Charles McElroy is the founder of Goldleaf, a science-forward printing company for cannabis growers, patients, and enthusiasts. He recently sat down with Civilized to chat about the enormous potential of the cannabis plant, as well as the dire need to reschedule cannabis at the federal level. 

What's the biggest misconception about the marijuana industry?

I think there is a strong misconception that many of the businesses are all about pushing cannabis use, whether it be recreational or medical in nature. While many businesses do provide products and services to that end, I don’t think the industry as a whole is trying to coax people into using cannabis at all. Rather, it’s providing services for those who seek it out on their own free will.

Furthermore, there are a great deal of businesses and organizations in the industry that focus not on products for direct use, but on ancillary areas having more to do with regulation, safety, industrial uses, and new medical applications. After all, industrial hemp is part of this industry, and the economic potential of that area is staggering for many reasons. It has the potential to change many industries from textiles and food to energy. I’m sure many people would be surprised at how much the cannabis plant has to offer everyone, even the avid non-user.

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What's one prediction you have for the marijuana industry five years from now?

I know the collective conscience of Americans has evolved very quickly since 2012. As we’ve watched Colorado’s experience with legalization play out, people have seen the clear benefits to local economies, mental health, and education (due to tax dollars from cannabis). A recent poll showed that 64 percent of Americans are now in favor of full legalization. Change is afoot and even conservatives are coming around to the idea.

Once a few more ‘red’ states get on board, which could happen in the next two years, change will happen pretty quickly. I think. politically, it is safe to assume the federal government will take it slow and start with rescheduling cannabis and decriminalizing it on a federal level. However, that is all it would take to open the floodgates of business and remove most of the red tape surrounding the industry. When that changes, you won’t have to wait long before many large corporations fully embrace the industry; they are for-profit companies, after all, and the opportunity for record profits will be ahead of them.  

What is one change you'd like to see happen in the cannabis industry?

I think the single most important change to the industry would be the federal government rescheduling and decriminalizing cannabis. The impact this would have on public perception of cannabis and general business operations would be huge. Beyond that, I’d really like to see organizations like the NFL, MLB, and NBA embrace medical cannabis. They have an unbelievable amount of clout and power over our culture. If they show open arms and open minds toward using medical cannabis as a treatment for their players (as opposed to other, more harmful and expensive options) people will quickly get on board.

What's your perfect setting to consume? (place, music, food, etc.)

By myself, in nature. Cannabis isn’t a socially friendly thing to me. I can handle myself, but I prefer to be alone with my thoughts and let my mind wonder. That is how I enjoy cannabis. I’d add that consuming cannabis in a natural setting does wonders for my mood. It is meditative, it connects me with the natural world, and it reminds me of how precious my time on this earth is. A little sappy, I know, but that is my perfect setting.

What is your go-to munchie?

I don’t have the same options available to me as many might, as I have an autoimmune condition which necessitates a very specific diet. That said, my go-to is fresh fruit. I think this might be my answer even if I didn’t have dietary restrictions. To be more specific, though, fresh raspberries are my jam. Those little devils are a perfect mix of sweet and sour flavors but with such a tender and delicate texture. I will blow through pints before I know what happened.

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What's your favorite (and least favorite) way to consume cannabis?

I’m a flower guy. I prefer the raw flower over anything else. I like the attachment to nature, the lack of processing, the look and smell of the plant, and I feel closer to the hands that grew it. I’ve certainly tried other methods, but since the industry is so new and regulation can be wishy-washy at times, I prefer flower because I can judge the quality myself with my eyes and nose.

That said, I also enjoy vaporizing. It gives the full flavor, and is a little cleaner (well, a lot cleaner) than combustion methods. Burning puts a slight hurt on the body (even if not immediately, I’ll feel it at some point). I don’t get this with the vape, and it still lets me microdose and control my consumption more than an edible.

My least favorite method would probably be a rogue edible, where I have absolutely no concept of how much THC is contained in there, how it was grown, or how old it is. It is a big unknown and I’m not down with that.

Do you have a message for Donald Trump and/or Jeff Sessions? What would that message be?

This is tricky. I would want to say simply: show some compassion. It wouldn't stick, though, and I’d be wasting my breath. I would probably have a more measured message to each. To Trump, I would try and cater to his ego and self-proclaimed business side. I would tell him that he could singlehandedly grow the U.S. economy more than any of his predecessors by pushing for country-wide legalization and regulation. I would say: “you would be known for something positive in the history books instead of the biggest mistake of our democracy.”

I know this sort of messaging would fall on deaf ears with Sessions. He’s financially motivated to keep cannabis illegal, and I think he is personally motivated to continue the War on Drugs because it adversely affects people of color, whom he loves persecuting. To him, I’d say: “You are on the wrong side of history and you will be judged accordingly.”