Christine De La Rosa Is On A Mission

Compared to many other marijuana entrepreneurs, Christine De La Rosa was a huge underdog in an industry that already faces plenty of legal and regulatory hurdles. Her chances of succeeding in cannabis were slim, to put it mildly. Trying to launch a business without insider access to banking, insurance or tax breaks is a challenge. Trying to do it as a Mexican-American woman—a minority in both ethnicity and gender—makes it significantly more difficult.

“Only 1.6 percent of funding in the venture capital world is available to people like me,” De La Rosa says. “You’re at a disadvantage from the very beginning.”

The Oakland, CA-based former owner of restaurants, retail shops and an art gallery, De La Rosa says she’s made it her mission to help people from underrepresented groups access the funding they need to get started in adult-use cannabis.

In 2021, De La Rosa launched The People’s Group, a $50 million fund and accelerator that aims to support 10 to 20 cannabis companies led by women who are Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC) during the next five years. The People’s Group funded its first company, to the tune of $250,000, fellow Bay Area-based Spectrum CannaLabs, a marijuana testing facility in late 2021.

De La Rosa was motivated by her own struggles as a BIPOC entrepreneur trying to find willing investors to raise capital for her dispensary business. But because federal restrictions mostly lock cannabis companies out of banking and investment opportunities, even raising money for The People’s Group Fund presented its own unique challenges.

After giving up on traditional capital sources, De La Rosa instead found private financiers who shared her vision for impact investing. The result? A one-of-a-kind investment fund that aims to help narrow the equity gap in cannabis.

De La Rosa said that as long as she’s in charge of the People’s Group Fund, she’ll help create generational wealth for BIPOC and women cannapreneurs—underdogs just like her.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Still Chasing the Sun

There are chefs who cook with cannabis, then there are James Beard-nominated chefs who cook with cannabis. Toronto-based culinary master Jordan Wagman is in the latter category. For the uninitiated, receiving a James Beard nomination is very much akin to an Oscar nomination for acting. It’s a big deal (as all you Top Chef fans know). But this chef was on a mission.

“It all comes back to my health,” Wagman says when asked about his journey to becoming one of the planet’s most renowned cannabis food masters who famously whips up world-class fare that’s wellness-focused and sugar-free.

“I was 12 years old when I was diagnosed with psoriasis, and from then on, every decision I made in my life revolved around my skin,” Wagman says, referring to the skin disease that causes painful red, scaly patches and is widely treated with UV sunlight exposure. “I completed every high school exam in the hospital.”

“I lived in a tent in Israel for a year and a half getting sun for 14 to 15 hours a day near the Dead Sea. Every vacation, I went to the islands. I moved to California. I moved to Florida. So, clearly, I was always chasing the sun.”

And while he found the sun wherever he went, Wagman also found kitchens, turning a longtime passion for cooking over campfires into a career in some of the country’s best spots. After working at several renowned restaurants in Florida and California, Wagman found his way to the historic Cliff House, a hotel in Colorado Springs, where he received that rare James Beard Award nomination for his work steering the kitchen.

But as the long hours and exhaustion of working began taking its toll on his mental and physical health, Wagman realized that cannabis had been in the background helping him all along. “Since I was very young, I was always playing with cannabis, cooking with it, smoking it; but at the same time, I was subject to the stigma,” he says. “As a father, I was trying to ‘set an example,’ but then I also realized that for decades, I’d been using cannabis for health and wellness. It wasn’t always just for enjoyment. From there, I became more comfortable, and I’ve spent the past seven years professionally using cannabis to help people change their lives for the better.”

Chef Jordan Wagman

As he began directing his career toward culinary cannabis, the chef sought other ways to improve his chronic psoriasis. Wagman says he found relief after removing both refined sugar and gluten from his diet. Consequently, he removed it from his cooking, too.

“Most of the time, we’re feeding people cannabis foodstuff that’s completely filled with refined sugar,” Wagman says, referring to the mainstream edibles marketplace overflowing with infused gummies and chocolates. “And what does sugar inevitably do to the body? It raises inflammation. And the intent with cannabinoids is to lower our inflammation. And are you really going to have all 10mg of those cannabinoids bioavailable? No. Your body wants to absorb the sugar way before it absorbs the cannabis. If you remove the refined sugar, you remove the barrier to absorption.” 

During his private wellness-focused fine dining experiences, guests enjoy up to 15 courses and 20mg of cannabinoids over a three-hour period, which Wagman says leaves guests feeling great and not too high due to his whole-plant focus and the benefit of the entourage effect. “I employ cannabis and hemp in every part of my being, and everything I create for my clients is how I eat and drink myself, so I use cannabis in every form,” he says, citing dishes such as a terpene-infused strawberry puree and a toasted hemp seed mixture as examples of a whole-plant experience. 

Wagman’s commitment to celebrating the benefits of the whole plant extends to his open dialogue about cannabis and mental health, a topic he explores on his podcast “In The Weeds,” which highlights “some of the greatest thinkers in cannabis and food, and demonstrates people’s success, yes, but also their challenges,” says Wagman. Featuring guests ranging from celebrity chef Janet Zuccarini to cannabis influencers/podcasters Mike Glazer and Mary Jane Gibson of Weed + Grub, “In The Weeds” brings out every side of the celebrated cannabis chef. “I cry a lot; I laugh a lot; I talk a lot,” Wagman says, laughing. “I’m not afraid to cry. I’m not afraid to tell someone’s story. I’m not afraid to apologize. It’s just me.”

Jordan Wagman Tempura Avocado
Tempura Avocado With Infused Tomato Sauce

Tempura Avocado With Infused Tomato Sauce


(makes two appetizers)

Infused Tomato Sauce

  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind syrup
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp pickled ginger
  • ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ tsp cannabis distillate*
  • 1 nori sheet

In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.*

Potency in distillate varies. Add the amount that best suits your needs. I use distillate that is 20mg/ml, meaning this recipe has a total of 20mg THC.

Tempura Batter

  • 1 ½ cup potato starch, divided
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 300 ml carbonated water

In a mixing bowl, combine baking powder, sea salt and 1¼ cup potato starch, reserving the remaining ¼ cup. Whisk well to combine. Add carbonated water and whisk until smooth. The batter will be thin. Set aside to rest for ten minutes.

Tempura Avocado

  • ¼ cup potato starch
  • 3 cups avocado oil
  • 1 ripe avocado1/3 tsp sea salt

Preheat avocado oil to 325F. Slice avocado into wedges and place into potato starch to thoroughly coat. Dip coated wedges into the tempura batter and, one at a time, place into the warm oil. Fry avocado until golden brown, about one or two minutes. Remove from heat and place on a lined baking sheet. Season with salt. Serve immediately alongside tomato sauce

Distillate 101

When making cannabis-infused foods, there are several ways you can work with the plant. You can make your infusions from whole flower, or you can use a cannabis concentrate. Distillate is a popular choice for infusions because of its neutral flavor profile and pure potency of THC.

There are a variety of techniques manufacturers use to produce distillate through a series of solvent-based reactions that separate cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids from plant materials. The resulting crude oil is then distilled into pure THC, stripping all other compounds, including any remnants of the solvents used in the extraction process. Because of how it’s made, most distillate is already decarboxylated, making it simple to add to an infusion base.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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A Thousand Words

Los Angeles-based fashion photographer Dorit Thies has made a career of pushing boundaries. So has cannabis journalist and marketer Eric Hiss.

By producing imagery that meshes art with nature, Thies has earned partnerships with the likes of Maye Musk, Kate Mara and Kristin Cavallari, among other familiar Hollywood names during a decades-long career in Tinsel Town. Hiss has written stories around the world for more than 50 major publications.

The duo’s latest passion project has taken them further north in California: “The Farm & The Feminine” chronicles the legacy, creativity and determination of women cannabis farmers in California’s iconic Emerald Triangle. Its four subjects—Tina Gordon of Moon Made Farms, Rose Willis of Huckleberry Hill Farms, Katie Jeane of Emerald Spirit Botanicals and Taylor Stein from Briceland Forest Farm—capture the rich gender and ethnic diversity of America’s most fertile region for outdoor cannabis growing.

Kate Jean, Emerald Spirit Botanicals

Hiss came up with the idea for the project out of a passion for the Emerald Triangle, where the pioneers of the cannabis industry have been perfecting genetics and farming top-shelf marijuana for generations. As multi-state operators move into the regulated market and produce at scale, “The Farm & The Feminine” aims to remind consumers how we got here by putting names to the female faces behind the industry’s early success.

“These women are the true pillars of our industry,” Hiss said. “None of this would exist without the craft folks in the Emerald Triangle. I realized we didn’t have any iconic imagery of these people, and felt we needed hero shots. This is a new narrative to portray these cannabis heroes as they should be.”

Rose Moberly, Huckleberry Hill Farms

To create such images required a special photographer, Hiss said, so he called longtime friend and colleague Dorit Thies. Before spending full days on the farms of the four women featured in the project, Thies admitted she had no previous experience with cannabis. It didn’t take long to bond with the farmers, though, thanks to a shared interest for sustainability.

“They’re biologists, they’re scientists and they’re involved with universal energy,” Thies says. “The way they harvest, it’s all about sustainability and doing it the natural way under the sun. I’ve always believed in these principles so it was very easy to connect with them.”

Tina Gordon, Mood Made Farms

Thies, who grew up in rural northern Germany, and Hiss, a fifth-generation Californian, spent a full day on each woman’s farm during peak harvest season late last summer. And unlike for most of her photo shoots, Thies brought only her camera for day-long tours—no tools, no lights and no props. To accentuate the farmers’ natural beauty, Thies kept her photos free of any touch ups.

The duo spent the early September days walking together with the farmers and using only items from their farms as props in the owners’ portraits. Thies adorned Katie Jeane of Emerald Spirit Botanicals with antlers and a colorful wreath to symbolize a type of nemes, the headcloth worn by pharaohs in ancient Egypt to signify high stature. She also took inspiration from legendary photographer Edward S. Curtis, whose work focused on the American West and the Native American people.

“I always used to draw from Greek mythology, too, and the imagery of powerful women,” Thies says. “I wanted to create metaphors in my images of women that represented the Greek goddesses.”

Taylor Stein, Briceland Forest Farms

Hiss said he and Thies considered 20 to 30 more women farmers in the region for portraits in “The Farm & The Feminine,” but time and budget constraints reduced the first season of the project to just four women. The duo said their project is ongoing and could add more subjects in the future.

“I couldn’t wait another harvest cycle for the first few,” Hiss said. “It was a now-or-never situation because these women are doing work that should be elevated and celebrated. I hope that we’re smart enough to realize we can have our (big corporations) and also protect space for our small operators. Just like craft beer folks bring us top-shelf beer and cult wine guys and craft distilleries bringing craft batches of mezcal, gin and tequila, we shouldn’t cut off our roots, man.”

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Hawaii’s Finest

Hawaii can proudly tout itself as a geographic destination synonymous with a long-standing cannabis culture. But for Big Island Grown (BIG), a legacy of growing crops goes well beyond pot.

Big Island Grown has a deep history rooted in agriculture,” says co-founder and CEO Jaclyn Moore. “The location of our production center was once home to sugarcane, evolved into the largest banana farm in North America, and is now home to our state-of-the-art cannabis facility. The farming styles have evolved as we’re much more conscious of the land and the community that we serve and work within. We aim to revive a farming community that will last for generations to come.”

BIG’s agricultural background earned them a license as a manufacturer and dispensary on the Big Island of Hawaii, hence the name.

Maui Girl bred by Joey Green for Greyskull Seeds | PHOTO Big Island Grown

As a vertically integrated company, Moore and co-founder Dylan Shropshire had to become experts across a wide range of operations, with a current team of pharmacists, farmers, artists, caregivers and coders, many of whom are also patients. They believe that the team’s collective passion for both plant and patient results in the highest-grade cannabis and patient service that can be found anywhere in Hawaii, and possibly beyond, at an accessible price.  

“With the long history of cannabis cultivation on the Island, our team works tirelessly to showcase the best of local genetics, and elevate the breeders, artists, farmers and local businesses that contribute to Big Island’s cannabis culture,” Moore says.

BIG now has three shops throughout the island in Kona, Hilo and Waimea.

“It doesn’t take long before staff knows you by name; recall your product preferences and provide the scoops on product drops based on the effects you seek,” Moore says.

Much like our team, our patients quickly become an integral part of our ohana (family), and we rely on their very honest and quick feedback. Big Island regulars genuinely know quality and are quite vocal about it.

The company’s Patient Attendants (commonly known as budtenders) are integral to supporting BIG’s company pillars of education and customer service. They educate patients on new strains, formulations, tech and even the team members behind the products they love. 

Strain: Tangie

“Patient Attendants, as we call them, are very compassionate, patient-focused individuals,” Moore says. “They’re committed to nurturing relationships with those they encounter daily.

The triumvirate of dispensaries is also matched by an impressive 35,000-square-foot growing facility, all of which is environmentally controlled to cultivate high-quality indoor flower. Although Hawaii is known to grow remarkable outdoor cannabis with its long solar window and abundance of fresh water, BIG’s indoor grow all but guarantees safety from humidity, bouts of severe weather and even the occasional volcanic eruption. 

Maui Girl Concentrate

They’re also currently in the process of expanding the facility in preparation for adult-use cannabis, which will include an additional 9,000 square feet of flower, larger processing area and a commercial kitchen.

BIG’s growing methods are equally as impressive, utilizing a potting system that yields zero waste when washing and recycling, all while creating zero disturbance to the root systems during transplanting. All of their water supply comes from a volcanic spring, which is fed from a plantation-constructed water reservoir.

 Co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Jaclyn Moore and Co-Founder and COO, Dylan Shropshire

“Our team is made of many who were born and/or raised in Hawaii with generations of Hawaii cannabis cultivation experience,” Shropshire says. “Growing on the most desolate chain of islands in the world creates a series of challenges that places sustainability at the forefront of all decision making.”

With an energy cost in Hawaii that’s by far the most expensive in the country at more than 40 cents a kilowatt hour, BIG works to offset this hurdle with a rooftop of nearly 700 solar panels.

Strain: Maui Girl

“We ultimately decided on Fohse [lights] because of their attention to detail and how they’re pushing innovation in the space,” Shropshire says. “They’re the highest quality LED grow lights in the industry in our opinion. They also are constantly working with growers in collaboration to improve their products. With the extremely high energy costs in Hawaii, we have to be as efficient as possible when selecting lights and we believe Fohse is the best of the best.”

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Homegrown Talent: A Cannabis Checklist

So, you’ve decided to start growing, and you’re super excited about it. The tendency to feel lost and overwhelmed is common. But don’t worry. Being a newbie to growing doesn’t need to be stressful or expensive. Grow gear information is abundant out there, some good and some bad.

I’ve noticed that some people are paid to promote certain products, and they may not have your best interests at heart; they’re just looking to make a quick buck from your lack of knowledge and experience.

There are two main disciplines to growing cannabis: Organics and Synthetics, and then you get a mixture. Both disciplines are great and come with their own set of pros and cons. Depending on your location, one discipline may be more popular than the other.

If you’re a novice grower and unsure where to begin, I recommend starting with organics, as it’s a lot more forgiving and simpler. When it comes to growing, the more you put in, the more you get out. I suggest learning about the bacteria and fungi in the soil and how they have a symbiotic relationship with the plant. Research how the plant absorbs nutrients. Remember, organic growing is all about the living soil. TIP: For any organic enthusiasts out there, I highly recommend reading Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web.

You don’t need to purchase expensive nutrients; keep it simple and stick to the basics. Do learn the NPK ratios—the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in fertilizers—they’ll change, depending on the life stage of your plant. This is very important and will benefit you greatly, and it can apply to both organics and synthetics. 

Start with the best quality soil you can afford, and then add some worm castings, bone meal and chicken guano, and you’re all set to go. Molasses is your best friend and is loaded with goodness for your beneficial bacteria.

Should you want to venture down the salty path of synthetic nutrients, buy a nutrient line that’s basic and simple to use. Some have a three-part nutrient and others have a two-part solution. My personal favorite is a brand called Druid Nutrients, which is a simple one-part solution. Keep in mind that with synthetic nutrients you may have to check your PH, so you’ll need a PH reader and an EC meter that will measure the strength of your nutrient solution. Without an EC meter and a way of testing PH, you’ll end up in deep water with a deflating rubber duck, and hungry sharks circling ‘round.

Now, let’s talk about pots. You can get plastic pots, buckets and even fabric pots. I love fabric pots; my cats do, too. However, they tend to dry out quicker than plastic. Fabric pots do prevent the roots from getting bound. You’ll soon find that there’ll be a pot type just for you. The other advantage of using fabric pots is that sometimes they’re made from recycled materials, and that’s always a good thing.

So, you’ve chosen a pot, and you’ve bought some sexy soil. It’s now time to choose a seed. I highly recommend against using seeds found in your stash; yes, it’ll grow, but you may not see the best results.

If you want the best results, buy seeds from a reputable seed bank. Depending on the laws in your country, this may be tricky. Seeds are expensive because it takes a lot of work to create a genetic that’s stable, with solid, consistent yields. It could take years to develop a good strain.

Once you have your pot, soil and seed selected, you need a growing environment. Cannabis requires a lot of light, fresh air and medium to low humidity. If you’re growing by the equator, this might be tricky, but anywhere north or south will be fine. Cannabis thrives in warm, dry conditions with lots of air movement.

4 Important Tips as You Begin Your Cannabis Adventure:

1 – If you’re watering your plant with a watering can, make sure you have a shower nozzle on the end of it; you don’t want to disturb that topsoil.

2 – A good quality spray bottle will come in handy; it’s tempting to buy a cheaper one, but they never last. A good foliar spray is one of the key factors that’ll result in a successful grow.

3 – Pipe cleaners are a great addition to the grow tool arsenal; they don’t cut the branches when training and they’re easy to bend and manipulate.

4 – And, lastly, wooden BBQ skewers are essential and can be used together with pipe cleaners—a great way to shape the main stem of the plant, especially on smaller plants.

Above all else, have fun. Remember, growing weed at home is totally awesome. Enjoy the process.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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NFT Love: Photographer Simone’s Cannabis Creations

Simone, who prefers the single-name moniker, is one happy man right now. The Rome native and Barcelona-based photographer has focused his lens on cannabis since 2017, culminating with the June 2022 launch of his online gallery.

A decade ago, Simone began a career in the film industry, first as a VTR operator (in charge of recording equipment), then as an in-demand digital imaging technician for hit European productions Sole A Catinelle, Perfetti Sconosciuti, I Medici and more. The idea of combining two of his great loves—cannabis and photography—grew stronger as his “Terpshotz project” gained momentum. Never satisfied with what’s conventional or expected, Simone produces cannabis photos sold as canvases. His extensive background and expertise in digital art, he says, inspired him to launch the arresting visual collection.

Rosin from HQ Barcelona

When I caught up with the affable photographer whose Instagram username is, predictably, @terpshotz, I asked him to take me to the beginning, the genesis of his notion that shooting cannabis was indeed his artistic calling. “I started working in the film industry back in 2012, and later on I merged this art with one of my biggest passions, cannabis,” Simone says. “So, it was 2017 when I lived in Rome that the Terpshotz project started to take shape. I started by shooting some CBD flowers and a little later some homemade grown myself. The rest, well, you know.”

I tell him that I find it interesting that he chose to move to Barcelona to continue his work instead of, say, perceived European cannabis havens such as Amsterdam or Berlin. 

“Barcelona is an open-minded city,” he says. “This project allows all involved in the cannabis world to open their doors to artists and professionals alike—without the sticks in the mud or negative people getting in the way. For me, Barcelona embodied a place where the words I live by could take root: Look for something bigger than yourself and try to make a difference in the world.”

Calyx of Pancakes x Runtz, bred by Grounded Genetics

Trying to keep up with the passionate lensman is a feat unto itself as he speaks clearly and moves fluidly from topic to topic. Simone states that his mission is nothing less ambitious than to “aim to build a globally successful brand both in the digital and the physical world.” 

Firmly rooted in the Web 3.0 universe, the Terpshotz brand is Simone’s vehicle for change, functioning as a global cannabis ambassador.

“I want to build a community centered on cannabis culture through photography, thus showing the world what an amazing and undervalued flower cannabis is,” he says. “Nothing less will do.”

I wonder out loud how conscious Simone was about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) at the inception of his project and how NFTs are affecting the project now. “We’re all about NFTs, are you kidding?” he says excitedly. “The difference lies in the connection between digital and traditional photography, bringing an added value to each and every holder. For each Terpshotz NFT purchased, for instance, you can reclaim the physical copy of the shot—printed on methacrylate acrylic—and it’s dispatched directly to the holder’s mansion by my team,” he says, laughing.

He continues, clearly energized by the topic at hand. “One of the ways we separate our experience from other NFTs in the cannabis space is by selecting Ethereum blockchain to host Terpshotz NFTs,” he says. “We do this for two main reasons: to bring my artwork to the widest possible audience who, at this time, sees the mainstream photography on inferior blockchains; and secondly, in protecting my customers as it relates to the smart-contract safety, which currently is only granted by Ethereum. No other blockchain can offer that—and that’s a big deal.”

Freshly pressed rosin from La Kalada

As we begin to wrap up, Simone reveals that though very pleased to be in Barcelona at the moment, he’s excited to be speaking with a US-based media enterprise. It turns out, Simone’s a fan of the red, white and blue.

“My biggest professional inspiration in the cannabis industry came from the US,” he says, as a smile washes over his face. “I’ve also been lucky enough to work on several American film productions where I learned a lot. Here’s the thing, most of the American people I’ve met share my same passions—cannabis, for starters—and this naturally pushes me to grow as an artist.”

I told you the man was happy.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Mila Jansen, Hash Queen

We love a rebellious woman in charge, especially when she exudes love for people, our planet and our favorite plant. Mila Jansen, Hash Queen, wasn’t crowned cannabis royalty at birth. She earned that name for herself through years of bold and dedicated work as a mother and entrepreneur—and one big idea that shaped the future of hash-making: the Pollinator.

The Pollinator was the first-ever mechanical way to separate trichomes from the rest of the plant matter, a necessary step in hash-making. “I tell you,” Jansen says, “the idea of the Pollinator came in a flash; the running of the business has taken a lot of my time ever since.”

Jansen, as her royal sobriquet would suggest, is all about hash. In the late ’80s, after learning about hash-making from her world travels, she moved to Amsterdam and started growing cannabis to support her four children as a single mother.

Jansen in The Netherlands in 1967.

There were two problems with this: One, she knew growing weed was dangerous at that time and wondered what would happen to her children if she got busted. And two, sifting dried, crushed flowers over a screen took a long time to produce enough hashish even for one joint.

The realization first came in 1994 while Jansen was watching clothes spin in a dryer. “I noticed how the clothes tumbled in a similar way that I tumbled my dried flowers,” she says. “It took just one moment to put two-and-two together.”

The Hash Queen in 1968.

Not only had she created a unique and valuable invention in the Pollinator, but also a safer, legal business for supporting her family. But she didn’t stop there. Today, the Pollinator is sold globally, along with a few other products dreamed up by the Hash Queen: the Ice-O-Lator (a water ice trichome separation system) and the Bubbleator (the machine that quickens use of the Ice-O-Lator system).

In 2018, Jansen published Mila: How I Became the Hash Queen, an autobiography detailing her incredibly gripping story. From living in a home for single mothers to becoming a seamstress in the Dutch fashion scene, to sending hashish from India to Europe in hollowed-out books, Jansen was always making daring and innovative moves that ultimately led to her lasting legacy in the cannabis industry. “Anything you do for a number of years, you’ll most likely be an expert,” she says. “So, it better be something you love.”

I caught up with the Queen in a peaceful place in her busy life, sitting on her Amsterdam veranda, overlooking her small city garden of green shade plants, the roses smiling back at her. Jansen’s family has taken on much of the day-to-day business work. Her oldest son is the manager, and her daughter runs her popular @Milahashqueen Instagram account, which she says is the best way for people to keep up with her cannabis endeavors.

Mila Jansen smoking at home

Her life speeds up for events such as Dab-A-Doo (a cannabinoid extraction competition she organizes at Cannabis Cup) and the occasional cannabis expo. In June, she traveled to Lisbon for the CannaPortugal Expo where she received the prestigious Global Award for Legalization.

The Queen and I end our conversation with her hope that people take care of our planet and live happy and healthy lives. Jansen says she dreams of designing a bungalow with a wood and hempcrete frame, the walls plastered with loam, in the middle of a garden full of fruit trees and organic vegetables—a haven for herself and the birds, insects, butterflies, frogs and other creatures around her. And she wants the world to move faster toward legalization. “I’ve been waiting for 58 years!” the Hash Queen says. “Slowly, it seems to be happening—just too slow.”

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Flying High at HQ Barcelona

Although the legalization of marijuana has grown into a global movement, advances are being made one step at a time. Each country must wrestle with cannabis reform in the context of its own unique culture and history with the drug and its prohibition. Signs of progress, however, are appearing with increasing frequency.

Germany, Europe’s most populous country, is decidedly on the path to legalization, perhaps as soon as this year. Thailand has taken a lead on the issue in Asia, and in 2021, Argentina legalized hemp and cannabis for medical and industrial uses, continuing the progress spearheaded in Latin America made by Uruguay when it legalized cannabis in 2013.

In Spain, constitutional rulings have led to the de facto decriminalization of marijuana possession and cultivation for personal use, although commercial cannabis production and sales remain against the law. But the legal-grey area created by a lack of regulation has spawned a healthy community of cannabis clubs throughout Spain, particularly in Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous region of Catalunya. Operated on a strictly nonprofit basis, the clubs give their members a place to purchase and consume cannabis while they socialize with friends.

One of the city’s most famous clubs, HQ Barcelona, can be found in the Eixample neighborhood near the city center. Best known as the site of the basilica La Sagrada Familia, the as-yet-unfinished masterpiece of art nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí, the area is also home to posh boutiques and hip restaurants. A few blocks south of the Passeig de Gràcia and another Gaudí gem, the Modernista building known as the Casa Milà, HQ Barcelona welcomes members to the club with music, activities and a selection of cannabis products including flower, hash and other concentrates.

David Madilyan, the president and founder of HQ Barcelona, is originally from Moscow, where he was born during the era of the Soviet Union. The son of Armenian parents, he has lived in Europe, Asia and North America. For the last 22 years, however, Madilyan’s home has been Spain, where he lives with his wife and children.

“Barcelona is my place under the sun, that’s for sure,” he says.

David Madilyan and DJ ZEACK at HQ Barcelona
David Madilyan and DJ ZEACK at an anniversary party at the club.

Madilyan has been a cannabis consumer since his college days in Moscow with dreams of creating a consumption lounge. “I’m a smoker,” he says, with a smile in his voice. “I’m a heavy hitter.” He has also been deeply ingrained in the underground industry, “moving a lot of weed” in Europe and beyond. Moreover, he was involved in the nightlife party scene, but as he matured, he longed for a spot where he could hang out and chill while the sun was still up.

“Why don’t we have a daytime club, instead of a nighttime club?” he remembers asking his friends in Moscow during the late 1990s. That was when he decided that one day, he’d open a club along the lines of the famed coffee shops of Amsterdam. Fast forward to 2012, when Madilyan had been living in Spain for a decade. After leaving the country for a year for a sabbatical in Bali, he returned to Barcelona for business. While back in his home city, a friend invited him to one of Barcelona’s cannabis clubs for the first time. 

It was an experience he had a hard time believing, even as he watched it with his very own eyes.

“I was there just smoking, and it was crazy,” he remembers. “I was like ‘what the fuck is actually happening?!’”

Almost immediately, Madilyan decided that the time had finally come for him to open his own cannabis club. After going back to Bali to tie up loose ends and end his residency there, he returned to Barcelona in 2013 and started making plans. “It was all a dream, and I was chasing my dream,” he says.

Madilyan went to work, hiring lawyers to tackle the paperwork and substantial red tape. At the same time, he began scouting locations and started the creative work of envisioning and designing the club and how it would work.

“We can open a lounge, we can open a space and we can open a brand—all together,” he remembers thinking as he considered the possibilities. “It was like the whole realization of my life in the weed industry as I always wanted it. I always wanted to create a space where people could meet each other, smoke and chill.”

The result is HQ Barcelona, which opened in 2014. Keeping with the peculiarities of Barcelona’s grey market for cannabis, the club isn’t a retail cannabis dispensary as many have come to know in the US. But after joining, members have access to a wide variety of cannabis products to purchase for onsite consumption.

“HQ is a private smokers club,” he says. “It’s a social club.”

HQ Barcelona cannabis club employees
HQ Barcelona employees react during at the same party.

Unlike some clubs that can be cramped and smoky, HQ Barcelona boasts more than 4,300 square feet of space for members to stretch out and get comfortable or participate in activities. High ceilings (15 feet) are capped by skylights to let in natural light, and an effective ventilation system keeps the air free of smoke to protect members’ eyes and lungs.

Membership in the club is by referral from current members to comply with requirements that cannabis clubs not be open to the public. But that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to join in the fun. Madilyan says that members of the cannabis community who become friends of the club are likely to be invited to join.

While enjoying cannabis with friends is the main attraction at HQ Barcelona (the HQ stands for, naturally, hempquarters), the club also hosts activities and entertainment, including live music, DJs, exhibits and athletic competitions. For many members, the club is the focal point of their social life, forming “a close-knit community of people who live in Barcelona or visit the city frequently,” Madilyan says.

HQ Barcelona has been offering a festive and welcoming spot for cannabis lovers for nearly a decade now. In that time, the club hasn’t had even one fight on the premises, Madilyan proudly shares. Looking at the bigger picture, however, Barcelona’s cannabis club scene has experienced the ups and downs that often come with grey markets. In the early months of 2022, city officials and law enforcement doubled down on enforcement of the clubs with a series of raids and heightened inspections.

“We’re under big pressure from police and the City Hall of Barcelona,” he says.

Madilyan looks forward to a time when Spain joins the growing league of nations that are truly legalizing cannabis, including regulated production and sales. But he acknowledges that as a nation that’s more conservative than many, his adopted home is unlikely to take the lead on reform any time soon.

“We’re in Spain,” he says. “It’s a very Catholic country.”’

HQ Barcelona cannabis counter

While the political will to legalize cannabis in Spain continues to build, Madilyan plans to continue serving his city’s weed community through HQ Barcelona. Eventually, he believes that lawmakers will realize that the cannabis legalization movement is too big to contain to private clubs.

“We really want them to understand that this shit is global,” Madilyan says with conviction. The man’s not wrong.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Warren Bobrow’s Craft Cannabis Cocktails

Picture a musical about two young people in love but being together in the real world turns out to be more complicated. Clad in a pink poodle skirt and a white button-up is the craft cocktail, a positive darling of the food and drink world. In walks cannabis, the misunderstood Schedule I bad boy in a rolled-up black T-shirt, a joint behind his ear and a leather jacket tossed over his shoulder. 

Will these two ever share a glass? Will society let them?

The truth is, these two main characters are great together, no matter what federal law says. Just ask famed master mixologist and cannabis writer, Warren Bobrow, who wrote the insanely comprehensive Cannabis Cocktails Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations.

The book opens with some background on our Mr. Misunderstood, who was once a healing herb just like any other. But the cannabis plant has been held back by a few sadistic school principals—namely the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act and the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Today, cannabis is still trying to shed the stigma created by politicians since Prohibition, with some state-by-state success since the 1970s. California is one of those states that has legalized cannabis for adult use—and it’s the most populous state in the country.

This bodes well for Bobrow, who, when he isn’t writing, runs California-based Klaus Cannabis-Infused Beverages. The company sells ready-to-drink THC-infused, terpene-forward canned mocktails (state regulations don’t yet allow edible cannabis products as alcoholic beverages). The emulsifying technology he uses for these drinks, from a company called Vertosa, is only in California right now, and Klaus is only licensed for sale in the state.

But before the Nanogen technology Vertosa uses even existed, Bobrow’s cannabis cocktail book introduced 75 delicious recipes—many of which allow our star-crossed lovers, the craft cocktail and cannabis, to be together at last. Take the Mezzrole Cocktail, for example, a Manhattan-style drink made with cannabis-infused sweet vermouth.

The book teaches readers how to decarb cannabis at home to safely make pantry items, including tinctures, syrups and shrubs. Decarboxylation was a very new concept to most at the time the book was published (2016), and though Bobrow didn’t invent it, he’s known for perfecting the process.

Bobrow still sees cannabis—good old THC—as an herb, with the ability to heal and make you feel good. He doesn’t bother with CBD, which he likens to “snake oil.” “It’s sold in gas stations,” he says, remaining skeptical that it does anything good or bad. “There’s no feeling in it.”

The slogan for his business is “Klaus cares,” Bobrow says, because “he really does care; he cares about what you put in your body.” (Oh, did I forget to mention the eight-inch-tall face of the company, Klaus the Soused Gnome?) That’s why Klaus makes drinks that are only 16 calories, and six-tenths of a gram of sugar. Someone who cares this much has taken the time to get to know what cannabis has to offer and is keeping that summer romance with craft cocktails alive.

The Mezzrole Cocktail

 I’m a huge fan of Manhattan-style cocktails; they make great aperitifs. This drink is named after Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a jazz musician who lived in New York City’s Harlem in the 1920s. And, as Mezz himself would’ve known, the term for a well-rolled cannabis cigarette was a “mezzrole”—so I just had to commemorate both man and medicine in this elegant cocktail.

It combines cannabis-infused sweet vermouth, handmade cocktail cherries and quality bourbon into a small, but well-formed libation that’s deeply healing. When you’re infusing your vermouth, consider choosing a Sativa-Indica hybrid strain called Cherry Pie. It’s redolent of sweet and sour cherries, and it complements the toasty, oaky flavors inherent in the liquors. As for making crushed ice, it’s best to place the ice in a Lewis bag—a heavy canvas bag that’s made for the job—before whacking it with a wooden mallet or rolling pin.

The Mezzrole Cocktail is a Manhattan-style drink made with cannabis-infused sweet vermouth.


  • 4-6 greenish cocktail cherries
  • 1/2oz (15ml) cannabis-infused vermouth
  • Handful of crushed ice
  • 1oz (15ml) bourbon whiskey
  • Aromatic bitters


Muddle the Greenish Cocktail Cherries with a wooden muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon, then top with the vermouth. Continue to muddle for 30 seconds to combine the flavors. Cover with the crushed ice. Top with the bourbon, then dot with aromatic bitters.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Back From the Brink

“This is silly,” I remember saying out loud while hitting a joint in Barcelona. It was six or seven years ago, and I had just joined  my first cannabis club in the city, Círculo.

It’s still open near my friend Lucy’s apartment in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood. These days, it feels quaint, a bit dated—already a relic of its time. But back then, it was a genuine revelation. 

“We can just light joints here?” I remember thinking. “We’re allowed to do that inside?”

The answer was, mostly, “yes,” even though cannabis wasn’t technically legal for medical or adult-use in Spain. Today, Barcelona is home to some 225 members-only cannabis lounges called asociaciones (associations), which exist in a legal grey area. Back in 2000, the clubs started popping up as a result of a now-lauded legal analysis, which revealed that in the context of existing Spanish legislation, asociaciones could exist in which members would be able to obtain cannabis for personal use. Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that possession of any size wasn’t illegal if it was for personal use or part of a nonprofit.

At the time, a smattering of nonprofit asociaciones already operated private cannabis clubs in Spain. Their framework spread to other countries, serving as an early model for how it could be done. The post-2000 wave of clubs expanded on this model and was centered in Barcelona, which had the friendliest regional government toward cannabis.  Today, all of Spain’s asociaciones are set up as nonprofits, operating within the margins of that ruling.

Basically, it’s legal to smoke weed in Spain, especially for those on private property. Growing for personal use is permitted, as is the sale of seeds, but selling and buying is strictly prohibido. This means that in the clubs, payments are “gifts” or “donations,” y’know, because it’s a nonprofit. The words “money,” “buy,” “sell” aren’t allowed. Everything is an exchange or otherwise freely given. One donates at the front desk after entering in a likely unmarked door from the street. Credits are added to a key fob or card, which is then scanned inside the club. There’s no commerce. At least that’s the theory. 

The reality is that, like so many other rules in Spain, the cannabis laws aren’t enforced with a heavy hand. Many clubs, which are only supposed to accept Spanish residents as members will be all too happy to accept a tourist’s Airbnb or hotel address as well.

They’re also incredibly patient but firm with tourists, like me, who momentarily forget the rules only to blurt out that they’re buying fat California nugs that mysteriously popped up in a nonprofit cannabis club on the Mediterranean coast. 

“Hey, no!” said Maria José, a budtender from Argentina. She gingerly waved her finger in my face while her eyes widened. I was out of practice—I spent the first two COVID-19 years in California, where I live, blissfully buying weed and talking about it openly. The vibe in Barcelona was chill, as it always was, but that doesn’t make cannabis actually legal. Discretion still trades at a premium in this beautiful country, even if weed prices have become more reasonable while quality has improved.

Author Jackie Bryant sits at a cannabis club in Barcelona.

In March 2022, I decided I’d visit as many clubs in Barcelona as my wallet would allow. Thanks to the global pandemic and my divorce, I hadn’t been to Barcelona since November 2019. I was itching to not only visit the city, but also to check out the first Spannabis, Europe’s most important cannaconference, in three years and experience this dynamic city’s club, cultivation and hash scene. I wanted to visit Terps Army, which is a Barcelona outpost of the famed Amsterdam coffee shop, as well as Cookies, which is an official location of the California cannabrand started by San Francisco rapper and entrepreneur Berner.

I reasoned that visiting at least three or four more was reasonable for a week-long visit. The membership fees at the asociaciones vary, especially depending on location and clientele. Though Círculo, my mainstay club, is in a touristy part of town, it’s older and dingier than its newer counterparts. Its membership is an affordable 20 euro per year. HQ, in the also touristy L’Eixample neighborhood, clocks in at 50 euro, though it’s decidedly more upscale and offers much better weed. Still, it was clear that different subcultures within this already mostly underground scene were emerging. A type of choose-your-own-adventure, but for cannabis.

“Things have really blown up here,” I said to Soklak, a French street artist and rapper who’s also the creative director of CRTFD, a California-born cannabis lifestyle brand that operates clubs in Europe, including Barcelona. “It feels different, even just since COVID hit.”

“It’s true, things really have changed,” Soklak said, taking a puff of a long spliff he had just rolled and exhaling into the air above him. “It’s been recent, too.”

Círculo is a cannabis club in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood.

Soklak’s tall, thin and, to me, looked like a casually dressed Daniel Craig. Quiet and thoughtful, he lit up when I was able to connect the street art on display in the club with the city’s wider graffiti, skate and anarchist culture that churned in Barcelona’s subculture for years. The elements were interwoven but distinct and cannabis coursed through all of it. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here,” he said. “Bring together art and cannabis culture, because they naturally belong together.”

Soklak explained that even as culture capitals such as Paris stayed “dead” as far as their attitude toward cannabis, and weed-friendly destinations such as Amsterdam continued to crack down on gains made in legal cannabis sales and consumption, Barcelona is well positioned to take advantage given its chill attitude and second-to-none club culture allowing the city to take over as the top European destination for cannabis aficionados.

Add to that a perfect perch on the Mediterranean Sea, as well as national access to the African continent at Gibraltar, which sits at the border with the robust cannabis-producing Morocco, and there’s a supply chain from seed-to-sale ready to explode. A healthy supply also comes in from the US, plus, there are state-of-the-art indoor grows in Catalonia producing bud that would make any American do a double-take.

Other visiting US residents, apart from me, also noticed how much things had changed in recent years. Nathaniel Pennington, head of the legendary Humboldt Seed Company, summed it up at the Spannabis conference by telling me, “Business is good. Very good. I mean, we have employees here!” while motioning to some of his Barcelona-based staff members.

He’s right. The point stands on its own.

Back at the asociaciones, Roger Volodarsky, CEO of electronic hash gear maker Puffco, was downright giddy looking around at the crowds inside the clubs. For starters, they were made up of mostly men, which he acknowledged would be nice if it changed, but we agreed it wasn’t likely to happen any time soon. Still, a huge shift was happening among these men. A bunch of them were dabbing—something that was genuinely quite rare to see on any given day in any club in Barcelona, even just a few years ago.

Barcelona streets

Hash culture is big in Barcelona, but traditionally so, with big bricks and temple balls dominating. Apart from that, flower is king, but often more expensive or in shorter supply, so spliffs with tobacco are popular, too.

Dabs—the way we experience them in the US, in particular—are brand new territory. Puffco hasn’t made its big push into Europe quite yet, but Volodarsky told me that was about to change.

“Europe has loved hash for a really long time, but this new version of hash centered around water hash, rosin and BHO that’s become popular in the US, has really started to take off in Europe,” Volodarsky said while we chatted in HQ Barcelona, enjoying joints. 

Volodarsky says that, since it’s still early days, the old dab tools of nails, quartz bangers and torches is how it’s done. Obviously, he sees a huge opportunity for his business. “This market is being primed for the Puffco Peak,” he told me while a Fidels hash hole joint was passed back and forth. Fidel sat just to our right, eclipsed by a low-hanging hash haze.

Elsewhere in the city, things were buzzing, albeit quietly. Tourism has collapsed since the onset of the pandemic, which depressed the local economy. Barcelona has a long, fraught history with its visiting vacationers who have simultaneously filled the city’s coffers while displacing residents and ushering in other social ills. Cannabis stepped in where COVID-19 created room. Spain’s grey-legal cannabis industry is now thriving due to low risk of serious jail time and good profit margins (thanks to what criminalization risk still exists); a mostly cannabis-tolerant population; demand elsewhere in Europe and growing intra-European travel.

I’m so glad beautiful Barcelona gave me so many reasons to happily return to the land of my not-so-distant past.

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