Ali Jamalian knows a thing or two about cannabis.
For one, it’s his business. With his partner, Dr. Sarah Rodriguez, Jamalian developed a line of cannabis-infused organic spirulina flakes. For another, it’s his social life. As a big fan of cooking, Jamalian counts Nopa’s Austin Thompson and Cannaisseur Series creator Coreen Carroll as friends. They’ve been known to open a few bottles of wine and experiment with THC-infused eats. They’ve even kicked the idea of a cookbook around. Perhaps most importantly, however, is the fact that Jamalian’s wife has found substantial relief from her epilepsy-induced grand mal seizures with CBD treatment.
In short, Jamalian is the definition of an industry insider, and now he wants to share his knowledge with San Francisco city officials.
Following the Board of Supervisors’ October vote to establish a Cannabis Oversight Committee, Jamalian decided to apply for a seat. As the committee is currently defined, there will be 14 members — nine voting, five non-voting — with spots earmarked for business owners, equity applicants, medical patients, and labor union representatives. While no decision on who specifically will sit on the Oversight Committee has yet been reached, Jamalian already knows what he’d do if given the opportunity.
“We’re hoping to make the city a little bit more cannabis operator-friendly,” he says. “The legalization process started in September 2017. It became apparent to us quite quickly that the city is always going to be a little bit behind from where the industry is, because they have a learning curve. They don’t see the supply chain — they only see retail.”
Originally from Germany, Jamalian has called San Francisco home since his college years at USF. It was there that he met a handful of friends who decided to grow cannabis in their Sunset district homes. Soon enough, they dubbed themselves “Sunset Connect” and began to ingratiate themselves into the local medical pot market.
In addition to Sunset Connect — which sells cannabis flower — he also has a topicals brand (Green Spirit Essentials), an extracts company (Sunset Connection Extracts), and his intriguing contribution to the world of edibles: Spirulinex. Described by Jamalian as an “all-natural, sugar-free, fat-free, alcohol-free, cannabis-infused spirulina flake,” the product known as Dragonglass was conceived from humble beginnings.
“We started out sort of Breaking Bad-style,” he explains, “out of the back of the Plant Cafe Organic. The owner was my boss and a mentor of mine.”
What Jamalian and his partner Rodriguez discovered was that by utilizing an aqueous solution — one in which cannabinoids are suspended in water rather than fat — they were able to achieve a much more equal distribution during emulsification. In other words, the active component in Dragonglass means that if you used it to bake a tray of cookies, you wouldn’t find that some cookies were more saturated with THC than others.
In the case of Spirulinex, the baked good in question was actually Plant Café Organic’s mango shortbread recipe. An infused version of the café treat became the company’s first product, but with Dragonglass, they’ve developed a sublingual that truly emphasizes the medicine over the sugar.
In a market that’s pivoted from medicinal use to recreational, remembering that many cannabis consumers value the plant as a vital component of their health is something Jamalian takes very seriously.
“I’ll be honest,” he says, “it’s something I love recreationally. However, we used to call consumers ‘patients.’ The concept of compassionate care took that name for a reason. I’ve seen what it’s done for my wife, who, at her worst, had eight or nine full, grand-mal seizures a week.”
It was 2013 when Jamalian’s spouse was officially diagnosed with epilepsy. It took several years before doctors at UCSF where able to ascertain were her seizures were coming from. Fortunately, they also agreed to outfit her with an RNS — a device which functions like a pacemaker for your brain by sending numerous stimuli when it senses that brain activity is deviating from its normal rhythm.
“We’re blessed to have UCSF,” Jamalian says, “which has possibly the best epilepsy department in the country. The only thing I’ve ever seen work faster than the RNS is CBD.”
When his wife starts exhibiting seizure symptoms, Jamalian uses a strategy of pure crystalline cannabidiol. Every three months, the couple visits with the UCSF doctors. The readings on the RNS offer definitive proof that, at least in Jamalian’s wife’s case, CBD is making a quantifiable difference.
Now he’s working on ways to create the highest potency of CBD in the least amount of solution possible for future pharmaceutical use. He currently holds six patents related to the project, but met resistance from the city when it came time to raise funds to help finance the research. It’s exactly the kind of issue he thinks San Francisco needs to address, and Jamalian is ready to do his part in kind.
“I think the city needs to be a little bit more understanding and supportive,” he suggests. “That’s part of the reason I want to be on this committee: I want to help guide that understanding. I’ve worked in alcohol. ABC people don’t always want you to have a liquor license, so it is nice to see that part. It is nice to see with this industry, regulators do want to get cannabis businesses up and running. I know everyone is trying to help. Sadly, everyone is also trying to figure it out.”