Our founder Marianne Cursetjee was a guest on Wana’s podcast Enhance Your Life. Listen here: https://wanabrands.libsyn.com/from-cancer-patient-to-cannabis-mogul
From WANA Brands. Welcome to Enhance Your Life. I’m your host, Jonathan Small, and each week I talk to people from all sorts of professions and backgrounds about how cannabis has enhanced their lives and how this healing plant can enrich your life too well. And my very special guest this week is Marianne Cursetjee. Marianne is CEO and cofounder of Alibi Cannabis, which is a self funded, top shelf cannabis company based in Oregon. But Marianne never expected to become a cannabis entrepreneur. But her life and career changed drastically after a cancer diagnosis. Marianne discovered that cannabis eliminated the need for over ten drugs to combat the side effects from chemo prescriptions. That’s when she brought a property in Oregon and started a cannabis farm. And here we are. Now she grows some of the best flower in Oregon. Marianne, welcome to the show.
Marianne: Thanks, Jon. It’s super nice to be chatting with you.
Jon: So if it’s okay with you, I’d love you to take us back a little bit to when and how you first received your cancer diagnosis. Could you just tell us could you go back for a moment and just tell us a little bit about that?
Marianne: Sure. We’re going to start off with the emotional.
Jon: Sorry, we’re getting right into it.
Marianne: Let’s go for it. Yes. It was 2015, and I found a lump, and I was not thinking that it was anything serious, so I was like, oh, I should probably have it checked out. The doctor said, oh, yeah, we need to get you in for an ultrasound. We did that. Finally came back with the diagnosis of cancer, and I didn’t believe it at first because I was like, oh, it may be just a cyst. Can I just put a heating pad on it? And I was like, no. So after that, initial denial sunk in and went away. Got scheduled for had to do the whole process of finding a care team, which has highlighted for me the challenges of the whole medical institution here in the US. It really was very difficult finding people who would work together and who I would trust with my care. So found a surgeon, a plastic surgeon oncologist you have to build your own team, which is ridiculous, but did that went down the path of having surgery and then chemo and then radiation. So did all of that. Different types of cancer and different treatment plans. You may have different order or different types of that, but that’s what was called for the type of cancer that I had. And so at that point, it just becomes getting through. Once you have the plan in place, you just do it. It’s like anything else. You have a plan, you execute step one, step two, step three. And people talk about, oh, the fight, or oh, you’re so strong, you’re so brave, and certainly we hope so, but really, at the end of the day, it’s just getting up every day. Sometimes you just want to curl up in the corner and cry and not wake up for a couple of weeks, but that’s not generally an option. So I tried to surround myself with people and who would help make me stronger and help support me. And a friend gave me some RSO, which, as you’re familiar with, is a very strong medical concentration of cannabis, a full spectrum. And they said, here, try this, it might help you. And I was like, sure, I’ll try anything. And I tried it and it helped. It eliminated the nausea, it eliminated the need for so many pharmaceuticals. Kind of the part of having medical treatments is that your whole body goes through all kinds of different things. So your giant breath, you lose all your hair, so blinking your eyes is difficult, your eyes dry out, your nose dries out, all of these things. And every pharmaceutical that they give you to combat those side effects just makes something else worse. So it’s just this cascade effect of side effect management. And using cannabis allowed me to really just get down to the basics of let’s treat the cancer, let’s get rid of that, and let’s heal the body as quickly as the best way that we know how and move on with life. And cannabis definitely made that whole process a lot easier for me.
Jon: Well, that’s very inspiring and thank you so much for sharing your story. I should ask before we go any further, how are you feeling now? How is the cancer now?
Marianne: Yeah, so I hit my five year mark, so my oncologist officially said she doesn’t want to see me for a while. That’s always a good sign. Super excited about that. So now just back into the normal population in terms of cancer recurrence rates, we got it all. I’m stronger for it. And check that box. Done.
Jon: That’s great news. Well, it’s wonderful to hear that. Tell me a little bit about the side effects that the cannabis helped with, obviously, pain. Can you tell me a little bit more about some of the things that it helped manage?
Marianne: Yeah, so chemo, the way chemo works in your body is it’s a poison, and it’s supposedly a targeted poison to target cancer, but in fact, it’s not targeted. It kills all kinds of stuff. So well, yes, it is killing the cancer. It’s also killing good cells. So things like just my mouth being raw, my gum is bleeding, things like that, where it just makes it difficult to eat anything. And then if you don’t eat, then you get weaker and you don’t have the energy to heal. That’s the first thing. It helps with appetite. A lot of people use it to stimulate their appetite so they feel like they can eat and get the nutrients. And so it definitely helps with that. The other thing it helps with is nausea. Nausea is real. That’s what I remember. My father went through chemo, and I remember the nausea being very intense. So what they do is, at least for my plan, I had chemo infusion. So that was one day. And then they also gave me a steroid that is like an anti rejection medicine. So the steroid forces your body to keep the chemo inside of it and not, like, get rid of it, and then that just forces you to be nauseous because your body is really just says, no, this is poison. I really don’t want this. It helped with the nausea. It helped balance. I mean, even now I can smell just smell RSO, and I’m like, oh, it’s calming, and it’s kind of this really intense aroma, but my body remembers that, oh, wow, this will make me feel better. And so it just kind of relaxes. And some people smell lavender or mint, and you’re like, well, for me, it’s cannabis. It’s probably nice.
Jon: Yeah, it’s probably good that you live in Oregon. I’m sure you smell cannabis on the streets quite a bit. Yes, exactly. It’s a nice smelling place for you. Stayed for you. Yeah. What was your experience with cannabis before you had cancer?
Marianne: Very limited. I had tried it when I was younger, but I grew up in a very conservative religious culture, and it just wasn’t part of the lifestyle, and I didn’t really know much about it. Yeah. So for me, it was truly eye opening and life changing. The fact that this plant can heal us and cure us, and it really is an amazing plant that has so much potential.
Jon: Were you at all hesitant to try it even though your friend offered to you? Or at that point, were you like, I’m willing to try anything. These drugs are making me feel terrible anyway.
Marianne: Yeah, I was willing to try anything. And so certainly there’s that part of, hey, whatever makes me feel better, I’ll try. But also, I think the older I get, the more open minded I become. And I think when you’re young, at least I took, like, what, my parents and people in authority, the church people, you just kind of take that at face value without really examining why you’re doing all these things. But the older I get, the more I ask, well, why is it that way? Why can’t it be different? And that curiosity and that worldview of knowing that there are more things out there than I will ever possibly understand, it’s just opened my eyes, and I want that for everybody. I want everybody to know to be curious about life and experiment and try things and why not?
Jon: Yeah. What was your family’s reaction to you using cannabis? Did they care at all, your conservative family?
Marianne: That’s a whole another question. My husband was 100% on board. No problems at all. I have two girls at the time. They were both, like, early teens, and I don’t remember exactly how much they knew about whether or not I was taking cannabis, but I didn’t tell my parents, and especially because I was worried about them being judgmental, although they weren’t. They ended up not being judgmental, but there’s always that fear of, like, oh, what if? Whatever. And eventually when we bought the land for the farm and started the farm, I still didn’t tell my parents or my kids for the longest time. And then when we finally told them, the kids were like, yeah, mom, we knew. And my parents were totally on board. They came out for tour and wanted to help. My dad helped with construction, so it was very much they’re totally on board with it. That’s very supportive. Not all members of my family are, but that’s okay.
Jon: Right. Well, it’s obviously made such a huge difference in your life. I think some people might have a fear who don’t have experience with cancer who might be in that situation of feeling very high. Right. And maybe they have a memory of getting super high when they were younger or accidentally eating a brownie. What was your experience for as far as, like, the psychotropic effects? Because you are taking a very strong type of cannabis, very high in THC, I imagine. Was that high feeling scary for you, or did you get high, or was it sort of like just more of a relaxing feeling?
Marianne: Yeah. Using RSO, which is so concentrated, you’re supposed to take the standard. If you take a grain of rice, that’s the quantity that you’re supposed to take. And so if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get two grains of rice, and then you double your dose, and that can be catastrophic. Fortunately for me, my side effects is it just puts me to sleep. Yeah, it wasn’t it was perfect. I’d come home in the evening and just like, okay, it’s time to medicate. So take some and then see you tomorrow. I’m done.
Jon: So let’s talk about how you went from this experience of surviving cancer, and then you weren’t in the cannabis business, obviously, and then you decide to get into the cannabis business. Can you tell us about that transformation?
Marianne: Yeah, it’s really interesting the way life works. Some people are all about the plans and having a plan, and you execute, and I’ve come to appreciate the fact that you can’t plan for stuff and things just happen, and you’ve got to go with the flow. I’m actually reading a book now about Bruce Lee’s philosophy of be like water, and that really resonates with me, is that you have to just go with the flow. Like, really, just if you try to fight things and make it a certain way, I think you just end up wasting energy and becoming unhappy. But through a friend. They introduced me to somebody who was in the cannabis. He’s a grower, and he had been in the cannabis industry his whole life, and he wanted to start a farm. So he had the cultivation experience and I had the business experience. So we thought, well, this could be good. So we connected with a third friend. So the three of us together started this business. And as it turns out, the partnership was not meant to last long term, but it got the business going. And so we’ve had a few changes amongst the partnership over time, but now we’ve gotten to a place where we’re really solid. We have a great team, and yeah, just doing really well.
Jon: Tell us what the business is exactly.
Marianne: So we have an indoor cultivation facility here in Oregon where we grow top shelf cannabis in Oregon. So we produce flower, we make pre rolls coming up. We have infused pre rolls coming down, and then also gummies and syrups that are going to be launching later this month. But primarily we’re a flower company in Oregon. We are really fortunate because Oregon is one of the states where there is just a really strong cannabis culture. So it makes us be better because there’s lots of competition. I don’t feel it like a competition in a negative way, but competition in a good way, where it forces us to be better and to be the top of our game. So we really have focused on quality and growing top notch genetics and delivering what the Oregon market wants.
Jon: I’ve read, and maybe this is not true anymore, that there is more supply than demand in Oregon, that there’s so much cannabis being grown in that state that sometimes it’s hard to find enough customers, which is sort of hard to believe, probably for anybody listening to us that lives in a non legal state that probably exists. But welcome to Oregon. Is that true and how have you overcome that challenge?
Marianne: It is 100% true. I was actually really active last year lobbying for a bill to impose a moratorium on licenses so they wouldn’t issue any more licenses. There is a local economist who studies cannabis data, and I don’t remember the exact numbers, but Oregon produces like ten times the quantity that Oregonians could ever possibly consume. So what that means is that means that a lot of it is diverted to the illicit market. And then it also means that the product that is in the legal market, which is where we operate, is the prices are just so low because people are the competition is just incredible. Incredible. People are still so now it’s mid year of 2022, and outdoor farms still have product from last year’s harvest. So it was almost harvested nine months ago, but they’re still sitting on and can’t sell, so they’ll take anything like they’ll take any price. And so it just drives prices down and it doesn’t always make trickle down all the way to the customer because there’s people along the whole supply chain who take their cut and their piece, but it’s the lowest wholesale prices in the nation for sure.
Jon: How are you overcome this challenge?
Marianne: We have stayed true with our focus on quality, and we’ve had to be a little bit more nimble with our genetics. The first couple of years as a farm, we grew basically three or four different strains, different cultures of ours, and that’s what we built the farm on, and that worked for the first few years. But now customers say, now, for example, we have a strain called lava cake, which is amazing and beautiful and extraordinary, but we’ve been growing it for about six months, and people are saying, yeah, we’ve seen that already. Don’t you have anything new? Okay, so we’ve learned that we have to be responsive and listen to the market. So we have now changed our pipeline, so we’ve have new stuff coming out every month.
Jon: What have you learned about cannabis since you’ve become a cannabis entrepreneur that you didn’t know back when you were just a consumer of the product so much?
Marianne: Partly, I think, that there’s so much about the plant that we don’t know. I used it during a time of crisis in my life, but there are so many people that every human has an endocannabinoid system. It’s just part of your body, so it’s like the same as a nervous system or your skeletal system or whatever. So I am firmly convinced that there are people for whom their endocannabinoid system just needs to be reinforced by natural plant medicine. And so the stigma of, oh, these are just the stoners. They’ll never amount to anything. They’re just whatever. Having that attitude that people who consume cannabis aren’t full participating members of society I think is really wrong. There are people who need cannabis for their mental health, for their physical health, just as a way to get through life. And people should be free to consume whatever they want to, however they want to, and not be judged for it.
Jon: Right. If someone is listening to this podcast who maybe has cancer or who has a loved one that has cancer. And they might be in a situation that you are in where they want to find relief in a way that’s not through prescription drugs. That makes them feel even more terrible. What would you recommend like they do. And they might be hesitant to try cannabis. What would you recommend they do? Would you recommend they talk to their doctor about it? I mean, I know you’re not a medically trained professional, but what do you tell people?
Marianne: Yeah, it is interesting because I do get this question all the time. Friends come to me on the side and say, hey, tell me what I should get. So the first thing is that if you’re in a legal state where there are dispensaries or retail stores. The hope would be that you could go in and find a bud tender who could help you. The reality is that that’s probably very challenging because by tenders are like, they’re paid minimum wage in a lot of places and even if they’re trained, I wouldn’t trust my body to them, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. And if you find someone who is educated, that’s great. There are more and more doctors and medical clinics who have expertise in cannabis. That’s what I would do. If it’s a serious medical condition, there are cannabis clinics. Talk to a real doctor and get some perspective because there are so many things. Not only is there THC, but CBD, CBN, like so many minor cannabinoids that could be helpful, but you need to talk to a medical professional and then from there, the challenge is going to be finding a product in your state that meets those criteria, but hopefully that will get easier over time.
Jon: Well, hopefully they’re in Oregon would be a good state to be in. Marianne, if people want to find out more about alibi and by the way, why is it called alibi? I’m always interested in name origin names.
Marianne: Yeah, alibi is an interesting word and we chose that because it’s a cool word that actually means like, a different place in time. And I think that’s what cannabis can bring to your life is like, maybe you’ve had a really bad day and you just want to pretend you’re somewhere else. You just want to forget the troubles for a moment. Cannabis can bring that to you and we try to imagine someplace beautiful and some place better. And that’s what our alibi is. It’s like, oh, we imagine a better world, and hopefully through cannabis, we can help get there. Our website is alibicannabis.com. We’re on Instagram. All the socials pretty easy to find, so check us out.
Jon: Marianne, thank you so much for joining us and being so candid about your story. And I wish you all the best in your business and in your health. And thanks again.
Marianne: Thanks, Jon. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Jon: Enhance Your Life is brought to you by Wana, the number one infused product in North America. Wana’s entire process is designed to deliver the same great experience time after time. They have spent years fine tuning their recipes so that their products are delicious consistent. And for more information, head on over to wanabrands.com