Axios event

Shifting the wellness paradigm

Rep. Stacey Plaskett in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen
Axios' Mike Allen in conversation with Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI). Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Wednesday morning, Axios executive editor Mike Allen hosted a series of conversations exploring how cannabis and its extracts are shaping the future of health and wellness.

Why it matters: While cannabis is steadily making its way into the health and wellness mainstream, choppy state-dependent regulation has made it difficult for the industry to truly take off.

Beau Wrigley: Chairman and CEO, Surterra Wellness

Beau Wrigley, CEO of Surterra Wellness, on the Axios stage
Beau Wrigley, chairman and CEO of Surterra Wellness. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Wrigley, who is the chairman and CEO of Surterra Wellness — a rapidly growing health and wellness company focused on cannabis products — kicked off the program with a View From the Top segment led by Axios senior vice president Ali Rubin. Wrigley unpacked what he sees as the future of medical cannabis and how it could help mitigate some of America's most pressing health crises.

  • How cannabis can contribute to society: "It's a substance that allows for tremendous health benefits," he said referring to cannabis' ability to ameliorate epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety and sleep disorders. "It's about quality of life for people."
  • Cannabis as an alternative to opioids: “There are people who want to avoid chronic pain and use cannabis instead of opioids."
  • The industry's obstacles: "We're in an unusual regulatory environment. ... It's creating real challenges in the market place."

Benjamin Witte: Founder and CEO, Recess  

Ben Witte, CEO of Recess, in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen
Ben Witte, CEO of Recess, in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Witte, whose company Recess makes drinks infused with CBD oil (a non-psychoactive compound made from hemp), sat down with Axios' Mike Allen to explain the mission of his company and how it taps into an "anxiety economy" spurred by our fast-paced, high-intensity world.

  • The future of CBD: "It will eventually become an everyday product ... like whey protein."
  • Why it matters: “It’s the macro feeling of our time — people feeling off-centered and anxious. ... I think of CBD as the caffeine of the 21st century and Recess as the Red Bull.”
  • The bipartisan support for hemp legalization: "Everyone wants this to happen. I bet my life on the Hemp Farming Act introduced by Mitch McConnell. ... [It] basically says we want hemp to be the future crop of America."

Rep. Stacey Plaskett, U.S. Virgin Islands

Rep. Stacey Plaskett in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen
Rep. Stacey Plaskett in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Plaskett, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, explained what's holding Congress back from pushing cannabis legalization forward.

  • The role of her subcommittee in the legalization debate: "We’re trying to stay in our lanes so that we’re not bleeding into others. Legalization will be up to the judiciary."
  • Congress' concerns: “What you’re hearing from members is concern not about the benefits, but the long-term detriments. They have real concerns about that."

Rep. Dave Joyce, Ohio

Rep. David Joyce on the Axios stage
Rep. Dave Joyce. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Joyce, who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, discussed who should oversee the regulation of cannabis and echoed Wrigley's perspective on the role it could play in combatting opioid abuse.

  • Why legalization should be a states' rights issue: “We need to have research done, we need to have regulations in place. States are doing that."
Quote“If cannabis can relieve pain and be less addictive and start to solve the opioids problem, then god bless it, let’s go.”
— Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio)

Thank you Surterra Wellness for sponsoring this event.

News Shapers: Health Care in America

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Axios Executive Editor Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

In the wake of the Trump administration's latest attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, Axios' Mike Allen sat down with a series of policy makers to dissect the state and future of health care in America.

Why it matters: We heard from leaders on both sides of the aisle as well as Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R), who earlier this week broke with his party when he urged the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals not to throw out the entire Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Sen. Murphy discussed both his short-term and long-term vision for health care.

In the short-term: Save the Affordable Care Act. "The minute the decision is made [to overturn the ACA], the entire act becomes unconstitutional ... You're talking about 15-20 million people losing health care overnight. That is a humanitarian catastrophe."

In the long-term: Enact Universal Medicare buy-in, rather than Medicare for All. "Every single person should be able to purchase a Medicare plan ... Medicare buy-in is a big enough idea to capture people’s imaginations but politically palatable enough to actually pass."

Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Meadows, who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, gave his take on where compromise is possible and admitted he doesn't think the ACA will be struck down this time around.

What can be done: "Prescription drug prices might be the sweet spot where you see Republicans and Democrats coming together. I’m optimistic ... my goal is that by next year we see a 20% reduction in prescription drug prices."

What can't be done: "I'm not as optimistic that the courts will strike [the Affordable Care Act] down," but added: "I don’t think it’s here to stay."

Attorney General Dave Yost, Ohio

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

AG Yost, who broke with Republicans when he asked a federal court not to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act, explained his reasoning while emphasizing that he still wants to get rid of the law's individual mandate.

  • "If a patient has a tumor, you don’t kill the patient. You cut the tumor out. That’s what we think we should do here," AG Yost said, clarifying what he thinks should been done to the ACA's individual mandate.
  • "The reason we're in this lawsuit is because it will impact Ohioans — the people I serve."

Caitlin Owens, Axios Health Care Reporter

Axios' Caitlin Owens and Mike Allen discuss why it matters.

Owens closed out the program, sitting down with Mike to provide her analysis on why these conversations mattered.

  • Her take: "The undercurrent I kept hearing today is the growing awareness of health care cost ... this is an unconventional thing for Republicans to be saying."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.