California-based entrepreneur Ross Clark is putting a cannabis spin on the gym with Dro-tein - a protein powder that packs servings of the non-psychoactive cannabis extract CBD. So it has the medicinal benefits of marijuana but it doesn't get you high at the gym. 

To find out more about Dro-tein, we reached out to Clark and talked about the hemp-based protein powder that he hopes will beef up the fight against cannabis stigmas.

What is Dro-tein?

Can you tell us a bit about Dro-tein?

Dro-tein was founded in early 2016 with one goal in mind: to bring the hemp plant and all of its benefits to mainstream markets and every household by combining it with protein powders. 

How did this idea come about? 

It kinda hit me while I was trying to make regular protein powder. While figuring that out, I got the idea of infusing protein powder with cannabis.

So what's in Dro-tein?

There are 5 grams or protein and 20 milligrams of CBD per scoop. We recommend starting with half a scoop. So for the recommended dosage, you're looking at 2.5 grams of protein and 10 milligrams of CBD.

We basically built a little medicinal snack. In the future, we're going to be coming out with big jugs that will have 20-25 grams of protein per scoop with 5-10 milligrams of CBD.

Right now, we have two flavors. Cherry vanilla, which is more of a hint of cherry with a stronger vanilla taste. And then milk chocolate, which I like to compare to a milkshake whether you make it with milk or water. 

What else do you recommend putting it in?

Any type of milk - including almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk. Ice cream and desserts. Oatmeal, pudding, yogurts. Both the cherry vanilla and milk chocolate have a very creamy flavor, so mixing them with something sweet and creamy works best. But some juices like orange juice or cranberry juice also work great with the cherry vanilla. 

Is there anything it doesn't work well in?

You wouldn't want to use soda, but that's about it. Either flavor is great in coffee and cappuccino. 

Do people use it for anything other than exercise?

Yeah, the exercise angle is really just to tie it in with the world outside of the cannabis industry. The FDA hasn't recognized CBD as medicine yet, but there are lots of testimonials supporting its health benefits. You're looking at pain relief, you're looking at anxiety relief, you're looking at depression relief. There's multiple reasons to use CBD.  

So it's not just for gym rats. 

No, I have a couple friends who suffer from depression, and they're using it on the regular. I have back-pain users, Crohn's users - this is turning into so much more than I imagined, which is awesome.

How can people buy it?

We're selling it online right now. And selling in stores should be right around the corner. 

Can you ship outside of California?

Dro-tein is 100 percent hemp-derived, so it's not an illegal product. It's in a gray area. But it's under the federal limit for THC - testing at essentially zero THC - so we are able to ship to all states where hemp is legal.

thumbnail 20170508 093044 01

Busting Cannabis Stereotypes

It looks like Dro-tein is the first of its kind.

Yeah, no one's doing this.

So how do you market something that hasn't been done before?

I'm trying to market Dro-tein against stereotypes. My whole branding campaign is about doing more. We have a long list of negative words associated with the hemp and marijuana plants. Words like 'lazy' and 'stoner.' We're trying to change that by bringing a positive connotation by helping people do more.

Using CBD relieves muscle aches and spasms, helps physical recovery and reduces inflammation. But it's also proving to people that cannabis consumers aren't lazy. 

What sorts of challenges do you face when marketing this kind of product?

Right now it's harder to get into the protein market with a hemp product than to hit the hemp market with a protein product.

Protein is a household item. Something we're very familiar with. But CBD often has a negative connotation around it. So we hope that combining the two will make CBD more familiar to the customer. 

If we brand correctly, we can connect this industry with the NFL, the NBA even the Olympics. High-profile athletes could be benefitting from something such as Dro-tein.

Cannabis and Sports

Is that your goal - to break into major league sports?

My goal is to get into the world of professional athletes and to work with the NFL and other leagues. The connection to mainstream culture and cannabis culture is right around the corner. So I want to have a Super Bowl commercial in five years. I want to have one saying, 'Dro-tein is the national sponsor of the NFL.'

Do you think NFL will be the first major league to allow medical marijuana use? 

Yeah, the NFL. I don't think any of the other leagues are talking about it right now. Other than hockey, it's the most dangerous sport by far. The issue is getting a lot of attention because of that. And professional football players could help get the most done for the legalization movement - after veterans with PTSD.

Is there an athlete right now that you'd like to see become the face of cannabis in sports? Who will be the Wheaties-type rep for marijuana?

I'd like to see someone with a connection to cannabis - who uses medical marijuana. And someone who's highly respected.

That doesn't seem likely right now. Not while athletes who get busted are being turned into tabloid fodder - like with Ricky Williams. 

That's what really irks me about the whole thing. The media puts such a negative light on all of it. We need to change that. Latching onto negatives doesn't add anything to the conversation about cannabis.

Nor does cracking pot jokes when people get busted.

No. We all know cannabis is a fun industry that gets a lot of laughs. But it's not a laughing matter when we consider the number of people we have getting addicted to pain pills, causing them to go to heroin, and dying from overdoses or committing suicide because of addiction. 

We need to connect cannabis culture with the seriousness of the opioid epidemic. It gives me chills just thinking about how many lives have been lost to opioids because some of my friends are in that number.

Getting into the Canna-Business

How did you get involved in cannabis industry? 

I had a couple friends at an early age that had already been addicted to pain medicine after getting in a car wreck or getting hurt playing sports or something else. I didn't think too much of it at that point my life. I was pretty young and immature.

Then a couple years later, I actually got injured playing basketball. I was just playing around and tore my MCL. That's around the time that I found cannabis. That was in Arizona, when they were opening their eyes a bit and becoming more like LA. At that point, I had had multiple friends pass away, or their lives were permanently altered from the side effects of pain pills.

So all of this has developed my 'green heart' if you will.

Was that difficult given that you grew up in Oklahoma - one of the most anti-cannabis states in America right now? 

Yeah, my mom and sister come from that prohibitionist background in Oklahoma. They used to believe gateway drug nonsense.

Did you?

Oh yeah, 100 percent. I was sold on it. That's how I grew up. I wasn't a super-religious kid. I was sold that it was a gateway, that it's as close to shooting up as you can possibly get. All the things that you saw in the media until about 15 years ago.

What changed your mind?

After I got hurt, I was sitting on the couch, icing my knee. And my friend comes in with a pot brownie that was supposedly from Amsterdam. I don't see how that's possible.

You don't want to know where he hid it on the plane.

Exactly. So I consumed just a little tiny chunk of it and felt better.

What kind of advice would you give to activists and entrepreneurs who are trying to break down the stigmas that you used to believe?

Honestly, research. There is so much research online that no one should be scared anymore. No one should be having these feelings any more.