s talk here)

One of the immediately striking elements of Sue’s talk was how passionate she is. She was fired from The University of Arizona for wanting to study cannabis and instead of ruining her life/career,  it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to her. The media went wild. She was all over the news, CNN and other large news outlets came out in support of her cause.

Sue never used weed in her early life. She got diagnosed with breast cancer later in life and as a scientist decided, ‘I’m going to refuse chemo, and I’m going to test out weed on myself.’ Because that’s what any good scientist would do. She realized by looking at breast tissue samples that her cancer cells after using cannabis were drastically reduced. She did studies also in mice where they found that metastasis was also reduced in test subjects after using cannabis.

Sue was able to hook up with friends at Scottsdale Institute, (a private institution) so they could study this plant and its effects on people living with PTSD. Immediately the hurdles of legal cannabis research presented themselves. To legally study weed in the US you have to jump through loophole after loophole, taking Sue about seven years to get her schedule 1 license from the DEA to study cannabis.

She did eventually get the license (the golden ticket) and ordered six kilos of weed. When she received the substance, it was a bag of cannabis powder that had been frozen for years, was moldy, and riddled with sticks and the stems. NIDA also processes the cannabis to the point where there is THC, and CBD, that’s it. No other cannabinoids and certainly no terpenes. Nothing close to what you would get studying regular flour. This product is clearly distorting research on cannabis’ efficacy for PTSD treatment.

Cannabis is more challenging to study than any other schedule 1 narcotics including heroin, LSD, and cocaine.

The root of the issue: NIDA has a monopoly. They’re the only legal growers in the US for the government. As long as this DEA/NIDA Monopoly exists, it will NOT be possible to develop FDA approved prescription medicine with the cannabis flower.

In conclusion, there needs to be a change in policy for the sake of science and medicine. See our full blog post about Sue and how you can help her make a change here>>

  1. The Global Cannabis Industry Explosion: Can U.S. Entrepreneurs Ride the Wave?

Speakers: Bruce Linton (founder and CEO of Canopy Growth), Lilach Mazor Power (Giving Tree Arizona), Alfredo Pascual (Marijuana Business Daily), Chris Walsh (Marijuana Business Daily)

The panelists on this talk ranged from the CEO of Canopy Growth, Inc. to research scientists, dispensary owners, and beyond. It was eye-opening.

One of the take-home messages was, in the US legal states are operating like Islands.

What that means is that Colorado is regulating cannabis differently from California who is regulating differently from Washington, Oklahoma, Utah, New York, New Jersey, etc. All of these places that are decriminalizing and partaking in varying degrees of legalization, their markets are operating as independently of each other.

Whereas Canada and other places around the globe are operating as a countries. Globally, places like Poland, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the UK, (which are medically legal) are going to be indicator markets. We have the same kind of indicator markets in the US. like Oklahoma, Utah, and New York.

There are indicator markets and then there are industry leading markets.

A place like Canada is going to be an industry-leading market, just like Colorado and California are industry-leading markets in the US. We need to look to the indicator markets to see what’s going to happen as well as the industry leading markets to get an idea of what is going to happen in the future of Cannabis.

The biggest challenge is can us entrepreneurs ride the wave right now? It’s looking like the answer is no. Because each of our states are regulated so differently, the US will not be able to export product until it becomes federally illegal. We as a country are behind the ball on that.

What the US will be able to export is IP or intellectual property. So, the real winners of the US entrepreneur wave in cannabis are going to be the people that can get to the trademark and patent office first.

Because of the stranglehold the FDA and NIDA has on our ability even to test and come up with innovation in the space, Canada and other places are blowing the US away. They a have public money, private money, and big money to innovate with, as well as a federal government that supports research and education. The US just doesn’t have that. In Colorado we can’t even have public investment in our cannabis companies. Right now US entrepreneurs are being hosed by our federal government.

It takes a long time to shift people’s understanding and mindset when you’re not even allowed to provide them with real information.

The global industry is incredibly interesting. Malaysia is going to  be one of the first decriminalized predominantly Muslim region countries. The UK is now medically legal, they’re kind of akin to New York City. If New York adopts legal cannabis, it could be a tipping point for the whole world. And the UK sits right there in a similar sense that if the UK adopts legal cannabis that will be a major push for the rest of the world to at least look at decriminalization.

The global geopolitical and geo-economic stance on cannabis is interesting and as we watch it unfold we will be able to predict some market trends that will allow for budding (ha!) entrepreneurship.

  1. Cannabis Brands and Investments

Speakers: Hannah Davis (CMO Heavy Hitters ), Julia Jacobson (CEO of Aster Farms), Dai Troung (MedMen), Rusty Wilenkin (Old Pal)

The Cannabis Brands and Investments Panel consisted entirely of California brands. Going back to the idea that US states are operating like Islands, this talk was a conversation about California as an island and how people can invest.

It’s difficult in terms of branding, all of these companies are looking to grow nationally and/or globally. The influx of Canadian investment money they’re all gunning for requires CannaBusiness owners to race to the trademark and patent offices in order to get their IP locked up so that when big Canadian money comes to the US to buy them, they’ll be able to sell it to them. As a result, all investment in cannabis brands in the US at this point are going to be long term. Short term investments are there; the news loves the overnight billionaire story, and there are some out there. But in the US that’s just not going to be the case right now, until things change legally to allow for diversified and in-depth research. So, brands are looking at ‘The Amazon Approach’ they’re looking at gathering Consumer data and building up their IP for their exit strategies and then building brand recognition. 

This is going to be one of the largest consumer-driven industries in the entire world, because everybody’s experiences with cannabis are unique and those unique experiences are what’s going to drive brand affiliation and demand. We are curious to see what the history books will have to say about it. There is always history with a big ‘H’ and history with a little ‘h’ and we’re going to tell all that!

  1. Females in Cannabis Meetup

Speaker: Jessica Assaf (Prima)

Females in cannabis is an underlying theme that we talk about here all the time at the Mary Jane Experience. This meetup at SXSW was put on by Jessica Assaf of Prima and Cannabis Feminist. It was surprisingly well attended. There must have been at least 30 or 40 people that came even a few males.

We came together, sat in a giant circle and shared stories of what women are doing in the industry or their connection to the cannabis plant. It was great to see how diverse and how passionate all these women were about cannabis. There was everything from brands trying to start CBD companies, a woman from Oklahoma who’s trying to help educate people in a place that is so religious they’re having trouble getting useful information. There was a Canadian businesswoman who’s got a 200 million dollar cannabis company.

It was a lovely cross-section. We saw some of the women we have interviewed on the podcast in the past: Leah Maurer of The Weed Blog, Aliza Sherman CEO of Ellementa, and Jillian Tuchman of Work your Genes.

It was touching and inspiring, and so We’ve started our Women in Cannabis Meetup here in Boulder on meetup.com. If you are in the Colorado area, join us to talk about women in cannabis to empower other women. We need to lift each other in this industry to create and maintain equality that we do not see in other billion dollar industries like tech.

  1. Blockchain in Cannabis: Boosting Market Efficiency

Speakers: Sherree Decovny (Chain Business Insights), Jess Jessop (California Cannabis Market)

Sherree, the moderator is an ex-banker supply chain Nerd. The talk was super technical and super dry, so we loved it.

For those of you who don’t know what blockchain is, it’s effectively a way of storing transactional data in a decentralized network with different nodes all over the place so that those actions are held in a ledger that can never be rewritten.

Blockchain is going to help solve the supply chain issues in cannabis that we’ve seen in every legal state thus far. California’s got a big problem with that and Canada even more so. Hopefully, blockchain is going to be the technology that helps solve this because what it allows for are things like the ‘track and trace’ program in California. When you book a transaction, or you make a ledger note on a blockchain system, it’s there forever. That allows the Fed’s to go back and see all the transactional history and data for everything from seed to plant to consumer sale.

The cool part is legal cannabis and cannabis brands are so new that they don’t have any existing infrastructure.  So they’re adopting the newest and best technologies, unlike other industries that can’t adopt it as quickly. Doing a technical infrastructure overhaul on an existing supply chain can be a billion-dollar endeavor. So, cannabis might actually be the industry that allows blockchain to get the real-world testing that it needs in order for it to be globally adopted.

Going back to investments and brands, if you know of a blockchain company that is targeting the cannabis industry, go ahead and invest in that right now. Disclaimer – I am not a financial adviser, so if you lose your shirt on that one, that’s not on me.

But anyway, it’s extremely interesting because blockchain is hugely robust and is moving away from the cryptocurrency side of the world. It is a great technology for the supply chain in the cannabis industry. Hopefully, a lot of those problems we saw in 2018 and 2019 will be alleviated as cannabis moves forward .

  1. Cannabis and Wellness: The Body and Beyond

Speakers: Ricky Williams of Real Wellness, Linnea Miron (Real Wellness), Dr. Michelle Ross ( Infused Health), Jess Dugan (The Oil Plant)

The moderator for this panel is a well-known ex-football player, Ricky Williams. Ricky played for the Miami Dolphins and was a star running back before he started using marijuana. Actually, he was using marijuana the entire time before he got busted.

The panel got spiritual right off the bat when Jess invited us to start with the breathing exercise. Ricky explained cannabis as a catalyst for asking deeper questions in his life that eventually lead him beyond football. He stated that he truly believes cannabis is a spiritual medicine, which all the panel members agree to a certain extent that it “takes you beyond yourself”.

Bringing it back to health and wellness all the panelists also agreed that stress, and deep suppressed trauma, are the root of all health issues. They all believed that cannabis can be mind healing and thus body healing. None of them want to take the high out of cannabis.

No one thinks that you should be high every second of your whole life so that you’re not stressed out. That’s not the point. But, the idea of healing happening in an altered state, and being able to step away from your cell phone world, and this world we put ourselves, in into a little bit of an altered state, where you can find your true self, you may be able to find true healing.

Taking it a little more toward the science, Dr. Michelle Ross went into your actual endocannabinoid system, which we all have and it regulates a lot of your body. This system is badly hurt by stress and can lead to what is called endocannabinoid deficiency. And so cannabis literally kind of is a vitamin for your endocannabinoid system, offering cannabinoids that you might be deficient in via smoking or oils etc.

Of course, it can be a health supplement but, like anything, it can be abused. A gentle reminder to use it as a balancing tool, as a vitamin, not as a drug that is used too much too often.

Another interesting thing that Dr. Ross brought up is that it helps your body make oxytocin, which is the hormone that is released to help a mother bond with her child, and that’s released when you orgasm so that you bond with your mate. Because of that oxytocin release, cannabis helps you connect with people and with yourself in deeper ways. Potentially cannabis could help end the loneliness epidemic that many believe we are faced with.

The take-home here was the cannabis can be used as a vitamin, a supplement, and a wellness product but you need to use it responsibly, and almost ritualistically. Jess Dugan reminded us to set up intentions in reverence with the plant. She suggested the practice of yoga as a “Digestive system for the energetic  ” and using yoga with cannabis to compost negative energies.

More on this subject soon in our blog.

  1. Can We Heal Ourselves From The War On Drugs?

Speakers: Felicia Carbajal (Smart Pharm Research Group), Chas Moore (Austin Justice Coalition), Taylor Pendergrass of the ACLU, and Latorie Wallace (We Baked)

Easily the most powerful public forum or discussion we’ve been to in a long time. The title is a bit misleading as the war on drugs is not over, so we can’t start healing it yet.

It was a very heavy and triggered room. Rightfully so, people have every reason to be pissed off, militant, and angry.

The bottom line is this: If you were arrested for nonviolent cannabis related crimes in the past you can’t get your license in California to become a reseller, that’s created a ‘black market’ that we have now. We heard from multiple people, what people are calling quote unquote the ‘black market’ is what’s known in California as ‘black-owned’, because we all know the war on drugs was a systemic, racist, program to lock up black and brown people, for minor drug use… thanks Nancy Reagan!

Unfortunately, those wounds and those scars are not healed and they won’t be healed until federal decriminalization and federal expungement of records. Expungement of records is so important because it creates a ripple effect in people’s lives. Expungement gives people a chance to to restart, start businesses, and to become active and proactive in their communities. No one should be held back because they have a record or a rap sheet for a nonviolent crime involving a legal substance.

We heard stories about people in DC that gave up their Second Amendment right to get a medical license and even then end up getting busted for cannabis related crimes. What the police will do is go into your home, kick your door in, and weigh what your growing, pot and all.  They won’t weigh the plant itself, they weigh the plant, the soil, and the pot that it’s in, and if it’s over the ‘legal amount’ of weed that you’re allowed to have they’ll lock you up for that total weight! They’ll give you ten years. And then you have a rap sheet, and then you’re fucked.

And that’s still happening in US states.

The police take away your right to have a gun. They know you have a license, so they know where and who you are and they can enter your door not worried about getting shot. Kick your door in and weigh your plant, put you in jail.

If you think that this is with good reason, and without racist undertones, you’re blind, and ignorant. We need to talk more about the black and brown people, underprivileged, poor, and LBGT people that are locked up for nonviolent cannabis related crimes in legal states. We need to work to get them out of our prison systems.

At the end of the day politicians follow the money. There’s enough money to get it legalized, we just have to make sure that process happens. People with nonviolent, cannabis related records deserve to have those records are expunged. People deserve to re-enter society and partake in this industry while it’s growing and while it’s happening.

We need to recognize and realize that there are people out there that are suffering still from the war on drugs, and we need to do something about it.

Chas made a great point: “the fight for women’s rights, is not a woman’s fight, it’s a man’s fight for us to give up a little bit to include you guys. The fight for low income and impoverished communities who have been downtrodden by things like the war on drugs, it’s not their fight to right that ship. It’s our fight, the well-off and the privileged people, white people.

In conclusion, the war on drugs in not over and we need to be having conversations and be fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. If you enjoy cannabis, it is your responsibility to help those who are locked up for it.

  1. Non-obvious Trends in The Cannabis Industry

Speaker: Nancy Whiteman of Wana Brands

Wana Brands is one of Colorado’s biggest edible brands. Nancy is known as the Gummy Queen of Colorado. Her talk was about product and consumer usage predictions.

Nancy started off with wellness now becoming the primary driver of usage. Getting high is not a top priority for people anymore. People are getting a lot more specific with their product usage, if they have joint pain they are going to use a THC/CBD topical, if they have stressed they’re going to microdose, if they can’t sleep they might use an edible, etc.

The trend is going towards wellness, and CBD is a big player in the wellness game.Yet, as we all know it’s insane out there in the CBD world. Theres everything from really truly good CBD products to absolute snake oil. Nancy predicts is that the CBD world is going to become a lot more regulated leading to a lot of the snake oil products disappearing.

Nancy predicts that product options are going to become more nuanced. People are learning more about terpenes and cannabinoids and wanting specific results out of their products. This is leading to a rise in the idea of constructed cannabis. Plant genetics with constructed entourage effects will start to show up. If you are not familiar with the entourage effect, it is essentially blending cannabinoids like CBD, THC, CBN, etc. so that the strain is actually the most effective. CBD might not work well without a little THC and other blends of canabanaoids.

This could essentially create the perfect weed for whatever your issue is, which is going to be really interesting.

Product innovations like this are likely going to lead to confusion. Consumers are going to need a lot more education from not only your budtender but sources like podcasts and magazines. Brands are going to have to be really conscious about how they educate consumers.

  1. Cannabis and The Aging Brain

Speaker: Fabricio Pamplona

Cannabis and the aging brain was put on by Dr. Fabricio Pamplona. Fabricio a cannabanoid pharmacologist studying in Brazil. This was science heavy, and we have plans to do a podcast interview with Fabricio to break it down and simplify some of the information.

Fabrizio studies the endocannabinoid system, and he is looking into the efficacy of cannabis for Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

He’s also studying the elder population of cannabis users (which is increasing faster than any other demographic) and the relationship of cannabis and healthy aging.

People in this demographic (about 50-70) in age, are not necessarily trying to get high. Mostly they are using cannabis for wellness reasons.

Fabricio is asking the questions: How can we age the brain in a healthy way, can cannabis help? Is it legit?

He acknowledges that we don’t know everything yet, we don’t know hardly anything in comparison to other drugs. But even if cannabis is not very effective, the side effects are so nominal, that it is worth looking into as it can’t cause much (if any) harm to people.

His research shows that as you age, joint and brain inflammation speed up rapidly. The endocannabinoid system declines and many go into endocannabinoid deficiency. Via his studies on rats,they have found that certain blends of cannabinoids can help reduce this inflammation and ultimately curing diseases caused by inflammation (Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and many others)

He shared data from a non clinical trial performed on somebody who had used had Dementia. The patient decided to use THC oil everyday, in micro doses. He wasn’t getting high, but he was taking a dropper-full of THC oil every day.

After studying him, this microdose drastically reduced signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s in this patient. This was one patient, in a non-clinical trial, but signs are showing that the cannabis plant could be very effective if scientists are allowed to research it.

As mentioned above, we will be interviewing him on our podcast and sharing more detailed information soon, make sure to subscribe on iTunes to get updates!

If you have any questions about any of these talks by all means to reach out to us.

Information and education are what’s going to drive consumers to make the right choices, and drive this industry to grow in the right direction.

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