I love to learn about individuals who are involved in the cannabis industry from a scientific standpoint. These individuals offer something to the craft of cannabis that artists are unable to do. I say artist because I consider the growers to be the artists in the equation of cannabis. The scientists have the really interesting role. They understand, at a core level the reason why cannabis is so important as a medicinal. These individuals are keyed into the innovation behind the plant, from a purely scientific standpoint. So interesting! And now, without further delay, may I please introduce Ari Mackler, CSO, Plus Products. Cheers, WB
Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about yourself? What brought you to the cannabis/botany world? Healing? What was your inspiration to do what you? Who taught you?
Ari Mackler=AM: Looking back, compared to most, I probably took a somewhat unconventional path to cannabis. A basic scientist by training, I obtained my PhD in reproductive physiology and immunology, completed my postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and molecular biology, and then completed my MBA. After spending a decade in pharma focusing my attention on pregnancy, contraception, and oncology, I wanted to explore new opportunities, opportunities to develop and use good science in areas that often didn’t have but needed good science.
I joined The Wonderful Company (the global farming and foods company) in 2011 and began to explore the intersection of phytochemistry and health and wellness. This afforded me the opportunity to dig deep into food science, the microbiome, cell biology, and neurobiology.
Eager to push the boundaries of phytochemistry’s potential to promote health and wellness, I joined PLUS in 2019 to explore how cannabis, a plant rich in chemistry and potential, can be used safely not only for recreational purposes but also to promote health and wellness. I have the privilege to serve as our Chief Scientific Officer and to lead our Innovation Team.
Please tell me about your company? What do you do that’s different, therefore better than your competition? What stigmas do you face? When did you discover Cannabis? How old?
AM: I feel quite fortunate to have been asked to join PLUS. We are a young, creative company truly dedicated to providing our consumers with honest, quality products. This means the development of safe, effective and innovative products that consistently deliver on cannabis’ promise is our first priority. And, it doesn’t hurt that I get to collaborate with a gifted chef and a fantastic confectioner. Our gummies are delicious and the lineup is ever evolving. We are cooking up a few more product lines that will be hitting the market between now and the end of the year, including an exciting line of Sleep products launching this week. We are a cannabis company that wants to develop products which are based upon smart and rigorous science, but engaging the more conventional paths of clinical research can be difficult. With that said, within the context of cannabis’ circuitous history, it’s getting much much better. Clearly a comprehensive approach to legalization will make a huge difference in how I can collaborate with academic and clinical colleagues.
I had known for a while of cannabis’ ability to help people with glaucoma. Research into cannabis’ ability to reduce pressure within the eye dates back to the ‘70’s, but in 2014 I had the privilege of serving as a Shark Tank judge for the Epilepsy Foundation. While participating in the meeting, I got to learn about how cannabis was helping so many people. As a scientist, I became very excited over the potential of a botanical, a naturally occurring, readily available chemical, could provide meaningful benefit to children (and adults) who suffer with seizures. Growing up in a conservative Jewish home in the ‘80s, cannabis was not a part of my childhood. I vividly remember Nancy Reagan telling me to “Just Say No.” In 2014, I was 41 years old.
WB: What is your six and twelve month plan? (this can be specific to your role at PLUS and not PLUS overall- more about what you hope to do with studies and research that will help solidify PLUS’ points of differentiation and separation from the pack) What obstacles exist in your professional world? How do you anticipate removing them?
AM: It’s my goal to collaborate with smart, forward-thinking scientists and professionals, because I know that real innovation is rooted in the cross-pollination of ideas and skills. Over the last year, we have been working with researchers from around the world to build exciting technologies for cannabis. Over the next 6 to 12 months, we are planning to bring a number of innovative products to market. Products that not only expand PLUS’ footprint in edibles, but technologies that will help push the broader cannabis industry forward. In the immediate near term, we are excited to bring two new sleep gummies to market. Almost 50 million people in the US suffer from insomnia. In fact, a recent study published in the journal Sleep Medicine suggests a 37% increase in the rates of clinical insomnia since the COVID pandemic. So it’s no surprise that one of the top things people look for when they walk into a dispensary is something to help them sleep. Especially right now.
We want to help people solve that challenge.
Recent research on the interaction between cannabis, the endocannabinoid system, and our body’s natural circadian rhythm led us to the formulations of our two new Sleep gummies designed to promote a restful, well-rounded night of sleep. We created a scientifically formulated and precisely dosed blend of cannabinoids and melatonin. Each cannabinoid was selected for how it promotes better sleep, but together they are greater than the sum of their parts. This interaction is often referred to as “the entourage effect.” We also included a physiologic dose of melatonin to support our bodies’ circadian rhythm, so these gummies actually work in concert with our body’s natural systems.
Our two sleep gummies appeal to a range of consumers – whether experienced or beginner – and address different root causes of sleep issues. We also wanted to make a healthier sleep-focused edible, so our products use all natural flavors and colors, and are extremely low in sugar and calories.
WB: What is your favorite food memory from childhood? What does your favorite (birthday) meal look like now? Favorite food?
AM: As a kid, spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread was my favorite. Yes, I still love garlic and a good bowl of pasta is still fun, but today, a dish of palak paneer or a plate of fresh sashimi are my favorites! I love Indian food and I love sushi.
WB: What is your passion?
AM: 3 easy answers.
Number 1, family is at the top of the pyramid, I’m blessed with a wonderful wife and 3 fantastic kids.
Number 2, learning something new everyday from smart people is terribly exciting…I am a scientist of course. I try to begin everyday reviewing the scientific literature.
Number 3, I am a BIG believer in a sound body/sound mind. I fell in love with Crossfit several years ago. I’m hardly an uber athlete, but between the skill building, the strength building, and the community building, I’m hooked.