Q&A: Jim Belushi Wants to Save the World

To watch Jim Belushi laugh without abandon is to see the best of America on his joyful face, an America that’s unaffected by divisions or dangers at every turn: We see a deeply happy version of our next door neighbor. And it’s a welcome sight to be sure.

Jim Belushi is puffing on a cigar as he cruises through Southwest Oregon, taking his time on a late summer afternoon to talk fame, pain and cannabis from his inconspicuous-looking sedan. His royal blue polo shirt and black-framed glasses speak to a humility that one would think would be far-fetched from a man whose long career in the public eye has made him a household name.

Appearing in dozens of films including “About Last Night…,” “Trading Places” and “Red Heat,” and starring and executive producing the ratings juggernaut TV sitcom, “According To Jim,” Belushi says he’s never been happier than at this very moment in his nearly seven decades on the planet. Not because of anything he’s done in Hollywood, or any big business deals he’s made. This Belushi 2.0 is reveling in his new passionate relationship, a profound and inspiring one, with cannabis.

The plain-spoken celebrity used the plant back in the day, he says, but he’s only recently been able to truly embrace it. The 93-acre Belushi’s Farm in southwest Oregon employs 15 people and will produce 1,600 pounds of flower this year. And it’s all just to spread medicine to people who have waited their entire lives to replace their prescriptions. Belushi has been such a welcome presence in Oregon that the second season of his hit Discovery Channel show, “Growing Belushi,” is set to premiere at the end of the year. The Belushi good vibes just keep rolling.

“I measure success by the letters and the tweets that I get from people who say our cannabis has helped them,” Belushi says when asked what success looks like to him now. “I got my ‘According To Jim’ bucks, so as long as I break even, I’m satisfied.”

Belushi, whose brilliant older brother John tragically died of a drug overdose at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles back in 1982, shares stories of people whose lives he’s been able to impact and celebrates the importance of the many cannabis trailblazers who came before him. Some of those trailblazers are still in prison, he points out, his frustration evident. That’s why Belushi supports the non-profit Last Prisoner Project, an organization that helps free people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes during the more than eight decades of cannabis prohibition.

But, for the better part of the hour I spent with the smart, witty Chicago native, he was in the mood to communicate. A few minutes into our convo, Belushi is amazingly comparing the soulful, feminine energy he feels from his pot plants to an oracle that speaks to Apollo and Zeus in Greek mythology. Personally, I can’t get enough — his passion is undeniable, and the urgency he feels to reach more and more people who need help is palpable. Belushi, as if on cue, then reveals how he even plays his harmonica to his beloved plants, since they’re clearly listening and celebrating right along with him. I believe him.

But we had so much more to discuss and discover.

What makes your marijuana different from the dozens and dozens of other competitors you have in Oregon?

I look at it like the film industry. There are a lot of great movies out there. You go to a movie and it’s great, and you and your girl want to go to another movie because you had a good experience.

Good cannabis makes people want to have more good experiences, so they should try everybody’s product. Ours is right up there in the Oregon market as being very, very good weed. We have great THC values, but more importantly we have tremendous terpene values.

I have an excellent grower and we’re growing with natural nutrients. I’m flushing their irrigation out two weeks before so it’s a perfect white ash. I’m keeping the soil at 64 degrees so the nutrients will be absorbed into the roots. We’ve got light-dep greenhouses, so we protect the growing environment from the aphids and the mold and russet mites. And we also have that beautiful southern Oregon soil.

How does your cannabis stand out, then, like a good film would?

That’s a very good question and it’s one of those questions where I cannot give you certain things [Laughs]. We do have some secret moves that other growers don’t have and that we covet.

We just went over to Advanced Nutrients, which has been really good. And we just built two new greenhouses by Gro-Tec with really great high ceilings. We changed to Fohse LED lights, which creates about 30 percent more penetration into the plants when we need to augment the light if it’s cloudy, in order to keep the ‘lumes up to close to 1100 (watts). It ensures there’s consistency in the plant. We supplement with (Medford, Oregon-based) Rogue Soil, which is packed with great natural nutrients and gives our plants a great boost and great color.

Have you ever been happier than you are at this very moment?

I’ve done a lot of personal work, and it really started when I bought this farm, along the Rogue River, the middle of the spiritual vortex between Mount McGlothlin and Table Rock. There was a Native American vortex of spirituality here and now we’ve brought in this spiritual plant.

Here’s the thing, I do believe this plant has changed me. Being alongside of it, caring for it and loving it. I play my harmonica for these girls. The relationship with these plants has changed me. They’ve enlightened me and made me a better person. So, I have to say, yes, I’m probably in the best place that I’ve ever been, and I attribute it all to, like, starting a relationship with this old beautiful feminine energy. The Oracle is a feminine creature that tells Apollo and Zeus what to do. Well, the Oracle on my farm are these plants, and let’s just say we treat them like that.

What’s the extent of your involvement on your farm?

I collaborate with my grower, Anthony Anaya. I’ve gone through three growers, and I finally found a winner with Anthony. He’s like Elvis Presley! [Laughs] He’s been in the industry for 15 years in Oregon and he knows his stuff. I collaborate with him; I collaborate with Jeremy and my cousin Chris. It’s like, you can’t do a movie or a show by yourself. You need directors, producers, writers, prop people and cameramen.

Can you describe some of the most surprising challenges you’ve faced as a cannabis grower that perhaps you weren’t expecting?

I wasn’t expecting the aphids, mites, gophers, squirrels, deer and mold. They never tell you that stuff when you put your money out and invest in this industry. Wow! We lost 300 pounds last year to mold alone. That’s why I’ve made recent shifts in our products. It helps us control the environment enough to eradicate pests and mold while using natural remedies. 

How have the wildfires in the area and record heat over the past couple summers affected your ability to grow cannabis?

They’ve affected the employees, but not the plants. It gets very smoky, and we make everyone wear masks for protection. The heat during that time is at around 115°F — we keep the plants hydrated, so they can survive that just fine. During the last fire, the employees started working at six in the morning and left early before the main heat of the day.

Is it really true that Dan Aykroyd’s comment about your late brother John potentially being alive today had he used cannabis instead of other substances played a role in inspiring you to get involved in pot?

Absolutely! Danny was a pothead, but he didn’t mess with other drugs. I’m not saying John didn’t use cannabis, but I still think John’s stuff possibly came from other things like CTE from playing football. Look, we have 33,000 veterans committing suicide a year. PTSD — what it does to these men and these women — the scarring and the traumas: I really think cannabis can help relieve some of their trauma and help them make better decisions.

I once met a veteran in a dispensary parking lot. I looked at him and I said, “are you alright?” He said “No, I was a medic in Iraq. I saw things happen to the human body that nobody should ever see.” He said doctors gave him OxyContin and he just couldn’t do it. But cannabis got him off OxyContin. And he tells me, “Your Black Diamond OG strain allows me to talk to my wife and talk to my children and sleep.” He hugged me and I said, “Hey man, I didn’t make this.” He says “No, but you’re the steward.”

That moment became a paradigm shift in my relationship with our industry. So, yeah, I’m chasing the medicine. The magic of the medicine.

Jim Belushi and Dan Ackroyd perform at a Last Prisoners Project event in Las Vegas. PHOTO Gracie Malley

The arc of your life has been fascinating — from juvenile probation and being in trouble as a kid to having a big Hollywood career and now just narrowly escaping the area’s massive wildfires. You’ve been adjacent to a lot of stuff, but somehow have been able to navigate everything. Do you feel there’s someone or something watching over you?

I’m on mission from God. [Long pause] I just listen. What do you want me to say? [Pause] I just keep looking for the light, for something bigger than myself. Within our industry, it’s medicine.

Another thing that’s really big for me is the Last Prisoners Project. It’s our duty in this industry to get these men and women out of jail. They were the pioneers; they were the ones that laid on the barbed wire for us to get legalization and make a living. We got to get them out of jail, and we got to hire them within our industry.

What do you have in mind for expanding your cannabis footprint?

There’s a lot of talk going on. And right now, I’m with RedBird in Oklahoma. Then with Columbia Care, and the Green Solution in Colorado. I got a Blues Brothers ice cream brand being launched and also Blues Brothers Bhang Chocolates, which are really good.

I currently have four brands: The Blues Brothers brand, of which we have three or four different types of joints. It has a flip-top box so we can put it in a shirt sleeve. We call them Baby Blues, a little six-pack. We have the single gram joint, which we call Rocket 88. And then I have Chasing Magic, which is my secret stash and really the higher premium brand of what we grow.

And now we just released the Captain Jack joint in Oregon. Oh, and we’ve also just released Good Ugly Weed, which is really good weed.

Good Ugly Weed seems to be very on-brand for you: a little scruffy, but also lovable and powerful.

It may be ugly, but it’s good, man! [Laughs] We just put out some Good Ugly Weed at 24 percent THC. It’s a value brand and the dispensaries are just dying for it. The profit margin on it isn’t huge, but I got my comedy bucks, you know. So as long as I break even on it.

How many different strains do you grow at a time and in how many dispensaries is your product currently sold?

We have in our library around 20 different genetics. With our new Gro-Tech greenhouses, we can grow up to eight genetics at a time. With four cycles and four greenhouses, we have a lot of flexibility. 

Any plans to expand with CBD?

I just created a CBD tincture for my dog. It’s a tincture of 500 milligrams, full-spectrum, called K-9ine. And it’s only offered on my website, I’m just putting it out there for other dog lovers. And I know it works: My dog couldn’t walk for three days, but then he chased me up the stairs.

Of all the cannabis legal states. What drew you to do business in Oregon, Colorado, Oklahoma and Illinois? Was it just a matter of less barriers to entry or was there anything more?

Well, I’ve also talked to companies in California, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. In Oregon and the other states where you can be a cultivator and distribute, I’m just having better luck.

Are you trying to become the Bobby Flay of cannabis, or are you more of the Oprah? Through your show, you’re making cannabis easy for the person who has no connection to any of this.

I think I have what it takes to create competence in cannabis. There are so many people that are curious about it, and I’m trying to use “Growing Belushi” to try and bridge that curiosity and show the viewers how it’s grown, how it’s tested as well as some of the medical things that revolve around it. Also, show them, this is how you smoke a vape pen; this is how you take an edible.

Have you had to deal with any chest-pounding trolls on Twitter for being a Belushi and also championing cannabis?

No, I haven’t experienced that. But I’ll tell you why. Everybody knows somebody who’s suffering. Everybody wants to stop their relatives or their friends from suffering, and they’re curious about cannabis. I know a lot of people are targeting the youth with cannabis, but there’s a lot of interest among Baby Boomers, too.

I literally take people into a dispensary and say “Look, it’s not a mom-and-pop place; it’s not where drug dealers are hanging out. It looks like an Apple Store.” I encourage people to just try going into a dispensary and not to be frightened.

What does success look like for you now? Before, your definitions of success had to do with opening box office figures or the week-to-week Nielsen ratings of a TV show. Is this moment different because you’re in it for the long game and you’re in it to help people?

I measure success by the letters and the tweets that I get from people who say our cannabis has helped them. Another measure that I’ve already reached is breaking even on the business side of things! [Laughs] I’m investing in myself. Instead of the stock market, I’m investing in the farm.

Is “Growing Belushi” going international?

Yes, it’s an international show now. We just made a deal with a foreign distribution company that’s taking it all over the world.

Ha! So, you are becoming cannabis’ answer to Bobby Flay or Guy Fieri!

[Laughs] Guy Fieri is actually in the show! He comes to the farm, and I make my ice cream for him, my chocolate. We cook some Albanian dishes. He cooks in my backyard and we make ribs in a smoker. The episode is awesome.

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A Q&A with Matt Barnes: Former NBA Player Turned Cannabis Advocate

After 14 seasons and nine different teams, professional basketball player Matt Barnes won his first-ever championship with the 2017 Golden State Warriors. Months later, he announced his retirement. The following 4/20, a Washington Post article with the headline “‘All my best games I was medicated’: Matt Barnes on his game-day use of marijuana” is published. In it, Barnes speaks candidly about his cannabis use while in the NBA – one of the first instances of him openly sharing his story with the goal of normalizing cannabis in professional sports.

Barnes has since become one of the leading voices of professional athletes calling for the end of penalties for cannabis use while being an active player. Over the past few years, he’s planted roots in the cannabis industry by investing in his hometown of Sacramento through a dispensary called Seven Leaves. He also serves as a senior advisor to Eaze’s minority-focused cannabis business incubator, Momentum.

As we closed in on 2020, Matt joined us from his home in Los Angeles for a Zoom call where he shared his journey as a professional athlete and cannabis advocate, along with his hope for reform under new government leadership.

Cannabis Now: How have you and your family been holding up during the pandemic?

Matt Barnes: Since I was 18, this is the first time I’ve gotten to sit down. I went to UCLA in 1998, and ever since, I’ve been traveling the world to play basketball. Fortunately, I was able to play 15 years, but then I retired and went right into media. I’m working for ESPN and Showtime, traveling all around the country. Though it’s unfortunate circumstances, the pandemic has allowed me to finally sit my ass home. I do my podcast from home, I do ESPN from home, and I get to spend more time with my kids. I’m a single father of three; my twins just turned twelve, my youngest guy [turned] two on December 7. I’m getting to stay home and do the day-to-day things that I retired to do, that I hadn’t been able to do before. We’ve been blessed.

CN: You have an incredible podcast, All the Smoke, where you and fellow retired NBA player Stephen Jackson interview professional athletes and coaches. Given the name of the podcast, how often would you say cannabis comes up? Are there any memorable guests who stand out when it comes to their cannabis use?

We’ve interviewed guys who are still playing that were a little hesitant talking about it, but you know, we do stuff off the camera. One person who comes to mind is The Godfather for my generation: Snoop. It’s been great to talk to him about the plant and seeing his evolution. He came in as someone that was focusing on just getting high, and I’ve been talking to him more about explaining to the world why [he] uses [cannabis]. That’s been my goal when I talk to my colleagues or former athletes about cannabis – I always encourage people to tell their stories.

Just like the next person, I enjoy getting high, but there’s a lot of benefits from it, and I think that’s important when pushing forward a message of nationwide legalization – to erase the old stigmas of the high component and explain the beneficial uses of cannabis. It’s been a fun journey post-career, kind of being a shield for the guys in the league. I’m one of a handful of people that current [NBA] players look to for questions when it comes to using cannabis or not.

CN: What was your path to becoming this cannabis guru for professional athletes?

I was a product of the ’80s. My parents were functioning drug addicts. I saw a lot of different stuff when I was younger, and I remember one of the things I enjoyed smelling at a young age was cannabis. My parents also smoked cigarettes, and I used to hate the smell of those, but there was a different smell when my dad would light that weed up at the end of the day.

At the age of 14, I tried it. My first experience was terrible; I got a headache and passed out. But I wasn’t a quitter – I jumped right back on the horse and have been using it religiously for the past 26 years. Through high school, UCLA, my entire professional career, it’s been there for me…It’s always mellowed me out, made me more levelheaded, helped with sleep, stress, and the anti-inflammatory components help a lot as well. I played 15 years, I won a championship, and I think my story will help erase that stigma of people thinking it’s a gateway drug.  

CN: Can you talk a little bit about the drug testing in the NBA and what that was like for you when you were in the league?

In the NBA, they give you three strikes for drugs in general. I don’t think cannabis should be called a drug anymore, but it’s still called a drug in the NBA. I had 2.75 strikes in about 15 years. I got caught twice. If you think you’re going to fail, you are allowed to call the drug program and admit yourself willingly. I did that twice even though they are supposed to allow it once. The third strike is suspension for five days, which is a lot of money missed, and it becomes public record. Luckily, I avoided that in my career.

Something interesting in going through the drug program a few times was talking to the guys who run it about how many players were in for cannabis alone. There are over 400 players in the NBA, and at the time I was in [the program], there were over 200 players in just for weed. It’s ridiculous ‘cause the league says they want what’s best for the players, but they’re pumping us full of opioids that are gonna mask one problem and cause another. Then they want to suspend us, fine us and maybe cost us our jobs over consuming cannabis. That’s why myself, Al Harrington and some other athletes are pushing the needle on the NBA. We understand how beneficial this plant is.

If [the league] would do their research, which they are doing now, they’ll find they can use [cannabis] to prolong athlete’s careers. Normally the NBA is at the forefront of all issues, but we’re actually last right now when it comes to the use of cannabis or CBD. Hockey, major league baseball and even the NFL are kind of rewriting their policies when it comes to this, but I think we’ll be catching up shortly.

CN: You have said that you used cannabis while playing in the NBA. Did you use it for stress relief, for physical ailments or both?

At the beginning, it was psychological. I started [using cannabis] at 14 or 15 years old, and I had a really tough childhood – a lot of violence, drugs and abuse. Cannabis allowed me to escape, to focus, to sleep at night peacefully. So, in the beginning, it was more psychological. As I got older, my body was getting beat up with playing in the NBA, so I needed the relief component as well.

I risked a lot smoking it throughout my career, but there was no other outlet for me. People often don’t understand how mental this game is. If you’re fortunate enough to make it in the NBA, you’re a one percenter. Then the mental approach of the game kicks in – it’s really a mental space and a mental game. Cannabis always helped me control the mental side, and this is why I’m a huge advocate.

CN: Kind of like your NBA career, it’s hard to keep track of all the things you’ve accomplished while working in the cannabis industry – there have been so many! Can you give us a run-down of some favorite projects/ventures?

MB: My first thing is advocacy. The second I retired, I started speaking [about cannabis]. I was able to executive produce a piece for Bleacher Report called B/R x 4/20, and it was the first time you ever saw retired NBA and NFL players smoking cannabis on television, telling the world why [they] used it. I was kind of worried about how the world was gonna take to professional athletes on TV smoking weed, but it was nothing but positivity. That paved the way for me to freely speak for it.

I teamed up with UCLA for a little bit to work on their cannabis research program. I’m a part owner of Seven Leaves, which is a cannabis company in my hometown of Sacramento. We’re growing under 3,000 lights right now and really making a splash in the space. I teamed up with Eaze and have an advisory role on their Momentum Program, helping get into the social equity space and allowing people of color to have an equal opportunity. If you look at the numbers, there are only about 3 percent people of color in the cannabis space, which is terrible in my opinion. I’m proud to say I’m really helping push this movement forward.

The NBA vet talks cannabis use in the league, pushing Biden on the ’94 crime bill, and being a cannabis advocate and father.
CN: How do you feel about the equity programs that are in place now. Do you think that they’re effective at all, or do they still have a long way to go?

MB: It’s a lot to handle. Starting them was the right thing to do, but starting and actually finishing are two different things. I think there’s plenty that needs to be learned in the process. You are giving people who have never run or owned a business the opportunity to compete in a very competitive market. That’s why I think a lot of the minority [business owners] don’t last – because our people don’t have expertise in running businesses overall. I think there should be programs that allow [people of color] to be part of [the industry] but also educate them, which I think is a huge part of anyone’s success. The Momentum Program through Eaze is educating [people], and there’s a handful of other programs out there that are teaching people the ropes, so when they get in a position to secure licensing and try to go vertical in their business, they’re fully equipped.

CN: If you could pick one thing to change about the cannabis industry right now, what would it be?

MB: Just equal footing for minorities. That’s it. Like I’ve said, I think we were affected most by [the War on Drugs] but are still last in line. We missed prohibition, we missed the Gold Rush, and we can’t miss this Green Rush. That is my goal coming into this space – to continue to educate people, create opportunities and jobs and situations for people of color to excel in. We’ve been directly affected by this the most – losing our dads, our brothers, our sisters, our aunts, uncles, grandparents either to death or jail because of this plant. We need our reparations for this.

CN: This past year, with the Black Lives Matter movement breaking through to the mainstream, we saw many companies worldwide making statements in support of Black lives like never before. Were you observing the cannabis industry’s response, and do you think they handled it well compared to other industries?

MB: I think it’s important for all industries to do something. Now we’ve pulled back the blanket of how nasty this country has been at times and still can be. I think businesses want to align themselves with our people and in our communities, but I think what is important – and a lot of businesses miss the boat with this – is they’re trying to fix stuff in our communities with nobody from our communities guiding them. That’s why I think it’s important for myself to be a part of this movement.

For example, if you have no idea what my community is like, or what Compton is like, or the Chicago ghettos, how can you effectively help? Sometimes money is thrown at the biggest name or the biggest corporation, and they may not actually be doing the best work for those communities. It takes a little bit of due diligence; these companies need to be doing their homework.

CN: We saw a video of you bringing that sentiment to the national stage when you were pushing Biden about the controversial 1994 crime bill*. What was that moment like, and how did you feel about his response?

MB: The moment was surreal. I wasn’t gung-ho about Biden and Harris because with both of their track records, they’ve done a lot of damage in our communities. But I got the opportunity to go out there and talk to him and meet him, speak for him at a rally and go to some voting polls. He wanted minorities to vote for him, and the first thing that people are going to bring up is the crime bill. Hearing him break down the crime bill, describing the parts that he was against while understanding that he couldn’t get everything that he wanted, he went with what was presented after there was pushback – because we needed something at that time. I’m not saying the crime bill was the answer, but we needed something. The government put guns and drugs in the hood in the early ‘80s. I was just excited at the opportunity to get to talk to [Biden], and I really felt like we helped him get in office. Now our job is to hold him and Kamala Harris accountable.

*The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, now known as the 1994 crime bill, gave billions in funding to state prisons and police while disenfranchising people of color.

CN: Do you think decriminalization and adult-legalization will continue to be led by the states, or will the Biden-Harris administration bring about federal cannabis laws?

MB: I’m hoping state-by-state [cannabis legislation] continues, but it would be great to get a federal overhaul and just legalize it. Once we figure out a sweet point for taxation, this is going to be a huge revenue maker for all these states. Cannabis is the one thing that brings everyone together. I feel like if everyone smoked weed, the world would be a better place overall, and that’s no bullsh*t. Hopefully this plant can not only bring financial stability to states across the country, but also bring people together.

CN: Since you are a father and family man, as well as a cannabis advocate, have you had any talks about the plant with your kids?

MB: You know, we had that conversation when [my twins] were…about nine maybe? I never smoke in front of my kids, but one night I put them to sleep and went out to smoke a joint by the pool. I guess one of the boys had looked through their window and saw me smoking because they came down the next morning and said, “Dad, if you smoke cigarettes, your lungs are gonna turn black!” So, I kept it real and said, “You know how Daddy plays basketball and his back, knees and ankles hurt? When they give me medicine [for the pain], it gives me an upset stomach. And when I smoke a joint, it makes all my pain go away and helps me sleep.” One of the twins was like, “Oh, okay. Well, Dad my ankle hurts. When can I smoke?” I was like, “Oh sh*t.” [Laughs]

CN: This is for the weed nerds out there. Can you tell us what strains you’ve been into lately?

MB: I’ve been really into our homegrown strains. We have a Blue Slush at Seven Leaves that I’m really enjoying. Vovo and Bon Bons [are strains] from our facility that I’m also really enjoying. If you are in California and get a chance, check those out. Hopefully with our expansion, we can start getting them all over the country.

I don’t smoke as much anymore because I’m really busy, and I’m a father of three, but I still do have my two or three joints a day. I wake and bake; I’ll get a mid-day joint; and I’ll have one to put me to sleep, so I’m across the board as far as hybrids, sativas and indicas. It’s just kind of a way of life. Smoking has always been there for me, and it’ll always be there for me. I will continue to advocate for it, and hopefully help change some regulations in professional sports and even some laws.

The NBA halted their cannabis testing program when the 2019-2020 season resumed in order to avoid unnecessary contact due to COVID-19 concerns. This policy has continued throughout the 2020-2021 season. The NBA has not made a formal statement or confirmed if they will discontinue testing or penalize players for cannabis use.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne Talks Music’s Meditative Trip

For 30 years now, the Flaming Lips have garnered a reputation for being one of the most delightfully eccentric and psychedelic bands in American history. Yet, considering their trippy soundscapes, trippier album artwork and mind-bending forays into film and live performances, it may come as a surprise to many that frontman Wayne Coyne is not much of a cannabis consumer.

We caught up with the charming singer and songwriter on a summer afternoon, as he was busy re-painting his house, to chat about the handful of positive experience he’s enjoyed with cannabis, what he would name his own strain and more.

Cannabis Now: So, I’ve gathered that consuming cannabis isn’t exactly on the top of your regular to-do list…

Wayne Coyne: I know a lot of people who really love it. I’m all for it. But whatever the magic is, it doesn’t do that for me. I’ve had a few experiences that were wonderful, but most of them involved paranoia, anxiety — “Oh shit I forgot that I’m stoned, what am I gonna do now” kind of experiences. It’s my worrisome personality that’s not allowing me to enjoy it.

I hear you. For a long time, I really struggled to find means of consuming that didn’t make me feel like I was about to die. Especially with edibles.

You’ve had a similar experience! I think we’re very much in the same boat then. I’d like to be able to find a strain that I can rely on; something that gets me happy and feeling good every time.

I would wrongly occasionally take a hit of [frequent collaborator] Miley Cyrus’s weed, and virtually every time I did that I regretted it. Except for one time that it really worked. I had a great time, but it was by accident. It was after a long night of drinking and doing cocaine. We smoked this weed and thought we were gonna go to sleep and then it kept us awake and we were very happy and horny and I remember thinking, That’s why people smoke weed. I thought that there could be a strain that I could rely on.

If you had the chance to name that dream strain, what would it be?

There are so many bad strain names out there. Any product that mentions that it makes you horny I would never take. I’d want something useful, like Healthy Happy Cannabis, instead of something that’s trying to be wacko and psychedelic and hippie and whatever. Let’s just call this what it’s gonna do and not give it any exaggerated flavor.

Speaking of flavors, I was curious about the live version of ‘The Soft Bulletin’ that you guys released [on a USB drive, inside of a skull, complete with a marijuana-flavored gummy brain]. What happened there?

(Laughs.) Well, the guy who makes the gummy stuff, he had these flavors that he asked me about, so I said, “Let’s get it and see if it tastes like weed!” I thought that it really did hint at it… Some people thought there was weed sprinkled within the gummy. We allowed that to be part of the fun — because of course the Flaming Lips would do that. We weren’t in our contract with Warner Bros at the time. If we were, they would have said, ‘You can’t do this marijuana-flavored gummy.’ I think it made it more fun and crazy.

I remember listening to ‘Zaireeka’ [a Flaming Lips album that comes on four separate discs that are meant to be played simultaneously] for the first time as a kid — before I had any experience with drugs — and feeling really disoriented in a way that I’ve reconnected with later under the influence of cannabis. As someone who seems a bit averse to psychedelic drug experiences, I’m curious what your reference points were for such disorienting and out-there music?

Certainly a lot of the music that we listen to was created by people who take drugs. Even though I’m seen as the guy doing the most talking in the Flaming Lips, guys in the group are doing drugs as well. We’re not a straight-edge group by any means.

With ‘Zaireeka,’you’re concentrating on what seems like normal music: beats and structure and melody and all that. But then there are times where ‘Zaireeka’ will wobble away and your mind wants to stay on the beat. Part of you thinks it’ll come back together very soon, or get out of wack enough that it’ll be just be in a different time signature. We call that a meditative little trip — for only a couple of seconds. You lose all balance of what’s happening because your concentration is on a deeper level. We’re really glad that it’s a real experience people have had with ‘Zaireeka.’ It’s exactly what we hope to create with music; the ability to take you out of your own world.

It’s not because we’re trying to recreate a drug experience. It’s the kind of drug experience that I wish I could have — you’re absolutely aware and able to concentrate. A lot of times drugs, although they’re wonderful, they rob you of your focus and concentration. It’s a dilemma (laughs).

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Combining Hemp and Homeopathy with Easy-To-Use Patches

What if we told you there was a Band-Aid for everyday ailments that don’t cut the skin? When it comes to hangovers, sleepless nights, menstruation and anxiety, that’s exactly what you get with The Good Patch’s line of all-natural, CBD-infused patches.

We caught up with The Good Patch CEO and co-founder Betsy Scanlan to learn more about the company’s roots in the fight for cannabis law reform in the deep south; balancing CBD-infused and hemp-free product lines; and pushing cannabis further into the mainstream wellness industry.

Besty Scanlan

Cannabis Now: How did you get into the wellness industry, and how did The Good Patch come about?

Betsy Scanlan: My business partners, Kelly Brock and David Nicholson, owned award-winning day spas for 20 years and had many clients coming in with specific complaints about being hungover, exhausted or highly anxious. We started talking about how we could create a product that gives people relief. We loved the delivery capabilities of patches, and when we began in 2017, not many people were working with patches. A shift was happening in the market, and we were on the early side of using hemp in the wellness space instead of selling in dispensaries. From there, The Good Patch was born.

What inspired you to start working with hemp?

I had been interested in both cannabis and hemp long before they went mainstream. I had a couple of family members who had cancer, so I was looking at products that might help mitigate the side effects of chemo and radiation. Living in Tennessee, I was trying to help lobby the state legislature to pass a medical marijuana law, but that was not happening and has still not happened to this day. But I had seen CBD work, and the anecdotal evidence was so strong that I was incredibly excited to move into that space with Kelly and David.

What kind of extract do you use to make the patches, and where does The Good Patch source its CBD?

We source all of our hemp from Colorado and use its CBD isolate in the infused patches. When we started, before the Farm Bill legalized hemp at the federal level, there was so much fear about CBD, THC and the plant’s legal status that the isolate allowed us to produce and sell the patches with confidence that they were 100% THC-free. We’ve teamed up with a supplier in Colorado that tests every crop multiple times for potency and safety. While we can’t technically call our hemp organic due to federal regulations, all of the hemp we use is grown under those same organic conditions.

Outside of hemp-infused patches, what kind of ingredients go into the patches?

At the outset, we designed The Good Patch as a total wellness company that also includes CBD products. We have two distinct lines of product, one with hemp and one without. For the patches without CBD, we use tried-and-true remedies like melatonin, menthol, hops, valerian root, black cohosh and other all-natural ingredients.

the good patch

With so many unique products aimed at hyper-focused issues like sleep, period pain and hangovers, how do you go about formulating and testing each ailment-specific patch recipe?

We work with chemists and give them specific ailments to focus on, and they help us blend all-natural ingredients to get to those final products. It’s a lot of trial and error, and through that whole process, Kelly, David, myself, and all of our families test the patches personally to make sure they really work. We are our own guinea pigs.

The Good Patch is now selling in big brand stores like Target and Urban Outfitters, do you think that you’ve helped with hemp-derived CBD’s expansion in mainstream wellness culture?

When we started, the mom and pop stores were much more accepting of CBD than the big retailers. So we started selling the CBD patches at the smaller stores, and the non-hemp patches at bigger stores. When the Farm Bill passed, the bigger companies felt more comfortable selling the CBD products, but we still had to go through so many levels of bureaucracy to get them approved. Target is currently selling only our non-hemp based patches, but we’re excited to have a presence there if and when they decide they’re ready to carry a select few trusted CBD products.

As CBD moves further into mainstream culture, the federal government is still moving slowly to regulate hemp-infused products. What’s it like to navigate through such uncertainty? 

It’s really frustrating. A lot of people are self-regulating right now, and most companies set a different bar when it comes to standards. The key thing is not to make any claims and to use the best ingredients possible. The goal is that, hopefully, when regulations do come down, we are already compliant.

The Good Patch also makes products for kids. How did that side of the business emerge, and what makes those products different than the adult versions?

The team had been talking about making a kids line since last year. All of us at the company have kids, and we didn’t see anything on the market like our Dream or Nite Nite patches that were all-natural and effective for children. Instead of melatonin and hemp, we use tart cherry and combine it with chamomile and skullcap [natural herbs]. That’s it – only three safe and natural ingredients.  We tried them on our children first and were immediately amazed. We were in the process of getting the kids’ patches to market when the pandemic hit, and we saw how children’s sleep habits were getting messed up just like adults. That was leading to more anxiety and irritability, so we decided to push out the patches for kids to help them and their parents, and it’s been a huge success.

You’ve been teasing a new line of non-patch products on social media lately – can you give us a peek into what’s next for The Good Patch brand?

We just launched a new line of effervescent tablets called Rise. It has a huge amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, minerals and ginger. We’re looking at what customers are asking for, and that’s been shuffled around by the pandemic, but sleep, energy and wellness are our three pillars, and Rise falls perfectly under that wellness umbrella. We have a whole roster of CBD products that we are going to bring to market, but with so many regulation questions up in the air with the hemp market, we’re going to put those on pause for the moment and go with what we know is helping people.   

TELL US, are you interested in hemp-based CBD products?

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Q&A: NBA Player Al Harrington Passes the Joint

Al Harrington is no stranger to pain. After 16 seasons battling it out on the basketball court with some of the best professional athletes in the world, the former Indiana Pacer understands just how much the human body can withstand before it starts to break.

Throughout his career, Harrington endured a number of injuries, some of which threatened to bring his game to an end. But it was only after he discovered the healing benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) that his attitude toward recovery changed.

Harrington has since spun his appreciation for cannabis into an entrepreneurial slam dunk with his companies Viola Extracts and Harrington Wellness. These operations produce a variety of medical marijuana products, such as live resins and CBD cream, for both athletes and the average citizen living with chronic pain. Cannabis Now Magazine recently caught up with Harrington to discuss his dedication to the herb.

Cannabis Now Magazine: You didn’t use marijuana in your younger years. How did you get involved with the cannabis industry?

Al Harrington: I was in Colorado. Everybody was talking about the benefits of cannabis, the business of cannabis. How I got interested in it was through my grandmother. She had come to see me while I was playing for the Denver Nuggets and two days before I had been reading about how cannabis helped glaucoma. So while my grandmother was there she was telling me about how bad her eyes hurt and how she had glaucoma. So I just told her ignorantly, “I was just reading the other day that cannabis actually helps glaucoma.” And she’s like, “Boy, I’m not smoking no reefers. You better get out of my face.” So I said, “You’re taking all this medicine and you’re still in pain. At least give it a shot.” She was still like, “No!”

The next day, I had a game, and she’s sitting in my kitchen with her hands on her face. I said, “Grandma, are you sure you don’t want to give it a try? It will be between you and I. It’ll just be our secret.” So finally, I was able to convince her. We vaporized something called Vietnam Kush. I took her downstairs and I went and took my pregame nap. About hour and a half later, I went to check on her. I said, “Hey Grandma, you OK?” She was crying and she said, “I’m healed.” I mean, we were both stand in the doorway crying. At that point, I started reading up on it and seeing that it helps kids with epilepsy and even helps people that are terminally ill have a better quality of life. That how I got into cannabis.

al harrington viola wellness

PHOTO Viola Extracts

Now that you’re a part of the cannabis industry, you’ve probably sampled just about everything legal marijuana has to offer. What is your preferred method of consumption?

I’ve sampled a little bit of everything. I prefer to vape. I like vaping just because it doesn’t have that loud smell. I can actually vape right in front of the kids and not be a nuisance. From the point of maintaining my body with CBD, I like to use a lot of the creams.

If you were given five minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say to inspire him to rethink his anti-pot position?

All I would talk about the entire time is research. That’s the issue. I just feel like everybody’s making comments and they have no factual information. I’ve heard so many stories from people, where I feel like cannabis has actually almost cured them. But we can’t make those types of statements. But the proof is in the pudding. The stories are real.

Do you think marijuana can benefit NBA players on the court?

I think so, man. I mean it’s not about on the court. Like I would not sit here and say that I think players should smoke weed before they go out and play in a professional basketball game. What we’re talking about is after the game. I use myself as an example. I’ve had a couple major injuries, but I’ve always had knick-knack problems. I took [anti-inflammatories] morning and night. That was the only way I could be the best that I could be at my job. Who knows what I put my body through compared to if I had used cannabis? Since my introduction to CBD, I’ve had three more surgeries. And after each, I got prescribed Vicodin and OxyContin. I promise I have not taken them. I use cannabis and I use CBD. I love that I now have that option. There are just so many beneficial things that the plant provides. That’s why I’m such a big advocate.

Al Harrington Basketball Marijuana NBA Cannabis Now

Larry Bird was one of your coaches during your time with the Pacers. If you had ever passed him a joint, would he have hit it or would he have benched you?

I think he would have hit it. Larry Bird is old school, man. All of those old school players used to smoke. I think at the time that they played, they got one drug test to start the season. And after that, they did whatever.

Have any current NBA players reached out to you for advice on medical marijuana?

Yes. But their main question is: Am I going to get in trouble for using it? Because of how much I respect my relationship with these guys, I tell them I don’t know. If I can get these guys to try it in the summertime, when they’re not on the clock, and if they see that it works, then they can start going to the NBA and saying, “Look, I tried this CBD cream. It really worked.” At the end of the day, the league has got to start taking notice.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

TELL US, do you think the NBA should allow cannabis use?

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