"It's all about money. They're fighting medical marijuana everywhere because they know that medical marijuana will heal people and get them off of drugs."
The military man-turned-impassioned politician talks about legalizing cannabis in his state against all odds, and how a fighting spirit has helped his crusade.
A real dose of medicine right now — the veteran and state senator doesn’t hold back on the issues that are affecting the American people: Big Pharma corroding his state, how the system is failing drug addicts, and the threats on his life (yep, you read that right) for speaking truth to power. Here, Richard shares his inspiring story of a scrawny, scrappy kid who grew up to be a fearless soldier, veteran, and state senator as he takes on legislature and Big Pharma to bring medical marijuana to the people who need it most. Plus, don’t miss a juicy tip-off for investors.
The Highly: Richard, your story arc traces from soldier to politician. How did that transition happen?
Richard Ojeda: I retired from the United States Army and came back to West Virginia with a master’s degree, and could have stayed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, making six figures for the rest of my life. But I have never been home, except when I am standing in Logan County, West Virginia.
I spent 24 years in the military. I've been all over the Middle East. And I've lost friends. We risked our lives over there because we wanted to help those people to have just a sliver of the great things that we have in America. Then you retire, and you come home, and you realize it's all a lie. We still have poverty. Our kids have it just as bad here as they do in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then I started a non-profit organization called LEAD (Logan Empowerment Action and Development). We started picking up tires. We covered up graffiti; we've picked up trash. We sent 5,000 children to school with brand new shoes on their feet. Then when I finally started looking around and realizing that the leadership at all levels, our congressman — would come down here and show up three days before the election, he would write checks to the biggest crooks in the county, and then he would disappear and we wouldn't see him again until the next election. I said, "You know what? I'm done with this." When I went to ask the leadership if they could help, I got told to shut my effing mouth and let leaders do what leaders do, and that I needed to just continue picking up trash. I'm going to tell you, I will not let anyone throw the term "leader" around loosely. So I said, "I've led men under fire in combat. I'm better than these people." So, you know what? I started challenging. That's the reason why they tried to have me killed last year. But you know what? That didn't stop me. That fueled me. I refuse to let somebody win because of underhanded tactics, because of corruption. I won't do it. You're going to have to kill me.
TH: Your achievement in getting medical marijuana passed in West Virginia was a small miracle. How did you get it done?
RO:When you are fighting for something that is important, the people will back you. With medical marijuana, I stood up and I told people, “Everybody has somebody that they're kin to that has multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, ADHD, suffering from different forms of cancer, going through chemotherapy.” This is a seed given by God, let us use it to heal our people. When I started giving those passionate speeches, people started saying, "This guy's right." When I went to the one senator that runs the health and human resources committee, he looked me in the face, and said, "Big Pharma don't want it." The first thing I said to him was, "Are you in Big Pharma's pocket? Because I'm not." Then I went over and I grabbed the microphone, and I gave a speech about how we should not be controlled by any of these organizations. We need to think about the people. I will tell you, it started a wildfire.
TH: So the bill is passed but they still make it hard for people to get the proper care.
RO: They did a lot of damage to my medical marijuana bill. They took away my plants because they didn't want the bill to pass. I want to give people the ability to have eight plants because poor people get cancer more than rich people do. Rich people drink Evian water, and poor people drink from the tap and end up getting sick from it. If you have horrible or no insurance and you get cancer, you can grow your own plants in your house, pouring your own water on those plants, and you're not having to buy them from a drug dealer—then you can have your medicine.
TH:Doctors serving as dealers—will they ever be held accountable?
RO:I pray that day comes and it comes soon. Right now, with what we know about Oxycontin and Hydrocodone, it should absolutely be pulled off of the market. Last year more people lost their lives to opioid addiction than all the lives lost in the Vietnam War.
TH:Why aren’t we fighting Big Pharma then?
RO: It's all about money. They're fighting medical marijuana everywhere because they know that medical marijuana will heal people and get them off of the drugs that they have been on for many years. It's not just your Oxycontin and Hydrocodone. My mother was taking 15 pills a day. My mother now takes CBD oil and she's cut 13 of those pills. And she's feeling better than she ever has.
And make no mistake about it — when Big Pharma comes in here and tries to act like they want to completely control that market — guess what? If the people stand together, they can leave.
TH: But how does Big Pharma always win when medical marijuana would benefit the people, the state, taxes...?
RO: Because you have Big Pharma paying off the people that are standing in the way of allowing that to happen. If you check out followthemoney.org, you will absolutely see exactly who these people really worship. You know, everybody wants to get up there and act like they're religious, but of course they look past the poor and take care of the filthy rich. And they're all too quick to sell their souls to Big Energy and Big Pharma.
TH: Looking into the future, what happens when marijuana eventually gets legalized and then Big Pharma comes in a new way, and now they decide, Okay, we're going to take this plant, and we're going to own this market, and turn it into a synthetic God-knows-what?
RO: You know, a person going through chemotherapy, where they absolutely felt like they were going to die, the nauseousness was so bad, two puffs from a marijuana cigarette and it goes away. They say, "Well, you can take a Marinol pill." Okay, well tell me something: Can you keep a Marinol pill down when you're throwing up every two minutes? Well, you can't put it past them because we already know what they're about. That's why it's important people get involved. We got medical marijuana passed in West Virginia, and Big Pharma didn't want it. We didn't spend a dime. Other states' medical marijuana organizations will spend millions to try to get it legalized in their states, and they get nothing. In West Virginia they said, "We don't even want to try because it's not worth it and it'll never happen." And we got it passed. The key thing is making sure that as long as the people stand in solidarity with anything, you can win. And make no mistake about it — when Big Pharma comes in here and tries to act like they want to completely control that market — guess what? If the people stand together, they can leave.
TH: With so much dirtiness, how do you avoid getting trapped in it?
RO: Oh, they're greedy people. And they're making millions and billions. But what they do is, they send those lobbyists to these legislators. The lobbyists sat in front of me, and they said, "Will you be for forced pooling?" And I said, "Absolutely not." The next thing that come out of their mouths was, "What can we do to change your mind?" I told them, "You can get your ass out of my office." But how many legislators didn't say that? How many legislators said, "Hey, I'm going to have a tough race coming up, and I could really use some money." And that's the problem we've always had. We’ve got legislators out there that only care about themselves and increasing their wealth and power.
TH: If you had 30 seconds with President Trump, what would you say?
RO: I would tell him that he needs to allow medical marijuana to be able to heal its people. It's that simple.
TH: What are your thoughts on recreational marijuana?
RO: My main focus has always been medical marijuana. Because I want to help people that are sick.
But you cannot look past the fact that places like Colorado are absolutely booming right now. We had 20 legislators go to Colorado this summer and some of them were absolutely anti-marijuana. And every single one of them came back and said, “This is something we may really need to start looking into. They did a lot of mountaintop removal down here in West Virginia. They have already tested the soil on the top of these mountains. We also have the best soil in the world for marijuana, hemp, and lavender. [Ed: Investor alert!] West Virginia can do it pretty much year-round. Everybody in the world would be ordering it, and wanting us to mail the product to them. As a matter of fact, there's a place called Salt Rock in Cabell County, which has been known as the best place in the world for the growing of marijuana.
TH: Oh, so you are sitting on a gold mine, literally?!
RO: Yes, we are. I just need to have enough legislators that have the guts to stand up and demand we finally get a taste. There's a thing going on, and the average citizen is sick and tired of what we currently have, and those legislators that are not willing to stand up and start fighting for the people. Guess what? Fire them on election day, and send their asses packing.
This is what you have to do in terms of these doctors: track. Because every single death should fall on their shoulders.
TH: Huntington, WV is often called the opioid capital of America. Do you have a plan to tackle that?
RO: Well, Huntington, for many years has actually been nicknamed Moneyton because that's where all of the drugs are coming into West Virginia — from Chicago, Detroit, and Ohio. The problem in Huntington was a mismanagement of funds. What they ended up doing was, cutting the police. How are you going to fight the drug epidemic when you are laying off your police officers? I think the citizens of West Virginia are absolutely wanting somebody who has some fire. I am an absolute stick of dynamite. I always have been.
TH: But what about the current addict situation?
RO: We have to forgive these people because they're addicted. There's not one single prostitute that wants to have some toothless, raggedy man rolling all around her. But she does it because she's addicted, and the addiction is stronger than the love she has for herself. The same thing goes for the parent that sits a child down and goes and takes a hit. We have to understand that it is addiction, and we have to figure out ways that we can clean these people. The problem is, West Virginia has 200 beds. That's not even near enough beds for a community with the addiction problem that we have. We have a lot of drug rehabilitation programs that are garbage. You're spending millions dollars on a program that graduates four people a year. There's programs all across the United States of America that have a 75 to 85% success rate. We need to start mirroring those successful programs, and putting them in all the states.
But there's more: you have to practice forgiveness in the churches. Churches have to be able to open their doors because they're supposed to. And you know, I got told by people, "Don't you bring them to our church." We've got to work with the communities. We've got to work with the businesses and say, “Look here: I'm not asking you to give them the keys to the safe, but give them a job." That person is coming off of rehabilitation, and they're happy. They're finally feeling, "I'm clean, and I got it beat." But then we release them onto the streets. Nobody will hire them because they were drug addicts. Nobody wants to hang out with them. And everybody wants to feel like they belong. So eventually, when nobody talks to them, and everybody shuns them, they're going to go where they're going to get respect, and it's going to be under the bridges and in the back alleys, and they're going to fall right back into the same problem, and it's the rotating door that just absolutely kills us.
You give them a job. Give them a minimum wage job, and you know what? They may become your best employee. In three years, you may go, "Hey, because I'm able to pay this guy a decent wage, he's now taken over the head of his household again. He's got his kids back. His wife is now with him again. And he's trying to be a productive member of society. And I'm paying him a decent wage." Now, he says, "I'm not going to lose that." We've got to give these people the ability to say, "I'm not going to give up this job that I have. I'm not going to give up my family. I'm finally putting food on the table. I'm out there working, and I'm feeding my babies." There's a lot of pride in that. And you know, we need to figure out how we can absolutely get that going.
When I was in the military, especially my younger years, I was an Airborne and we trained hard. But when we were off, believe me, it was the bars, and everybody fighting and everything. But you know what always kept me from sticking my keys into the ignition and trying to drive? I loved my job. I loved being a soldier more than I loved to party. That's what kept me from drinking and driving, and doing things like that. Because I knew that if I messed that up, I would no longer be allowed to be called a soldier. That meant everything in the world to me.
TH: When I was in my teens, I had nothing and was desperate for a job. I knew I had to look the part to get the job, but there was no money to get the clothes, so I stole them. There was no choice. I don't think people realize what it really takes to come back fighting out of a hole. It often feels close to impossible and takes super human strength to keep trying. It's not as easy as "just do this" or "just do that". You need someone to give you a chance.
RO: Yeah. We have to commit. We have to commit to doing everything in our power to change the situation.
TH: So how can change happen when doctors and dealers alike don’t stop pushing the drugs?
RO: Well, you know, the pharmacies are just doing their job. We were targeted with Oxycontin and Hydrocodone. I can show you a small pharmacy in the town of Kermit, that only has, like, 190 people. That pharmacy distributed more Oxycontin than any other place in America—over nine million pills. The problem is, it's these doctors. You know, there are places you can go on a certain day, where you will have a line around the corner. This is what you have to do in terms of these doctors: track. Because every single death should fall on their shoulders. And he absolutely wrote prescription, after prescription, after prescription, after prescription. Every single death, every single theft, should fall on their shoulders. But we’ve got to get these people clean. It's kind of like the battle of the frozen Chosin reservoir in Korea. 67,000 Chinese surrounded our troops, and they had nowhere to go. You can't give up. You give up, you die. We're in that situation right now. Our back is against the wall. We have got to figure out what we can do to win.
You're spending millions on a program that graduates four people a year. There's programs all across the United States of America that have 75 to 85% success.
TH: Why are there so many people living below the poverty line in your own backyard? What can we do?
RO: You know, we're 48th in the nation in pay. The governor continues to play these games. Last year, they said they were going to give teachers a two percent pay raise, which only added up to $35 dollars every two weeks. Then, they all fall under this PEIA insurance, and it's absolutely horrible. It's like they try to do things to make these people that fall under it—state employees, police, fire, first responder, corrections, teachers, bus drivers, everybody falls under it. It is a program that, literally, all it is about is chipping away at benefits and raising premiums. Teachers haven't received a raise in a long time, and we continue to chip away and raise their premiums. They're just continuing to drop lower and lower into the poverty lane, you know? I got up and I gave a speech, and I said, "Look: we have a volcano that's about to erupt." A lot of it comes down to this PEIA, and we are a filthy rich state. We gave coal away decades ago. Our state has made people billionaires, and we are poor.”
TH: Moving forward, how do you get the guts to fight when so many bad people are against you? How do you keep at it when it’s just so frustrating?
RO: Well, I have a lot of things that make me refuse to give up. I graduated high school very small, weighing 82 pounds. I started wrestling in the ninth grade in the 75-pound weight class, although I was only 52 pounds. But I won. As a person that grew up really small with two beautiful sisters, I had to fist-fight my whole life. You know, it is what it is. I've just become that guy. If I don't believe in it, I'm going to say something about it. It's just the way that I've always been.
Spending 24 years in the Army, I found myself surrounded with the best of the best. I've got 13 names [tattooed] on my back of soldiers that never came home. One time I asked my father, because I was pretty down because we had lost a wonderful human being, and I said, "Why is it that we always lose the best in combat?" My father said, "Son, that's because the best always volunteer to be in the front. They're always where the action is."
It gets frustrating at times, but I always make it a point, no matter what, I always drive home. A lot of legislators get hotel rooms and they spend the whole two months in session in Charleston. It's an hour drive, but I drive home every night because I know when I walk through my door, no matter how bad the day has been, my wife walks up and she gives me a hug. That's all I need.
TH: Your life motto?
"Here I was, a medical student, training to be a doctor, and thinking 'You are offering me POT? You want to make me a drug addict?'"
With over 16 years of experience practicing in New York and California, Dr. Junella Chin gives us practical advice on treating arthritis, migraines, and anxiety with cannabis. We also find out how this Bronx-native—for whom cannabis was stigmatized—found her way here.
In an industry begging for proper clinical research, finding an integrative-medicine doctor with over a decade of experience, is the Holy Grail. With three thriving practices coast to coast, including a free clinic for low income patients in NYC, Dr. Chin treats children and adults with a wide range of health issues.
The Highly: How did your interest in cannabis develop?
Dr. Chin: At 17 years old, I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, which is a progressive type of arthritis that affects the spine, pelvis, hips, and back. It causes extreme pain and stiffness. What ends up happening is your vertebrae essentially become crazy-glued together. Your spine starts to look like a bamboo stick and you literally can't bend it anymore. It usually happens in young adults. I tried physical therapy. I tried opiates, muscle relaxants, icing, nerve block injections, acupuncture. Everything under the sun. I left no stone unturned.
When I moved to San Francisco in the 90’s for medical school, I was really disheartened. The opiates were making me too drowsy, and I couldn’t retain any of my academic material. Here I am, training to be a doctor, with hundreds of doctors at my disposal, and I'm unable to fix this thing. It felt ironic that I couldn't find a solution to my own chronic pain. I was beyond frustrated and would tell the doctors, “I tried it all and I can't...don't hand me another script. Please. It doesn't work.” One day, an attending—a physician mentor—introduced me to the world of cannabis. He was this hippie-looking doctor and he had an integrative private practice where he was using medical cannabis to treat AIDS patients, helping increase appetite and reduce pain. I watched as his patients got better and better.
When I told him about my spine, he said, "Listen, I have this marijuana plant that can help you. It doesn't make you feel high. In fact, it will help you with the stiffness and the aching, and make you feel like you did yoga." I was mortified but desperate. Here I was, a medical student, training to be a doctor, and thinking "You are offering me POT? You want to make me a drug addict?" I grew up in the Bronx, where there was a huge social stigma around marijuana. Kids that smoked weed were either dropouts or involved in gangs. My attending gave me this little brown dropper bottle that smelled like a combination of alcohol, wet dog, and grass. We now know this is called a CBD-dominant formulation. But they didn't call it that back then.
To my amazement, I remember the feeling of, "Oh my God, this works." The stiffness, the numbness, the pain…it was getting better. [Ed.: Numbness of the extremities can be a symptom of AS.] My MRIs and X-rays were showing that the degenerative part of my disease was not progressing as quickly as it had been. I took it for a month at a time and was able to stay in school. So there I was, using this little weird bottle of marijuana, which had gotten me so much further than any of the opiates, muscle relaxers, or nerve block injections that the conventional doctors were giving me.
As I was learning allopathic medicine, I began questioning the conventional medical wisdom and assumptions. There are just so many gaps and holes in the field of medicine. I was determined to find better solutions. This really changed the trajectory of my life. I would not have been able to finish medical school and become a doctor had it not been for the CBD. I had an educational advantage being in California. They legalized medical cannabis in 1996. I was in the middle of a switch box, and was able to engineer my circumstances. It really was the best of both worlds. That's where it all began.
TH: How do you treat your AS now?
DC: Today I keep my AS in check with a CBD tincture taken about three days a week, and on days I know I will be doing something physically strenuous. But it’s not a silver bullet. I watch my diet and try not to binge on gluten, dairy, sugar or anything that will cause inflammation. Hot yoga is my other salvation. The CBD takes away the inflammation and makes my joints feel a little more flexible, and I make sure that I stretch it out and exercise. I can't say I'm a super-yogi, and can’t always finish the class, but that’s okay.
TH: Why does cannabis help with such an array of diseases? What's the common thread?
DC: If you boil it down on a pathophysiological level, inflammation is the final, common pathway for all chronic diseases. When you think of arthritis and chronic pain, you can also include diabetes, obesity, even high cholesterol. Other examples include fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis—the list goes on. All of these diseases have root causes in chronic inflammatory processes in the body. These diseases occur because inflammation precedes these diseases. Cannabis is both a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory.
I would not have been able to finish medical school and become a doctor had it not been for CBD.
Note: Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Because its part of the aging process, it can strike even those who have cultivated perfect habits and lifestyles.
TH:What proportion of arthritis sufferers do you see benefiting from cannabis?
DC: With arthritis, it depends on the co-morbidities. Are they obese? Do they have an artificial hip or artificial knee? When you tell someone who has had a bilateral knee replacement to go exercise, it's hard, because they're in pain. But when the patient needs to exercise to lose weight, this pain relief is vital—they can sleep better, move better, even start gentle activities. When there's that parting of the gray skies, they are able to integrate other types of wellness. Cannabis breaks up that storm. When you integrate cannabis and you get that pain to go into the back of your mind so it's not all-consuming all the time, then maybe you can take a 10-minute walk around the block. Maybe you can cut out some of the sugar and the simple carbs in your diet that are contributing to the inflammation in your joints. There's a dance that you have to do. The solution is not just cannabis, but cannabis could be the catalyst to help you drive that momentum into greater wellness.
TH: So cannabis opens the door for you to be able to do things the pain is preventing you from doing?
DC: The great thing about cannabis is, because it's cumulative, it's always working. I look at it not only as pain reliever. It's a very potent anti-inflammatory. I have one patient who took it for months and said he felt no difference. He said, "I feel nothing. I feel like maybe I'm a little looser, but I don't feel any pain relief." I instructed him to stop the cannabis use for 10 days and see what happens. In the span of that 10-day cannabis fast, he noticed that the stiffness returned. He said, “I can't even get out of bed, and I can't believe how much it helped but I didn't really notice it helping.”
TH: Can arthritis go away?
DC: Arthritis can go away because it's inflammation. But it depends on how severe it is, how old you are, and your joint health. Are you grinding bone on bone? Were you an extreme athlete, or is it minor arthritic pain? My ankylosing spondylitis improved so dramatically—I'm functioning with much less arthritis than I had as a teenager.
TH: What type of CBD do you recommend for arthritis? Is it internal or topical? Do you prefer extractions from cannabis or hemp?
DC: You just try it. You try them both. There are two different types of cannabis plants: hemp, which are low-resin, and drug or medicinal plants, which are high-resin. The problem with hemp is that it's a hyperaccumulator. It is basically a natural vacuum cleaner that sucks up pollutants and heavy metal toxins out of the soil. They plant it around toxic places like old steel mills, defunct factory plants, environmental spills, and accidents so it can suck up the damage that the pollutants did to the soil. Willow bark is another that does that. It's called phytoremediation. When you're buying hemp oil, the hemp CBD, you better hope that they tested it and removed heavy-metal toxins. I would recommend a reputable brand like Charlotte's Web for CBD from hemp if it's in a patients budget.
TH: What is the difference between high and low resin plants?
DC: You need a lot of the hemp plant to have a CBD-rich product. When you get to the high-resin medicinal plant, it is very rich in CBD and THC and other therapeutic cannabinoids and terpenes. That’s why I always recommend CBD-rich products made from only organic, whole-plant cannabis. These products have the best safety profile, and offer superior medicinal benefits. Some patients do great on a CBD hemp, like Charlotte's Web. Those are the ones that are like, "You know what? I went for a run, and I'm really sore.” Or, "I went indoor rock climbing, and I did a little too much." But my chronic-pain patients with neuropathy, fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis don't do that well with the hemp-derived CBD. If it doesn't, I say, "Don't give up yet. Let’s try a more highly refined CBD and THC-rich cannabis from the medicinal plant.”
TH: Do topicals make people high?
DC: Not if used locally. I do recommend topicals, but with topicals, you have to have a little THC in it. It can't just be CBD. The THC helps with pain.
TH: Do you need THC in ingestibles, especially for arthritis?
DC: Yes. If you do a CBD-dominant strain and there's just a little bit of THC in it, it helps jumpstart things.
TH: Is that the entourage effect in action? [Ed.: The entourage effect holds that different combinations of compounds in varying cannabis strains and formulations can enhance or alter THC’s psychoactive and medicinal properties.]
DC: Yes, exactly. The THC jumpstarts the CBD.
If you boil it down on a pathophysiological level, inflammation is the final, common pathway for all chronic diseases.
TH: Let's talk migraines. What causes one?
DC: A migraine is an inflammatory process and there’s always a reason for getting one. It could be from hormones, allergies, Lyme disease, or it could just be the weather. It’s very important to get to the bottom of it. I had a 17-year-old come in with chronic migraines. He medicated with a combo of marijuana he got from his friends and his doctor’s prescription. He still couldn't figure out where the migraines were coming from and therefore still had bad days and felt he was chasing his tail. We figured out it was the MSG that was in his food each day, whether from the cafeteria or when eating out with his friends. He cut out the MSG and had less migraine attacks.
TH: What is the best method for migraine sufferers to start medicating with cannabis?
DC: Many migraine sufferers know when it’s coming on—whether through auras or the shift in hormones or weather. There are also different psychosomatic things that can come with it, like anxiety. I like to start these patients with a vape pen. A two- to five-second inhalation, it'll relax them a bit, and they can usually head the migraine off the path so it doesn’t get worse.
TH: Does the vape contain THC, CBD, or both?
DC: Usually there's a little bit of THC in it, but not too much. [Ed.: The THC helps with pain. The CBD helps with inflammation.] I always like patients to have on hand a high CBD dominant and a THC dominant. That way they can play with it. Let's say you have a migraine coming on but have a deadline at work and need to stay focused and cannot be sedated or altered in any way. Then I suggest trying a little higher CBD to counteract the THC's psychoactive effects or the sedating effects.
TH: Do topicals work?
DC: I'm always the first to suggest a topical, like a salve. But with migraines, I find that it doesn't work as well unless there's chronic pain or joint pain involved. My Lyme disease patients, for example, have joint pain all over and musculoskeletal spasms. This acute pain triggers a migraine. In that sense, if they use a salve and apply it on the muscle and joints, it can work to prevent a migraine because we have treated the acute spasms early. With cannabis, there’s no hard and fast rules. The patient has to experiment.
TH: Anxiety seems to be the ailment plaguing our youth. What is anxiety and why is it so noxious?
DC: Let’s think about our nervous system. We have a sympathetic nervous system that balances out what is called a parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the primal instinct of our fight-or-flight response. We're running from a bear, we are in trouble, there's fear and danger. This also includes rushing to meet a deadline or fear of public speaking. The parasympathetic system is your relaxation mode—sex, digestion, and sleeping. In our fast-paced society, we don't have enough of that, so we are always in a sympathetic drive. If our body gets stuck in that sympathetic overdrive, we have a chronic level of anxiety all of the time.
Cannabis naturally increases the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, and the GABA is the body's way of saying it's time to chill out. It's time to power down. Not everyone can do that on their own. Your body's supposed to self-regulate on its own depending on what circumstances are, right? When you're getting ready to do a presentation for a meeting, you're going to be in high sympathetic adrenal rush, but then when the meeting's over your body should be able to relax and you should be able to sit down at your desk and say, "Cool, I killed it. I knocked it out of the park." But if your sympathetics are always working, you can't relax. Your body can't self-regulate.
When a patient takes marijuana, it allows their body to balance out. Those receptors come flooding in. The GABA’s balance out the nervous system back to a calmer and more stable state to meet the challenges coming at you in life. It tells your body to reset. That's what Xanax does. That's what those benzodiazepines do, but they do it artificially.
TH: In your practice, what percentage of people suffering from anxiety do you think are helped by cannabis?
DC: It's easily 80 percent. I think that's what recreational users use it for. It's really to be happy, for relaxation. And what's wrong with that? When you use it for recreation, you're using it therapeutically. There’s nothing wrong with being a little happy and chilling out.
TH: Are there dangerous side effects for someone with anxiety?
DC: If you take too much THC and you go above your optimum therapeutic threshold, then it could make you paranoid. I see a lot of patients over 65. Some of them have never even tried cannabis. A lot of them will say, "I tried it as a kid, in high school in the ‘60's and ‘70's, and I totally tripped out. I got so anxious, and I felt my heart was going to come out of my chest.” That's THC. You took too much.
There are just so many gaps and holes in the field of medicine.
TH: What’s the best application for anxiety to start?
DC: Do it on the day or evening where it's your day off, and that way you can experiment. Try at least three different types of strains or chemovars before you give up, see which strain is best, and you can microdose around that. You can always experiment, but I always start them on a little bit of THC.
TH: Would you ever have them start on a sativa? [Ed.: Indica and sativa are both cannabis strains. Essentially, indica calms you down and sativa peps you up.]
DC: Sometimes patients do well with a sativa. It depends on where the anxiety stems from. I have some patients that have ADD, ADHD, and anxiety. It’s like they have this Ferrari as a brain, but have bicycle brake pedals. They just can't slow down. It makes them really anxious and unfocused. Sometimes taking a sativa-type in the morning, right as they are getting up out of bed, works well. By the time they get to work the body gets into the zone, and the cannabis helps them focus. It really depends on the patient.
TH: Would you ever start with an edible for anxiety?
DC: I don't like the edibles to start because it's hard to control and measure out how much you are actually consuming. You don't know how you're metabolizing it. It doesn't take effect until maybe an hour later because it gets processed through your liver and through the digestive enzymes of your stomach. I always recommend a tincture or a vape so you can control how much you take, and it works pretty quickly.
TH: What if something goes wrong and they surpass their optimal THC level and get anxious—or more anxious?
DC: I reassure them that it will go away. You'll be uncomfortable for a couple of hours. Try to eat something, take a nice shower, and just hang out for a little bit. We know that you went overboard, but you're not going to overdose.
TH: And for someone with anxiety, do you suggest any other ways they can help themselves with cannabis?
DC: Try taking cannabis before a yoga class, before meditating, before journaling.
TH:Words of wisdom for a new patient?
"If you always have similar thoughts, then you wind up building a model of the world that is static and you start believing your own bullshit. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to not believe everything you think."
Named Forbes' seven most powerful people in the cannabis industry — Troy is the co-founder and CEO of Arcview, a high-net worth investor and market research group shaping the space. Here, he talks venture capital, politics, and why the best businesses are built on advocacy.
The Highly: How did cannabis get you here?
Troy Dayton: When I was in high school, I smoked a joint for the first time with some friends. Right after lighting the joint, a security guard in a car with a siren and a light on top pulled up, put me in handcuffs and put me in the back of his car. My other friends were let off; I was being singled out. At the office, he gave me the choice to call my mom or call the police. I said, "I guess I'll call my mom." As I start dialing the number, the guy put his hand on the receiver. (This was a rotary phone with a receiver. That's how old I am!”) At this point, my friends barge into the room laughing and cracking up. It was a joke! They had recruited the security guard to do all of this because I was always the paranoid one when I smoked. It was in that moment I realized how lucky I was. Because for hundreds of thousands of people every year, getting put in handcuffs for cannabis misdemeanors is not a joke. Viscerally feeling that sense of injustice sparked a uniquely teenage idealistic vision and desire to change the world. Then I went off to college and started getting interested in politics. The Marijuana Policy Project was founded that year. I got involved, took classes on drug policy and never looked back.
TH: Did you ever imagine that Arcview would carry the weight that it does in the industry?
TD: I guess there's always been a part of me that felt we could have real impact, but I always thought that part was maybe just delusions of grandeur. But as this industry grows, we’ve really been leading the movement. It’s been an honor.
Steve DeAngelo and I started Arcview in 2010, in part, because we recognized a gap in leadership. This was a new industry, and it could go either way. We were going to succeed in getting more freedom from governments, or, this was going to be a liability to the political movement. We felt like this was an opportunity to combine business and advocacy, creating a new kind of industry that would lead us to more freedom, not less. I feel grateful that we've done and are doing that.
If you're involved in this industry, you are now an advocate. You are now committing civil disobedience and that's a very serious and powerful role to play. It's also really moving.
TH: Do most of Arcview’s deals happen via pitches or through networking?
TD: You know, it's really a combination of both. Our members are so involved, and we've got so many industry leaders in our fold—cultivations, dispensary chains, you name it. So there are a lot of deals that wind up happening because of the connections that people make through our group. It’s certainly one of the benefits of joining Arcview. For deals where the company's raising less than three million bucks, those tend to come through the selection process, sponsorship, and more formal pitches. This is an industry that's up to something. We're changing the world. We're making history. We're the pioneers, and so there's a certain camaraderie and connection that comes from that.
TH: What are some of the telltale signs you recognize right off the bat, on who's going to make it and who's not?
TD: Who's going to raise capital is a different question than who's going to make it. Oftentimes, the companies that are most likely to “make it” are average presenters. They're focused so much on their business and not so much on the pitch. This is how some really great deals can get overlooked. We try and help companies overcome that, and hopefully leave Arcview more prepared than they arrived. Having a team that combines business acumen with cannabis experience is really crucial. Making those marriages work can be a real challenge, but both experiences are so important to a well-rounded team.
TH: You are the nucleus of Arcview. A master speaker and networker. Is this a gift? Was it practice?
TD: It may look that way, but the truth is I have a phenomenal team. I've chosen really dedicated, fun, and open people that like to connect, and genuinely value the community we've created. In the beginning, it’s what really attracted a lot of those people to Arcview. The cannabis industry is also very alluring. This is an industry that's up to something. We're changing the world. We're making history. We're the pioneers, and so there's a certain camaraderie and connection that comes from that. Unlike most business conferences, when people come to Arcview, they're coming to work on a project and evaluate these companies together. A real sense of community builds around that and it's been such an honor to facilitate. If you're involved in this industry, you are now an advocate. You are now committing civil disobedience and that's a very serious and powerful role to play. It's also really moving.
TH: How do you think cannabis can help the world?
TD: I've never been one of these people that proclaims cannabis as our savior. For me, the motivation has really been freedom. It's been the idea of a fighting back against a government telling millions of people not to do something that is less harmful for them than drinking alcohol, and, in many cases, actually beneficial. I have a real desire to facilitate the power of free enterprise in pursuit of the American dream, as it relates to cannabis. That's really been my motivation. Along the way, I’ve realized how much cannabis brings us together, in the same ways alcohol can, but is far less destructive to society. It’s also having a role in replacing pharmaceuticals. There's a lot of data to suggest that pharmaceuticals are used less, or even eliminated, with the use of cannabis. There's so much development going on with new products that I really think will replace a lot of over-the-counter drugs. A shift in perspective can be a really good thing for society, because it's so easy to believe your thoughts. If you always have similar thoughts, then you wind up building a model of the world that is static and you start believing your own bullshit. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to not believe everything you think. When you learn to flip your perspective, in many cases, it leads people to realize what's important and how to take better care of each other.
If you're not talking to the key people and if you're not reading actual research and category data, it's easy to make the wrong move or to underestimate or overestimate a market size.
TH: If you had 30 seconds with President Trump, what would you say about cannabis?
TD: I'd say that cannabis is creating an incredible amount of jobs. The industry is generating billions of dollars, and that it's a real opportunity, that, if we don't take advantage of it, Canada, Mexico, and Europe will. Let's get ahead of the game and give the US the ability to develop national programs so that we can have a prosperous country. These companies often need your help, and one of the great parts about investing now, is that you can be useful.
TH: How do you see the pharmaceutical industry's role in regards to cannabis?
TD: There's a lot of pharmaceutical development based around research, using tissue culture for the creation of cannabinoids. There's no question that the pharmaceutical industry has realized that cannabis is going to be powerful, and that they need to figure out how to utilize it. Then, on the flip side, one concern I have is that they start to see how much potential cannabis has in replacing other drugs, and they become a roadblock to medical progress. We need to make sure we do everything we can to get those movements started as soon as possible.
TH: Regarding cannabis policy and regulation, what countries do you admire?
TD: Canada's doing really incredible work. There, and most other successful countries, regulation structures are federal. There isn't this federal-state conflict, which really gets in the way in the US.
TH: Any advice to someone who wants to invest in cannabis?
TD: First thing, is if they're looking to invest more than $100,000 in the sector, then I would highly recommend joining with a group of fellow accredited angel investors. It’s fun and there's strength in numbers. Being able to share due diligence, and get insider insight on both companies and the solutions that they're raising money for, is really beneficial to the decision making process.The other thing I would say, is to learn as much as you can about the sector, through great data. If you're not talking to the key people and if you're not reading actual research and category data, it's easy to make the wrong move or to underestimate or overestimate a market size. You can also ask yourself, “What are my skills?” What do you know that is transferable to cannabis? You're going to be the best investor in the kinds of businesses you already understand, and then all you have to do is overcome the cannabis knowledge. In this early phase of the industry, it's a real pioneering effort. These companies need your help, and one of the great parts about investing now, is that you can be useful. I would also advise, that this is not just another industry. As long as there's a single adult in this world being unjustly punished for using this plant, we are a political movement and a business. The only reason we even have the opportunity to participate in this as a money making endeavor, is because of the blood, sweat, and tears of tons of activists. We owe it to them, to the people who’ve been punished in the past and to future growth of the market, to actually partake in cannabis politics. If you're involved in this industry, you are now an advocate. You are now committing civil disobedience, and that's a very serious and powerful role to play. It's also really moving. It also adds another dimension to business. It adds meaning, and we all want meaning.For me, the motivation has really been freedom.
This is an industry that's up to something. We're changing the world. We're making history. We're the pioneers, and so there's a certain camaraderie and connection that comes from that.
TH: Where does cannabis play a role in your life?
TD: I'm too busy legalizing it and building this industry to use cannabis as much as I would like. But when I am partaking more, it's usually a good sign that my life is balanced.
TH: What are some of your favorite products?
TD: There's a tea I like to use that's high in CBN. It really helps me sleep, so I use that once or twice a week. I've also discovered rosin and live resin and I like to do small dabs of that. I think a lot of people think dabs are only for really heavy consumers, and I'm definitely not. I just take one or two little hits, and the high I get from a concentrate is far superior to any other experience.
TH: What's next for Arcview?
We are moving beyond just connecting investors to each other, and into the actual asset management business. The goal is to expand the role we're playing in the industry and help us bring even better deals to our members.
TH: Words of wisdom for a first time entrepreneur?
On a personal note...
I joined ArcView in 2016. I was just beginning to feel back to myself after my stint with chronic pain. Me being me, the first thing that came to mind was “I’m going to invest in this new type of cannabis.” Much to my surprise, my plans for investment strategy turned passion project quickly. A familiar story in the industry. There’s something addictive in the air at ArcView. Regardless of your background, everyone’s a freshman, looking for their like-minded people. And there’s a hard working buzz filled with the ups and downs of start-up life, combined with a dream of changing history with something meaningful. If you are entering the space for investment or as a start-up, I highly recommend ArcView if you can. They are on top of what is current and will connect you to whomever you need. For those seeking more economical options for networking and meet-ups, there’s a whole slew of networking groups gaining steam. WomenGrow (for all genders), with chapters throughout the country, CannaGather and High NY, based in New York City, are also ones that I catch when I can.
"With cannabis, the conversations and the way in which you connect with others, is so profound and in my mid-30s, I was more appreciative of that."
Van der Pop, a female lifestyle brand that officially launched January 2016, was purchased by Tokyo Smoke in early 2017, which was then purchased by Hiku Brands in December 2017 and again by Canadian powerhouse Canopy Growth, July 2018. Here, April shares with us the reality of what early startup days really looked like and the road to an entrepreneurs dream.
The Highly: Walk us through the early days. How did you get the vision for Van der Pop? Was the idea to throw it against the wall and see what happens or did you have a solid business plan?
April Pride: WA State went REC in 2014 just as I was cursing year four of alcohol abstinence. I had stopped drinking after the birth of my second son, because to be hungover was just an impossible thing to layer into a life. I dealt with a lot of that with my first kid. I was like, I will not do that again. It was problematic. This was one of the first times that I really experienced cannabis without alcohol. Those are some just brilliant, brilliant memories. I started having more of those as a mom, with friends and with my husband too. With cannabis, the conversations and the way in which you connect with others, is so profound and in my mid-30s, I was more appreciative of that.
I was at a crossroads, I had business in fashion and I had just finished the business plan. It was a really tough time for me, because I figured out a lot about myself in that process, which is, I can't sell people things just because it's a new season. It’s not where my heart is and I really couldn't make a life out of it.
I was meeting with a client I hadn’t seen for a long time, she was the executive assistant at Privateer (a cannabis private equity firm). This woman didn't drink alcohol, ever. I was like, wait, you work for who? Tell me everything! She said: “Nobody is submitting anything for women, and nobody's doing anything that puts design first.”
Because I really do love to work, and to build brands, I wanted to continue to do that. Cannabis is this is a consumable that I hope people buy a ton of, and insurance companies will cover its use. I could sell cannabis.
You can't just be a brand that has pretty picture. You’ve got to really stand for something.
TH: How long did it take to get off the ground?
AP: We were at a restaurant where I knew the people who owned it. It was a Syrian family who own a few restaurants here in Seattle. They overheard what we were talking about, and they gave me my seed capital. Syrian immigrants funded my American dream.
Those discussions took place in March of 2015. That summer in July was when my first investment was deposited. We soft launched November 2015, and then had our official launch January 2016. It was just off to the races.
TH: Did you ever worry Van Der Pop wasn’t going to take-off?
AP: No. It was on a tear. It had a life of its own, from day one. It's been fun to watch it meet its potential. The reason that is, is because women like it. I keep producing content or products, that connects with them. They'll spread the word. That's really what ends up happening. Something that they know someone else will appreciate in their life, and they share it with them.
TH: Is the Van Der Pop vision different from the original vision?
AP: Our demographic, is not the same as it was in January 2016. It was all about having good looking products, because I come at everything as a designer. By March of 2016, I knew that I was focusing on females because I was starting to understand the differences in how this plant interacts with women and men. And that men are making a lot of the decisions about the brands, and they don't understand women. There was the real personal mission to educate and speak to women. Then, they still weren't necessarily purchasing our products. That was a problem because cash flow was an issue, as a startup. I'm like okay, let's host events, so women can interact with the products, and they can touch and feel and ask questions and do that in an open way.
I'm at a place in my life where I feel really strong and like I can stand up to any abuse that may come my way.
TH: What are women most drawn to with cannabis and Van der Pop?
AP: I think that the main driver with any woman is fear around cannabis. Fear of what people will think; fear of how it will affect her, and will those effects be irreversible. Will something just switch, and then she'll never be the same again. Will her kids find out, and then how will she explain that. At those events, which were branded as ‘sessions’, women would come and ask questions about the plant, or they would come and want to socialize with other cannabis consumers, because there was nowhere else to.
TH: Do you ever worry about the fact you are an influencer in a field where the clinical research hasn't been done?
AP: Not if I’m not claiming to be a doctor, or saying, “definitely do this…” Nobody really has any answers at all. It's meant to be more of: I know more than you, and this has been my experience with it. That's how I learn. Take that for what you will.
TH: Did you worry about the stigma, being one of the first woman in the space?
AP: No. I'd much rather be known for cannabis than having a dress. The people that I'm fascinated by — they're always doing stuff that probably, at the time, seemed radical. I just felt like, it's only going to be radical to some people, other people will think it's lame. It just seems right for me.
TH: How did you explain this to your kids and family?
AP: My kids, they're young. I don't know if they understood entirely what they were agreeing to, but I tried my hardest to make it clear how it would have both positive and negative impacts on their life in the short term and perhaps the long term. I also just said, "Listen, one day you're going to ask me to support you in something, and as your parent, it may be hard, but I do trust you guys. I'm just asking you to trust me." We watched the Bob Marley documentary. There was so much good that was presented alongside his cannabis use. That's how it was presented to them. Then, the first question James, my older son, had was, “Can you make a lot of money? Okay, yes, do that.” He was an Alex P. Keaton kid. All of the songs that talk about it, he basically sings the lyrics and giggles every time he walks past me, which, I'm trying to make him understand that not everyone will think that that's funny, and only do it at home.
As a mom, and with my boys, I felt like I wanted to be a part of something that I knew would be a better alternative for them, when they're looking to figure out how to deal with social anxiety or just the pressures of life. I'd much rather that be cannabis than alcohol. I talked to my husband, parents and to my in-laws, and everyone was supportive, so I didn't feel like I was harpooning their life unexpectedly.
I spent 50 percent of my seed capital, and 80 percent of our resources in terms of time, building our social media, because I knew that I could sell my company based on its Instagram account.
TH: Do you smoke in front of your kids?
AP: No, but they know that I share joints with friends when socializing.
TH: How did you get such a knack for being a leader? Were you ever afraid of putting yourself out there?
AP: My mom had always said that I was a leader and it stuck with me. I'm at a place in my life where I feel really strong and like I can stand up to any abuse that may come along with this decision.
TH: Do you think about tone and authenticity or you just speak?
AP: You just can't bullshit a cannabis brand. You just have to come from what's true.
TH: How did Tokyo Smoke find you?
AP: Tokyo Smoke found Van der Pop on Angel List. I had already met Alan about six months prior. We met, talked for an hour and a half, had a beer, went for a walk. It was easy to imagine talking to him about working together. We did that on November 1st, 2016. I was really grateful, because I knew he was very good at raising capital, and I knew we were going to need a lot more capital than I had projected, if, now “our” business model was to educate women and build our own market over time. I wasn’t spending enough time doing that, because I was trying to get this brand in a place where it could sell itself, with the end goal being that we would have cannabis on shelves, and that's where revenue would come from. November, Trump was elected, and I knew I was screwed in terms of investors. Selling to a Canadian company made a lot of sense for those reasons, too.
TH: Do you feel you gave up control?
AP: Yeah, I don't really have any role that's day to day. I pass along contacts that I meet, women who I think should be featured on the website or in the newsletter, on topics that I'm hearing, that I feel like they're trending and that we should address. If I see an illustrator that I like, I certainly pass the stuff on, and there is a welcome place for it to be received. I am really happy to have such a capable team and am really happy to depend on them and take this time to speak in a bigger way, that doesn't take as much time, but it can have as much of an impact. I feel fortunate to be in that position.
I was starting to understand the differences in how this plant interacts with women and men. And that men are making a lot of the decisions about the brands, and they don't understand women.
TH: You have a huge following. Can you survive if your social is mediocre?
AP: You cannot neglect social. I spent 50 percent of my seed capital, and 80 percent of our resources in terms of time, building our social media, because I knew that I could sell my company based on its Instagram account. I doubled down and invested in an agency that could expand our reach on all of the efforts we were already making, and we grew the [Instagram] account. That is where the people who will tell everyone about what you're doing, whether they like it or not. Then, on the backend of that, you got to back it up. You can't just be a brand that has pretty picture. You’ve got to really stand for something. Instagram is just a way that you tell people what you stand for, but it's not all you have as a brand. That is your bullhorn, you have to use it. Unfortunately, that is a fact.
TH: What about facebook and twitter?
AP: Yeah, Facebook was a real pain in the ass, no, we never mastered that. It was really hard, because you needed to run ads, and we couldn't. Then, Twitter is great , that's where the press is.
TH: Repercussions to startup life?
AP: At some point, as a founder, you start up again. I've done it four times. I have PTSD. I think it is possible to burn out. When it's a little bit past you and you're dealing with the physical repercussions of not sleeping for three years and working on a laptop and not exercising. I was on so much adrenaline and deadline, that you just push past whatever pain you have. Now, I'm very much like, Shit. What have I done to myself.
I'm trying to repair friendships. They're not broken, but they were neglected for a long time, because you’re either with your kids and your family or you're at work. With travel, there's just nothing in between. It doesn't mean that I don't love my friendships or my friends and that they don't have a special place in my life... I knew Van der Pop was a huge opportunity, and I knew it was going to happen. It felt like it was a very finite period of time. I just was pretty clear: I'm not available this year. I'm going to miss something important. Forgive me. Yeah, that's where I am now, is just repairing my body and my friendships.
TH: What’s next for you and Van der Pop?
AP: I'm still with the company and it is solely focused on Canada for 2018, because it's becoming adult use legal, and it’s still not legal in the US. That's where our resources are. We're traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of this June, which means that you can't have operations in the US. I don't think it will be like this this time next year. It definitely gives me pause as an American going, Oh, okay, how can I serve both countries?
I do that by showing up, speaking in Canada, and speaking in the US, still as the founder of Van der Pop. Usually, at a business panel, I get to speak about brands and products, which is my professional passion. It's always about destigmatizing this. I know that until women feel like they have permission to choose cannabis...it's bad for business. The stigma is keeping patients and wellness aficionados away. I'm not the person to give people permission, but I feel like if you lead by example, maybe others will say yes.
November, Trump was elected, and I knew I was screwed in terms of investors. Selling to a Canadian company made a lot of sense for those reasons, too.
TH: Is anyone making money in cannabis yet?
AP: Companies that are listed in the Canadian exchanges are.
TH: If you had 30 seconds with President Trump what would you say?
AP: “Bless your heart. Didn’t your mother teach you that you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar?” Any Southerner will understand the direct translation of this dialogue.
TH: Flower, vape, or edible?
TH: Words of wisdom for a first time entrepreneur?
“If you get a concussion, you can mitigate the damage by taking CBD within an hour of the incident. It's an antioxidant and neuro-protectant for the brain. This is something that needs to be happening in football and all contact sports.”
Marvin Washington, cannabis advocate, former NFL player and Super Bowl champion, changes the conversation for little league parents, athletes, and the African-American community as a defender of and pioneer in the medicinal cannabis space.
The Highly: What has been your relationship with cannabis over the years?
Marvin Washington: Back in high school I smoked it before my games. It gave me clarity and focus. I got away from it—and I'm still away from it on the THC side—but I am a big proponent of CBD.
TH: With what we know know about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), what are your thoughts on the dangers of football? Do you recommend it?
MW: It's a personal choice whether you let your kids play or not, but as of right now, I couldn't recommend anybody playing football with the issues that surround it, until it changes. I'm not trying to kill football, I'm only trying to make it safer at all levels, so that everybody can play this game that's given me, and so many others, valuable life lessons. But as of right now, why would you let your child play a game where you could possibly get a brain disease that could lead to mood and behavior issues, all the way up to suicide?
As an African American and a person of color, it's important that we have a seat at the table, and that's the next step in the match race of this industry.
TH: Could CBD really change things? I mean, at the end of the day you're still really hitting each other over and over and over again. It’s just so unsafe.
MW: It can be, for the point of contact. If you get a concussion, you can mitigate the damage by taking CBD within an hour of the incident. It's an antioxidant and neuro-protectant for the brain. This is something that needs to be happening in football and all contact sports.
But football has another issue: the opiate addiction of former players. We're four times more likely to abuse opiates. It’s a fact that whenever CBD is introduced into a community, opiate addiction goes down anywhere from 15 to 25 percent.
I'm going to believe that God and all the medicine and religious people were right for thousands of years, and not just these American men who decided to prohibit this plant. We need to get back to bible-based medicine, which is plant-based, which we did for thousands of years and get off of these synthetic, addicting, toxic things that are killing us.
TH: These doctors that are doling out the prescriptions. Should they take some blame?
MW: Look up the Sackler family — this thing has been a marketing campaign by them to introduce opiates. They’re the ones that came out with Oxycontin and said it wasn't addictive. Their name is all over museums, institutes of higher learning, and all over buildings. And I believe that is blood money. You can't really blame the doctors because doctors don't have the time to study about pain management. But they have these sales reps and this morphine campaign that comes in and tells them that this is what you should be pushing on your clients. It's basically poisoning people but it's made them probably one of the richest families in the world. I don't blame the doctors and the trainers because I don't believe they're going out to to do harm—not the majority of them. It's the pharmaceutical companies that you need to be going after. Because the doctors and the nurses and the healthcare providers, they were fooled too.
We need to get back to bible-based medicine, which is plant based, which we did for thousands of years. And get off of these synthetic, addicting, toxic things that are killing us.
TH: Do you think it’s too soon for full legalization? Do you worry that Big Pharma could swoop in and turn the medical cannabis into something synthetic?
MW: I welcome big pharma, big tobacco, and big alcohol getting in there. Because that means it's legal on the federal level, and then we can get their billions of dollars of research and development and see about all of the unique cannabinoids in this plant and see what they can do. I think the industry and the people will go against something synthetic.
TH: You sued Jeff Sessions—that takes guts. Were you afraid the government would mess with you? [In 2017 Marvin along with a list of plaintiffs sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an attempt to challenge the 1970 Controlled Substance Act that puts marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, in the same class as Heroin and LSD. This Schedule 1 status prohibits marijuana from getting the proper research].
MW: Somebody has to do it. I think they have more fish to fry than to come after me. We’re in appellate court right now but I’m happy that the momentum is on legalization. It's going to happen state-by-state or it's going happen in one stroke. But it's going to happen.
TH: So, what about this idea that you need just a little bit of THC to activate the CBD? Or does straight CBD work for you?
MW: Hemp-based CBD isolate works best for me. It's like oil for the tin man. It helps me work out every day; it helps me create homeostasis as much as I can for somebody who’s 52 and played in the NFL for over a decade. I don’t have the soreness that impedes my workouts. That’s what it does for me but you have to find out what works for you, because I’ve got a lot of friends—former athletes—who do a combination of both, or they do the THC, which is fine because all we’re trying to do is feel better.
TH: How do NFL players have the resilience to play all the time? Especially two games in a week?
MW: Here's the thing that's been around the NFL for years: you can play hurt but you can't play injured. Everybody at some point is hurting, because you're banging into each other. Once you have that first or second practice, you're going to be sore, you're going to have these bumps and bruises, but you’ve got to keep playing. So, yeah, it's a pain game.
TH: Are they taking opioids just to get on the field?
MW: Just to practice. You see some of these injuries happen and then see the guy coming back and playing within two weeks. And in a normal world that's a six-week injury, but I know how you get on the field, I know how the sauce is made, and we need to change course on that. You can't have these guys on this pharmaceutical regimen starting in July, ending in January or February, and then they extrapolate that over five, ten, twelve years, and then they retire and all of a sudden they’re supposed to cut it off? For most guys it doesn't happen. For 20,000 former players — we’re four times more likely to take opioids—we're talking about 25 percent. I was talking to a former player three weeks ago in New Orleans and he's been on pain pills for 30 years.
TH: Wouldn't you think that these football players would revolt against the league?
MW: I know a lot of players who, instead of taking these pharmaceuticals that the doctors and trainers are handing out, are medicating with cannabis. A lot of these guys have their own cannabis cooks. I know one particular cook that cooks for, like, a quarter of a team. I know all these guys that are going that way instead of taking these toxic anti-inflammatories and addictive pain pills. But I will say this: if I have a broken leg, I don't want cannabis. I want something that's going to deal with acute pain, and that's pain pills. But I don't want to do it for 16 weeks, I just want to deal with the acute pain and then transition to something else that's not as damaging to my body. That doesn't have high potential for addiction.
The people who are in this space — we're all part of a collective — and on the right side of history.
TH: How are all these football players using cannabis if it’s illegal?
MW: You know the date of your test and you have to be off it for 30 days prior.
TH: How do people react to your message?
MW: They're receptive to it because I'm just sticking with facts. There are 22,000 papers written about cannabis; 11,000 peer reviewed papers. If you want to know about it, there's enough information out there to tell you what I'm saying is fact. And parents don't know about this because most people, after they leave high school, don't even read a book. And they get their information from one source but they don't know about what cannabis can do and what hemp can do, strictly in a contact sport like football, to protect their sons who are putting their bodies and minds on the line. I'm happy to go out and educate them about the medicinal benefits from a neuro-protection, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory aspect. Most of the injuries and 90 percent of the illnesses that happen in this country come from inflammation in your body.
TH: Who should be governing cannabis in your opinion?
MW: I say leave that to the people and let them decide, because we've decided that alcohol and tobacco are okay and I don't know any medicinal benefits of that. We've decided that these societal ills like sports gambling are okay. So, leave adult use up to the people and let them decide and the state decide. But on the medicinal side, I think this should be in every state and every city. And not only can it offer medicinal benefits, think about the economic benefits it can offer to the communities that have been hit the hardest by this plant. The brown and black communities. You won't have to worry about re-identifying, you know? You can re-identify your own community with the money that can come in with cannabis. You can get off the pills for high blood pressure, diabetes and all these illnesses that are unique and particularly devastating to minorities. Cannabis can do that. That's why I feel like the people who are in this space — we're all part of a collective — and on the right side of history.
TH: Amen to that.
You're not getting high to get high. You're getting high to feel good.
TH: If you had 30 seconds with President Trump, what would you say?
MW: Leave the states alone because of state rights, and try to really study the medicinal benefits of this plant and see how it could heal this nation.
TH: Who do you think cannabis can help the most?
MW: This movement is so universal. I will say this about the people in their 60s and 70s—the baby boomers. They've exploded every market that they've been in, and if they get behind cannabis, they'll do that, too. Seniors have the biggest jump of cannabis use out of any demographic and I think that will go along way to bringing down the negative stereotypes and connotations.
TH: What does your cannabis routine look like?
MW: I can tell when it's going to rain or when the weather's going to change because my knees and hands and fingers hurt. But lately, they haven't been, because I infuse my body with CBD from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed. And now my company, Isodiol has a good natural CBD sleep aid. Not only does it help me rest but I'm still infusing my body while I'm sleeping. I use our drops, face cream, our tinctures. I use everything. And not only am I on it but I have my significant other Shahana Williams, my mother, sisters and my friends on it.
TH: Tell me about your work with CBD company Isodiol.
MW: I believe Isodiol is the leading CBD company in the country. There's two companies in the world that have approved APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredient): Isodiol and GW pharmaceuticals. Everybody else is generic and we're the real thing. Isodiol doesn't consider itself a CBD company, it considers itself a pharmaceutical company. It's approved in Central America and we're going to be approved in Mexico pretty soon, and up in Canada.
We have Isoderm by Dr. Ron Aung-Din, who speaks at medical and autism conferences. We've got our sports line, Iso-Sport, which I did a joint venture with a couple of years ago. We work with the Arnold Classic, we do elite football camps, basketball camps, and things of that nature. We're a fitness and nutritional company, and we infuse our products with CBD.
I'm very happy with the direction of the company because I know that when this prohibition does come off, some of these companies are going to get swept away but Isodiol is going to be there. We keep our eye on the goal and the goal is to be a pharmaceutical company that just has CBD.
Seniors have the biggest jump of cannabis use out of any demographic and I think that will go along way to bringing down the negative stereotypes and connotations.
TH: Why CBD Isolate, specifically?
MW: I'm a full plant advocate, I am. But if I'm an active athlete or work for the government, I'm getting drug-tested. If I'm going full-spectrum CBD, it has everything in there, including THC. There is a trucker who lost his job and he's suing the CBD company because he bought CBD at a roadside store, and it said CBD, but it was full-spectrum and he got drug-tested and tested positive for THC. With isolate, we isolated the CBD from the hemp plant, and it's 99.999999 percent CBD—no THC in there—and it's safe to take if you are getting drug-tested.
TH: If you’re a betting man, when will this be legal?
MW: If I was going to put my money on the table, I would say in less than five years the NFL will have a sensible cannabis and marijuana policy. And that's when we stop being a movement; that's when we stop being a collective, and become a real industry. I got into this four years ago. It was a matter of, if, if, if. Now it's just a matter of when.
TH: What’s next for you, Marvin?
MW: To affect some change, I want to get on these multistage, publicly-traded boards. As an African American and a person of color, it's important that we have a seat at the table, and that's the next step in the match race of this industry: more African Americans and people of color need to start getting on the boards and making a difference. I'm going to keep advocating for the medicinal benefits of this plant for athletes and keep advocating to look into the facts about this plant. I'm trying to have forums and different expos specifically for our community, so they can learn about this plant.
I know how you get on the field, I know how the sauce is made, and we need to change course on that. You can't have these guys on this pharmaceutical regimen starting in July, ending in January or February.
TH:What do you think about the stigma around cannabis?
MW: We need a certain amount of responsibility that's put on us, so that's what gets me when people say, “Oh, I wanna change the stereotype about this plant blah, blah, blah.” And then you go on their social media page and they’re dabbing, smoking and having these bong hits and it's like, ‘Come on!’
If you're going to do it for ailment then explain it, “This is part of my routine. This is what I'm taking, this is the strain, this is the dosage, and this helps me get through whatever it is. You're not getting high to get high. You're getting high to feel good. Life is ugly, you’ve got to be strong and dignified and it is a beautiful thing, you know.
TH: How do you stay so grounded?
MW: I always try to read and have quiet time to get in touch with my soul, because I definitely want my soul and my spirit to prosper more than anything down here. People get so caught up on these material things; if you ever want to show your daughters something that has broken up families, that people have killed and died over, that people have lost touch with friends and families over, take them to a junkyard and it's all there.
The most important things are your relationship with the universe, your creator, and your family. That's it.
On a personal note:
I run around endless cannabis conferences, which you can imagine can get quite repetitive and dull, however, the sports panels are always 100 percent captivating.
There is always a common thread that anyone who has been through a medical drama can relate to: your health isn’t right, your healthcare providers are frustrating, and it spills into your life and relationships. Things get beyond dramatic, and in comes cannabis. It helps you help yourself in a healthy way and you feel blown away with the spirituality that came along with it. This is what cannabis does. Sports figures–please, you need to have a bigger voice here. Especially as the cannabis market goes mainstream, so does the heart and soul of the story.
In 2018, ‘the year of chaos’, Marvin speaks in the middle of a movement in such a calm and positive way. It was an honor.