“I am not interested in making cannabis acceptable,” says Lauren Avenius. “I want cannabis to be aspirational.” 

Who Is Node Labs CEO Lauren Avenius? Leading Compound Genetics

As CEO of Node Labs, the licensor and home of Compound Genetics - one of the world’s most illustrious cannabis breeders - Avenius is dedicated to showing people how incredible the plant is. She swears by the company motto, “We serve the people and the plant,” by bringing different components to those who need it most. Avenius describes that as being “from cultivators who need to maximize their canopy and yields, to the processors who need to capture the best flavor and potency, to the consumers who are looking for the effects, from relaxed couch de-stress to pain relief to anti anxiety to unlocking their creative flow. We have partners growing cannabis for everything from hype street strains to fighting cancer. Our mission is to develop the strains and identify the genetics that will serve all those needs.”

Growing up Mormon, the businesswoman recalls that she had little exposure to the healing power of cannabis. But at age 24, Avenius saw her brother diagnosed with depression and start to give up on life when his medications weren’t working. He turned to cannabis as a last resort, “and it was night and day almost immediately… He's never gone back on antidepressants, and today has a wife and son, a house and a killer job. Without a doubt cannabis saved my brother's life. Then later, [I was introduced] to the people who work it, grow it, and sell it, and I saw what it could do to build communities, empower people, and heal lives. I was sold.”

Avenius and her team have traversed the globe, bringing Compound from an “IYKYK” breeder to an industry-leading consumer flower brand. “I have one of the most unique jobs on earth," the manifestor affirms. "It’s so fucking cool.” 

What Makes Lauren Avenius's Job Cool? Traveling The World With Compound Genetics

Though she’s never consumed cannabis herself, Avenius spends every waking moment immersed in its culture. She meets with the most legendary trappers and distributors in the space, with high-level politicians deciding the legal framework. From nations far-flung as Israel, Colombia and Thailand to the deepest regions of the Emerald Triangle, she and the Compound team work with geniuses at every level of the supply chain, seeking out generations-old family farms, hot emerging brands, and all in between. In her words: “We meet with doctors who are using cannabis to shrink cancer tumors and researchers fighting bee colony collapse disorder and craft cultivators producing flower so beautiful it looks like precious jewels and smokes white as snow. I get to see so much of what the industry is doing, and how much this plant can do.”

Lauren Avenius On The Bad And Good Of Being A Woman In Cannabis

Despite the beauty, being a woman in a male-dominated industry shows Avenius some of the uglier sides too. “I have worked in a lot of other industries,” she states. “I have been at a 42 person table with 41 men. I have had men tell me that I am taking the place of a man who could have been there instead, and ask me, "Are you just a pretty face or can you actually do something for me?" Cannabis is no better, and no worse, than anywhere else I have worked. I have found, though, that when I have proven myself, that I am given a profound respect and treated with a level of deference that I wasn't able to earn in other industries. Not everyone is willing to give you that chance, though, and the gatekeeping is very real. I just focus on having a product so good and so essential that in the end, whether you want to or not, you're going to have to work with me.”

Avenius also rejoices that cannabis has led her to many kindred spirits. “Some of the best women I've met work in this space. Strong, determined, no bullshit women who have been through it. If you're in cannabis, it's because you feel called to a mission. I am so honored to be able to work alongside them.”

Lauren Avenius, CEO of Node Labs (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Lauren Avenius Talks Compound Genetics' Industry Journey And Favorite Cannabis Strains

HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment in the cannabis space so far?

LAUREN AVENIUS: I was really proud of being able to launch the Compound Genetics brand as a consumer flower brand, and to make it an industry leader. It was a lot of work, and we had such a strong platform behind us. But we had to make that choice, are we going to stay a behind-the-scenes IYKYK breeder, or were we going to try to bring our weed to consumers' hands? And we knew that making that choice to go to consumers with a flower brand was going to make some enemies, and some of our partners made it clear that if we launched a brand that they felt competed with them that they would stop working with us. But I was really committed to the vision of Compound, which is getting great flower into people's hands. We wanted Compound flower to be our selections of the best expressions of weed. We launched in 2021 at Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, and the next year were named top brand in the West.  We worked so hard, and the team put so much trust in me and my vision, and I am really proud of what we were able to do.

How do you like to consume cannabis?

Controversial - I have never consumed cannabis. But when we are having people try a new strain for the first time, and what I have our team do, is first try it as full flower in a vaporizer. Right now we are using The Terp Hammer from Old Head Trading Company on our Camp High [Bowlman Lantern] Hemper bong we got from the Khalifa Kush collab release, and it's the perfect combination of high tech and super stoner camp, and I love it. The first taste needs to be about taste. Well cured flower, at the right temp, for that full flavor experience. After that, and for every time after that, I ask people to smoke it how they like it. The first taste, though, is mine.

What's your favorite strain?

My favorite strain is the Gastro Pop 5, but it's quickly being replaced by what I call our Yuzu - the Orange Sherb x Oz Kush by Gastro Pop. It's such a bright, energetic and creative high. I drop it at the tail end of a party to pump everybody up, and it's like Adderall. Everyone gets excited and dancing and talking and moving around again, you can't help but be happy when you smoke this.

What excites you most about the genetics sector?

Genetics are, without a doubt, the most exciting part of the industry. I live for the moment when we smoke a new strain and I see someone's face light up with a "that's something special." There are more breeders and brands now than ever before, and more users and markets. As soon as a new strain is released, there are hundreds more behind it. We are literally at the beginning of an entirely new industry of genetic exploration, and I cannot wait for the cannabis genome to be fully mapped, and for us to unlock all the potential of this powerful plant - cannabis removes heavy metals from the soil, produces organically more types of terpenes than any other plant, and was the first source of protein that ancient humans ate. We don't even know yet what all it can do.

For more about Lauren and Compound / Node Labs, visit compound-genetics.com and nodelabsca.com, or follow @compoundgeneticsofficial and @nodelabs on Instagram.

*A version of this article originally appeared in Honeysuckle's 17th print edition, featuring Havoc of Mobb Deep. Get your copy now at dispensaries nationwide or click here to order!

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Featured image: Lauren Avenius, CEO of Node Labs, with Honeysuckle's 420 2023 (Erykah Badu) edition (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture