Profiles by Cannabiz Social Podcast - Alex the Chemist
In this week’s episode of “Profiles by Cannabiz Social”, we hear from Alexzander Samuelsson (Alex the Chemist), who is the lead chemist for Nextleaf Solutions. Alex’s backstory into the cannabis space is a fascinating one. Before working for Nextleaf, Alex was an unemployed chemist suffering with bouts of anxiety and depression.
He graduated from Ryerson University in 2014 and his thesis had him synthetically exploring thionylphosphazene polymerization behavior – whatever that means! On his dad’s 50th birthday, the two shared a joint. Alex had no idea what path he was about to stumble on to as a result of that evening.
As lead chemist, Alex is now responsible for planning, organizing, and conducting experiments and scientific projects involving the design and development of new extraction technology and processes, extracting targeted molecules from cannabis.
Alex has always had a love for science and chemistry. In school, he did everything right: volunteer, good marks, participate in student government, and expand as a person. He thought he’d have no problem getting a job out of school, but it wasn’t that easy. Application after application got him nowhere.
“Use social media as a tool to help. LinkedIn, Twitter. Start interacting with different people. Cannabis is social, and you develop relationships. Talk to people about what you have to offer, shake hands. Honesty goes a long way. Reach out. There’s a lot of people who will want to help you out if they see you’re passionate and driven and want to get in to the space...”
The weight of not getting a job in his field started to take a toll and Alex became depressed. It’s a full-time job trying to apply for a career and make something of the degree, while dealing with financial pressures of student loans and life. He was put on anti-anxiety medicine and Adderall, which helped a little, but was not the relief he was seeking.
Relief came from the joint he shared with his dad, and he found cannabis was better for him than his prescribed medicine.
Cannabis helped relieve Alex’s anxiety and depression. He decided to look into the plant, and why it that made him feel better. “I dug into academic papers and culture publications such as High Times and 4/20 magazine and I learned as much as I could – the history, legal evolution of the medical program, the plant, its growth cycle and the compounds it produces and what parts of the brain it interacts with. Hearing stores from other medical patients who came to cannabis and knowing they can come their medications is very validating and a good management system for your anxiety,” he said.
He researched the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and really understood the receptor interactions. It’s no secret that cannabis has a myriad of distinctive properties. All plants create terpenes. Cannabis creates over 200 that have been identified, depending on cultivar or strain, and there are different profiles or ratios of these terpenes. When you layer that on to the cannabinoids, cannabis is unique in having different levels of psychoactivity with the different cannabinoids, modulated by the profiles of terpenes within them – very scientific stuff!
His good friend Steve Naraine, of CannaVida in Colombia, mentored and encouraged him to get into the space.
The conversation shifted to the stigma and misunderstandings of the plant. Alex said he does a lot of public speaking. One speech he gave was called ‘Indigenous Inclusion in Cannabis and Hemp Industry’ in March in Saskatoon, where he had the pleasure of presenting a cannabis 101 session to elders, chiefs, and other band members. It further changed how he views cannabis as a plant after hearing their perspective, bringing him to tears after many powerful conversations.
Alex anticipates the space displaying more diversity in its products moving forward. Edibles, vape pens, topicals, slow-release patches for different cannabinoids and so much more we don’t even yet know about.
It’s an exciting time being an entrepreneur, Alex notes, as the cannabis space has so much potential. “Use social media as a tool to help. LinkedIn, Twitter. Start interacting with different people. Cannabis is social, and you develop relationships. Talk to people about what you have to offer, shake hands. Honesty goes a long way. Reach out. There’s a lot of people who will want to help you out if they see you’re passionate and driven and want to get in to the space,” he offered.