Higher Profile: Zane Witzel, CEO, Cannador

This entrepreneur heeded to a higher calling for freshness.
Courtesy of Cannador

Zane Witzel founded Cannador, a humidor storage system for cannabis, in an effort to raise the bar for cannabis storage. But, his conservative Catholic upbringing, combined with a Christian college education, makes him an anomaly in the cannabis industry.

“I was baptized Catholic, but rejected practicing and attending in grade school,” he shared. “My parents knew that I had my own feelings and voice at a young age. I believe in allowing your child to choose their own path where religion is concerned.”

The first time he tried cannabis was in high school where he grew up in Upstate New York. In a setting similar to That 70s Show, a group of friends sat in a circle in someone’s basement and passed around a joint. He said he enjoyed it right away, never feeling guilty about his use. 

“I played on the Lacrosse team and was Class President of both my Junior and Senior classes, pulling As and Bs, so no one could call me a non-productive stoner in high school,” he laughed. “I proved the stereotype wrong and leaned into my use and belief that the plant was not harmful because of the kind of person I was. The stereotype just didn’t apply to me or my friends—it never has.”

Witzel set his sights on California for his first degree in telecommunications from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. Pepperdine is one of the top private Christian universities in the country, with the perk of overlooking the tawny beach town of Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.

Courtesy of Cannador

Every Seed Bearing Plant

God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit, they shall be yours for food.” – Hebrew, Genesis 1.29

Witzel said he was well aware that Pepperdine was run by the Church of Christ, and that his cannabis use may be in question, but the campus overlooking the ocean was compelling.

“Aside from Pepperdine being a great university, with an excellent communications department taught by A-listers in the TV and film industry, the location was a definite draw,” he said. “I lived on campus, and though the university had strict rules about drugs and alcohol, I found my tribe of cannabis users pretty easily. The tribe finds each other, no matter where you are. Turns out, Christians like weed as much as anyone else.”

Cannabis as a superfood is how the plant began its life on earth. We as a species have upped the level of THC over the decades via hybridization. 

When the late Lawrence Ringo from Southern Humboldt, California, hybridized cannabis plants to have lower tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), he referred to his first high cannabinoid (CBD) cultivar as the “God plant,” as the original plant measured in at around four percent of the psychoactive compound before human hands messed with it.

Witzel said there was never a discussion with his colleagues on the status of cannabis within the church, the Bible, or any guilt associated with its use.

“I never understood why the church rejected cannabis,” he said. “There were many in my tribe at Pepperdine who were way more into Christianty than I, and they used cannabis. I never read anything in scripture saying thou shalt not partake of this plant. My cannabis use has nothing to do with my relationship with God or my faith. To date, no one has proven to me that weed is heatheness.”

To put his Pepperdine tribe experience into perspective, Witzel detailed fellow students as brilliant and gifted, with better test scores than he had, all partaking of the plant. To get into Pepperdine you had to be smart, and if you didn’t have a full scholarship, you pretty much had to come from money. This fact further cements the truth of the demographic of the plant, crossing lines of race and status in society.

He likened one classmate to the Nobel Prize winning mathematician, John Nash, profiled in the film, A Beautiful Mind.

“We shared a wall in the dorms, and I could hear him tap, tap, tapping, as he worked out these long, complex mathematical problems on a board on the wall between us—much like Nash did at Princeton University. My point in retelling this story is, the students who used cannabis at Pepperdine were not slackers. We didn’t fit the stereotype at all. These were believers of God from conservative and, for the most part, upper class families.”

With a love for movies and TV shows, Witzel set his sights on a career in the entertainment industry, but upon graduating in 2009, on the crest of a global financial crisis, projects went astray. He also wasn’t thrilled at the aspect of working from project to project, as is common in the entertainment industry.

Realizing he had to pivot, he enrolled in the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University; 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

With a focus on strategies in business, Witzel worked for a management consulting firm while studying at Claremont. Still smoking cannabis and hanging out with friends, he had what he calls a “lightbulb moment,” when a buddy set a shoebox on the coffee table, with his stash in disarray inside.

“I thought to myself, we can do better than this,” he laughed.

Courtesy of Cannador

A Functional Stash

After some research, Witzel came across a humidity control system originally used for cigar humidors. After making a few adjustments to the product, he was able to adapt the humidity setting to accommodate a lower relative humidity, which is necessary for cannabis. Witzel then purchased the patent from the original owner and rebranded it to “VaporBeads.”

Citing a study from 1975, Cannador’s website educates on weed storage, “The Stability of Cannabis and its Preparations on Storage,” wherein the best storage was found to be at room temperature in a dark, sealed container. The researchers observed the plant material for two years, noting changes in potency.

The outcome showed that properly stored cannabis plant material with a correct amount of moisture retains higher terpene and cannabinoid counts—the compounds where flavor, scent, and medicinal efficacy is found. 

The study also confirmed that humidors made for cigars have a higher moisture content, and are not suitable for cannabis. It’s a fine line of humidity that keeps cannabis fresh, flavorful, and mold-free.

A big difference between cigar and cannabis humidors is the interior wood and the way they maintain humidity. Most cigar humidors maintain a higher relative humidity and utilize chemicals like propylene glycol. Additionally, cigar humidors are lined with cedar, whereas cannabis humidors should be lined with a more neutral wood like mahogany. Cannador’s patented VaporBeads allow just the right amount of moisture to maintain the terpene’s aroma and taste by only adding water. A relative humidity (RH) for cannabis is best kept between 58 to 65%. Anything over 70% RH runs the risk of mold growth.

Courtesy of Cannador

Keeping the Faith, Keeping it Fresh

With the holiday season upon us, Witzel is gearing up for gift-giving season, offering up his limited edition 3-strain Cannador Artist Collaboration, designed by Chelsea Van Voorhis, who specializes in working with veneer products.

Also in the mix are his handcrafted walnut and mahogany roll trays, and leather toolkit for travel. 

Giving back in the cannabis industry is important and Cannador is passionate about sustainability, pledging to plant one tree for every Cannador purchased, as part of Plant-it 2020, a global non-profit operating in Colorado, dedicated to properly planting, maintaining, and protecting as many indigenous trees as possible.

For Witzel, his mission is clear, provide the best and most beautiful products to keep cannabis as fresh and flavorful as possible—because, after all, he too still enjoys the plant.

“I still enjoy cannabis, but not everyday,” he said. “I really like good wine, and if I’ve had too much I like to reset by smoking cannabis. It helps get me out of my shell and converse more easily with people. I like to vape or smoke joints, but no more bong rips for me. Everything in moderation—and that actually reflects what the Bible says about alcohol.”

Witzel’s focus is still as clear as it was in college, on being a productive human.

“My alma mater probably doesn’t want to hear this, but cannabis always made everything more interesting for me,” he concluded. “I still love listening to music while high. I balanced school, sports, and work around my cannabis use. I don’t think there always has to be some kind of trade-off, you simply work hard and have fun responsibly along the way—and cannabis will always be a big part of that for me.”

For more information on Cannador & VaporBeads visit, www.cannador.com https://vaporbeads.com/ 

Visit Cannador’s Limited Collections page here, https://cannador.com/collections/limited-edition 

Visit its accessories page here, https://cannador.com/collections/accessories 

For more information on Plant-it 2020 visit, https://plantit2020.org/

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