Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday, I look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That’s C-A-N-N-A insider.com. Now, here’s your program.
Today, we’re going to talk with Cameron Keluche, about the biotech advances in cannabis. Three things you’ll learn in this interview is one, why vaping as it stands today may be replaced by a better biotech solution. Two, why it pays to play the long game when conceiving your cannabis company. And three, how intellectual properties becoming a larger part of many cannabis related businesses. I hope you enjoy this interview.
Incredible biotech developments are happening in cannabis that promise to bring new and exciting products to market that would have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago. Here to tell us about it is Cameron Keluche of KelSie Biotech, and Sum Microdose. Cameron, welcome to Canna Insider.
Cameron: Thank you, Matthew. Thank you for having me this morning.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Cameron: I’m in Denver, Colorado and about to head up to our labs in Boulder.
Matthew: Okay. And tell us a bit about KelSie. What is KelSie at a high level?
Cameron: So KelSie Biotech is actually an innovation and IP holding company that is not plant touching. We effectively continue to progress on a lot of work that was preceded essentially the creation of KelSie and different pharmaceutical arenas and have decided to apply that technology in a licensing model in the cannabis arena.
Matthew: Okay. Can you share a little bit about your background and journey and how you came to get involved in the cannabis space and specifically in KelSie Biotech?
Cameron: Absolutely. So I have my undergraduate from the University of Denver here in Denver, Colorado, in cognitive neuroscience, and I specifically focused on psychopharmacology. So that’s basically the interface of let’s say drugs and the underlaying biological components of the brain. So I kind of always had an interest essentially in this side of things, but then shortly thereafter, I was whisked away to North Dakota during the oil buck and boom, assisted one of the Native American tribes up there with building a management information system to help monitor the production of oil. So tracking on highly-priced, highly-regulated commodity.
So when the downturn essentially occurred up there with the oil market, we decided to try and bring that platform back here to Colorado and exchange, let’s say barrels of oil for essentially pounds of marijuana. The award had already been given to Friendwell for metric. So we kind of decided to pivot at that point in time to really do at data analytics on the back end, and kind of trying to work with them as to help with a lot of, let’s say, machine learning in that capacity. So I kind of have a software background in that facet, and then slowly, actually was introduced to Dr. Robert Sievers, who is on faculty at university Colorado Boulder who was doing some research on just the industrial hemp side.
Since we are in Colorado, he was able to do some hands on research there, but was also interested in looking at hands off components. And the remainder of the cannabis plant almost in a longitudinal study fashion. So we started trying to look at how could we could actually empower, help them with tools so they could get a little bit better data analytics on what they were actually observing from different people that were trying to participate as they could not actually prescribe, or in fact, essentially dictate any sort of usage regiment. And then through that, and through discussions with Dr. Sievers learned of essentially a technology that he had developed previously that we thought would be a great addition to the cannabis industry, really got into some discussions decided to team up with him and his daughter, Christy Spencer Sievers, who is the vice president of KelSie Biotech, and that’s actually where KelSie was kind of conceived. So KelSie is K-E-L, the last person three letters of my last name is S-I-E. So KelSie, so Keluche Sievers, is how that came into existence, and we really kind of almost merged two kind of entities into a new one, to specifically address this new exciting field of cannabis research.
Matthew: Okay. So you initially were funded or had some funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a dry measles vaccine. Can you talk a little bit about that, and where do you see possible applications there for cannabis as well?
Cameron: Absolutely. So as I kind of mentioned, Dr. Sievers had some pre-existing technology, which was, as you just mentioned, it was a $20 million five-year-grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that was through FNIH, so Foundations for National Institute of Health. And they did everything from preclinical all through clinical trials actually in India, 60, I believe, adult male participants for safety and everything like that plus pass with flying colors, no adverse reactions. But what we decided to do is very similar to the vaccine, so I just want to be…sorry, just to clarify real quick, so that grant was actually given to Dr. Sievers prior to the formation of KelSie and then that was kind of the genesis for the IP that we’ve carried forward and continue to innovate upon.
And so in that same facet, the interesting thing, when you actually look at taking, let’s say something like a vaccination, we have to have a live attenuated vaccine, you have a very delicate what’s called an API, so Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient. It’s very similar to that in cannabis, where you don’t wanna have high temperatures to essentially degrade or change that form factor. So what we effectively did was we both have patents pending, patents that have been issued and a number of different gimmicks, an IP, R&D innovation component surrounding to protect that technology and actually the delivery of cannabinoids and let’s say the formation of cannabinoids through that process.
Matthew: Okay, so let’s just break this down a little bit. So the measles vaccine is kind of like a dry powder that you could inhale, that’s easier in third world countries where there may be refrigeration challenges and other challenges and it’s more stable. And now, you’re looking at ways where you can transfer that kind of inhalant powder and other form factors into the cannabis world. Is that right?
Cameron: That is absolutely correct. Yeah. So as far as stabilizing anything, it’s actually much more stable essentially in a dry component and so you’re absolutely correct. So what we really were looking at doing is taking cannabis just as another active pharmaceutical ingredient and cannabinoids, sorry, actually breaking out of its core constituents and then rebuilding and then actually stabilizing those is really where we started our let’s say cannabis journey.
Matthew: Okay. And one of the words I hear thrown around a little bit is excipients. Can you just tell us what that is before we go forward in case you use that word so much so people know what it means.
Cameron: Absolutely because without fail well, so it’s actually it’s an inactive substance that’s actually either like a services like either let’s say a vehicle bulking agent, medium of some kind, to actually help with the transport and delivery of the active. So think of it as kind of the inactive components of what you’re actually taking in. For instance, like let’s say with Advil, it’s not all Advil, there’s a lot of different things in there that actually helping get that actually into your system.
Matthew: Okay. And talk about how particle can be small enough to bypass the lungs coughing reflex and why that’s important in terms of cannabis delivery.
Cameron: Absolutely. So it’s kind of like threading a needle when you’re trying to do deep lung inhalation. That’s usually about a three to five micron range. So I mean, everybody’s always heard it, but it’s a nanoencapsulation, nanoparticles especially it’s been a big buzzword in the cannabis industry recently, which is actually not ideal for deep lung delivery just because they are too small and they seem to a glom rate and don’t actually get delivered to the target site. So one of the things that we’re able to do very specifically is actually formulate and essentially processed through our proprietary equipment, different targeted ranges, be it at the nano level through different micron ranges, specifically with response to cannabinoids, keeping them the three to five micron range and having certain, and here’s another term for you, particle morphology.
So that’s basically the aerodynamics of the particle to be able to actually get into the lung to help…the body actually is pulling that in rather than combating because as effectively as you know what to do, let’s say, the lungs are not designed to absorb oil. So we try and use again, excipients that the body is more welcoming to then an oil constituent to actually pull in the cannabinoids rather than having some sort of like a combative element on the lung surface.
Matthew: Interesting. And it really is a lot of potential because everybody thinks to the gag reflex, but if it’s so small that there is no kind of gag reflex when you’re inhaling then it really opens up a lot of different windows here. I mean, I’m even thinking like you could spray
Vitamin D for people that can’t seem to get it any other way, or they could get it to their body perhaps that way or there’s tons of different ideas that come to mind when you think about being able to get a desired outcome through inhaling.
Cameron: There absolutely is. And that’s one thing that we continue to, again, from KelSie Biotech standpoint, we continue to get different RPs either from the Department of Defense, different various things to look at a different delivery mechanisms for other actives. But we’ve really decided to kind of keep our heads down focused on cannabis during this window. But again, you’re absolutely right, the technology is very broad and applicable in multiple different fields abuse.
Matthew: So we talked a little bit why inhalants are superior, they’re more stable, they don’t need refrigeration. Is there any other ways you consider them superior to other adult delivery mechanisms?
Cameron: Yeah, absolutely. Well, the interesting thing is actually, so just real quick, just because I use the term bubble drying is kind of what we call our specific technology. We’re actually able to take so for instance, let’s say we’re trying to administer CBD to the lungs, and you were to grind it up really, really fine and say, Oh, I have a great fine white powder that looks very similar to KelSie’s, you still as CBD being a crystalline structure, you’ve now just created smaller crystals. So through our process, which again, obviously, you don’t really want to inhale a bunch of crystals into your lungs. So through our process, what we actually do is gain through the excipients, formulation, everything of that nature, we’re actually able to take CBD without changing its chemical structures and actually make renderer at a more surface so that it is no longer a crystal and so it’s actually more welcoming and less damaging to some of these delivery surfaces.
So like I said, there’s other kind of…people say the devil’s in the details, it’s really I’d say the magic is in the details with a lot of the stuff that we’re kind of actually trying to explore with because, you know, with the broad let’s say ranging effects either be subjective or empirical that have come to light around the cannabis use in different kind of capacities. Be it through, you know, tinctures vaping anything of that nature, we’re really just trying to keep our minds very open and trying to make sure that we have flexible, applicable technology to try and assist in trying to maybe take these to a more pharmaceuticals knock on wood level when that actually becomes a more, more efficacious way to deliver.
Matthew: Okay. And so, I mean, people are really into vaping. Like it’s really been a product market fit and taken off in a massive way. What’s kind of the pathway where people would start to transition to more like inhalants that are less damaging in your view? What’s kind of the first step in doing that?
Cameron: Right, right. And so it’s really got to kind of be more towards a tailored formulation model. We’re not trying to replace vaping or anything like that, because of course, people will always, you know, have their, let’s say, strain or essentially formulation that they like on that side, that’s more of just a, let’s say it’s more of a recreational kind of component, even if it is being used for medical use. Really what we’re focusing as essentially as tailored specific formulations for delivery. Again, with the bubble drying technology, we’re able to keep the acidic form. So THCAs, we actually can still introduce that because generally with combustion, obviously that’s the reason you’re actually combusting the substance is you want it to turn to the THC to get that kind of psychotropic or let’s, before we a feeling that’s associated.
But we’re actually able to keep a lot of those acidic forms in there as well as not degrade through formulation. So we’re able to kind of go back and build from scratch tailored formulations as it becomes more pharmaceutical. So sorry to circle back to answer your question. It’s really going to be as we see more evidence coming forth for different specific, let’s say formulations for specific conditions, or ailments, or anything like that, that’s really where we’re kind of staying waiting in the wings to really watch that landscape and figure out how we can actually apply it been even third party formulations through our delivery technology and kind of really partner in that capacity. We’re not trying to invent the wheel on the formulation front to try and beat the large pharmaceutical race. We’re really more of a delivery platform more so than anything else.
Matthew: Okay, so that’s kind of the PCC in the value chain for KelSie. You’re taking pharmaceutical ingredients, but also techniques with ingredients, you’re stabilizing them, making them more bioavailable, and kind of helping other companies and consumers get kind of the benefit that pharmaceutical customers get in the cannabis space.
Cameron: Correct. Yep, that is the ultimate goal. Again, right now, we’re obviously very careful to make sure we’re not making any claims or anything of that nature, but are trying to make sure that we’re staying true to our kind of core values, for instance, everything that we use, I’ll get on that excipients list on the FDAs, you know, grass list which is generally recognized as safe we are still trying to essentially stay as close to our core roots really in that science foundation, while participating in this very exciting new market.
Matthew: Is dosing more precise with inhalants versus liquids? And if so why and how?
Cameron: It generally is. So this has nothing with respect to specifically to cannabinoids, but the surface of your lungs about the size of I believe half of a tennis court. So as far as what actually is, you know, it’s exposed to the outside world that is by far the largest surface. When you’re able to actually deliver something to the deep lung, it has a very close absorption rate to almost intravenous application. So IV injection, so we’ll put it this way, as like if you know let’s say the doses that you’re administering at know what the uptake is you’re able to actually use a substantially less dose and still get the same blood quantum or the same quantity into the blood. But you’re also able to like narrow that window of essentially variability that you may have with tinctures that obviously go through the digestive tract, everything like that and then it goes through called first pass degradation. So they go through the liver, and you’re not only getting like a metabolite of the cannabinoid, another cannabinoid itself into your system. So there’s a lot of variability that essentially guesswork that’s kind of taken out by able to get that direct administration into the bloodstream.
Matthew: Okay, that makes sense. Now, let’s turn to what you’re doing with SUM. Can you give us a high level overview of what that is and why you started it?
Cameron: Absolutely. So SUM actually is an acronym for superior uptake microdose. So again, as I was just kind of mentioning, being able to actually deliver a less quantity but still get some, let’s say, the benefits of it. What we specifically did as we actually have the patents around taking our same bubble dried technology that we would normally use for the inhalants and then putting that into a compressed sublingual wafer. So really what we’ve done there is we’ve taken, let’s say, the benefits of the lung delivery but taken out the guesswork and everything and let’s add the complexity of educating somebody on actually dry powder inhalation.
So the SUM product line effectively is a bunch of microdose tablets so rather than let’s say putting 10 in a pack, we put 40 in a pack you still have like for the majority of our products you still get you know hundred let’s say milligrams of THC per, so it is a THC containing product so it’s just available currently here in Colorado, but we’re quickly expanding our footprint. With the SUM specifically, what we’ve done is instead of the excipients being designed to help targeted at helping the lungs absorb, we’ve actually helped them with mukul adhesion. So when it’s under the tongue, it actually helps hold the cannabinoids in place so that you can actually absorb them through that rich capillary bed that’s under your tongue to also essentially get that into your bloodstream before it goes through any sort of first pass degradation through this, you know, stomach, liver, everything of that nature.
Matthew: Okay, that makes sense. And you have different versions of SUM like focus, calm, sleep, how do you make a specific mood or motion like this, how does that work?
Cameron: That’s a great question. So what we actually did is went back and reviewed a large body of research to kind of try and look at what the balance are both let’s say just the physiological response of low doses of THC, low doses of CBD. And then we actually went in and did some very fairly large sample audiences before we landed on these formulations as you know, we can’t make any structure function claims or anything or essentially any claims really of that matter about these, but it’s kind of guiding at least the let’s say the even that the novice into trying to identify which of these modes that they would actually kind of aligned with better for their for their use. Really what we decided to go with was almost attacking the market if you will, from very good say almost needs based and then formulating for those need base for the initial four skews, the one that we don’t I think have on here is energy instead of sleep. So sleep is out actually been brought to market yet it will be CB in containing, it will be out here fairly shortly. We’re still doing final formulation on that. But with the first four, so that would be was that energy, focus, calm, and relief, we’re really targeting different kind of user group experiences that people were actually striving for and then formulated for those. It was almost a reverse engineering and then we went back and looked at the literature to help support the final formulation.
Matthew: Now, what’s going on in the KelSie office? Are people experimenting with these for firsthand use?
Cameron: Not in the office. But yeah, so we actually do have some focus groups and everything like that, that our CRO, then actually conducts, that we actually go back and redo reformulation, looking at number of different age groups, again, demographics, everything like that. He also has a degree in cognitive neuroscience, split the differences in statistics. So we actually are able to throw some pretty sophisticated statistical models that are looking at how we break down a lot of these different elements and then also use that information to kind of garner what our next ground of essentially, let’s say improvements on our existing formulations as well as new product development. So he kind of steers that ship.
Matthew: Okay. And to talk about water solubility a little bit, I mean, that seems to be a big market if we can figure that out and how it works and how to develop products there with cannabinoids. Can you talk about that a little bit with SUMs?
Cameron: Absolutely. So water solubility is also a tricky thing that I think the term keeps getting misused quite regularly in the cannabis industry is everybody says they have a water soluble as they’re near water soluble, but to date, we’ve not found a true water soluble element just because you have…just because cannabinoids in general are so what’s called lipophilics, they wanna stay on oil solution, but that makes them hydrophobic, so they’re scared of water effectively. A lot of people using emulsifiers and different things to keep them in suspension, or even in a true solution. But the water soluble thing is gonna be an interesting thing to try and crack.
The way that we’ve try to essentially address that with respect to the SUM product line is, again, through the excipients keep the cannabinoids spread out so that they don’t clump together because they do like to clump back together. Keep them spread out, but then also I said like adhere them to the membrane so they actually have enough time to actually cross the barrier into the bloodstream. So we do everything we can from essentially a particle size and morphology, we then couple that again with the formulation from the excipients side to make sure that we’re able to optimize the delivery for whatever the target site is. And in the case of SUM, that would be sublingual with the inhalants eventually that obviously the lungs which different formulations, but the principle is effectively the same is to use the lowest amount and get the highest yield enter the bloodstream.
Matthew: Okay. And tell us a little bit about KelSie and SUM. Where are you in the fundraising process?
Cameron: So SUM is a registered or is the trademarking process right now. It’s wholly owned by KelSie Biotech. So it’s very important for us to be able to with the, let’s say, unique nature of microdosing and the unique nature of what we’re really bringing to it to be able to control the messaging and the educational component. So what we elected to do at KelSie as part of kind of our licensing model was to also develop a product line that was a full kind of turnkey solution where we would actually supply the marketing material and the educational component be it for the bar tender, the purchasing manager everything all the way through. So we’re able to keep that kind of cohesive experience if a consumer was to purchase here, you know, purchase here legally in Colorado and then one of our licenses, let’s say in California, we’re able to go purchase there and it’s the exact same product. So we’ve done a lot from essentially a homogenization standpoint to make sure that those products would be identical.
Now, with respect to essentially where we are in the fundraising process is into KelSie Biotech right now, we are actually anticipating closing our series A round by the end of the month. We have some very strong players in the industry that have kind of stepped forward that we’re working with that I unfortunately can’t name right now. But that is we’re effectively closing that series A round here, you know, hopefully in the next week or so.
Matthew: Okay. Well, you’ve got a lot of interesting stuff going on here, Cameron. This is really at the front edge of biotech pharmaceutical and cannabis, what kind of gets you most excited about this space?
Cameron: I think really the exactly what you just mentioned is one thing that we’re definitely turning our majority of actually of our attention to now that we’ve kind of cleaned up and strengthened our patent suite is really exploring minor cannabinoids. So really starting to look at minor cannabinoids in different quantities that, you know, everybody’s kind of heard about the, you know, they’ve been kind of let’s say, you know, whispered about in different various threads be it from [inaudible [00:22:48], what have you, but really to actually get that down to as much of an empirical bottle as we can with addressing those and see how they actually interact with the other cannabinoids and other quantities.
So it’s really going to be a true science push kind of on our side to make sure that we have a, again, a good strong library of information to draw from because we kind of, as you mentioned, really at the forefront, we’ve gotten about as far as, let’s say, other peer reviewed articles, be it from Israel, Europe, you know, because they’ve been leading the charge there. We’ve kind of gotten to the edge of what we’re able to glean from others, and so now we’ve really decided to internalize and really attack this miners market and minor cannabinoids. You know, more and more internally, they’re relying on external, either validation or advocacy from other people’s peer reviewed work.
Matthew: Okay. Cameron, I’d like to ask a few personal development questions to help the audience kind of get a better sense of who you are as a person, perhaps outside of work. Is there a book that’s had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you’d like to share?
Cameron: It’s actually super interesting you should ask that. Oddly enough, as I was like growing up I was actually diagnosed with a learning disability. That kind of actually related very strongly to reading. So I actually really, let’s say you kind of faked my way through a lot of school where there’s a lot of, let’s say, reading elements and would really kind of in through that kind of developed other compensatory mecha…or so effectively other ways to work around it either through listening very intently, everything like that. So it’s actually kind of it was interesting. So I have a very good short term memory, which I can directly probably a credit to that. But as far as I would say, a definite book, I would say that would actually is very difficult, again, because like I said, it was just really more actually an amalgamation. Being Native American, I was always having an oral culture. I was always around a large…through my father and through essentially a lot of our family connections. It was really more, again, almost like it’s like a fable and oral storytelling element that kind of, I’d say really had the largest impact on my life. So it was kind of I guess, antiquated in that sense, but was I think gave me an interesting lens, an interesting tool set to kind of approach the world with.
Matthew: Okay, any other interesting kind of contrast from Native American life to, you know, non-native American life that you’d like to share?
Cameron: It’s really been that holistic healing element, I would have to say that. So again, just kind of some background. So my mother actually has her PhD in mythology in depth psychology. So we also have it from that side. She’s not native, but definitely has done mountains of work effectively in that arena. And so it was kind of an interesting, I’d say, dichotomy being able to run around in this kind of, it’s Anglo society where it’s very Western medicine, growing again, with the cognitive neuroscience, looking at brain biology, looking at interactions of specific chemicals, but then also having that kind of holistic healing element here from my youth or from, you know, just family interactions. So I think it’s really helped when cannabis essentially came up, that was one of the things that we were most excited about because it really does have this whole holistic element to it, they’re able to explore in this pharmaceutical lens or either vice versa, however you actually want to really think about that. But there is I think this is the first time in the United States, or either in western medicine in recent history that we’ve seen some sort of a marriage of a true holistic, you know, let’s say, plants derived compounds that were actually shown to be efficacious or showing to have great effect in true Western medicine.
Matthew: Is there a tool you or your team use that you consider vital to your productivity?
Cameron: Absolutely. So come again, coming from the kind of software background model, we haven’t reimposed it yet, we tried to start out with it, but there’s a tool actually, that Atlassian puts out called JIRA. And so it actually is the best thing that you can use, in my opinion, for like an agile model background. So what we really do is we kind of divide the team into functional work groups so that you have, you know, people with different strengths and each group which really actually helps decentralize a lot of what we do, but also gives each group ownership of a task like from inception all the way through to completion. Which is great for a number of different reasons, actually. You know, again, let’s say great pride of authorship because someone can really take it, you know, that’s been their baby, literally from when it was, again, conceived all the way through to when it’s actually brought to market or brought to bear under different capacity.
But it also gives us the flexibility with us, like I said, a new study comes out of Israel for let’s say, Crohn’s disease or something like that, we’re able to take one of our teams and in an agile fashion, essentially allocate them to go explore, run that to ground, see what the core elements there are and how we can actually use those internally. So it’s been an interesting, I’d say it’s more of a function structure. But again, it does fall within essentially that SAS model that you would kind of see you in some sort of a software shop and in an agile environment.
Matthew: Okay, and what is one thought that you have that most people would disagree with you on?
Cameron: So that is actually a super interesting question. I’d be kind of pondering over that one. With respect to, I’d say, my vision for a lot of these different various things is, I think everybody right now is kind of off to a, it’s a foot race right now trying to see how far they can get and actually playing a short game, I think in the cannabis industry specifically. Whereas we are really taking the approach of let’s build up as large of a, let’s say, kind of war chest and everything that of information, why we do have this kind of, let’s say, gray period, where we’re able to do some, let’s say some things that would not be permissible in traditional pharmaceutical arenas, but it will actually help guide us directly. So my plan is essentially to get to an end goal during this before we actually reach a nationalization of legalization nationally program. It is to really address and trying to build up as much knowledge as we can during this time so that we can correctly address and be more informed when that day comes. And so actually, a lot of people are in this I think. That’s probably the number one thing that I actually have some major, I say, conflict or ideological differences with people on.
Matthew: Okay. And Cameron, as we close, what’s the best way for accredited investors and interested customers to find out more about what you’re doing?
Cameron: So we have two separate websites and again, depends on kind of what space you’re looking at kind of participating. And so the KelSie Biotech website is kel-sie.com. And so that’s, again, our non-plant touching entity, the obviously very small view of any mentions of cannabis on there, but that’s actually a real…that’s the technology side of things. And then summicrodose.com is the website actually for the product side of things that people are interested in and they’re saying, the licensing side, that would probably be the correct thing would be to contact us on the MicroDose. If people are interested in more, let’s say technological either investments or some sort of partnership to try and look at things in a more pharmaceutical light, that KelSie website would be the best contact point.
Matthew: Great. Well, Cameron, best of luck to you, you really in an exciting area here and please keep us updated. Come back and come on the show and tell us these things evolve, and there’s big breakthroughs and how the products are doing.
Cameron: I’d love that opportunity, and yep, we’ll definitely keep you apprised. And hopefully, a couple articles that came out in Forbes over the past months, we are continuing to gain some sort of national recognition here and so we’ll definitely keep plowing forward. Thank you for this opportunity, Matt.
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