Back to Basics
Markus Roggen was voted onto our 2020 Power List after setting up an independent research laboratory dedicated to optimizing cannabis analysis and processing. In an interview from the Emerald Conference 2020, Markus tells us about his slightly reluctant entry into the industry, the maddening inefficiencies in current extraction protocols, and his mission to put solid science at the heart of the industry.
How did you get into the cannabis industry?
Largely by chance! I have a PhD in organic chemistry and in 2014 I was finishing my postdoc in San Diego. I am a keen athlete in my spare time and my triathlon coach encouraged me to stay in the area to keep up my training. “Then find me a job!” I joked; it was unlikely I would find another position in chemistry locally. To my surprise, she came back to me a few weeks later with a potential role – her sponsor, a compounding pharmacy, was setting up a cannabis analytical laboratory and needed a chemist to oversee operations. My first answer? “Hell no!” I knew nothing about cannabis and had a lot of misconceptions; back then, I thought you smoked the leaves! But friends and family pointed out that it was a legal (and fast-growing) industry in California, so I decided to give it a try. Later, I was headhunted by a vertically integrated cannabis company that wanted to start carrying out extraction and production of manufactured cannabis goods.
Given your initial reluctance, what's kept you in the cannabis industry?
I’m a research scientist at heart and there is so much to learn in the cannabis industry. In many cases, we don’t even know the basics like melting points and solubilities. For a scientist, it is a playground – everywhere you look there is something new to discover! In this industry, everyone wants to build the largest greenhouse or the biggest extraction facility. Meanwhile, fundamentals like the best light spectrum for cultivation or methods for cannabinoid testing haven’t been researched yet. I sometimes joke that my role is: “making cannabis boring again!”
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