Charlo Greene: Cannabis Activism, Journalism, and Entrepreneurship

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Charlo Greene is host of The Weed Show With Charlo Greene, an independent media channel that investigates popular and important cannabis issues in a weekly live format, and the owner and founder of CBD Body and Beauty, offering high-quality CBD products in the pursuit of transformative body and beauty care.

In this week’s episode of the Podcast, Charlo joined our host TG Branfalt to discuss the reasons behind her decision to leave a cherished career in broadcast television and give her all to Alaska’s 2014 cannabis legalization push, her eventual return to the media scene via The Weed Show, and the experience of both founding a company and bringing a product to market in the cannabis space. They also discuss Charlo’s ongoing cannabis activism which has taken her around the world, the substantial and growing number of women-led companies in the cannabis space, as well as the importance of emphasizing cannabis reform efforts that empower communities of color who were disproportionately targeted by the Drug War.

Listen below or continue scrolling down for a full transcript of the interview.

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Read the transcript:

TG Branfalt: Hey there, I’m your host TG Branfalt and you’re listening to the podcast, where we try to bring you actionable information and normalize cannabis through the stories of ganjapreneurs, activists and industry stakeholders. Today I am joined by Charlo Greene the host of The Weed Show, and of other fame, which we’ll get to in a bit, but how are you doing this afternoon?

Charlo Greene: I am doing phenomenally. How are you?

TG Branfalt: I am doing great. I’m really excited to have you on the podcast.

Charlo Greene: I’m excited to be on. I love your newsletter, I love all the content that you guys have been putting out for so long. It’s great.

TG Branfalt: We appreciate that. We really do try hard to cover some of the best industry stuff that we can find. But this isn’t about us, this is about you. We gotta start from the beginning. You are the infamous Charlo Greene.

Charlo Greene: Infamous.

TG Branfalt: Infamous. I don’t want to spend to much time on this but I have to talk to you briefly about the Fuck It, I Quit event, that launched you into this, as a counterculture star. Can you walk me through that time period leading up to that moment? A little less about the moment itself, just what was going on at that time?

Charlo Greene: I was working as a journalist at the CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska. I was assigned the Weed Beat and flown to Colorado and Washington to show Alaskans what our state would look like if we legalized recreational marijuana. So we had already legalized medical in 1998 but there were no dispensaries or anything so this was our first look at the cannabis industry in lieu of our vote coming up that November to legalize adult use.

So while there in the patients that were using it to save their lives literally for the first time and that opened my eyes up to what this plant that I had privately been consuming for years could really do. So I met patients in Alaska and my heart went out to them. They didn’t have access to this plant that they believed could save their lives. And I knew I was likely the only person who had the empathy and connections needed to change something when it came to that so I used my role as a journalist to talk to the state’s top attorneys, the chief of police, head prosecutors, all of that to figure out a way to make the law that Alaskans legalized in 98 for medical marijuana, real for its patients. With all that R and D, I went ahead and created the Alaska Cannabis Club, a private patient association.

So that was 4/20 of 2014. Leading up to November, the vote, support for marijuana legalization slipped from the upper fifties to lower forties. This was a matter of maybe five, six months. So I knew there was something … The campaign wasn’t doing it. There was some message that wasn’t hitting home to us Alaskans. I knew something would have to be done if we were going to get the rest of the state’s patients access that weren’t able to join the Alaska Cannabis Club.

So I decided to use my position to draw attention to the vote on legalization. And live on TV, after an interview aired where I spoke with the club’s youngest member who was 21 years old and battling testicular cancer, who credited the Alaska Cannabis Club for giving him that second chance at life, a chance at recovery, after that aired I said live on TV everything you heard, is why I the actual owner will be dedicating all of my energy and attention toward fighting for freedom and fairness. Which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska. As for this job, not that I have a choice, but fuck it, I quit. So that went viral, very viral.

And from there I just used all of my energy and attention like I said I would, toward the effort to register as many people in a vote as possible, first and foremost, we only had about two weeks to do that. Now that everyone knew for the first time that we were voting on marijuana legalization we had to make sure they were eligible to show up. So every time anyone wanted a selfie with me while I was still crazy, like, “Are you registered to vote?” I had tons and tons of people across the state of Alaska become regi-stops just so we could capture all of that momentum. So we registered thousands of people to vote, we traveled and crisscrossed the entire state of Alaska and managed to turn that, I think it was 43 percent support for ballot measure two, before Fuck It, to 53 percent. We legalized marijuana in Alaska.

So that’s the full story. A lot of people only hear the Fuck It thing. Like I was mad at my job. Absolutely not, I loved my career. There was just something that needed what my platform could do more than my ego needed that job.

TG Branfalt: Did you expect the results? Did you expect it to go viral the way that it did?

Charlo Greene: Did I expect the results of the vote?

TG Branfalt: Of what happened with the clip?

Charlo Greene: I hoped that Alaska would at least know that there was a vote to legalize weed coming up. That was the end goal. It did that. I had no idea that I would be able to travel to places like Ireland and Spain and Central America to speak about cannabis because of that statement. Absolutely not.

TG Branfalt: And that year you won the High Times Courage in Media Award, congratulations. That’s a huge deal for activists and especially somebody, you were a legitimate journalist.

Charlo Greene: Yeah I actually think they created that for me.

TG Branfalt: They created that for you?

Charlo Greene: So thank you.

TG Branfalt: How important was that to you at that time? Did that validate what you were doing? I know when we covered it, when it initially happened, there was a lot of disparaging comments being thrown your way. So was this a vindication to you? And did you experience those comments?

Charlo Greene: What’s funny is, no. This is the first time I’m hearing that you guys had anything negative to say about me. I probably wouldn’t even been talking with you right now if I had known that.

TG Branfalt: No, not us. It was comments on the Facebook, the social media stuff.

Charlo Greene: Oh no, absolutely not. If you were talking about it then you were probably talking about the issue at hand. Why would I feel the need to step away from this career? What is really going on with marijuana? Then you look to the facts and they challenge everything you’ve ever been taught about cannabis. Does it bother me that people get me wrong a lot of the time? No I’m very busy, I really couldn’t care less, I don’t know if any busy people, or any people that are concerned with helping other people or changing the world for better are concerned what people have to say about their efforts.

That’s my take on it. Absolutely no. Absolutely not. It didn’t bother me then because I was busy flying nine hours west to this tiny village in Alaska, in the thick of it, right afterward, we were busy hitting the campaign trail, following through on everything that we said we were gonna do. We had a lot to change. We had a lot of paths. So no, most of them didn’t even reach me. It was an overwhelmingly positive response. So I would think I’d have to be a really negative person to try and dwell on what a few haters that had nothing to contribute to the end goal had to say.

TG Branfalt: So that same year you were listed as one of the 13 most potent women in the pot industry. And something that I’ve noticed in my reporting, in when I go to the cannabis cups and I go to tour dispensaries, is a lot of companies in the cannabis space, it seems moreso are women led than other traditional industries. I’m just wondering what’s your take on what I see as a trend?

Charlo Greene: To imply that it’s a trend, you would imply that it was temporary. I think this is just what time it is. This is, it’s our time as women, just not even the fact that we’re women, we’re able bodied business people and we don’t have to work in someone else’s system or follow what every other CEO has looked like, or … No, we’re creating what the industry looks like now. The fact that most of us are women, I think that’s just the cream icing to the top.

TG Branfalt: I really have to agree with you. You have this industry that also relies so much on a very sick population a lot of times. You see that the big pharmaceutical companies, who’s running those, and you have all these issues. And then you have a lot more females in this space. I think that that necessitates the kind of compassion that most females have over their male counterparts for sure.

Charlo Greene: Yeah. I could definitely second that.

TG Branfalt: I want to talk to you a little bit more about diversity in the cannabis space, but before we do that we gotta take a short break. This is the podcast. I’m TG Branfalt.

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TG Branfalt: Hey, welcome back to the podcast, I’m your host TG Branfalt here with Charlo Greene, host of the Weed Show. So before the break we were talking about diversity in the cannabis space, so I want to go a little bit deeper into that. Oakland has the most famous equity laws going. They’re designed to provide reparations for those most adversely affected by cannabis laws. In Maryland, the legislative black caucus has been pushing for equity language in the bill. As the industry matures and more states legalize, do you think more legislation should include these types of equity policies? Do you even think that they do enough to help people that were definitely most affected by drug laws?

Charlo Greene: No these certainly don’t do enough but it is definitely a start. And do I think they’re needed moving forward? If you look at the places that have legalized, Colorado, Washington. They don’t have anything, they’re not working on any sort of reparations, anything to address the harm that the drug war has caused communities of color. So if this is going to be addressed then it is absolutely necessary that it’s written into the language from the jump. Oakland was the start, I know Los Angeles recently passed a measure which also included equity language. So I hope this is the trend moving forward, it’s the right thing to do.

When you look at the facts and what the drug war has done to communities of color it makes sense that the drug war also help to heal that damage.

TG Branfalt: When you were working on the push in Alaska, was this something that was included in Alaska’s language?

Charlo Greene: No, we passed a really shitty law in Alaska. It was just another Marijuana Policy Project law. They didn’t really look at the needs of the local communities and the campaign language, saying that they were going to regulate it like alcohol, I think that was one of the things that missed the people most. When you’re in a state where alcohol is the number one cause of death, people aren’t gonna welcome that statement so much. So no, we passed a not-great law.

TG Branfalt: You parlayed your media background into The Weed Show. You’re obviously allowed to be yourself more than any typical news show. You can cover what you want, you get blazed, you open the show ripping dabs, heating up the nail. That’s one of my favorite parts of the show is that sound. It’s such a nice sound to hear a torch hitting nail. So given your experience in your exit from the broadcasting industry, the news industry, why’d you take a step back into a media role?

Charlo Greene: This is what I love to do as I stated before, I was living my dream job, being able to share incredible stories, to step into people’s lives, fascinating lives, and share that with the public in hopes of educating them, that’s everything. So the fact that I have the opportunity to do it now with this subject that I know is changing the world, with people that I know are changing the world, that is an incredible blessing. So what else would I be doing? I’m one of those weird people that love what they do.

TG Branfalt: Coming from a print background and moving into the cannabis space, moreso than I write hard news anymore, do you think that having a show about weed or dedicating what is your passion to weed, do you think that just adds to not only your passion for what you’re doing but also your credibility as someone who has seen this industry from every aspect?

Charlo Greene: I would hope that it does. I just show up and do what I can to deliver the most engaging and formative and news able information about cannabis. At the end of the day that is the mission for the show, that’s what I show up and my entire team shows up to do, so yeah, my experience, I think it’s … When you look at other cannabis content, I think it’s pretty clear that I have a background in this more experienced than most, that are putting out cannabis content. And I hope that resonates with the audience. I’m just doing what I love to do. I didn’t want to step away from it in the first place, so now I get to do it on weed. And that’s just everything, that’s full circle.

TG Branfalt: On your March 22 show, the Weed Show episode, you began the show talking about the SWAT rate deaths, a report from the New York Times. And also the arrest of Mark and Jodie Emery up in Canada. Given your background not to mention your own experiences, what’s your take on how the media reports on cannabis centered stories?

Charlo Greene: It’s irresponsible. There’s no questioning the press release that they’re given by the authorities. It’s just as if mainstream media acts as a megaphone for whatever the police want to justify or however the police want to justify their actions. Just the other day I was reading this story out of the Denver Post of all places. They were talking about the plant count thing, how they’re limiting patient plant counts from 99 to 12 or six, and the headline was, Colorado Moves to Limit Plant Counts to Combat Cartels. We all, most of us have gone to journalism school, especially at the Denver Post level, you know what that headline as a statement does, it makes you believe that there are all these cartels running amok. But then you go there and you meet the people that are being raided, that are being classified as these cartels, that they’re using to justify changing these laws, it’s parents of really, really sick kids that need those plants. It makes me really, really upset.

It really pisses me the fuck off that a place like The Denver Post would run something so irresponsibly. So the fact that that is the most advanced area in our nation when it comes to cannabis, and accepting cannabis, and that’s what they’re running, that just let’s you know what’s happening in all these other places. When I was raided … What was it, huge drug bust? That’s what one of the local papers called it, because that’s what the police asked them to, and that wasn’t at all the case, so it just misleads the public’s perception of cannabis, what cannabis is doing, how it’s affecting the community. And it’s not fear because it costs patients medicine, that costs them lives.

TG Branfalt: To your point is when Jeff Sessions has said anything, Spicer says anything, both the cannabis media and the mainstream media takes what he says and … On one hand you’re creating a panic in an industry, that’s what you’re doing, you’re scaring people, and on the other hand, two days after he says, “We’re gonna have a crackdown,” he says I’m probably gonna keep parts of this Cole memo, but it’s how much the mainstream media I think hands on what he said two days ago, that scares the industry rather than the good news.

Charlo Greene: You also have to remember that mainstream media also has a job to do, and that job is keeping their doors open and selling advertising and if we can create a panic because of a statement, then we know we’re gonna get more clicks. And that means more dollars. So I think that’s just something that hopefully everyone understands by now after seeing how the election went. But I know most people don’t so that just sucks.

TG Branfalt: If it bleeds it leads right? I think we learned that in journalism 101.

Charlo Greene: Literally, that quotem in itself. if it bleeds it leads. It’s irresponsible, it’s so messy, which is why you have to check out the Ganjapreneur, why you have to watch The Weed Show with Charlo Greene and get your information from people, I feel like we have a dog in this fight. When you’re a journalist, I remember covering crime reports and being sent to do these obituary stories. Where you just go in there for an afternoon, gather the … And just sum up someone’s life. In 90 seconds maximum and then you just move on regardless of whatever consequence that has on whoever’s left.

I feel like it’s different with us covering, this is our community. We’re here.

TG Branfalt: Absolutely. A lot of us in the community, we’re trying to work together. I personally, I watch the Weed Show, I’ll get story ideas from time to time. Not like I’m trying to bite off of you guys, but I got a different medium to work with.

Charlo Greene: Absolutely. You send out your newsletter, noon-ish our time. We usually have our story media by then. But we’ll check that out and be like, “Do we need anything, do we need to take away anything? Are there any updates that they’ve sent out?” Because we know to trust you guys as a credible source. So I appreciate that. I appreciate you guys having me on.

TG Branfalt: So I want to move on a little bit, I want to talk about some of your other current projects. Before we do that we gotta take our last break. This is the podcast, I’m TG Branfalt.

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TG Branfalt: Welcome back to the podcast, I’m your host TG Branfalt here with the infamous Charlo Greene, host of The Weed Show.

Charlo Greene: Hey.

TG Branfalt: Before the break we were chatting about the state of the cannabis media, if you will, but I want to move on from that, talk about your current projects. What do you do, and I’m hearing something about a CBD beauty products line that’s in the works.

Charlo Greene: Yes, it’s CBD skin care line, CBD Beauty is the brand, is the website. We have a few products that we’re introducing initially. They’re really, really great. We’ve been market testing them for the last several months. I’ve been using them exclusively for about the same amount of time and my skin has never been better. When you think about how miraculous cannabis is, it just makes sense that it also works miracles on your face, and that’s what we bottled up. So I’m super excited to be introducing CBD Beauty.

TG Branfalt: Tell me more about what the benefits of using CBD as a skin care product, as a beauty care product … I’m a guy, who, I haven’t touched lotion to my skin since 2001. So could you just tell me more about some of the benefits of using CBD as a beauty product.

Charlo Greene: Absolutely, CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory, an anti-bacterial, an anti-fungal. It’s also hemp-derived and hemp is super rich and nourishing when it comes to moisturization and just getting in there. So it’s in addition to all of the CBD skin creams and apple stem cell face creams, we also have super nourishing, healing pain balms. So all of that’s in the mix. As a guy you probably would choose one of our pain balms or our day-to-night face cream. All of it’s super nourishing.

TG Branfalt: I can attest actually to CBD pain balm. I did get some from a friend of mine who stopped by, he’s actually a grower from California, he stopped by. His girlfriend actually left me some because I have some joint issues. I use that stuff and I’m really, I’m pain-free. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

Charlo Greene: It’s crazy how effective cannabis is as a topical. Isn’t it? The first time you put it on your leg, yeah I’m sure it’ll work some, weed is awesome, of course it is, but it’s miraculous. It’s crazy effective.

TG Branfalt: So when did you find time with the Weed Show and your travels, how’d you find time to start developing this?

Charlo Greene: I’ve partnered with a lab that is FDA certified. They’ve been working on all the formulations and making sure everything is straight there. But I have an amazing team that works on the Weed Show and I’ve reeled in my traveling quite a bit. I’m based in LA now. Don’t do too much moving around from here. I do have a couple of speeches to give in I think Germany and Jamaica in the next several months. But this is where it’s at. La-La-Land, I love it out here.

TG Branfalt: So lastly, what I wanted to talk to you about is what advice would you have for entrepreneurs? You’ve talked to, I’m sure thousands of folks looking to get into the industry and I’m sure you’ve been asked the question a thousand times. What advice do you have for people looking to get into this space?

Charlo Greene: Do what you know will feed your soul. Instead of approaching work how we’ve been traditionally taught to, come at it knowing that work is a part of your life. It’s not work, separate from life. When you factor that in do something that you’ll love giving most of your energy to. Something that you’ll be proud of, something that you would love to tell your kids about. So this is the opportunity for you to do and be  just about anything that you actually want to. The fact that this industry is growing so rapidly, the fact that there are so many things that we need as ganjapreneurs, so many spaces to fill for patients, it would be really, really amiss if you just did something for the money. The money’s gonna come. Just make sure that you’re doing or taking advantage of this opportunity to do what you actually want to.

TG Branfalt: Your story is really incredible. Watching it from a journalist perspective, a guy who has often wanted to say fuck it, I quit in front of thousands of people. At that point, I was pulled in, and to watch your story unfold, now to get a little more idea of how integral you were in Alaska, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule for us. And, happy birthday by the way.

Charlo Greene: Thank you, I appreciate that. Thanks to you for having me on.

TG Branfalt: You can find more episodes of the podcast in the podcast section of in the Apple iTunes store. On the website, you will find the latest cannabis news and cannabis jobs updated daily along with transcripts of this podcast. You can download the app in iTunes and Google Play. This episode was engineered by Jeremy Sebastiano. I have been your host TG Branfalt.