Recorded Live, Watch this Interview with Dr. Jade Stefano, Founder of Puffin Farm, Leader in Sustainable and Clean Growing Practices, Cannabis Expert, Naturopathic Doctor, and & Modern Pioneer.
Read the transcribed version below…
00:00 Dr. Michele Burklund: Hi, everyone. I’m Dr. Michele Burklund, I’m the Chief Science Officer here at Puriya, and this is our Living Well series where we give you the tools and foundation to live a healthy life. Now today, we have Dr. Jade Stefano with us, and we’re very excited to have her. Thank you for joining us today, Jade. Especially from where in New York, and…
00:23 Dr. Jade Stefano: Yeah, I’m in Upstate New York in the Adirondack Mountains.
00:27 DB: Sounds beautiful, sounds magical. So thank you for taking the time. I know we’re starting a little late for everyone, but we had some technical difficulties, and we worked through them, thank goodness. And I’m excited to have you on because there’s… Cannabis is such a… It’s huge in America and in the world right now, and with that there’s so much interest, but there also needs to be so much education on how you find the right quality, what are the right sources, how is it extracted. So I’m very excited to have you on so we can talk more about these things and people can learn more about them.
01:00 DS: Thanks for having me.
01:02 DB: So I will start with your background so our viewers can get to know you a little better. Dr. Jade Stefano is the co-founder and CEO of Puffin Farm. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Reed College in Portland, Oregon where she studied biology. After college she spent time traveling and learning to farm. After settling down in Seattle, she learned accounting, business management, and glass blowing at her uncle’s glass studio in Seattle. In 2016, she earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. She loves to work with herbs and foods. The cultivation of high-grade phytoconstituent-rich cannabis and concentrates, and the ability to bring these products to the greater community, represents the ultimate manifestation of her calling to medicine. Just beautiful, I love that last statement.
01:53 DS: Thanks.
01:54 DB: So first off, can you tell us more about Puffin Farm, your vision behind it, how you found your location and what types of products you create there, too.
02:06 DS: Absolutely. So, when cannabis became recreationally legal in 2014, we decided to start our farm. And we’d been growing medical cannabis for many years, specializing in high CBD varieties, and when it became state-regulated with I-502, we decided that we needed to move on and take the next step and enter the legal market. And so historically we grew indoors, just due to prohibition and having to hide it, and we also lived in Seattle which was a rainy location. So we decided that, now that it was legal, we wanted to grow outdoors in the sunshine, which is the way herbal medicine should be grown. It shouldn’t be grown cooped up under artificial lights in an artificially climate-controlled environment. So we found a farm in Ellensburg, Washington, which is Central Washington, and it’s on the sunny side of the mountains, and it has a perfect Mediterranean climate, which is what cannabis loves. And so once we had decided to go into the legal market, we knew that we had to grow outdoors, and it was the right thing to do for the environment and for the people consuming the cannabis and just for the plant.
03:18 DB: Very nice, very nice. Yeah. I remember while we were in school together, too, that you were putting everything together or you were just getting started with it and you had so much going. But yeah, it sounds like a beautiful location and it was highly planned too, based on all the factors that came together for that. With the next question, because of your unique background as a naturopathic doctor, you have this amazing foundation in both botanical medicine, pharmacognosy, and the ability to decipher the best methods for extraction and growing practices for plants with this background. So first, and this is probably a long one, tell us about the growing practices you use at Puffin Farm, how you might wanna use ladybugs to control insects or use neem oil or Rosemary to help enrich the immune system. So all these different things and… And what Clean Green certification is too. You do a lot of great things there.
04:20 DS: Yeah, absolutely, so we chose to be third-party certified to organic standards. So, in cannabis, there is no legal organic standard. You’re not supposed to use the word organic because it’s federally regulated, so Clean Green Certified is one of many organizations that have come forward to certify cannabis to organic standards. Early on, we decided that a third party certification was really important because a lot of companies claim to be organic and they claim to grow without pesticides, and it’s just a business person, often motivated by money, and not really understanding what it means to be organic just saying that. Or saying they don’t use pesticides as a marketing strategy when in fact it might not be truthful and no one’s validated it. So we thought third party certification was the right thing to do, just to gain the trust of the public and just so people know that we’re going above and beyond.
05:14 DS: And so we use organic practices, we use cover crops, we use beneficial insects, like you mentioned ladybugs. So we released ladybugs into our environment about four years ago, and we’ve never had to do it again. They’ve completely naturalized which is really great, and we ended up with all these different types of ladybugs. They actually… This is really cool. They sort of diverged phenotypically which means they were all red when we put them out, and now we’ve got yellow ladybugs, and orange ladybugs, and ones that are kind of long and narrow, and then ones that are fatter, and some that have no spots. And so we’ve got all these little different types of Ladybugs that look totally different now. They all started with the red ones, but they’ve adapted to our environment. We have other natural predators, we’ve got all kinds of natural insects that also fight bugs. So we’ve got spiders, which people think are kind of weird, but there’s garden-spiders so we’ve got lots of those. And they live in the plants an they’ll eat pests.
06:11 DS: And in the greenhouse stage for pest control, we do use neem oil, which is a cold-pressed Ayurvedic plant. So it comes from India, and it’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and so we feel it’s a really safe pesticide to use in the early stages. So in the greenhouse stage, you do need to spray the plants for mildew and fungus because of the humid environment. Once the plants go outdoors, they don’t need any spraying at all, and it’s just the insects and the wind and the sunshine and the natural environment keeps the pests under control. We have a biologically diverse environment. And so there’s predators and there’s prey and we’ve got a balanced ecosystem. And so even though there may be some low levels of pests out there, they’re kept in check by natural predators because we have a very diverse natural environment.
06:58 DS: And so, we use lots of different techniques to try to keep it diverse. We do compost tea and we put lots and lots of organic matter into the soil, including biochar, earthworm castings, Alfalfa Meal, different types of compost, rock minerals, rock dust, many different things. And these all increase the biodiversity in the soil, and we have what’s called the living soil, which you may have heard of in reference to other organic farming practices, but living soil is the gold standard of organic farming now. So you can farm organically in a traditional manner, putting in chemical substitutes, and just feed in, and not having weeds, not having beneficial plants, and having a very clean system where you’re just dumping in nitrogen, or you can have a very biologically diverse organic farm, which is what we do. Do you have any follow-up questions there? That was a lot, I know.
07:55 DB: No, I think that’s so amazing. I think it’s great for our viewers to understand the differences, too, just because there are so many different farms out there for cannabis, but I think you guys really separate yourselves from this by creating this amazing environment for the plants and for everything to thrive. And so I think that’s great. That was a great explanation, so people can understand the options and the differences out there. So I’ll move on a little bit into that, and let’s discuss the extraction methods, too. And your background is brilliant in this, especially with botanical medicine. So besides growing the amazing medicine, then the next part of what you do is extraction and helping to maximize the phytoconstituents. So, tell us a little bit about CO2 extraction or other methods you do, and also what products you offer too at the farm.
08:52 DS: Yes, yes. Yeah, so extraction, we have a lot of different ways to extract. You can use carbon dioxide, you can use hydrocarbons, which we don’t do. You can use ice and water, you can use heat, you can use pressure, you can use ethanol. So there’s lots and lots of different ways to do it. And so, the way we do it at the farm is we use both CO2 for one process, so we do a CO2 extraction. So we take carbon dioxide, and it’s run through a really complicated machine through the flower. And so that’s one thing that we do that other people don’t is we extract flower only. And so, when you grow a cannabis plant, you’ve got flowers, you’ve got fan leaves, and you’ve got stem, and you’ve got lots of different parts of the plant. And then the flowers are typically trimmed, and then the flowers are sent off to be smoked in joints and pipes and whatever.
09:42 DS: And then the trim is usually what people extract. And so, what we’ve chosen to do is extract the full flower. And by doing that, we maximize the content of both cannabinoids and terpenoids and terpenes, which are some of the most medicinally active and therapeutic compounds in the plant. And so, we… In our CO2 process, we use full flower that would otherwise be good enough quality to smoke, and we extract it with CO2, and it comes out the other end of the machine, and we have to do very little to it. At this point, we’ve used such high quality material, it’s quality in, quality out. And so we get an oil that is of such good quality because we use quality material that it needs almost no post-processing, so we just remove the water from it. There’s always a little bit of water that comes out when you extract, and then it’s done.
10:29 DS: And so our oil is super high in both terpenoids and cannabinoids, and then it also has some other constituents like carotenoids and little bits of flavonoids. CO2 extraction mostly takes the terpenes and the cannabinoids out, which is what you want for smoking because they both… You wanna get the effects of the cannabinoids, and you wanna have the flavor as well as the effects of the terpenoids. Sorry, my phone just rang.Chlorophyll and whatnot. You wanna exclude those in a product that you’re going to smoke or inhale. And so, the CO2 process is really nice for that. And so, we then take that CO2 oil and we put it into cartridges, and we also put it into all glass syringes that you can use for your choice. You can vaporize that. You can also put it into food, you could use it for different types of uses that way. And you can choose which vaporizer device you wanna use versus a cartridge.
11:33 DS: You get the cartridge. You put it on a battery. It’s super convenient. And so, that’s what we do with our CO2 oil, and it’s won lot and lots awards. Our terpene content is probably the highest and most varied on the market. And so we’re really known for the terpenes that we extract from our flower. And so, we’re pretty proud of that, and then… So that’s one way we extract. Then we also do… It’s called bubble hash, which is an extraction process using just ice and water. What’s really, really great about that process is that it’s 100% clean. You’re using literally ice and water and mechanical agitation, and that knocks all of the… The cold ice cools the oil, the resin glands, which are called trichomes, and they get cooled down, and they freeze, and then they break off. And then we separate those out with different size mesh and sieves, and we collect those resin glands and that’s what bubble hash is.
12:31 DS: It’s a type of hashish that’s been made for probably… 50 years people have had this technique. And so we have that product. And then we also make… It’s called rosin. And so, with rosin, you take either flower or you take bubble hash that you’ve already made, and you press it on a really heavy duty press that has heat. And so heat and pressure squeezes out the resonant out of the material. And it drips out and you end up with this really beautiful resinous material, and that’s called rosin. And so we’ve been making that as well. And so those are our main extraction methods. We do take our lower grade material and that will go to a third-party processor to make what’s called a distillate out of. And I do wanna mention distillate because it’s… A lot of it’s on the market, and it’s not something that I typically recommend to patients or consumers.
13:22 DS: So, distillate is purified cannabinoids that’s devoid of terpenes and any other phytoconstituents that may have been present in the plant. And so it’s very potent as far as THC or CBD goes, but it has no other compounds in it. And so cannabinoids alone taken without terpenes and out the other plant compounds are much less medicinally active and therapeutic than a whole-plant extract that contains all of the compounds produced by the Cannabis plant. And so that product is often used by food processors, it doesn’t have a lot of taste, so they will put it into edibles, and people will put it in vape carts. And it looks very pretty, it’s clear, has very little color, but it’s kind of deceptive because medicinally and therapeutically, and even for adult use and for pleasure and relaxation, it’s not as effective as a full spectrum extract that contains all of the terpenes and other things.
14:21 DB: I think that’s a great tip for all of our viewers, too, because it does get so confusing out there as to… And especially with the marketing of what is and isn’t. And so tell us a little bit more about the terpenes and the entourage effect and why they are so important, go into that a little more too.
14:40 DS: Yeah, absolutely. And this is one of my favorite things to talk to people about is terpenes and the entourage effect. So any of the components that you isolate from cannabis, THC and CBD are the two most famous. And people think that’s where the medicine is. That’s what it’s all about, is THC and CBD. But in fact, those compounds alone are not very effective and patients do not like them. So there used to be a drug that was a pure THC that was on the market, and it was given to AIDS patients and cancer patients back in the 80s, and they had a really poor follow-up, people would get it and they didn’t like it, and they would just go and buy marijuana on the black market instead and smoke that because that helped them, but using this purified THC did not.
15:27 DS: And so studies… More recently, people have been discovering that there’s what is referred to as an entourage effect, which means that the combination of all of the compounds, so THC and there’s a little bit of CBD, and there’s hundreds of other cannabinoids that we don’t even know about and some that we do, there’s CBC and CBG and a bunch of them, and so they all combine and synergize with each other, most importantly with the terpenes and terpenoids, to create a much more rich effect. It’s better for pain, better to control any kind of symptoms that you might be treating with the cannabis, and it varies somewhat. So depending on what the terpene profile is you’re gonna get different effects.
16:08 DS: And so there’s been this indica-sativa myth that has been out there for many years. And so you go into a dispensary and I guarantee you they’re gonna ask do you want indica or sativa. Indica is supposed to be the kind of sleepy nighttime high, maybe you have a lot of pain and you wanna relax at night and not be very social, so you’re looking for, you know, people think they need Indica. And then sativa is supposedly the day time high that’s creative and makes you wanna dance and do art and stuff like that. And so that’s what people believe sativa does, and really that’s just a total nonsense myth. So indica and sativa are species of cannabis that don’t really exist in the current marketplace; everything is a hybrid. And so a true Indica or a true sativa has to do with where that plant originated on the planet. And then on top of that, they’ve all been hybridized so much that there’s no real characteristics from a pharmacological point of view that would explain that carry over. Like the way the plant grows, so indica is short and squat with big leaves, and sativa is tall and lanky with skinny leaves, so there’s no correlation to those characteristics to the effect that the plant has.
17:27 DS: And so, that’s a huge misinformation piece that’s been perpetuated by dispensaries and by growers and just by the industry in general because they’re really easy black and white. People love to separate stuff into black and white, so they can kind of say indica and sativa. So if you want one thing, you do indica; you want another, you do sativa. And really, if you look at the terpene profiles of different strains out there, they do not correlate at all. And it’s the terpene profiles that are gonna modulate the effect and make one strain more sleepy and one strain more stimulating. And it’s not even the amount of THC necessarily. So you might have a 15% THC strain and another strain that’s 18% THC, but the 15% THC one is gonna have a much stronger effect than the 18% one because of the other terpenes and other compounds that are in that cultivar.
18:22 DS: And so it’s really interesting and really something to start learning about as a consumer. Start looking at terpene profiles and buy from vendors that list that on the package and start keeping track of which terpene profiles work for you. And so, when people have experiences where maybe cannabis didn’t help with their symptoms, it may be that that particular profile just did not work at all. And they try another kind and it works amazing.
18:49 DB: Right. I think that’s great. I was on your website the other day and you have, part on your website, you have them for each different species or… I think that’s the right word, species that you…
19:00 DS: Yeah, or cultivar or chemovar, is what I like to say.
19:05 DB: And yeah, they were all a little different and they explained it on each one, so that was very helpful for people, especially new into this and looking at it in a different way and learning to understand all of this. I think adding that was a great resource too. And so continuing on with the subject, I wanna talk a little bit about CBD because it’s everywhere. And here at Puriya, we’ve been looking into it for different formulations, topical formulations. And there is so much over-marketing and there’s so much quality, the amount and types that you find on the market and different products can be very, very tricky. I was talking to Dr. Michelle Sexton and she said that there’s more CBD products on the market than there is cannabis in the world, so obviously people are adding different oils and everything into them. And so, since you’re an expert in quality and finding the right products, what would you tell the consumers if they’re looking for a product that has CBD? How do you decipher what’s a good product from what’s a fake product? Is there any key things that you can do to weed them out?
20:23 DS: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a huge problem right now; there’s a CBD craze going on. And you can get it… I’ve seen it at Walmart, it’s at every drug store now that I go into, there’s these case full of CBD products, gas stations, online, Amazon, you name it. So it’s widely available and I wouldn’t trust most of it. And so most of the CBD that you’re seeing that’s not from a recreational or adult use cannabis market that is regulated, the unregulated CBD that you’re seeing at Walmart and Amazon, this is all coming from hemp, versus from drug cannabis. They’re the same species, and the difference being that hemp is unregulated, it’s now federally legal, it’s produced all over the world including China, Eastern Europe, places with dubious practices, bad soil. Cannabis is a… It’s a phyto-remediating plant, and so it will actually uptake heavy metals and toxins from the environment. And they use it to remediate polluted soil. And so if you grow cannabis or hemp in a dirty environment with polluted soil or with heavy metals, that will go right into the CBD and the end products from that cannabis. So you have to be very careful where you get the stuff. And so I tell people don’t buy it from the internet, don’t buy it from Walmart or any of these places, and you really need to find a company that is reputable.
21:57 DS: One other thing about CBD is all of the CBD that you see on the market has no THC in it, and it’s often made from an isolate, which is just pure CBD removed of all the other terpenes and everything else. And so the efficacy of it is questionable to begin with because you really need that little bit of THC, even if it’s like 1%, to synergize with the CBD and make it more effective. So like pure CBD on its own, it may have some therapeutic potential to some extent, but it definitely is limited in its efficacy on its own. And so that’s an issue too. But I just recommend people be really careful where they get it from, vet the grower. If you’re getting hemp-based CBD, there are small farms now all over the country that are producing hemp with organic practices and doing it the right way. And you can find those places, call them up, ask some questions, verify that they are really growing it themselves. A lot of the CBD companies, if you ask them where they got that CBD, they will tell you, “Oh, Colorado or Kentucky,” kind of best case scenario. And if that is actually truthful, that is sort of a best case scenario, and it may be okay.
23:11 DS: But sometimes they’ll just tell you that. There’s some CBD products that we have Ted tested. We’ve sent a bunch of these CBD products off to labs to see what’s really in it. So we bought some CBD water at a gas station in Washington a few months ago, and sent it to a laboratory, and it said it had 10 milligrams of CBD per bottle. And it had maybe 0.01 milligram. Maybe none at all, hard to say. And so a lot of these products are making claims about having X milligrams and they have way less or none at all, even. And maybe they, yeah, maybe they don’t even have CBD. So you really just can’t trust them unless you know the farmer, know the company, do your research. And if you’re in a state with regulated cannabis products like Washington or California, buy it through a regulated store where it’s all tested by the state to make sure it is what it says it is. As soon as you leave that regulated market, companies are making claims of what the stuff is, and you really have no idea. There’s a few larger companies that you might be able to trust. I’m not gonna… I really don’t wanna…
24:15 DB: No, no, no.
24:16 DS: Vouch for any of them, so I’m not gonna say. But potentially, you could find some CBD over the internet or whatever from a larger CBD company that might be good quality CBD, but you need to be very careful.
24:28 DB: Right, right, it’s just so interesting, ’cause the more I dig into it… And here at Puriya, we’re completely transparent. So whatever we do, we look into our sources, we look into our farms. But so many don’t. And it’s just shocking out there, how people need to be educated on this. So yeah, if they do live in a state like Washington or California, I think that’s a great idea, too, to look at more regulated sources. Or if the company goes deeper and gives you the transparency of the farms and the sources and all of that, or just at least getting down to where it was manufactured or where it was grown, too, ’cause even in…
25:07 DS: Exactly.
25:09 DB: Even in the States versus another country, just the practices between there alone. But yeah, there’s a lot of quality differential in the market. So I’m glad you can help set us straight with all of this. And I wanted to talk to, especially what I liked about Puffin Farm is that you provide all of your tests online, so the public can download them directly from your website. So I think that’s great to give them that information and to have that complete transparency as well. So tell us a little bit more about the testing you do.
25:44 DS: Yeah, yeah, so we… The state requires a certain amount of testing, but not everything. The state requires microbial testing for pathogens and for some other microbes, or maybe your non-pathogens. It requires THC, CBD and moisture content. And really that’s all that Washington requires. They don’t require terpenoids, they don’t require heavy metals, and they don’t require pesticides. And so a lot of the public actually believes that since it’s tested and regulated by the state, that it’s some kind of promise of safety and promise that it’s pesticide-free when, in fact, it’s not because the state does not require that. So we, since day one, have gotten as many tests as we can. And so we spend a lot of money that other people are not willing to do, we don’t skimp on testing. And so we have been testing for terpenes and terpenoids, and more recently we’ve adopted voluntary pesticide testing. So every single lot that we put out is tested for pesticides. And so even though we grow organically and we have a Clean Green certification already, we’re taking that… Publish it for every lot.
26:52 DS: And so in fact, when you buy our product, there’s a QR code on the package that you can scan and it will take you to a copy of the lab test for that exact lot. And so that’s pretty neat. So yeah, everything pesticide tested and the terpenes, which is what I get most excited about. I mean, I know that we are organic, so that doesn’t excite me that much that we’re testing for pesticides, but I know that it gives the public confidence. But the terpenes, I look at every test that we get, I look at it, and I check out the terpenoids, and I also look at the cannabinoids. There’s other rare cannabinoids, they’re not THC and not CBD cannabinoids that I’ve mentioned earlier. So like CBD, we get quite a bit of CBG in our strains, and that’s a really nice… That adds a nice effect to the whole entourage. And then THCV is another cannabinoid that has started to get a little bit of attention and you’re gonna see more about that in the future because it’s potentially gonna be… It has some weight loss and appetite control potential, which we all know that those are hugely popular, when something is found to help with appetite. And so THCV is something that we are getting interested in now, and we’re trying to look for strains that have more of it, and so that’s pretty exciting, too.
28:06 DB: Yeah, yeah, very exciting. So tell us more too about how you incorporate what you grow into your own medical practice as well.
28:17 DS: Yeah. When I… I do a lot of patient education, and so I love to talk to people about the benefits of sun-grown cannabis and the benefits of terpenes and the entourage effect. And so, those are all things that we produce and things that I’m passionate about and want to educate patients on. And the importance of environmental stewardship. Do you want medicine that was grown in a way that’s destroying the environment? And additionally, from a naturopathic medicine point of view, growing something in the sun creates a vitality to that product that you’re not gonna get from something grown under artificial lights. And so I like to educate patients on those things. And I also love to take people down to the dispensaries, and that’s something I do with people and help them find products that are appropriate for their conditions.
29:11 DS: And so I’ll go down, and we can look at different products. The products that we produce aren’t necessarily what everyone needs, but since I’ve been in this industry for so long, I know almost all of the products on the Washington market. And there’s so many of them, and I know all of the dirt on all of the different companies. And so I know which ones are safe and which ones might be contaminated and who’s doing the right thing. And so I really like to point people in a direction of quality products that I would give to my… That I would take for myself, I’d give them to my family and my friends. And so those are the types of things that I like to do is make sure people are getting the most highest quality, pesticide-free, clean medicine.
29:55 DB: Right. I love that. So I feel like our viewers have a lot to take home and a lot to process today. They know that not only does the growing methods matter, the extraction methods matter. Terpenes are important to all the different kinds. And you separated a lot of those myths as well. And Clean Green Certified is kind of like the unofficial organic that we should pay attention to looking for growing practices. And also what I love too is just the transparency you give to all of us on your company, so we can look and say, “Is this pesticide free? What is going on here?” So I think all of these things are great take-home messages for our viewers. And tell us how we can get a hold of you, where we can reach you?
30:40 DS: Yeah, absolutely. So feel free to email me at email@example.com. And I love talking to people and answering questions. So yeah, you can find me there. Also my Instagram is dr_jade_nd. So it’s dr underscore jade underscore nd is my Instagram handle, and you can find me there as well.
31:06 DB: Okay, well, perfect, thank you very much. I’ve certainly learned a lot today as well. And I hope you have an amazing time out in the Adirondacks and enjoy the sun and the nature over there, too.
31:18 DS: Absolutely, I will. Thank you so much, Michelle. Let’s talk soon.
31:22 DB: Yes. Take care. Thank you.
31:24 DS: Okay, thank you, bye-bye.
31:25 DB: Bye.
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We named our interview series ‘Living Well’ based on the Ancient Greek term Eudaimonia translating to “doing and living well”. The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle uses this term in relation to balance in all areas of life. At Puriya, we believe that living well encompasses much more than health but all aspects of life.