With so many new markets coming online in the next few years, there are more people than ever before looking for help with permitting, licensing, and everything else that comes with launching a business in a highly regulated industry.
When they need that help, they turn to people like today’s guest, Dr. Sherry Boodram. She’s the CEO and co-founder of CannDelta–a regulatory and scientific consulting company that helps clients navigate both the cannabis and psychedelic industries. Dr. Boodram and her team provide regulatory compliance advice to operate in the legal Canadian markets, and they also provide support to international jurisdictions, including the U.S.
Before launching CannDelta, she was actually a part of the Canadian federal government, serving as Health Canada’s Medical Cannabis and Controlled Substances Programs’ Senior Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement Officer. She holds a Ph.D in Chemistry, an honorary B.S. in Biological Chemistry, and certificates in Cannabis Law and Regulation as well as Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs and Quality Operations.
In this conversation, Sherry walks us through the hoops and hurdles facing people looking to break into the cannabis and psychedelics industries, the mistakes so many people make while trying to ensure that they’re operating legally, and the key differences between the established Canadian and emerging American markets.
- The most common mistakes that people make when trying to get cannabis licenses.
- Why Shelly transitioned out of government to launch CannDelta–and what she’s focused on now.
- The unique benefits of working with someone who knows Canada’s industry so well for anyone planning a launch in a state like New York or New Jersey.
- Why medical approvals for psilocybin in a number of states are more likely to happen now than ever before.
- Why social equity has to be such a big part of the American cannabis story–and how Canada failed to integrate First Nations peoples into its legalization.
- “The great thing about Canada’s industry is that it’s been very thoughtful for many years now and we have a good sense of lessons learned, and I think that’s really important from a regulatory standpoint.” – Dr. Sherry Boodram
- “A lot of countries do this where they don’t want to reinvent the wheel. They want to look towards countries where they already have regulations or at least a landscape that’s developed and learn from that.” – Dr. Sherry Boodram
- Follow CannDelta on Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn
- Health Canada
- Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (formerly Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency)
- MJ Unpacked
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Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Green Repeal. I am Rick Kiley. It is warm. The light, it’s staying very light, very late here in the northeast. We are approaching the summer solstice and I’m here with my business partner, Jeff Boedges. How you doing, buddy?
Jeffrey Boedges: I’m good. The sun also comes up really early I think like 4:45 now. It’s like light, and you’re just like, “Man, it’s the middle of the damn night.”
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Yeah.
Rick Kiley: It may even be worse for our guest because I believe she may be on a latitude that’s even more northerly than we are.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. The sun doesn’t set in Toronto. I think everybody knows that this time of year.
Rick Kiley: The sun does not set in Toronto. If it wasn’t such a bright city, you could probably see the northern lights. So, let’s get to it. Today, we are welcoming Dr. Sherry Boodram, the CEO and co-founder of CannDelta, which is a regulatory and scientific consulting company that helps clients navigate the cannabis and psychedelic industries. These two industries are going to start to compete for who’s going to become legal first in the U.S., I have a feeling. At CannDelta, Sherry and her team of expert consultants provide regulatory compliance advice to operate within Canada’s legal cannabis and psychedelics markets, and they also service some international jurisdictions, including the United States. Prior to launching CannDelta, Sherry spent several years in the Canadian federal government, most notably as Health Canada’s Medical Cannabis and Controlled Substances Programs as the Senior Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement Officer. You really need a good acronym for that one.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: That’s just a lot of words right there but it is impressive. Dr. Boodram has earned an impressive list of degrees, including a Ph.D. in Chemistry, an honorary Bachelor of Science in Biological Chemistry, a certificate in Cannabis Law and Regulation, and a graduate certificate with honors in Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs and Quality Operations. And with a resumé like that, it’s no wonder she’s become such a highly respected thought leader in the Canadian cannabis industry and beyond.
Rick Kiley: Sherry, welcome to The Green Repeal.
Sherry Boodram: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me and for that great introduction.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, it’s like introducing Tiger Woods on the first tee, winner of this and that. It just goes on forever.
Rick Kiley: I know but, look, when you earn all those degrees, I think you earn the fact that someone has to read them off every time because I am sure that was a lot of effort, a lot of time, a lot of work.
Sherry Boodram: I thought you’re going to say that was exhausting.
Rick Kiley: You have to tell me. Maybe it was really easy for you.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. There are people out there who like school.
Sherry Boodram: Clearly, I like school.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. So, look, that’s super impressive. Someone who has done all that work could have probably done a ton of different things in the world. However, you have now entered the cannabis space. I’m curious when this sort of idea materialized for you to say, “I am going to apply all those letters after my name to cannabis.”
Sherry Boodram: It happened much more organically than planned, I would say. I did my undergraduate in chemistry at the University of Toronto and had no idea that cannabis or psychedelics would ever be an industry that I would get into. I thought I’d always be in a pharmaceutical company working in a lab somewhere in some back corner, and I was quite happy with that. I loved chemistry but after my undergrad, I decided not to go to grad school right away and decided that I’m going to take a little bit of a break and try my hand at the working world. And I happened to get my first job as a chemist at Health Canada in their drug analysis lab, as a junior forensic chemist. So, essentially, I would analyze cannabis all day and testify in court as the expert witness. It was cannabis that was confiscated by police. And this is back in 2005. So, at the time, commercial industry wasn’t legalized.
Jeffrey Boedges: Why were they analyzing confiscated cannabis?
Sherry Boodram: Right?
Jeffrey Boedges: I mean because like you know what they always say, cops got the best weed. Now, I know why.
Sherry Boodram: Well.
Rick Kiley: They needed Sherry to tell them which one was good.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s exactly right. So, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, don’t mess with this one. But this one, this is the bad boy. Take that home with you.”
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, they needed more quantitative evidence.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, it was evidentiary. So, you were using it to say, “Now, is there a sliding scale for people who are breaking the law with this? Or it’s like, “This stuff is really bad so you’re going to jail longer?”
Sherry Boodram: No. At the time, they would arrest people, well, charge people for having pocket scales. So, we would actually get pocket scales, have to rinse it down, and test the residue from that. And people would actually have to go to court for that.
Jeffrey Boedges: For having the residue on a pocket scale?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: Well, I mean, was it one of those things that no one could really explain what an alternative use of a pocket scale was? You know, like I’m using this to measure my tea out, my herbs? I’m just curious.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I don’t know. It does make you wonder what the situation was, but.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, considering that, how long ago was that?
Sherry Boodram: Since 2005.
Jeffrey Boedges: And you guys were legal in cannabis by what?
Sherry Boodram: 2018. The commercial industry started in 2013.
Rick Kiley: Okay.
Sherry Boodram: And that was for medical use as a commercial industry and then legalization, 2018.
Rick Kiley: Got it. So, did you ever get like a Breaking Bad moment where you were just like, “I’m going to be a chemist,” and go and get in the van and start your own little like lab on the side?
Sherry Boodram: No.
Rick Kiley: No? Never?
Sherry Boodram: No. That’s the one thing.
Rick Kiley: I’m always writing TV shows and sequels. I wonder what like north of the border Breaking Bad would be like.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I mean, this was even way before then.
Rick Kiley: I guess it was.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I ended up going back to school and going to grad school and getting my Ph.D. and then went back to that same lab, but as a senior chemist. So, in addition to cannabis, I would also test hard drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and then testify on those because I just got increasingly difficult cases.
Jeffrey Boedges: What was your thesis if you don’t mind me asking?
Sherry Boodram: Oh, it was nothing related. It was on RNA interference. So, gene signaling and protein structure elucidation.
Rick Kiley: RNA is very popular today, though, looking for other uses. So, it might be able to swing back into the other side if you ever wanted to. Well, so tell me then, I’m trying this title one more time. So, you were there testing substances for the government with Health Canada and then you became the senior regulatory compliance and enforcement officer. Was that the same job or did you grow with that job?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. So, I transitioned a bit. So, I eventually wanted to get out of the lab and so I turned my career path more into policy. It was a regulated industry anyways. We were still having to follow legislation and I was really intrigued by legislation as a whole. So, I started working for a different government department called the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and we would essentially work on environmental assessments for major resource projects in Northern Ontario. So, a very fancy way of saying like mining projects were a large bulk of the projects that we were working on, and those are all projects in Northern Ontario. There’s a large part of environmental assessments making sure that you’re not contaminating natural resources. If there are some concerns for that, that there are appropriate mitigation measures in place to address it, you consult with First Nations communities with the public and coordinate all that.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. We call them Environmental Impact Studies in the U.S. but they’re here as well. I don’t know that we do a very good job at them, but they’re here.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Well, same. I don’t know. We try to do a good job. There’s obviously a lot of monitoring and adjustments that need to occur but, yeah, it’s built into a job.
Jeffrey Boedges: I’m guessing you guys do a better job. I’m just going to go out there.
Sherry Boodram: Okay, I’ll take your word for it. Yeah. So, I did that for a couple of years and worked a lot of policy documents, drafting memos to the Minister of the Environment, conducting consultations, facilitating those types of engagements, writing a lot of reports on final decisions, and commit with mitigation measures for any potential issues as a result of those projects. And then, yeah, so I actually really enjoyed that as well. But then I heard that there was a job opening for a compliance and enforcement officer, which is a very fancy way of saying a senior inspector. So, we did licensing. That role does licensing for cannabis facilities as well as inspections. So, a large part would be the actual onsite inspections, and the licensing part kind of ties into that as well.
Rick Kiley: Right.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, you would inspect things for people who are trying to get a license or you were kind of going and saying, “Well, you’re doing it wrong.”
Sherry Boodram: Both actually. Yeah. So, pre-license of people that were in the application phase and then got their license and then also during their actual operations post-licensing.
Rick Kiley: And were you a helpful guide for these organizations trying to get it right? Would you be someone who says, “This is the thing that’s wrong, I might suggest you do these things?” Or was it like my experience with the government, which is like, “Eeh. Try again. Come back when you think you have it figured out?”
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. So, when you work for the government, you’re always told you’re not a consultant, so you kind of give them the approach. And oftentimes there can be more than one way of addressing an issue and it’s for the applicant to propose what their solutions are. And then, yeah, the government guys says okay.
Rick Kiley: Well, what was like the most common difficulty that you saw, the most common breach, or just the thing that people had trouble getting correct?
Sherry Boodram: So, in the licensing fees, most often it’s that applications are not complete. They’re not sure how to tell the story in the way that is necessarily accurate to their site, not that they’re trying to be deceitful but it takes a certain skill, I think, to put the story together and put all the pieces together and to present it in a way that the regulator can understand and accept and expect the information to be presented and tie that into the regulations, which could be challenging, right? But you see the legislation, you have to interpret it, and then translate that into what does that look like in practice to be compliant?
Jeffrey Boedges: So, is it like the U.S.? In the U.S., there are lawyers, legal teams. There are teams that really specialize in helping people new to the game navigate the very treacherous waters of regulation. Is that the same thing there in Canada where you have that same type of I’m going to call it almost like a garden industry that has grown sort of spontaneously because people need to know how to present things correctly.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah, exactly. So, that’s essentially what we do. We guide people through and help them navigate the regulatory industry that they’re looking to be in, whether that’s cannabis or psychedelics. So, everything from the application phase to even after they get the license, how do they stay compliant and run a successful operation?
Jeffrey Boedges: Got it. I’m slow on the uptake.
Rick Kiley: And you’re working in the medical framework as well as the legal adult-use or recreational framework as well?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. So, when I started as a compliance officer, it was the medical industry at that point. It was a few iterations of the regulations ago, so there was only a medical framework and it was for commercial production. So, again, I did the licensing, the on-site inspections. On-site inspection, there were different challenges. It was more around recordkeeping, document control, ensuring standard operating procedures are all written that describe what they’re actually doing. Sometimes releasing their batches and it not being completely aligned with the criteria, the testing criteria that set for that particular product. So, I mean, there’s a variety of different things and I would say for the most part, I was told that I was a fair inspector, which is probably the best compliment you could get.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s the top rating. So, excuse me, sir.
Rick Kiley: This contract appears to be printed on some form of cracker. That will not work.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Well, when the industry started, a lot of companies used Excel sheets.
Rick Kiley: Wait, that’s bad?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, exactly.
Rick Kiley: Hold on.
Sherry Boodram: Well, that’s because if you have a lot of data, a lot of people, there’s no document control, really. You know, you kind of go in and change information. And that was really before a lot of really good ERP systems were developed that could really track products and inventory from like essentially, they say, seed-to-sale. I have to go in a different variety of ways there but, yeah, even some of these really large companies like top five cannabis companies that you still see in Canada, they used Excel sheets and they would hand you their laptop and be like, “Okay. Here are my records.” Like, you’d be sitting there like flipping through these Excel sheets on their laptop and they’re like, “Oh, can you print this page for me? Can you print this page?”
Rick Kiley: They print out like ten pages, a column per page.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah, exactly. Or the printer doesn’t work and then you have to write them up for not being able to provide you with accessible documents.
Rick Kiley: Did you ever show up at an address and have it be like an empty parking lot like just not where it was supposed to be? Did anything like that ever happen?
Sherry Boodram: No, that all gets confirmed in the licensing phase. I mean, we’ve shown up and you don’t really know where the entrance is, but yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s a mobile home. It’s alright.
Sherry Boodram: No, it can’t be a residence. You can’t have a dwelling place as a cannabis facility. It’s in the regs.
Jeffrey Boedges: Okay. Well, there goes my college…
Rick Kiley: Yeah. That is your business.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah.
Sherry Boodram: So, your application would not get approved.
Jeffrey Boedges: There’s a lot of reason why the application don’t get approved. It’s all on the list.
Rick Kiley: Not a Canadian citizen, one. That’s the most important thing.
Jeffrey Boedges: Hey, I like hockey. That’s all that matters. I’ve got most of the criteria that I need.
Rick Kiley: Maybe you can get honorary citizenship just for that.
Jeffrey Boedges: I’ll shoot for it.
Rick Kiley: But you’re a Blues fan, and they won’t like it.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s true.
Rick Kiley: Sorry, man.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: So, then was there part of you that wished you could help people that you were, like, going through this process and you’re like, “Sorry. I’m in the government?” Like, what caused the transition for you to come from this role into launching CannDelta and saying, “I’m now going to try to start helping people with this process, with this industry altogether?”
Sherry Boodram: Well, I definitely felt that way when I was a compliance officer. It’s difficult to be able to go in and see people really trying and trying to do a good job and trying to understand, but not being able to tell them the answers. So, you could kind of direct them, guide them to the answer.
Jeffrey Boedges: Did you drop hints like, “Try it this way, maybe,” you know?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I would say that I was open to recommending options and having kind of like walking them through like a thought process, not really necessarily giving them an answer, but thinking about what should they be considering where the downfalls in whatever they’re doing, where are the gaps in this kind of getting them to see what the solutions would be. And when you’re working in the government, as much as there are so many great things, they’re really great people. I made some really great friendships while working there. You get 90% mat leave when you’re working for the government, you can get pension, like all really great things.
Jeffrey Boedges: How long is the mat leave?
Sherry Boodram: How long? You know, honestly, I think it’s a year in Canada. It’s pretty long.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s a lot.
Sherry Boodram: You don’t have to take the whole year. And, yeah, silly me, I didn’t have my daughter until after I left the government so I can really take advantage of that.
Rick Kiley: We can’t always control all the timing in the world.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah, that’s right but things work out the way that they will. But, yeah, what I had found personally was that I think because I’ve gone to school for so long and really used to contributing my ideas and wanting things to move quickly and like really be involved in decisions and just moving things forward, that’s really hard to do in the government because there are so many different levels of approvals and your budgets need to get approved. And so, there’s a lot of factors and to some extent, it made me feel stuck I guess after a while. And I really spent so much of my career in the government and I really wanted to see what else is out there and I didn’t really have that chance after finishing university. So, I happened to and I was kind of having those thoughts and it just so happened that at the time I got headhunted by a company, a U.S. company, actually, and that company focused on brand name development, nomenclature development for drugs that are going through the new drug submission process and developing nomenclature for new compounds.
So, they were looking for someone with regulatory experience in Canada, and they were also looking sort of to dabble, I think, in the cannabis industry. So, it just kind of worked out in that way and they’re looking for someone to lead the Canadian office. So, it was a good opportunity and it was interesting and it was exciting to have a different opportunity presented. I’m definitely one of those people who think that if an opportunity is there, that you should always explore it.
Jeffrey Boedges: Sure. That’s really different, though. I mean, coming up, are you talking about like developing brand names and things like that like the Cannabis’ of the world? They come up with something that doesn’t sound like it will do anything for you.
Sherry Boodram: That’s right. And the reason is because you need to find names. You need to come up with developed names that have – you need to assess the look and sound of the name so that you’re sure that there’s no look-alike or sound-alike names that are similar to another because that causes medication errors.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Doctors can prescribe the wrong thing.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. So, the doctors could prescribe the wrong medicine. The pharmacist can pull the wrong medication. The patient could pull the wrong medication, especially in an instance where there’s a drug that’s very similar to another drug that’s treating the same indication.
Jeffrey Boedges: I thought they just put things in like a giant basket with all those chips from like, what’s the game?
Rick Kiley: Scrabble?
Jeffrey Boedges: Scrabble. Thank you. And then you just pull them out until you come up with something that sounds like something.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Kind of. There’s a lot of thought that goes behind the name. So, a lot of times we’ll do these sort of like workshops and have the company explain what is the feeling that you want with this certain drug. Like, what are certain colors that are important that come to mind when you think of? It’s very like emotive or…
Jeffrey Boedges: Right. Okay. Cool.
Sherry Boodram: Or if they want to get across a certain idea about it’s like first to the market. So, it’s like you kind of do these different play on words and try to like kind of, yeah.
Rick Kiley: Feel like you probably do that thing that’s just like how you find your superhero name or something like that. It’s like you take the first letter of the street you grew up on.
Sherry Boodram: Oh yeah. Kind of like that
Rick Kiley: And then combine it with your favorite food.
Sherry Boodram: That’s been around three times and then there you go.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Either that or I just think you could take like college alt-rock band names and then just add the letter H at the end.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: I don’t know. Yeah. These are just simple ideas.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. What’s like…
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: I don’t know.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, what have you come out? Like Luna? Sorry. Never mind.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Well, something like that, right? Because it’s like, okay, is it a nighttime medication? And that’s where you have names. I kind of have like Luna or like the moon or you need sleepy. Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, exactly.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. So, there’s a whole thought behind it.
Rick Kiley: So, you went from being someone who works in government in a heavily bureaucratic industry. Government’s bureaucratic. We’re in academia, which has a lot of…
Jeffrey Boedges: Layers.
Rick Kiley: Layers, bureaucratic approach, directions to go. And now you’re starting your own company. That must have presented quite a different challenge than you were used to.
Sherry Boodram: Yes. Yeah, there’s definitely different challenges being an entrepreneur that you don’t account for I think always at first. The nice thing about the transition job that I had working at that private company was that I was leading an office, the Canadian office. I had to hire. I had to train people. It was very sales-heavy. So, all these nice things I said about like having these brainstorming meetings, that’s like a very small part of it. But there was a lot of travel. There was a lot of creating pitch decks, going in pitching pharmaceutical companies so you can win their business, writing service agreements, negotiating a lot of phone calls, presentation, and things like that. So, and that’s something that I didn’t really get is in the government, right? I never had any sales training in that same manner. So, we’re having to really put together pitch decks, service agreements, that sort of thing. So, it was great having that experience.
Jeffrey Boedges: We are intimately familiar with all of those things. And I also would say as an entrepreneur like sales was the scariest one.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: Because just the idea, like the word, it may have been like chop off a finger. I mean, that’s the kind of like feeling it instills in people who are starting their own company.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. It takes some skill. And just because you have a company, it doesn’t mean that you have that skill, you know? It’s just something that you have to do. And your people are not always well trained for it and it can be really scary and stressful I think, for a lot of people. And I do believe that there are some people out there that are absolutely great at sales like naturally.
Jeffrey Boedges: For sure.
Sherry Boodram: I’m decent at sales. I would say I’m decent but the other co-founder, he’s like, excellent like he loves it. Like, some people love sales and they get excited.
Jeffrey Boedges: You have to have a very short memory to be good at sales. I mean, you do. I mean, people talk about being thick-skinned. I’m like, “Thick-skinned is nothing. They just don’t think about what happened 5 minutes ago.” “Did you get a sale?” “No. I’m gone. I’m on to the next one.”
Rick Kiley: Like in Ted Lasso, “Be a goldfish.” That’s what they – you got to be a goldfish. Alright. So, you do have a business partner. Can you tell us a little bit about when you founded the company, what the early stage was about, how you’re functioning?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah, how it happened. Again, so I left the government and people don’t leave the government usually ever because it’s a good job. It’s a nice, stable job. And I had left and I had still some contacts or people who I built a good rapport with that were licensed companies and they knew I had left and they say, “Okay.” Like, they would ask me a couple of questions about a particular thing and they’re like, “Okay. Well, I need to do this like an amendment to my license application, like can you help me with this?” And I would kind of do it passively and kind of on the side sometimes, like on the weekends when I had time and I would kind of consult them. And then it was right in 2017 when that started and if you know the dates for Canadian cannabis history, legalization happened in 2018 and that’s when the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulations were drafted and everyone was really excited about it because it was a really big milestone in the industry with legalization as part of that. And also, soon the year, the following year, 2.0 products. So, those are things like the edibles and topicals, extracts. So, when I had left Health Canada and consulting on the side, it just became really busy and a lot of people realized I had left and it was like, “Okay. That nice fair inspector had left.”
Rick Kiley: Yeah. The one who couldn’t give us all the answers, now she can.
Sherry Boodram: Now she can. So, it really started getting busy. And I got to a point where I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do with my career. And I always loved, I don’t want to say cannabis, loved that industry…
Jeffrey Boedges: You can say that.
Sherry Boodram: …of controlled substances.
Rick Kiley: It’s okay to love cannabis.
Sherry Boodram: And I really love helping people as well. And being in academia for so long and having to teach so many lectures and teach students and TAs, it was like supernatural to me. So, it was like the perfect pairing and the perfect time in the industry as well. And I had brought on my partner, who also worked at Health Canada in a slightly different department. He worked in health products. And he’s also a chemist by training. So, he has a Ph.D. in chemistry and I had known him in grad school. And we had started CannDelta together and he came in, he’s the other co-founder. And it kind of picked up from then. We had a super small office, just him and I. We brought in one other person a couple of months later, and then now we’ve grown. It’s been four years now and we’re about 20 staff right now.
Jeffrey Boedges: Wow.
Rick Kiley: Wow. Good work.
Jeffrey Boedges: Are you consulting in the U.S. as well or just Canada?
Sherry Boodram: We are consulting in the US. We do have clients in New York, New Jersey, New Mexico. We’re kind of focusing right now more in New York and New Jersey, just wherever at.
Rick Kiley: You have to be in a state with “new” in the name in order to work with that. That’s it. Right. Sorry.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Well, yeah, that’s kind of true. I mean, we are working in other states as well but predominantly I would say that New York and New Jersey.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, it’s definitely the most for the markets for what you do.
Sherry Boodram: Right. Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: I think the more mature markets are going to be harder to find people.
Sherry Boodram: Harder to penetrate. Yeah, exactly. So, we haven’t really been out that way.
Rick Kiley: So, I realized that you’ve already said that your business partner is the more natural salesperson. But if you’re trying to give your sales pitch here, what are you…
Jeffrey Boedges: Nothing like a Ph.D. in Chemistry or such and such sales.
Rick Kiley: Because the people who I think listening to this are people who are interested in making careers and business in Canada. How do you position yourself to potential clients? If you were trying to reach people in New York, New Jersey area in particular, who were looking to put a stake in the ground in this business, what do you offer to them?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I think that’s a really great question. So, again, like we worked in Canada, so we both worked in government. We know how governments think. And the great thing about Canada’s industry is that it’s been very thoughtful for many years now and it’s transitioned and we have a good sense of lessons learned, and I think that’s really important from a regulatory standpoint. And a lot of countries do this where they don’t want to reinvent the wheel, right? They want to look towards countries where they already have regulations or at least a landscape that’s developed and learned from that. So, when we work with our clients, and again, because they’re not reinventing the wheel and a lot of the components, the requirements of the regulation are really pulled from other types of industries like pharma and food to build what we do have for cannabis currently and a lot of states, well, not even just states and even other jurisdictions as well, we’ve also helped to consult on a regulatory framework in Bermuda and also in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as well. And a lot of the same principles are taken from that.
So, when we work with our clients, we’re able to advise them on lessons learned, where they should. And again, because in the U.S. a lot, especially in New York, New Jersey, they’re now kind of ramping up and building out what that process looks like. And they don’t know where those pitfalls are. So, we’re able to steer them in the right direction, helped to guide them on, okay, how do you build out a facility that’s compliant that will allow you to produce safe quality product? Because at the end of the day, the same goals, objectives of the regulators are there. Right? And so, that they produce a safe product and that the products that they are producing is not being diverted to an illicit market. So, how do you control security so that your products are safe, is stored in the right way, that’s transported safely?
Jeffrey Boedges: Can I ask a question like, how much of your job is chemistry-based? Like where you’re really looking at the chemical make of a thing as in how much of it is really just you’ve learned how to navigate the bureaucracy or is it 50/50 or is it all bureaucratic now?
Sherry Boodram: It’s more bureaucratic but we do have projects that are more scientific-based. Sometimes we’ll get asked to help companies that have a new technology to assess their technology and basically write a compliance document for it. Sometimes that involves testing the product or developing a list of protocol for them to test that product in the market in a very peopled manner, analyze data.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, a lot of intakes and stuff like that, it would be different. Yeah. I think that’s been one of the more interesting places where we’ve seen innovation in the market is just all the different intakes. The craziest one I saw a couple of weeks ago at MJ Unpacked was somebody had made chewing tobacco out of it, and I was like, “Wow. Really?” Okay. That was definitely interesting just in an innovation standpoint.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Or cannabis products that are going to be used with some sort of accessory. Is an accessory considered a medical device? If it is, what level of medical device? So, you’re not only looking at the cannabis regs but also for medical devices. So, it could be a combination. And then, yeah, we get asked to give advice on how to set up a lab, set up an analytical testing lab, what kind of equipment they should use, how do they validate their methods? How do they run stability studies?
Jeffrey Boedges: So, we’re back to Breaking Bad because you’re setting up lab.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I think now we’re starting to get to the question as like, what are you not equipped to give advice on? So, it seems like you’re running the gamut here from licensing process to compound composition to innovations in technology. Is there any area in the industry you’re like, “You should go talk to…”?
Jeffrey Boedges: Because you can also do the names. I mean, you’re doing the product names.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. We probably have given names like it was a bunch of names. I mean, I don’t think I’m the most creative person but I don’t know. I got that job so who knows?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. You got that crazy painting too.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah, I know. It’s actually a very cheap thing but it does the job. It has all the colors.
Jeffrey Boedges: Good.
Sherry Boodram: And then, yeah, we also help with clinical trials as well reviewing protocols, helping companies prepare protocols, develop protocols.
Jeffrey Boedges: Are they doing clinical trials in rec or just in…?
Sherry Boodram: In psychedelics more so.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I was going to think that’s the psilocybin.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. They’re a lot less Canadian, or not even Canadian, just cannabis clinical trials in general. But yeah, psychedelics is definitely picking up. The research component is super, super important.
Rick Kiley: We interviewed someone recently who suggested that psilocybin might, at least in the U.S., be tracked to become legal faster than cannabis.
Jeffrey Boedges: Because it’s so potent against PTSD and there’s such a huge need for it now.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: I’m just curious is you viewed like if you have a perspective on other products, its usage, and like where that’s going to be in the legal framework and how fast.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. There’s a lot of news about psychedelics, psilocybin specifically in Oregon, and they’re developing a framework for that. So, that’s I think a lot of states, once they see that framework, they’re probably going to adopt it, and hopefully, Canada becomes more open-minded to that as well. I think that like from a state level, the states have been really good at coming up with their own regime. There are some variations in how they approach certain aspects of it, whether that’s cannabis or psychedelics. And with psychedelics, that’s really getting people’s attention because there are clear therapeutic advantages from different types of molecules administered in different types of ways. There are so many clinical trials about that, and every molecule has its own sort of indication that it’s probably best suited for. Whereas cannabis, it’s like, okay, there’s cannabis. There’s obviously challenges sometimes with it because it has such a large profile, but with psychedelics, there are so many different compounds that companies are studying that can be helpful in a variety of ways.
So, because of that reason, I think that it’s getting a lot of traction because of that. And with the pandemic, there have been so many people that are facing mental health issues and unfortunate for that but it’s kind of pushing that industry forward and getting a lot of interest and support as an actual relevant therapeutic drug or format for addressing a lot of these issues. But really, I think that once certain states all kind of assemble or at least become a majority, I think that would be difficult federally to continue to turn a blind eye to those types of changes.
Jeffrey Boedges: And when you’re doing these clinical trials, are you doing them just like you would with normal pharma? You have a number of physicians that are signing up and they’re putting their patients on and reporting back. How are you guys doing in clinical trials? Because it seems like if I called 50 doctors and said, “Do you want to test this blood pressure medication?” 50 doctors are probably going to say yes. If I called 50 doctors and say, “Hey, I want you to try some mushrooms,” they’re going to be like, “What?”
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I mean, we’re not running the clinical trials but we’ll help our clients with developing certain aspects of the protocol, helping them respond to the regulator on addressing those types of concerns. But generally, when the protocols are developed, it could vary, right? It could vary on how many physicians need to be there, how many patients, what type of population are you addressing? What is the proposed medication or, yeah. So, there could be a lot of variation with that. But I would say with psychedelics in particular in Canada, a lot of what the clinical trial department has concerns about is how in these studies will the sponsor of the applicant company address things like emotional openness, right? So, if you’re on a hallucinogenic compound, how are you certain that as you’re watching over that study that the administrator can’t sufficiently assess and attend to an individual that has some level of emotional openness as they like to say, right? So, you have to put certain controls in place, make sure that there is sufficient informed consent when they’re signing on to that, that the physicians there are appropriately trained. So, I mean, there are kind of different factors but it’s possible and it’s necessary research.
Jeffrey Boedges: And not hard to determine if you’ve got the placebo. You know, I’m looking at my buddy over here. He’s crawling around on the ceiling and I’m not doing anything.
Rick Kiley: All right. I’m sure we could go down a big, lengthy tangent there. I want to ask one question. It sounds, I mean, regulations and the way the government is thinking about these products and how to create systems of compliance is probably changing, growing quite quickly. Is your team like do you have to have a proactive continuing education sort of program going where you have people that are dedicated to like staying up to speed on here’s the newest thing in compliance, here’s the thing that’s coming down next? Are you tied in to sort of policy decisions that you can make very quickly help your clients become aware of them, like ahead of the fact or I’m wondering how that works just in this rapidly changing environment?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. It’s a very important part of the work that we do is staying on top of the regulations, whether that’s in Canada or U.S., the different states that we’re working in. And because the industry is so new, even in Canada, it is always changing, as you’re saying. So, we do need to be involved in whenever there’s a conversation with the government. We’re a part of those types of consultations. We’re involved actively on social media, actively involved in current events in the industry, participating in major industry events like speaking, exhibiting at different conferences, attending those conferences in Canada and in the US and internationally as well. We’re signed up on different newsletters where we get those coming in and we do have – our website is pretty comprehensive but we do send out newsletters as well. We’re pretty active on social media sending out not just information ourselves but information on the industry also because in order to have a robust industry that has longevity, it’s really important that everyone is well informed and can change with the industry also.
And again, networking is super important in this industry, building relationships. The cannabis industry loves Twitter and LinkedIn, so you can find a ton of information on there. And it’s important to also know what are the credible sources. Where do you really need to go to, to find credible information? So, I’m fairly closely linked with my contacts with Health Canada. I’m pretty aware of a lot of the changes that are happening from the Canadian side and in the U.S. as well. We’re fairly impressed with that as well. But, yeah, all of our consultants are pretty, they love learning more. We all have a scientific background. We’ve all gone to school for a really long time, so it’s supernatural for us. We’re really good at doing homework and it’s probably it’s why it makes us good consultants. We love writing and helping other people. And we have also some really great interns here that are great at sourcing information and sort of summarizing it for us as well as needed.
Rick Kiley: Got it.
Jeffrey Boedges: On your staff, is it all academics, or do you guys have lawyers as well and things like that? What kind of folks are you putting on the team?
Sherry Boodram: We’re all academics. We do work very closely with lawyers. Yeah, we work with a ton of lawyers. So, they definitely are our go-to as needed. And we also get brought into different legal cases as well. I’ve been on a few cases as a sort of a regulatory expert to assist these types of cases. So, we do work very closely together.
Jeffrey Boedges: Is your newsletter free or is that like a subscription?
Sherry Boodram: It’s a subscription. So, you could subscribe and it’ll go out to you like an email blast.
Jeffrey Boedges: Cool.
Rick Kiley: Right. Well, I was curious at least in the U.S., there’s a big sort of a political push from one end of the spectrum to legalize. There are people, candidates and congressional representatives, who are pro, others who are against. And I’m curious, have you ever gotten your organization been sort of asked to contribute to a study that might be part of a political action campaign sort of or a lobbyist sort of approach to try to move it along, move legislation along in the legalization?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. There are many instances, I think, especially more recently, where there’s sourcing from key stakeholders. So, whether that’s licensed companies or applicants or public or companies like ours.
Rick Kiley: Let’s list the stakeholders right here. No, I’m kidding. You don’t have to.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Companies like ours as well to contribute to those types of conversations and in addition to writing documents and just your opinions on why you think certain legislation should be passed. I think a very important part of the lobbying efforts is also being able to meet with members of parliament and the senate, whoever you need to meet with to get to really have those conversations. And that definitely could be a challenge and it kind of has proven to be a bit of a challenge in getting that type of face time. But it’s kind of part of what goes along with this, in addition to, I think where we sit in a very unique position where our voice really makes a difference because we’re not the licensed company so we’re sort of removed from that. But we also have a very good vantage point of what a lot of the key issues are because we’re not siloed. We’re not just our own company that are doing these activities in the cannabis industry or psychedelics industry. We have a very good purview from what the challenges that our clients are facing. Are they similar? Are they distinct? Are they unique? Why are there differences? Where are those differences? And how can we provide recommendations that would not just address one company, but address the industry as a whole?
Rick Kiley: Got it. Got it.
Jeffrey Boedges: And politicians actually listen to you?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. I think that they…
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s just refreshing.
Sherry Boodram: Well, I don’t… Yeah. I mean, as a politician, to some extent their duty to be able to listen to…
Jeffrey Boedges: Scientists.
Rick Kiley: That’s novel.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Sorry. I’m grinding my own political ax here.
Rick Kiley: No. It’s okay. Well, there’s a difference between, I’ve heard, there’s a difference between listening and really hearing. So, politicians…
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. To some extent, they work for us, right?
Rick Kiley: They are supposed to work for the people. Yeah.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. They are a group of people. So, I think that the way that the information is communicated needs to be very strategic and very clear and clear that you know who you’re targeting these messages to and that it’s aligned with their platform. Because it’s a whole other battle if you’re just trying to bring in this whole new idea that they’re against, right? You need to be very strategic with it and find people that are aligned or at least somewhat aligned and see what’s important to them and try to frame it in that way so that they can see it from your perspective.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. We like to say we make it easy for them to say yes but I like how you’re doing it. I think it’s smart.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Totally, I’m going to sidetrack my last question here because we are running out of time. But one thing we’re talking about a lot this year, Jeff, and I find ourselves talking about is our view that the expansion of cannabis into environments where there is legal on-premise sale and consumption, so call it a cannabis lounge or something to that effect, may exist and there’s very, very, very little of that in the US. And I’m just curious if your organization is involved with anybody thinking about doing that, trying to do that, trying to create a legal framework for it from a governmental side. I’m just curious if that idea has crossed your desk or anyone in your organization’s desk.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. Well, in New Jersey, applicants that are applying for retail, the onsite consumption component is automatically part of the retail dispensary business license. So, you do get that. It’s just that a lot of companies right now. So, there are two pathways kind of in New Jersey where you could apply for a conditional license, which is of sort of temporary in the sense where you don’t have a site, and that kind of gives people the time to be able to get a site. There’s a social equity component kind of plays into that as well. Or they could just get the straight annual license right away but there’s a lot less of that, and that it’s sort of now happening. So, we’re going to be seeing more of that for sure.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Is that legal in the Canadian market?
Sherry Boodram: No. There’s no by consumption. You can do sensory studies as part of like the commercial producers, not retail, but there’s sort of a way to frame it to strategically do. I don’t want to say it’s onsite consumption. It’s sensory and it’s very, very prescriptive and how that needs to be executed but there’s some consumption component for sure that you can leverage in Canada.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, there’s a huge amount of strategy in what you do. I mean, it’s not just stating the facts. I mean, you definitely…
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: You’re definitely writing for audience on a daily basis.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. There’s a lot of mind-bender situations on the daily. Yeah.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. All right. Well, I mean so you did actually accidentally segue into what I was really trying to finish up here with this just we’re in New York and Jeff actually lives in New Jersey. I live in New York. Our office is in New York and we’re obviously thinking about those markets. Can you just tell us, maybe take a minute or two, just what’s the primary difference you’re finding between like New York, New Jersey, northeast markets, and what’s legal in Canada? Is there major differences? I mean, this is one thing you mentioned is that New Jersey is providing this framework for on-premise consumption. Is there anything else like big that gets out to you?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. There’s no social equity component. I know all U.S. states don’t have a social equity component but in Canada, there was no consideration for that at all, which is a contentious issue with a lot of First Nations communities who don’t feel like they were consulted with when the regulations were drafted and now they’re kind of being left out. There’s no framework agreement for them to be able to operate independently as a sovereign territory. But that’s one thing. They could obviously do that. It’s sovereign, right? But they can’t import-export off territory in a legal way.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, First Nation is equal to Native American?
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s not a term we use a lot in the States.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. No, that’s completely fine. The similar terminology there. And then another component is that in Canada, you have to if you’re cultivating or manufacturing or even retail as well, you need to completely build out your site. There’s no component of they could look at it and approve it and then you go ahead and construct. Everything has to be done, installed, all security, all the rooms built, and then you apply for your license. So, it’s a huge investment.
Rick Kiley: Is there anybody that’s like built the whole thing and then it’s like, “No?”
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. There’s…
Rick Kiley: Just shut down?
Sherry Boodram: Well, there are companies that are in the review process for a very long time. So, you’ll have the opportunity to respond to at the end of the questions. But if you don’t know how to respond correctly or you’re just not compliant, then eventually, your application will get rejected but it’s a lot of money that goes into that.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, that’s rough.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: All right. So, if we have some friends, peers, contemporaries, interested parties who are trying to go through the licensing process in New York, New Jersey, make some business in this industry, and they’re like, “I definitely want to reach out to these folks,” how should they do that?
Sherry Boodram: The best way is by email so you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you could call us at our toll-free phone number, which is 1-877-274-6777. We also have an office in Hackensack and also in New York.
Rick Kiley: Nice.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: Nice. You’re probably really close to our office in New York.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah, maybe. Where is your office in New York?
Rick Kiley: We’re in Tribeca. Just out to Canal Street.
Sherry Boodram: Okay. So there, yeah, Tribeca. Okay. Will come by and say hi next time.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, do that.
Rick Kiley: That would be great. That would be great. Cool. Well, the last question, which we always finish up with here is and you sound like you might be someone who knows.
Jeffrey Boedges: I might actually put some money on you.
Rick Kiley: Or more so than we. Yeah, we might put money on this bet. So, we have like a fictional, we’ve never actually put it together. And we keep joking about it, but we’re always talking about when federal legalization will come in the U.S. for the cannabis industry. And I’m curious if you have an inkling, if you have an over-under, if you have some thought around when you think that might happen?
Sherry Boodram: I would probably say I’m going to be optimistic and say 5 to 7 years. Five years, I’ll say.
Rick Kiley: That’s optimistic? Whew.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Jeffrey Boedges: Wow. Most people…
Sherry Boodram: For someone who’s risk-averse, that’s very optimistic.
Rick Kiley: All right. And then psilocybin faster than that?
Sherry Boodram: I think actually probably slower than that. Yeah, probably slower than that. I mean, there’s a lot more states that are legal right now. And I think that where some of that time frame also is accounted for is that the policy needs to actually be written and get approved. And then that takes time and the consultation part that goes along with that oftentimes.
Jeffrey Boedges: I bet you guys could write it in about a week. I’m just going to go out on a limb here.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah. You just change – you don’t even probably have to change the name. Just stick instead of where it says Health Canada, just put U.S. somewhere. Change Canada to U.S. Yeah. It’s already in there.
Jeffrey Boedges: I think I have to do the thing, but I think it is an anagram. Health Canada and CannDelta, that’s about the same letters, right?
Sherry Boodram: I guess the DEA or whatever you guys, whoever you want to be in charge of the regs, I guess it’s the DEA.
Rick Kiley: I don’t know about – not the DEA I don’t think. I don’t know.
Sherry Boodram: I don’t know who’s going to go. Who’s going to take it, but.
Rick Kiley: Well, Sherry, it has been a pleasure speaking to you. You and your team are obviously doing really great work. I hope anybody listening who needs some help in making their cannabis business go seems like it’d be a worthy conversation to have. We really liked having you here and hopefully, maybe we can see you in person when you’re in New York.
Sherry Boodram: Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks so much for having me.
Rick Kiley: All right. Cheers.
Jeffrey Boedges: Our pleasure.