Nugg talks politics, pot and perk with Flower Power Coffee Company’s Dr. Craig Leivent. He whips up a pretty mean cup o’ CBD coffee, and some food for thought too.
It’s a rare treat to talk to someone who’s as passionate about cannabis as we are. Botanist and pharmacist Dr. Craig Leivent believes that everyone should be able to benefit from the perks this plant has to offer and does everything he can to share them. So if you’re in love with coffee and cannabis, you’ll find you have a lot in common with the doctor.
Find out how Flower Power Coffee Company hopes to make the world a better place with the potent power of CBDs.
Nugg: “When did you first start learning about the potential health benefits of cannabis?”
Dr. Leivent: “So I grew up around cannabis. I lost my dad when I was eight, and my mom worked three jobs. She needed the right path. So, she took cannabis and that helped her. I grew up seeing this. I also grew up being ridiculed and criticized by my friends and by their parents who were mostly heavily medicated and/or alcoholics. And meanwhile she came home from work after a long day, or maybe she was on her way to her next job, she was medicating herself in a way that she was able to go about her daily life. That’s what I saw.”
“It was hard sometimes. It was something we had to deal with because, a lot of my friends, their parents wouldn’t let them come over. But then I began to realize, even when I was in high school, that this was her way of coping instead of being on Xanax and Zoloft or Prozac or multiple other things, she was utilizing cannabis. And this got me to thinking of cannabis as more of an exit drug, and not an entrance drug, and as a tool that can be used for health.”
Nugg: “So how did cannabis become a part of your adult life too?”
Dr. Leivent: “I’ve always loved plants, so I went into botany thinking I was also going to be a doctor. But then the accident happened and I broke my jaw and my orbital, and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I was doing therapy over the next 6 to 8 months, after my accident, and the doctors wanted to put me on barbiturates, benzos and anti-depression meds. I was almost like a guinea pig at one point. I was almost comatose. I was like a zombie and I couldn’t even live my life.”
“So, I tried some cannabis too, and I realized, wow! I didn’t need the benzos or the barbiturates or the anti-depressants that they had me on – the pills that made me a zombie. I was able to consume a little cannabis and get on with my daily living. My reading and writing came back. I wasn’t as proficient as I was before the accident, but I noticed that the cannabis had a healing property on me. I mean, I had 186 stitches on my face. My lips were ripped off. My jaw was broken. My orbital was crushed in. My eyelash was ripped off over my right eye. It wasn’t pretty.”
But Dr. Leivent didn’t let the accident stop him. He finished college and applied to pharmacy school. Dr. Leivent wanted to make cannabis available to help others the way it helped him. He then opened a medical dispensary in Oregon, Lincoln City Collective. Now he’s also on the East Coast, trying to get cannabis into people’s lives through his CBD-infused yummies.
Dr. Leivent: “I needed a way to get cannabinoids into everyday life. I was thinking and thinking, ‘could we put CBD into something that more than 80% of the population uses?’ And I looked in my hand and saw my coffee and thought, there it is!
“That’s when I reached out to Chef Leighton Knowles who was doing some amazing things in the cannabis sector on the East Coast. We went over some products that were available and were not happy with what we found at the time. So we started going over different formulations, a scientist and a chef another perfect match, but the one thing we knew is we didn’t want an oily brew.”
“I’m not poo-pooing other companies who make CBD coffee. I just don’t see how you can put CBD oil, on a bean, and then grind that bean, and then percolate that bean, and have a consistent measurement of CBD. Because each bean is not getting the same amount of CBD if it’s not being ground right away to get your measurements. So if they’re just leaving it as a whole bean and saying that its 350 mg per bag, that’s great, but how much is it per a serving? Because, if its an oil based thing, is that oil going to come through my water? Am I actually going to be able to get that in my coffee cup? Water and oil don’t like each other. They’d separate.”
“So we searched out a custom-formulated CBD isolate, which is pure CBD – completely THC free. Then we went a little further and we thought, let’s get the best possible coffee that we can get and let’s put it with the best possible isolate that we can get. So we have this amazing CBD isolate with this fantastic coffee that’s been roasting in Brooklyn for the last 70 years. It’s been on Oprah and Seinfeld.”
“We have the best coffee, with the best CBD, and the slight bitterness that the CBD might have is completely masked by the coffee. It’s like a match made in heaven. And it has its own entourage effect, because you’re going to get your energy through your coffee – you’re going to get your focus – but you’re not going to get those jitters and you’re not going to get the anxiety that caffeine usually brings. At least not in moderation.”
“There were studies recently with CBD and coffee that didn’t show that, but these people were drinking eight to 10 cups of the stuff. You’re going to be jittery and have anxiety if you consume that much coffee. So moderation is important. But when people take our coffee and drink it, and they come back and tell us how they feel, it’s undeniable. That’s how the coffee came around. A lot of people describe drinking the coffee as being similar to the sensation they get when they put their hand on an air hockey table. They feel that light buzz going through their body and on their skin. That’s a great feeling.”
“A lot of people don’t realize that their everyday life is stressful. You wake up, and suddenly you’re bombarded with stuff. Our brain doesn’t even let us realize all the stuff that’s going on around us all day or we’d go crazy. I serve this coffee at large events, and I tell people, ‘you’re going to drink this coffee and you’re going to feel great and be able to walk around all day.’ And they come back later and say ‘yeah! I feel great! I walked around all day. I usually can’t do that.’ Or they might have some anxiety with crowds, but they’ll come back to me three hours later and say, ‘you know, the crowds didn’t bother me.'”
Nugg: “What are your feelings about high THC products with no CBD?
Dr. Leivant: “Well now THC is amazing by itself. I also think it depends on the time of day for particular products. I think a balanced product – especially because of the synergistic effects between THC and CBD – is usually the best option. But the cannabis patients in New York don’t have access to the specific strains and varieties that you do in California.”
Nugg: “It’s so strange to see a state that doesn’t allow flower.”
Dr. Leivant: (laughs) “Yeah, it’s because New York is a smoke-free state, so vaping is considered non-smoking. You can consume your capsules or have a vape pen, but no smoking of flower.”
Nugg: “Do you feel like they are missing out on the other benefits that you would find in natural flower like the CBNs and the terpenes?”
Dr. Leivant: “Oh yes! They definitely might be missing out. CBN, CBG, you know, the other tiny cannabinoids that get pushed out with high THC breeding too. I mean, a plant can only contain so much THC before it can’t grow anymore. So it happens to the flower too. A lot of those natural cannabinoids that cause the entourage effect are being bred out. It’s extreme. I’ve seen 31% THC, so, when you think about it, 30% of that plant is just THC (the buds). So you’re losing a lot of those other finite cannabinoids that have those other wonderful synergistic effects that might give you a better effect from that THC. So, I don’t like THC with no CBD in it. But I also do like higher THC strains too. I’m a hyperactive guy and I have a lot of energy, almost too much energy.”
“This is something I feel very passionate about. I realized everyone needs to consume some type of cannabinoid in some type of way. Like THCA, it won’t get you high, it has more antioxidants and Omega 3,6 and 9, than almost any other plant and most fish. Cannabis is a superfood! If we were to consume cannabis itself as a food, I don’t know how many diseases or conditions we’d improve or even eliminate. You’re in California! You should be consuming raw cannabis every day. Juice it, any way you can get it in there. You can’t deny the benefits. But we’re giving out opium. We’re giving out synthetic fentanyl. I would take my patients down the herb aisles and I would have to say you have to be careful taking this because your kidneys might fail, if you take too much of this your liver will fail, if you take too much of this you’ll get an ulcer. But you can consume your body weight in cannabis and feel great. It’s crazy. The only way you can get hurt from cannabis is if you drop 2,000 pounds on your head.”
Nugg: “It seems so backward.”
Dr. Leivent: “Yeah. We’re not even being taught about the endocannabinoid system. My friends that went through medical school weren’t taught about it. My students in pharmacy school aren’t taught about it. They do have an elective course at LIU, but at St. John’s, a Catholic school, there’s no mention of it. Before, what was it, 1938? There were some 2,000 pharmaceutical products with medical cannabis in them. It was just a great medicine! Now we don’t even feed hemp to our livestock. We’ve taken so many of these cannabinoids out of our daily life. Who knows how many of our current diseases or mental health problems could be attributed to this? I personally believe that. When you see someone who is cannabinoid naive, and you give them CBDs or low dose THCs and you see the effects, it’s undeniable. The reports that we get from people saying they’ve stopped shaking from their Tourette syndrome or they slept all the way through the night for the first time in years – it’s just undeniable. It’s just great to hear these things. We should be utilizing it as much as possible, and instead, we are being handcuffed.”
Of course, with the tenuous ground that CBDs stand upon, the conversation took a natural turn toward the politics of pot. Dr. Leivent isn’t just passionate about his coffee. He knows that his company’s and his customers’ futures depend on the direction of current legislation.
Now that Epidiolex is America’s first FDA-approved CBD-based medication, it’s impossible for the DEA to continue to deny that cannabis has no medical benefit. The DEA must make a decision to reschedule Epidiolex, and it’s still being debated whether this rescheduling will include all CBDs. Some activists are very worried about this decision because if all CBDs are rescheduled to Schedule 2 or Schedule 3, production could become more complicated, not less.
Dr. Leivent: “I don’t think enough people realize what the big issues are. They think any step toward legalization is great. They don’t realize the intricacies of the situation. If we deschedule, we’ll be able to utilize this as a superfood, and as the plant-based medicine it is. If we reschedule, we will be putting cannabis completely in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry. Call your congressman, call your representatives. Everyone, everyone should be calling. Every dispensary should display their congressperson’s phone number.”
The nation got a glimpse of what such a Schedule 2 or 3 world would look like in mid-August when it was discovered that Epidiolex, which is being produced by GW Pharma, could cost as much as $32,000 per year.
That pill may be a little hard to swallow since current compassionate care providers in legal states can make similar CBD tinctures and concoctions for just a couple hundred dollars a month. They often even provide these CBD tinctures for low or no-cost, utilizing the profits from legal cannabis sales to cover the relatively minimal production costs.
Nugg: “Do you think there’s enough public interest now to stop this from happening?”
Dr. Leivent: “Absolutely! Just look at the demographics that this crosses. You have every walk of life – every creed, every color, every age group. There are so many people who have seen benefits. Look at all the people who want to relax or treat pain, so they drink or pop a Xanax – but then they poo-poo cannabis. So they go home and they have a drink or get drunk and then they look terrible the next day. Or they take their Xanax and they’re totally out of it. Why would you want to do that when you can come home and smoke a joint or eat an edible and feel a lot better and be a better person to everyone else? There are no ill-effects…well, maybe a pizza or two.”