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    • Hi All,

      First off, please forgive me if my formatting is lacking. This is my first time posting to Cake and I'm still learning the intricacies. My name's Mike, and I'm the marketing dude for Hollister Cannabis Co., which is a state licensed grower and manufacturer in San Benito County, California. We were actually the first in the county, and great strides are being made to help both medicinal and recreational users of cannabis products by us and other local companies. But, I'm not really here to promote anything, per se. I'm very new (green? Ha!) to the cannabis industry, having spent most of my career in the automotive aftermarket industry on the editorial side of things (photojournalist) and in automotive aftermarket marketing. How did I end up in the cannabis industry? Well, I randomly saw the job posted on Facebook, and it looked insteresting so I applied. I met with the CEO, we got along great, and here I am. Anyway, Cake seemed like a good place to kind of get what I've been feeling out of my brain and onto "paper." Also, I'm holding back on so many weed jokes/puns while writing this right now... They practically write themselves!

      I'm sure I'm in the majority when I say that I grew up in a household where marijuana use wasn't looked kindly upon. "Just Say No" included pot, and I still remember Mrs. Case, our local ex-detective/cop anti-drug educator, showing up at my elementary school with her tattered briefcase, which was packed with drug paraphernalia. She'd go through everything in her briefcase one-by-one like a militant Carrot Top, except instead of rubber chickens she had used crack pipes, God-knows-what in mangled wads of tin foil, and photos of junkies and their infected tracks. Oh yeah, she would also walk around with a lit up joint in a roach clip. She said it wasn't real marijuana, but some other plant that smelled like it. We had no choice but to take her word for it, but some of the kids took extra long sniffs as it went around the room. No one was surprised at who did. Troublemakers, all of them!

      Mrs. Case advised that if any of us smelled this stuff at home or on the street, to immediately call the police. As it turned out, I never did smell any weed other than the fake stuff Mrs. Case provided during my childhood. My dad was busy drinking and smoking cigarettes, and would eventually die due to a combination of liver disease and cancer. My mom also smoked cigarettes, although she kept it hidden and would never admit to it. I'm pretty sure she still smokes menthols, as her car and home reek of the stuff. So, that being said, I never did call the cops, since alcohol and tobacco weren't part of my anti-drug education. They did, however, make for a pretty unsettling childhood. Being stuck in a house full of tobacco smoke and that weird smell that emanates from an alcoholic person's pores isn't a pleasant experience for a kid. Oh, and if you don't know that smell I just mentioned, walk past a downtown bar at 11am some time. As you can imagine, I spent as much time away from home as possible, and I never really picked up smoking or drinking. Except for margaritas - I never turn down a margarita.

      Why am I mentioning all of this? Well, a lot of it just came out while typing, as my mind tends to wander. BUT, I find it interesting that I've had some very negative experiences with stuff that's very much legal. Well, they weren't legal at the ages my friends were consuming them, but they were available for whichever one of them happened to have a fake ID or was brave enough to approach the old guy who just pulled up at the liquor store to do them a solid. And at a time when Snoop Doggy Dogg (I'm being era-appropriate with his name, as that's what he called himself back then) and Dr. Dre made weed cool for young, impressionable minds, no one I knew was actually using the stuff, even at parties.

      Fast forward many years, and I'm in college. One of my roommates openly smoked weed in our apartment, and he'd bring friends over to smoke even more weed. Mind you, our elderly landlady lived next door. Eventually, one of his smoking buddies started squatting in our apartment and didn't leave for two months except to get more weed and snacks. Of course, he never had any spare cash to pitch in for rent. My first experiences with pot were not positive, to say the least. I ended up moving out, and now my ex-roommate is head of one of the design departments at a major toy company that makes some pretty hot wheels. See what I did there?

      Anyway, more years go by and I start hearing about the medicinal uses of cannabis. I still didn't give it too much thought, as it wasn't really part of my world at the time. But, at least one thing did change. I'd go to parties or even just to friends' homes, and it no longer seemed like a big deal when someone would light up. Everyone was happy, which made me happy. The people I knew who smoked weed were generally super nice people. However, I still didn't smoke. Well, that's not entirely true. If someone offered, I'd partake so as not to seem rude. Maybe it was peer pressure, maybe it was just sharing the joy. That being said, I never actually bought any for myself, as that was a boundary of legality I never felt comfortable overstepping. And, at the time, I could take it or leave it, so I never craved it enough to spend money on it. Hmm, weed wasn't ruining my life the way Mrs. Case said it would. Weird. I wonder what she's doing these days. I should give her an update.

      Okay, so let's move all the way up to 2018. I'm happily married (to my high school sweetheart, no less), I have two awesome kids (one of whom I'll actually write a related post about some day), I own a pretty decent two-story home in California, and I have this cool gig at Hollister Cannabis Co. Pretty sweet deal, actually. Among the not-so-awesome events of this year was the passing of a couple of my wife's relatives, including her uncle Tony and her grandmother. Both of these events are still very recent. Grandma passed away soon after a bad fall last month. Even with strong prescription painkillers administered every 90 minutes, she still cried in pain until her last day.

      Uncle Tony was a bit more "lucky," although unluckily for us he left us just before Halloween. It was only about four months ago that he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Shitty news for someone who was father to an adopted eight year-old girl (my goddaughter) and two grown daughters. He had been purposely dieting for a while to get to a healthy weight for an upcoming knee surgery, so everyone (including Tony) thought that he was doing really well with his impressive weight loss. This unfortunate coincidence hid the fact that his body was being attacked from the inside until it was too late to do anything about it. He only went to see a doctor after a persistant backache, which is how the cancer was initially found.

      Tony was given less than six months to live upon his diagnosis, but he only stayed with us about another six weeks. During that time, the aches and pains got very intense - so much so that he wanted to end it immediately. He talked about killing himself so that he wouldn't be in so much pain anymore. A family friend, a police officer, came over one afternoon during one of Tony's naps to secure his guns in her own gun safe at her home. None of us wanted him to suffer anymore either, but with his increasingly slurred and non-sensical speech, we couldn't trust him to have access to his guns, especially with his daughter in the house. To get his mind off the pain, his fiancé took him and his daughter for one last trip to Disneyland. They were supposed to go for three days, but after one day they were afraid he might not make it a second day, so they came back home.

      Tony's skin yellowed as his liver began to fail him, and the pain got worse. And as stoic as I've probably made him seem until this point, he was scared. I would be, too, and I hope to never experience the sort of emotional and physical pain that he had to endure. About three weeks before his passing, someone got him some CBD in a tincture. The pain subsided quickly, and he was able to speak again for brief periods of time. He looked calm, even as the rest of his body grew weaker. He even snuck in a couple of joints to relive his youth. His fiancé and family continued to give him the tincture, and he was able to rest without pain instead of with a tightly clenched jaw, as he had been doing before. He died peacefully on October 1st, surrounded by his family in his living room, at age 58. Go Giants! I'm a Dodgers fan, so that was strictly for Tony's ears.

      Exactly one month later, I interviewed with HCC's CEO at a local coffee shop. I was very honest that I had very little experience with cannabis, but was eager to learn. It didn't hurt that I had a ton of marketing experience, but even then I expressed that I knew that I might not be the best candidate for the position. I had seen how cannabis had helped Tony, and I was curious about the industry and where it was headed, but other than that I was pretty clueless. Somehow that was enough, and I'm thankful to be here.

      I really hope our society (and our nation's lawmakers) can move past the stigma associated with cannabis, and will look objectively at its medical (and recreational) merits, and I look forward to contributing to that change in perception.

      I'd love to hear other people's personal experiences, experiences in the industry, and how common perception (especially on social media, such as as Facebook and Instagram, where cannabis content isn't really allowed) has affected your own views of cannabis. -Mike

      Pictured below is some delicious avocado toast and a hot chocolate I had the other day.

    • Thanks, Chris! Yeah, it's definitely been tough. One positive is that we get to spend a lot more time with our goddaughter now.

      I just read about the deal with Altria, and I have to say it sounds exciting, but I'm wondering where that might lead legislation down the road with the company being so closely associated with tobacco. That being said, it makes sense to me. The thing I'm most worried about is it ending up out of the reach of people who need it the most through excessive taxation and roadblocking through the medical industry. With the recreational laws in place in California, it's easier for people to get without a prescription, which is nice since that eliminates that hurdle. There will always be "alternative" methods of attaining it so long as there is a significant enough cost disparity between legal and illegal weed, so I'm hoping the industry can work through these growing pains and wind up in a place that's beneficial to all.

    • Wow. Well, I guess it makes sense with vaping growing so quickly and replacing the cigarette. To be honest, I thought vaping was super weird a few years ago when I first saw it. One of our company's brands is cannabis vape stuff, so I now see firsthand how popular it is and how, aside from the hipster factor, it's actually (generally) much less annoying to be around. From 10 feet away no one knows what you're inhaling, and by the time they walk up to you the smell is completely gone. I should give my mom a vape pen so that her house will stop smelling like an ashtray. haha