Cannaclub looking to explore a new frontier in cannabis industry

Disclaimer: Arlo Moore-Bloom is the head of the student advisory board for Cannaclub. He is also the executive sports editor at The Tufts Daily. Moore-Bloom was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

One of the fastest-growing enterprises in the United States, the cannabis industry has been encouraging dialogue surrounding the recreational and medical use of cannabis. The cannabis industry was valued at $9.3 billion in 2016 and is continuing to expand. After working at Casa Verde Capital, a venture capital firm focused on the cannabis industry with a team including Snoop Dogg, senior Julian Goldhill was inspired to start an organization exploring the cannabis market on campus.

“It was interesting for me to apply my knowledge of economics and finance to an industry that really goes against the grain of traditional economics in a lot of ways,” Goldhill said. “It really is the new frontier.”

Goldhill attributes his interest in the industry to his ambition.

“The research says that there is a lot of potential in the cannabis industry,” Goldhill said. “You could be selling anything and if you talk about the [value and growth] that we are seeing in this industry, I would be interested.”

While Goldhill understands the controversy surrounding the industry, he wants to remove the stigma.

“The cannabis industry and cannabis itself as a plant have been stigmatized since the 1930’s, with the Marijuana Tax Act,” Goldhill said. “And now, we are seeing the reversal of age-old institutionalized laws, so there is a need for our club.”

Last year, Goldhill met fellow senior Eric Brook, who also had an interest in the industry, but for very different reasons. Throughout his life, Brook had battled weight loss, pain, and fatigue. This resulted in a Crohn’s Disease diagnosis in his junior year of high school. Even after emergency surgery and a very intense chemotherapy treatment, Brook still had active inflammation damaging his body. He decided to do his own research on effective ways to treat and deal with his disease and come across cannabis as a possible alternative. Brook, who had never tried cannabis before in his life, implemented the plant into his treatment regimen.

“Within a month, I was in remission,” Brook said. “I went from a 95-pound, incapacitated high school senior who could not even attend classes to a healthy college-bound student once again.” According to Brook, cannabis now helps him with pain and symptom management, as well as long-term remission.

Brook, a politically active student who had volunteered for Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, also worked on Kamala Harris’ campaign for senate. At this time, cannabis was still more of a taboo subject, so he chose to keep his experiences to himself.

“I had to hide who I was and a big part of my life during that time,” Brook said.

However, in 2016, Brook decided to get more involved in the industry and worked on the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalized cannabis for adults in California. The next summer, he began working at Ceres Group Holdings, which gave Brook a firm background in venture capital and private equity. 

When Goldhill approached him about starting Cannabis Club on campus, Brook expressed interest.

“It was fun to share that interest with someone, and we realized we had a similar vision for what this club could look like,” Brook said.

According to Goldhill, Cannaclub, which started in the fall, is currently an event-oriented club and will be hosting speakers and discussions about the industry.

“We want to provide students with a structured and supportive environment to learn about the industry,” Goldhill, who serves as president, said.

Brook, who serves as vice president, agreed, and noted the community aspect that he hoped to cultivate.

“We want to use the club as a platform to bring in various speakers and create a connected community among Tufts students interested in the industry,” Brook said. “I have met so many different Tufts students with so many different interests related to the industry.”

On March 10, the club hosted Dr. Jordan Tishler, a physician with a focus on using cannabis to treat a wide variety of illnesses who serves as treasurer and board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists.

Beyond having Cannaclub host its own speakers, Goldhill hopes to get involved in other events already happening on campus. Among those events is “The Cannabis Debate,” which will be hosted by Tufts Experimental College on March 29th, where a panel of various experts will discuss the state of the industry. 

Additionally, Goldhill wants to avoid the perception that the club is for students who smoke marijuana. “This is not a cannabis enthusiasts club,” he said. “Not everyone interested in the industry is a smoker.”

In addition to the informative and educational purposes of Cannaclub, both Goldhill and Brook hope that the club can open up career opportunities for club members.

“I want the club to be helpful to people looking to explore the job options in the industry,” Brook said.

According to Goldhill, in April the club will host members of the company Vangst, a hiring platform for the cannabis industry that connects businesses with job speakers.

“I think that will be a great opportunity to learn about the business side of the industry and potential job trends,” Goldhill said.

Brook acknowledged that rectifying the industry’s past is a personal goal for him.

“[I want to] help individuals, particularly [people of color], who have unfairly had their lives uprooted by archaic and racist laws,” Brook said. However, Brook did not feel like this was a realistic goal for the club, given its current mission.

“One of the unfortunate realities of the plant being regulated as it is [is that it] results in any government-funded organization, like Cannaclub at Tufts, being prevented from promoting any cause, even if it is socially just,” Brook said. “The goal of the club is to disseminate information about the industry, [so] we cannot directly do anything to that effect while [maintaining our current goals].”

In terms of the future of the club, both Goldhill and Brook are hoping their successors can expand the club’s mission. Brook sees the club as a chance for students to become interested in the industry.

“As somebody who really discovered the cannabis industry on his own, I’d love to be able to provide younger students with a platform to get involved in the industry,” Brook said.

While the club is looking to become officially recognized within the next school year, Goldhill anticipates that external sponsors will eliminate the need for additional funding from the TCU Senate.

Goldhill wants the club to go beyond the knowledge-based curriculum that it is focusing on for this semester.

“I want the club and its resources to allow students to take initiative and conduct research on specific parts of the industry that they are interested in, whether that’s regulation, science, business or incarceration,” Goldhill said. “It’s all about understanding what the students want, and I want to have a good understanding of the club’s direction before I graduate.”