Home Audio Transcription A More Equitable Cannabis Industry (Podcast Transcript)

A More Equitable Cannabis Industry (Podcast Transcript)

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Editors’ Note: This is the transcript version of the podcast we posted on March 9. Please note that due to time and audio constraints, transcription may not be perfect. We encourage you to listen to the podcast embedded below, if you need any clarification. Enjoy!

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Rena Sherbill: Hi again, everybody. Welcome back to the show. It’s great to have you listening with us. As always, Happy International Women’s Day, month, week, however you celebrate. I know many of you listening celebrate women every day of your lives. So, thank you for that.

And to celebrate along with you we are joined again this year by Alisia Ratliff, CEO of Victus Capital Ventures. She’s coming more from the science world than anything else science and extraction, but also is now consulting on the business side of things has had a journey that she talked to us about last year, she came on four International Women’s Day as well talking with her husband, Chris about building up Victus Capital Ventures.

And this year, she catches us up on what the past year has been in terms of her journey working in the cannabis industry. And we talk again about being an employee and employer, a person making their living in the cannabis industry. What has gone well, what hasn’t gone well? What has been improved upon? What still needs to be improved upon? A great conversation also about the Europe side of the industry, really great stuff. Really happy to have Alisia on. Hope you enjoy this conversation.

Alisia, welcome back to the show. It’s great to have you. I know it’s been a year because you came on International Women’s Day, and you are back again for International Women’s Day, celebrating us women and celebrating kind of like our power in the world and how we’re navigating this path forward. But thanks for coming back on. Really, really appreciate you coming back on.

Alisia Ratliff: Absolutely, no, I am so excited. Whenever you reached out, I was just like, Oh, of course, I’m going to join you like, I always have such a good conversation, we’re able to dive into a lot of just deep topics that need to just be talked about. And obviously, catching up with my girl is good. So, I’m happy to be here. Happy International Women’s Day to everyone that’s listening and just really harness your power and know that you are special and needed in this world.

RS: Amen. Amen. Yes, that is a great way to begin. And I’m happy to hear that you’re enthusiastic, because I’m happy to talk to you. I feel like some of the things that we’ve been talking about since we last talked, aside from the companies and the investments we’re looking at is the state of the industry and how it looks.

And we’ve had a few people on talking about the nefarious parts of the industry in terms of being employed in it and kind of navigating the path within that part of the industry. And last year when you came on, you were talking about kind of having to deal with so much inequity and empty promises and false leads and BS behavior. And then you had found something that you were excited about over in Europe. So, catch us up where you are today and where you find yourself in 2022.

AR: Sure. Yeah, so last year was absolutely a roller coaster ride. Anybody that’s been in this industry knows that just any startup industry really is going to have its bumps, its challenges, its obstacles, and you’re going to have a lot of turnover in companies in the beginning, like there’s just so much activity that goes on in an industry in the infant stages that you kind of get washed up with the tide every five seconds. And it’s one of those things where you either develop stronger character, you develop thicker skin, you become a little bit more strategic in your decisions. And or you run from it.

And that’s something that I find myself here a year later at that crossroads in my career of just like, I’ve gone through the ins and outs of this industry of the good, bad and ugly of being a full-time employee, a contractor, a consultant, however, I could work and make an income. I’ve been a part of that. I’ve worked for multistate operators.

I’ve worked for startup companies. And something that is across the board just common is the fact that there are a lot of people racing to the bottom. There’s just so many different things that go on with running a cannabis business. And then when you add on top of that employees and people and personalities and lifestyles, it just becomes a challenge.

There’s a lot of people within this industry that are so talented, and they experience gaslighting. They experience role misrepresentation, lies of fraudulent funding of companies and they find themselves displaced whether that’s within the company itself or whether that’s physically like a physical location. You relocate it for an opportunity that just turned out to be a bust. Those are some of the challenges and risks that we take in this industry and I think, here I am a year later, I’m a little bit tougher and stronger after some of the experiences that I’ve had just going overseas into a brand-new burgeoning market.

There’s definitely the challenges and obstacles that I faced there and the adversity, but I came away from it just so much more empowered and feeling like I have a very different yet more clear and strategic vision.

RS: It’s interesting, a lot of the things that we talk about when it comes to looking for like a good investment, a good company is looking at management. And one of the things that you can look at is how nimble they are in navigating the industry, because there’s so many law changes, and there’s lack of cash because of how much they pay in taxes, whatever, numerous issues that they have to deal with an ever-changing issues that they have to deal with. So it’s not just you have to be good day one, day two, day three, you have to know how to navigate when it gets crazy out there.

And I feel like on the individual level, that’s true, too, right? Like, I mean, the industry is made up of individuals, and it’s like, those individuals that are sticking with the industry is like, you have to be able to navigate all that. And it’s like, because it’s a burgeoning industry, and because it’s not fully regulated.

And because there’s so much kind of questionable behavior, because there’s so many questionable laws. How do you navigate that? And I guess I would ask you like, how, what serves you in navigating it? Is it okay, this is I know who I am. And when somebody wrongs me, I know what the truth is. And I know how to get back to kind of my center, which I know will empower me, is it something like that? Is it or share with me kind of like how you get from a gaslighting situation from an inequitable situation to a place of power?

AR: Yeah, I would say that, I have built that over the last two to three years. I’ve been in the industry now about six years. And I probably have one of the fastest tracks that you’ve met in the industry, where within six years, I go from not knowing anything about cannabis from a consumer standpoint, to the chief level roles that I’ve held now. So, it’s a lot that I’ve absorbed over the years, and something that I would say would help to start to overcome that is to one really start to protect yourself and protect your inner peace, and know that no one else has your best intention at heart.

That’s something that I think the mindset of people who have been used to nine to five work, same company five years, six years, 15, whatever it is, they get into this mindset that that’s all they’re supposed to be doing there. And if the job is telling them that they’re not doing it good, or they’re not valuing you, they actually take that on, and they actually believe that about themselves because of that mindset that you just can’t leave, you just can’t jump in, and all that stuff. So, I think when you break down that construct within your own mind and free yourself of those barriers of thinking that, hey, this situation did not turn out like I expected Oh, no, I’m trapped.

Instead of feeling trapped, feel like, okay, well, this is a new opportunity to look for something better, like maybe this wasn’t it, maybe this was just a stepping stone to get to the mansion. Like where am I supposed to go from here. So, I think that’s the first step is to try to break down psychologically, the barriers that you’ve been accustomed to. And I think the other part of it is just to start to really, really harness your focus on what’s important, and what you know you’re good at, and just exercise and exploit that.

If you know that your niche is extraction, then I’m going to be going to every trade show and conference to see what’s new on the market and equipment. I’m going to be reading white papers. I’m going to be looking at videos, back in the day of people blowing themselves up in their garage. And now to see how it’s progressed.

I’m going to try to hone my craft as much as possible, because that way when someone comes to my door and drops a bag of crap at the step, I can look at them and say yeah, no, I know exactly what that is. Because I’m confident in the knowledge and the experience that I have gained and taught myself.

So, I would say my turning point in really becoming more powerful than the situation’s I was encountering was shifting my focus and understanding okay, you know a lot about building facilities, managing construction, understanding the regulatory environments, product development, analytical, all these different facets. How can you use these things and protect yourself and your interests? Be Your Own Boss essentially and pick and choose how you play and where you play? And for me the answer was my consulting firm, that really was my answer.

And it was a slow start at the beginning just getting a company off the ground and really getting our name out there. But I was very, very ambitious and talking with people like yourself and sharing my experiences and writing and contributing to technical articles and different books about scientific methods and stuff like that in the industry. So, I was able to build this counteracting report against anything that I might encounter in the future. And that has really served to help me so much and being able to explain my position when I go up towards new opportunities that I’m betting.

RS: Do you feel like there’s a way to suss out or do you feel like you’ve learned kind of signs of when, when a company or when management or whoever’s hiring you is giving you some BS, or like the opportunity that they’re talking about is like, maybe not going to come to fruition the way that they promised? Is there something that you feel like, oh, this kind of was assigned? Or maybe I should have paid attention? Or do you feel like, it’s hard to know until you kind of like get into the company and see I guess the melt down from the inside?

AR: I would say both. I would definitely say both. I would say that sometimes people are really good at putting on a good face. And they’re really good at making claims seem believable, whether that’s the type of extraction technology they’re using, or how much money they have in the bank to fund expansion. People are really good at putting up that face. And honestly, without having the in person, it makes discerning those people and their body language that much more difficult than virtual meetings and stuff like that.

So, you do have that barrier of you don’t really know what you don’t know, until you’re actually there. And when you get there, some of the red flags that I usually encounter are lack of transparency when it comes to funding and spend. That usually is a big red flag for me that there’s some issues in bank, either there’s cashflow problems, they’re actively fundraising, or they underfunded themselves and were in a pickle.

There’s other flags like consultants that they would choose to bring on. If there’s consultants that they’re paying to bring on that just really don’t have the expertise or just don’t have the understanding to apply to the scope of what we need, then that negatively impacts everyone else in the business. And usually, that gives a big flag of competency at the leadership level for me.

So, there’s all these different things after encountering these negative situations that those flags will pop up very quickly in a role for me. And then I usually attack it with confrontation, I like to sit down, I like to talk about these things and say, hey, I’m noticing this. This is what I was told. I just like to run it over and don’t have anything harbored actually voiced those opinions, get those things out those inconsistencies call people on it, because that’s the only way that you’re going to hold people accountable to being transparent the next time around, somebody comes through the door.

But I would say that now in retrospect of some of my opportunities, there were flags in the interview process, and I just being a job seeker, and someone who is passionate about the industry, you start to feel yourself, just kind of put this mask on of like perpetual optimism, if you will. And you look at everybody across the table or across the screen and you’re like, Man, this person is just as passionate as me. This person really wants to drive this industry forward and do some good science and do some good work. But how the heck do I know that?

I don’t know that. I literally just met this person over the computer for five minutes. So, you don’t really get a chance to vet people appropriately during the interview process. And it just, it’s very difficult to read the body language when you have the new normal that we’re living in.

RS: Yeah, absolutely. I heard somebody say once they sewed all the red flags they saw into a snappy red jacket.

AR: I like that.

RS: It’s hard. It’s hard sometimes to know, kind of like exactly what you’re saying. It’s not always easy to see. I’ll just add this. I remember, I’m a fan of Tony Robbins and he has this whole talk about when he was starting out in business. And he was like so idealistic and believing of people and the first business meeting – the first major business meeting he had, he was like, put all his cards on the table and said everything and got totally screwed over in the process. But totally learned a major lesson and also like in dealing with that and then he was with some business partners and just kind of learning from them how to navigate that process of being an idealist in a capitalist and sometimes nefariously capitalist society.

It’s not always easy to navigate that. I wanted to ask you something because the opportunity that you talked about that you’re no longer there in Europe. Next week, we’re having Tim Seymour on from CNBC and something that he was talking about was the washed-out promise or the yet to be fulfilled promise that is cannabis, the cannabis industry in Europe. Is your – has your feeling changed? Or were your hopes higher than maybe on the ground? It seems to be playing out. And I don’t know if that’s due more to regulation or the culture.

I mean, certainly now there’s a whole, my God, number of catastrophic events to derail cannabis in Europe, but outside of the geopolitical catastrophe what’s your take on the cannabis industry in Europe?

AR: Well, I definitely think that, I like to be someone who’s kind of ahead of the curve when it comes to certain things. And I would say that I’ve had really great success and being one of the first into the Florida market whenever I first started working in cannabis. So, I started to turn my eye on shift towards the European market back in 2019, when I had the chance to go and speak at a conference in London. And I was so interested, I’ve always loved travel. I’ve traveled to Europe multiple times before then, and I was talking to my husband, and I was like, you know, they have this industry that’s kind of like bubbling, is percolating.

And they’re going to need experts. They’re going to need people who have done this and help them drive what’s going on. And I would say that my perception of where they were from the States was highly different of where they actually were when I got there. Because from the state’s perspective, when I was looking over, I just thought, oh, they passed in 2017 2018. So, they should be now issuing licenses. There should be maybe a few of the big guys that are up and generating. And you’ll see some of the smaller guys start popping up, similar to what we see whenever our markets open.

But the contrary, when I got over there, there was so many people that were angry, they were protesting at Parliament, and basically saying, you guys have passed this law for much needed medicine, but there’s still people that don’t have access. There’s only three government prescriptions that have been giving out in the last three years, what’s going on? We need access to this medicine. And I became a patient myself. I suffer with chronic pain from a car accident 15 years ago, and I was a patient over in the UK.

And even the process of receiving your medicine is difficult, is arduous. And whenever you go through that process, first off, there’s no dispensaries if you will, like over here, where you have access to a menu, and you can look at things and say, okay, this is the strain that works for me, you don’t have that. So, it’s almost like the guesswork, you have to consult with your physician every time to see what’s even available.

Then on top of that, they have this market that they’re creating and opening up. Yet licenses are very, very sluggish. And they’re not being awarded very quickly to show that there’s going to be an industry here. A lot of the medicinal cannabis that’s actually being prescribed is imported. It’s coming in from the Netherlands. It’s coming in from the states in some places, from Spain, from Portugal. So, in my opinion, I think the UK right now is very behind on their own plans. And it’s taking a bit of for them to play catch up, and really try to deliver on the promises of the last four years.

I think that’s why Minister Freeman’s in place. Boris elected him to start to take over the sector and say, hey, let’s put some regulations in place, put a committee in place. So, that’s been something I’ve been able to be a part of, with those offices. And I just think they have a lot of work to go. They do. They have a little bit more to go. But I think the answer is absolutely opening up, having more resources with the home office, and with all the different agencies that are attached and just really making sure that you have an open playing field for domestic cultivation.

RS: And do you feel like culturally they’re ready for it like, they’re ready for wide scale adoption of it?

AR: No. I think really living in England, living in Jersey, it’s very conservative in some respects, if you will. I definitely have relationships with some members of parliament and some members of the House of Lords that definitely have a different outlook. They’re much more liberal in their outlook when it comes to medicinal cannabis. And they’ve been the ones that have been pushing and pioneering for the last like 30 years. So, just imagine all of that hubbub for 30 years to get to the point that they’re at now, which isn’t showing a lot of traction.

So, I definitely think they have a long way to go, but I think they have the tools and they have the resources to do it. It’s just going to be a matter of really trying to break down the antiquated laws that they’ve all been accustomed to similar to what we were accustomed to.

And just really educating, educating the culture, educating the society and educating all the physicians so that everyone is really understanding of what’s going on. Even now in my life, I have people in my family that know, I’ve been in this industry for the past six years, and they still look at me and they’re like, aren’t you afraid that you’re going to get shut down because, you know, it’s illegal.

And it’s like, we need to talk. Let’s just go back through all of the research and the history. And there’s just a lot that needs to be done.

RS: Are you – were you encouraged by the news out of Germany in terms of like Europe developing? Do you think it’s just a matter of time in terms of like, I guess inculcating a population with the right science and the right facts? And what do you think it’s a matter of in terms of, or do you feel like a little bit encouraged maybe? I don’t know.

AR: I did, actually. Honestly, I’ve been encouraged ever since I’ve gotten into the industry, because all I have witnessed has been editions of markets, editions of states, editions of countries that are now starting to either decriminalized, have some sort of regulation on medicinal cannabis or even hemp. That’s huge. And I feel like the industry has really started to grow and sprout. Now, what we’re seeing in North America is a shift in regulation and regulatory enforcement. We’re starting to see that there’s going to be standards, there’s going to be ways to go about it.

But again, the states it kind of has a little bit to go, because everybody’s kind of working off their own truncated legislation. So, for me, it’s very encouraging what’s going on in Germany. I definitely think that a lot more countries over in Europe are going to start turning towards adult use markets. They see the value towards the economy that it’s bringing. They see the value towards society that it’s bringing. And I think that’s huge. I think that’s going to be a really good precursor to a lot of the countries that may not really have that same outlook on kind of opening that up.

And honestly, I really was encouraged by Colombia as well. Colombia starting up their market and passing legislation that they’re going to start to export flour and things like that across the world. I think that’s huge. So, we’re starting to see so much growth on every side of the globe. You’ve got Asian markets that are popping up now. You have African markets that are now popping up.

You have the European markets that are starting to stabilize in what they want to do. It’s just interesting. And I’m very hopeful and I’m really excited to see the innovation that that’s going to bring, because it seems as if this industry is here to stay, and it’s only going to become more sophisticated. It’s only going to become more regulated, which is good, because we’ll get the snake coil guys out.

And then you will see this become something of in my opinion, green pharma. It will look very similar to green pharma.

RS: So, kind of, catch us up to what you’re focused on now and what you’re doing now?

AR: Yeah. So again, with that mindset shift, I’ve gone into a lot of things in this industry is looking at the next job. I’m looking for my next role, my next job so that I can get in with a company and really get my boots on the ground and grow with them. And I think that’s been a lot of my optimism. But what has really shifted for me in the last two years has been my business. The consulting firm, that’s been more of a sideline act then the primary act. I have seen so much growth.

The last time we talked, we were doing a lot more technical articles, we were doing a lot more conference engagement, educational engagement, still doing that. Still doing workshops and webinars and things. Actually, I’m scheduled for tomorrow with the USDA Research Service and Cornell University. So, I’ll be doing some things with them and their health science program. But that was where we kind of started and we didn’t mean to, like we definitely opened the consulting firm to go out and gain those projects and really start consulting with people.

But before I did that, I wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed to be able to provide to the potential clients we would have. And be able to develop what does that look like? Is it a relationship basis? Is it a partnership? Is it just client consultant? And it’s really grown. And so, I’m excited and I have three opportunities that are on the table for Victus for projects this year that are incredible. One of them is minority-owned, women focused so, I’m really happy to partner alongside them.

There’s another company that’s in the UK and they’re actually looking to build out and they’ve gained their licensing. So, they’re looking for expertise there. And there’s actually some ancillary businesses in cannabis that have reached out now that are looking for help. And it’s just, it’s blowing my mind, because I didn’t really expect this level of growth in the business. I didn’t expect that I would be in a position to where I’m no longer really looking for or focused on job roles specifically. I’m now kind of starting to work for myself.

And it’s really nice, and it puts me in the safe place. And that safe position of being able to be a part of these startups and a part of their mission and their goals, and do what I love to do without being burned. And I think that’s been just so beneficial for every part of my life. So, I’m really excited about the growth with Victus. On the other side of things with Victus records, our band, we released our one of our songs this year after releasing our album last year. So, that song did really well. We actually partnered with a Mexican Art studio to do some visual effects for our video. So, we dropped that.

So, we’ve been doing a lot of fun, creative things on that side outside of cannabis. So, there’s just been a lot of growth, a lot of booming growth, and I’m really excited. But I am still very hopeful that eventually I could find something that satisfies all of that. And I thought it was with someone else’s company. And who knows, it might just end up being with my own.

RS: First of all, what’s the name of the album and the song that dropped?

AR: So, the album last year is called Step Well, and the name of the band is Doctrine. You can find the album on all the streaming platforms, Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and all that. And then our single that we dropped this year is called Death by Florida. And that came out of January. So, we’ve had that out for a little bit now. And we’re actually practicing and working towards our next single that we’re going to record soon.

So, it’s just been this snowball effect of creativity, motivation. And a lot of what we experienced as we’re traveling through this volatile journey in the cannabis industry is starting to feed a lot of the artistic creation that my husband and I in the band are able to really push into that project and what we’re doing. So that’s been really exciting.

RS: That’s awesome. That’s really awesome. So, in terms of you were talking about, like, maybe you would want to start your own, like, what would your passion project be? Why would you want to start your own? What would you want to be focused on?

AR: You know, it’s funny, because I feel like that vision is evolving every single day. Like, if I told you two years ago, when I first opened Victus, I would say my goal was to gain a license. And I think we talked about this actually. We really did, we talked about this. And I wanted to gain a license in a market, vertically integrate it and just really control everything and produce products. Produce products for the market. And now listening to that vision, it sounds so one dimensional from what I really would like to do.

And I think that it’s a compilation of things. It’s almost as if I have this center that has all these different arms that are kind of reaching into several different things. So, I would say that my goal, short term for Victus is to continue really raising the awareness of the company and what we do and what we provide, but also continue to be a solid partner for our clients.

The people that really need the guidance that we’re able to provide from an experiential point of view, there’s so many different consultants that are in this market that will give you things that they essentially found or printed off of Google and take 1000s of dollars for that. Or essentially talk you into giving them equity of your company just to guide you.

Those are things that we don’t do. You know, that’s not a part of our creed. I actually heard that from a potential client the other day, and I told her right away, I was like, listen, equity is not even on the table if I’m your advisor. Like, that’s not even fair. Who would do that? So, it’s just different things like that. We’re trying to raise the awareness about some of the bad guys that are in the industry and help people to get to those goals that sometimes can seem too complex if you don’t already have that foreknowledge.

And then I would say to that, the educational piece of the company is really close to my heart. I really love mentorship development as much as I can share. I want to do that. And then from an ancillary perspective, I think there’s so many different ways to enhance the cannabis industry and some of the problems that we have in tech and different automation systems and biotech. So, I have a burgeoning interest in ancillary businesses right now. And also using hemp as a carbon sequestration crop. I really like that too.

RS: Explain that a little bit, because I was going to ask about your research that you’re doing with USDA and hemp. Is this related to that?

AR: It is a bit. So, sometimes I feel like as much as I evolve out of being the scientist and the extraction artists and all those different things, I somehow keep getting pulled back into the box when I go and do these things. So tomorrow, my talk is going to be more focused on extraction, chemistry and facility design. But I did do one recently with analytical cannabis on sustainability. And just talking about carbon sequestration, CO2 emissions, how they’re harmful for climate change. And how that conversation is now starting to butt up against the conversation of hemp.

And being able to plant hemp crops, they’re four times more efficient in forests. They grow a lot faster. You can cycle through multiple crops in a year versus what mature forests, it takes multiple years. So, there’s different things that I’ve been kind of partnering people with to do research on, just carbon sequestration, how you can use hemp as a sustainability crop.

And even just also optimizing cultivation systems as well, looking at Net Zero strategies and how you can bring down that impact in that footprint on the environment while still maintaining profitability, still being essentially a machine and producing the yield that you need to. But I think that now a lot of that focus from the climate change conversations is starting to really take root in the industry.

RS: What are your thoughts on vertical farming?

AR: Oh, I really do like vertical farming. And maybe that’s just the quality piece of my brain. I like it for the sense of control working in extraction. You sometimes have biomass that you’re cultivating yourself, and sometimes you’re importing it in, and there’s so many issues that you can encounter when you have to relinquish that trust into a different entity. So, I definitely, I think that the vertical model is absolutely 100% sustainable for sure. But there also were you talking about vertical model, or the actual vertical farming, the technology?

RS: The vertical farming, the technology.

AR: Oh, yes, yes, yes. So, I love it. I think that on top of what we were talking about with sustainability, I think that it’s just so needed, whenever you’re talking about facility design and product yield. That’s something that’s been the conversation, the heart of the conversation from the industry for two decades now, is how to increase yield, but also maximize your square footage. And I think these growing towers, they’re starting to become so much more popular, just on the produce side of things, growing lettuce, growing tomatoes, growing hydroponically.

But I do think it does create that challenge for some of the producers that maybe they have the business model, where they’re looking towards being a little bit more organic, if you will. That was something that we actually experienced when I was in the UK is the levels in the standards to be considered organic. A lot of that does go back to Mother Nature and actually planting into the earth planting into the roots into the soil systems. So, it just really depends on what your model dictates. But I definitely see a rise in hydroponic growing and growing in the vertical farms just due to space and being able to maximize that yield.

RS: And what other innovation are you seeing? I mean, the AI and the automation and all of that is like really interesting and what it can accomplish. Is there anything else you’re focused on from the science side or from the business side that you feel like, that you’re paying attention to? That could be like, quite exciting?

AR: Yeah. One of the things I’m usually always taking a look at is product formulations. I feel like product formulations are things that are going to continue to evolve as we continue to grow in our education, understanding of the cannabinoids and how they play together and how they work with our individual systems. So that’s something that I’m usually always looking into. I’ve been looking into the stabilization of cannabinoid molecules for water solubility, I think that’s something that we still definitely have a ways to go when it comes to research.

Definitely, the research behind inhaling the front of vape carts with the crisis that happened, I think that opened up a lot of doors to starting to understand the long-term effects of inhaling an oil-based product. So, I think that that will really push forward a lot of the water-soluble tech in my opinion, because I think that’s going to be the direction that it ends up going. Maybe that’s just kind of a sneak peek preface of what we’re to see in the future, hopefully, but I do think that’s part of the innovations.

And then on the product side, too, I love seeing the innovation in administration of product, like what type of product is being developed. You’re seeing so many different categories now coming into a market. I think that’s the beauty of being in the North American market is because now it’s starting to tip over into that commodity, and not so much niche. So, you have so many different things that are cycling through the shelves. California, there’s a company out in California that is specifically developing women’s sexual health products with cannabinoid infused CBD THC.

So, I think that is fascinating, because these are the conversations that people don’t necessarily talk about. They don’t necessarily talk about sexual problems and women’s pain and different things like that. So, I just love that there are certain products that are being developed that are really opening the awareness of this drug, this medicine. It has so many different purposes and applications that it’s unreal.

RS: Yeah, absolutely. I want to get back to what you were talking about your vision of this green pharma industry, like what’s your vision, as you see it growing, as you’re advising these companies or individuals trying to make it in the industry. What’s your vision for how it’s going to look as we keep, as more states come online and all of that?

AR: Sure. I definitely think that the vision is going to be, it’s piecemealed. So, it’s being piecemealed right now, based on operating industries that have been robust. So, if you look at for instance, GMP. GMP was something that we all started to adopt as norm over the last decade. But if you look at the standards and the codes of GMP, not all of them apply to cannabis manufacturing. That has been something that has been very difficult to navigate honestly, when you’re managing manufacturing of a product that is a botanical.

So, I think when I define green pharma, it looks similar to pharma except the regulations, and the practices and processes are a bit different. So, in my opinion, you hear this GXP term being used quite often in our industry, I like the term because I do think the standards that are going to be applied to what this green pharma industry looks like, are going to be a pick and choose a copy paste, if you will, for multiple standards.

I don’t think it’s a one size fits all GMP, GACP, this is what we are, this is the input, and this is always the output, because that’s not where we’re at. We’re definitely dealing with botanical that historically has had so much value. And I do think that that’s something that we need to look at. We need to kind of take it back historically and look at the industry whenever it was primitive. Look at Hashish Oil and the processes that were used to produce that and how they were dosing tinctures that were coming out of pharmacies back in the 1920s.

I think it’s going to be a combination of the natural products botanical industry and pharma, mixed together. And that to me, is the vision of green Pharma.

RS: What were they doing back in the 1920s? They were prescribing hash oil?

AR: Yeah, yeah. So, it’s interesting, because a lot of people don’t realize that, when I talk to people about the legality of cannabis, they’re just like, that stuff’s horrible. It’s always been illegal. It’s the devil’s lettuce. And it’s like, well, yes, that’s definitely all of the propaganda that was put out. But historically, cannabis has been used for centuries for pain mitigation, for appetite stimulation, for all sorts of things. And some of the early on research that I was doing when I was trying to understand this plant and where it came from and the uses, I remember finding a photograph on Google.

And it was a tincture bottle with a prescription label. And it was from a pharmacy and it was, that was out west. If so, it was like Nevada, or somewhere in that area. But it was so fascinating to me, because I was like, wow, all this time, I thought, in America it’s always been prohibited. But it wasn’t until hemp as a crop became a competitor, if you will against fuel. And that’s when essentially you have to have different ways to deter people away from that product.

So, it’s unfortunate the story of cannabis, I think. But I’m very excited and hopeful of its revolution and its comeback because it is something that’s helping so many people and it’s also helping so many economies if you do it the right way and you obviously tax appropriately. I think it’s just very beneficial.

RS: Yeah, I knew they were prescribing cocaine. I didn’t know that they were prescribing hash oil. That’s…

AR: Yeah, yeah. I have to show it to you after when we get off when I find my photos and stuff, I’ll send them over via email. But it’s very interesting.

RS: That’s really awesome. That’s really awesome. Yeah, I mean, look, cannabis has been people have been using it longer than they haven’t been able to, right.

AR: Right.

RS: I mean, that’s the history of it. Yeah. That’s really interesting. So, kind of looking at it from the science and the business of what’s happening in North America. We were also, you alluded to or you talked about the fact that Columbia is going online. What do you think like the proximity to South America, Central America, those places coming online and like decreasing the price of cannabis? And is that just going to be for a specific part of the sector? Do you feel like that that’s going to come and take away some of the growth from some of the North American players? How do you see that kind of growing and evolving?

AR: That’s an interesting question, because I definitely think that, yes, when you start to open the markets globally, then you obviously will have some decline in other more mature markets. But I think that it will affect. The one obvious big thing that comes to mind about markets that are opening up now in Central and South America is the cost. The cost of production is extremely low.

So, the cost of production being extremely low is going to drive the value of the product down. So, if it’s going to drive the value of the product down a bit, then now you’re going to see across the board globally, everything kind of declines.

So, but on top of that, you usually have that in markets that are opening up and you have that in industries that are burgeoning. So, I think what will happen, it will be a bit of a ripple effect, but then you’ll see it start to stabilize across the world, because I think what specifically Colombia is able to do and how their distribution channels are set up with some of the companies that are operating now and going into Europe through Germany’s channels, I think they’re fine.

And I think that they’re just going to increase upon that and become better and better. And then those channels are going to open up to further parts of South America, parts of Central, maybe up into Canada, if there’s certain cultivars, because that’s the thing too is now, you’re also going to start to see variation, in my opinion.

You’re going to start to see quite a bit of variation in cultivars, so you’re going to start to see demand shift across different markets. There may be let’s just make up something pink unicorn cush that is like super, super awesome for fibromyalgia that’s only grown below the equator. So, there’s things like that, I think that it’s going to come online and affect the market as well.

RS: Do you feel like there’s something like, as given your science background do you think that there’s something that either investors or consumers are looking at the wrong way in terms of cannabis? Do you feel that? Do you feel that we’re like missing something that you feel like, why aren’t – why isn’t the industry doing it this? Or why are they marketing this? Or is there stuff that comes up for you from the science perspective?

AR: You know, yes, yes. One of the biggest ones, I think, is the lack of ability to market appropriately. And I think that’s something that, obviously is a risk factor for investors, when they come in, and they’re coming into an industry that was previously illegal, now, it’s legal. So, that’s one of the biggest challenges is, how do I market this product to bring people to the yard? You can’t just build it and hope they come. You’ve got to actually put it out there. And that I think, has been one of the biggest disappointments.

As a scientist working in this industry is knowing, reading the peer reviewed articles and research and the studies that have been done over the past few decades, just not being able to make those claims not being able to tell someone, hey, if you’re struggling from this, this is going to help you. This is going to help you in X amount of days, X amount of months, whatever that is. But I think that’s one of the biggest disappointments in this industry. And it’s something that probably turns a lot of the investors off.

And obviously it would give them a cause of concern because it’s one of those areas that you have to be very careful in how you navigate. There was an example in Florida there was a company that was sued and fined because of their way of marketing. They accidentally email blasted a coupon for their dispensary to customers. And so, once that happened, it was considered illegal marketing of an illicit drug.

And they ended up getting fined and they had to pull product, it was ridiculous. And it’s to me, it’s just extremely sad because, again, one the people that they were marketing to were already existing customers because they were in the phone list. And two, literally, it was a coupon.

It was a company sending out a coupon. I don’t know about you, but I get at least four, five, six coupons a day in my email from companies that want me – want my business and want me to come and buy their products. So, to me that’s going to be one of the things that I think investors have to get creative with their leadership teams and their executive teams or their startup companies and how to appropriately market the products and be able to really tell the story of what cannabinoids can do without breaching compliance for that area.

RS: Yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, you were talking a little bit ago about how some of your family and friends are like, are you afraid of being shut down? And how like, outdated that is. But at the same time, like that’s happening in San Francisco, like the looting and nobody’s protecting and they don’t care. Like, it’s really crazy. Like, it is really crazy how upside down it’s still is. It seems like we’re so close. And then in so many other ways it’s like, wow, we’re still here. How is that even possible?

AR: I completely agree with you. To just kind of expound on that, too, I think sometimes investors when they’re coming into something, obviously, you’re investing because you want to make money. And you want to have an exit quickly. But I think having patience is big. I think that investors that come into this, knowing that it’s essentially a commoditized product that’s in a perpetual research and development phase, that I think will put you in the right mindset to be ready for the next few years.

The investors that come into it thinking, oh, yeah, this is a weak train. I’m going to give you a couple million, in a couple years it’s going to be $20 million, it’ll be great. It’s like, well, yes, but it’s also manufacturing. And it’s also still R&D. It’s also still highly variable, because it’s a botanical. There’s just so many different factors that I think investors really have to come into it, knowing that I’m coming in for the long game. I’m here for the long term. I’m here to see this company go through its growing pains and challenges, and eventually I will have a really great payout.

I think that’s the way that investors should be approaching this. And just really approach it from a partnership standpoint where your team is well having that support. The CEO seat is lonely. It’s very lonely, and especially if you’re fundraising. If you’re fundraising for a company, it’s on your shoulders. And so, to have an investment backing that has maybe done these things before, or they can just offer that support and that experience other than just capital resource, then you have a win-win situation all across the board.

And I have to make it known. I have to say it, investors have to stop shortchanging the startup team. They have to. I think that that is detrimental to motivation. I think it’s detrimental to long term buy in and commitment to your company. We really have to get out of this whole sweat equity. Sweat equity, sweat equity. I’m sorry, but the only thing that I’m going to sweat for is going to be a company that I built myself with my own funds, with blood, sweat, and tears. I’m not going to risk my own self to go and sweat for your company’s health.

I’ve been there, done that, and it’s just not rewarding. So, I think investors really need to change their mindset and realize that if you want to sell Mercedes Benz on lots, then you have to hire the Mercedes Benz engineers. You cannot hire the not to downplay any other car brand, but the Skoda engineers or maybe the Kia engineers if you want a Bentley. That’s something that I just really can’t understand.

And it seems like a high investment in the beginning. But again, if you’re in it for the long term, the message that you would send to your initial team to get this thing off the ground would be astronomical. It would be game changing, and you would be so surprised at how quickly and how successfully that business would grow. For sure.

RS: Do you feel like that’s improving or changing at all with, I guess, the more quality companies?

AR: Yes. Yes and no. I do think that there are still people who consult for free on interviews. These are the people that will just essentially drag you along for months, for months and months, oh, I need you to talk with this person on the team. Okay, now you need to talk to this person. At one point in my life, I had spent four months in one interview for a company and had spoken to almost every member of their board, every member of their executive leadership team and a couple of the people that were operating in the cultivation facility. To me, that is excessive. That is absolutely ridiculous.

And then on top of that, to not offer something that’s competitive, as far as a package, then it’s just a slap in the face and a complete waste of time. So, I think that it’s improving because of people who are willing to know their worth and stick to it. And I do think it’s improving because of the companies that are now coming into the game that know what they need, and how much it’s going to cost for them to get that. And it’s just, again, it’s one of those things that are ever changing and has slow progress similar to social equity, but it is making progress.

But it does take people knowing their worth and standing their ground. In my opinion, it’s the people who don’t do that, that cause the salary ranges to drop for highly technical and highly specialized roles. In my opinion, no one that’s coming on to a facility that has not generated one gram of oil should not have lower than the six-figure salary. Those people need to have, one, they need to know that they are highly respected and recognized. Two, they need to have something to fall back on, if you know, God forbid the company just goes up in smoke.

And three, you never know what that’s going to do for someone’s personal situation and how they may take those funds and reinvest them into the company that they bought into. Because I’ve done that too, where you become an investor in a crowd fund or whatever it is, because you have bought in. So, there’s just so many different positives to it, companies have to continue that slow progress to change, but just speed it up a little bit.

RS: And what’s helping speed up that process or what’s helping improve that process? I mean, you said is people knowing their own worth. Are there more? I mean, I’ve talked to some of the people that are trying to support people getting into the industry and giving people more tools and all of those things that I’m sure you know about as well. Is it that? Is the support? Is the people kind of having a better sense? Is it the passage of time and people understanding what’s been happening? What do you think has contributed all the above?

AR: Yeah. I think it is a little bit of all the above. I think, it’s definitely people starting to stand their ground a little bit more and just have a little less wiggle room with their needs. But also, it’s been very refreshing. I’ll be on LinkedIn sometimes. And I will see HR directors, or recruiting consultants that will come across, and it’s just so refreshing to see their comments about paying top talent and being able to understand that it’s just not professional to pull someone along in 15 different interviews for a role that you know you can figure someone out within two conversations.

I love seeing those posts, because I think, coming from the person that’s actually doing the role of hiring and drafting these job descriptions and being able to give a salary range to a company of what they recommend. If it’s coming from them, then we’re definitely making change. We’re definitely making progress, if the people who are hiring and creating the standards are saying, hey, these standards are too low for the people that we’re trying to place with you. Your turnover rates too high because of this that is going to drive the change.

So, I think it’s definitely a binary effect of people knowing their worth and people being able to support that worth in the market.

RS: What’s one, I think, or not one, but what’s some advice that you would give to investors navigating this industry and looking forward? We talked about the exciting things. We talked about kind of the less exciting things, but overall, like how do you how would you advise them?

AR: So, this is probably going to sound avant garde and weird, but I’m going to say it, because it needs to be said because there’s a lot of, in my opinion criminals in this industry. If I were an investor, a high-net-worth investor that’s going to be putting in multi millions of dollars or whatever it looks like, if you can afford it, I wouldn’t put it – don’t put it on the back burner to hire a PI. Hire someone who skill set is to dig in really do their due diligence, because there’s so many people that are good at putting up a smokescreen of where they truly are as a company.

And I have seen many investors just lose money, literally lose money to money laundering schemes, lose money to false advertising products that aren’t really the IP that they claimed it was. Lose money in claiming they’re going to expand a facility and infrastructure, but then all of a sudden go bankrupt, and their company is nowhere to be found online. There’s so many horror stories. So, to protect yourself, to protect your legacy and your investment, I would definitely give the advice of hiring someone with the appropriate skill set to really vet the people you’re essentially getting embed with, really vet them from a professional standpoint.

What kind of companies have they been involved in? Are there any lawsuits against those companies? Have there been any filings of bankruptcy? How are their dealings and relationships with ancillary businesses that work with their companies? How are their staffs, how do they feel? And then do a little personal digging. Go on LinkedIn. Go on Instagram. See how they are out in public? Are they heavy drinkers all the time? Are they, you know what I mean. Like, I mean, I’m not saying anything against drinking, I don’t drink.

But I’m just saying sometimes these are things that could be those body language and character things that we take into account of evaluating someone to see. These are the things that I do. Even as a consultant, most consultants, they’re just looking for the chick. I’m looking for a partner, someone who I can help and can help me in the future by saying she helped me, and she was good at it. So, you should hire her. That’s what I’m looking for. So, it’s for me, that’s very important that I do have a lot of conversations. Really talk to them. Really court them.

See, how are their business practices? How are they going to use the knowledge that I’m giving them? Are they – do they have morals and ethics? These are the things I do just to line up my projects. So yeah, that’s my ultimate advice to investors is to make sure you’re doing your due diligence before you write your checks. But also, to have that level of optimism and excitement about something new, because it definitely is an industry that can be unlocked to, it’s a billion-dollar industry. So, you definitely can unlock quite a bit of substantial return on your investment.

RS: So, I think we’re going to close it out with kind of acknowledging and honoring International Women’s Day. And I’m not one for kind of, like, trite platitudes or celebrating optically. But like, getting into the deep essence of I think, maybe what we’re trying to celebrate and acknowledge, which is equitable kind of society where we don’t need to celebrate women one day a year, because we’re celebrating people every day, and there’s not gender inequality, and there’s not salary inequality and all of these things.

Kind of how do you talk to the next generation coming up as you’re a powerful woman out in the world, like, how do you talk to the next generation? And how do you think about that maybe yourself as a powerful woman in the world?

AR: Sure, sure. So, this one is it’s interesting, because I have a daughter. So, looking at the next generation, it means so much to me, because I’m always very cognizant of my example for my daughter, because I want her to just being completely transparent and honest, my daughter is seven, and I share so much with her, I share everything with her. And some people think, well, you shouldn’t. She’s too young to know that you guys are still bouncing from state to state to find something because these mean people didn’t tell the truth about a job.

But I don’t think she’s too young to know. I tell her. I let her watch these experiences. She sees what I go through. She knows what I go through. We have these discussions about people. I have discussions with her about being a woman, and how my experiences have been and why I need her to be much stronger. I need her to be very clear and what her expectations are. So, if you ever talk to her, you’d be very, very shocked at the fact that she’s seven, because she definitely carries herself very assertively with anyone.

And I could not ask for anything better other than having that fast with me. So, but no, I would say that that’s probably the start of what I feel I could tell the next generation is, just to know who you are. To know what you’re coming into, to know the history to always have all facets understood. When you know where you’ve come from, and where you are, then you can easily navigate where you’re trying to go. And that’s something that has really carried me throughout my life has been just knowing where I come from.

I come from slaves. I come from Hispanic natives. I come from pain. I come from struggle. And because I know that it gives me a different attack, if you will, at tasks. It gives me a different attack in meetings because I know where I came from. And because I have those experiences in my present, it then gives me a clearer picture based on Okay, good experience. Okay, that was bad experience. Now, how do I use that to formulate this experience in the future? Yeah, that is important. Also, what’s important, I don’t ever show faith on anyone because everyone is their own individual. But I have a very strong relationship with God.

I’m not religious. I don’t claim certain factions of religion and different things like that. But I definitely have a very strong relationship with God and I lean on that faith and that meditation and that prayer whenever I have hard times and struggle, so if that’s not something that’s for you, that’s fine. But if you have something that you look towards for decompressing, if that’s yoga, if that’s mind meditation, if that’s listening to motivational music or podcast, whatever it is, find what makes you happy and feel positive. And know that that’s your medicine. Know that that’s what will get you through those challenges and those struggles is having that faith-based mechanism that you can lean on.

And then lastly, know your support system. And I say this, honestly, with a bit of a heavy heart know your support system, because it doesn’t necessarily come from within your own family. It doesn’t necessarily come from the people that you would expect it to come from. And just be very open and available for whoever is there really guiding that vision and saying you can do this man, you’re strong, you’re smart. The person that’s really there to battle any gaslighting, any attacks on your mental, any attacks on your piece, make sure you have that person involved in your life all the time.

RS: Man, amen. I relate to so much of that. I mean, if I may just like the first thing that you said, I have a daughter and she’s going to be 20 this year, which is insane. But I feel like that’s a big thing that I’ve tried to raise her with also, and I’ve been at like a dinner table with a couple really good friends. And I’m like getting into something like, maybe that not every parent would get into with their child. And one of my best friends was like, Man, I’m so jealous of your daughter, the fact that she knows from such a young age that the world is a lot more complicated, then be a good person, get a good job, get married, and everything’s going to be okay.

Like, it’s not the way the world works. I maybe know a couple people that think that that’s still the way the world works. But most people do not have the luxury of thinking that that’s the way the world works. And so, you might as well be comfortable in knowing that and you might as well learn how to navigate those, like uncomfortable feelings and truths and realities and not be thinking that you’re going to be an adult and get to do whatever you want. And everything’s just going to be like clicking because you diverse it.

AR: It is going to come to you. Yeah.

RS: Yeah, Yeah, just like being your own best advocate and staying in tune. And also, what you said about just being in touch with God, I’m not a religious person either, although, I know many religious people. But I feel like ultimately, it’s the spirituality that is the connecting force, both for ourselves to ourselves, for ourselves to other people.

And all those practices like whether you call it God or yoga, or I’m not saying yoga is God but or mindfulness, but it’s that tapping into a spirit and a connectivity that’s beyond what we’re dealing with on the day-to-day, minute-to-minute stress. Yeah, like an ability to tap into that higher plane of existence is key.

AR: Oh, absolutely. I noticed living in London, I love living in London, because you can walk everywhere, you don’t have to have a car. And I told my husband, I was like, Chris, I’ve never felt so close to God then when I’m just walking outside. Like, whenever that is one of my safest places is when I feel like I’m getting overwhelmed or stressed or just things are caving in, I literally get up and I’m like, I need to go for a walk and just get some fresh air. And it’s before you know it, you’ve literally gone like a mile and you’re like, oh crap, I got a meeting I got to get back.

That is just one of the things that you cannot just explain to people. When you experience just nature and just being immersed in nature in that quiet, the quiet of a morning walk, and it’s just you and birds, and it really does so much positive for here, for here. So, the more you can harness in on that and learn that you’re going to have struggles, you’re absolutely going to have obstacles you have to because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to grow.

When you can find joy in those obstacles and be able to respond and not react to everything that’s negative coming your way, you really start to – it’s not as negative anymore. It’s teaching. It’s more of a disciplinary moment, if anything. So, it’s just I don’t know, it’s just life changing the mindset change. When you change that mindset, and you start to become stronger here mentally, everything else starts to follow.

RS: Yeah, that is so true. I honestly feel like the most luxurious part of my life is the fact I have at least an hour walk daily. And I feel like I’m doing something right if I can have that as part of my because it like, saves me. I mean, that is like definitely an essential part of my day and if I’m able to take like more than that, that’s a beautiful day.

AR: Yeah, just like it.

RS: That’s a good day.

AR: Absolutely.

RS: Yeah, yeah. Oh man, this is good stuff again. Again, good stuff, Alisia. I really appreciate you coming back on and sharing your time and sharing your insight and experience. This has been really great. I’m looking forward to next time already.

AR: Thank you so much Rena for having me. Just it’s always a pleasure. I feel like we can literally just keep going on and on and on. But obviously, you have other things to do. But I just I really appreciate being included in The Cannabis Investing Podcast. I appreciate just highlighting what we do at Victus Consulting Ventures. If anybody needs to reach out and look me up, I’m on LinkedIn, Alisia Ratliff, also Instagram Victuscv. And you can find us on our website victus-cv.com. But thank you so much for having me today. And I really wish you a wonderful Women’s Day in 2022.

Thanks so much for listening to The Cannabis Investing Podcast. Subscribe or follow us on Seeking Alpha, Libsyn, Apple podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher. And we’d really appreciate it if you left us a review on Apple podcast. It helps other investors find our show and makes us feel fantastic. If you have feedback or questions, we’d love to hear from you at rena+canpod@seekingalpha.com.

Nothing on this podcast should be taken as investment advice of any sort. I’m long Trulieve, Khiron, Isracann BioSciences, The Parent Company, Ayr Wellness, and the ETF MSOS. Subscribe to us on Libsyn Apple podcast, Spotify or Stitcher. Thanks so much for listening and see you next time.



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