2 Minutes With ... Khalid Al-Naser, Co-Founder of Raw Garden

On Ready to Use disposables and making cannabis research accessible

Khalid Al-Naser is a co-founder of Raw Garden, a premium cannabis extracts and oils brand redefining how consumers perceive the plant. 

Located in the rolling hills of Santa Barbara wine country, Raw Garden makes it their mission to develop cannabis as a modern agricultural crop by implementing a production model that takes advantage of decades of technological advancement. Raw Garden is also one of the largest cannabis seed banks in the world, housing over 1,000 distinct cultivars and 25 million seeds and counting. 

We spent two minutes with Khalid to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Khalid, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Seattle, WA, but have been in California for almost 20 years now. I currently live in the Santa Ynez Valley.

How you first got interested in cannabis.

Cannabis has always been an interest of mine albeit I used to think of it as a happy distraction more than an interest or hobby. I was introduced to cannabis when I was younger and always had a positive experience as a consequence of using it, especially when it came to being creative. As I got older I was evangelized to the power of cannabis as a holistic medicine and that sparked a deeper need to understand the plant and advocate the idea of cannabis as good medicine.

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on. 

There have been a number of projects I have enjoyed moving forward, and they usually revolve around making products better. Our disposable-styled pen, the Raw Garden Ready-to-Use, changed the way people thought about disposables by providing the same experience but with a pen that disconnected from the battery so that the battery could be reused or recycled safely with other electronic components, making it "truly disposable." I also think we did a great job rethinking joints with our Infused Joints that are rolled in small batches and packaged for freshness rather than mass produced. Moreover, being a member of a dynamic team and helping form the foundation of what is now Raw Garden has probably been one of my favorite and most prolific projects to date. 

A recent project you're proud of. 

It hasn't made its way to market (at least not in its entirety) yet but I have been working on a new way to think about assessing cannabis aromas. Aromas have the opportunity to tell us a lot about what to expect from the plant and the likely effect, whereas the categorization of indica and sativa have become increasingly less effective. I believe there is a way to simplify the process and I am working hard to support the idea with tangible assets that allow consumers to enjoy the dynamic aromas produced by the cannabis plant without a special degree or need to know aroma compounds by their chemical names.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today, and how to approach it.

It depends on who you ask. I think in general a lot of cannabis companies (especially in California) are struggling to stay profitable in the face of significant headwinds. This leads to scrappy guerrilla marketing that relies on the consumer understanding the value proposition a brand may be trying to offer. Moreover, expensive platform adspace is out of the reach of many cannabis companies and acts to further compound the pressure on generally limited marketing departments. 

One thing about how the cannabis industry is evolving that you’re excited about.

I like that we are seeing more people find great values on the shelf. There was a time when quality was only available to consumers at prices that restricted access. Given that the framework of the recreational cannabis market was built on the foundation put in place by the medical systems that came before them, I think access is important. Many people during this time were patients who needed access to "good medicine" and for a time had it, and then high taxes and escalated prices eliminated that access. As we have seen prices come down we have also seen better accessibility return and make significant strides.

Someone else's work, in cannabis or beyond, that you admired lately.

It's not one person in particular but rather a movement, cannabis scientists are making cannabis research available and sharing it with whomever they can and I think that's huge. I believe it's going to help move the industry forward as well as help inform people who want to understand the effects of cannabis in more detail. I really like what these teams are doing to expose more cannabis truth than ever before. Cannabis science has traditionally been based on limited knowledge that was, in many instances, just part of the story or incorrect all together. The marriage of longstanding tribal knowledge and a new deeper understanding of both chemical and plant science, as it relates to cannabis, has created some very dynamic conversations. Conversations that I think will continue to facilitate and grow new exciting discoveries yet to be imagined.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

The Dot

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Aesop Rock

Your favorite fictional character.

The Black Stallion

Someone worth following on social media.

One person I have enjoyed following online is Miyabe Shields, PhD, on LinkedIn. She is a dynamic cannabis scientist who focuses on sharing cannabis science and informing people who want to learn more. As I mentioned earlier, this is an amazing movement being supported by a number of great scientists and researchers in the cannabis space, but I always enjoy Miyabe as she does a great job of making complex content more digestible.

Your main strength as a creative.

Seeing a bigger picture. I believe I am able to bring multiple perspectives to the table when thinking creatively or troubleshooting a situation.

Your biggest weakness.

Getting wrapped up in the little things. I like to be detail-oriented but sometimes that becomes an issue and can slow down forward momentum.

Something people would find surprising about you.

I enjoy riding horses.

One thing that always makes you happy.

My kids.

One thing that always makes you sad.

High prices.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.

Running a little kitchen somewhere in the country.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives and marketers about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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