Communication, Advice, and Predictions – Let’s Be Blunt with Montel Williams

Montel Williams is a former television host, speaker, and plant medicine advocate. He has been an outspoken supporter of cannabis for two decades, and being a medical patient himself, Montel’s authenticity and passion never wavers. Having served in both the United States Marines Corp and the Navy, he has also championed the cause of veteran access to medicinal cannabis. Montel’s podcast, Let’s Be Bluntdives into the world of cannabis, providing honest and thought-provoking information in an entertaining format.

Montel chatted with Leafwire about his incredible cannabis success story, where he sees the industry going, and the advice he has for new entrepreneurs.

Leafwire:  How did you discover cannabis as a medicine?

Montel Williams:  I came to cannabis because when I was initially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was put on a regimen of opioids that really didn’t do anything for me and had a doctor recommend cannabis to me back in 2000. The doctor basically said, “You need to go out and find out as much as you can about cannabis because I know that there have been some patients who have said that they’ve gotten relief from varied forms of cannabis, and I don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you do the study, you can figure that out,” and so really dove deep into cannabis back in 2000 and realized that this is a product that the federal government was in the process of granting itself a patent for.

And it extolled and talked about the virtues of cannabis in its abstract, in its own patent applications, so I felt like I was doing nothing different than what the federal government was doing, even though out of one side of the face, they were supporting cannabis by funding research all over the world and here in the United States, but out of the other side, claiming that it had no medical advocacy. So I really started the journey to gain relief from some of the symptoms that I was exhibiting from MS and cannabis was one of the only things that helped do that.

LW:  Tell us about the Let’s Be Blunt podcast — what can listeners expect?

MW:  Let’s Be Blunt is a platform similar to Leafwire —  a platform that provides good validated information, talks to other patient advocates, talks to doctors, talks to people who are trying to share valid information about cannabis and its effects. A platform to share information about the cannabis business and some of the pitfalls and some of the advances that are happening to make consumers more aware as they try to navigate this really ever-changing landscape. 

We live at a time now where we’ve got 37 states in the District of Columbia that all have some form of legal cannabis laws, but almost every one of them is different. Every one of them allows for different delivery systems. Every one of them has different practices for getting either registered in a medical program or even in their adult-use programs — they all differ. We aim to be a one-stop shop for people who want to learn more, know more. That’s what we set about doing with Let’s Be Blunt: it’s a blunt conversation.

LW: You dive into psychedelic medicine on the Let’s Be Blunt podcast. Are you looking at that space more?

MW:  I’ve used the platform to open up those kinds of discussions because a lot of people who are looking at holistic medicine and also botanicals of all types, need to have a place that they can go to get information. And we’ve received questions about psychedelics, and I’ve been digging in and talking to some of the people who are the industry leaders in what they’re trying to accomplish. This is a brand new field, a wide-open field that, just like when cannabis first started being discussed, there’s a lot of misinformation. So I want to try to get some legitimate information out there, especially for those who are inquisitive and want to know the benefits and allow for a discussion that doesn’t get to take place in many places.

LW:  You’re inviting the conversation and getting the information to the people in an accessible sort of way.

MW:  Yeah, I try to provide a safe outlet for those who want to be able to express their views without having to worry about being challenged as much, not over the veracity or the accuracy, but challenge only in helping them express themselves. I’ve spoken to people from as far away as South Africa and Australia and the EU, all living through different types of journeys with cannabis and trying to explain to people how this is being looked at around the world at a time where most of the world is wrestling with trying to provide decent healthcare to its constituents. 

Here’s an opportunity in the United States for us to be able to do the same thing with lots of countries, other countries have figured out is that when it comes to cannabis use, it literally, especially in the aging population, helps to reduce some of the pharmaceutical use that a lot of middle-aged and older people have routinely been prescribed that are unnecessary as we get older.

I’m a very strong believer that no matter whether it’s adult-use or not, people who gravitate to cannabis gravitate to it because of some form of underlying medical reason, whether they admit it or not. If it’s just to relax, that’s a medical reason, if it’s just to lessen some anxiety, that’s a medical reason. And so, I think providing space that’s safe for people to be able to share ideas and information that is usable for everyone is what we’re trying to accomplish with Let’s Be Blunt.

LW:  Your military experience has inspired you to advocate for medical cannabis access for veterans. How can people support these efforts?

MW:  There is a federally-sanctioned study happening on the West Coast right now, a study looking at cannabis and its effects on PTSD. I think that those who have done so much for us need to have every tool in their arsenal that they can use to fight the ravages of their remnants of war. So I am a huge supporter of cannabis for vets and hoping that some of our partners in this industry start to think in terms of that.

I will always be a supporter of ensuring that vets have safe access to cannabis. Some of the guests that we’ve had, guests we’ve brought have been people like Walking Dead, Tommy Chong, Redman. We’ve had Dr. Tishler from Harvard, Brooklyn with us, college and Dr. Michelle Weiner out of Florida, Kevin Greene, who’s got the Cleveland School of Cannabis, Chaunte Wayans, who’s the niece of the Wayans brothers, who talks about how cannabis helps to keep her sober. Believe it or not, this is a person who dealt with substance abuse but uses cannabis.

And then, we understand that science is now proving that cannabis can be a true exit drug rather than a gateway drug. An exit drug to opioid addiction and alcohol use. We should be doing more research on that and actually extolling the virtues. I think that we have some really engaging conversations on Let’s Be Blunt, but we also provide that kind of information that I believe that most people, once they start to hear, will start looking for you more.

LW:  Where do you see the cannabis industry heading in 2022?

MW:  I’m hoping that this industry wakes up and recognizes what it needs to do. We have done, I think, a fairly decent job in the last couple of years from a B2B standpoint, especially during the pandemic. Cannabis was considered an essential service and almost every legal state passed laws, literally making sure that their local officials and local politicians understood how important cannabis was. However, I think the industry really needs to grow up now and understand that we are just literally scraping the surface. We haven’t even really become a full-blown industry. This is like a Wright brother pushing a wooden plane down a hill.

We still have jets and other things that are down the road that we need to get ready for. And the only way we’re going to do that is through education. That’s what I like so much about Leafwire: that education is a paramount part of what you do, not only in connecting individuals in the business setting, but you also allow for individuals to share ideas and information that helps to educate the industry as a whole. And that’s what we really need to start focusing on, is not just B2B but B2C. We’re still caught up right now in trying to figure out how much THC we can raise the level of plant to and how many synthetic versions or modified versions of THC we can come up with when the truth to the matter is most consumers aren’t looking for higher than high.

That’s not what cannabis has always been about since the beginning. What we need to do is try to figure out how we can take apart over 250 component parts that have some form of medicinal property, and start figuring out how to utilize those and formulate those in their natural way. Maybe just by taking out the deleterious things and leaving in the positive things. And that’s where I hope the research leads us to and that’s where I hope this industry goes. 

In the next year and a half, I’m really a little jaded because I’m concerned about the fact that the industry jumps behind candidates for president, vice president that talk a mean game and basically lie to the industry. Claiming that in its first 100 days, they would make significant changes and none of that’s been done. And you don’t see anything getting ready to get done on the near horizon because of all the other setbacks that this administration is going through.

That means that we have to look to the next administration, and then we look to the next administration. That’s like looking into the eye of the storm because we have no idea who’s going to be the next administration. And if it happens to be the former one, you may as well kiss cannabis goodbye in the way that we are thinking about its evolution moving forward. Can you put this dog back behind the fence? No, I don’t think it’ll ever get back behind the fence. But can it be thwarted every step of the way? Absolutely. Can we put chains on it? Can the government put chains on it and leave it outside in the rain? Absolutely.

And we’ve already seen initiatives across the country from some of the deepest, darkest conservative bases that are trying to roll back even the will of the people, not just for the presidential election, but the will of the people who voted in cannabis for their constituents. And so, I think this industry needs to literally now begin the process of stopping the infighting, not worrying about your little piece of turf rather than figuring out how to come together to move this entire industry forward. 

I think that one of the things that I’m really excited about is that, I know I’ve been talking to Reggie Noble, Redman, who has been a staunch supporter of cannabis from back as long as I had been. He and a group have just launched something called NCP, which is the National Cannabis Party, which is a federally-registered cannabis party that is now capable of endorsing and being on a ballot in all 50 states. I think what we need to do as an industry is everyone who has a share or stake in this business needs to get behind this party and start impressing upon candidates that we’re not going to take it anymore. We need your support, and we need to be able to pass good and consumer-friendly cannabis laws across the country that allow those who are patients to have access to this incredible medication. And those who choose this over other products like alcohol, have safe access to that too.

We sometimes forget that the same people who fight so hard against cannabis are the ones who are sipping down on brown liquor when they get home, or sipping down a glass of wine, or going out to a restaurant, sharing a drink with a friend. What right do you have to tell me how I imbibe in something that is socially relaxing?

LW:  What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are considering entering the industry?

MW:  I hope you’re getting into this industry for the right reasons. If this is an industry that you decided that you want to get into because you want to make a lot of money off of other people’s suffering, then I tell you, skip it. 

But if you are interested in helping to provide relief to those who are looking for relief, helping to provide an alternative substance for those who are looking for something alternative to alcohol, have that be your core. And then from there, build out what it is you want to build out. Do you want to be a grower? Do you want to be a processor? Do you want to be a salesperson? Do you want to be a formulator? What is it that you really think you want to do? Is it just all about making money? If it’s all about making money, then I have nothing to say to you, but if it’s all about keeping the consumer in mind and trying to develop products that can continue to be innovative, a space that is ripe for innovation, then I’d say jump in with two feet.

But you also have to understand that, because there have been so many before you that have come in looking to make money, this has now become an industry that is extremely expensive to get into. You get no support, really, and the support that you get is going to come with a pretty big price tag. So align yourself with those who can help you move your paradigm forward in what’s now becoming a crowded, greedy land space.

LW:  You have always been about patient access at the forefront. Is the industry losing sight of this?

MW:  Yeah. I think we, again put ourselves in a position where there are too many putting money first. Again, this is like the Wright brothers pushing a wooden plane down a hill. We have to remember. The last hundred years of aviation have created billions, trillions of dollars. The first 10 years of the aviation industry didn’t create millions. And so if we stop and think about this, we still have trillions of dollars on the table. So everybody’s going to make their piece. Why not try to do so, providing a better landscape than those out there eating right now?

LW:  What’s ahead for you?

MW:  I’m still in the industry. I’m a formulator myself with my own products and going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, but I’ve got another contract manufacturer that I’m working with. And hopefully, we’ll have some broad-spectrum products in the marketplace very soon again. And I’m also working with multiple cannabis companies around the world, trying to innovate some new products in the space and keep your eyes open, because I think over the next year, some of those will start to actually come to fruition.

I can’t really dig deep into some of them right now because we have some of the ink that is just now drying on paper. However, within very short order, I’ll be able to talk about some of the relationships that I’ve been able to forge. And I’m excited because I’m working with a company from South America, I’m working with a company out of South Africa, I’m working with a company here in the United States. I am getting ready to start working with a company in Eastern Europe, all of which have one thought in mind, and that’s growing the most efficacious cannabis and hemp that they can grow to provide safe access to patients.

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