As the cannabis industry became America’s dankest growth sector, the number of marijuana strains available to stoners and casual smokers increased at a dizzying rate. The challenge for Coloradans, Oregonians, Washingtonians, and, let’s be real, Californians, is no longer procuring weed, but figuring out which strain is the best match for one’s medical needs or even mood. This leads to a lot of confusion and some confounding questions:
Is there really that much of a difference between indicas and sativas?
How do you differentiate the OG Bubba Kush’s from the AK 47’s and Trainwrecks?
What in the hell is Green Crack?
Woahstork wants to help you answer those questions. Founded by Nicco Reggente, a Ph.D. student at UCLA, Woahstork is an online cannabis service that builds customers’ cannabis-taste profiles to find the perfect strain for any occasion. Available for pickup or delivery, the hundreds of strains on Woahstork are discoverable thanks to a “Strain Genie” that teaches customers about the effects of various strains and keeps track of their history to make future recommendations. It seeks to make smoking weed as chill as possible — a noble goal if ever there was one.
Inverse hopped on the phone with Reggente to discuss Woahstork’s personalized approach to weed shopping and how a well-mannered neuroscience student got into the drug game.
How did your neuroscience background inform the creation of Woahstork?
In my Ph.D. studies, I use neuro-imaging tools and machine-learning algorithms to identify the correlates of enhanced mnemonic retrieval. That means I make you better at memorizing things and then scan your brain and tell the community what was going on in your brain. The idea for Woahstork stemmed from the fact that I saw a ton of people really going through negative experiences with cannabis due to the strain or how it was grown.
What experiences are you referencing?
Classic negative cannabis experiences. It was too strong, or the wrong strain, wrong dosage. Everybody’s kind of had a negative experience with cannabis or picked the wrong strain for the wrong occasion. We’re really trying to recognize the fact that everybody is different.
What’s the science behind everyone’s different palettes?
Our endocannabinoid natural system varies across people. Your body naturally produces cannabinoids, so when you “artificially” take some in, there’s a cascade in that system that essentially makes you feel high.
So you’re saying it’s that each person has a different set of receptors?
It’s more that I may have a density of a certain type of receptor that’s responsive to a particular type of cannabinoid. I wanted to acknowledge that by keeping track of people’s histories.
While we can’t necessarily probe users’ cannabinoid systems, we can get their reviews that say, “Okay, I’ve tried this strain and it made me feel this way, what are some strains that I can try in the future that will not make me feel that way or will make me feel that way again?”
Was the reason behind your company that you wanted to help people stop having bad experiences?
I just want to show people that your history can help you, why not harness it? It’s similar to what Netflix does: They recommend movies for you to watch based on movies you watched in the past.
Is the strain genie what you recommend to people who don’t really know their palette?
Yeah. It helps people who are visiting the site for the first time who haven’t reviewed any strains yet, so they can reduce their search base.
So there are six categories you’ve broken them down into. In my experience, weed is either good or bad. Are you sensitive to these different strains?
I’ve definitely been extremely sensitive to them. If you just look at ‘chill and sleepy’ there are strains that won’t necessarily put you to sleep and knock you out, but you’re not going to want to get up off the couch. And then there are strains where you can still be productive, explore, and certain strains can actually be quite psychedelic.
What about the people who feel particularly anxious when they smoke?
So we have the medicate category and that includes all of the high CBD strains. Some of those strains don’t even have THC in them so you won’t even get high from them necessarily.
So for someone with actual physical pain that’s something you would recommend?
Definitely. We call those strains the one that truly define medical marijuana. Some of them have a slight bit of THC because THC actually is very medicinal as well.
So if you don’t live in California, what’s the deal?
We’re currently active in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada. So if you’re in those four states we can actually find the right product for you and order it online from one of our partner dispensaries that carry that product. If you don’t live in one of those states you can still use the site as an information resource.
How strict are the names with the type of strain? Couldn’t an AK47 in Colorado be different than one in California or is there something that’s making it consistent?
Right now it’s hinging on the integrity of the growers that are supplying the product and the seeds from which they’re sourcing in order to grow that product. We’re ramping up to do batch by batch testing: what you’re purchasing from a store is a product labeled AK 47, but the way that our data base will treat it is “here’s this product with this arrangement of cannabinoids with different densities.”
How’s business going so far?
Things are going well. We’ve signed a lot of dispensaries, we have over 6,000 users now. We’re raising capital actively right now. We have a couple competitors, but no one doing the personalize element the way we are.
So in California you need a doctor’s recommendation but in Colorado you wouldn’t even need one?
Correct. We still do partner with both medical and recreational, so if you want to shop on the medical side of things you have to have your medical recommendation. But if you just want recreational then you just upload your ID.