In our return to highlighting Stoner Owners, we find the patient-focused passion of Matthew Friedlander woven into everything he does at Skagit Organics and NW Natural Care. Being a Stoner Owner means that the head of the company uses Cannabis and isn’t in the industry only for profit – and this stamp of approval certifies that Skagit Organics is working with Cannabis for the right reasons. We sat down with Friedlander to discuss his origin story with the plant, why RSO is unique as a concentrate, and how Skagit Wellness can help patients with finding a doctor and getting authorized to use medical Cannabis in today’s recreational marketplace.
How did your relationship with Cannabis begin?
A little bit too young probably! I smoked for the first time when I was 13, and started smoking on a regular basis pretty quickly thereafter. I wasn’t smoking on a daily basis but mostly because I couldn’t find weed every time I looked for it! It’s not like today where you can just walk into a store. My friend group shifted pretty drastically and I lost a lot of old friends, and incurred a lot of ridicule about it. There’s still a stigma around Cannabis, and back then you were a druggie if you used pot.
But you didn’t let that stop you from making new, cooler friends right?
I ended up meeting with new friends through the use of Cannabis. I snowboarded and connected with the skater scene because of that, and I think people using Cannabis at that point were the alternative folks into alternative things – and skateboarding and punk rock all went together, getting out of the mainstream of society. Snowboarding was popularized if not invented at Mount Baker, and we had a lot of that culture here in Mount Vernon.
How did Cannabis make you feel?
Cannabis had a calming effect on me and just felt good. My GPA didn’t suffer and actually, I graduated high school early – while I did skip school occasionally to go smoke and have fun – I didn’t drop out of society or become a complete derelict. In fact, Cannabis now provides me with a career!
How did healthcare and wellness play a role in your life?
I didn’t want to go to college, but I got it stuck in my head that I could get licensed as a massage therapist – so I moved to Santa Fe, and that started my journey and interest in alternative healthcare and medicines. I worked in Colorado as a massage therapist and in Vail, got credentials for sports therapy, lived in Maui for six years and was certified as a personal trainer. So a focus on alternative medicine and healthier eating – along with the medicinal side of Cannabis – fit well with the mindset I was already in.
What led you into making Rick Simpson Oil, or Full Extract Cannabis Oil in the legal Cannabis marketplace?
When we got our license early in legalization. A couple of medical dispensary owners we knew that received retail licenses used to get a lot of RSO from us in the medical days and we wanted to make sure it was still available in the regulated market. It definitely fits with my personal views on plant and natural medicines, and living in a way that leads to health as opposed to waiting until you are sick to take a pharmaceutical that masks your symptoms, so you don’t have to think about it. The classic health care versus sick care.
What is special about RSO that makes it so effective as a medicine?
RSO is unique among all the Cannabis concentrates – it’s probably the healthiest way to consume Cannabis. It’s the best representation of the whole plant concentrated and it contains things that no other concentrate contains: a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes … and a lot of chlorophyll and plant fats and plant proteins that you don’t find in any other type. It’s really kind of the whole food, the superfood of Cannabis concentrates. Similar to vitamins, all of those components in the RSO oil provide unique health benefits. RSO contains these elements because of the solvent that’s used for the extraction – alcohol has unique chemical properties that other solvents do not have, and our process leaves plant elements that other forms of extraction take out!
What are the effects of RSO like?
It can take a few hours to feel the effects, but it’s a much deeper effect and body high than you get from smoking or taking dabs. It also depends on how you use it, when you take it, and how much of which version. Starting with a dose the size of a grain of rice, we make THC dominant, CBD dominant or CBG dominant RSO blends – so users can find the right therapeutic dose for their needs.
You can also use them to cook or bake your own edibles, or fill capsules. How does that work?
It’s a better quality high compared to most edibles. You aren’t getting the sugar or other ingredients that might come in a chocolate bar or gummy – and if you do want to make your own edibles, it’s probably the easiest way to infuse right into a butter or oil to cook with. You also know the potency based on the test results. With RSO, you take a percentage of THC like 60%, and add a zero to calculate the milligrams (so 60% oil will have 600mg of THC in each gram), which is also more potent and cost effective than regular edibles. With RSO, you get the same amount of cannabinoids from multiple bags of edibles for the cost of one.
Why is it important to be a Stoner Owner who uses Cannabis for your personal health?
Staying connected to the plant and community and culture in general is so important … I’m able to be more effective at helping patients and consumers find the right medicine for them because I know how they affect me and the benefits it provides to my life and health. This helps me to speak from a truthful and authentic viewpoint, and we are always trying to connect with customers. When you provide a product that helps someone live a healthier life and be free from pain – not just mask it, but help remove the reason why they feel pain – then you have a customer for life. I feel that because RSO is also being used for really severe health issues like cancer, we have a deeper and closer connection with our customers – and our customers to our products.
I think having owner-operators in the Cannabis industry is vitally important, more so than other industries, because the potential for positive change that the Cannabis industry represents is so great. Even now, nine years after the beginning of regulated Cannabis here in Washington, there is an opportunity to embed the unique ethos of Cannabis culture into the way we do business and in the way our industry contributes to the broader community. Establishing any industry from scratch poses unique challenges, and even more so when that industry is Cannabis. In states like Washington which was the first state to develop rules and regulations, we absolutely missed opportunities to tackle issues like equity or demanding criminal justice reform be written into law, we still have the chance to implement these crucial changes and our mistakes and current efforts can serve as a model for other states that have since entered the industry, guiding them in addressing these important issues more effectively.
But this only happens when you have people with an actual connection to the plant and to the culture owning and operating these businesses and staying engaged with the lawmakers and the regulators. Not having enough of this engagement leads to Cannabis being commercialized, not truly and fully legalized, which I think we are unfortunately experiencing here in Washington and I am sure many other states across the country. I did not live in Washington during the lead-up and shaping of I502 but that is why I feel it so important to be engaged now and one of the main reasons why I became involved with The Cannabis Alliance.
I know a lot of people are frustrated with their experiences surrounding all aspects of regulated Cannabis here in Washington. I understand why many activists are not energized to continue their work. But I believe those of us who have chosen to participate in the I502 market owe it to all the people and organizations that got us to this point to carry their work forward and ensure that the Cannabis industry does not fully lose its heart and soul.
What’s something people don’t know about Skagit Organics?
We do a lot more than just sell Cannabis products! All of our salespeople are Department of Health-certified medical Cannabis consultants. Through our other company Skagit Wellness, we help a number of our retail partners stay in compliance with their medical endorsement acting as their virtual DOH consultant while providing individualized patient consultations, product recommendations and usage guidelines. This allows the patient to keep their medical history confidential during the shopping experience, to make a more informed purchase, and the store gains an educated and emotionally invested customer.
Finally, tell me about your extra testing for quality assurance.
We do spend extra time and money going above and beyond the minimum requirements for testing. Our entire product line is DOH compliant and tested for extra pesticides and heavy metals, and we’re showing and proving that our products are top quality – clean and consistent. In the end, caring in that way has been good business! RSO is the reason we have survived as a company, and I hope we’ve helped people in the same way.