High Spirits

#032 - Cannabis Experts & Consumer Reviews with Budist’s Jocelyn Sheltraw & Claudio Miranda

February 22, 2024 AnnaRae Grabstein and Ben Larson Episode 32
High Spirits
#032 - Cannabis Experts & Consumer Reviews with Budist’s Jocelyn Sheltraw & Claudio Miranda
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join Ben Larson on a solo flight through High Spirits, as we navigate the ever-evolving cannabis landscape with industry luminaries Jocelyn Sheltraw and Claudio Miranda. Get ready to unravel the intricacies of cannabis consumerism, from the birth of Budist—a game-changing social review and rating platform—to the seismic shifts happening with brands like Kiva Confections and Curaleaf. This episode is your backstage pass to the strategies, companies, and people shaping the market.

Embark on a sensorial journey as we bridge the gap between cannabis aficionados and the casual toker. We dissect the alchemy behind critiquing THC delights, shining a light on the parallels with the wine industry's path to connoisseurship. Budist is setting the stage for a 100-point rating system that promises to revolutionize your green experience. Discover how Budist is cultivating a community of informed enthusiasts, ready to guide you through the diverse offerings of this burgeoning industry.

The episode culminates with a peek into the hive consciousness that powers dynamic duos like Jocelyn and Claudio, illuminating the importance of synergy in both the creation and enjoyment of cannabis products. We address the balancing act of navigating the complex regulatory terrains of THC and hemp, while fostering an inclusive community spirit reminiscent of the early tech pioneers. Whether you're deep in the industry or simply cannabis-curious, this session promises rich insights and a few good laughs, trademark of High Spirits.

--
High Spirits is brought to you by Vertosa and Wolf Meyer.

Your hosts are Ben Larson and AnnaRae Grabstein.

Follow High Spirits on LinkedIn.

We'd love to hear your thoughts. Who would you like to see on the show? What topics would you like to have us cover?

Visit our website www.highspirits.media and listen to all of our past shows.

THANK YOU to our audience. Your engagement encourages us to keep bringing you these thought-provoking conversations.

Remember to always stay curious, stay informed, and most importantly, keep your spirits high.



Ben Larson:

Hey everybody, welcome to episode 32 of High Spirits. I'm Ben Larson and with me is all shoot. Anneray is not here today. It's okay, as they say in the biz, the show must go on, if this indeed is the biz. No, anneray is out sick today, but, as always, we are recording live. So indeed, the show must go on. She'll be back next week, I hope. Until then you have me, and it is Thursday, february 22nd 2024. And I'm just so incredibly excited for this show.

Ben Larson:

Today we have some great friends on Jocelyn Sheltra, claudio Miranda, people that have been just mainstays in my cannabis journey, so we're gonna talk about their new project but also just kind of reflect on everything that has happened over the last nearly decade. Before we get there, I did wanna check in with myself. Sorry, it's hard to break some old habits, but I'm gonna look over here at some news. I don't know if you saw this. Kiva Confections, a leader in the cannabis Eddels market, has recently announced its venture into the hemp derived Delta 9 THC space. This has come up a number of times on the show in the last several weeks months. As Kiva enters Hemp D9, they bring with them that kind of legacy of market leadership, innovation, their commitment to safety and inclusivity. The move just really signals a significant moment for the cannabis market. The hemp market as kind of Kiva really highlights this diversification, the leveraging of a two-pronged approach to the cannabis and hemp opportunity. Meanwhile, kearra Leaf, the famed MSO but also owners of KearraLeafHempcom, joins truly in a push to make THCA, hemp THCA I hope, a felony in Florida Weird.

Ben Larson:

Anyways, there's an NCIA summit, a stakeholder summit in Sacramento, regulators, cannabis operators. I think it's gonna be an interesting conversation. It's today, it's this afternoon. I'm heading there as soon as we wrap up the recording and then we'll have Nicole Elliott from the DCC Department of Cannabis Control here in California and Jillian Shower from Canada and Jillian Shower from Canra on next week's episode. But that's next week. Let's just move on to the show. I'm really excited, like I said, to bring on our guests Jocelyn Sheltra. Many of you know her. If you don't, where have you been? She was the face of headset for nearly five years, also on the board of CCIA. She's a certified gon-GA, just a wealth of knowledge and sunshine and light. And I'm going to bring her on first because I'm producing and talking at the same time. Hey, jocelyn, how are you?

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Hi Ben. Thank you so much for the kind words. Just appreciate and love you for everything that you do and the light that you bring to our industry as well.

Ben Larson:

Oh man well, I couldn't do it without you. You've been such a model for all of us and just connecting everyone and being positive, and we'll get into it in a bit. But just like this, industry always has a lot of ups and downs and I feel like you've always brought the same level of energy and I think I've appreciated that about you the most. But before we dive in, we're going to bring on your partner in crime in a multitude of ways Claudio Miranda. Claudio, I met you. You were one of the first people I met in the industry. You were an advisor to many burgeoning startups in the early gateway days and I guess less public facing than Joss, but certainly there and always been there, and just a mainstay in the Oakland cannabis community, for sure, through Guild Extracts and now teaming up with Jocelyn on Buddist. So welcome to the show.

Claudio Miranda:

Thank you so much for having me super stoked to be here.

Ben Larson:

All right, guys, we're here. I'm going to just start at the top. You have your professional titles under your name for anyone watching the video. It says Buddist, and this is kind of new for both of you, so let's just start there. What is Buddist and why are we talking about Buddist?

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Yeah, absolutely yeah.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

It's funny, it's new for our community and it is new for us in some capacity, but we've actually been behind the scenes quietly and also not so quietly building this for about a year now, and our baby was birthed on December 8th my birthday, oddly enough which I'm taking as the sign from the universe.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

But essentially what Buddist is, it's our industry's first social review and rating platform specifically for brands and products, and what I mean by that is, as we know, there's a bunch of different platforms out there, whether it be publishers like Cannabis Now, fat Nugs, high Times, or whether there's companies like Wee Flee and Weed Maps that have reviews of some form of their platforms.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

What we've been missing as an industry is a platform that's solely dedicated to cannabis brands and products, and so what we've done is it's an app, and so we've assembled this team of 20 people that are critics that we refer to as Buddists, and they're really helping us jumpstart the platform and kind of set the tone for how consumers can also review and other industry members should think about rating and reviewing products using the 100-point system to do so, and so our goal is really to be this home for our community to be able to go celebrate the products, the producers, the places, meaning the regions, their terroirs, really using Buddists as a catapult to help our industry grow into this next level of premization and maturation and really, you know, at the heart, giving a voice to a lot of these brands and producers that just haven't had a home or a platform to go tell their story and connect directly with consumers.

Ben Larson:

Yeah, it's kind of surprising to be sitting here in 2024 and to now be hearing this Like because we've been consuming cannabis for some time and this seems kind of no fans. This kind of seems like an obvious solution to many problems that we actually face in the industry, which I'm sure we'll get into. But, claudio, as a product owner, or a product many product owner, how has this like void been attempted to be solved over the years, or has it Like it does seem like this should have existed already?

Claudio Miranda:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, and as Jocelyn mentioned, you know the marketplace has had reviews for a long time and they've existed in kind of fragmented ways, whether we see it on the publishing side or the platform side. I think the issue, as discussed here, is that we don't have kind of a centralized home where enthusiasts were consumers, were brands, were thought leaders can kind of congregate and share their enthusiasm about products and brands, right, and I think the reason you know it's interesting that it hasn't existed, right, you know I've been on the plant touching side in the legal market for about 10 years and one challenge that we've, you know that we've experienced by managing different brands in the marketplace, is just really the distribution bottleneck that we have in the industry, as we all know. It's kind of the vein of our existence on the brand side that we have just a lot of restrictions on whether it's through social media and we get shadow banned or we get delisted from, you know, instagram. We're not having, I'm seeing a uptick in problems on LinkedIn. We have problems with TikTok, you know.

Claudio Miranda:

We know with the major e-commerce platforms we can't transact, we can't use the major ads serving kind of networks, and so that's been really challenging for brands and for someone who's kind of managed brands, it leaves us very limited channels for how we can, on the one hand, promote our offerings, tell our brand story and, most importantly, connect directly with consumers for that consumer engagement.

Claudio Miranda:

And that's why we see that a lot of the activity that happens in the marketplace is at point of sale and even there we have some issues with just such a limited license set with.

Claudio Miranda:

We have so many consumers and growing with every passing day we have such a limited amount of access due to those limited retail outlets. So part of one of the reasons why we built Budis is to help kind of decongest that right, and by decongesting that I think a lot of important things happen. First, for starters, you know, we kind of start to loosen up that bottleneck, we start to open up a little bit more distribution avenues for brands to tell their story and to engage with consumers. But I think, as Jocelyn alluded to, you know, a big part of our goal is to usher in premiumization. Not that premium brands don't exist, but we need services like this and Budis is just among one amongst many in the ecosystem that we feel are pushing toward this objective to be able to really celebrate the diversity of brands, of producers, of products, of backgrounds, and give all this rich universe of cannabis diversity, give consumers access to that right, and but it says we'll talk about today is hopefully going to be a key catalyst in that process.

Ben Larson:

Yeah, it's interesting there's.

Ben Larson:

You know, we always talk about this divide between the consumer and and the brand and how retailers and the distributors have really played this kind of almost like kind of like large monolithic, like impediment to like owning, owning those consumers. And you know, one of my kind of experiences going into a lot of retailers is that it feels, feels kind of like a liquor store where you can kind of go into any one of them. You're going to probably see this similar variety of things, with not a ton of waiting into into kind of like what I should be buying and it's like requires a lot of research for Intel and if that information isn't there or you don't have those relationships, then it's going to be that much harder. So I'm imagining that this is a key part of the inspiration. Jocelyn, you, you, you spent a lot of time probably interacting with a lot of retailers through your time with headset. How did that kind of those you know five years or so like, how did that kind of really like seed your your perspective for for launching this?

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Oh my gosh, I mean in so many ways but in relation to this point. So think about the bud tender and consumer education. How consumers get recommendations for products today is primarily a point of sales we're discussing through the bud tender. But you know, from studying the markets headset, every market has, on average, from anywhere from you know, 500 words of 2500 different skews per each market. So for a bud tender salesperson to understand all of those products, all of the different effects, I mean that's just virtually impossible. So for a consumer to go into, you know retail store and get a solid recommendation, that that's, that's just not happening at this point because it's just this is too nuanced of a product, and so we just saw that across the board at headset and that was one of the things that I was really excited about the problem that we can solve and then, especially going through the gaugier program and learning more of the science, and that cannabis interacts with our bodies different because of our endocannabinoid system.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

The recommendation coming from a bud tender who, let's say, is a daily dabbler, who you know is is young, that's going to be a very different recommendation than someone who's wanting to use cannabis in a tincture format for a medical reason, right, and so having more insight into who the recommender is, whether that's the bud tender, whether that's your friend, that's part of the core thesis that we're trying to address here.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

And as you go through the app, you know we ask five questions about what kind of consumer you are. We ask what's your preferred consumption method? What's, how often do you consume? What's your primary reason and your desired effect, your preferred potency, and what we're doing is we're matching people based on that, and our whole thesis here is that the more that you understand about that reviewer, you know, for me, for example, I'm a daily flower consumer, I like outdoor flower, I like low dose products, I like it for spiritual and social reasons I'm going to have probably a better product recommendation coming from somebody that I know Matt better matches my profile versus again, using that example of a daily dabbler.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

So that's the core that we're trying to solve here is really helping people find like product recommendations that are going to be relevant to them, and that was one of like the main things that I was seeing a headset and launching. You know, I was spending time in retail stores all day long and launching the company state to state, and that was just one of the glaring problems that I saw is that consumers just didn't have that understanding and then on the flip side, all of these incredible brands that I was watching being built and then meeting the founders of these companies.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

they then didn't have the channels to go tell their story and what makes them unique, and so that's really like the crux of the problem that we're trying to solve on the brand side as well as the consumer side.

Ben Larson:

You know, so interesting it's. It reminds me of one of our fellow Oakland operators, a company that I was involved with called chemistry. They're still around there but they just had these really kind of like nuanced extractions Not always the most potent, but the experience was really great and and the people that knew, the people that tried it, really loved them. But it was hard to get the word out Because when they're sitting on the shelves next to all the other people that were like you know, the consumers come in and they're like, oh, what's the strongest thing, what's going to hit me the hardest? And in Claudia, you probably experienced this a lot too.

Ben Larson:

So, like what you know, I'm not a huge flower. My perception is that everything is just driving towards 40% far, which the sheer physics and biology of that I just don't understand. But it's happening and in like, how do we? How do we bridge that gap where where's the consumer today? Like, is this a big problem to overcome or do we think, like this is something that we'll be able to see in the next next couple years as you roll up the platform?

Claudio Miranda:

Yeah, well, you know, as, as Jocelyn mentioned, you know, it really starts with understanding the end user and the use cases right, like why do they use cannabis? And the current kind of narrative although this is little over simplifying is just kind of highest potency at the lowest price. That only serves of one use case, right, and it's been a predominant use case that we've seen for the you know, the better part of recent history, that that's. You know, a lot of people want that, they want high potency, low price. But what we know is that if we really look at the consumer market and as we move along here we get more sophisticated, understanding how that's really segmented and sub segmented we see there's just a lot of different walks of life and interest and age groups and demographics, and so, well, it starts with knowing that, right. And we start with people who maybe High Dots TC product isn't the right product for their needs, right, maybe we need to focus on other minor cannabinoids, maybe we need to focus on unique formulations, and then we get into delivery methods and different product types, right, and so I think what we have here is, on the one hand of the, on one end of the market, we have just this, this huge diversity and spectrum of consumer types and use cases and needs and interests. And on the other end of the spectrum, the supply side, we're only supplying a sliver of that to meet that demand, and so what that results in is we have all these people who basically don't have their needs met. So, to your point, they're like how do we solve that? Well, we think it's platforms like buddhist, among other people in the ecosystem, that are really going to help drive this.

Claudio Miranda:

You know we mentioned the gondia program as an example, you know as an educational kind of institution, so to speak.

Claudio Miranda:

Right, they're giving birth to that next generation of cannabis enthusiasts for lack of a better word that are coming into the market with more knowledge, more understanding and more nuanced sense of OK, now how can I use my newfound knowledge to guide consumers and guide them to finding the right product for their needs?

Claudio Miranda:

So you know we were closely with them a lot of, and you know maybe just can speak a little bit more to this. But you know we have a team of critics and a good percentage of those critics are gone, and so what we're looking for is subject matter experts in a given product category, whether that's beverage or edible or flour or concentrates, people who really know that category can speak to a very specific consumer segment and that resonates with that consumer segment. And I think right now, if you look at the current kind of dynamic, it's almost like you have. Just, you know, the experts are the people that are making the recommendations, are typically people that are looking at flour concentrate, high potency, exotics, whatever it may be, and that's all wonderful, but again, it's not speaking to the diversity of the demand that's out there.

Ben Larson:

So that's what we're building is hoping to address that yeah, actually, just let's, let's double click on the on the Gange program just a little bit reminds me I haven't caught up with Max in a long time, so I need to get him on the show. Max, if you're listening, come on. Like, how many Ganges are there? Like, how extensive is the program?

Ben Larson:

I I've sat through the, the, the initial training program, like went there to the hill in person multiple days and, incredible, like I just got to meet like just these, like people that have been working with the plant for decades, you know, like touring farms that have existed for longer than they should have, and just it was so incredible and I remember getting to the end of the program. Be like, I have so much respect for everyone here to the point where I don't think I'm gonna come back because I'm just gonna let you live in this aura of cannabis amazingness and I will sing your praises, but I don't think I have what it takes to be become certified. But you guys have and and yeah, I would just love to hear like our, are these ganjays now spread out throughout the US, throughout the world, like you know, because it's yeah, what I want to get into is like how fragmented the cannabis industry is and, and, and the challenges or opportunities that creates for you guys.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Yeah, well, no, I mean I share a lot of your sentiment. Then, when I was going into the program, I mean it's funny because I was talking to max prior to signing up for it and I'm like max, I don't know if I'm, if I'm worthy of going through this program and being a certified Gauncey, a like I. I have so much respect for everything they built. So I shared a lot of that sentiment and Meanwhile I've been a ten-year daily cannabis consumer. But it's interesting because, despite like for having consumed as long as I have, I really wasn't paying attention to all of the nuances of the product and what the gauncey a program taught us. You know we started the program in March. Both Claudia and I went through it and it's a very intensive program where we were spending, I mean, every day we were going and you know there's like 50 hours of coursework that you're doing before you get to the point of going up To the campus and getting to do the live training and really learning how to assess a product. Because the crux of the program is this is about being trained in the art, science and the craft of Flower right and concentrates and learning how to properly assess these products. And it was modeled after the ones Mollier program and so going through the program, you know, every day we were assessing products and there's a whole community that's built where we were meeting up on zoom twice a week with anywhere from like 30 to upwards of 60 gauncees, that we were coming together and we were assessing the same cultivar and so that we could calibrate off each other. So once we had that knowledge from you know the coursework and then the understanding of how to assess the product Really, the important part of this is then being able to calibrate with people and say, huh, okay, well, what did you get from the aroma in this? You know, what are you getting from? How are you rating agent storage and just going through and calibrating off each other and Understanding how each other are kind of rating and looking at products.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

That, for me personally, really opened my eyes in terms of the nuance of Flower or concentrate, and it just entirely changed, changed my world. I mean, we put both Claudia and I just put so much effort into going through the program and it was incredible Because we not only were building buddhist like actually physically developing the product while going through the program, but then here we are just meeting so many other passionate people that are wanting to just quite frankly like nerd out and just like share our expertise, and and then we started to really Understand, like the true impact that both like the gauncee a program, as well as how buddhist could be that platform that Amplifies all these voices and really helps like create that culture kind of story, because otherwise we just when are we openly all kind of discussing and really celebrating the nuances of the plant? I just hadn't really seen that before. And so you know there's almost 300 certified gauncees worldwide and people are all spread out around the world. And so that was what was so incredible about going through the program and just meeting up with people on zoom is we're meeting people in Germany and Amsterdam and all around the country and just having an opportunity to learn from their regions, their appellations, their turwars and just their Perspectives. And so it just it blew my mind.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

I'm really really grateful for the program. I think they've done a really great job. You know, it's in its fourth cohort right now and I'm just excited to see like this we're starting to see a very diverse group of people go through it, and in our cohort, I mean, there were people of all different backgrounds, all different walks of life, all different professions, and I think everyone's waiting for this moment when we're gonna be able to take that gauncee certification and do a lot more, just like you would see in wine, where people then you know, you have small years that are working in specialty wine stores, they're working at restaurants. We're just at the start of that in our industry and it's these companies, like gauncee and like butters, so again are gonna be that catalyst to that kind of next evolution for for the consumer and for our industry.

Ben Larson:

Yeah, if, if I'm max Simon, I'm thrilled that you guys are creating this platform because it gives a home to all these gauncees that are being dispersed around the world and they can kind of like just coalesce, and yeah, it's, I love that. You know old operators in the industry like Creating complimentary platforms. It's, it's awesome. So you've mentioned wine. I'm actually a firm user of the vino. I you know Sorry if there's other like wine apps out there, but it's the one I've used, but yeah, it's. Again, it makes so much sense and that app has has Help me kind of track which wines I like. You know it could might start out just like, oh, like I'm just drinking reds, but then it's like, oh, you're, you're gravitating towards these regions or this, this level body. What kind of inspiration do you guys have From from that world, from from the wine world? And we're all sitting in California, you know Napa Valley is not too far away. I'm sure that also helps.

Claudio Miranda:

Yeah, well it's. It's interesting. You you ask that because you know wine in some ways is at the heart of our beginnings. Right, me personally, you know I've been a wine lover and collector for the better part of my life. I've traveled every major wine region of the world and it's been one of my primary passions, alongside cannabis.

Claudio Miranda:

And you know, you know, right before the pandemic, I had been introduced by a gentleman by the name of Antonio Gologna, who is known as the world's leading wine critic by by many, and he he Originally kind of started. Well, he has a very rich history, but one of his chapters was he worked at wine advocate with Robert Parker and, for those that are familiar with Robert Parker, he's one of the individuals who really ushered in the hundred point wine rating system and so through the wine advocate. And the reason I'm telling that story is because, well, there's a couple key things there, one that was a really kind of seminal moment in the history of wine, because what happens is that when you get wine critics and you get this 100 point wine rating system, it really started usher in premiumization for the wine industry. So we have this multi-decade kind of history within the wine industry of how that market matured and how consumers went from Scratching their head, like they do today in cannabis, of how do I navigate this Liquor store universe, as you mentioned, of all these products? But I don't know how to differentiate between a Cabernet and Merlot, let alone one that's five dollars versus a hundred dollars. Right, that's what the wine critic in part, and then some all yeas and and this, this group of thought leaders and subject matter experts, helped usher in this, this world where now consumers can lean on these experts and their recommendations to kind of navigate this landscape.

Claudio Miranda:

So I mentioned that because, you know, I met Antonio before the pandemic and and it was great for me just being a wine lover and collector and we said, look, it would be great if cannabis had a similar thing. Right, that we see this really Articulating in wine and with wine it just kind of goes on and on right in terms of, for those that ever been to a wine tasting room, just their, their educational approach, their methodology of how they train consumers to Understand. For those that have went for the first time, when they pour you a glass of wine, they teach you about the aromatics of the bouquet, the flavor. It all starts with those kind of key stepping stones of how consumers start to learn and develop their appreciation for wine. Well, the same thing is happening here with cannabis and so with Antonio, you know, we decided, okay, look, it'd be great. Like, let's start this for cannabis and we can lean on him and his expertise and the decades long kind of educational framework and connoisseurship framework developed in wine Translate that over to cannabis.

Claudio Miranda:

Now, obviously, there's a lot of differences between wine and cannabis, but in this case, we're really celebrating those similarities and we think we have a lot to learn there.

Claudio Miranda:

So part of what we're doing with you know, with buddhist, is it's not only just product ratings and reviews, but in the case of someone like Antonio and he has an application, that's a competition to be vino, which is delectable, which is a little bit more the connoisseur community that really goes on to an app like that to rate and review their favorite wines. Through this rich ecosystem, you get this community of people that are going through this process and this and this community experience that we're building with buddhist, where you get gone GAs, where you get subject matter experts, where you get critics that Can go in and assess cannabis using the 100-point rating system, looking at aromatics, flavor, appearance, potency, putting that kind of that nuanced approach to assessing products and Then capturing that in these reviews and in photography so that that's gonna help then consumers better understand why I'm choosing this product over that product and what's gonna be best for our needs. And so there's a lot of parallels with wine that we think we have a lot to learn from and that's what we're doing.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

And then yeah.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Well, I just want to elaborate on that because it's been really special.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Just, you know, as we've been assembling this team of people, right, like these are all if you go through the app and see kind Of who the buddhist are, they're assigned to a product category.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

So, again, like taking that page from wine, and these are people that are Friends and brothers and sisters in the industry who have already been out there being very vocal about their expertise and that their passion for a particular category.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

So in beverages, right, someone like Jamie Evans, like she's known as someone who's been so passionate, has wrote three books on cannabis beverages, and so just having her and also comes from the wine world as a certified sommelier, among other certifications that she holds, so someone like her, where she has that understanding and knows how to assess products in that way and sees that arc in Storytelling for the consumer, those are exactly the type of people that we were looking for that could really then help us go jumpstart this so that we could then Educate our consumers who want to come in and rate and review products. Yeah, and so it's just been really interesting seeing how that all developed in wine and we've just taken so many learnings and educating our critics, our buddhist, in building an editorial guideline in a framework that is really gonna set that foundation as we as an industry move along here.

Ben Larson:

I love this. Jamie's awesome. We work closely with her in the early days of launching her her canned infused wine seltzer or seltzer is the wrong word. Sorry, jamie, but man, I my brain is just lit on fire right now. Like I live like a stone's throw away from total wine, which has been in the news crazy lately for their, their supportive THC beverages, which we're all very excited about. But when it comes to wine, I don't buy a bottle of wine from Total Wine unless it has a credit card under it. That's how susceptible I am to good marketing, I guess. But now I'm imagining fast forward, going through a dispensary and I'm looking for something new, and I'm just going to look for something with a buttock on it. I'm assuming that's the vision 100%, exactly.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

It's funny because we're already having retailers hit us up asking for that because they're seeing that art.

Ben Larson:

Okay, you are.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Oh, yeah, yes, oh yeah, well, exactly to that point. It just makes it so much easier for the consumer to have some sense and some understanding of that product in a very simple, easy way. Now, of course, this is where then the connoisseurship gets really fun, because then you can start to understand, well, who actually gave that writing, who was the critic, what was the publication. Because then you go into any wine retailer whether it's a big box retailer to your specialty retailer and you're going to see the Venice rating, you're going to see the Robert Parker rating, you're going to see wine spectator ratings, and so that's where then we're going to start to see that develop out and all different kinds of critics with different opinions. So we're just at the forefront, we're just at the start of all of that happening, but that's exactly the long-term vision here.

Ben Larson:

I just thought, speaking of like people, like Jamie Evans, have you met Jake Wall? Jake Wall with Mason Bloom?

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Of course, yes. So we've got plenty of Mason Bloom reviews on the platform now. Jake is awesome.

Ben Larson:

He does this. I went to one of his tasting experiences that he did in partnership with Sonoma Hills Farm. Shout out to Joyce and Mike awesome team. But it was the most wine-like experience I'd ever had in an infused product, which is an interesting aspect. Sorry, this conversation has my ADHD on hyperdrive. Just like the challenge of rating products like cannabis, because like flowers is just one aspect. Then you have concentrates that's another aspect, but both of them are pretty pure and craft-like to the plant. But as soon as you get beyond that, then you're into these like multi-dimensional products where you're not only rating the cannabis experience but also just the formulated experience around it, like beverages and gummies and chocolates. And so I'm just like, I'm excited for you because that means like just ultimate, like infinite curiosity opportunities to build and build and build, but also just like hypercomplex. How are you thinking about ratings for infused products versus that of like the flowers and concentrates? Because it feels like a definitive line there.

Claudio Miranda:

Yeah, well, you know that's something that we're developing in real time on the Buddhist platform. We're really covering every major category on the cannabis shelf, which includes edibles and beverages and tinctures and topicals and things of that nature. You know, as mentioned, in the GANGA program, they really kind of focus on flower and concentrates and as those graduates kind of come out of that program and are looking for opportunities in the marketplace, we're onboarding a few of them. But now we're further articulating out how you apply that knowledge. And certainly we're also looking at other sources as well. You know, we're looking at cannabis cup judges, folks that have a history of judging at the Emerald Cup or High Times Cups, right, people who are well known connoisseurs and journalists. So we're onboarding folks who have that expertise in the given category and, in real time, really developing ways to now assess, use, these assessment frameworks and applying them to some of these categories. And, as we know, there's new form factors and dimensions of cannabis that are being birthed with every passing day, right. So it's a really interesting thing that we're working on. But absolutely like when it comes to beverage. So, for example, with flower, we have a framework for how we assess flower appearance, right, we look at tricome density, we look at the trim, we look at things of that nature, right, where, when it comes to beverage, you're not looking at tricome density, you're not looking at trim. But what are you looking for? Maybe you're looking at the clarity of the beverage, right, and you're the expert in this category, right, and we'd love to work with you, by the way, and maybe get some of your input on that.

Claudio Miranda:

But with our beverage critics like Jamie, who we mentioned, you know we're looking at other factors that, as you pour the beverage into the glass, you hold that glass up to the light. What is the methodology? You're there, right, like you want to make sure you had you can see clearly through it things that you would do with wine, like when you assess wine and you look at its appearance and you tilt the glass to try to assess its age. There are methods that we're using to be able to apply this framework to other categories, like beverages in this example, to be able to start to assess that. And then you go through the rest of the process where there are similarities, where you look at the, where you're assessing the aromatics, the flavor, there is the potency again.

Claudio Miranda:

So it's just really interesting for us that's part of what's really exciting here is that we're collectively all kind of in some ways breaking new ground. And, just to be clear, you know, cannabis connoisseurship has existed for a long time. We've been reviewing cannabis products for a long time. I think what's new and novel here is we're trying to really harness this and we're trying to consolidate it into a home like, into a place where we can collectively celebrate this level of connoisseurship and we're trying to bring these diverse voices where we're in, whereas today, previously, it's been a fairly fragmented market, now we're bringing all these different voices.

Claudio Miranda:

So, whether you're an Emerald Cup judge or whether you're a Gange, or whether you're an author, whatever your background is, we're looking for people that have a passion and enthusiasm for the cannabis plant.

Claudio Miranda:

They have some subject matter expertise and relationship with the plant that transcends the casual usage of it.

Claudio Miranda:

And really harnessing that and trying to align that with these different categories for the purpose that we previously stated, how can we channel that passion, that knowledge and that enthusiasm so that the end consumer can benefit from that?

Claudio Miranda:

And that's really what Buddist is is the platform that gets those experts, connects them with the brands, connects them then with the consumer who this is ultimately serving.

Claudio Miranda:

And just like with wine, right, as someone who goes into a restaurant and for those who have had the experience where you open up the wine book, that might have hundreds of different wine options, it's dizzying, right. But then along comes the sommelier and says how can I help you? Like, what are you eating today, what's on the menu, what can I pair, what is your price point? And starts to go through that deductive process of finding out what that consumer wants. That's the role of the Buddist on our platform. And not only does the consumer win there, but the brand wins, because now the brands have a champion, the brands have a conduit, they have someone there that is that expert that can help that consumer understand things about terroir and appellation and what is regenerative farming and why should you care about this farming approach versus that farming approach, this cannabinoid profile versus that cannabinoid profile or terpene profile. That's the magic of what we're building, and we're just getting started.

Ben Larson:

Oh man, you mentioned word fragmentation and that elicits a lot of thoughts and feelings for anyone working in the cannabis space. You can think about it from a market perspective. You can think about it as a product consistency perspective. How many times have we talked about Blue Dream in California is different than well, even if you buy it somewhere else in California but elsewhere in other states, then I start. I mean we could probably talk about that for hours.

Ben Larson:

I'm just going to skip over that and go to this new topic that is somewhat related. When we talk about the opportunity in hemp that is emerging and you are suddenly seeing products that are centrally manufactured and then distributed into multistates, creating product consistency. The ganjie that's in Ohio might be actually rating the same product that the same another ganjie in California is rating, which starts to feel more like a mature market. That's the benefits we get in alcohol and other similar industries. You guys can answer this question however you want, because there's the firmly rooted into the legacy market in California perspective. There's also just the Buddhist perspective. How are you feeling right now about the emergence of hemp, thc and just the convergence of these two markets? Yeah, it's a really interesting place and you're two of the people I trust most. I just want how are you feeling? Where are we at with this? Josh, you want to feel that, or you?

Claudio Miranda:

want to take that.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

I'll say this in terms of Buddhist perspective. Let me share that. First, we thought really deeply do we want to include hemp at this stage in this? Because right now we launched this just in California. It's all of our critics are California based, all of our brands and products are California based and these are legal products in the THC regulated market. We thought because obviously this would be incredibly helpful for consumers, in particular, when it comes to hemp beverages, but ultimately there's so much uncertainty and that's being a startup and waiting to see what happens with the farm bill.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

We're just making a strategic decision as a business to just be focused on this side of the market. As our business grows, of course, we want to service the whole plant and all the products that come within it, but it's very much step by step A lot of what's shaped my perspective on this. As you mentioned, I served on the board of directors for CCIA for the last two years. I term ended at the end of 2023. Listen, this was an issue that, even as within the board, within our members, our industry just has not yet been aligned on hemp versus cannabis, just seeing that evolve. We're just trying to be very cognizant of how we do this in the right way, claudia and I, in everything we do, we're really thoughtful people. Our whole strategy here is go very it's, go slow, it goes slow and build this really strategically and really thoughtfully. We wouldn't want to enter that market until we have a plan to do so and can be just as conscious as we are on the THC regulated side.

Claudio Miranda:

Just if I can add to that at the end of the day, it's cannabis. We have one plant and it has this plethora of products that come out of it. I think we all just need to. It's interesting because if you were wanting, 10 plus years ago, we all used to stand on the same side of the fence here of just legalizing cannabis. Legalizing this plant On the one hand, it's like lifting prohibition from the plant is the goal, folks, it's understandable that we're seeing some antagonism within the ideologies of how we look at hemp versus the regulated market. I think what gives birth to that is just the fact that, unfortunately, it's the government and it's the regulation that's creating this adversity, because you have people who are following the rules, who are paying taxes, who are getting licenses and having to go through a very arduous process of, here in California, becoming a licensed operator, and those that don't have those same rules applied to them. That's where you start to get an A. Why do I have to be subjected to these high barriers to entry and costs and you don't, and you get to deal with a relatively unregulated market? It just creates an unlevel playing field, and others can speak about that as it relates to the traditional market as well. We have these various playing fields and they're not level, but it's all one plant.

Claudio Miranda:

I think, again, the problem here it's driven by regulation and government and prohibition. That gets us all in this problem. That pits us all against one another. I think we need to find ways of really how can we reunite as an industry and find our commonalities and shared interest in championing the plan and moving it forward out of the dark ages and into the light and getting transcending the prohibition that has really been a yoke on all of us. I think we just always need to remember that. Let's go to our fundamentals. I think the other quick point I want to make is that's another reason why buttice needs to exist.

Claudio Miranda:

There's so much misinformation. Just to piggyback on some of the things that Jocelyn said, it's like for us we're very tentative and hesitant to go headfirst into the hemp market because if there's already all this confusion in the regulated market, where we have lots of rules to work in and we can have some framework to how we can engage with consumers, as we all know, you get into the hemp market and it's just boom. There's this explosion of just so much confusion. We've all seen if you've spent some time, let's say like on Instagram, for example, and people talk about THCA and then you see the comments of the misperception around what is THCA. You get wild theories as to what this elusive cannabinoid is, but it's the same thing that we all smoke every day. There's no difference between THCA this or THCA that.

Ben Larson:

It was like Delta 8 being called super CBD.

Claudio Miranda:

Exactly. That speaks to the problem that we're trying to solve. There is so much confusion, consumer confusion, around what is THCA, what is Delta 8? What is hemp? What is cannabis? What is regulated, what is unregulated. It's a mess. Part of our thesis is to create the framework in the community where we can lead with knowledge, passion and education to again we equate it to. We've been in the dark ages. Prohibition is created at dark ages. We're entering into the Renaissance. We need artists, we need philosophers, we need passionate thought leaders to drive the Renaissance of cannabis and in some ways, the artist is that. It is the home for these Renaissance people to be able to help us bring it into the light. That will eventually encompass hemp, but that's deep in the dark ages in some ways, in terms of all the consumer misperception and confusion that comes out of that market. It's a big problem that we all have to work hard and unison to solve. Mic drop.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

That was a good clotty episode.

Ben Larson:

All right. Well, I'm going to use this as a transition point. In about 10 minutes we're going to do the last call where you guys can do your final shout out, call to action, your pump up. I'm saying this now in case I forgot to say it previously. Before we get there, I do want to like break down the the fourth wall a little bit, and it's a fourth wall, third wall. I'm new to the biz. I Want to ask you guys you guys spend a lot of time together. How is it working together? And, if you don't mind me saying I think most people know this you guys are coupled and I'm always curious how is it to work with a significant other? Like how? How has this experience been for you guys over the last year?

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

I Know what we're having a blast like. I mean, both Claudia and I are very similar individuals to where we're just we're just grateful, happy to be here, kind of people, and so fortunately, that makes it a lot easier. But no, it's funny cuz. So Claudia and I actually met at a headset data night in August 2020, so a few months before the pandemic and Then, you know, I moved over to Oakland from San Francisco, we reconnected and we just we knew, I knew Instantly that we would work well together. We started teaching a course that starts a university when we were teaching a whole cannabis course and walking through all the various use cases of the plant and Front through that experience, we both realized like okay, like we're really good partners, we have very similar skillsets.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

We're opposite in a lot of ways and you know, the first couple months building the business yeah, I mean definitely like learning to communicate. When you're with each other all the time and just so passionate about something. That's a process of learning how to do that and I feel that we had a very short learning curve how to do that. But of course, you know, there were a couple months as we were building this and just figuring out how to communicate and each of our Skillsets, that you know there's moments of tension, but ultimately I think we're just, we're just happy to be here and so like, passionate about what we're building, and then we each have our skill sets, that we're contributing. That so far, so good and I'll just working really well.

Claudio Miranda:

Amazing. Yeah, one one thing, one thing that, jocelyn, I like to talk about is you know, we look at ourselves as a team, right. If, whether it's, you know, looking like at a basketball team like Kobe and Shaq, or or like a musical team like Paul McCartney and Lenin, right that when you work closely together, like you get kind of what I like to call kind of the swarm or hive kind of consciousness Right and, like great athletes that know how to work really well together, you can anticipate when they're gonna throw the ball, you can move to the side of the court when you know they're going to be. Like it's almost like you start to work on a subconscious level of Anticipating the moves and the thoughts. And I I think that's what's really uniquely special about, like Jocelyn, I are finding the more closely we work together, the more we're now getting it's transcendental. We're really starting to get into that Kobe Shaq relationship, that Lenin McCartney relationship, where we can, we can complete each other's Sentences, where we can anticipate the play right.

Claudio Miranda:

And I think, and I think just in general, we find in business and other forms of human life, whether it's a, whether it's a sports team, a musical team or a company, the teams that work really like that in hive consciousness and really know how to connect on that level create really great things. And that's why I think we're how kind of where we're trying to tap into that and with every Passing day we see how the hole is greater than the sum of its parts, like there's Jocelyn, there's Claudio, but that by getting into that hive consciousness there is this new emergent property that is driving buddhist and then, as we add more people to the cohort here, we're just trying to kind of get that transcendental state of how we move together as a swarm Toward this collective good that we're trying to build and there's, and so so there's an invitation for everybody who this message resonates with. We want to bring the community together, and that's just one last thing I'll say. They're about this fragmentation and about these differences. You know we need to come together as a community and that's part of what also buddhist is about.

Claudio Miranda:

Like, like we want to move Beyond. The conversation needs to elevate. We don't want to be stuck in this situation where people are hating on each other, they're suing each other, we're combating each other, hemp this or this or that. It's like it's time for us to go back to our roots, unite around our love of the plant and start to work together as a team. We're all on team cannabis, so let's start acting like that.

Ben Larson:

Yeah, it's funny in there. You know, throughout this journey with Fertoso, you know the executive team We've we've often referred to the term of like no look passes, and you're right when you're able to do that and you just toss something over your shoulder and you know there's not gonna be any feelings, it's gonna get picked up and done. That's like that's when you're really in that kind of that flow state.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

I love that and it well, and it manifests it's like truly everybody that, whether it's our buddhist meaning, our critics, whether it's our brand partners, it's just been this compound effect or, I think, because people can feel our passion and, as Claudia saying, like we're such a good team, who's kind of laying each other up, it's just transcended into all of the people that we're bringing into this and they're just magically finding their way. It's just all happening so organically, which I think is just what's so exciting and just a proof point to our community. Right you? This is a community of a lot of pioneers and really passionate of people. It's unlike anything I've experienced.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

I come from tech and working in mobile the year the iPhone launched, and so I've been a part of another industry that saw the birth of something that shifted our entire global society. Yeah, this is so unique that we're experiencing cannabis and for me, it's what's at my heart is it's the community, and I just am so. I'm just floored every day seeing the people that are just being tacked on to this and helping build this mission. It just truly feels like it's for the community, by the community, and that's why I'm fully confident that buddhist and just everyone that's a part of this is Going to be a part of this bigger shift into premiumization, this culture, connoisseurship that we're always talking about. It's our community, it's all of us as individuals just joining forces, and so we're like. That's why we're just super grateful for you bad, and everything you do, because you get that and Anna Ray, like you two, are doing the same thing and it's and I'm sure you know it's like a compound effect. It just amplifies from there. It's easy.

Ben Larson:

It is, it is, and I can feel the passion it's inspiring. It makes me just want to keep pushing. And this is leading me to my last question Do you, or how do you turn it off? Like you're at the center of a community, multiple businesses, you're together, like Do you turn it off? And and how do you like kind of like separate that? Because, like for me, you know like I, I could never no offense to my wife, but I could never imagine like working with her, and I know the feelings mutual and you know, there's a certain point in my day, whether it's the morning or dinner time, where I just have to turn the switch off, and then there's usually a period this which goes back on, and then I need to sleep and then. So it's like that, that toggling. But I'm curious, I just want a little peek into your world, does it? Yeah?

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

No, not right now, we're, but it's because we're in a thick of things, like we're full startup mode and and you got to ride the wave and the energy right. So for us it doesn't feel like work. We're working till 2 am Every night and then we're back up and we can, you know, work in come 9 am. Like it's just, it's, it's go, go, go. We, you know, we live on Lake Merritt and we walk the lake every day and we're talking about work and strategizing. It's our everything. This is like 24 7, but we just are going with the energy.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

It doesn't feel unhealthy in any way. We're both just very conscious individuals and you know it's like Claudio studied philosophy at Berkeley, so that will give you a good sense of just like. That's like we're approaching our whole life in that frame of mind. Right and same thing for me. I'm a very spiritual, conscious person. I know when I'm pushing my limit. Claudio knows when he's pushing his limit and we're just it's. We don't have that separation right now, because it's our whole life, like, it's our whole world, where we are doing so many different things in this industry, and it's it's just everything for us. So, no, there's, there's not really a balance right now, but that's by default and by by nature. It's just who we are as individuals.

Claudio Miranda:

When, when Jolson needs to stop on occasion, you know what she does she picks up her guitar and she and she plays music and She'll smoke some really nice flower and and I think that's her moment to kind of but that's, I think, a moment for her to kind of Regain her creative juices and her inspiration, just so she comes back to the conversation and back to this process that we're referring to With newfound creativity and energy. I love it, I love it All.

Ben Larson:

Right now. It is time for our last call, and this is a time for our guest to Speak their minds, leave you with something that they want to leave you with Cannabis or otherwise Called action. So, claudia, let's start with you. Jocelyn got the last word on the last one. I'm gonna let you go first. What's your, what's your last call?

Claudio Miranda:

Yeah, look, I think it's just echoing what you've heard me say thus far that I think here we have this moment. We're at a key inflection point in the history of cannabis where we're coming out of the lifestyle niche, as it were, of the industry. And if you look at the way that markets mature, they start with a Niche and they start to move into kind of mainstream adoption. I in my prior life was part of the organic product industry. I saw this one in the birth of the movement of organic products and natural, natural products, natural foods, and where that was something that we Crunchy hippies only eight, and then now everybody. It's available to everybody worldwide.

Claudio Miranda:

And so we are now at that point in that maturation curve where we need to cross the chasm, as it were, and start to make Cannabis and the magic of its plant accessible to the world of people who need to discover it. It is is the most incredible plan on the planet and I feel that that we need to get out of the protectionism and we need to get out of the niche so that new people Can be enlightened by its powers. And it's our job as pioneers, as thought leaders, as Product experts to help usher in that next stage and to be the Sherpas and the mentors and help guide the consumers who are coming in In a new and not to hit them over the head with our connoisseurship, but meet them, to meet them where they're at, understand their needs and interests and use our knowledge and our passion to guide them. And that's ultimately what bus is all about. Amen.

Ben Larson:

Love it.

Jocelyn Sheltraw:

Michael. The action building on that is Please like, download it, check it out. Read some of our critics reviews Like it's truly astounding, like the level of thought, detail, consideration people are putting into these reviews. And so the Michael action is participate like get you know, put yourself out there, share the products that you love, help us build this Like we are a community that's building this together and we invite you to come build this with us.

Ben Larson:

Amazing. I can't thank you guys enough for for joining me today. Unfortunately, anne Rae couldn't be here again. We missed you. Anne Rae, claudio, jocelyn, I love you guys. I wish you all the best. Anyway, I can't help, let me know. And yeah, oh, look at that the for anyone watching the video, there's some automated reactions that come up. I can take a zoom. All right, I'm gonna pull you guys off stage and wrap this show. What'd you guys think? I thought it was pretty good I did. All right, we're still here. Anne Rae, please come back. All right, as we read out, the dialogue doesn't have to stop here. Please keep the conversation going in the comments or online. We are gonna. This is a podcast, so like, subscribe, do all those things. I'm gonna get this down at some point someday, maybe after our rebrand, which is on the horizon. Until then, I'm gonna do it quick. Remember, folks, stay curious, stay informed and keep your spirits high until next time. That's the show.

Introducing Budist
Matching Cannabis Consumers With Products
Cannabis Critic Ratings and Reviews
Cannabis Product Ratings and Market Analysis
Navigating Cannabis and Hemp Industries
Teamwork and Community in Cannabis