We met with Alex Rogers to discuss medical marijuana, the legalization of weed, the growing cannabis industry, and much more. Enjoy!
"You raised your kid. You know that they're gonna make good decisions 'cause you raised them, and if you don't think they're gonna make good decisions, you better ask yourself how you're raising your child."” – Alex Rogers
Cannabis business activist, Alex Rogers discusses the business side of the burgeoning cannabis industry as well as how the legalization of weed could affect the average person. He evaluates the positive and negative effects of medical marijuana compared to alternative treatments and gives advice to parents who are trying to better understand the uses of marijuana. Follow along as International Cannabis Business Conference CEO and owner, Alex Rogers talks with Dr. Jed Macosko, academic director of AcademicInfluence.com and professor of physics at Wake Forest University.
If you’re interested in becoming involved in the emerging cannabis industry, check out our article Majoring in Marijuana: Best Colleges for Studying Cannabis
(Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited to improve clarity.)
Jed Macosko: Hi. I’m Dr Jed Macosko at AcademicInfluence.com and Wake Forest University. And today, I have a dear old friend with me, Alex Rogers, who organizes the largest conference dedicated to the business side of cannabis. So I’ve got tons of questions for you, Alex.
I just wanted to know first and foremost, what is the biggest exciting investment side of things about cannabis and why did, for example, the Republican John Boehner, I think is how you say his last name, invest so much of his money in? So tell us about him, and maybe you could pronounce his name properly. [chuckle]
Alex Rogers: Well, I think it’s Boehner, but who’s counting? Yeah. Thanks for having me, Jed. Good to see you, man. It’s been a long time, for sure.
Jed: It’s been a long time.
Alex: Well, investment in cannabis. Investment, it’s very similar to the dotcom phenomena, if you will. Or now it’s kind of paired in with the Bitcoin in the tech phenomenon that’s happening right now. It is one of those new up-and-coming, real nascent industries that is... It’s burgeoning right now and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. And it’s an international wave that’s happening.
We’re the biggest conference in Europe, just to qualify what you had said before, business to business, but this international wave we’re seeing is creating all types of investment lines and streams. And everybody knows about the public stocks, that’s what most the people know about, like the big ones in Canada that came out and these public stocks they all of a sudden had multi-billion dollar market caps. And there’s been a whole story with all those, but then there’s the private equity side also, there’s the angel investor side, and then there’s just the mom-and-pop side of everything.
So basically all the same aspects of when you’re raising money for a company, whether... Back in the day in Silicon Valley, a lot of that is analogous in a lot of ways to what’s going on in the cannabis industry.
Jed: So another question I have is, here we are in the United States, changing the laws on smoking. You can’t smoke in public places. We’re trying to keep kids from smoking, tightening up the laws against under-age people buying tobacco products.
Why would we want to legalise more ways to breathe smoke into your lungs and hurt yourself like that. Is there a big difference in your mind between smoking tobacco and smoking pot?
Alex: Well, I’m a political scientist, so it’s a multi-prong issue for me in that I don’t think there should be any age limit for tobacco or anything like that. I don’t think criminalising something is a number one deterrent of what a society can do to mitigate or minimalise something that you think might be harmful.
So even if you think something is harmful, to raise the cigarette laws to 21 years, I think is idiotic for various different reasons and absolutely counterproductive to what someone who might have good intentions set out to actually achieve.
So that being said, cannabis and tobacco can’t be compared in terms of their health risks or benefits, if you will. So personal choice is the first thing. People should just basically be able to do what they want. Education comes from the family.
You have to raise your children to make the right decisions. If they are gonna smoke pot, I think a funny thing is, is a lot of parents, at least on the West Coast where I live, would much rather have their kids smoking pot than cigarettes, if you had to make a choice, for example. And the science on it, Jed... There’s an interesting study done by Don Tashkin out of UCLA, I think it’s 2004.
And his test group was weed smokers and his control groups were non-smokers and cigarettes... I’m not probably getting this quite right, so let me just say this. What he concluded with the three groups, the cannabis smokers, the non-smokers and the cigarette smoker, he was seeing real propensity for lung cancer in each group. And the group that had the least amount of chance of getting lung cancer was the cannabis smokers. And this was surprising.
He was doing this study, I believe, for the government, so obviously they were setting it up and they pretty much knew what... They figured their hypothesis would be. Confirm someone, and it wasn’t. It was a little topsy-turvy, and so just in terms of that actual... To understand that we don’t want our kids smoking copious amounts of weed per se, but to understand the science behind what cannabis smoking does to your lungs as to what cigarette smoking does to your lungs, is two completely different things.
I think the cigarette affects the smaller cilia, the cannabis smoke, the bigger cilia. And it’s the smaller cilia that causes the lung cancer, specifically. Now that being said, you can get bronchitis and emphysema from cannabis smoking, but that’s really where you probably have to have some type of predisposition in your lungs, and you’d have to be a copious user.
The other caveat to all that is that if you’re gonna use cannabis, you don’t have to smoke it anymore. There’s about a million ways you can ingest cannabis and then get high, not get high, it depends on the constituents of the cannabinoids.
So there’s ways you can use cannabis without combusting smoke into your lungs, which is never a good thing for a kid. You don’t want a kid combusting any type of smoke. And I think any parent, whether they are pot user or not, I think that’s pretty intuitive.
Jed: Yeah, it seems intuitive, but you’re right, there’s lots of different ways to consume this, especially now that it has become legalised in many states. There’s so many different products out there.
Speaking of which, yesterday when we were talking to Professor Howlett, she said that a lot of entrepreneurs will make by-products of cannabinoids that they find in the literature, and they’ll sell them because they’re not yet illegal. So they’ll mix things up in the laboratory and sell them, and she said that that can be very dangerous.
Do you know anything about this? Have you heard of people cooking stuff up in their back kitchen and selling it and then people die or get really sick from it?
Alex: No, it’s not dangerous to mix cannabinoids. I know that’s for sure. And I’ve worked with enough very prominent doctors to know that. Whether someone’s adulterating it in some way otherwise, through a chemical process that might not be good... Shit happens. You know what I mean?
Alex: But is that some major concern?
Jed: I’m asking you because it actually seems like a good argument for legalising it, so that weird stuff doesn’t happen where you try to make a THC compound that’s not exactly THC, so that you can sell it legally in states like North Carolina.
Alex: Exactly. I know she might be talking... The fake, the synthetic THC, which is tremendously dangerous and harmful, like the bath salts or that type... I don’t know what...
Jed: Yeah, she had some names for it that I had never heard.
Alex: Like spice or something.
Jed: Yes. That was it. Spice was one of them.
"…that's why it is so important that we educate our kids about drug use and not be knee-jerk about it, because if you're knee-jerk about weed and they smoke it and it's mellow, maybe they think heroin is just as benign."” – Alex Rogers
Alex: Yeah, that’s not good. That is no bueno. And that is a synthetic, really very dangerous. And that is an argument why you need to legalise cannabis, which is a very safe substance, and you need to deregulate it properly, because then things like that happen and you sell this legal product, which is actually a trash product that is very dangerous for... Tremendously dangerous to use.
So yeah, I get what you’re saying now, and that’s a real scourge for the youth today, dangerous things they can get legally at the head shop that give them a cheap, horrible high. But it’s just kids who are kids and they wanna do that, so that’s why it is so important that we educate our kids about drug use and not be knee-jerk about it, because if you’re knee-jerk about weed and they smoke it and it’s mellow, maybe they think heroin is just as benign. And in my opinion, heroin is a much more dangerous drug then cannabis, and I think the idea of legalising that is a different conversation than legalising weed. So your doctor friend was correct.
Jed: Okay, so yeah, you guys were talking about the same thing. And the other thing our doctor friend said is that because of the way that THC affects the brain cells in particular... She said, by the way, it affects all parts of the body, which is what you were saying earlier.
You put topical creams on and things like that, but THC affects the brain in such a way that it changes normal development for babies, and it can maybe even come from pregnant mom into the fetus and even maybe a nursing mom into the nursing baby. And also for teenagers in their final growth years when their brain is formalised, she said those were the two time periods that THC interrupts normal brain development. What do you think about that?
Alex: Yeah, there’s a lot of pro and con information about that. I’ve heard just as many doctors say that breastfeeding, for example, when a mother is a cannabis user, because cannabis is great for morning sickness, so while you’re pregnant, it’s probably the number one thing you wanna use for morning sickness. So what would a doctor give you otherwise for morning sickness?
I think you have to ask yourself, what are your alternatives? Are you gonna grit it out even though you can barely walk or eat? Are you gonna take a drug that Western pharmacopoeia prescribed to you with... God knows what it might be or what side effects it might have? Or are you gonna take one little puff of cannabis off a vaporiser?
I think taking the puff off the cannabis vaporiser would be the way to go if your other alternative was a Western-prescribed medicine from Western pharmacopoeia. And so this is how on the West Coast, we have all these alternative people who seem to be to healthiest people in the world.
And I know mothers who have used cannabis throughout their pregnancy, and then it’s been legal to do it because they had their medical marijuana card. And we know the babies and we know the families, and of course, all this is anecdotal, but through 30, 40 years on the West Coast dealing with all the hippies and the family, as we say, we see it anecdotally.
And of course, I would not recommend a lot and only when you absolutely would need it. This is extremely important, how you use in titrate and whatever, but I have many doctors who I work with that actually will recommend cannabis for even pregnant women or women lactating post-birth.
So as many studies as there might be that, "Oh, it affects the baby’s brain and... " I think that’s pretty much Reefer Madness. Like I said, qualifying with... You don’t wanna do it a lot.
And the same thing with the teenage... I was a pot smoker in high school. And you were not. And we knew I was a stoner, but I was never thought of as a stupid kid, and in fact, I was pretty much a leader in whatever I tried to do. And so I think it’s important to know that maybe there were some brain cells that were... ’Cause I actually had a disease. So I started smoking ’cause I had ulcerative colitis. That’s something that really helped me.
"…I really think that when you ask yourself, What's your other options of medicine to take, cannabis is such a non-toxic substance, and if used correctly and smartly, and people are educated on how to use it, then you can use cannabis almost any time with any other drug."” – Alex Rogers
So I really think that when you ask yourself, What’s your other options of medicine to take, cannabis is such a non-toxic substance, and if used correctly and smartly, and people are educated on how to use it, then you can use cannabis almost any time with any other drug. It’s not contraindicated to any other drug.
Some psychotropic drugs... We know you have to be aware of with your cannabis use, if you’re on other psychotropic drugs. But really, that’s the only consensus I’ve heard for cannabis in terms of all the brain cells. Now, if you’re 13 years old and you’re smoking bong hits every day and... No, that’s not cool.
And you don’t wanna advocate kids to use cannabis, but at the same time, when I was sick, I was either on steroid, prednisone, or Azulfidine at 15, or I could get off that and smoke pot. So life is just a... You just have to assess that. It’s not like, "Oh my God, my kid’s on heroin".
It’s not like this is some horrible thing that you have to discount, no matter what your other options are. People should just look at all the other options and look at everything in a broader lens than does this affect... "Oh my God, my kid’s smoking pot. He’s gonna be an idiot".
No, your kid’s gonna be an idiot if they’re an idiot, and they’re gonna be great if they’re great. And drug use has been part of society for a long time. Kids are gonna do it, kids are gonna have the natural propensity to want to expand their brain and have a different out-of-body experience, it’s just normal humanistic mysticism.
And that’s why it’s so important to rather than knee-jerk say no to our kids, because we know knee-jerk no can mean that there could be ramifications of that. We need to ease them into it, educate them, have respect for them, and know that they might make some mistakes, and if they’re gonna make mistakes, we wanna... If they’re gonna have sex, please wear a condom. I want you to abstain right now, but if you’re gonna just please wear a... Something like that would be the analogy.
Jed: That’s great to put it in perspective because you are a dad and you do want the best for your child, and a lot of people who’ll be looking at this will be either the children of concerned parents or the parents who are concerned about their kids, and trying to understand all of this in the context of going off to college, having the freedom of being a new college student and all of that.
Alex: Yeah, it’s terrifying as a parent, all the things out there in society. That’s what I’m saying, if your kid’s just smoking weed, you better thank your lucky stars, is how I feel about it. There’s so much bad things that the kids can get into.
There was enough bad stuff for us to get into back in the day, but now it just seems like it’s tough with all the pressures and the social media and all the crap. If my kid’s just smoking weed in college and not some raging alcoholic or doing other drugs, then I’ll just be like, "Okay, I’m okay with that". And that’s just keeping it real, Jed.
It’s like you don’t want your kid being a raging alcoholic in college. You don’t want your kid being a cokehead. Who wants their kid... Any of that stuff? But your kid’s smoking a little weed but still getting straight A’s and everything and crushing it? You just sometimes gotta let a little air out of the balloon so it doesn’t just pop.
"I think just talking with our children about this is so important... I think educating the parents is so important and not be so scared that this is some like dark, dark path that your kid's going down."” – Alex Rogers
And I think just talking with our children about this is so important and not being... I think educating the parents is so important and not be so scared that this is some like dark, dark path that your kid’s going down.
You raised your kid, you know that they’re gonna make good decisions ’cause you raised them. And if you don’t think they’re gonna make good decisions, you better ask yourself how you’re raising your child and you better start talking and having a relationship with them. You don’t gotta be their best friend, but also you don’t have to be a helicopter parent. And I think these days, all us parents, we wanna be helicopter parents ’cause all this crap is going on.
And then we’re just sometimes overbearing and what do they say? Henpecking them. So I think it’s really, really important to understand with your kids and all the madness going out there.
You don’t wanna say pot’s of the worst thing, ’cause if you say that then they’ll think you’re bullshitting them on all the other things also. That’s what I agree. That’s my opinion.
Jed: That’s good advice, really good advice. Well, thank you so much for taking some time with me today to explain it to me, somebody like me who doesn’t know a lot, somebody like you who’s been around for 30-plus years, and really getting everything put together into a framework that I could understand. So I really appreciate it.
Alex: Thanks, Jed. I appreciate it, man. I’m here for you whenever you need me, brother.
Jed: Thank you. I really do appreciate it. [chuckle] Take care.
Alex: Alright, thanks.
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