The nascent culture surrounding adult-use cannabis is still finding its tone of voice, and brands are still struggling to fully define themselves. Many companies that produce materials for the industry are either cold and clinical and make you feel like you’re looking at something from a pharmacy. Others fully embrace all of the stereotypes of stoner culture, and that pushes people away, too.
Charlie McElroy is thinking differently about how to teach people about cannabis. He’s the founder of Goldleaf, and now spends his time at the company focusing on creative vision. His company designs and prints journals, templates, infographics, data visualizations, and other educational assets for the cannabis community. He distills complex ideas, makes them digestible, and makes them beautiful – and his clients, which include doctor’s offices, co-ops, dispensaries, and growth centers, to name a few, rely on him to win over skeptics and cultivate a new kind of lifestyle brand.
Today, Charlie joins the podcast to tell the story of how he entered the cannabis industry, effective storytelling techniques for brands within the field, and how he’s putting an end to common misconceptions about these products.
- How Charlie discovered a need for new kinds of educational materials when it comes to cannabis.
- Why Goldleaf has a very deliberate and intentional look and feel that’s neither cold and clinical nor reflective of stoner culture.
- What makes cannabis education so different from teaching consumers about alcohol – and why it’s much more like wine than it is whiskey or spirits.
- The cannabis myths Charlie finds himself debunking often – and why the indica-sativa generalization is so inaccurate.
- Why Goldleaf is committed to staying analog in a digital era.
“A lot of people will use those terms indica or sativa to denote a type of experience that you’ll have, but that’s super inaccurate.” – Charlie McElroy
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Rick Kiley: Hello, everybody, and welcome back to The Green Repeal. I am, of course, one of your co-hosts, Rick Kiley. I am joined here once again by Jeffrey Boedges, my partner in crime. Hello, Jeffrey.
Jeff Boedges: Hola, gang, the man with the golden voice.
Rick Kiley: I’ve been doing meetings with my podcast microphone on today and dipping into this like Two for Tuesday radio situation. We’re going to start off with a little Zeplin before we like cool it down.
Jeff Boedges: Just sounds like we should be doing late-night radio.
Rick Kiley: It’s what I aspire to, always. We are really excited for today’s guests. We are joined today by Charlie McElroy. He is the founder of Goldleaf which he’s going to tell you more about. He’s founded that company, being able to build it up and he’s now focusing on the creative vision. He’s leading it as creative director. Charlie, welcome to The Green Repeal.
Charlie McElroy: Thanks for having me, Rick. Glad to be here.
Rick Kiley: We are thrilled to have you here and before we start peppering you with questions, why don’t you just give us a little background on yourself and the journey that led you to starting Goldleaf.
Charlie McElroy: Sure. I’m happy to. Yeah. So, I’ve got a kind of varied background like probably so many entrepreneurs. I went to school for computer science then I promptly left Ohio, I went to Ohio University, went down to Austin, and actually worked as an audio engineer for a while and did like web development and digital strategy, kind of in the earlier days of the internet. And from there, I hopped over to Colorado for a while and had an interest in permaculture. So, I learned about that and went back to Ohio to start a family and kind of double down in the entrepreneurial game, first as kind of a freelance consultant doing digital strategy and then kind of co-starting an organic clothing company that we eventually sold and that kind of laid the foundation for what eventually became Goldleaf, which is my labor of love.
Rick Kiley: Wow. You get around.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah, I have.
Jeff Boedges: I’m also a big fan of permaculture spending my time locked away at home, working on all my perennials trying to get my gardens where I don’t have to do too much.
Charlie McElroy: Lovely. Yeah, that’s great.
Rick Kiley: From computer science to permaculture.
Jeff Boedges: That’s an evolution I think. I think that’s definitely the way to go.
Rick Kiley: Absolutely. So, then just like give me the entrepreneurial spark behind Goldleaf. What led you to founding the company? Where did you get the idea from?
Charlie McElroy: Well, yeah, where’d I get the idea from? That is a good question.
Rick Kiley: Perfect.
Jeff Boedges: Did it come to you late night while watching some television, eating some Oreos?
Rick Kiley: No. I’m serious. He’s like, “Nobody’s ever asked me that before.”
Charlie McElroy: Oh man, yeah. I think like I love keeping journals myself. I always have. Doing the audio engineering there would be these kinds of templated track books for the studios. I have even taken pilot lessons and got my private pilot license and they have the pilot logbooks that are kind of have that templated approach. You guys coming from the alcohol industry too probably seen those lovely wine and whiskey tasting journals that have that vibe. So, I really wanted to put something together for the cannabis space, especially after coming back from Colorado and kind of seeing how a lot of the growers were working with cannabis at a smaller mid-sized scale. They’re always keeping notebooks and stuff. And so, I was very intrigued at the user experience side of it. while a lot of my background is like more, you’d say like analytical with computer science and all that. I really like creative endeavors, just kind of doing them in my own way where I can marry those two sides of my brain. And the kind of intentional design that goes into the UX of those journal pages was something I was like fascinated with.
I’ve also been an advocate for Responsible Cannabis Legislation for decades. And so, it felt like a good time to kind of explore that idea and try to come out with some journals for cannabis folks in all walks of life. And what ended up happening is we kind of stumbled upon the absolute need for education in the space and our format really fit that well. So, we kind of grew into that a bit more but that’s kind of where the idea for the journals came about. I mentioned I was working or I had started an organic clothing company. That was not something I was super passionate about but I did love the part that I did, which was mostly operations. What was special about it was that we were able to work with a network of regional manufacturers around Ohio, so Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia from everything from organic cotton fields to where they’re making the yarns to where they’re sewing it all together. And so, that product development and that like need for attention to detail kind of was really exciting to me. I just wasn’t super into high-end clothing.
So, when my colleague who and this was his brainchild, the clothing company, when he kind of got burnt out and decided to leave the company, he asked me if I wanted to take it over. I did not so we kind of moved on from there and he was very instrumental in helping me start Goldleaf. I was able to tap into a lot of like really great creative minds to kind of do the initial product development and sampling and all that. So, a lot of what I learned from that experience with the clothing organization kind of was instrumental in giving me the confidence and the tools to make Goldleaf and make it something that’s a little bit more special than just, I don’t know, something you would customize on Alibaba or something like that.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. That’s a good alternative name for your company though, customized from Alibaba. No, maybe not. That’s a bad name.
Jeff Boedges: I think they’re out there already.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Well, okay, so that’s a very interesting story and I think of Jeff and my entrepreneurial journey and the idea of like learning the trade, figuring out how to apply it to something that you’re passionate about, I think that’s awesome. I’m glad you’ve been able to land on something that you find so fulfilling. So, let’s just dig a little deeper. So, Goldleaf, I think it’s more than just journals. So, when you talk to people about what Goldleaf is and how it fits into their life, someone who’s either a cannabis patient or a grower or just I guess enthusiast, I’m going to use that word liberally today, an enthusiast. How does it fit into your life and what do you tell people when you talk to them about it?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. Honestly, I do have to explain it a bit because there are no comparables for us. There still isn’t. This is going to be our fifth year being around. So, Goldleaf is a design and printing company for the cannabis community. We kind of make the science behind cannabis approachable, accessible, and beautiful if we can. So, anybody who enjoys learning about their body, the craft, any microcosmic cannabis will probably find something that helps scratch that itch in stuff we make. So, we do journals, templated journals but a bigger thing that we do I guess is infographics, data visualization, and basically an educator. A lot of our work is B2B. We kind of act like a design studio in regard to like a boutique specialized design studio. We’ll lean on some of the existing designs we’ve made but we’re doing all kinds of things for cannabis dispensaries, co-ops, doctor’s offices, growth centers, you name it. And we’ll kind of just apply what we do which is distilling down something complex, making it digestible, and then making it beautiful in like a minimalist sense.
Like, you will not see any cannabis, stoner culture stuff in anything we do. We’re very intentional with the look and feel. And that was central to our mission when we started. We wanted to foster this responsible approach to the subject, and through our designs in the way that we kind of showcase our info, we can take a naysayer or somebody who’s had a tough time with cannabis in the past and they’re not going to be so judgy about it or they’re not going to immediately write it off as being, “Oh, that has to do with weed or something,” because of the way that we show it and we talk about it. We’ll use the scientific vernacular. Everything we do is called from peer-reviewed primary sources. If not, then we’re paired with one of the foremost experts in the world on the subject, because there’s plenty of stuff in the cannabis space that is not studied enough to have a primary source. And even things that you take for granted like a lot of the terpenes, the studies of those would mostly be in the aromatherapy world. It’s not necessarily unique to cannabis. So, does this one particular terpene is there therapeutic benefits X, Y, or Z? There may not be a formal research on that because it’s kind of been around in our pharmacology and everything for up to 5,000 years, depending on what you’re talking about.
So, sometimes that’s challenging but that’s one thing that we kind of hold up very high is like that attention to or focus on accuracy. So, yeah, that’s one thing folks will find and why we really try hard for the educational side, because it’s a very weird world in terms of people’s fluency based on where they live. So, a lot there.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, I mean, it is a lot and I think one of the reasons I was interested in talking to you and so is Jeff is when we saw your stuff, again, as I think as you mentioned earlier, it reminded me of the spider graphs that I got when I would go through a whiskey training program or you see something that is Somalia, we would use to talk about wine. And when we talk about alcohol beverage, there’s a lot around this idea of the educational journey of a discovery minded individual. And I think you’re talking about a lot of those same things which I think there’s a natural synergy. And what I didn’t think about and what you helped paint the connection there for me was Jeff and I have conversations all the time about how the category of cannabis really has like so much baggage to overcome and the first one being that of destigmatizing the culture that we associated with Cheech & Chong and Half Baked and the stoner culture and that I wasn’t thinking about what your brand brings to the table in terms of some of the simple, the beauty, the professionalism, and all those things that visually reinforces the more aspirational image of the category, not brands, but the category itself. It’s cool.
Jeff Boedges: The artwork I’ve seen from you, Charlie, I think is probably some of the more advanced in the terms of creating a lifestyle brand. I think of cannabis I think of it’s either real Cheech & Chong, real stony, or they’ve gone the absolute opposite direction in order to try and add legitimacy to it. And they make it look like…
Rick Kiley: A pharmacy.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah, like a pharmacologically produced slick package and kind of felt like yours is the first and I’m really seeing out there in a big way that makes me feel like, again, lifestyle, like it’s about whatever that brand is about, but you’re able to sort of bring that out in a way that seems more sophisticated.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I think you’ve done a great job so far. And so, I hope it keeps taking off so I’m just going to come back to the journaling piece before we move on to the other things because when we go through all these whiskey trainings and whatnot, we take these notes as part of the palate expanding and understanding of tastes and that sort of thing. And I’m curious when people are journaling about cannabis, what is the focus on that they’re recording? Is it a flavor effect? Duration? Because there is a lot there to using but do you find that people are focused on one area more than the other or can you just talk us through what types of things people are tracking?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. Happy to. And first of, thanks for the kind words there, Jeff, about the brand. We do appreciate that and your feedback is warmly welcomed. So, thank you.
Jeff Boedges: My pleasure. I love good creative. Looking at it, I love good creative. I know when I see it. I don’t always produce it, but I know when I see it.
Charlie McElroy: That’s right. Oh, cool. I’m glad we’re one of those. Yeah, so that honestly is a little tough to answer, Rick, because at Goldleaf we live in the niche. So, we have journals on subjects that are super, super niche. And the approach and the person and what they’re trying to capture is very different. So, for example, we’ve got a few journals, kind of more for the adult-use canatourist enjoyment. Lots on the medical side that were created hand-in-hand with doctors that focus on phrasing those questions very differently to have different actionable insights that you can pull. And we’ve got stuff for growers, stuff for cannabis chefs, even pet owners, and soon I can talk about it later but soon sex. So, in terms of what people are capturing, we can stick with like the adult-use enjoyment side. Yeah, it’s very similar to what you would kind of do if you were on the bourbon trail and visiting these different places and they would say like here’s the story behind our bourbon. Here’s how we do our mash and how we’re aging it, all of that stuff, which goes into the aroma, the mouthfeel, all of that and with cannabis, it’s not all that different, but I would probably say there’s a little bit more to it.
Because not only are you thinking about the story there but you’ve got like the cultivar of the flower itself, which is kind of like the beating heart of all other things that you’ll figure out. They all stem from what kind of cultivar it was. So, you will be capturing things like the pistol color, the density of the flower, the color of green or other hues that are present, the aroma before heat, or the flavor or aroma as like a dry hit. That’s when you will kind of take like if you’re smoking, you’ll just take a puff without adding any heat. And that gives you a good idea of the terpenes that are there that will probably burn off before you can perceive them. And then depending on your delivery method, maybe you’re vaporizing and you’re going to perceive a lot more of those terpene levels and a lot more of the flavor. So, that’s kind of the easy stuff is that those observations that are kind of akin to a lot of other things and then the next step is the difficult one, which is, what do you perceive the experience to be? And there are so many caveats and so many things that will adjust this even if you’re trying the same thing day in day out. Are you hydrated? Did you get enough sleep?
Jeff Boedges: Are there coactive ingredients? Because if you got something else in your body, how does that interact?
Charlie McElroy: Exactly. Yeah. So, it’s because of the endocannabinoid system, which in the end is just trying to achieve balance. So, depending on where you’re at individually with your own personal balance, your experiences are going to be a little different. So, we try to build in tools to allow people to wrap their heads around that idea, and to narrow down what is actually more impactful for them. For me, sleep is a huge thing. For my wife and some of my colleagues, that is not a big deal to them. It doesn’t really make things different for them. So, yeah, there’s just a lot of factors to consider with kind of charting this stuff. And that’s why I think our journal projects, in particular, are very helpful to the community because it does shine a light on the complexity there and kind of walks them through how to actually find something actionable, something that they can look back on and be like, “Oh, I need to avoid CBN at all cost or I need to try not mixing this with melatonin or whatever it is.”
Jeff Boedges: Bottles of wine.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. Right.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. It feels like the enthusiast has a lot more like to keep track of and you kind of answered my next question already but I find Jeff and I kind of argue about this a little bit, but with booze, the effect so we’re talking about the psychoactive effect of cannabis versus drunkenness with booze, it only vary slightly but I think some of those variances are caused by things like how much have you eaten, dehydration, and all that sort of stuff as well but the effect which there is I think we’ll agree there’s a bit of a difference in the buzz between red wine…
Jeff Boedges: Anything and tequila.
Rick Kiley: Right. Tequila, red wine but drunk is kind of drunk is kind of drunk is kind of drunk and it seems like there’s just so much more variety in the psychoactive effect in cannabis that is just super complex to track.
Jeff Boedges: I think for the layperson, though, that’s a big aha because most people when they think about the effects of marijuana, the average Joe who hasn’t done or really hasn’t experienced yet just assumes that getting high is like getting drunk. It’s one thing. It’s one thing only. And I think the idea that there are so many variations on a theme is going to be very eye-opening for the general public as this science becomes more mainstream.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I mean, I feel like we should spend the next five minutes here saying like what’s the bourbon trail for like the cannabis experience? Like that to me is as an event marketer, like that’s super exciting like the fact that we created whole programs for Scotch whiskey and for wine brands that just try to demystify the barriers to entry of something because it’s just hard to understand or their preconceived notions about art is just expensive. I mean, people don’t understand this category at all. I mean, there are people who do but the layperson and I’m really curious, I think, have you ever gone through what I’ll call a tasting for lack of a better word of the cannabis products? Let’s just call it for adult use and have you got any thoughts around the best way to sort of break down some of these mythologies about the category and provide some education? I think you’ve got a really interesting tracking tool that if people use and come back to it, definitely can help them advance their education. But how about making that connection?
Jeff Boedges: It would be difficult, right? Because you can’t just sit around at the restaurant and do it together.
Rick Kiley: Try 10 different types of cannabis in a night where you could literally have 10 sips of wine.
Jeff Boedges: You have to spit it out. You just have to spit the cannabis.
Charlie McElroy: Blow it out. Yep.
Rick Kiley: So, I’m just curious if you’ve been through anything like that or if you’ve applied your product to anything like that? What’s out there right now?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. We have in both accounts. So, based in the Midwest, I’m not as regular at a lot of the kind of ad hoc, quick, small, intimate events where they’ll do tastings and stuff in a little bit better atmosphere. But I do regularly attend conferences and I meet with folks in the industry and I’ve connected with a lot of farmers and growers and genetic folks, and have done these like one-on-one types of tastings, I guess. And you’re right, after the first one, it’s kind of the establishing like effects is impossible because they all just step on each other.
Jeff Boedges: They cleanse the palette.
Charlie McElroy: No, you can’t. You can’t but you can still probably in a vaporizer or something like that, lower the temperature and kind of enjoy the diversity of flavors and aromas. Yeah, what you’re talking about is something that they’re starting to do in Northern California. We did work with Humboldt Legends in kind of crafting their version of this which is basically attempting to make the growers in Humboldt like akin to Napa Valley where you’re establishing terroir and watersheds and based on your watershed, you’re going to have pretty wildly different cultivars and even if it is the same cultivar or wildly different results from a lab perspective, because those watersheds and the general terroir is very impactful with cannabis, especially if you’re just dealing with more like the flower and stuff and not necessarily immediately extracting it or something. But yeah, they’re very motivated to do that and kind of create a craft industry around cannabis. So, we did a custom version of one of our journals where we did focus in on those watersheds and had parts of the journal that were focused on calling out the differences that a canatourist would notice with flavor, with look, and feel. And a lot of that is based on the environment. So, I think it’s ripe for that just like they do on the bourbon trail or I think the closer comparison would probably be wine.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah, I agree because the microclimates makes such a huge difference in wine where you find people talking about microclimates and whiskey so much.
Rick Kiley: Jeff, you also remember when we did the training in Cognac, France for the cognacs. I think the same deep attention was paid to terroir when you go to the grown Champagne region and we would spend the morning going out and sticking our hands in the soil and looking at the chalkiness of it and understanding of it. And then the actual like tasting experience, that wouldn’t be you’d get to that at five o’clock. You’d spent eight hours of like education and immersion.
Jeff Boedges: We have trimmed the spikes off the pinas down in Mexico, we have picked grapes in Cognac, and we’ve harvested rye in Scotland. And they all really do talk a lot about the terroir and they also talk a lot about the water and they also talk about the weather and how all of those things have such a huge impact on the final product. I think you’re the first person, Charlie, that I mean, I don’t remember ever hearing the term cultivator before today. I think you’re the first person that really kind of mentioned some of these more the production techniques as being important as they are. I think it’s very interesting and untapped.
Rick Kiley: I feel like you have to do this as like a multi-day like people would have to book a week tour, Jeff, like, we would have to like go to an area and you’d put a program together where the first part of the day is spent doing this. And then there’s an exploration tasting thing that happens like once a day so the palette can be cleansed every time you do it almost. I don’t know.
Jeff Boedges: I think I’ll stop at Denny’s on the bus between.
Rick Kiley: Well, maybe that’s part of the experience. Maybe we start early with Mondays about Denny’s and by the time we’re Friday night, we’re getting to like a sushi menu or something like that.
Jeff Boedges: There we go. Alright. Food pairing, yeah.
Rick Kiley: Food pairing every time. All right. Charlie didn’t laugh once at that, man.
Jeff Boedges: Charlie, sorry.
Rick Kiley: We’re going to cut that in post.
Charlie McElroy: I was chuckling. You can’t hear my chuckle.
Jeff Boedges: I was laughing on the inside. Yeah, I get that a lot.
Rick Kiley: That’s cool. No, those are great things to note and it’s exciting conversations for us. I think the need behind these educational experiences to be able to debunk those mythologies we were talking about earlier and I like to ask people this, especially people who are more tied into the industry than we are, what are some of the cannabis myths that you find yourself having to debunk with any regularity? You don’t have to give us all but like a couple.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. Sure. Yeah. We debunk myths all the livelong day and also try to get in front of it and communicate something before it becomes like a crazy myth but, yeah, so honestly.
Jeff Boedges: That’s doing something these days. That’s really getting out front.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. Well, we haven’t even scratched the surface I guess or come to the bottom of the different topics within cannabis that we can make infographics and education about. I think we’ve got around 60 pieces so far. So, a lot of the regular myths, the ones that drive me nuts come from CBD-related things, CBD only in particular. Okay. So, I can buy a CBD product at Speedway here in Cincinnati. I cannot get a CBD, THC product. So, any iteration, any ratio that has THC, a 30:1, a 60:1, none of it. And that’s kind of the point like that you can’t ship that over state lines even if you were in a legal state. So, there’s kind of this frontier of CBD brands and there are a lot of bad players out there and kind of using under-regulated terminology and stuff like that. So, a lot of the things that we’ll debunk regularly are the true definition of something like full spectrum. The fact that CBD by its lonesome, it is not proven to be better than CBD with other cannabinoids present, and that is adverse to what a lot of these kind of quicker newer businesses in the CBD space want to communicate.
So, I mentioned we do a lot of B2B work. We’ll do like package design, education design, and these companies will sometimes ask like, “Hey, you talk about the entourage effect or this or that. We’d rather if you said it like this so that it makes it sound like a CBD-only product is superior.” And we don’t do that. We will not make that type of work. We’re not going to like muck up the science so that we can mollify those requests. So, those are the most frustrating ones. The other less dangerous myths would be like the indica-sativa generalization. A lot of people will use those terms, indica or sativa, to denote a type of experience that you’ll have but that’s super inaccurate. Almost every cultivar out there even…
Rick Kiley: What? Wait. What?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah, you guys know this already. I know but we still get…
Rick Kiley: Well, tell me again like maybe I don’t know. What?
Charlie McElroy: Okay. Yeah.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. They have like their own little like acronyms that they actually are supposed to be mean. Yeah, I remember hearing this in Colorado when I was there.
Rick Kiley: Okay. No, go, go. People got to know these things.
Charlie McElroy: Okay. Indica 10 years ago, you’d say, “Oh, it’s an indica,” that means you’re going to be sleepy, couch-locked, kind of like dead to the world type of cannabis. Whereas a sativa is like your brain, I guess, your cerebral thought-provoking motivated.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. It’s Adderall cannabis.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah, exactly.
Rick Kiley: You’re telling me that’s wrong?
Charlie McElroy: It’s totally wrong.
Rick Kiley: Oh, man.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. And the troubling thing here is that every state is different and Goldleaf is kind of an international brand. We ship things everywhere in the world. And so, we have to make this one-size-fits-all approach to information. So, we’ve kind of like removed these terms and then we add them back in with like disclaimers because we’ll be doing a project for folks in Oklahoma and they just haven’t gotten there yet and they’re like, “Everything in our store is either noted indica, sativa, or hybrid. We’ve got to use that as the jumping-off point.” So, that’s what I meant earlier with like the fractured nature of education. It’s different states and the populations there are just at different levels of understanding. And so, it’s really challenging for us to educate somebody if we’re educating higher-level things for like folks in Southern California versus a brand new state like Virginia who’s just getting their programs rolled out and they have basically the same understanding you had in 1980. So, you’ve got to like really approach it at this kind of local level when we do like custom projects and stuff and speak to what people will understand and build off of it.
So, we’ll still use those terms but we put the disclaimer and if it’s something that we’re publishing on our own, for like a wider audience, we’ll kind of stick to that bleeding edge scientific vernacular but we still get those questions pretty like all the time and it all depends on where they’re coming from.
Rick Kiley: Got it.
Jeff Boedges: So, here’s the obvious question, what is the difference between indica and sativa?
Charlie McElroy: Really the question you should be asking is like what is the lab report? What’s the chemical makeup because indica and sativa normally have different mixes of cannabinoids, and that mix is what makes it sleepy or Adderall-y. So, you can have a pure indica variety that actually has a reaction that is very up and cerebral. And there’s a really great website called Conscious Cannabis that is working to chart basically the DNA and the lab test of all these cultivars in the world. And they graphically show them based on the chemical cocktail, not the lineage. And so, you can find a cultivar you like, like say you were in Colorado and you had this one blue dream and you found it there and you can see several other cultivars available that have a very close match to that. And you’ll find that they’re not all going to be sativas if blue dream is a sativa mostly. They’re not all going to be that denoted in that way.
It’s really interesting and we mentioned terroir before. That plays a big part in the final lab reports of any like cultivated flower. So, if you’re going to a dispensary in shopping, you can probably just ignore the indica and sativa words, although understand that the person who put them on there thinks that they’re putting them on there to kind of talk about the experience you’ll have.
Rick Kiley: Would anybody ever label an indica that gave you a sativa type of results? Would they label it a sativa or that would be against the compliance? Yes?
Charlie McElroy: I think it depends wholly on the state but I don’t think those two terms are regulated at all.
Rick Kiley: I feel like they’re going to go away. People are just going to start labeling them like up, down like they’re already I’ve seen it like awake, sleep, chill, like I think that’s the way it’s going to start happening.
Jeff Boedges: Right. But this isn’t a varietal thing. So, this is not the difference between say a cabernet and pinot noir. I mean, this is just strictly fact-driven.
Rick Kiley: But the description is wrong. I see the industry already moving off of it.
Charlie McElroy: They have. All the big like data players are going to be in Colorado, Oregon, or California and those areas have long adopted this. It’s kind of like the newer entities that are still using this and Michigan and the other states I mentioned, and they’ll get there too. And that’s exactly right. You talk about the lab reports and the effects, not what the grower says, the parentages.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I think even though you mentioned people being able to go through a tasting experience, flavors, and that sort of thing. I got to think that effect and I’m in for the medical patient also like impact on whatever their ailment is, are the two driving factors that’s primarily leading somebody to use that particular product. I’m curious in your opinion or your experience because I don’t know enough about this yet but in alcohol beverage and wine and whiskey and whatnot, people who get into this with what I’ll call this discovery mindset, they continue to explore. Maybe they have a couple of favorites they come back to but a lot of their life is driven by what’s this new thing or what’s this new thing. I wonder if that’s as true here. Do you feel that people are trying until they land on something they feel like really works for them in their life and then there’s like this is my thing? I feel like this sort of sense of product and brand loyalty could be super, super strong because the effect is so personal and so important.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. I think there are two avenues here. One of them is the person who needs that regularity. So, your medical patient who’s maybe found something that works really well for them, and they know it is vetted. They know that it was grown and extracted responsibly and it’s just the right mix. They know that X amount of drops or dose is just right for them. I think those people would be very brand loyal because those other things are really difficult to achieve, namely, like the dosing, the concentration, and like the production process. On the other side, cannabis is going to be or it already is just as much of a connoisseur-y craft world as whiskey or wine. So, I think there will always be an opportunity to tell those stories about the farm, the cultivation methods, and the cool noodling that they do with either the genetics or the growing process. And even if you know what you like, I mean, like I know I like Iowa whiskey. I’m not going to never try any other whiskey just because of it’s not Iowa I’m not interested like no. That’s kind of like people like experiencing different things and hearing those stories. So, I don’t see that really changing. I think it’d probably be amplified with cannabis.
Rick Kiley: Alright.
Jeff Boedges: So, how long before Goldleaf launches weed of the month where I can just sign up and you send me something new every month to try?
Rick Kiley: You just giving that idea away? We could have pitched that idea.
Jeff Boedges: Dude, I think we could still do it. We’re just going to be the production arm for Goldleaf.
Charlie McElroy: Well, I like where our heads at, Jeff, but a Goldleaf will probably never touch the plant.
Jeff Boedges: I didn’t think you would have to. You just got to choose it. All you’re doing is curating.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, it’s the curated.
Charlie McElroy: Oh, I see. So, why not sending you flowers.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, no, and maybe some affiliate marketing built-in. Who knows?
Charlie McElroy: We’ll do it. Sounds great.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Jeff Boedges: All right. Well, call you next week. We’ll get the schedule.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. That and the tour to the Humboldt County Legends immersive experience. It looks like summer camp. Sorry.
Charlie McElroy: We’re doing that all over the place. We’re doing that up in Toronto too. It’s neat.
Rick Kiley: Cool. These are fun ideas. I love it. So, I do want to ask you, I want to get to a couple of things and we’re having good conversations but you have a very purposefully analog product in what is a super digital time. This is obviously a conscious decision. I mean, we interviewed I forget how long ago it was but we interviewed a guy named Rick Kimball from a company called Rymedi and they were developing blockchain technology for companies that were trying to just like track a lot of their growth, their strains in order to like meet compliance and that sort of thing. Obviously, different product, but like it seems that a lot of advances on the digital side, I’m curious as to what’s driving you to stay so, again, purposefully analog in this digital era.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. You’re right. It was purposeful, especially coming from a computer programming background. But yeah, like I said, I’ve been kind of into cannabis for a while and I’ve always kind of inherently known that patience is part of it. And if you’re a user, a medical user, recreational user, it doesn’t really matter, forcing yourself to slow down and notice things are just really important to understanding your experience. So, an analog journal is kind of symbiotic to that pace. It never needs updating, it’s discreet, it’s always secure. It’s not going to notify you with distracting stuff while you’re using it. And above all else, when you write stuff, it forces your memory to recompose thoughts. So, it’s enhancing your ability to retain thoughts and it kind of is a practice in mindfulness as well. And all of those things are perfectly harmonious with what we’re trying to do, especially in the medical space but I would say that every kind of journal topic that we cover can kind of value or there’s that value to lessening the distractions and focusing on those mindfulness practices of writing.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I thought it had something to do with maybe just people not wanting like cannabis data to live in their phone where like the government could come get it.
Jeff Boedges: That’s what he’s saying. It’s always secure.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. I did touch on that but there are a lot of apps too.
Jeff Boedges: It’s always secure.
Rick Kiley: Sometimes I’m very painfully, you know. I just want to get the idea clearly out there. Let’s not obscure it.
Jeff Boedges: Sometimes though you might leave your journal on the subway.
Charlie McElroy: Don’t write your name and address.
Rick Kiley: Well, what if you need to get it back?
Jeff Boedges: Use code name. Use a P.O. box in the Bahamas. Use your neighbor’s name.
Charlie McElroy: There you go.
Rick Kiley: The cops show up and you’re like, “Hey, did they return the journal?”
Jeff Boedges: Did you get my journal back?
Rick Kiley: I do want to talk about a couple of the other products that you have because Jeff mentioned the artwork which is I think I wrote down beautiful and elevated. I do think he’s right. It feels very, very aspirational, and just needed in this category. I’m just curious who’s buying these pieces from you right now. You talked a little bit about who’s using the journals, but are there, I mean, are dispensaries buying them and put them up? Are there companies? Are there people who are just like collectors and fans?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. It’s a mix. Every kind of different subject we have is a different mix. So, the personas or the audience for those changes pretty wildly, but businesses are a big customer of ours. I think we’re in probably like our prints are probably in at least 400 dispensaries in some way. So, that’s a big part and we don’t always have eyes on that either. Like we have a great wholesale program and stuff but with prints, you don’t really need to wholesale those if you’re a business. You just need one to decorate your offices or location. So, it’s hard to say the exact breakdown and that’s always kind of a pet peeve of mine being that I love analytics and stuff, and we just can’t get good eyes on that exact question. But, yeah, it’s a mix of individuals, connoisseurs, I guess, and businesses.
Rick Kiley: All right. Cool. And we recently interviewed Andrew DeAngelo who started Last Prisoner Project and I saw that there are some sales of a line of your pieces, I believe, is going to benefit that project that not-for-profit. Is that correct?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. So, we love doing new designs and we like being an active participant in the community. So, one thing we do regularly is we’ll create new pieces and we’ll connect with a nonprofit to kind of donate proceeds for that. We like them to have some sort of connection. So, with the Last Prisoner Project piece, we did a series on like travel. So, this was one of our few art forward pieces and basically if you can think about those like really cool lithographic prints from the early 1900s that’s like visit Paris and Italy and Rome. So, they’re like that vibe except it’s cannabis and it’s also very subtle. So, it’s like you’ll look at it this and you’d be like, “Oh, Southern California. Cool. Wait, what is that in the background?” So that was intentional like we wanted to show the subject in such a normal way that you almost miss it. And for the Southern California piece, we were highlighting the kind of cultural changes that that region had given to the cannabis industry, each of the travel pieces kind of highlighted a different specialty that these locations have done for the industry.
It made sense for Southern California that we would connect with a nonprofit that was very culturally engaged. And I’ve been following Last Prisoner Project for a while and so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to start working with them. So, for our Southern California pieces, we donate all the proceeds to them.
Rick Kiley: Great. Great. That’s awesome.
Jeff Boedges: Can I ask how you’re finding your artists because like even when I looked at the five, I think it was five pieces on your travel series, they all look similar. You could tell that they were part of a campaign, which can be difficult to do with different artists. So, that’s a kind of a two-part question. How do you find the artists? Who are they? And then like have you ever thought about maybe working with some of the people who are currently incarcerated to actually produce the artwork for a series?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. We find the artists in lots of ways. I do the creative direction and I have two like designers on our team like regular designers who will kind of assist with a lot of the pieces but for something like the travel series or different styles that are outside of the guardrails of what we normally do, we’ll kind of just look around for somebody that hits that style perfectly. One thing I know about working with artists is it’s really difficult to find an artist and say, “Hey, I know you’re really good at this style, but I’d actually like you to do this style instead.” You got to find out what they’re good at and basically just ask them to replicate it. So, the travel series, there were three different artists in there but they all had a similar vibe because we kind of helped with that direction. The one with Last Prisoner Project was an Argentinian New York gal, Eugenia Mello and she does basically the style that you see there all the time and she’s great at it. The other two were one fella from Cincinnati who does a lot of artwork for like all of the good jam bands.
Jeff Boedges: Now you’re talking our language.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. I know you’re a fan, Jeff.
Rick Kiley: He does the Phish posters?
Charlie McElroy: No, like Trey Anastasio. Not Phish, but just Trey. And then like a Montreal. I can’t name drop enough bands, but he’s…
Jeff Boedges: We’ve seen both of those guys in concert so it’s all good.
Rick Kiley: I think at the same time even.
Charlie McElroy: But yeah, we’re not close to kind of finding somebody who fits the bill. The way we find artists is basically finding a piece that resonates with the site we’re going for and then finding out who did it and then contacting them.
Rick Kiley: Cool. It’s good stuff. It looks really good. And then you mentioned this earlier also, and actually, I’m learning a lot from you today. There’s some things that I didn’t know existed but pet CBD therapy. This is a thing. This is a real thing.
Charlie McElroy: It is.
Rick Kiley: Can you, please? It was the first I’d heard of it. I was looking through your products. I was like, pet CBD products. Please tell me how this happened and give us a little bit of information on how the product line’s doing but also like what pet CBD therapy is.
Charlie McElroy: I’m particularly interested if there’s any of the keep dog pee from killing your grass.
Rick Kiley: Oh, that’d be so good.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. I don’t think we tackle that one.
Jeff Boedges: Well, I’ve just put up another product idea for you.
Rick Kiley: It’s a natural fertilizer now.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. That was a collaboration with a team in Chicago called Blooming Culture that makes CBD products for dogs mostly, well, all pets, but mostly dogs. And yeah, that’s kind of an example of a collaboration, how we’ve done them in the past, where there’s a very niche subject that people are interested in. And then we’ll connect with somebody who has the expertise or in their case, vets on their side and we can kind of tap them as a resource to kind of finish the research and share it in a way that is easy to understand and helpful. So, yeah, that journal is basically there for pet owners to track their animals therapy, their CBD therapy, and there’s a lot of uses for this. It’s more common with dogs but folks use it with cats and other animals as well but this would like help with things like IBS, anxiety, talking about the urination problem like the dogs who get so excited that they wet themselves. There’s a whole host of ailments that CBD is showing to be beneficial for.
So, this journal kind of was a vehicle to talk about those subjects and put it out there for those who want something like this to kind of help them because a lot of people are nervous about giving this to your dogs and, yeah, THC is toxic to dogs. CBD is not and other helpful tips like that you can find in this journal but not for everybody, of course.
Rick Kiley: That’d be tip number one. It’s okay. That’s cool. Awesome. So, when people are buying your products, so are you selling the journals and these things through dispensaries? Like are they on sale? Could I walk into a dispensary and see like I would see the stack of moleskin notebooks at my bookstore, I would see yours there?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah, you can. If you walk into one and you don’t see them, you should ask them to contact us.
Jeff Boedges: We should complain.
Charlie McElroy: You should.
Rick Kiley: Hey, I thought I could get a Goldenleaf book here. I’m going to take my business to the dispensary down the road. Fortunately, there isn’t always one, but I hear what you’re saying. Cool. And so, when you’re promoting your brand, how are you doing that at this point? Are you in a lot of these partnerships with other groups or what’s been most successful for you?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. We’ve definitely done a lot of trial and error. So, even though we don’t touch the product as I mentioned. We’re essentially an information company or printing company. We’re painted with the same don’t touch us brush as all other cannabis companies in terms of digital marketing. So, all of those channels are…
Rick Kiley: Oh, really?
Charlie McElroy: Yeah, it’s frustrating.
Rick Kiley: So, we should do events for you. I didn’t realize this was a giant business development meeting. Okay.
Jeff Boedges: I definitely want to tour those. I want to tour your prints for sure. I think we should be doing a gallery show tour first.
Rick Kiley: But I would not have guessed that your notebooks and journals are subjected to the same social media restrictions that cannabis company would be. That is shocking to me.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. And you know what? If you were to ask Facebook, Amazon, do Google, they would say, “No, it isn’t,” but there is not another company like ours. So, what happens is that we’ll go through lengths to have them review it, have like an ad or whatever it is. They’ll review it. Normally it has to go through one or two times before somebody actually looks at it and is like, “Oh, I see. This is actually just a book.” And then they’ll whitelist it and that’ll last for however long it happens until we make a change and then everything is rejected again. So, without the ability to granularly focus on our audience, it’s worse than throwing money into the wind. Like we can’t use it helpfully for us so we don’t use it. So, we rely on affiliates, like meaningful partnerships, like I mentioned. And a big part too is like we develop a lot of content and publish a lot of different types of research that our team will do and we get syndicated in a handful of places like Green Entrepreneur and what’s the recent one, Ad Week, a handful of others. So, that’s been a good channel for us. But yeah, those are kind of the main things like influencers, affiliates, that the more controllable person-to-person types of things.
Rick Kiley: I would wonder if on the medical side that the doctors that are actually providing the prescriptions might be a vehicle for you as well in terms of giving their patients something to help them identify the right product. Because being someone who’s gone through the medical program here in New York, the doctor who provides the prescription always tends to write like whatever the pharmacist recommends. And so, it’d be interesting to leave the doctor’s office with that and saying, “Bring that with you when you go talk to them and so you can find the thing that’s going to help you with your chronic pain, with your whatever the ailment is,” and it’s just…
Charlie McElroy: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: I wonder if that would work. I mean, that’s how the pharma companies, they target doctors, they send people into their offices and saying buy my drugs. It might work for you.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. We do have a lot of them as ambassadors of our brand or whatever, tailors but that’s definitely a very gaping hole in our strategy is it’s finding those doctors who are kind of open to that type of approach.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Cool. And so, what’s next? I put down here I see a calendar in the future. Jeff had a different idea. You had the monthly newsletter with the weed of the month.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah, that’s cool. We do have a like two cool projects coming out soon. One of them is a journal about cannabis and sex. We did that with two of the bigger experts in the space. One of them, Kiana Reeves.
Rick Kiley: Which one is he?
Charlie McElroy: Kiana.
Jeff Boedges: Oh, it’s not Keanu? Oh, man.
Rick Kiley: That is like, “Oh man! That’s so great.”
Jeff Boedges: Whoa, great.
Rick Kiley: But I wanted to know is he the cannabis expert or the sex expert?
Jeff Boedges: I thought he was both. I thought we were talking about like a combined thing.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah. I’m not going to be able to play this podcast for them now because…
Rick Kiley: No, no. We can cut that part out. Do it again and I’ll react like I get it.
Charlie McElroy: Okay. Yeah, we’re doing a sex and cannabis journal with a couple of experts in the space. One of them, Kiana Reeves from Foria and the other one Sophie St. Thomas. Kiana, she is the Chief Education Officer at Foria. Foria is a brand that makes cannabis-infused sexual wellness products. And Sophie has been writing on the overlap of those two topics for years. She’s published at least three books and is a regular writer in Playboy and other outlets. And yeah, this is a super niche thing of course, but it really does wonders for people who struggle with a lot of intimacy issues and then who have a lot of either physical or emotional, sexual issues. From a lot of these are more like women-focused with menopause. I won’t kind of go down the list right here but, yeah, it’s an interesting concept. And it’s a pretty hot topic right now in the cannabis space like it’s a new avenue to explore. So, we did this. There’s some really cool artwork in it that walks the line of both being how do I put this?
Jeff Boedges: Provocative?
Charlie McElroy: Thank you. Yes, it’s provocative without being like explicit. So, yeah, that’s coming out and we’ve got a lot of cool collabs happening around that. And then we also are doing a series on hemp education. That’s going to have a lot more of those cool botanical illustrations. We’re going to be doing a feature on landrace cultivars and just other hemp knowledge again kind of approaching the CBD misnomers since a lot of those are derived from hemp. So, yeah, that’s kind of on our pipeline for 2020 if things keep going.
Rick Kiley: Sounds exciting.
Charlie McElroy: Nothing crazy.
Rick Kiley: Things seem to be going well, and that’s great. Congrats, man.
Charlie McElroy: Thanks.
Rick Kiley: It’s really exciting stuff. Really interesting and unique in the space too. I just haven’t seen anything like it and I guess being able to, I don’t know, you mentioned this sort of language differently. I keep thinking about you said about the language differences state-by-state and being someone that’s acting as a universal translator. Sorry. My Star Trek nerdom comes through. But I think I hadn’t thought about that as a real problem that needs to be addressed. And you make a great point and it’s great that you’re being able to try to fill in that gap. I think it’s exciting stuff. So, we close this podcast the same way. I think we’re preaching the choir a lot but we are believers that cannabis is in fact moving towards federal legalization. We actually haven’t talked about it at all today but as you’re a part of the industry, we imagine you probably also agree. And just to confirm that if you do and if so, do you have a crystal ball? Actually, Jeff, we do have to start putting up actually a big board here. We’re starting to get some numbers. But do you have a date in mind where you think it might be federally legal?
Jeff Boedges: Pool’s up to like $60 now. So, be intelligent in your guestimation here.
Charlie McElroy: All right. Well, okay, so assuming Biden wins, he’s not pro-legalization so I think he will do decriminalization by March 2021. That’ll be partially a response to the kind of the disparity that cannabis has shown in the incarcerated individuals. That’ll alleviate that but he is not pro-legalization so I don’t think he will do that in his term. But his vice president when she has her term starting in 2024, I predict the federal legalization to happen probably early on in that term. But decriminalization is going to lift up so much red tape for all these businesses. So, it’ll go pretty quick after that, but I really hope/predict that Biden will do that, at least to that step.
Jeff Boedges: I think you’re the closest thing to a statistician we’ve had on this show, Charlie, so actually I kind of like your logic.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. His is a well-thought-out answer. Most people are like, “Nah, five years maybe.”
Jeff Boedges: A month when it’s cold, some kind of cold month. That’s what I’m thinking.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, that’s good. Of course, there’s no guarantee that whoever Biden’s vice presidential nominee would be elected in 2024.
Charlie McElroy: I just figured he’ll be too old to do two terms.
Rick Kiley: No, he’s not. He’s already said he’s doing one.
Charlie McElroy: Oh, he does? Okay.
Rick Kiley: He’s come out and said he’s doing one. So, that person still needs to be elected. So, cool.
Charlie McElroy: Right.
Rick Kiley: Before we sign off here, if people want to find out more about Goldleaf and maybe get some of your nice journals or artwork, where should we send them?
Charlie McElroy: Send them to our website, it’s ShopGoldleaf.com, all one word. And if they want to see some cool images and stuff, it’s on our website, and we also like Instagram as our kind of preferred social channel. So, we’re gldleaf so no O on Instagram.
Rick Kiley: I got to totally erase what I just wrote. Okay. Just kidding. All right, cool. Well, Charlie, it has been really great chatting with you, man. You are a wealth of knowledge. And I am leaving this conversation a lot more informed than I was at the beginning of it. So, thank you so much for that.
Charlie McElroy: Yeah.
Jeff Boedges: If I got one thing I’ll take away, it’s that sativa makes you happy.
Rick Kiley: Right. Always.
Charlie McElroy: Great takeaway.
Rick Kiley: Sativa and Adderall are the same thing. That’s what we’re taking away. Cool. Anyway, thank you so much for joining us today, Charlie. We’ll talk to you again soon hopefully. Cheers.
Charlie McElroy: Okay. Thanks so much, guys. Have a good one.
Jeff Boedges: You too, man. Be good.