She also, in 2016, received the Willamette Week‘s Portland, Oregon Best Budtender award.
In this Ganjapreneur.com podcast episode, Emma joined our host TG Branfalt for a conversation about the creation process behind her educational courses for individuals seeking careers in the cannabis space and why she thinks the cannabis industry should move away from the indica/sativa binary of categorizing cannabis cultivars.
The interview also covers how she became a budtender for Farma (a Portland, Oregon-based dispensary that emphasizes a scientific definition and understanding of cannabis), her rise through the ranks of the cannabis space to eventually become the dispensary’s general manager, and what advice she would offer to somebody who is working in — or interested in — the retail side of the cannabis industry.
Tune in to the interview via the player below, or scroll down to read a full transcript of this week’s Ganjapreneur.com podcast episode!…
Today, we’re featuring Portland-based cannabis educator Emma Chasen.
Learn what inspires her journey, and more, in this insightful Q&A.
How did you get into the cannabis industry?
I’ve been working with cannabis illegally for quite some time.
However, I first entered the legal cannabis space in September 2015 as a budtender.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Ethnobotany and Medicinal Plant Research from Brown University, so I am very familiar with the secondary properties of medicinal plants and how they can interact with human physiology.
After graduating from Brown in 2014, I went on to work for the Brown University Research Oncology Group coordinating clinical oncology trials nationwide.
After my supervisor openly laughed at a cannabis trial and instead chose to go with another billion dollar pharmaceutical trial, I quit.
I packed up my car and drove across the country to Portland, OR.
Two weeks after arriving in Portland, I got a budtending job at the popular Portland dispensary Farma.
There, I was able to study cannabis and help patients reframe their relationship with the plant.
I was named Portland’s Best Budtender by the Willamette Week Reader Poll and was quickly promoted to General Manager of Farma.
After managing the shop for just over a year, I stepped down and carved out a new role for myself as Director of Education.
I trained staff on cannabis science, kept up on the latest research, and worked with patients who had severe medical issues.
After working for Farma for two years, I left the company to focus on creating a cannabis science training program and consulting.
What’s your current position?
I am a cannabis educator and consultant.
I work with cannabis businesses to elevate their brand presence by creating consumer facing educational marketing collateral and educational programs.
I also help retail cannabis businesses successfully navigate the transition from medical to adult-use cannabis.
I help with business organization, structure and also create in house educational training programs so that employees are better able to service the consumer market.
In this highly competitive market, cannabis businesses must distinguish themselves and the way to do that is with highly trained and educated staff.
I also teach workshops in Portland for both lay enthusiasts and cannabis industry professionals on the fundamentals of cannabis science.
Since I have a robust background in medicinal plant research, I feel it is part of my job to explain cannabis science in an accessible and meaningful way for people of all backgrounds.…
Indica or sativa seems to be the primary debate. Personally, I tend to lean more towards sativas or hybrids that are more of a mind-high rather than a body-high. That’s because I hate feeling like I can’t move and indicas always zap my energy, but a nice sativa like White Buffalo or a hybrid like Bruce Banner not only make me feel more active, but more creative as well.
But even within those major categories, there are major differences. Especially because strains are so diverse and their effects differ from person to person, we thought it might be interesting to see which strains reign supreme.
So who better to ask than some of the coolest women in the cannabis industry? Many of these badasses started their own businesses based on their love of weed, so of course they would know which strains are the best. Surprisingly, no one had the same answer but most gave a reason for why they prefer that strain over another.
Jenny Wakeandbake, NugTools Ambassador and Youtuber
“OH, THIS IS A TOUGH QUESTION. MY FAVORITE STRAIN… MOST OF MY FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA WOULD QUICKLY TELL YOU IT’S ARCATA TRAINWRECK. HOWEVER, I AM GOING TO GO WITH AGENT ORANGE. IT’S A PRODUCTIVE SATIVA THAT, THOUGH IT IS NOT A PART OF MY DAILY CONSUMPTION, IT’S A STRAIN WITH EFFECTS AND A SMELL I WILL NEVER FORGET.”
Lauren Miele, CEO/Founder of KushKards
“RIGHT NOW, MY FAVORITE STRAIN IS PINK POISON. BUT, IT VARIES DEPENDING ON THE MOMENT OR THE MOOD.”
Sarah Remesch, founder of 270M & Managing Editor of Viride
“BLUE DREAM FOR A BALANCE OF THE HIGH AND LOW WITH A COOL SMELL AND TASTE.”
Kristin Murr, Cannabis Cultivator at AlpinStash
“PLATINUM TIGER COOKIES WHICH IS A STRAIN WE BREED IN HOUSE AT ALPINSTASH. IT’S A CROSS BETWEEN CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN ALIEN AND PLATINUM COOKIES, MAKING IT A SATIVA HYBRID. I LOVE THE HIGH I GET FROM IT AND THE CALMING ASPECTS, WHICH IS RARITY FOR ME WITH UPLIFTING STRAINS . THE HIGH IS A BIT SPACEY, BUT STILL ALLOWS YOU TO BE PRODUCTIVE WITH YOUR DAY. IT’S MY GO-TO WHEN I HAVE A DAY AT HOME AND A LIST FULL OF PROJECTS.”
Emily A. Burns, Cannabusiness Attorney at Green Light Law Group
“OG KUSH, HANDS DOWN. HOWEVER, AK-47 IS A CLOSE SECOND.”
Stoner Girl Diary’s Biz & Mari, CannaSmack Ambassadors
BIZ: “NORTHERN LIGHTS.”
MARI: “BLACKBERRY KUSH.”
Stacey Mulvey, founder of Marijuasana
“TRICK QUESTION! BECAUSE I’VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL TO DIFFERENT LEGAL MARKETS, I’VE NOTICED THERE IS AN INCONSISTENCY BETWEEN STRAINS OF THE SAME NAME. SO, IT REALLY ALL DEPENDS ON THE GROWER AND THE CONDITIONS. BUT ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE IS GIRL SCOUT COOKIES. IT HITS THE RIGHT COMBINATION FOR ME OF GIVING ME A BODY-HIGH, AND RELAXED BUT CURIOUS MIND.”
Emma Chasen, Cannabis Educator
“I DON’T HAVE A FAVORITE STRAIN, BUT I DO HAVE A FAVORITE CHEMOTYPE (THE CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS FOUND INSIDE CANNABIS). I LOVE A CANNABIS CULTIVAR WITH AN ELEVATED CONCENTRATION OF CBD, SOMETHING WITH A 1:1 THC:CBD RATIO IS PERFECT A LITTLE EUPHORIA FROM THE THC BALANCED BY THE GROUNDING ENERGY OF THE CBD. IF THE CULTIVAR HAS A LITTLE PINENE AND LIMONENE (TWO TERPENES THAT PROMOTE CLARITY OF MIND AND ELEVATED MOOD) EVEN BETTER! I CONSUME CANNABIS FOR THE EUPHORIC, MOTIVATING EXPERIENCE. I DON’T REALLY ENJOY CANNABIS CULTIVARS THAT MAKE ME SUPER SLEEPY AND GLUE ME TO THE COUCH, UNLESS OF COURSE I’M CONSUMING TO PROMOTE SLEEP.”
Sabrena Peterson, Director of Sales & Marketing at RĒL Vape
“DEPENDS ON MY MOOD, TIME OF DAY, ENERGY LEVEL AND ATMOSPHERE. I’M ALWAYS CHANGING IT UP AND TRYING NEW STRAINS, BUT RIGHT NOW CHERRY PIE, TRAINWRECK AND SUPER LEMON HAZE ARE ON REGULAR ROTATION. I WISH MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD HOW DIVERSE CANNABIS STRAINS ARE, AND HOW YOU CAN REVIEW THE TERPENE PROFILES AND STRAIN GENETICS TO CHOOSE STRAINS THAT ARE MOST LIKELY TO GIVE YOU THE EXPERIENCE YOU ARE SEEKING. NOT ONLY IS EACH PLANT DIFFERENT, BUT EACH PERSON’S CHEMISTRY IS DIFFERENT, SO WHAT MAKES ONE PERSON TIRED CAN GIVE ANOTHER PERSON ENERGY. YOU HAVE TO EXPERIMENT A BIT TO IDENTIFY WHICH ONES HELP YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU WANT TO FEEL, WHETHER IT’S FOR RECREATIONAL OR MEDICAL EFFECTS.”…
She is also a cannabis industry consultant and helps brands develop educational marketing collateral and educational programs to further elevate their brand presence in a competitive industry.
She also helps struggling cannabis businesses with business organization and sets them up for success in the competitive adult use market.
Emma continues to seek ways to spread cannabis education through consulting, writing, speaking and teaching.
Emma Chasen was recently named Portland’s Best Budtender of 2016 and featured in Newsweek, MG Magazine, Stoner Magazine, High Times Magazine, The Oregon Leaf and Teen Vogue for her work with cannabis and patients.
She is also a regular guest on many cannabis-focused podcasts and has been featured on television for her ability to explain scientific concepts around cannabis in a way that is accessible and helpful to the general public.
We recently invited Emma for a Q&A session to talk about her background and her company.
By the way, we are loving the green hair!
Ganjly: What is your background and what made you decide to pursue a career in cannabis?
Emma Chasen: I have a background in medicinal plant research and pre-medical studies.
I graduated from Brown University in 2014 with a specialized biology degree that focused on the study of medicinal plants.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to formally study cannabis in my program.
However, I did do a lot of personal study with the plant and have always seen cannabis as the “all-star medicinal plant.”
After graduating from Brown, I worked in oncology research and naively thought that could be my opportunity to study the anti-proliferative effects of cannabis.
A brilliant professor actually did propose a cannabis trial to the research institution where I worked, but my supervisor laughed him out of the office.
That was the moment that I knew I had to leave the allopathic field of medicine.
Quickly thereafter, I quit, packed up my car, and drove across the country to Portland, Oregon.
I serendipitously happened to arrive in Portland just a month before the early onset of adult-use sales of cannabis, so I immediately found a job at Farma and that definitely sealed my fate and career in cannabis.
Ganjly: What reliable websites can people go to when they want to be educated about cannabis and healing with cannabis?
Emma Chasen: I have two websites that are my go-to for cannabis research – NICER and Ethan Russo’s ResearchGate.
NICER has a research library organized by ailment, so you can find research on cannabis’ potential to alleviate symptoms of the disease.
And Ethan Russo’s ResearchGate is one of the best sources for the most recent cannabis research.
If you want something a bit more digestible than scientific articles, Hempsley is one of the most beautiful and informative cannabis education sites on the web.
Ganjly: What is the most challenging experience you have had in the cannabis industry so far?
Emma Chasen: I’ve had my fair share of challenging experiences in the cannabis industry thus far.
And I think it all boils down to the fact that the cannabis industry is in total startup culture.
There’s a lot of excitement, innovation and creativity in the industry, but there’s not much money for fledgling entrepreneurs.
In my experience, this creates eagerness to partner with others and I have definitely been approached by many people offering me partnership in their endeavors.
When this first started happening, I was excited and flattered, but I soon realized that not all people and partnerships are a good fit.
I’ve learned so much through these experiences about business, boundaries, and personal/professional relationships.
Ganjly: What is your proudest moment since you started down this path of being an entrepreneur in the cannabis space?
Emma Chasen: Landing a feature in Forbes was a very surreal moment for me.
I was proud to see that and proud to be able to share it with my family and friends.
But really, I am proudest when I get great feedback from a client or a student of mine starts to understand the material because of the way I’m explaining it.
I am my own harshest critic, so to hear positive feedback and watch people’s lives change because of my work makes me so damn proud and encourages me to continue.
Ganjly: Do you have plans for new products, services or events and would you be willing to drop any hints about what we can expect from your company in the future?
Emma Chasen: The Oregon market is currently in disarray. Businesses are closing left and right. It’s difficult, to say the least.
But, I’m working on a big project that should hopefully help the market stabilize.
That’s vague, but it’s all I can say for now.
Ganjly: What is your advice for hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs who are considering joining the cannabis industry?
What are the positives and negatives they should expect?
Emma Chasen: If you are passionate about cannabis and truly believe you have an idea or expertise that would help advance this industry, please come take part!
However, be aware that this is a difficult industry to make it in right now.
This is not the “Green Rush.” There’s hardly any money to make due to impossible tax brackets and market oversaturation.
But, there is a strong sense of community and an overwhelmingly inspired, passionate group of people working to make this industry into something that we can all be proud of.
Thank you so much, Emma, for taking out the time to do the interview despite your busy schedule!
More on Emma:
Emma Chasen began her cannabis career at Farma as a budtender and was quickly promoted to General Manager after only a few months.
She oversaw the operations of the shop and continued to uphold the pillars of esteemed customer service and cannabis science education during the rocky regulatory transition from OHA to OLCC governance.
After over a year as Farma’s General Manager, she stepped down and carved out a role for herself as Director of Education.
In this role, she was able to focus on educational efforts and create a robust training curriculum that focused on cannabis science, product knowledge, and empathetic patient care.
After over two years with Farma, Emma left to join forces with Sativa Science Club to expand her curriculum into a certification program for the cannabis community at large.
She launched the Core Science Certification program both online and in the community in Portland in the fall of 2017 with Sativa Science Club.
Her mission is to educate people on the science behind cannabis, so that they may take charge of their own healing as well as to address the need for training and education of budtenders, medical professionals, and the general public.…
But stepping into a medical or recreational dispensary for the first time also means encountering a whole new language.
We spoke with cannabis educators Emma Chasen and Kristen Williams to help us make sense of the weed-alphabet soup.
Chasen is Director of Education for the Portland, Oregon-based educational resource hub Sativa Science Club, and Williams is the founder/CEO of the prohibition-state-focused holistic wellness organization Hempsley, based in Columbia, Missouri.
Read on for definitions of (and commentary on) 20 of the most common words and phrases from CBD to THC.
The main class of secondary compounds found in cannabis that drive the overall experience.
“I like to use the analogy of a car, where the cannabinoids are kind of like the engine,” says Chasen.
“They are creating the experience, both psychoactive and medicinal, so they are primarily responsible for the intoxicating, kind of cerebral high that we all know, and love, from cannabis.”
But that’s not all.
They are also are responsible for what are said to be cannabis’ many medicinal properties—anti-spasmodic, anti-convulsant, anti-proliferative, cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and more.
Williams adds that while THC and CBD are the two primary cannabinoids, there are more than 100 found in cannabis.
“Cannabis is the overarching plant,” says Williams, “and hemp and marijuana are two words we’ve assigned to distinguish a particular cannabis plant’s cannabinoid profile from another.”
Hemp, adds Chasen, is a legal subspecies of cannabis that has a measurable concentration of CBD (and less than 0.3 percent THC, per Williams), but also has been primarily bred for fibers and proteins rather than its secondary compounds.
Chasen notes that hemp took a different breeding pathway than the drug-cultivar cannabis (also known as marijuana—although the use of that word is falling out of favor in light of its racist history).
“The drug cultivar cannabis, or as people say, marijuana, refers to weed that is THC-dominant, that has a high level of THC.”
Hemp is accessible nationwide, but Chasen adds that it’s important to make sure your hemp-derived products are being tested for pesticides and potency, “that you’re not just getting snake oil.”
The best way to do this is to contact the company directly and ask if they test their products.
Chasen says if they do, they are usually very happy to disclose those test results.
If you can’t get in touch with company directly, research the company, its practices and products through other sites, and read customer reviews.
Stands for cannabidiol, the second-most prominent compound found in cannabis besides THC.
It is a cannabinoid that binds to our endocannabinoid receptors, and induces a multitude of signaling pathways.
Chasen says, “It also hits on many other receptors in our body, so it has the ability to engage with or alter the confirmation of our opioid receptors, our serotonin receptors, our TRPV1 receptors—which are responsible for allowing us to feel and sense pain—and other kinds of senses in the natural world.”
This is why CBD is thought to have so many medicinal properties and has been linked to physiological properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-depression, pain-relieving, anti-spasmodic, immune-modulation and immune support, anti-convulsant, and anti-proliferative.
This is the actual chemical compound found inside any organism, or in this case, inside cannabis.
“Those chemical compounds are the ones that will ultimately influence and direct the overall experience felt from consumption,” Chasen says.
While much of the industry has relied on terms like indica and sativa to define experiences, chemotype and the secondary compounds most typically found in cannabis’ chemotype, cannabinoids and terpenes, are showing up in more and more dispensaries.
Chasen says that while most dispensaries still label their cannabis flower as indica/sativa/hybrid, many dispensaries also display the THC/CBD concentrations by percentage.
These concentrations are examples of the product’s chemotype, and will give you a clue as to the type of experience it will produce.
In addition, some dispensaries include the total percentage of terpenes on their product labeling, and if so, you can ask staff members to further explain the influence those terpenes may have on the overall experience.
Indica and sativa are both scientific terms that define different species of the cannabis plant.
Chasen describes indica as a plant that grows short, bushy to the ground, with a really dense flower structure and broadleaf variety leaves.
Alternatively, she says, sativa is a plant that grows tall, skinny, with loose flower structure and narrow leaves.
While indica and sativa are probably the two most common words used to explain the type of high a consumer will feel, Chasen says that between the fact that all cannabis cultivars on the market right now are genetically hybrids, and that “we can’t actually use genetics to help us determine the effect or experience that a certain cultivar will have,” it’s really important to start understanding and referring to the chemotypes discussed above.
Unsurprisingly, ingestion is a primary method of consuming cannabis that includes anything you swallow that is digested and metabolized by your body, such as edibles, tinctures or teas.
“Tinctures are interesting because they can be used as mucosal or edible,” says Williams.
“If you put them under your tongue, they can be absorbed more quickly, but then of course you swallow, so you’re still going to have it being digested and have some of those longer-lasting effects as well.”
Add a tincture to your beverages or food and it becomes an edible.
When it comes to ingesting edibles, Williams cautions to keep in mind what and how much you’ve eaten around the time you’re going to consume.
“Cannabinoids bind to fat, so if you’ve been eating a fatty meal, THC and CBD are going to be able to bind to those and be digested more properly and be better received by your body,” she says.
“Eating on an empty stomach can cause your body to kind of freak out a little bit. It doesn’t know what to do with it because it doesn’t have fatty foods that it can bind too.”
Inhalation is another primary method of consuming cannabis by way of smoking or vaporizing.
“Smoking involves igniting cannabis, and whenever you do that, there’s a combustion that happens, and only about 12 percent of what you’re inhaling is actually beneficial because you’re destroying a lot of the cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds that are in the plant at that point,” says Williams.
On the other hand, she explains, vaporizing involves heating cannabis to release its beneficial compounds without creating that harmful combustion.
“You’re getting all those benefits but you’re not having the extra stuff that’s being combusted coming into your lungs so it’s considered a healthier way to use the method of inhalation.”
THC is intoxicating, meaning it gives a “cerebral high,” says Chasen. CBD is non-intoxicating.
While product labels don’t typically specify intoxicating or non-intoxicating, if you know the THC/CBS concentration percentages, you will have a good idea of how intoxicating the experience may be.
For example, a product with 70 percent CBD and 30 percent THC may not be as intoxicating as a product with 70 percent THC and 30 percent CBD.
When shopping, Chasen recommends always talking with your budtender if you have any questions.
The term ‘mucosal’ covers any product that is absorbed through a mucous membrane.
Under-the-tongue tinctures, bath soaks and suppositories are all common mucosal delivery methods.
“They act faster than ingesting,” says Williams. “Because it’s being absorbed through the mucous membrane, it’s able to enter the blood stream more quickly than [if it were] being digested and processed by your digestive system and metabolized.”
Products that are absorbed this way should take effect within 15 to 30 minutes, versus the one to two hours you can expect from a typical edible.
The dictionary definition of psychoactive is something that affects the mind.
Though CBD is often said to be “non-psychoactive,” both it and THC are psychoactive, says Chasen, because they bind to receptors in the brain and affect the mind.
Typically when people refer to CBD as non-psychoactive, they actually mean non-intoxicating because it doesn’t cause the type of cerebral intoxicating “high” that THC does.
Another way to talk about under-the-tongue delivery.
These are the aromatic compounds found in all plants.
Terpenes, says Williams, give plants their smells and flavors, and when it comes to cannabis, dictate what type of high you’re going to have.
“If … cannabinoids act as the engine of the car, the terpenes are like the steering wheel. They’re really influencing the direction of the mood,” explains Chasen.
Bottom line, it’s the terpenes that will determine whether you feel relaxed or calm, alert or energized, or somewhere in between.
This is the primary cannabinoid found in cannabis.
As Chasen explains, it is the most abundantly found cannibinoid because people have specifically been breeding for high THC over the last century, thanks to its cerebral psychoactive experience.
“However,” she adds, “it also has been linked to many physiological properties,” including pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties.
For some, she says, it is great for reducing anxiety, or as an anti-depressant.
(Of course, if you’re considering replacing traditional medications with any cannabis-based products, make sure to consult with your doctor and a mental health professional.)
It’s worth noting that an overdose of THC definitely can cause a lot of anxiety, paranoia, elevated heart rate, bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and “all those things associated with a not-so-fun cannabis experience.”
If you do end up in that unhappy place, Dr. Margaret Gedde, a physician who provides medical marijuana services through Vibrant Health Clinic in Colorado Springs, suggests drinking water and waiting it off, or taking CBD to counteract the THC.
This term covers anything you put on the surface of the skin. Think lotions, balms and sprays.
“Because topicals don’t typically cause intoxication, even if they have THC in them […] you don’t have to consider the THC and CBD ratio for concerns of intoxication,” says Williams, only for their varying therapeutic properties, such as headache or muscle pain relief.
The one exception to this rule is transdermal topicals, which are intended to deliver a specific dose through the skin and can cause a high.
Anything designed to pass through the skin and into the blood system.
Williams says there are transdermal patches and gels for use on the wrist or venous areas of the body.
Unlike other basic topicals, transdermal topicals offer more accurate dosing along with longer periods of pain relief (all day or all night versus 4-6 hours).…