Stuart Titus: Medical Marijuana, Inc. (OTC:MJNA)
He has an undeniable enrapturing quality about him and it’s his kind of commitment to learning, expanding, and succeeding that is inspiring the industry as a whole. Yesterday, he became the newly appointed President and CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc. and we wouldn’t have been able to envision a better fit. He’s a grand thinker, an astounding listener, and he’s harnessed experience from every sector in business to be the leader he is today. Stuart Titus has been a pioneer in this space for years upon years, and now he’s situated behind the reigns to catapult this industry to the next level. And his greatest achievement? His best round in golf. Take it from the man himself and find out what it takes to follow in his footsteps.
What is the story behind your involvement with the cannabis industry?
When I first came out to California in 2004, I was amazed to see the number of successful marijuana businesses in operation and see dispensaries that were actually legal. Coming from the East Coast, this was a real eye opener for me and when I found out that there was a public company looking for investment, I immediately led myself to explore the opportunity in what I believed to be the next great business of the future. So, in March of 2009, I purchased my restricted shares from a company executive for Medical Marijuana, Inc. and became the #7 investor. We then went ahead and looked at several business opportunities and I went and explored the field by attending a few of the science and medical conferences that were going on at the time.
I was particularly fascinated with Dr. Donald Abrams, from UCSF, who was the head of the oncology research department there. His story was truly remarkable! It was after I heard him speak that I realized that there were tremendous medical benefits in the marijuana plant. Long story short, a new group came in during March 2011 and purchased Medical Marijuana Inc. and I was further introduced to industrial hemp and the beneficial cannabinoids that could be derived from it. So, I then came to see that there was not only the medicinal benefits in marijuana, but there were also, more potentially legal benefits in industrial hemp and its extracts.
It was after I heard him speak that I realized that there were tremendous medical benefits in the marijuana plant.
Unfortunately, during that time, I contracted a terrible illness playing golf called Lyme disease, a very crippling neurological disorder. In less than a week, I was practically at a state of complete physical shutdown and was nearly wheelchair bound. This went along for quite awhile and I tried everything conceivably possible. Having been in the medical field, I tried traditional medical treatment, integrative medicine treatment, pain management modalities, and nothing seemed to work until I came to try CBD-based products with which I had great success. So, with hemp-based CBD oil, I had a significant improvement and made it to recovery despite my age.
Long story short, I helped start and finance some of the companies that are in the space today, being the #7 investor in medical marijuana. I’ve helped start CannaVest (OTC:CANV) by lending funds, along with a lot of other really great companies. It’s been a great journey and there’s no greater honor than to be the President and CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc., the real ‘grand-daddy’ of publicly traded companies in this space.
What were you doing before?
Well, I’ve had a lengthy career… If you were sitting with me, you’d notice my abundance of gray hair. When I got out of college, I tried a little stint on the PGA golf circuit, but after that I decided to try something different and went to Wall Street for 11 years and worked as a bonds trader and underwriter. So, I definitely have good extensive background in that. I also worked as an institutional trader for Credit Suisse First Boston, a very well-respected investment firm. After those 11 years, I decided to switch gears and explore my fascination with the human body and its performance in physical therapy and wound up getting my PhD in British Physiotherapeutics and opened my own practice in the Carolinas. In 2004, I semi-retired and came out to California and started to explore some other alternative medical procedures and continued part-time with my physiotherapy and eventually got into venture capital starting in 2005 for a few years and worked with a few start-up companies. That’s really how I was introduced to marijuana in the first place.
What other industry might you compare the ‘green rush’ to and why?
Well, I think that the typical comparison takes us back to the time of prohibition on our alcohol industry. The beer, wine, and spirits industry is currently tremendous. I think if we look at where this industry is today and rewind that to where it was under prohibition, you’d be able to see the possible opportunity to purchase companies like Seagram’s and Jim Beam by investing in marijuana now. I’d say that there are definitely many interesting parallels between those two industries.
Others often liken how the cannabis industry today is like the gambling industry – Back when casinos where quasi-legal and there was some internet gambling going on, the Indian tribes ended up legalizing gambling and bringing Las Vegas to the rest of the country! I believe there to be some very interesting parallels in that, too. I could even continue on to mention the automobile industry and how despite it being around for so long and dominated by the big auto and big oil companies. Tesla came in and brought this new kind of technology that is changing everything about our economy and the way we do business, much like industrial hemp has the power to do.
Others often liken how the cannabis industry today is like the gambling industry – Back when casinos where quasi-legal and there was some internet gambling going on, the Indian tribes ended up legalizing gambling and bringing Las Vegas to the rest of the country!
Right now, where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?
Well, I’ve had great experience in bettering my health by taking advantage of the wellness properties of cannabinoids, as well as its associated flavonoids, terpenoids, and other ingredients that we’re not yet fully aware of. So, I certainly have a great passion for all of those! I’m also very excited about the rising of industrial hemp and the restart of this crop, the US Agriculture community, and the innovations in the healthcare industry where some are looking at cannabis potentially being a missing dietary ingredient. Dr. Robert Melamede has gone as far as saying that there is such a thing as Cannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome. So, these are definitely all things I am very passionate about. We certainly owe a lot to this plant and it’s just so hard to believe that this plant, this naturally growing plant, is still considered a controlled substance. To bring this forward and make it more readily available for people who care to experiment with it, is a really great thing. I am very passionate about being in this industry and I’m putting a lot of energy towards moving forth.
Who is a person that you consider as a role model? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Looking at the field we are in, I’d look at who I mentioned above previously, Dr. Donald Abrams, who recommends medical cannabis to a number of his cancer patients, particularly after they’ve gone through chemotherapy and radiation. He seems to think there are as many as 5 benefits that can be derived from the implementation of medical cannabis as these patients’ realm of treatment of which he’d usually have to write 5 different prescriptions for and have to be conscious of side effects and drug interactions. He believes medications can be alleviated with medical cannabis.
Dr. McAllister of California Pacific Medical Center has done some interesting work on CBD on metastatic breast cancer cells. There is a non-profit organization called, Patients Out of Time (POT), who host a lot of the medical symposiums in the industry. Al Byrne, the co-founder, COO, and Secretary-Treasurer of POT has been a great role model. His wife, Marylynn Mathre, Executive Chairman of the American Cannabis Nurses Association, so they are certainly both pioneers in our field. Also, someone to be admired of the past with his interesting innovations would be Nikolai Tesla who is an amazing individual and whose career I admire greatly.
Aside from those, I wouldn’t be able to omit mentioning Dr. Geoffrey Guy, who founded the London-based company, GW Pharmaceuticals. They’ve done some ground-breaking work on medical cannabis and have a wonderful oral spray that’s been approved in several European countries, as well as Canada. On his staff, there is Dr. John McPartland and Dr. Ethan Russo, who coined the term ‘Entourage Effect’ which essentially means that using a synthetic CBD and administering that to the patient is far inferior to administering the plant in its entire form; with all the cannabinoids, flavanoids, terpenoids, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They say that the full plant form extract can offer much more beneficial effects than that of the synthetic stripped-down product.
And lastly, being the President and CEO of a company, I would like to mention a contemporary of mine and a gentleman I admire who grew up playing golf in Rhode Island. His name is Jimmy Dunne and we started on Wall Street together at about the same time and he went onward to start a firm called Sandler O’Neill. Jimmy absolutely loves golf and I love everything about him. Unfortunately, his firm was on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center the day 9/11 came along and he lost everyone. He was actually out playing golf being that it was a beautiful September day and I can’t imagine the trauma he had to face that every one of his employees, every colleague of his, lost their lives that day. How he managed to survive that situation and how he managed to come back and get the firm to what it is today… my gosh – I’m sitting here with goosebumps! I have amazing admiration for him. Just the other day I saw him on TV because he apparently shot 69 at Pebble Beach and that’s pretty impressive! I’m going to have to up my game a little bit to try and compete.
What inspires you the most about this space?
This industry, this endeavor we’re involved in, is utterly in its infancy stage. The thing that’s so intriguing is that we are bringing back a natural plant into our society. This plant is one that’s been well-known long ago for its medical benefits and one that we’d partake in naturally by human instinct. By bringing this plant back, we can transform our society to being more sustainable and renewable, all while fulfilling a basic, logical need for a dietary necessity. I’ve seen so much unbelievable passion arise from people on both sides of the aisle. It’s just incredible! There’s just this crazy force field of energy; you either love it, or you hate it. I’ve never seen people divided over something so natural, but it’s probably due in part to the brainwashing we’ve all undergone for years. The fact is, that once you do the research and once you pass a certain point, there’s just no turning back. I’m just very excited to be a pioneer in this new industry and hopefully this will be a great benefit to many humans. I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than what we strive to do every day here at MJNA, General Hemp, and all the other companies I’ve been involved in.
Tell me about an esteemed achievement of yours.
Well, within this space, I’ve been the founder of many great companies, but I’m most proud of my involvement with General Hemp, which I always consider to be my ‘favorite pet’. General Hemp’s parent company would perhaps be the CannaVest (OTC:CANV) and so getting that established and being the principle investor back in 2012 was a great feat. A couple of ‘cousins’ I’m particularly fond of would be Kannalife Sciences with their CEO being Dean Petkanas; I’ve been very honored to be on their board of directors. And certainly, Axiom Biotechnologies, Kannaway, and Cannalink are all up-and-coming companies I am proud of. Of course, MJNA is the ‘grand-daddy’ of them all and it’s been my most esteemed achievement to be part of this space as a whole.
Outside of the space, I was very proud of eventually rising to the position of Vice President at Credit Suisse First Boston. Of course, I’m proud of my PhD degree, but honestly, looking back on everything, I think that one of my greatest accomplishments was my best round of golf, which was a 64, and my best round in competition which was 65, and although I didn’t quite reach the PGA tour, I am still pretty proud of the career I’ve had.
Where do your great ideas come from?
Well, I believe great ideas come from a great environment. If you start working with like-minded people in a good, positive atmosphere, great things happen. Often, some good ideas come from dreams or on the golf course, or while you’re engaged in other spiritually uplifting activities. I’d say I’m a strong believer in what Dr. Candace Pert has described in her book, The Molecules of Emotion. She was actually the doctor who discovered the opiate receptor in the human brain and yet she was able to articulate and relate her incredible work back to normal human experience. She wrote, if you’re happy all the time, you’re brain will start to produce beneficial neurotransmitters, which will then run our bodies in a very healthy and efficient manner. However, if one remains sad and continually depressed all the time, then harmful neurotransmitters will govern us and cause adverse health consequences in our bodies. So, never underestimate positive emotions and a positive environment on your health, well-being, and creativity.
If you start working with like-minded people in a good, positive atmosphere, great things happen.
There’s a very famous blood microscopic analysis healthcare specialist who once said, “The real factors affecting us, positively or negatively, are diet, chemicals, radiation, and emotion. And probably emotions rank at 50% of the entire equation.” I also would say, in addition to this, I tend to be a very good listener – I was created with two ears and one mouth in that proportion. I always try to be effective in my interaction with others, but I certainly spend time to try and gain knowledge on areas that interest me.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader in this space?
First and foremost, I take CBD and hemp oil daily. I surround myself with young folks and hopefully will lead them by example. I try and do some outside extracurricular activities to de-stress. I love to play golf, it’s a great diversion and keeps me young. I do a lot of electro-physiotherapy, I work on myself a little bit, I love to get acupuncture, I work out at the gym, hike with friends… I’m not doing too much of it nowadays, but I would love to get back into doing yoga and Pilates again, too. I practice what is called intermittent fasting and I love to read Dr. Mercola. I love interaction with knowledgeable professionals in their given sector and hopefully, by continuing my thirst for knowledge, I will remain young and continue to be an effective leader.
What is important to you – mission, vision, or core values? Why?
I’d say all are important, but to me, if I had to choose a hierarchy, I’d say vision. Vision is the fuel from which the mission and core values derive. Vision is the horizon and when you love what you do, it’s really not work at all! As far as my mission, I’d say it’s bringing cannabis out of the garage, the backroom, and the warehouse. Bringing cannabis to the drug store to legitimize this amazingly beneficial plant. I have a great personal vision to witness, in my lifetime, the rescheduling of this plant to exonerate it and hopefully begin to rewrite history books to include the proven medicinal benefits that we’re certainly seeing throughout the world these days. If you ask me about core values, I try to be honest, forthright, do the best I can, live with integrity, and remain focused and committed on achievement.
Vision is the fuel from which the mission and core values derive. Vision is the horizon and when you love what you do, it’s really not work at all!
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
Looking at this industry a year from now, I’d say we’ll likely be getting a lot more press and attention than we’re even already getting now! Hemp itself is a hot topic. Medical Marijuana is an unbelievably hot topic and it’s getting a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, by this time next year, we’ll have planted the largest springtime crop of hemp in America, perhaps the largest crop since the Hemp for Victory campaign during WWII. I’m very excited about the Green Rush and taking part in that.
Within a year, we could definitely be seeing some other very dramatic changes. There is all kinds of cannabis legislation going on across the country. In Florida, 58% of the voters voted for medical cannabis and it didn’t pass, but the legislation this year is looking to go ahead and pass that. There are so many other states that are looking to legalize for recreational purposes as well. It’s not a question of if this plant is going to become federally legal… The real question is: How soon? I think that’s what we’re looking at right now. Certainly, a year from now, we could have a tremendously different outlook than we have today.