Flow Kana Institute Hosts Cannabis as a Catalyst for Change Conference

The inaugural TED talk-style “Flow Talks” featured Snoop Dogg, Dave Bronner, and more.

Flow Kana is a name likely familiar to many Northern California cannabis consumers. Started in 2015 by Michael Steinmetz,  and his wife Flavia Cassani, the company bills itself as a “California-based, small batch cannabis brand powered by craft farmers.”  Steinmetz has made it their mission to serve as an umbrella organization that unites smaller pot farmers to give them the platform and the power to compete with Big Ag.

On Sept. 23, Flow Kana hosted a small selection of reporters, investors, brand representatives, and farmers at the brand’s home base in Redwood Valley for its first-ever Cannabis as a Catalyst for Change event.

If you really want people to pay attention, take away their smartphones. Better yet — have them go somewhere without service. This may not have been the primary objective of the conference but the remote location certainly played a noticeable role in conjuring an atmosphere of respect and focus.

Construction is still underway, but progress is on track to develop what they’ve named the Flow Kana Institute. Its purpose? To provide “a centralized location for independent cannabis farmers to test, dry, cure, trim, process, package, manufacture, and distribute farm products cost effectively, and at massive scale.”

There are a lot of big claims being made in cannabis today, both in terms of brands’ intent and commitment to restorative justice initiatives and  best practices. Flow Kana appears to be walking their talk. Local farmers who have partnered with the company consistently praised them (check back next week for a profile on Cyril Guthridge, founder of nearby Water Dog Herb Farm), and the caliber of speakers who agreed to attend also lent the event some serious credibility.

Set against a backdrop of the splendor of Ukiah — as well as an impressive stage decoration made from reclaimed wood sourced from the property ­­— Flow Kana’s “Flow Talks” featured the likes of Dr. Bronner’s CEO Dave Bronner, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi, and rapper/entrepreneur Snoop Dogg. Formatted as 20-minute talks and panels, the speakers each approached the concept of how cannabis can serve as a catalyst for change in a myriad of ways.

New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler used his time to discuss the fascinating concept of the “flow state” — essentially an optimal state of consciousness often achieved during exercise, meditation, and creative pursuits. He recalled seeing a group of skiers huddled together, ingesting cannabis, before taking on a seriously challenging run and questioning their logic. Confused, the group told him how cannabis helped them perform better on the slopes.  Many years later, he’s now convinced that what’s known colloquially as a “hippie speed ball” (essentially a mix of cannabis, caffeine, and exercise) is a gateway to tapping into our ultimate potential.

Dave Bronner drew thunderous applause as he related the story of how he took over the soap company previously run by his grandfather and father. Bronner recently launched an (unaffiliated) cannabis company, Brother David’s, but he spent his allotted time at Flow Talks sharing some achievements for the Dr. Bronner’s brand. One was a commitment he made early on to a pay structure that ensures the highest-paid employee never makes more than five times the lowest- paid employee. He also shared his experience of tracing his coconut oil supply chain to its source in Sri Lanka and making the effort to establish sustainable, living- wage conditions for the workers who are supplying one of his company’s most crucial ingredients.

Arguably the most fascinating element of Bronner’s talk focused on his interest in regulating psychedelics like psilocybin and making prescriptions affordable and available to all. He noted that his company had recently donated $150,000 to an Oregon initiative to legalize the substance (best known as the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), and based on Bronner’s remarks at Flow Talks, it doesn’t sound like his support and advocacy will end there.

Naturally, any conversation about cannabis is incomplete without delving deep into the issue of restorative justice.

Fortunately, Flow Talks featured both Black Lives Matter co-founder  Opal Tometi and Karim Webb, creator of 4thMVMT —an organization focused on empowering individuals to succeed in L.A.’s cannabis social equity program. Both speakers touched on the extremely real fact that while a hundred folks sat in the gorgeous sunshine of Ukiah, countless individuals remain incarcerated for doing precisely what is now making a new generation of (mostly white and affluent) people extremely rich.

When the event concluded with a surprise appearance from Snopp Dogg — an early advocate, legendary artist, and owner of Leafs by Snoop — he focused on the subject as well. 

At one point, the rapper interrupted a question posed by Steimetz about Snoop’s global travels and advocacy for cannabis.

“…and all the times I went to jail too,” he said. “Don’t forget to mention that.”

Later, he echoed the words of Tometi and Webb in noting that true cannabis reform involves emptying prisons and expunging records for all who have previously been punished for cannabis offenses that are today entirely legal.

“If we’re going to do it right,” he told the crowd, “let’s do it all the way right.”

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