The Business of Cannabis | Interview with Alex Rogers

We met with Alex Rogers to discuss decriminalizing the use of marijuana, practical applications, cannabis business conferences, and much more. Enjoy!

The Business of Cannabis | Interview with Alex Rogers

Alex Rogers tells student Karina Macosko how he came into the cannabis industry and eventually created the largest cannabis business conference in the world. Rogers has watched this industry grow as more states are legalizing the use of marijuana. As a long-time activist, Alex Rogers discusses the importance of decriminalizing the use of marijuana as well as its practical applications.

If you’re interested in becoming involved in the emerging cannabis industry, check out our article Majoring in Marijuana: Best Colleges for Studying Cannabis

Want to hear more from Alex Rogers? Watch Dr. Jed Macosko’s interview with Rogers here.

Karina’s Interview with Business Activist, Alex Rogers


Interview Transcript

[music]

0:00:01.1 Alex Rogers: Though I run the biggest business cannabis conference in Europe I’m still just a hippie who stays true to their ideals.

0:00:19.1 Karina Macosko: Hi, my name is Karina Macosko from Academic Influence and I’m here with Alex Rogers and yesterday we talked with Dr. Howlett who gave kind of the more scientific view of cannabis, but today we’re gonna talk to you and you have more of a activism perspective, so can you just give us a brief rundown of how you got into this field and how you got into cannabis activism?

0:00:45.8 AR: Sure, I guess I’ve been in the cannabis space for about 30 years since 1992 when I moved to Santa Cruz California and I was introduced to a guy named Jack Herer and he was the author of a pretty famous book about cannabis and the cannabis conspiracy and it was outright called The Emperor Wears No Clothes. And I started working with him on legalising cannabis in California in 1992, ’93 and basically that’s how I got my start and from all those experiences and all those cool people I met and all the things I did, my crazy life kind of turned into a career.

0:01:33.7 KM: [chuckle] Wow, and so now you run a conference and can you just tell us what is the purpose behind that, is it to educate people on cannabis or... Yeah, just tell us about that?

0:01:44.7 AR: Sure, so my conferences are something that respond from the Medical Marijuana Clinics I own in Oregon and as the law started changing rapidly there were just a whole litany of questions that were coming at us and I had this eureka moment where I was basically... Figured out another business niche to educate people on cannabis business. Up to that point I had done a lot of educating people on cannabis policy or drug policy reform. But at this time it wasn’t so much about should we legalise pot for humanitarian purposes, for civil liberties... Reasons of civil liberties.

0:02:36.2 AR: But rather is this a business and can people make money off this and can this help the economy? And this was just post-recession and so I started the conferences in Oregon, the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, that became the biggest in the state and then from that we started the International Cannabis Business Conference and then that eventually became worldwide. So the idea is it’s a business conference and we educate people on all things cannabis business, but at the same time there’s a strong underlying narrative because of my pedigree of activism that’s involved with making all the business possible anyway.

0:03:20.8 KM: Wow, so how big is the cannabis business industry and how much have you seen it change since you first started in this?

0:03:28.6 AR: Well, it’s changed a lot, there’s always been an underground cannabis industry and so the cool thing is, it’s not only is becoming above ground now but then there’s always ancillary businesses that are involved in the cannabis industry too, just like almost any other industry at this point. So 30 years ago the cannabis industry was us making like hats, with cool little logos on them for selling bands, Fishbone or Cypress Hill or something like that. It was like big time back then and now you’re talking about hedge funds worth hundreds of millions of dollars for cannabis, insurance companies, laboratory equipment, the horticulture industry now, a lot of mainstream horticulture industry, you have cannabis niches now.

0:04:19.0 AR: It’s consult... From all the consulting to all the lawyers involved, for all the intellectual property, it just... It’s endless of what... Now the cannabis industry conferences, you think it’s just, "Oh, I’m gonna go buy some weed at the dispensary", and someone had to grow it blah, blah, blah. But it really goes way beyond that. One of the reasons is it’s such a cultural phenomenon, cannabis, it’s something that people have done traditionally for a long time, so it’s the second most used drug in the world next to alcohol so there’s a lot of...

0:04:54.0 AR: It’s a great industry to be in and... Though it has been usurped by the corporatocracy in some ways, it’s still not the corporatocracy, it’s still not... People are crossing over from all types of industries into the cannabis industry and they’re saying, "Wow, this is a great industry, the people are great, I don’t have to keep up quite the same veneers that I would in a normal work space, but yet you guys are all really professional and get shit done". So that’s kind of it in a nutshell of where it’s come in 30 years.

0:05:31.0 KM: Interesting. And why do you think it’s changed so much over 30 years, do you think it’s because of activists like you or do you think it’s because of these people who are coming in from different businesses into this new niche or... I’m sure it’s probably a mix of both but...

0:05:47.5 AR: Yeah, it’s a mix of both, it’s kind of symbiotic, they feed off each other. I was an activist for a long time with signs on Haight-Ashbury saying legalise weed many, many years ago. But one thing I realised in business as I started my medical marijuana clinic in Oregon was, I was really able to change the perception and the industry and some of the laws just pertaining to the criminalisation of cannabis by doing all my work for my clinic and there’s a lot of reasons why that is but... But the main thing for me was as an activist, I almost felt, "Well, now I’m gonna be a business man, I’m not just a hippie anymore, I’m gonna be businessman". So do I feel guilty a little bit about that and... No, I don’t. I don’t wanna feel guilty, I gotta grow up and I gotta feed my family, right?

0:06:38.6 KM: Right.

0:06:39.6 AR: But at the same time, what I realised as a by-product of doing just what I had to do was actually... It became even more important than... Or more... I don’t know, effective, I would say than... As I determined it, seemingly from my business work, so that was a cool realisation.

0:07:03.5 KM: Wow. And something that I asked Dr. Howlett yesterday... It’s kind of a vague question, but do you think that cannabis is good for us? There’s probably so many layers to that question, but just kind of giving an overview, do you think it’s good for us?

0:07:22.1 AR: Yes. [chuckle] But I don’t think cannabis is for everyone. I think there’s a cannabis application for everyone but in terms of who’s gonna get high and smoke a joint, and like those effects, maybe half the people in the world don’t like to get high, so then the question becomes... And shouldn’t. That’s not their thing. That’s fine. A lot of people do like to smoke weed, and that’s fine too. But in terms of like, is it good for you or not? That is a broad question and when you start looking at it medically-wise, yes, cannabis is good for... Is good for everybody, at sometime.

0:08:00.9 AR: So whether it’s a topical lotion you might put on your skin blemishes or something like that, it’s a very benign application, you don’t get stoned per se. And then there’s the different constituents of cannabis, so there’s the THC and the CBD and all the many cannabinoids there are. So a lot of these... All these cannabinoids are good for us and at certain times with certain applications. And so you might be able to... Now, you can have cannabis without getting high, without the THC, the psychoactive chemical.

0:08:35.6 AR: So cannabis is definitely good for us, whether you’re a teenager and should be taking big dab hits all day long, obviously, no, but that’s a different issue, that’s personal choice and any... We can abuse water. So that’s personal choice, that’s... As the question, "Is it good for us?" It’s extremely good for us, but with that caveat. And the other qualification is that it’s the hemp plant, so cannabis isn’t just for... As a medicine, you can answer that question from a medical perspective, but then from an industrial perspective, is hemp good for us? And we know that hemp is good for us because it can make all these things and it’s a much friendlier product to grow for the environment.

0:09:26.7 KM: Wow, that is so interesting, and a lot of the people that we interview on here are giving advice to people going forward, so on that note, looking back over your career in activism, in business, I know you’ve gotten arrested for your activism, right?

0:09:44.1 AR: I have been to prison...

0:09:46.3 KM: Yes.

0:09:46.9 AR: In two different countries, for cannabis.

0:09:48.2 KM: Yes. So looking back on that, do you think that there is anything you would have changed throughout your career?

0:09:56.1 AR: Well, I think as one gets older, if there’s not things they would have changed or would have done differently then they’re not really being that introspective, but... All I can say is this, with the most important thing with cannabis... This is what I tell everyone, everywhere I go in the world, when I speak, and when I start off my conferences, my narrative is, "Whatever happens with business, the most important thing for cannabis policy is that it’s decriminalised". That if someone’s gonna smoke a joint that they’re not go to jail or lose their children for that. The other important thing is that every household in the world should be able to grow a patch of cannabis.

0:10:33.7 AR: This is an herb, it’s much more benign than all the reefer madness has propagandised in the last 70, 80-odd years. And so in terms of just civil liberties, it’s important that people don’t go to jail for cannabis and for at least consumption and it’s also really important that everyone can grow a small home garden. So I’ve come full circle basically now, though I run the biggest business cannabis conference in Europe, I’m still just a hippie who stays true to their ideals, and I’m not trying...

0:11:21.4 AR: I would never lobby for a policy that would make me money, but that wouldn’t be the right... My degree is in Political Science, it’s not in Business. So I’m a public policy nerd extraordinaire, so when I see people lobby for their own self-interest and it’s not necessarily the good for the whole, I don’t support that. So my advice is, "Keep it real", and everything will come from that and just have faith in yourself and what everyone else is telling you, you know cannabis is benign and you know it’s just pretty much a non-issue, the youth does. And so just stay strong with that and everything will come. You don’t have to volunteer information or always shoot yourself in the foot, but just know that, this struggle... I don’t even know how you guys look at it as a struggle, young people in states that it’s legal because it’s not anymore, but in a lot of places, I think... Where are you, North Carolina or...

0:12:26.2 KM: Yes, yes.

0:12:29.2 AR: Yes. So it’s not completely legal, legalised in North Carolina yet.

0:12:31.7 KM: No.

0:12:32.7 AR: You still have this threat of being incarcerated and losing your freedom for using cannabis, and that is an idiotic policy that has clearly not worked if it’s actually counterproductive to what it was meant to achieve.

0:12:50.3 KM: Wow. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. It was really interesting because you have been here really in the cannabis industry from the very beginning, it seems like. And I think your advice on keeping it real applies to so many things outside of the industry you’re in, in any career. So yeah, thank you so much, and I’m really excited for people to watch these interviews and watch the one we did yesterday. And kind of compare them. So thank you so much.

[chuckle]

0:13:19.9 AR: Thanks, Karina. I appreciate it. alex-rogers-activist-karina.txt Displaying alex-rogers-activist-karina.txt.