Spotlight Series: Province Brands' Dr. Natasha Murataeva

Province Brands of Canada is a Canadian adult beverage company that has created alcohol-free cannabis-powered beers and spirits that boast a dose-response curve similar to that of alcohol, but without the negative health effects that go hand in hand with booze. In other words, the neuro-toxic effect of alcohol and the hangovers that follow a night of drinking are non-existent.

Dr. Murataeva is a Cell Biology Lead at Province Brands with more than a decade of experience in cannabinoid pharmacology. As the Canadian market readies itself for infused cannabis products, beverages are coming in hot as consumer interest in alternate consumption methods spikes. We wanted to find out more about what Province Brands is creating so Dr. Murataeva gave us a run down of the company’s plans and upcoming offers.

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How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?

I earned my doctorate in neuroscience with a focus on addiction models, exploring the potential of cannabinoids to aid in cocaine and nicotine addictions. My postdoc focused on the neuro and cyto-protective qualities of cannabinoids. I met [CEO of Province Brands] Dooma Wendschuh at a conference in Liden and was taken with the idea of employing my knowledge to craft a safer alternative to alcohol.

Tell us a little bit about your product or service

We are crafting a new generation of cannabis-brewed beverages. Evolved cannabis beer will produce sensations unlike the standard marijuana high, but rather similar to that of alcohol. Our beer will not negatively impact consumers’ health like standard alcoholic beverages do, because marijuana compounds work through different cellular pathways. Additionally, because there is no negative impact on the body, the hangover risk is virtually eliminated. Evolved cannabis-brewed beer like ours, is low in calories, free of gluten and full of refreshing taste.

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What time does your day typically start and what does a normal day look like to you? 

I like to start my day early; I feel that I do my best thinking first thing in the morning. I begin by reading articles published in my field, as it always inspires me to get out there and create. Following my readings, I work on any planning and writing that needs to be done. I am currently working on creating standards and procedures that go into the development of our evolved cannabis beer. I am also working on developing a wide collaborative network spanning several continents and multiple countries. We believe that a team of the best specialists is paramount to our success. I really enjoy communicating with researchers in different fields; every day I have the opportunity to learn something new. It is quite amazing to see great minds come together and work as one on the challenges that we face in this business. At the end of my day I run through our accountability software and check off the tasks that I accomplished through the day; it always feels very satisfying.

What is your vision for your company going forward? 

In the future I see Province Brands expanding into other segments of the consumer market. Phytocannabinoids have a multitude of benefits to offer, however the best method of attaining them still needs to be explored in more detail. I would like to create a line of beverages that can alter the mood in the specific direction, for example a drink that can boost confidence, induce a relaxation state, or inspire a contemplative mood.

What would an ideal post prohibition society look like to you? 

I am hoping for greater safety and transparency, and less judgement. Marginalization doesn’t accomplish anything positive and can lead to dangerous practices and misunderstandings. As our society learns more factual information about marijuana and gains experience in cannabis consumption, I hope that we can do away with the abundant misinformation that has been created around the topic and transition to pragmatic understanding.

What was your first experience with cannabis like? 

This might come as a bit of a surprise, but I have actually never tried cannabis before. Until recently, I have always worked in the USA in a field where I could be subjected to drug screening. Since moving to Canada, I have not yet taken the opportunity to try marijuana because I am not into smoking and edibles have not yet been legalized, so they are still unregulated. The issue with unregulated markets is that there is no stringent screening for pesticides or heavy metals. I would like to try our cannabis beer when it is legalized and released. I am big on safety and I know that our product will be tested for any potential contaminants, so I’ll feel good drinking it.

Tell us about some of the challenges you face working in the cannabis industry 

The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far stems from the legal status of cannabis in other countries. I have encountered both supply companies and researchers who cannot work with us because they are based out of a country where cannabis is still illegal and/or heavily stigmatized. It can be frustrating, but it offers an opportunity to find a creative solution and improvise. I think this really speaks to two points: 1) legalization of cannabis in Canada will have a far more significant positive economic impact than previously expected, as new industries rise to fill in the demands of the expanding research and manufacturing markets, and 2) Canada will gain an upper hand in the global economic landscape as other countries legalize cannabis and we are ready and able to offer agile solutions to those countries’ demands.

What are some solutions you've found?

We’ve been relying on Canada-based manufacturers that can custom-build necessary equipment. It has been a real pleasure working with local producers knowing that we are contributing to the economic success and technological development of our own country.

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about cannabis?

I would like people to learn more about the medicinal properties of different components of cannabis oil so that they can strategically use them to their benefit.

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about your product or service?

We are creating a true alternative to alcohol that offers you the opportunity to enjoy a refreshing beer, crafted with the best science, without taking a toll on your body. It really is a beer unlike any other.

If you could go back in time and do it all over again, what (if anything) would you do differently?

I don’t think that I would change anything as every step has been a unique learning opportunity. One of our core values is authenticity. In the modern age of technological enhancements, it is popular to auto-tune and photoshop your story, creating an overly polished façade. I reject this idea, as nothing truly awesome in life comes easy or without challenges. Additionally, I think the “awesomeness” can only be developed through trial and error, as you need a basis for comparison.

What is your favorite way to consume cannabis?

N/A, I don’t use cannabis.

Do you think cannabis legalization will change the world for the better? Why?

Most definitely. Access to safe, high-quality products will be beneficial for society’s health and the economy, and sane legal regulations will remove the unnecessary burden on the judicial system. Additionally, as we’ve seen play out with several social issues in the past, legalization will contribute to the demarginalization of people who choose to use cannabis.

What advice would you offer to another woman who is looking to get into the industry?

I think being vocal about our opinions is the most important thing we can do. Nobody is going to give us what we want, especially if they don’t know what it is. I think being a vocal advocate is important not only for improving your own life, but also for impacting others. This is especially true in fields like cannabis where new areas are blossoming, and the market has incredible growth potential. Creating new niches and categories leads to diversification of available goods and offers consumers more choices, so everyone can find something that they enjoy. It prepares the ground for further exploration and education.