What could better capture the spirit of California in 2017 than a project that combines the one-click convenience, near instant gratification, and professionalism of the Silicon Valley tech world, with the burgeoning medical cannabis industry? Eaze does just that, providing a fast and easy way for California patients to get their doctor’s recommendations and on-demand cannabis deliveries. More often than not, Eaze provides deliveries in less time than your average pizza delivery. With headquarters in San Francisco, Eaze delivery is available in an ever-expanding portion of California.

Last month, I spoke to their head of communications, Sheena Shiravi, about Eaze’s mission, the state of the cannabis industry, and her own experience in the growing world of medical cannabis.


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Herban Indigo: What is Eaze, and what is your role there?

Sheena: Eaze is a technology company that connects verified medical marijuana patients with dispensaries, to get their marijuana on demand, delivered to their house in about 20 minutes. I’ve been at Eaze for a little over a year and a half. I got involved to help to build the brand and voice of Eaze, and to help with patient education and activation – especially with getting out the vote efforts ahead of Prop 64 in November and on other policy issues.

With the regulatory landscape in California there are a lot of cities that don’t allow for delivery. Many city councils don’t really have an understanding of how to do it right and don’t know too much about cannabis in general, so at Eaze, we see it as our responsibility to help educate city council members about how technology can help promote access.

Obviously, with marijuana, people want to know whether they’re getting it in a legal way or not. We want to help provide people with an accessible and professional option.

Eaze’s mission is really about accessibility. We try to help people access the lowest price, highest quality medical marijuana available, in a convenient, professional way. As a technology company at heart, we live and die off our data. What we do is really to take our data, mine through it, and kind of pump it back up into the ecosystem. We use the data to: help product manufactures understand how to better their products; to help patients better understand which products to use and how to use them; help dispensaries understand how to best optimize their offerings; and to help law makers make informed decisions about regulations.

On our blog you’ll find our yearly State of Cannabis report which we put out in February. It’s a great look at cannabis in California, identifying California regional trends, people trends, product trends, etc.

 

HI: Were there any particularly noteworthy trends in your data this past year?

Sheena: We found that baby boomers are the fastest growing segment of our user base, increasing 25 percent last year. There was a big increase in females using the platform as well.

Purchase of raw flower has been decreasing, while purchases of concentrate have been on the rise. What we see there is that with more working professionals, older people, or females coming online, they gravitate more towards easier consumption method such as vaping, where you can just buy a battery and a cartridge, instead of traditional methods like rolling, or a pipe or a bong. You see that end of the market really opening up and gravitating towards a more frictionless kind of a product.



HI: Towards a more approachable sort of an image?

Sheena: Exactly, and we’re also seeing that in the lower-dose edibles, and the increased interest in CBD. People aren’t just trying to get high, a lot of them really are just replacing a glass of wine with a low dose edible or a little bit of a vape.

HI: How has the industry changed in the last few years in your view? How do you feel about AUMA and the move towards legalization? Are there mistakes made in other legal states that you would like to see California avoid? Any specific goals?

Sheena: Typically, when the pendulum starts to shift, it shifts quickly. We compare it to same-sex marriage – once the majority of Americans wanted it, there’s a sort of domino effect to its legalization. It’s been similar with cannabis too, just two years ago there was still a really heavy stigma around it, a lot of states didn’t have medical on the ballot, much less recreational. I think the biggest key, the biggest source of change was a rise in education, alongside more and more scientific research. Companies like Eaze are really able to bring the data and help mine patients’ stories, and then to promote education on a regulator level.

What was great about California is that they already have 20 years of legal medical marijuana, and then we’ve spent the last five to seven years watching other states go recreational. So AUMA took into considerations best practices & pitfalls of laws in other states - like we’ve already seen in Colorado – not allowing consumption on premise didn’t work. The state used cannabis as a big tourist draw, but it resulted in a situation of people coming into the state with no where else to consume cannabis.

With delivery, too, we saw how other states didn’t allow for it, even though it is a safer option that is ultimately more desirable for a lot of communities. So hopefully we can take these lessons and incorporate them into the process here in California.

Basically, it is about ensuring access and a professional experience for patients. Our process is always trying to improve on those goals.



HI: Will recreational legalization alter that approach for Eaze at all?

Sheena: Not at all. The patient experience will still be the center of everything we do.

 


HI: How do you think recent cannabis science, such as new ideas about terpenes and CBD, have changed the landscape for growers, producers, patients and consumers?

Sheena: I think we’re going to see a move away from notions of indica, sativa, and different strain names that people look for, towards more reliable brand names. Coca-Cola is the same anywhere you buy it in the world, not every different store has its own soda brand. If patients can get to know and rely on a brand, they can count on things like consistent dosage in edibles, for example, which is obviously important.

eaze enjoy the moment delivery

Eaze has really become one of the most trusted brands, moving towards becoming a household name. With Eaze, you can rely on us to have a perfectly catered menu with consistent products that are professional in terms of the packaging and presentation.

We’re going to definitely see the trend move towards brands, and I think within that, we’ll see more product variation, with terpenes for example. This brand called ‘Alchemy’ uses aromatherapy oils in their vape pens, like lavender. So as people learn more and more about the science behind the plant, the innovation reflects that. The Humboldt brand vape pens vibrate when they dispense a predetermined dose. I think we’ll see more and more innovation that moves toward a more predictable, professional experience for a changing group of consumers.

 


HI: I feel like people would welcome increased consistency and reliability from providers, given the lack of legal regulations on things like pesticides and growing practices.

Sheena: Yeah, that is really important. There really should be.

 


HI: Do you think recreational legalization in other states have changed things for medical patients there? Is that a concern here in California?

Sheena: I think it stands to make things better for patients. It raises awareness, opens up doors, and helps to get rid of the existing stigma. It opens up research and encourages every player, every company to really put their best foot forward.

 


HI: Aside from what we’ve already touched on, can you name some rising trends in the industry, in terms of how cannabis is produced and consumed, that seem likely to change the landscape in the next few years?

Sheena: I think low-dose edibles are going to become important. We have Breez mints, which I think are great.  For one thing, they absorb sublingually – in terms of how quick acting it is, it’s sort of a middle ground between vaping and eating an edible. On top of that, they offer a lower dose option. [Breez mints come with as little as 2.5 mg of THC.] It’s not really meant for chowing down on a bunch of mints, you’re just going to feel more relaxed, you’re not trying to get really high. I think we’re going to see more and more things like that, as well as tinctures, and high-CBD options.



HI: What attracted you to working in the industry? Do you feel like cannabis has the potential to make the world a better place? How?

Sheena: So my background is in tech P.R. I did a lot of B2B (business to business) enterprise. I worked at Alibaba, the Chinese tech giant, on their corporate communications team. I was always kind of following the cannabis industry. I had a couple friends who started working in it, starting around 2014, and I thought they were crazy. It was still illegal, taboo, this and that. Little by little though, it started coming out of the shadows, being covered more in the press and becoming a bit more mainstream.

Founder of Eaze, Keith McCarty

Founder of Eaze, Keith McCarty

I had this opportunity when a friend of mine, who did a great story on Eaze, mentioned me to Keith, Eaze’s founder, when he asked for a PR recommendation. My friend put us in touch. I knew Eaze had been growing like crazy over the last year, and the way they approached it appealed to me – as a new professional technology company – Eaze doesn’t touch the product. What we’re doing is connecting people – patients, the drivers from the dispensaries, we just help bring all the pieces together.

Part of our mission was always to tell patient stories, and to help destigmatize cannabis in a way that hadn’t really been done before. We try to bring patient stories out into the open, to humanize cannabis for the press and the wider population. We hope this can open things up for more working professionals and other people who were maybe excluded by that kind of stoner culture, showing that it can be a professional and normal part of life.

 


HI: Were you surprised to see this kind of change in cannabis law in your lifetime?

Sheena: I guess I did really see it coming in some ways. There’s so much benefit that comes from the plant. I worked in media, so I was very much in tune with how biased the perception was for so long. There was so much propaganda – things like the DARE program, which is all well and good – but in my personal experience with cannabis, and my friends’ experiences – everyone has a story, or at least knows one person where it changed their lives. Someone with cancer, or another condition where it was really essential.



HI: Are you hopeful about the near future for the cannabis industry? Do you think the forward momentum of the legalization movement (and its economic benefits) will outweigh the effects of Trump’s incoming, conservative administration? Do you think legalization is here to stay?

Sheena: Absolutely, I think medical, at the very least will be safe. It is undeniable that there are medical benefits. I don’t think federal legalization will happen in the next 4 years. I think regulation tends to follow what the majority of Americans believe. I think there will definitely be a fight, I think recreational might be more up in the air. Right now California is set to start recreational sales in the next year, so we’re kind of in this wait and see period.

Even if it remains medicinal, that’s totally fine. If anything comes under fire it will probably be recreational. But even then, you look at Colorado bringing in billions of dollars in revenue a year. It’s big enough that there would at least be a fight, to be sure. And I don’t think that’s a very high priority right now anyway.

 


HI: I’m not sure federal legalization would have been on the table either way, without Trump. So many parts of the country haven’t really caught up.

Sheena: Yeah, but I mean lots of red states have put medical on their ballots, and made some progress with that.



HI: True. Lastly, what hopes and fears do you have for the cannabis industry in the future that may not have been covered by the other questions, if any?

Sheena: I think it really all comes down to accessibility, and a more professional approach. I think that education is key to getting there – education of the public, education of patients, education of regulators. More research needs to be done and more regulations need to happen to allow that research.

One thing I don’t really like is that it’s being treated a lot like alcohol. While this is understandable, it also misses the point that it is medicine. It is used as medicine, and is important for a lot of people, and I wish it was treated more as that.

I think it is kind of inevitable – it’s human nature to compare it to something you’re more familiar with. It will be interesting to see how it all shapes up in terms of regulation.  

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*All photos courtesy of Eaze*