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FROM CANNABIS POLICY ADVISOR TO ENTREPRENEUR

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An-ChiPhotos by Manhart Photography

If you take a look at An-Chi Tsou’s resume, you may guess her next big career move would be to run for Governor of California. Tsou completed her PhD at UC Berkley in 2012 and began service in the public sector the same year. She is most recently known for her role as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation. She, along with 10 other employees, have been responsible for creating the medical cannabis regulations in California, which are set to be put into practice early next year, with licensing beginning in 2018.

Tsou did not major in political science, however. She has a rather extensive background in science, bio-engineering to be precise. After her last year of graduate school, Tsou took a fellowship that merged science and business in the public sector. She has been on the political road ever since, until now. Tsou has decided to give up the public sector and move into the private one. CULTURE had the privilege of interviewing An-Chi Tsou on her last day as Senior Policy Advisor. She talked about her position in the bureau, her future endeavors now that she is changing roles and even a little about Ultimate Frisbee.

“Patient safety is of huge importance. Some businesses try their best to create products that are safe. But, without state and local standards, that is sometimes hard to do.”

What do you look forward to most when it comes to moving into the private sector?

Part of it is, I like new challenges. I am excited about meeting a variety of people and hearing their stories and then being able to help. That feeling of helping people, I get a high off of that.

Tell us about your new role as a consultant in the private sector.

I’m actually opening up my own firm—Tsou Consulting, LLC. One of my goals is to work with underrepresented groups to create equal access.

How will you combine your knowledge of California’s current cannabis policies with Tsou Consulting, LLC?

Using my experience and understanding of the regulatory and legislative processes to create my own strategy and materials. My experience gives me a unique perspective that can help people in the industry.

Have you played ultimate Frisbee lately? Who would you love to play (and beat)?

(Laughs.) I have. I’m the Co-Captain of a team, with my husband, the Polar Bears. We just finished our main season. I would love to play Serena Williams because she is an incredible athlete, very competitive and a role model. She has been at the top of her game for so freaking long. She is an inspiration to me and many other athletes.

This is our chance to say hey, the government can help people. Working with people who are passionate about what they are doing is just so infectious. It is an exciting time for the industry. To be part of that, to be part of history—that is awesome!”

Writing regulations is a long and tedious process. Where was your group in this process when you left?

We just finished the pre-regulatory stake holder meetings and came up with some initial ideas to pitch to the public. A lot of progress was made, a lot of people I know are really anxious to see the end result.

What did you feel most strongly about in regulating medical cannabis in California?

There are three highlights for me, personally. First, patient safety is of huge importance. Some businesses try their best to create products that are safe. But, without state and local standards, that is sometimes hard to do. His is also important to me because of my bio-engineering background. I have met people with chronic diseases with no other solution. This gives them access to medicine that makes them feel better. One of the reasons I went into public policy is because I wanted to help people. Second is public safety. I have talked to stake holders about what they are going through. I have a lot of respect for companies that have been in existence for multiple generations. This can be a dangerous business in some circumstances. Finally, protecting the environment is critical to having strong regulations. A lot of damage has been done to certain parts of the state and there is a great deal of work ahead of us to fix those problems.

What regulations did you least look forward to?

I don’t think there’s anything I am looking forward to the least. There are a lot of hot button issues that will be challenging. My friends will tell you I don’t shy away from challenges.

With the new addition of a license distributor, people are nervous that cannabis prices will shoot up. Do you believe this will happen?

I think this is the least understood license under the medical program. It was put there to be a third party inspection and quality assurance type of agent. I really think the first thing we have to do is educate folks on what the license is.

Will the newly legal recreational cannabis affect the work that has been done thus far in the medical regulations? Will it change anything? Or delay the structuring?

There is some flexibility there to be able to change it. So it could take longer. I suspect there will be a bill to make some changes to one or both. December will be really interesting to see what new bills will be put out there. Yet another reason to get engaged.

You speak several languages. How do you think you can help non-English speaking people grasp the importance of medical cannabis and its regulation in California?

I want to really help; I feel inspired as a woman of color to help out different businesses and am happy to partner with minority owned businesses. I want to help people learn how to get involved and to understand the process.

What does a typical day as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation look like?

I don’t know if there was a typical one. Some days I was making informational materials for the public, meeting with the legislature and writing analysis on different things. Other days I was meeting with stakeholders, or other regulatory agencies, or researching or meeting with other states. It definitely depended on the day.

What inspires you to be part of the cannabis industry?

It is a fascinating policy area. It is so rare that anyone in the public sector is able to create something new. Some policies have been around a really long time. I say “new,” but I put quotes around it because it has actually been around a long time. This is our chance to say hey, the government can help people. Working with people who are passionate about what they are doing is just so infectious. It is an exciting time for the industry. To be part of that, to be part of history—that is awesome!

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Sowing Seeds

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In the cannabis industry, there are all kinds of movers and shakers. Many musicians who get into the industry do so to promote their own name, with a lack of integrity. Not Marlon Asher. Everything the Trinidadian reggae singer does, he does out of his genuine love for the plant, including the music he records and the products that he releases. His seed company, currently under rebranding, is all about creation and cultivation, and his music is all about harmony. Between touring with countless reggae acts and even Boyz II Men, Asher’s fingerprint in the music world is as evident as ever. CULTURE caught up with Asher to discuss his contribution to the Caribbean reggae music scene, including his recent hit “Ganja Farmer” and his love for the leafy green.

 

Is there anything exciting you’re working on right now that you want to announce?

Right now I’m on tour, and I’ve also been working on my newest album.

 

What has the recording process been like for this album?

Right now, we’re actually in the planning stages of the new music. This time, we’re really trying to put everything together so there will be a flow, and we won’t have to guess what we want to happen. We want it to be special.

 

How do you think this is going to stand out from your other work?

What is really going to stand out is the fact that people are going to recognize the growth and the changes we’ve been through over the years.

“I would like to see an end to prohibition and see [cannabis] decriminalized. So far, I don’t really see a benefit from legalization, as the people who have been in the industry so long aren’t seeing a benefit from it; it’s the corporations who are benefiting.”

How did you first get into making music?

I first got into music at my grandfather’s church by being a part of the choir, and I fell in love with reggae music in my teenage years. I started performing around my village, and then I got recognized by some producers and started to make music my career.

 

When did cannabis first become a part of your life, and why was it important to you?

Cannabis is important to me, because it’s a medicine. You can really see the effects of it and how it helps people. One of my big hits, “Ganja Farmer,” was about the people who are dedicated to cannabis, to highlight some of the things that were going on in my country with cannabis and the people growing it. The song became really popular, and I think it has a really good message.

 

How has cannabis impacted you personally?

Personally, it kind of puts me in that meditative state that I like to be in when I want to get closer to God. It’s definitely positive when it comes to meditation and mental expansion.

 

What do you think the world of cannabis is going to be like in the future? How would you like to see it work in five years?

I would like to see an end to prohibition and see it decriminalized. So far, I don’t really see a benefit from legalization, as the people who have been in the industry so long aren’t seeing a benefit from it; it’s the corporations who are benefiting. I hope in the near future, cannabis won’t be criminalized, and no one will be chastised for using it.

 

What do you hope people take away the most from your music? How do you hope it influences people?

The main message I hope people take away is the oneness of people, the fact that music was made to bring people together and heal people. I really want that to be what I bring to the table.

 

Is there anything else you want to highlight?

I’m on tour now, and I’m about to start my seed business in the Caribbean. I also just want to tell people to take care of each other and love each other. That’s mainly what I want people to understand.

 

With your seed company, is there anything you want to announce or highlight?

Well we are currently rebranding, coming up with a new name and a new concept behind the business. We’re planning to launch everything soon.

 

www.facebook.com/mrmarlonasher

 

 

 

 

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Fabled Filmmaker

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Kevin Smith is undoubtedly Jason Mewes’ true partner-in-crime, and the two have remained friends through thick and thin—both on and off the screen. Smith’s more recent film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, was released theatrically in the United States on Oct. 15, and he is currently working on the upcoming comedy horror anthology Killroy Was Here and writing the script for Clerks III, which he hopes to release soon. In addition, Smith is working on his Netflix original animated series Masters of the Universe: Revelation, a reboot of the classic 1983 TV show.

Anyone who is familiar with the View Askewniverse knows that Smith adores the leafy green plant. Smith and Mewes recently collaborated with Caviar Gold’s Mike Brunson to create three strains: Snoogans, Snoochie Boochies and Berzerker. The strains are infused with 95 percent pure organic THC distillate and are rolled in kief for a product that resembles moon rocks. The strains are sold in pre-rolls or in 3.5 gram jars.

CULTURE recently snagged Smith at Herbarium, one of his personal favorite dispensaries in West Hollywood, California. In the wake of the nationwide vaping scare, Smith provided some insight about his thoughts on the epidemic, as entrepreneurship within the cannabis industry often overlaps with the vaping industry.

“Well what happened is the government said a couple days ago that ‘we’re taking vaping off the market’ and a lot of states are dropping it instantly like a hot rock, in such a way,” Smith explained. “There have been six to 10 deaths—which are heartbreaking—but the way they were like ‘we’ve got to get rid of this instantly,’ you’d think they know something that we don’t. Like that vaping causes vampirism or makes you turn into a werewolf. But instead they called it a public health hazard.”

“The only question that I have is, and I’m not a vaper myself, is that 10 people have died from vaping,” Smith added. “But how many people died from smoking a cigarette yesterday?  Where’s the public crisis for this? It just makes no sense.” Since speaking with Smith, there have been more incidents totally to a several dozen total vaping-related lung illness deaths—but as he said, it pales in comparison to cigarette deaths. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is responsible for 1,300 deaths per day worldwide. The real crisis, he explained, would be better suited to focus on the prevalence of cigarettes or one of the many deadly substances such as alcohol or opioids.

“. . . Ten people have died from vaping. But how many people died from smoking a cigarette yesterday? Where’s the public crisis for this? It just makes no sense.”

 

Smith has ventured into the cannabis industry multiple times before. Los Angeles, California-based Bud & Roses, for instance, sold two strains several years ago that were named after Smith’s outrageous comedy-horror film Tusk. His latest foray into the industry likely won’t be his last.

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The Cocktail Whisperer

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Photo courtesy Warren Bobrow.

It’s once again the season to be merry, and for a lot of adults, that means more cocktails at holiday parties and family gatherings. But some people would rather light up around the Christmas tree than drink alcohol and be subject to the inevitable after-effects. Those folks are in luck, because Warren Bobrow, a cannabis cocktail master, is here to make that tradition a thing of the past.

Bobrow has used his unmatched cannabis mixology know-how to write a book on the craft called Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations. He’s also a master menu-creator when it comes to infusions with cannabis. CULTURE chatted with the “Cocktail Whisperer” about how to keep things merry and bright this season with a little bit of liquid cheer.

 

How did you first get interested in mixology, specifically with cannabis?
I had experimented with mixing cannabis with craft spirits after visiting New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail in 2016. I had scheduled a book signing at the Pharmacy Museum for my third book of six, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails.

At the same time, the museum was holding an exhibit on cannabis in the early apothecary. My dream was hatched! As a master mixologist and cannabis smoker since the tender age of 12 and the eldest grandson of the owner/manufacturer of Geritol, my inspiration was at hand with several books on healing measures, such as my first book, Apothecary Cocktails. The only ingredient missing in that early cocktail book (2013) was cannabis. In the early apothecary, cannabis was probably the only ingredient that actually did anything!

 

What about cannabis cocktails do you think invites creativity and experimenting?
The feeling of the crossfade is the most intriguing thing. You just don’t get that euphoric feeling from CBD; that’s why I hardly work with it. I like the feeling that I get from THC. And I believe for the entourage effect to be most pronounced, you need THC and CBD—not just CBD. It’s a balance. Like life itself.

 

Tell us about your writing career—how did you start writing?

I was initially a trained chef from dish sink on up. I have an incredibly deep knowledge of food journalism and writing. Clementine Paddleford was an early inspiration, as was Penelope Casas. I’ve always been comfortable writing in blogs, but never in the “real world.”

After losing my fresh pasta business in hurricane Hugo in 1989, I was forced by necessity to pay off my loans by working in a series of private banks for 20 years, all the while nurturing a career working in wine and spirits on my days off and as a private chef. But it was not fulfilling. I needed to write, but I didn’t know how.

I ended up taking some food writing classes, one at the New School with Andy Smith and the other at the then French Culinary Institute for Alan Richman. Alan said I would be making a big mistake by going back into banking. He was right!

 

How did you first start using cannabis, and how did it influence your life and creative process?
I was at a good old Grateful Dead show in 1972 at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. The cannabis may or may not have actually been cannabis. It might have been gerbil droppings for all I knew. But there was something in there that made me more relaxed than I had ever been. Our plant brought me relief of the pain of being Warren. It helped me focus and drill down into my own history.

 

What is your favorite strain or product, and what’s your favorite cannabis cocktail?
My favorite cannabis cocktail is the Mezzrole Cocktail, named for Mezz Mezzrow, a jazz-era musician, who not-so-coincidently was Louis Armstrong’s weed dealer in the ’20s and ’30s. A particularly well-rolled cannabis joint was known by the “Hep Cats” as a Mezzrole. A joint or a reefer might get you arrested if you asked the wrong person for one, like a policeman. But a Mezzrole was the hip codeword for reefer in the Jazz Era.

 “You just don’t get that euphoric feeling from CBD; that’s why I hardly work with it. I like the feeling that I get from THC. And I believe for the entourage effect to be most pronounced, you need THC and CBD—not just CBD. It’s a balance. Like life itself.”

 

What do you think the world of legalization will look like in five or 10 years? Do you think ordering a cannabis cocktail in a bar will ever become the norm?
I hope that the stigma dissipates somewhat along with legalization as it spreads around the country. Unfortunately, there are many preconceived notions about cannabis cocktails. Most importantly, “Will I get destroyed?”

That is a real possibility, but I suggest taking the Thai food approach. Never would you go to a Thai restaurant for the first time and order your food five star, Thai Hot.  It’s just not done; you’d be destroyed! Cannabis cocktails are the same. You want to start really slowly. They hit pretty fast, so less is definitely more. You can always add, never subtract.

But should you take too much, some CBD or a combination of peppercorns and lemon juice work just fine. Don’t be like those folks on VICELAND Live (I made them a THC/CBD cocktail with Barrell Bourbon and oven-caramelized blood orange juice)  who had way more than one per hour. Each drink was at least 100 milligrams of THC . . . They had several in the first 15 minutes or so . . . and then they went out on live TV. It was memorable.

Is there anything specific you want to announce, focus on, or highlight right now?
I’m doing a mocktail for TSO Sonoma in December, and I’m releasing a live-resin, ready-to-drink mocktail into the market shortly in California. Stay tuned! It’s unlike anything available with an onset time of just a few short minutes, and it’s delicious. My tried-and-true recipes. I’m always focusing on the sales of my book, Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Indigo Books in Canada and most indie bookstores globally.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t be afraid of cannabis cocktails. They were making them over 100 years ago in pharmacies. They work for me with my glaucoma, and I hope they offer a non-confrontational approach to “taking your medicine.” At least no one would know that your Vietnamese iced coffee had both THC-infused, condensed milk and Rhum Agricole from Martinique in it.

 

cocktailwhisperer.com

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