The Higher Learning LV Interview: Livi McKay

Updated: Oct 27

Livi McKay was the guest for the Cannabis Commerce + Chemistry Podcast No. 8. Listen now.


In August 2022, Higher Learning LV interviewed Livi McKay, a seasoned industry professional and founder of MyTEPI, a Nevada-based technology startup "focused on providing consumer navigation tools for cannabis products."

Livi McKay (image courtesy MyTEPI)


Listen to McKay's exclusive audio interview on No. 8 of our new Cannabis Commerce + Chemistry Podcast.


Other popular articles in the Higher Learning LV Interview series include:


McKay's path to embracing cannabis for both her personal health and also her career started as a young adult when she began experiencing grand mal seizures at the age of only 21. After mainstream pharmaceutical medications failed to control her seizures, McKay "secretly used cannabis," hiding her consumption from her conservative family and coworkers.


Cannabis Provided Control

Cannabis provided her with control over her condition, allowing her to live her life and begin her career. Her talents soon appeared on the radar of major financial institutions and she was recruited by investment management firm Morgan Stanley.


However, despite the benefits afforded by medical cannabis, a number of health issues eventually curbed McKay's financial career. "Refusing to succumb to a life of illness, I turned to cannabis in lieu of nearly a dozen pharmaceuticals, including opioids," she said.

Copyright © Higher Learning LV™

After finding "great success in regaining" her health by using cannabis, McKay became Director of Business Development for the Bear Traps Report, an institutional financial research newsletter, after which she served as Head of Investor Relations for CB1 Capital Management, a prestigious investment management firm in the cannabis space.


McKay became Director of Business Development for the Bear Traps Report, after which she served as Head of Investor Relations for CB1 Capital Management, a prestigious investment management firm.

McKay has worked or collaborated with several influential thought leaders in finance, politics, and cannabis, including economist Larry McDonald, former Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and CB1 Capital's financial guru Todd Harrison.

In spring of 2020, McKay resigned from her career in finance "to fully pursue my goal of taking cannabis mainstream." As part of this vision, she launched MyTEPI, which she describes below in her exclusive interview with Higher Learning LV.

The Interview


Higher Learning LV: "Hi Livi. Thanks for your time. What first attracted you to cannabis, personally? What then motivated you to pursue a career and be an entrepreneur in the controversial, divisive, and heavily regulated cannabis industry?"

Schematic courtesy MyTEPI


Livi McKay: "Growing up in the Deep South, I had a disdain for cannabis. I viewed it as a dirty street drug that made people lazy.


"My views began to soften in college, but drastically changed when I began suffering from grand mal seizures after surviving an EF4 tornado in 2011. I turned to cannabis when the numerous medications did nothing. Meanwhile, the frequency and severity of the seizures increased.


"I have been seizure-free since 2016. After realizing how it helped me, I knew that this plant has the power to change the lives of millions. But my career was in finance. So I kept quiet beyond my circle of close friends and acquaintances.


We were at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns when I began to read the headlines "cannabis deemed essential."

"All of that changed in the spring of 2020. I was working for a well-respected investment manager in the cannabis space. One evening, I was researching the latest articles for our daily morning newsletter. We were at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns when I began to read the headlines 'cannabis deemed essential.'


"It was at that moment that I knew something had to change. I was living in a state that still locked people up over possession. After 24 hours of contemplation, I quit my job at the hedge fund with one thing on my mind: Creating change."

Image courtesy MyTEPI


HLLV: "Your company, MyTEPI, is taking a unique approach to working with cannabis dispensaries to improve customer service and more accurately align product characteristics to customer needs. Please tell us more about this exciting project."


LM: "Our primary objective at MyTEPI is to help the consumer. We have a web application under development that will allow consumers and budtenders to enter data from lab certificates to suggest a quality rating and possible effects.


"We want consumers to feel confident and budtenders to be less overwhelmed with the wide product selection we see in mature markets. In our view, cannabis has the power to be a household staple in the wellness space, but mass adoption must happen first.


"We want consumers to feel confident and budtenders to be less overwhelmed with the wide product selection we see in mature markets."

"This means we have to appeal to those who fall under the normal bell curve distribution (minor health indications) and not solely to the tail ends (recreational/vice and major health indications)."

HLLV: "Let's talk about terpenes. You and MyTEPI share our passion for these impressive yet delicate scent and flavor molecules produced in such abundance by some cultivars of hemp and cannabis. When did your interest in terpenes begin?"

LM: "A few months after I quit the firm, we moved across the country from Georgia to Nevada, with a brief pit stop in Colorado.


"There, we met a former cultivator and science enthusiast who turned us onto the various effects of cannabis being derived mostly from cultivation practices and not genetics. This was a sigh of relief as we understood that the variation in cultivars could be derived from compound testing and not genetic sequencing.

Image courtesy MyTEPI


"Once we arrived in Nevada, we saw that terpene testing was a mandatory requirement for all licensed dispensaries. We quickly discovered that the variation in terpene profiles (as most commercial cannabis is THC dominant) accounted for the variation in effects, ranging from pain relief to focus. After that, terpenes became the basis for providing consumer navigation at MyTEPI."

HLLV: "You sometimes take a contrarian view when industry professionals propose that true federal cannabis legalization will begin to occur in the near term (2022 or 2023). What are your thoughts about U.S. federal legalization and the current status of things in Washington, D.C.?"


LM: "I am very skeptical of anything being passed at the federal level in 2022. As we approach November midterms, most of Congress will be focused on their re-election campaigns—not drafting and passing legislation.


"Senator Corey Booker's SAFE Banking Plus is a nonstarter for Republicans because of the social equity provisions. In my view, the Democrats already used their ability to pass major legislation without a single Republican vote with the Inflation Reduction Act. To do so with cannabis legislation, so close to elections, would likely spook the moderates and independents they desperately need.


"Cannabis is a heavily bipartisan issue. Social equity is not.

"I believe federal legalization or decriminalization would have to be championed by a Republican President, causing the rest of the party to fall in line. There are too many competing interests in cannabis within the Democratic Party.


"I believe federal legalization or decriminalization would have to be championed by a Republican President, causing the rest of the party to fall in line. There are too many competing interests in cannabis within the Democratic Party.

"Basically, cannabis reform is a jar of cookies and everyone's got their hand shoved in and clasped around crumbs. It's going to take an outsider to break the jar and free the cookies...and the hands."

HLLV: "The industry is currently chasing only two molecules out of hundreds produced by cannabis and hemp: CBD and delta-9 THC—with a few alt molecules covering the prohibitionist states, such as delta-8 THC and hexahydrocannabinol (HHC).


"What is being missed when multi-billion dollar multi-state operators [MSOs] focus almost exclusively on THC and ignore terpenes like pinene and limonene and minor cannabinoids such as THCV and CBN?"

Copyright © Higher Learning LV™


LM: "The biggest thing being overlooked by MSOs is the plant itself. Cannabis is not only rich in a variety of beneficial compounds, but how those compounds work together and in unison with our body is where the real excitement is.


"We know that raw flower remains the most popular cannabis product among consumers. Study after study shows that between three quarters and 80 percent of consumers prefer loose-leaf flower. That's a higher preference toward one product than all the other products combined!


"This is where the little guys can still compete with large MSOs. If an operator focuses on producing the highest quality flower for the best price, that will result in the best consumer experience.

"This is where the little guys can still compete with large MSOs. If an operator focuses on producing the highest quality flower for the best price, that will result in the best consumer experience. And consumer experience is everything."


HLLV: "What can we expect next from MyTEPI?"


LM: "The MyTEPI website/application is under development and should be available in the next few months. We are also working on a regional application that will allow individuals to compare dispensaries and states based on metrics such as testing standards, quality of products, and price.


"Our focus will be on providing all consumers—not just the initiated—with easy brand navigation that is simple and reliable."


Like what you just read? Check out our new Cannabis for Cancer Hub that features links to all of our articles about marijuana for cancer.

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