Periodic Effects: When Candies Go Pod
Our guest Wayne Schwind runs both the Oregon cannabis brand Periodic Edibles and the acclaimed Periodic Effects podcast. In a swap, Alex and Donny will appear on Thursday’s edition of that podcast. Here Schwind explains how he went from Northern Michigan chemistry student to Portland edibles entrepreneurs with a neat media tool.
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This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Alex Halperin (00:06):
Welcome to WeedWeek. I’m Alex Halperin.
Donnell Alexander (00:08):
And I’m Donnell Alexander. This is the WeedWeek podcast, and you can subscribe to our free newsletters WeedWeek, WeedWeek Canada, and WeedWeek California at weedweek.net. And you can find us on Twitter and Instagram @weedweeknews. If you’ve got any feedback, you can write to us. We are email@example.com.
Alex Halperin (00:25):
This week, we do something fun. We’ve got an interview with Wayne Schwind from Periodic Effects, which is a cannabis podcast that along with us was listed as one of the top 8 cannabis podcasts according to Forbes.
Donnell Alexander (00:40):
You know, we were on a few lists last year. We were in like three lists.
Alex Halperin (00:44):
Yeah, this was one of those lists.
Donnell Alexander (00:45):
And I like being on with him because I like his podcasts. I like a lot of the podcasts on the list, science doesn’t ordinarily naturally grab me, but there’s something about this one. We talked to him about why it’s good.
Alex Halperin (00:57):
He’s a good guy. His podcast comes from a very different place than ours. He started in an edibles company called Periodic Edibles, which looks really good. He started the podcast as a vehicle for that, and it’s turned into a really interesting conversation. So, you should definitely check out his podcast. And what we did is Donny and I get interviewed on an upcoming episode of his podcast.
Donnell Alexander (01:22):
You can check our Twitter feed at WeedWeek news or the Facebook page, and you’ll know when that one’s coming. But I want to talk about journalism. When we were dealing with the vape crisis in the fall, I started noticing that there was a lot less cannabis news coming from within the cannabis community. And I do the newsletter every week and I’m scouring the internet for the most interesting stories in California. And I find that I’m going more to places like Capital Public Radio and the local news affiliates. In addition to the times in the San Francisco Chronicle, why is journalism changing or is journalism changing in the cannabis sphere?
Alex Halperin (02:00):
So, all we hear about in cannabis right now, especially in California, is how bad the market is. So, there were probably some places that wanted to invest in journalism and probably have invested somewhat in journalism but haven’t necessarily seen it turn a profit. And that happens a lot with journalism. And so, it becomes sort of the first thing to go, I think for organizations. And I mean, you can, an example is Leafly just weighed off about 18% of their staff. And I don’t know how directly it affected their editorial stuff. According to his Twitter bio Bruce Barcott, who’s been one of the main editors, they’re still there. So that’s good. But you know, when something isn’t a priority and you’re losing money, then that’s what, that’s what gets cut. And I think that’s probably some of what’s happening with cannabis journalism.
Donnell Alexander (02:58):
You know, we were talking about the relationships between… Hey, I think this was part of our podcast that you might want to check on the Periodic Effects, a podcast feed. We talked a little bit about independence in cannabis, journalism and the rarity of it. You know, I was dealing with someone in the world the other day who really wants me to get interested in her product. And she keeps showing me an ad from a publication that clearly is trading ads for coverage. And, I tried to politely explain why these things aren’t impressive to me, but those were almost the norm. That’s something that’s really egregious, but there’s a relationship issue in cannabis. I know that this brand is getting coverage because they bought advertising with this company. And you know that’s not going to happen with us. I feel like our reputation at least, maybe there’s some underhanded things going on behind the scenes I don’t know about. The sense is that that’s not a concern.
Alex Halperin (03:52):
No, I mean, I think we produce a podcast and we write newsletters and original stories. Our business plan is that we’re going to succeed because people want to consume everything we do. It’s done for the audience. It’s not done for whoever is paying us. And the advertisers want to be in our publications because the audience wants to read our publications. That’s the idea. And I think a lot of the cannabis media world sort of works on the other principle that the publications serve their advertisers. But I mean, another issue is Leafly had some really good stories about the vape crisis. Coincidentally or not, that was a topic that basically supported the industry’s basic thesis that a regulated legal market is safer and better than the alternative. You can have really good journalism, tough journalism about the vape crisis that also supported sort of the industry’s key thesis. And now with a lot of companies going bankrupt, or not necessarily bankrupt, but a lot of companies are really struggling, it doesn’t necessarily negate the industry’s thesis, but it doesn’t particularly support it either. And I think a fair number of publications, and I’m not going to name names, but they’re not necessarily interested in publishing tough stories about their advertisers.
Donnell Alexander (05:24):
If Leafly had come to a conclusion that didn’t exonerate the industry so much, would you have bought it?
Alex Halperin (05:28):
Yeah. You know, I don’t want to talk in hypotheticals, but it happened that the vape crisis story did support the industry’s primary thesis, which is that a regulated market is better and safer than an unregulated illegal market.
Donnell Alexander (05:46):
Here’s the thing, it’s the appearance of impropriety that’s problematic. Someone said inside the company we need to step into the 21st century.
Alex Halperin (05:58):
Media ethics is not necessarily a major theme in the cannabis world.
Donnell Alexander (06:03):
That’s an understatement people, for the casual listeners. Let’s go talk to our guest here because I like Portland. We’re going to go to Portland and we’re going to have brilliant edibles, a little bit of science. This is Wayne Schwind.
I am a scientist – I seek to understand me. All of my impurities and evils yet unknown. I am a journalist – I write to you to show you. I am an incurable And nothing else behaves like me.
Donnell Alexander (06:41):
Wayne Schwind welcome to WeedWeek.
Alex Halperin (06:44):
We’re so happy to have you. How are people feeling in Oregon? Because right now in California, everyone in the industry is really gloomy. It’s really hard for companies to make money. How is Oregon doing?
Wayne Schwind (06:57):
I think it’s a very similar feeling, just for a different reason or different timing, you know, the first year was like you had a product, you were on the shelf, it was turning over. You just had to be present for the retailers, the growers, and that closed pretty quickly within a year, maybe less and now it’s super saturated getting on a shelf that you’re not on is difficult. So it’s kind of a similar feeling where a lot of good brands, companies, they’re really struggling. I haven’t seen a public company that’s made a profit yet. They have to list their earnings, but I think it’s a very similar feeling.
Donnell Alexander (07:35):
We always have this thing where we talk about people’s cannabis journey, but I’m especially interested in yours because you are from the Midwest and I’d love to know how you got to do the work you do and how you came to cannabis period back there.
Wayne Schwind (07:47):
Yeah. The kind of quick version is I grew up in Michigan, I’m with the school and the upper peninsula and got a degree in chemical engineering.
Donnell Alexander (07:57):
Where did you get the degree?
Wayne Schwind (07:58):
Donnell Alexander (07:59):
And that’s where?
Wayne Schwind (08:00):
In the Upper Peninsula, so it’s Northern Michigan.
Donnell Alexander (08:05):
That’s really remote.
Wayne Schwind (08:06):
Yeah. It’s up there.
Donnell Alexander (08:09):
Is it the biggest university on the upper peninsula? Is there another one on there? Up there?
Wayne Schwind (08:13):
I think Northern Michigan is bigger. It’s about two hours South.
Donnell Alexander (08:18):
Okay. But did you know cannabis before then? Before school?
Wayne Schwind (08:22):
As in consumption?
Donnell Alexander (08:24):
Wayne Schwind (08:25):
Yeah. Definitely. Throughout college. I always found it as a better alternative. I mean, I grew up and always asked the questions. It was a struggle for my parents to get me to go to church. So, I had never understood cannabis being illegal. But yeah, I was using during college.
Alex Halperin (08:40):
So, after college you worked in a water treatment? Tell us about that.
Wayne Schwind (08:45):
Yeah. So when I graduated, I wanted to go West or somewhere unique. I didn’t want to go back downstate where I grew up and I was kind of agnostic to the industry. honestly, we didn’t have a lot of money growing up and I picked that degree to pay them post graduating out of college. So I found a job in Portland, Oregon. I was looking for states and cities not type of jobs and I found one in Portland and that’s what had me, I moved out here and it was an industrial water treatment. So, kind of like technical sales, wastewater treatment, stuff like that, and came out here in 2010 to Portland.
Donnell Alexander (09:23):
What takes you to cannabis as a profession?
Wayne Schwind (09:25):
So for five years I did that job in water treatment and when I was working for that company, it was to make money. You know, I didn’t grow up around capital or raising money was really foreign to me. And I actually quit that job to start a property management company in real estate with an older couple. And it was two business partners. They were in their fifties, you know, kind of gave me that confidence to start a business. I’m not doing it solo. And then did that for about a year, year and a half, ended up not working out. And right at that time, they just voted in the market and was coming in Oregon. And so I was like, oh, that’s interesting. That’s a whole new consumer group that wasn’t buying products before. They’re not loyal to a brand, they’re going to be trying new things. And I just started looking at the regulations on the medical side and that’s where I started the business and figuring it out and it was pretty low overhead. That’s why we went into edibles. You know, you could start in the home kitchen, still got stuff lab tested, but I think I only had like $5,000 invested before I made the first sale.
Donnell Alexander (10:33):
You were working in your kitchen?
Wayne Schwind (10:35):
Donnell Alexander (10:36):
What does it take to do that?
Wayne Schwind (10:38):
So you could get it in most states and counties, you can get the home kitchen permit to make like a food grade, a small scale product. So, there’s that process. You can get your own kitchen set up in most places to be practically commercially commercial kitchen certified.
Donnell Alexander (10:55):
What’s the outlay for that? For you to get going that way?
Wayne Schwind (10:58):
It’s very minimal, very low barrier, it wasn’t much at all. I think the medical license was like 300 bucks, you know, to legally sell products. And then it was, it wasn’t much because they are low cost and quick.
Alex Halperin (11:12):
That’s probably best to get an edibles business started. Then you could have done it in any other state.
Wayne Schwind (11:18):
Yeah. That was perfect timing for me as far being in Oregon, if I would have come to the market first, I wouldn’t have been able to start this business without raising money, which I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to or know what that would’ve looked like.
Alex Halperin (11:32):
So, does that mean that tons more companies entered? I mean, wouldn’t it lead to much more competition?
Wayne Schwind (11:40):
Yeah. I think Oregon is the most saturated. I know California is going to catch up. Most likely Oklahoma looks pretty crazy. There were a lot of companies on the medical side going into RAC and in the medical years, but a couple of years before RAC, it still wasn’t this green rush mentality. I think a lot of operators were in the background. People were out in the open about it, because it was still kind of gray. Federally illegal, but it was much more gray back then.
Donnell Alexander (12:14):
So you have a company called Periodic Edibles and you have a podcast. First off before I even go to the podcast, I just want to say that your edibles look delicious. And I’m a guy who tries to not get things that have butter in them and all that. But I almost licked my iPad when I watched the process you’re making. So, kudos for that. What role does the podcast play in your company?
Wayne Schwind (12:40):
I think really it’s a long term marketing strategy or brand building strategy. When I was still working for that company, I bought and sold a home. I had about $60,000 in my savings when I started this business. And I’ve grown it to this point on that money. So when I look at marketing, I don’t think about millions of dollars to run ads and stuff. I look for things that are like sweat equity, low cost. I think transparency is one of our number one selling points and I think it is for most crafted businesses or small companies. So we looked at how can we tell that story more and then just provide value, educate bud tenders, people in the industry, focus on the science of cannabis. And we thought we’d build up an audience really. And that would be part of our brand and our marketing and the cost was like 400 bucks for equipment. And then just my time.
Donnell Alexander (13:43):
You and I are connected because WeedWeek and your podcast were mentioned in Forbes as the best eight of last year or the ones you need to know about or whatever.
Alex Halperin (13:54):
We’ll link to that story.
Donnell Alexander (13:56):
We will link to that because we like to blow our own horns.
Alex Halperin (13:58):
But you know, ignore the other six.
Donnell Alexander (14:01):
I mentioned that because I think something that stands out about yours is that you’re focused on science and I don’t ever feel like it’s a redundant podcast, a lot of podcasts seem like they’re doing the same one with different states and different approvals over and over. But I do find that I feel it’s accessible and not repeatable. What’s your secret?
Wayne Schwind (14:20):
Good question. Good question. I haven’t thought about it, but my background is in science and I love science. I like building things and I’m curious about cannabis and how does it work in the body, so I try to approach that. But I also, I’m not super scientific. Sometimes that can be very dry or dull. So I always connect to the business side or the consumers. How are they going to use this in the real world? How is this practical? There’s another podcast for cannabis out there, but one of the very few, I’ve built this business, I’m running this business every single day and then I’m talking about it. So, I think it’s much easier to talk about what I’m experiencing, but I’m going through all these things, and then just kind of documenting it and when I interview another business owner, I have so many questions, we don’t even script them out. Sometimes we just start talking and we’d go for an hour.
Alex Halperin (15:21):
One thing that’s interesting about your shows, there’s a particular emphasis on bud tenders. But also as a business, I’m sure bud tenders are really important to you because they have such ultimate influence over what people actually buy. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re trying to communicate to other bud tenders other than, you know, sell my product?
Wayne Schwind (15:44):
Yeah. I kind of always looked at the podcast from both sides. So going back to that marketing strategy for the brand, the more value we can provide, the more they’re going to know about us. And I think people are smart, if I got down here and just pushed my products that is not going to be very interesting for very long. Nobody’s going to listen, maybe once if we’re lucky, but then the other side is okay if that makes sense for the company. If we can build an audience, what value, what needs to be out there in the industry. And those bud tenders are so critical to the frontline. They communicate all the information, to the consumer, and that’s the difference from a consumer with a terrible edible experience, over, getting paranoid and maybe joining a panel to make cannabis illegal in their County, like that interaction points. So, we just want to provide education science and we thought that was a good kind of more narrow area to focus on than just more cannabis in general.
Donnell Alexander (16:41):
Yeah. You did study science. You’re doing God’s work apparently. We’ll be scientific and not spiritual on this podcast, but there was this episode about aging that I was just starting to listen to. There was a phrase you used just a phrase about how they’re the people who can benefit from cannabis most. And it’s one of these obvious things that when you hear it, you go, oh my God, they should, we should be pushing cannabis to the ages in droves. Is that true? I mean, I’m not sure we’d be pushing cannabis to the ages, which we know is true. Are they the people who can benefit from it most?
Wayne Schwind (17:17):
I think, a lot of people can benefit, but I would think in 10 years, I don’t know how long, people past 80 are going to be consuming cannabis daily, like a daily multivitamin. And I see all this, I still saw that growing up, parents when I started this company, family members are like, what are you doing? Like you have a degree, you’re wasting it. And then now some of them, an older parent that’s just ill, cancer, whatever it might be finally, they have nothing else to try and they do three milligrams or five milligrams of an edible and everything, so crazy when you hear some of these stories and then they look at themselves in the mirror and they’re like, I can’t believe this is the devil’s drug. It’s like, look at my dad. Now he can walk around. He’s actually smiling. I think it’s a huge part of it. And they have the most stigma and momentum I think behind that cannabis is evil propaganda.
Alex Halperin (18:11):
Tell us a little bit about what’s happening in Oregon. I think the last thing that sort of sunk in about the Oregon market is that there’s just a huge market and the state was producing something like seven times more than the state could consume. They can consume a lot. The rest of it is presumably making its way into the illegal market or rotting on the plants or what, but it makes it really hard to run a business. And can you tell us a bit about what’s happening now?
Wayne Schwind (18:41):
Yeah. And that was a weird period. It was definitely, you know, over-saturated and there was a glut of supply. There are a few things I think that came out of that. I think one, that report was not accurate. It was overestimating the supply. It was still oversupplied, but it was maybe I think the thing was like six years supply if we stopped producing today. But it might’ve been like a two-year supply because the price correction happened like a year after that report came out, prices went back up. So, 1) it could have been inaccurate, but 2) I mean, you mentioned going to the black market, someone’s losing their life savings. They’re going out of business. You know, if you could recover a hundred, couple hundred thousand dollars that might be happening- But also, people going out of business and a lot goes to hemp as well, it’s real Southern Oregon. So if you grow cannabis, you can grow hemp. So I think a lot of businesses switched over, but now all the growers, their prices went back up to where it was, maybe not at its peak, but a lot of them said that 2019 was one of their best years, but it seems to be balancing and leveling out on the flower and growing supply side. And now they’re doing well and it seems to be more of a pinch on the edibles, in the processors, all those value added products that now seem to be the most saturated and flooded. We’re seeing through really low cost, cheaper options, kind of hit there. Like we saw on the flour side.
Alex Halperin (20:13):
Why is that?
Wayne Schwind (20:14):
The value added products? I think, people start figuring out that on the growing side, everyone’s really afraid the ag and it’s an agricultural product. Some will put it in a pre-rolled pack, can brand it, but it’s really hard to brand the flour. On the processing side, you can brand a product. You know, we make an edible, a vape cart, you have nice packaging, it’s easy, it’s more consistent. And I think bigger money is looking at that and moving in because it’s more scalable. You can also repeat it in a bunch of other states and people are diversifying. Growers are putting out tends, growers are putting out edibles. So they’re trying to do other things. And during the black market, everybody grew, it was kind of weird or hard to buy edibles on the black market, it didn’t maybe in California, I didn’t really ever see it in Michigan. But so the first to get saturated was the growers, because there was just so many more of them from the gray market coming over now it’s kind of taken longer to get to the processing side. I think it’s just that it always feels like cannabis has always been oversaturated and then it will be correct. You know, you never hit that perfect balance point the first time. So it seems like that’s where we’re at now.
Donnell Alexander (21:30):
I think it’s interesting that you said that thing about diversifying right now. I see so much of that. I did the California newsletter for WeedWeek here and I see that everyone’s getting into something else, 2020 may be the year of diversification. Do you do that? Are you into different things or is it all about those beautiful candies?
Wayne Schwind (21:49):
Just the candy for us. Because of the limited funding, we had to pick a product and we have a few SKUs, but we stick very narrow on what we do. And I think we built a brand around like that’s what that company makes. We’re just very, narrowly focused. So no, we’re not really looking to diversify. There will be a product line coming out pipeline but very much in line with our brand and what we’re already making. We’re looking at different pack sizes, dosages, so we can get consumers where they’re at. Everyone might not want a 50 milligram edible. That’s our cap in Oregon. So, what about 10, 5 milligram pieces and having those options for consumers.
Donnell Alexander (22:32):
If you would have one podcast episode of yours that you would recommend, which one would it be for someone coming initially? Their first visit?
Wayne Schwind (22:43):
It depends on who the person is. I wonder if they’re in the industry or if they’re a consumer. But either way, the one that causes over the most is episode 50, we did Emma Chasing who is someone we’ve had on like 12 or 15 episodes. She’s awesome. She’s really focused on the science, but she communicates that super well. She went to Brown University for Botany, super educated, really just great at communicating as well. And that episode 50 is our cannabis science 101. We just start like you don’t know anything about cannabis. Let’s start with the building blocks, cannabinoids, terpenes, THC. So that’s probably the first good one to get into. If you’re in Oregon, Periodic Edibles, periodicedibles.com/videos. We’ve got a little video library we made, if people want more education.
Donnell Alexander (23:32):
Thanks a lot, man. It was very good to have you on.
Wayne Schwind (22:34):
Donnell Alexander (23:35):
Alex Halperin (23:38):
That’s our show for today.
Donnell Alexander (23:40):
As always, you can find us on Twitter and Instagram at WeedWeek news, or you can email us. We’re still firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more weed news, you can sign up for the newsletters WeedWeek Canada, WeedWeek the original, coming up on five years of that, and WeedWeek California, the one I ride at weedweek.net.
Alex Halperin (23:58):
So we had a tweet today.
Donnell Alexander (24:02):
This is from the Wondering Jews. They are a show of a couple of dads who are off the Jewish persuasion. We might do a swap like the one we just did here with them. Keep your eyes up. They’re open to it.
Alex Halperin (24:15):
This is @JewsWondering.
Donnell Alexander (24:21):
Alex Halperin (24:23):
Wondering Jews. That’s @JewsWondering: “What’s the deal with those #cannabis amnesty boxes? We take it up in our new segment, What Jew Wondering About? Check out Episode 16: Forest Park Purple / Amnesty and Passion / Parashat Beshalach.”
Donnell Alexander (24:45):
What was that word? Parashat Beshalach. Is that a name?
Alex Halperin (24:47):
That’s a Hebrew word Parashat.
Donnell Alexander (24:50):
What does that mean?
Alex Halperin (24:52):
It’s probably more like a Torah portion. This is what I think it is.
Donnell Alexander (24:55):
So what is up with those amnesty boxes? I thought they were just letting people have cannabis at O’Hare, is it O’Hare? The airport in Chicago, Chicago International.
Alex Halperin (25:04):
Yeah. So, a couple of airports. I think they have one in Las Vegas to, basically when you’re leaving town, they have cannabis amnesty boxes if you don’t want to take your cannabis through airport security. Better question is if anybody uses them, although there was a story the other day of somebody stealing maybe a little bit from them.
Donnell Alexander (25:27):
Scavenging? I love that. Okay. We’re out of here. We are having a fun episode here and we’re going to move on. We got more good things coming.
Alex Halperin (25:35):
Yeah. I’m Alex Halperin.
Donnell Alexander (25:36):
And I’m Donnell Alexander.
Alex Halperin (25:38):
Our show is produced by Donny Alexander and engineered by Larry Buhl. Alicia Byer wrote our theme music. See you again here next week.
Donnell Alexander (25:45):