Jim McAlpine and Seibo Shen are not like all the other Dads. They’re cool Dads. Both run successful businesses in the cannabis industry and they’re both doting fathers to their young girls. Jim founded the 420 Games two years ago, an all-day athletic event in multiple cities across the United States. Seibo is the creator and founder of Vapexhale, a high-powered vaporizer company that aims to promote a healthier alternative to smoking and a more positive image of the cannabis user. Jim and Seibo became good friends through their involvement in the industry and bonded over their love of fitness and being a Dad. They have even created a Facebook group of like-minded folk, calling it CannaDads.
With Father’s Day just around the corner, we had a playdate with the CannaDads and their adorable daughters for some honest, no BS straight talk about fatherhood, self-exploration, being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry, and always keeping it cool no matter what.
KB: What was your first experience with cannabis and how do you think it has it shaped you?
SS: I was a late bloomer. I didn’t consume cannabis until I was a Freshman in college. I am allergic to alcohol and I spent the first year of college not partying, so I decided to try smoking. The one thing I remembered was gaining a level of self-awareness about my own actions that I just never had before. I don’t really remember this but most people from high school or before, remembered me as a super-aggressive, “Type A” personality that always had to be right.
JM: So it was an enlightening thing for you?
SS: Yes, totally! [Cannabis] led to self-exploration and some dark moments of doubt. It showed me the negative aspects, but eventually you understand who you are. Then you can change and become who you’re supposed to be. Based on the behavior of my more quiet, unassuming buddies that turn into tough guys when they drink, I encourage them to give cannabis a try. I just think it’ll open up an area, if they’re brave enough to explore it. It showed me a side that I didn’t want to see at that time, but ultimately was super helpful.
JM: Yeah, if you’re already an insecure person it can be pretty damn scary if you smoke and then get over-contemplative and introverted.
SS: With introspection, what could be described as anxiety, could also just be feelings of excitement. I think if you look at it through the lens of something negative, it really hinders you. But if you look at it through the lens of something positive, you’re just excited!
KB: Thank you for sharing that. I feel like many people could benefit from that perspective. Jim, what was your first experience like?
JM: The first time I habitually began to use it, I was in high school. To be totally honest, I used it in kind of an abusive way. I just wasn’t ready to bring it into my life in a positive way. When I got to college, I realized I had severe ADD and I had to figure out different methods to complete my schoolwork because my mind works differently. I was smoking a ton just to write a term paper, or even just to go to class because if I didn’t smoke, all I would hear was Charlie Brown’s teacher, womp womp womp womp. But if I smoked, my mind slowed down and I could listen. It was then when I started to apply it positively to my lifestyle. Also, when I went to the gym I noticed I would get super into it. I would take breaks from working out to go smoke and end up working out twice as long. It was an athletic supplement for me.
KB: So it turned into more like a tool for you?
JM: Yeah. It’s frustrating when your head is like that too because I literally can’t sit and do something for an hour. I can’t go to the movies with my kids, because 20 minutes in, my mind just starts spinning about my business, everything. I’m also working on other methods of dealing with those pieces of my life without cannabis, like rebalancing my gut and meditation. I don’t want to rely on the crutch of just one thing — if I don’t have cannabis, then I need to meditate.
KB: Sounds like you are working on some integrated wellness. Is your relationship with cannabis the same now?
JM: I’ve found my sweet spot. I personally use it every day. I try not to smoke as much as I can, I eat it mostly. I use it to be productive in my work and it helps me as a Dad. If I couldn’t slow my mind down, I would be more angry, more absent, and less able to give. With cannabis, I can focus on my love for [my kids], and having fun. It has helped me engage and look my daughters in the eyes and show them love.
SS: I was diagnosed ADD as a kid as well. It’s really tough for me to focus on anything. And like with Jim, it’s a combination of a lot of things that I use to manage it. Doing things that I enjoy, smoking cannabis, having a mindfulness practice — I use many different holistic modalities. I’ve been consuming cannabis for quite some time and there were times that I definitely abused it, like wake-and-bake every morning for a few years. But to figure out how to use it properly, you do kind of have to push the limit. Then you understand what the ramifications are, and you correct it. I have various questions that I ask myself internally to figure out if this is a good time to be smoking, or am I just bored?
JM: I don’t think I ever use it recreationally. I don’t ever do it just to get high and have my head in the clouds. I’m in a conscious state at all times. I use it for wellness.
KB: How do you think cannabis helps you to be a better father and entrepreneur?
SS: Cannabis has made me much more introspective and empathetic with people. If you know yourself well, the easier it is to have closer and more meaningful relationships. I think the reason Jim and I get along so well is that because we’re comfortable in our own skin. There are some other people who run companies who might feel some type of Alpha Male competitiveness. Oh, he told a big story? I’m gonna tell a bigger story! There’s no ego here.
JM: I was going to say the same thing — introspectiveness and patience. When I was younger in my business career, I definitely wanted people to know He drives a Porsche and He’s made this much money. I really don’t care about that anymore at all. Not that I don’t like money, but I’ve lost the drive to be the coolest, richest guy in the room. I just want to be happy. [Cannabis] has definitely helped me let go of my ego and let me see what’s really important to me.
KB: What do your kids know about your relationship to cannabis and what is their idea of it?
SS: My daughter knows everything about what I’m doing. I don’t purposefully medicate in front of her, but if she walks in and sees it, I don’t turn my back. We’ve been very open about it. It was something that I thought long and hard about before jumping into the industry. I know that if this plant is used responsibly, it’s the best thing on the planet. When I first started this company, I wasn’t as vocal about what I did, but if you really believe it’s as good as you say it is, you wouldn’t feel any shame. There were several parents in her class that were slightly negative or neutral, that are now huge proponents of cannabis, including her teachers!
JM: I can answer this in one second. [Louder, across the living room] Mia, what is cannabis?
Mia: It’s medicine!
JM: I’ve never been ashamed. I thrive on telling people that might not be into it. I’ve always been like that. I don’t consume in front of the girls, but I’ve made it normalized. We talk about it really, really openly. We never whisper the word. I think that was the turning point for our family. [Whispering] the words makes it a different thing. Now we just talk about it in a level tone.
KB: That’s awesome. There will be a whole new generation of kids who have a more informed perspective.
JM: These kids are going to have a wildly different, polar opposite opinion of what this is. The world is going to be a very different place when they grow up.
SS: I mean, I waited until I was 20 to try it because of the impact of those [D.A.R.E] commercials. I was like, you guys go fry your brain. That fried egg made a huge impact on me.
JM: There’s something not right about that. It did make you abstain, but from fear and not from understanding. I tell my kids not to use it, because it’s not for kids and your brain is still developing, instead of cracking an egg and saying your brain is going to fry. But I guess it worked?
SS: It did, but not in the right way.
KB: How does the conversation evolve with your kids as they grow up? Would you encourage safe, responsible adult use?
SS: I definitely always stress, this is for adult use. When you’re old enough to make your own decisions you can ask me, or learn about it. But during these formative years when your brain is developing, experimenting with your consciousness is not the right thing to do. But obviously at this point I don’t have these discussions with [my daughters], this is hypothetically what I think I would tell them.
JM: We have house rules. Children don’t smoke cigarettes, they don’t drink alcohol, they don’t use cannabis. But I want to give them the tools before they become adults to make the right decision. I’m not going to be there when they’re 16 and at a party in high school. That’s the time where my work will pay off. I’m going to work as hard as I can to give them the tools to make her mind up the right way.
SS: I think the best skill you can teach someone is critical thinking and analytical skills. If you give them that, then you don’t have to tell them what to do or what to stay away from.
JM: This is probably naive or idealistic, but I like to think that the way we’re both fathering our children will allow them to still communicate with us honestly when they’re teenagers. I’m not going to persecute my daughter if she makes a bad decision. I’m not going to make her scared to share with me those tough topics.
SS: When I see other parents get frustrated and put their foot down, it’s not because they don’t want to help their kid, they’re just so frustrated and can’t find the right way to communicate. If I’m activated with some cannabis, my patience is infinite. My ability to make a point and help them understand is infinite. I get why people are frustrated and they yell, but I feel like shit when I do. I’m just like this big scary dude that yelled at a little kid to get his way. So I make it a safe place for her to speak to her Dad.
It sounds like very conscious parenting. I always think what would it be like if my parents were more informed about cannabis. I don’t blame them though because they were operating at their maximum awareness at the time. What kind of misconceptions would you say you face from other parents when they find out what you do?
JM: I’ve had zero negative conversations with my parents at my kid’s school or from people I know. Maybe one or two people from Texas who didn’t understand, but they very respectfully asked me about it in a way that felt like I enlightened them. But yeah, zero people have questioned me. The principal of my younger daughter’s school pulled me into her office and said that she thought what I was doing was amazing. A couple of her teachers have come up to me too
SS: Yeah, I feel like 99% of it has been positive. Of the people who haven’t been so positive, I just kill them with kindness and just give them facts. I think it’s important to put yourself in other people’s shoes and try to understand why they feel that way. I’ve always thought that these were great opportunities to educate people. If I can just change the mind of a small percentage of the people I talk to, then that’s worth it.
JM: That’s why I chose athleticism over dialogue. Dialogue goes in one ear and out the other, but you can’t refute athleticism. I can’t wait to make this poster that I’ve dreamed of with Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt… the best athletes in history used [cannabis]. But it’s so deeply ingrained, so I try to give everyone the benefit [of the doubt], even if they’re an asshole. Like, they have just been fed bullshit for so many years. It’s not their fault, it’s our society’s fault.
What is the response outside of the Bay Area though? Is it different?
JM: I haven’t been to too many places outside of Colorado, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and LA, so I can’t answer that, but I think it would be extremely different in other places. That’s why I want to go there, to test those waters. All you can do is put as much data out there as you can. If you do it in a calculated way, you can make them think it was their own idea. People need to figure it out for themselves and if you push too hard, they’re going to shut down.
Definitely. Why do you think it’s important to “come out” as a cannabis user, especially as a business owner and having a family?
JM: I’m going to take the word “cannabis” out of it. You should come out of the closet for anything that you truthfully are. If you believe in something, you shouldn’t be ashamed. Come out of the closet for everything in your life.
SS: How can you beat that answer? That’s the truth. These experiences, if they seem weird to you, well they’re normal to us. We’re very normal people. If we never told you, you wouldn’t have known anything.
Kristina Bakrevski is a writer for Bloom Farms by day and a music photographer by night.
Tell us what YOU think about this conversation with the Canna-Dads in the comment section!