welcome to the curious about Cannabis blog
I’m Jason Wilson with Curious About Cannabis. Welcome to the Curious About Cannabis Blog and thanks so much for joining us on our journey to explore critical questions and ideas about the world’s most controversial plant – Cannabis. In the future this blog will be used to share thoughts on critical topics, reflections on interviews, and share educational posts about Cannabis science. But for this first entry, I wanted to have the opportunity to welcome you, personally, and introduce myself.
My academic background is in philosophy, psychology, biology, and education. I am passionate about teaching and exploring ideas, which is what led me to start projects like Curious About Cannabis.
My professional background is diverse. As a teenager and in my very early 20s I worked in IT. I was always good at fixing machines, so it was a natural fit. Once I got through college, I realized I had a passion for research and education. Then I went back to college for several years as a non-degree seeking student to study the natural sciences before going to grad school and studying science education. After working as a science educator for Southern Oregon University and a botanist for the Bureau of Land Management, I ended up getting a job with a start-up natural products lab that was developing methods to test Cannabis and Cannabis products for potency and purity. This really piqued my interest for a number of reasons.
First – I had moved to Oregon from Mississippi where I had been working as an IT technician for the University of Mississippi. During that time, I was fortunate to regularly perform work in both the federal Natural Products Research Center as well as the NIDA-funded Cannabis research and development laboratory. While fixing computers and laboratory equipment, I became friends with a number of researchers within these laboratories that gave me tours, showed me their research, and introduced me to the world of natural products research at large which I found very inspiring. So, having this opportunity to work in a natural products laboratory as a scientist, rather than an IT technician, was very exciting and rewarding.
Additionally, I was, and still am, a medical Cannabis patient. I injured my neck and back in a series of skateboarding accidents when I was a teenager that left me with permanent injuries and chronic pain. After undergoing a series of drug trials to try to find some way to alleviate the pain, which had become debilitating – I discovered that Cannabis was very effective in reducing my back spasms, making the pain tolerable, and reducing the inflammation around my spinal cord. I had a particular bias that drove me toward wanting to understand Cannabis more.
So, fast forward to 2014 and I find myself presented with this opportunity to formally study Cannabis and help improve public health and safety by hopefully reducing the number of contaminated products on the market. I spent the next several years working with my mentor, Anthony Smith, building our laboratory. I served basically every role in our laboratory at some point. I worked on instruments, prepared samples, analyzed data, interfaced with clients, built and managed the lab’s quality system, helped us get through our regulatory inspections, and much more.
It was during this time that I began teaching about Cannabis as well. I began organizing and hosting a series of natural products seminars at Southern Oregon University, with many of these seminars focusing on Cannabis science. I also developed a 6-week Cannabis science workshop that guided learners through a survey of Cannabis science topics based on peer-reviewed scientific literature. This was where the Curious About Cannabis book was born. I needed a survey textbook for Cannabis science, and at the time there wasn’t one available that covered all the topics I needed. So, I slowly started writing my own, and the first edition of the Curious About Cannabis book was born. I spent approximately three years leading these Cannabis science seminars and workshops.
Our laboratory ended up being fairly successful and my mentor sold a majority of the lab to a laboratory franchise where we would end up working with the company’s other labs to standardize methods and quality systems, improve quality of methods by utilizing resources of multiple laboratories, and develop new methods to expand the range of analytical services the labs could offer. I would eventually reach the rank of Chief Quality Officer before being promoted to Director of Operations of the parent company, which was a publicly traded company. I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and experience along this journey.
But things changed.
Burnout is a real thing and I was living it.
Cannabis regulations were rapidly evolving in Oregon after the legalization of Cannabis, and for anyone that was working in the Cannabis industry during 2016 and 2017 in Oregon, they know that it was pure chaos. I had been putting in 50-60 hours or more each week reading regulations, reviewing paperwork, answering emails, attending trainings, hosting meetings, writing SOPs, writing policies, performing internal audits, attending third-party audits…round and round I went. Working a full day, coming home, eating, then jumping on the computer and working well into the night. My colleagues would comment about my midnight emails and joke about my working nonstop. At the time I took it as a compliment – but now I feel differently. Looking back, it was obviously not sustainable, but hindsight is always 20/20.
My grandfather died in the late Summer of 2017, which added one stress too many to my load. Upon reflection, I realized something had to change. I needed to rest and recuperate. So, I stepped away from my job and took some time to reflect while helping out one of my good friends during his medical Cannabis harvest. After a couple of months of harvesting, bucking, and trimming I had recalibrated and felt rejuvenated and ready to press forward.
In January of 2018 I reconnected with my colleague Kevin Spelman who I had become acquaintances with through conferences in years past. He told me he was looking to hire a research scientist to build out and run a CBD company’s in-house analytical laboratory while also participating in various research and product development projects. I spent the next year doing just that. Eventually Kevin left that company to pursue other projects and I had a child on the way that I planned to give a lot of my time to - so I made the difficult and scary decision to focus on my own company and be completely self-employed, formally leaving the CBD company I had been working for (although I kept helping them as an advisor and consultant).
After that I began consulting with a variety of Cannabis companies to help them troubleshoot analytical chemistry problems, set up laboratory equipment, validate methods, develop research projects, improve the quality of products, achieve GMP or ISO compliance, etc. I’ve now been involved in nearly every aspect of the Cannabis industry, from cultivation to harvesting, extraction, product manufacturing, and testing, giving me a unique perspective as a scientist and educator.
Behind the scenes throughout the past several years I have also been involved with several non-profit groups focused on researching and teaching about Cannabis science including the Health Research Institute, The Oregon Cannabis Education and Resource Center, and the International Institute for Cannabinoids (ICANNA). I’ve helped write research proposals, contribute to book chapters, write Cannabis science articles for magazines, blogs, and conferences, and all sorts of other things that I’m sure I’m forgetting.
I’ve learned a lot (and am still learning everyday) and have met some incredible people along the way. That’s when I had the idea to create the Curious About Cannabis Podcast – an opportunity to share conversations that I was having with fellow scientists, farmers, doctors, patients, etc in a manner that can help educate and promote critical thinking.
And here we are today.
The podcast has been running since October of 2019 and it has gone better than I ever could have expected. I have been very humbled by the positive feedback I have received and the willingness of my guests to give up their time and energy to come on the podcast for sometimes hours at a time.
Now I am working on restarting a new and improved version of my old workshops as well as releasing a new edition of the Curious About Cannabis book that is revised, updated, and expanded.
There are a lot of Cannabis education companies out there, and most of them are spreading misinformation while charging a lot of money to do it. I am intent on ensuring that Curious About Cannabis is the antithesis to that problem. It is my hope that between the conversations and topics we explore in the podcast, the information available in the book, and the learning experiences available through our workshops and online learning modules (also coming soon) that you will have plenty of resources to take your Cannabis education journey to the next level, without spending thousands of dollars to do it!
Thank you for coming on this journey with me as we explore critical concepts about Cannabis together. I hope that it adds value to you in some way and inspires even more curious conversations with your friends, families, and peers!
Until we cross paths again, stay curious and take it easy! I wish you the best.
Jason Wilson, MS