A Pocket Full of Felonies

My flight leaves in about 12 hours and the anxiety I usually feel starts to set in. I’m not nervous about the flight at all; at this point, after doing comedy for a decade, I’ve gotten used to flying. No, I’m nervous because I’m a stoner doing 10 shows in five cities in North and South Carolina. Let’s just say, North and South Carolina aren’t the most weed-friendly places in America.

I’m nervous about what clothes to pack, so I pack my Proxy instead and take a fat rip, knowing it’s going to be 14 days before I can take a proper dab again. Usually, my go-to travel setup is edibles, a couple of rosin vape pens, my Peak Pro, and a few grams of that good good.

Weed is currently decriminalized in North Carolina, so it’s like a $200 fine, but I think it’s still a pretty harsh penalty for concentrates. I also don’t want to be that guy on tour that has to be bailed out. It’s been 4 years since I’ve toured the Carolinas opening for Pauly Shore. It’s when I learned that the vape pens were hardcore felonies, or at least that’s what the TSA agent told me on my flight back to California. Unbeknownst to that agent, I had just handed him my fanny pack full of weed cartridges. I was pouring bullets of sweat when they pulled me aside after going through the X-ray. They were wondering if I could introduce them to Pauly Shore.

Everyone loves Pauly Shore but in the Bible Belt, he is like Redneck Jesus.

I decided to stick with some gummies and real deal resin vapes, a gift from a holy-man. I look at my suitcase one more time and remember what my very Mexican mother said the last time I went to North Carolina: “Wear lots of tie dye because it makes you look less threatening, and do not go back to anyone’s house after the shows. You go straight to the hotel.” She has nothing to worry about as long as I don’t run out of weed.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

RALEIGH

I like to think of my comedy as kind of a tightrope act. Pauly’s audiences are fucking amazing and he sells out wherever we go. Regardless of whatever level you’re at, opening for Pauly is part of growing as a comedian and it’s fun. Driving city to city, It’s like a dysfunctional family road trip but with more laughs. The show is me opening for 25 minutes, Jessie Johnson getting the sweet spot featuring for 25 minutes, and Pauly closing it out.

The first venue was Good Nights Comedy Club in Raleigh. It’s a beautiful red brick building; so much history in this club. Sadly, they are tearing it down and moving to another spot.

I always get introduced to the Comedy Club’s resident stoner, this time it was one of the cooks. He kept asking me if I wanted to hit his contraption he calls the “Blinky”. It’s a homemade bong he kept in his car cup holder. Another employee hit my rosin pen and had a come-to-Jesus moment.

Only one show gave me trouble and that’s because, from what I understand, Raleigh is kind of a liberal city in North Carolina. The people that give me trouble when it comes to my comedy are pearl-clutchers, which could be either side of the aisle; gun rights activists who want to give teachers guns, and people who hate the word “privileged.”

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

GREENSBORO BROOOOOO

I love driving through the Carolinas, but there’s nothing more breathtaking than seeing a Steak ‘n Shake sign the same exit as your hotel. Unfortunately, because it’s fucking Greensboro and it’s a Monday night, everything shuts down at like 10 PM. I’m staring through the Steak ‘n Shake window absolutely devastated that I can’t get a Nutella milkshake. The whole time Jessie and Pauly are laughing in the back of the car. I give my pen a long rip and drive us to the hotel defeated.

The second we get to the hotel, Jessie is listening to her set and in her notebook. I, on the other hand, am covering the smoke detector with the bag you get from the ice bucket. Priorities.

The Greensboro Comedy Zone is family-owned and its green room is attached directly to the kitchen. You’ll be getting ready for the show, going over your notes, as they drop a fresh bag of mozzarella sticks. You can smell the french fries while you memorize punchlines.

I thought Greensboro was going to give me the most trouble and it ended up being my favorite show of the trip. Not because I did well but because I got to watch people not like my comedy. I have a joke about being in an interracial relationship, all the minorities that were in the audience laughed. A good amount of white people laughed as well, but there are always one or two couples that just stare at me, looking at me disapprovingly with their arms crossed. That shit’s my favorite.

Charlotte

As we pull in, I take inventory. I’ve got one full pen and I’ve killed the edibles. I find an ABX pen from an earlier trip to Mexico. Which means I went through their security and they didn’t notice. I count my blessings.

The Charlotte Comedy Zone is beautifully built. Colosseum-style seating and the stage is much higher than the audience below you but rises the farther back you go. Pauly’s got this room sold out and every joke you can feel gets longer because of the laughs.

This crowd is an interesting mix. I see some 1776 shirts, thin blue line hoodies and those guys did not shake my hand or want to take pictures with me after the show. After my school shooting joke, a few people tightened up and I called them snowflakes. It felt like I was in California for a second; it immediately gets them back. We leave that night and drive to Greenville for a show day and a day off.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

Greenville

We stay in Greenville for two days. The show is on a Thursday and it sold out so fast they had to add a second show. I am officially out of weed. The homie Fumed Glass pulls up and graces us with some beautiful glass pieces and pendants. Explaining to Pauly Shore what a pendant is was very entertaining.

After the shows, people occasionally hand me goodies, usually their best homegrown stuff which is hit or miss. When we get back to the hotel, I ask the valet where’s the best place to smoke weed. He tells me he’s actually the owner of the valet company and that the best place to smoke is the little smoking area where the employees smoke. He tells me the manager of the hotel is gone for the night so I am pretty much free to just blaze up. Love when stoners help each other out.

Black Mountain

Asheville is a cute little town with amazing barbecue. The venue where we’re doing the show is in the next town over in Black Mountain at a place called Silverado’s.

A man in a cowboy hat informs me it used to be an outlaw biker bar and now it’s a country music venue. The show is outside on a rock stage and it’s a full crowd. The show is sponsored by a delta-9/CBD company.

North Carolina has these weird laws where somehow delta-9 and delta-8 slipped through the cracks. They won’t legalize weed, but they’ll try to figure some other weird shit out.

Someone hands me a joint and informs me I’m smoking delta-9 Cookies. It’s one of those joints where I can’t really tell if I’m stoned or not.

I start talking with the owner’s brother about doing concentrates and he says, “Yeah man, I have dabs in my car if you want to try some.” He pulls out a Huni Badger and a gram of what I can only describe as some home grown concentrates. It had sticks and twigs in it and surprisingly didn’t taste that bad.

After my set a fan wants to smoke weed with me before I leave and he says, “Yeah, I own this place. I’m also running for sheriff!” I immediately start laughing. Someone hands me an edible and says “It’s pretty good man, trust me!”

Usually I’m a little bit more wary about the things people hand me when it comes to edibles because you never know. We go to a bar afterwards to celebrate the end of the 10-day tour. We reflect on the trip, life, and comedy.

Courtesy of Frank Castillo

Then everything I took hits me. All of a sudden, my face starts to get hot and my hands get really sweaty. I feel really high and not normal. I start to get a little panicky and my limbs feel like they are disconnected from my body. My face starts to feel prickly.

I text my homie who is in the industry and ask, “Hey man, I think I got delta-9 or delta-8 or some shit.” I recap my whole night and he goes, “Yeah, just take it easy drink some water and take some CBD if you need it. I wouldn’t really worry about the edible.” A wave of relief washed over me.

“What I’d really be worried about is whatever else he smokes outta that Huni Badger.”

We make it back to the hotel, I murder the snack bar and I pass out in a pile of chips.

After a long flight back to Los Angeles I get picked up from the airport and I’m greeted with a packed Puffco and the sweet deliciousness of some California rosin. As we head back home to Hollywood I think, I can’t wait to go back on the road.

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Where Does The Money Go?

Lately I’ve found myself advocating for higher priced brands quite often, and one of the most common things I hear from consumers in response are things like ‘Damn, those guys must not care about their end users!’ Or ‘where do they get off charging so much for a 3.5 grams of flower?’ When Dante did his piece for WEIRDOS a few weeks back it had a similar reaction. While I do understand the sentiment, I’d like to set the record straight a bit, because I assure you, if they didn’t care about providing you with the best possible products they can, they simply wouldn’t be in this business.

You see, the reason you hear so much about brands trying to go ‘vertical’, or racing to scale, is because as it turns out, there’s not a ton of money in selling weed anymore. In order to optimize profits, and frankly make the business worthwhile, brands need to move a LOT of work, as this really isn’t a high margin business in the legal landscape. In fact, there are a million hurdles even the smallest of brands have to overcome to get their product to market. They are burdened with hard costs, a complicated legal system, and in truth, the initial cultivators often have the smallest say in terms of end price. They’re just trying to stay afloat.

My dear friend Drew Coggio, proprietor of Green Dawg Cultivators, said poetically of the state of the industry right now:

“Overall, the operators starve while the city eats. The state reaps while farmers weep.” 

This couldn’t be more accurate, and I’d like to illustrate the reality of the game today.

Reverse Engineering The Price

Let’s journey down the path of a top shelf eighth (and we’ll say it’s been sold at a fairly priced store – none of that hype shop noise – to keep numbers consistent) of a company that’s not fully vertical. To the end consumer in Los Angeles, when starting at $60 on the shelf, this equates to about $81 out of pocket when all is said and done. Sounds like a ton of money, right? The farmers must be making a killing! Well hold on now, not so fast.

That eighth had to be sold to a retailer, so as we travel backwards down the path, let’s see how that $60 shrinks. Because remember, that extra $21 is tax. None of the operators eat off that, that’s the states money. 

The retailer probably bought it around $30, as retailers typically mark products up about 100% (on the fair side). So we’re at $30 to the farmer, right? But what about the distribution company? They might have bought it for $15/per, and marked it up, because they also need to make money, and provide a living wage to their employees. So now we’re at $15 per eighth, for a product that’s sold to the consumer for $60 – margins are shrinking fast, but still, $15 for 3.5 grams, surely that’s a killing for the farmer. Right? Not when you factor in expenses, my dear!

Courtesy of High Times

Production Costs

Before we get into the costs of actually creating a viable grow room, there are a lot of hard costs in cultivation. Things like electricity, and water, are essential to the indoor grow process, and while these prices vary by where in the state you’re operating, I’ve spoke to a few friends in the process of writing this to generalize the costs.

Depending on the yields of your plants, an eighth can cost between $9-12 to grow indoors at the highest quality. Now, that price scales to the more expensive end as you factor in things like exotics are typically lower yielders, and that some plants take longer to finish. 

But remember, the cultivator is also being taxed here. The state will come in and take about 5% of gross sales from the cultivator on top of all the taxes the end consumer is paying. They have also been paying a ~$170/lb tax that was just recently lifted by California since so many cultivators have been going under, but it’s important to note that this extremely recent change has yet to be felt by the cultivators. 

Then they’ve also got to package your products. Because ziplocks are no good anymore, the state requires all that child safe stuff, and it’s gotta happen before it hits the store. So besides all of the cultivation costs, there’s another dollar or two tacked on in hard costs just to brand the goods and get them to you. That means if the cultivator WAS seeing $15/eighth, after hard costs they’re only seeing around $1-5 per eighth in profit. 

Hardly anything to write home about, and we haven’t even gotten into what it takes to get to this point!

Pre Production Costs

We all know that top shelf indoor doesn’t grow in a dump, right? There’s a LOT that goes into setting up a room, and while it’s hard to deduct these costs from an individual eighth, I feel it’s important to give you some context into just how expensive setting up one of these rooms is, and how much it takes to run it. 

Build outs cost between $300-500 PER SQUARE FOOT of facility you’re operating in. That means if you’re setting up a 1,000 sq ft facility you’re looking at $300-500k, or at 10,000 sq ft $3-5 million. 

Past that, those expenses I mentioned have monthly costs. Operating the facility can cost between $5-8 per sq foot per month. That can translate to $5-8k per month at a 1,000 sq ft facility, or $50-80k per month at the 10,000 size. As you can see, these numbers are adding up QUICK. 

And we haven’t even added in the costs to actually become a legal operator, and not just a traditional one. That probably takes another million or so as it’s such an annoying and complicated process that I’m not even going to get into it. 

So with hundreds of thousands in set up costs, tens of thousands in operational per month, and around $3 profit per eighth, remind me again about how greedy these guys are? The cultivators, not the state. Those guys are caking up.

Courtesy of High Times

The Man

The sad truth is the one who’s fucking us here isn’t the cultivator, it’s the government. Their crazy taxes and restrictions are the reason why most of this process is so expensive, and why hardly anyone is making a great check right now. To break them down quickly, and using Los Angeles as an example, 34.5% of whatever the final cost of your goods are went directly to the government in this county. That means over 1/3 of what you’re paying doesn’t feed or support any of the people actually involved in the making of your product – just the legislators making this process so difficult for them. 

That 34.5% breaks down as follows: 15% State Excise Tax, 10% City Tax, 9.25% County tax. All to the man for giving you the privilege to spend this much money on weed.

Even worse, U.S. Tax Code 280E says that everyone involved in the sale of federally illegal *drugs* are taxed at the highest rate possible, which means that 43-47% of anything those involved in the process makes goes right back to the feds. They are literally doing everything they can to make sure these guys DON’T make money.

I haven’t even gotten into the mechanics of retailers and distributors, who while I understand may also seem greedy off the rip because of their mark ups, are actually mostly barely surviving as well. It’s easy to forget how hard it is to run a business, to feed your staff, and pay all your bills – in any industry. But I assure you, the game is further rigged in cannabis – and that’s why everyone’s so excited to sell merch!

Support your people

When all’s said and done, I understand why consumers are pissed about prices. The state of the industry today sucks, truly. But it’s not the fault of those of us who are cultivating, it’s largely due to the states greed. While we all want a better tomorrow, let’s do our best to help those who ARE focused on providing us with the best products possible, and not just those with the money to race to scale to make MORE money off us. I understand that quantity looks appetizing, but trust me, quality will get you there way faster, every time.

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Indicas and Sativas are for Dummies

There are a few eternal debates intertwined with cannabis at the moment. Are the criminal justice reform victories of legalization enough to call it a win with farmers’ struggles? Does Jimi smoke the heatest heat? Do the concepts of Indicas and Sativas make sense?

While you’ll have to search your heart for the answers to the first couple of questions, when it comes to indicas and sativas, I think it’s fair to say we can do a little better. And I offer not just the idea we can do better, but a solution.

I think we should move on to referring to cannabis as Afghani or equatorial. It’s a lot more accurate representation of what 99% of the marketplace consists of. If you’re the Ruderalis guy that needs to be offended by something, go back under your bridge nobody wants your pot.

I remember when that empowered young woman of color budtender got a lot of flack for a video where she highlighted how stupid the whole indica/sativa debate was. A lot of people that look like me, well not quite the blue eyes and curls but you get my drift, were really sad she made them feel like dumb dumbs. She got a lot of shit because of their sensitivities but was spot on. You can’t even find her original post anymore and I wouldn’t share to save her any more drama and bullying. Not that she needed saving, she was a spicy meatball.

But her struggle stirred something back up in me. I’ve dealt with the same frustrations she did. I was just a pinch more chipper about it.

I’ve been working at the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley since 2009 and will still jump on the counter in the morning if an extra set of hands is needed due to a couple of callouts or whatever it may be. I turned off my frustrations early in my career on this subject. I would speak to the cannabis in four categories that were Indicas, Sativas, and hybrids leaning in either direction.

Eventually, I’d try and work a little education into the process because it all felt so bullshit.

“Hello, skinny handsome budtender. Can I get a pure sativa?”

“We making rope?!” I’d reply in a jolly reference to hemp.

When you talk about things like the Hippie Trail, Super Sativa Seed Club, and other stuff that backboned the early heatseekers’ genetics lines, a lot of it is going to fall into those major equatorial or Afghani. Even today, what’s the bulk of what we smoke? Just hybridizations of that stuff.

All these “indicas” we’re puffing on for the most part are of Afghan origin. Are there some high mountain kush phenos from the other side of the Pakistani border in the mix too for this discussion? Sure. But it’s most predominantly associated with Afghanis so it keeps it a lot more simple to just use that for the umbrella term.

As for everything else we smoke, you’ll find a lot of the genetics pools outside of the Afghani are coming from places generally close to the equator. The southern Indian city of Kanyakumari is about 560 miles north of the equator. The Thai beach town of Narathiwat is only 430 miles from the equator Even Tapachula, Mexico is only about 1500 miles from the equator.

But the system doesn’t always work, like in India. India is not far from the equator at its southern tip but the genetics it’s known for are coming from thousands of miles away in its mountain region.

It all seemingly makes sense right?

To help me articulate this great idea to the masses I knew I’d need mascots. So I created Equitorial Ed and Afghan Annie to help move the masses away from saying indica or sativa. Umbrella terminology tends never to be perfect. But in this case, I was generally satisfied with how much could be categorized within the scope of the characters.

We reached out to the Pot Prince of Bel-Air to get his take. In 1997 Todd McCormick, a medical cannabis patient and childhood cancer survivor, was arrested with 4000 plants. After serving his bid in the early 2000s he returned to the scene and in recent years has focused on preserving old-school genetics like Road Kill Skunk.

McCormick noted the question in itself is an excellent clarification that most people don’t understand but he prefers to use the term Northern to Afghani.

“The reason that I go with the word “Northern” rather than Afghani is because the Hindu Kush Mountains are freaking huge and only part of the Himalayas are located in Afghanistan,” McCormick said, “I believe that a lot of us use “Afghan” as the default genetic for all northern cannabis, but I think we are sorely mistaken.”

McCormack also spoke to the India part of the debate I brought up.

“All of the more northern varieties of cannabis from India, or dare I say Indica correctly, has the faster flowering broad leaflet, dense buds (to protect the seeds from cold), the characteristic is not only found in Afghanistan,” McCormick said, “In southern regions of India, which is still “cannabis Indica,” have the narrow leaflet equatorial/tropical, long flowering characteristic of loose spindly flowers (to be able to evaporate away high humidity) with a long flowering time.”

Keep an eye out for more great ideas from Jimi Devine in a future edition of WEIRDOS.

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The New Narc

If you’ve been around or involved in any way with cannabis pre-legalization, without a doubt, you know what the term “narc” means.

Many are familiar with the term “narc” because of platforms like Netflix, video games, or the 2002 film starring Ray Liota and Jason Patric. It would seem that few remember “narc” being a derogatory term for those who appeared to be an undercover cop, rat, or anyone deemed untrustworthy for a variety of reasons.

Courtesy of Ben Rispin

Urban Dictionary defines the word “narc” as follows:

1. n. Short for a Narcotics officer. A member of Law Enforcement that enforces drug laws.

2. n. A person who is not a member of Law Enforcement but turns you into the police for doing or dealing drugs.

3. n. A person that turns you in for something you did wrong; specifically to any type of authority figure like parents, cops, teachers, boss, etc.

4. v. The act of turning someone into law enforcement or authority figures

Courtesy of Brent Kore

My name is Ben, and I’ve been a small town, low-level drug dealing, narc-hating, punk since I was fifteen. Weed has been a major part of my whole life. Dealing, advocacy, activism, and daily consumption have been a constant since I was a teenager. I love this shit. Weed is tight.

After years in cannabis PR, marketing, events, education, and content I’m currently partnered in a cannabis strategy, genetics, and content company. A few months ago I took a part-time job budtending at a friend’s dispensary where my brother works. I wanted to understand what cannabis looked like on the street now. I wanted to see all the brands and products and get a better grasp of the legal market. My business partners are global leaders in tissue culture, the cannabis industry, and have operated multi-media companies. I’m learning constantly from them. However, I think I’ve learned the most I have in years about cannabis by part-time budtending. Not only have I learned valuable information regarding the street level consumer, as it turns out, I learned that I also still love selling weed. I love the transaction. I love giving a legal receipt for cannabis. I thought the joy would wear off, but no, after months it still makes me happy to sell someone legal weed.

From Bottle Tokes of Hash to Narc PTSD: Required Reading

In 1994, a year after I was introduced to hash or any cannabis product at all, I had fallen in love with getting stoned. It activated me. In the early 90s it was still a very dark time for all controlled substances. Ronald Regan’s reignited War on Drugs was still running rampant even in Clinton’s America. In fact, in our area, the high school landscape was so uptight that an in-class presentation on the benefits of legalization presented by a chubby, narc-hating, 15-year-old punk could land someone in a lot of trouble. And it did. Two weeks of suspension, several warnings, lectures, and notified police.

At that time, flower was hard to find in our area. Most people living in small cities or towns in Ontario smoked hash in a manner of what’s known in our region as bottle tokes or “bots” for short.

Courtesy of Ben Rispin

This was achieved by putting a dime in a beer bottle, scraping part of the bottom-side of the bottle on concrete to weaken a small portion of the bottle. Then, by snapping the dime in the bottle with your wrists, the dime would pop a hole close to the base. Once a sufficient hole was made, the next step was to use a lit cigarette to tap small nuggets of hash (bots) until they stuck on the lit cigarette and then cook the nugget in the bottle. Once the hash turned amber red, the bottle toke would be inhaled through the top of the bottle. (Welcome to Canada fuckers.)

There was no shortage of a market. Selling hash, acid, and oil at local punk, metal, and indie shows was commonplace for a lot of kids growing up in Southern Ontario. After shows, parking lots would be littered with resin soaked “bot bottles”.

Courtesy of Ben Rispin

Reckless abandonment made possible by some heavy hitters who became mentors in a scene that opened doors to the wide world of drug dealing for many young people. As one can imagine, an important, traditional lesson taught to ambitious young drug dealers was how to look out for Narcs.

  1. Find out who knows them in your area. Do they have friends? 
  2. See how well they do in school and watch their relationships with authority.
  3. If they don’t do drugs with you, keep them the fuck away. 
  4. If they don’t do a lot of drugs with you, keep them the fuck away.

The narc vetting process became an instinct for any social or professional situation that applied.

  1. Do they have references? 
  2. What is their education and background? 
  3. Do they know and understand the product they are selling, building, or promoting?

Narc suspicion would become ingrained in so many people of this generation that narc PTSD is commonplace. Narc or cop awareness can be compared to instincts such as gaydar. It was a tribal and paranoid time invoked by American television programs like 21 Jump Street.

Thankfully, society has begun moving past prohibition. Licensed producers of cannabis will never have to worry about narcs in the same fashion.

It Ain’t Easy Selling Green if You’re Green to Selling Weed

The licensed producer has a whole other set of concerns. Over-regulation, appeasing shareholders, heavy taxation, and a competitive market have left many grasping at straws.

In Canada, cannabis marketing regulations are strict. It’s difficult for licensed producers and their brands to build an audience. What begins to happen are narrative trends and themes tend to overshadow what a brand’s intentions are or who their identity is.

If you’re a budtender, connoisseur, or in the space at all, you’ve most likely spoken to dozens if not hundreds of cannabis sale representatives or brands. This is not to put down or be negative towards sales reps or to paint all licensed producers with the same brush, but many have opted to paint themselves into a corner.

At the end of the day, when the romance wears off, the job of a sales rep is a thankless one. It’s extremely difficult and it takes a distinctive personality to succeed. However, a sales rep’s success is only defined by the product the rep is selling. No matter how professional, well spoken, or pleasant, if the weed sucks, the weed sucks. It’s nothing personal. The retailer’s job is selling weed. The consumer decides what they will or won’t buy. Or more importantly, what they’ll buy again.

The cannabis marketplace is extremely competitive with massive amounts of audience crossover and new brands launching everyday. The result is companies start to “borrow” messaging from one another as regulations lighten and consumer interests change.

Courtesy of Ben Rispin

Recently, the average legal cannabis consumer is looking for companies who know good cannabis and don’t want negative connotations associated with their purchase. Many are aware of the challenges several publicly traded licensed producers are having. Hundreds of staff layoffs while CEOs continue to get rich is not something cannabis consumers tend to want to support. The consumer doesn’t want to give their money to a company they perceive to be “corporate cannabis.” This sentiment has made it increasingly difficult for many licensed producers who have struggled to find authentic messaging.

In the early days of legalization, the overarching narrative was “getting the meds to the patients.” It was fashionable to present altruistically with a message of “Breaking the Stigma.” A rebranding of what traditional cannabis users looked like. To show that it wasn’t just hippies, skaters, and rappers that liked getting high. This isn’t to say breaking stigmas and getting people their medications aren’t great things, but it is to say, many of these companies were less than genuine with their approach and intentions. This altruistic image became incredibly difficult to maintain when publicly traded companies were publicly taking billions of the public’s money.

After the altruistic-stigma-breaking-narrative ran its course, the market balanced out a bit and responsible spending messaging seemed to take the shape of the “seed to sale farmer.”

The-down-home-weed-farmer with grit and love for the plant became the new mascot of an industry beginning to reveal itself as a far more risky investment than previously thought. Belushi Farms captures this essence in a sincere way, but many brands coming to market ran hard with style of marketing.

Courtesy of Ben Rispin

This era’s narrative has been successfully lampooned time and time again by South Park, in the form of Randy Marsh’s cannabis company, Tegridy Farms.

The Tegridy Era presented a narrative that quality cannabis companies cared less about profits and more about quality. The valuable blue-collar work ethic of a family-run business, is not only a rich heritage, but only worthwhile if built on a foundation of integrity. At this point, a trope in itself.

The Tegridy Era was hard to maintain. Mostly because many companies came to the realization that being a farmer is crazy fucking hard. There was so much upkeep that the cow shit jokes wrote themselves.

Recently, it would seem a new shift has taken place. A new era is upon us. In this new dawn the buzzword around the boardroom has turned to “Legacy”. Grandstanding Founders, VPs and Executives pat each other on the back, regaling a story of their CEO who got high and sold an eighth of weed at a party once, has made its way into every investment, or corporate introduction deck.

Welcome to the Legacy Era. Fuck Your Tegridy.

For those unfamiliar with the term “legacy,” it refers to the cannabis industry and all of its facets, pre-legalization. Other common terms are “the traditional market” and the commonly used yet frowned upon, “black market.”

Here, in Canada, the Legacy Era trend blew up with the launch of Toronto, Ontario based brand Ghost Drops. A well known “legacy brand” who brings rare strains to the legal market.

The brand built a massive audience when it was announced that Toronto hip-hop artist Organik, who is also known for founding Toronto’s premier battle rap competition, King of The Dot (KOTD), was bringing his well known legacy strains to the masses under his Ghost Drops brand.

Courtesy of Ghost Drops

So naturally, Ghost Drops and Organik have not only well established street credibility, but an organic (pun intended) following who appreciates what they’ve offered the community for years. Quality product and entertainment for their well curated audience.

Courtesy of Ghost Drops

How to Succeed in Weed: Quit It With the Narc Vibes

When executives don’t understand a subculture and try to replicate something like the success of Ghost Drops, historically, it never plays out with any sort of substance or connection. Many have tried replicating the core culture of skateboarding and have rarely succeeded. Large in part being  most shareholders or executives don’t smash their faces off concrete for fun.

Hopefully, these struggling licensed producers come to understand that Organik, or those like him, didn’t set out to be a legacy brand. They stayed true to who they were and are still.

Those who try to recreate how they see others succeed, especially when claiming to have more credibility in an industry than they qualify for, should understand that anyone who was championing cannabis prior to legalization will see through them. It’s why actual narcs have to go undercover for years at a time. Perpetrators don’t even know what they’re getting wrong. It’s in the language, it’s in your movements, it’s how you smoke.

Whether a consumer, entrepreneur, dealer, basement grower, advocate, fanatic, activist, patient, or long time High Times reader, all will likely pick up on your narc vibes from miles away.

With the myriad of companies, new strains, new strain names for old strains, an endless barrage of new products, new technologies, coupled with the hundreds of SKU struggling retailers already have to sort through; no one has time to be disingenuous or time for those who are. The best brands will always tell an honest story and have great products.

Legalization is a great thing. It should be celebrated and respected. It is extremely disrespectful to appropriate the legacy culture to make your brand seem cool. Many sacrifices were made so we could make legalization as positive and inclusive as possible.

When I look at the current state of legalization I see hope. It’s our job to make the cannabis industry better, and many are putting in the hard work. I’m grateful that stoners aren’t the pariahs of society anymore. I’m happy we won. With so many products that are now available, I’m grateful that smoking bots off a cigarette in a beer bottle is still an option, just not the only one.

At this time, all that we require of licensed producers is an authentic story, a respect for the consumer, great fucking weed, and to lose the narc vibes.

We’ll do the rest.

The post The New Narc appeared first on High Times.

Cannabis in the Esports Community

My name is OpTic HECZ and I had the honor of joining the cannabis industry by way of professional esports and building brands on the internet. Big shout out to my boy Jon Cappetta for inviting me to be a contributor to WEIRDOS and to share reflections from my journey. I know you all will be absolutely shocked to learn that there has always been a vibrant cannabis culture behind the scenes of gaming and esports, so my goal when joining the cannabis industry was to take the lessons I learned building OpTic Gaming and introduce them to a plant I love and traditional cannabis culture I feel naturally connect to.

Esports and cannabis cultures were both born on the edges of society and we’re still battling stigmas despite growing into multi-billion dollar global industries. While gamers never had to face the War on Drugs, many of us took huge personal risks and made extreme sacrifices to help build esports into what it is today. My wife and family were dangerously supportive when I left my corporate job in early 2009 to focus on becoming a full-time YouTube content creator, and after a year of telling them that “this is going to work out,” my first check was a hilarious 16 cents from monetizing Call of Duty montage videos. I may not have lived in tent on a hill in Humboldt County, but you better believe that back in June 2013 when we launched the first OpTic House, my wife and I were called crazy when we told our family that we would be moving to her parents’ basement to allow the players to move in to our current home and make one of the first YouTube content houses a reality.

Despite the risks and labels, cannabis OGs know the important lesson that the diehard esports community learned through our commitment: it’s what we did and stood for when everyone thought we were weirdos, before all the corporate investors rushed in, that will forever resonate in our respective cultures.

For esports, 6050 Russell Drive showed the world that OpTic Gaming, operating out of a cul-de-sac in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, could have a larger social media presence then all of Chicago’s historic sports franchises aside from the great Chicago Bulls (and that’s only because they had GOD in uniform during the 90s). That revelation drove many billionaire owners from traditional sports to quickly buy esports teams—we were one of the lucky teams that were paired up with incredible investors, but many other investors came into our industry with as much respect for the culture that made OpTic and esports popular as Chad has for growing and selling good weed.

So I came to cannabis knowing what it’s like to create something from a place of passion and I have seen firsthand the interests of big money trying to get their piece of something new. In 2017, an ownership group made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I was happy to sell OpTic in hopes of expediting our growth as an elite professional esports franchise. But then things happened, people happened and business happened and I ultimately decided to buy back OpTic in 2020. The journey that led me to buying back OpTic taught me a very important lesson relevant to the cannabis industry today: when you put your heart and soul into something, the authentic relationship that you develop with supporters building that brand can never truly be bought or sold.

As I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet creators from across the cannabis industry, the biggest challenge I see facing the traditional culture today isn’t the federal regulatory status, or even high taxes, it’s the digital suppression happening on social, video, and streaming platforms that is preventing cannabis creators from organically growing like they should. I’ve experienced firsthand that a dedicated online audience is the most powerful asset you can have, and if cannabis growers, breeders and extractors could distribute their content like OpTic Gaming, then I know customers and fans will have the greatest impact on the future of this industry as opposed to politicians and corporate investors.

To Facebook, Google, Amazon, TikTok: I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities your platforms have given me, and the people around me, but it’s time to end the digital war on cannabis. Sure, the federal government can’t get its act together to provide you rules for managing cannabis regulations today, but conflict with the federal government hasn’t stopped you before, and besides, no one will notice if you just start treating cannabis like alcohol on your platforms… the cannabis community promises they won’t tell the feds!

To OG cannabis operators: esports has taught me that people will support the creators who authentically share their lives, process, and passion. Being the best at what you do isn’t good enough anymore, you have to share content. If you have good content and you build a community, there is no amount of money or marketing campaign from a big corporation that can compete with a relationship with your fans. Make no mistake, it’s an absolute grind to build an audience. I shot, edited, and uploaded a vlog every single day for 2 years and still continue to do so regularly. The ones who do the hard work to build their online audiences can thrive as long as the internet exists. That’s what we’re all going for, right? Creating brands that are around forever?

To cannabis lovers and fans: make it your mission to support your favorite cannabis creators and brands online and go the extra mile to share their content and push the algorithms against the suppression and shadow banning. We have the ability to make sure traditional cannabis culture flourishes digitally but we all need to work together to ensure the best people are surfaced and that takes effort by the global digital cannabis community.

I want to give a special shout out to the cannabis content creators out there that have overcome all the odds and built massive communities around their video content—creators like Erick Khan, Dope as Yola and Goblin have battled the algorithms with authentic content and it’s incredible to think about how their audiences and influence will grow when the digital war on cannabis ends. Yola can literally see on his dashboard showing the revenue he has generated but won’t ever receive. End this madness!

I also want to acknowledge a number of cannabis creators who have been digitally incarcerated or deplatformed and were forced to rebuild their audiences in the process, including Adam Ill, StrainCentral and Silenced Hippie. As a cannabis and creator community, we need to do everything we can to help overcome the injustices that have been passed out to good people entertaining audiences about a plant they love. At Pine Park, our YouTube channel will always be a home for creators from across the industry that deserve more digital exposure or a jump start to building their audience. Never hesitate to reach out to me or our team about ways we can work together to ensure that traditional cannabis culture and creators survive and thrive online.

The post Cannabis in the Esports Community appeared first on High Times.

On Being Lit: A Personal Essay on Mental Illness and Compassion

Note from our VP of Content:

Now that we’re a few weeks into WEIRDOS, I wanted to introduce you to the inspiration for this whole section. Or, reintroduce you. We’ve actually published this piece already. It was one of the first stories I decided to publish from a cold pitch after I started working here, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Theo captured a special kind of magic here. It is, in short, a beautiful and humanizing look into the eye of madness, and I believe you will become even an incrementally more considerate person by reading it. While most of what we’ve done so far in this section has been industry focused, I figured now’s a good time to start showing you just how far down the rabbit hole we’re going to get. Enjoy! – Jon

This essay has been re-published with the permission of the author. 

The fine line between sanity and madness blurs as a jittery librarian in downtown Miami with body sores, unkempt hair, and tattered clothes gives fiery sidewalk lectures.

Onlookers who recognize the senior librarian shake their heads as they toss a dollar or a get-well note into a tip jar with the hashtag #litwithfire scrawled on it. As the 57-year-old hippie throwback from San Francisco rambles on about spiritual warfare, chem trails, and legalizing weed, a struggle between rational and irrational thought plays out on the public stage.

I am Theo Karantsalis, a longtime college library administrator who has suffered from serious mental illness since childhood, or for about 50 years. This includes multiple suicide attempts, drug addiction, and bizarre behavior resulting in police standoffs, countless trips to jail, dozens of lawsuits, restraining orders, and lots of psychiatric intervention.

A crumpled doctor’s note in my pocket is a reminder to take medicine which includes immune system injections, large doses of anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and mood stabilizers. It reads: “chronic mental illness, poor coping skills, evidence of paranoid and persecutory delusions, most recent episode manic, severe, with psychotic features.”

Over the years, a team of doctors have helped keep me afloat with schizoaffective disorder bipolar I type, or a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Regardless of how consistent one is with treatment, there are risks of unexpectedly going off the rails, as I did earlier this year. This left coworkers in our tight-knit College community scratching their heads and whispering.

When I requested emergency leave last April, the official reason was something valid and visible: psoriatic arthritis, which has left me covered head to toe with skin lesions that make it hard to sit, stand, or walk. If need be, I was ready to stack the request with multiple sclerosis, a condition that for twenty years has given me a neurological golf umbrella to hide any mental misfires.

One thing that I could never admit was that I had been sucked into a psychotic black hole. I recklessly spent thousands on Rolex watches, passed out $100 bills to strangers, filed a bizarre lawsuit against the College in federal court, chose to sleep on the streets, and recently fired two psychiatrists for being spies for the CIA.

While in a psychotic state, one often has poor insight or an ability to perceive that he or she is ill.

Years ago, when I started my librarian career with Miami-Dade County, I looked the other way as homeless bathed and shaved in our restroom sinks or violated other minor rules like sleeping or eating. Deep down, I knew that I was just one psych ward visit away from joining them. And I did.

Ending up on the streets outside the main library – disheveled, delusional and with Diogenic indifference – I saw first-hand what it was like to panhandle near the metro rail station, watch the sun rise from a decrepit alley, wait for handouts of day-old muffins and coffee, smoke discarded cigarette butts, and feel the disdain some locals have for the downtrodden.

At the College, the mentally ill make up a slice of the folks we serve, and many colleagues have confided in me that they too suffer, albeit quietly. And for good reason, as words like “schizophrenia” or “bipolar” conjure up fear and the related stigma might affect a promotion or a career.

There were signs in the months leading up to my break that things might be amiss like handing out psychedelic business cards and custom bookmarks that detailed my extensive medical and drug use history, including LSD, cocaine and meth. I also wore the same wrinkled and stained clothes for weeks on end, quickly lost about 75 pounds, stopped shaving or combing my hair, and often shed clothes and spoke to wildlife by the lake.

While in a psychotic state, one often has poor insight or an ability to perceive that he or she is ill.

And even if I did have a sliver of insight, who might I have reached out to at the College about being under attack by interdimensional demons? Or that meetings were a waste of time, as we should just send mind messages back and forth via ESP? Or that out-of-tune foreign radio stations in my mind scrambled my thoughts and words jumped from my computer screen onto the desk and scattered into the walls?    

Perhaps it is time for the College to address mental illness from within the ranks so we can better understand and help each other, as well as those with similar issues seeking our services. 

As I wind down my wonderful 15-year journey at the College, I leave you with a simple, best-life practice that has helped me deal with police, jail, court, and living on the streets. 

Smile.

This is an international signal that no threat exists. Just love. These words from Crosby, Stills, Nash’s ‘60s classic, Wooden Ships, say it best.

If you smile at me, I will understand/ 
‘Cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language

The reason those of us suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar may appear distant, aloof, or otherwise detached is because our minds tend to run on different operating systems. Though I now have flickers of clarity and reason, my thoughts and speech remain fragmented and disorganized, drowned out by noises and visions from another dimension.  

We live in another world, at times a wondrous and magnificent world, but one that is often disconnected from your version of the world. We remain somewhat tethered to Earth in various degrees, some with a fat rope, and others, like me, with a tiny thread. And the library is the magnet that instinctively pulls us as we seek direction, meaning and purpose. 

As I glance down from another galaxy, like Major Tom floating in a tin can, the signal bars waft in and out of service and I wonder what life will be like when, and if, I eventually land.

But I think my spaceship knows which way to go.

Theo Karantsalis, Associate Director of Learning resources at Miami Dade College’s North Campus, retired from the College on July 29, 2019.

Theo’s Suggested Schizophrenia and Bipolar Reading List:

  • The Collected Schizophrenias, by Esmé Weijun Wang
  • The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, by Elyn R. Saks
  • Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, by Kay Redfield Jamison

The post On Being Lit: A Personal Essay on Mental Illness and Compassion appeared first on High Times.

The Industry’s Identity Crisis: Our Escape Has Gone Corporate

Remember when weed was fun? We used to love it here. Now it sometimes feels like a chore. The fuck’s up with that? Well friends, here’s the sad truth: pot ain’t what it used to be, for a lot of reasons.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s go over how many of us got here:

Cannabis has long been a vibrant subculture – or counterculture. A plant that seemingly brought people together, helped them forget their problems for a while, and gave many of us outsiders – or weirdos, if you will – a way to find our tribe, hooked us all – though maybe not in the traditional ‘addictive’ sense. From the love of the plant, a community grew. And while much of the world laughed at us, we championed each other, and as a result, we flourished.

But good times don’t last forever, and I’m sorry to say, our inside joke got out, and now everybody’s in on it.

Early Days

Keeping an eye on ‘who we were’ for a sec, and before we get into some harsh realities, it’s important to note just how attractive we actually are. Many, if not all, of the most fun people I know, came to me through the plant – long before I was some High Times guy that people wanted to talk to. There’s a cool factor that comes with doing your own thing, and our community exudes that in spades. Some call it not giving a fuck, but to me it’s that search for originality – the act of finding yourself – that’s largely provided to us by the plant. While people often say things like ‘weed makes people friendly’, I think the truth is it actually just makes you more comfortable with who you truly are – and that’s a beautiful gift.

One of the most common things I hear when interviewing those I consider real heads – from cultivators, to trappers, to lifers – is that they got into the industry to fund, or grow their habit. While maybe they were also attracted by what they believed to be ‘riches’ at the time, it was the ability to make their own way that sealed the deal. We all wanted to blaze our own trail, and invest in this thing we truly loved. Most of us knew nothing about taxes, or compliance. We were outlaws, rebels.

It’s hard to say it was always easy, and we had more than our fair share of casualties. From fighting the federal prohibition and avoiding jail time to ducking into alleys to light up, it hardened us, and we had earned our places in this growing economy.

Now flash forward a few years, a piecemeal legalization, an insane tax structure in pretty much every state, and a whole lot of new, clean faces – what the fuck happened?

Coming of Age

Say what you will about where shit’s gotten, it’s hard to deny that things have largely worked out for us so far. We’re not getting locked up as much. We can be more open about our passions. Cannabis brands are worth billions of dollars, and many of our icons have become kings; fans still mob Cheech and Chong meet & greets, the Dead’s still touring – and with one of the biggest mainstream pop stars of our time, no less. Now Netflix is making shows about us, FOX News is talking about edibles – and with that, friends, we’ve jumped the shark.

Flash forward to today and the THC rat race is killing us, and publicists have decided microdosing is the wave. No one’s making the money they’re used to, and I know how frustrating it is to see a slew of new products coming to market that seem designed for anyone but you.

One of the most common misconceptions about legalization is that it was going to create more space for us. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but what we were actually making room for was them. The outsiders. Those NOT in-the-know. Now while that may seem scary, it’s important to note that this is part of the process. Growing up is uncomfortable, but one of the first things you realize in your journey to maturity is that the world is a lot bigger than you. Creating space for something you love doesn’t mean you get to just clone yourself a dozen times to enjoy it 12x as much. It means you’re introducing your love to the world, and the world might not see her the same way you do. That’s a scary thing!

But recall, we were once on the outside too, and we did alright.

An even scarier thing perhaps is all the new players flooding the field. Not consumers, but VCs and executives from other ‘restrictive’ industries telling us how to sell our products. There’s no shortage of new money and new interest coming in to get a slice of the pie.

In order to get to the next level, we should acknowledge a basic truth: in almost all situations, people fear change. While that’s far more a mental hurdle than an actual object to jump over, things are changing in a BIG way right now. It’s natural to feel uneasy. Hold fast, and keep in mind that despite the turbulence, we’re moving in the right direction. We’ll have to learn some new tricks, and we’re not out of the fight, but pressure makes diamonds, and no one changes the world by staying comfortable. (Remember, we weren’t for a LONG time…) And don’t forget, we have home court advantage here.

All Grown Up

While I might’ve already turned most of you off by refusing to sugarcoat the reality we’re facing, the original intention of this piece was to offer some suggestions that may help with this changing landscape. I’m no scholar, and I’m not running your business, so take this as a guide more than commandments – I’m not Moses – but I’ve got a few ideas that I believe will help ensure you see the next level of this tower we’re building.

First, I know we all think ‘corporate’ is code for the Deathstar, but remember, if you do anything well for long enough, you eventually become the man. I know we all grew up saying damn that guy, but there are very real reasons why once your success reaches unmanageable heights, people hire a team. You’ve already done this, you’ve just got to take it to the next level now, and that’s what going corporate means. We’ve largely created the stigma we’re worried about. You probably don’t know the best tax loopholes, and compliance shortcuts – that’s why you hire an expert. A corporation, when built properly, is just a well-staffed group of experts with the support structures necessary to tackle bigger problems. A lot of cooks will enter the kitchen, and there will be many more conversations before taking action, but it kinda sounds like the dream not to have to worry about filing your own paperwork, no?

Next, and an example I make often, is that I’ve never had a problem taking money from rich kids. They usually don’t value it as much as you will, and they can afford to take more shots if they screw up so they’re not as worried about failure – utilize their blessings to get your goals accomplished, whatever that may be.

We will often need them to surpass the compliance hurdles legalization has placed on us. That said, be careful not to let the money dictate the conversation. You see, in MOST of these situations, the money is coming to you because you know what’s up. As long as you don’t let them forget that YOU are what they’re investing in, money’s helpful for a lot.

Another important thing to remember is that we’re in a race to the bottom right now. As all the new money tries to ‘achieve scale’ trying to make every step in the process as bottom-line effective as possible – which largely seems to mean in their minds ‘be so big we can tell the market what it wants’, they are losing hundreds of millions learning the market doesn’t want to buy boof, and values quality. As a real consumer, you know this. They largely don’t. That will change with time, and the only thing that will retain its value through this process, that they will eventually have to acknowledge and PAY FOR, is your experience. Your expertise. Now that may mean we’re in for a few rough years, no question. It might also mean some of you who have run your own businesses forever will go from owners to employees – that’s a hard pill to swallow.

The thing to keep in mind is, you can build a much bigger ship when you don’t do it alone, just focusing on your strengths. There’s an old adage ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team’, and that holds especially true here. It’s the corporate point again, right? Would you rather make $5 million by yourself, or collect 10% of $500 million? I’ve written a lot about the successes of players who have succeeded largely off of the strength of the network they’ve built. You don’t have to say you learned it from them, but please, take note. There’s an important lesson there. We’re not playing the same game anymore, and you’ve got to evolve to survive.

Maturity

This last point may lose the rest of you, but try to stick with me, we’re almost there. Remember what I said earlier about that beautiful gift? Well the thing is, while showing us and helping us accept and appreciate who we are individually, it actually doesn’t always make us the most accepting of others who don’t fit a similar mold. Try not to take that as a slight, but as something to open your eyes to. It’s not an accusation, just something you should look for in your own actions, before you tear down the ideas of others. We don’t all have the same perspective – this is the root of why diversity is so important.

While I am absolutely not saying these new guys know what they’re doing, I am saying our overconfidence can sometimes be a turn off to outsiders who don’t get us yet, and that can hinder us more than benefit. Just think about how polarizing social media has gotten. We can’t even mention Sexism without a thousand individual and unaffected perspectives trying to tear down the basic notion based on their personal experiences. It gets visceral.

We need to remember to look outside ourselves, and when necessary, help them see your perspective from a place of understanding, not judgment. This is something I definitely need to work on myself, but I know will help many of you as well. Ego should be all of our biggest enemies.

If there’s one thing us lifers have in common, it’s that we’re here for the long haul. We’re not going anywhere – we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. While most of these fair-weather fans will head for the new wave once the next billion dollar opportunity comes along (thanks Web3), we’ll still be here. But let’s not make the party we’re having unattractive to outsiders, because we’ll always need customers.

Finally, I often joke that most of the industry’s problems stem from the fact that not enough people involved in the supply chain are smoking. That’s especially true for all the new faces joining us to take advantage of the supposed ‘gold rush’. But a lot of the ones that are, also typically ain’t high enough (trust, I’m going to get to the withdrawal conversation at some point…) and we can all use each other’s understanding as we navigate through this trying time. I don’t know about you guys, but my love of weed is one of the only things in my life I’ve never had to fake, and we are finally in a time where we can celebrate that around the clock basically anywhere. Don’t forget how many people died, and went to jail, for this luxury (or basic human right, whatever). Things COULD be looking better than ever before, it’s just a matter of perspective. We’ll get there.

The post The Industry’s Identity Crisis: Our Escape Has Gone Corporate appeared first on High Times.

Let’s Talk About Sexism, Baby!

Before I landed in my current vocation of writing about weed, I worked so many different jobs that it’s a joke amongst my friends. I was a deckhand on a salmon tender for four glorious summers in Alaska. I was a tequila shot slinger on the dancefloor of a nightclub in London. I got really good at putting a condom on a banana when I toured high schools to talk to teens about safe sex. I acted in plays—a favorite of mine involved me dancing with my dead husband’s ashes in an urn. I’ve been a production assistant, data entry clerk, server, nanny, dog walker… Basically, since I left home at 16, I’ve done whatever it takes to pay the bills. I landed a job writing about weed at this publication over a decade ago, and since then, I’ve been fortunate to make a living by covering cannabis culture, trends, and news.

I’ve gotta say, of all the industries I’ve worked in, the weed industry has been the most frustrating when it comes to something that is going to make some of you grit your teeth—in my experience, it’s a deeply unpopular topic. I’m gonna go for it anyway.

Ok, so, guys, sexism and misogyny! Ugh, it’s exhausting. Let’s call it S&M to be more fun! Listen though, this is real: no matter how much S&M makes you roll your eyes, it’s something we need to talk about, because it’s getting worse.

We’re living in a tense time in every regard, at every level of society. It can feel relentless. I can trace my perpetual anxiety about things being fucked back to November 8, 2016—the night that California voters legalized cannabis for adult use. I was new to L.A., and I was proud to cover the election results for High Times. And we all know the other major news from that night: ye olde pussy-grabber Donald Trump won the presidency. And a ton of people in the cannabis community celebrated his win! I was gobsmacked, along with millions of women around the country.

For the next four years, we got stories like “Why President Trump Is Positioned To Be Marijuana’s Great Savior.” Well, let the record show that Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions unleashed federal prosecutors by rescinding the Cole Memo, his treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin refused to protect banks doing business with the cannabis industry, and zero federal reform took place on DJT’s watch.

Why is this b*tch whining about Trump in 2022, you may be asking yourself? Because—hit that joint you’re holding before continuing to read—in addition to his being a racist POS, and perpetuating the Big Lie, research shows that Trump made society more sexist.

Let’s focus that lens on the cannabis community. When I started writing about weed, and working at Cannabis Cups around the country, plenty of women were crushing it in the industry. It was a heady, optimistic time. In 2015, Newsweek published a piece titled “How Legal Marijuana Could Be the First Billion-Dollar Industry Not Dominated by Men.” I worked with many of those women, and I include myself when I say that we were buoyed up by the possibility of the Green Rush being a fair and equitable space. We believed that the Brave New World of Weed wasn’t going to be dominated by the usual players, and we wouldn’t have to fight for seats at the table; we were going to build the table together, and pull up any kind of chair/throne/beanbag we wanted (click the link for outdated stoner stereotype LOLs).

But women haven’t gained ground in the cannabis industry; along with minority executives and owners, we’ve lost it. Last year, the percentage of women holding executive positions in weed fell below the average of other U.S. industries. “Industry experts suggest that competitive markets tend to favor businesses with white men in ownership and leadership positions, primarily because of their established access to capital,” MJBiz reported. “More executives from mainstream sectors are opting into the cannabis industry as a new opportunity, accelerating the increase of white men in power positions.”

And wow, some of those guys are big mad at women! Just last week the CEO of an Oklahoma company was so rattled by a sales rep from a cannabis job platform including her pronouns in her email signature that he replied: “I don’t communicate with ignorant c*nts that cannot figure out what a woman is. You’re a she/her/hers? Please die so God can rectify his mistake.”

This is what I mean by things getting worse. Guys like this Hatey McHaterson feel emboldened in post-Trump America. When I started out covering cannabis, there were plenty of things to work on as far as equality and representation went, but I felt hopeful. Fast forward to a few months back, when a dude commented on a story I’d written that he was going to stuff his nuts into my mouth to shut me up. I’m fine, but I think we can do better when it comes to holding guys like this accountable. (Also, threatening to stuff your nuts into my mouth to shut me up is a crazy move that shows you have no concept of teeth.)

Last night, I ended up at an industry party where I chatted with three young women about how they felt about their place in the biz. Each of them had a story of dealing with some absolute fucking sexist nonsense. And each of them said they’re sticking with working in weed because they love it so much. We talked about our hopes for the future of cannabis, and how we should get to decide what it looks like. It shouldn’t be dumb Boys saying “no women allowed in the grow room,” as was alleged in a recent lawsuit. We shouldn’t have to worry about bullying and harassment. Wouldn’t it be fucking awesome if we made the weed industry the most inclusive, forward-thinking, beneficial environment for everyone who wants a seat at the table? Well, we can! But we sure can’t do it without men. And if you men want to know what you can do to make things better, start by supporting companies that support women. You don’t need to buy weed from assholes!

If you’re still reading, and you’re mad about what I’m saying, hit that joint again. Know that I am not mad at men. I am asking men to be mad on the behalf of all of the women who expect and deserve more from this industry and community. It doesn’t hurt you when we all do well; we’re not coming for your stake in the game. We’re saying that we can build something that’s truly new, with you. LFG.

The post Let’s Talk About Sexism, Baby! appeared first on High Times.

I’m Over Cannabis Brands That Don’t Like Cannabis Users

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a new cannabis brand launches. The marketing is dialed in, and presented with buzzy words and pithy phrases. The packaging is minimalist and well-designed, with sleek fonts, clean lines, and a tasteful-but-neutral color scheme. Maybe there’s even a celebrity involved. The weed, which should be the focus, exists, but it’s boilerplate, grown en masse and sometimes flavored with botanical terpenes from other plants. It almost seems like an afterthought, and often it is. “Press release weed,” my friend and colleague Jimi Devine likes to call it.

For some people, the new wave of sexy-branding-meets-mediocre-product hits. Marketers expect this—many are banking their entire businesses on the fact that cannabis is scary to many people, thanks to the efforts of prohibitionists over the years. They’re hoping that there’s some untold “canna-curious” customer who has just been waiting for the OK from Uncle Sam to light up, and once they do, they’ll be hooked for life. Personally, I think that consumer archetype is one that type of marketing is intended for.

But for anyone who’s been smoking weed long and frequently enough, encountering sleek branding in today’s continually legalizing cannabis industry can be a bit of a mindfuck.

“Who, exactly, is this for?” I often find myself wondering, especially as a person who finds herself at the intersection of a few seemingly high-priority target groups for cannabis marketers: I’m a woman who, at 36-years-old, is approaching middle age. I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, as well as ADHD. I also stopped drinking heavily over two years ago, swapping in more weed for less booze. According to the panels I’ve moderated and sat in on, the people I’ve interviewed, and the trend reports I’ve read, those are all prime targets for cannabis companies, especially the middle-aged woman bit. But the truth is that I’ve always smoked weed and the only thing I care about when buying it is whether it’s good or not, not the package it came in nor the lifestyle it promises, however cute it all may be.

Interestingly, though, the one aspect of my life that should seem attractive to cannabis marketers—the fact that I’m what my primary care physician calls a “heavy cannabis user”—seems to be not particularly sought after by brands or the people who market them. On its face, that seems kind of obvious, because why should anyone build something for a population that’s already arrived when growth at all costs is the target goal? But it seems a bit disrespectful that branding and marketing efforts in cannabis increasingly ignores its core customer, instead peacocking for an imaginary would-be toker who is, honestly, probably never going to purchase more than a bag of low-dose edibles every few months or so.

Adding insult to injury, cannabis is not just another consumer-packaged good. It’s a criminalized controlled substance, the prohibition of which has gotten many people killed and imprisoned, a legacy that continues to this day. It may seem quaint in the age of dispensaries that look like Apple stores or high-end boutiques, but not too long ago, it wasn’t actually normal or even safe to buy or sell weed! Those of us who did so, whether we were trying to or not, were engaging in an act of resistance to some extent. We were at risk. To me, I think that means we get to have our weed brands be as weedy and stonery as we like. Bring on the tie-dye, the Grateful Dead kitsch, the wide array of dabs. We fought for this and we deserve to enjoy it.

Instead, I find myself scanning display cases at dispensaries, often not even able to see or smell the weed inside the pretty packages and utterly unsure of what I’m even purchasing. I read glowing profiles of cannabis executives, many of whom are quoted saying something along the lines of, “our weed brand transcends the stoner stereotype and image.”

Cool, I guess, but what does that even mean? So many types of people smoke weed, and on paper and at first glance, I’m probably not what most people would picture when they hear “stoner,” yet here I am. Plus, I’m not actually ashamed to be a pothead, especially when considering how much cannabis has enhanced my life and helped me heal from a variety of maladies. My consumption isn’t the issue, it’s the rest of society’s view of it that’s actually the problem.

That being said, there are certain aspects of the culture that I am glad are starting to change, like different types of consumption being celebrated more and more. The fact that lower- and mid-range-THC products are being shouted for alongside a greater focus on terpenes is music to my ears. And while there is still a very long way to go, I do appreciate that the serious bro culture of the cannabis world is starting to dissipate, however slowly. I look around at consumption lounges, parties, industry events, dispensaries, board rooms, and cannabis media companies, and more and more women are present than ever before. To me, that’s more meaningful than a pretty pre-roll with “feminine” design attributes.

To that point, I was recently on a panel with cannabis attorney Heidi Urness, who also agreed with me that cannabis brands need to stop focusing on this fake customer they want so badly to appear out of thin air. “You might make a product that appeals to a customer you didn’t intend for it to appeal to,” she said. “That’s your customer now! Serve them!” I couldn’t agree more.

The post I’m Over Cannabis Brands That Don’t Like Cannabis Users appeared first on High Times.

The Great Cannabis Microdosing PR Conspiracy

They’re Out To Get Us

Let’s go to Costco and get the big tinfoil guy. We’re not making hats, we’re making suits of armor as we decide whether microdosing in cannabis is a PR conspiracy to make a little bit of pot worth a lotta bit of money, or at least a lotta bit more.

“Jim, what is this madness?” you ask as you peel back your aluminum face shield.

Defining the Conspiracy

The most fundamental idea of the conspiracy is that microdosing was never about consumer safety. Consumer safety was a Trojan Horse hiding an artificial bar for competition in the marketplace played by Brad Pitt. The premise being if you can only put 100mg of cannabis inside of an infused product people won’t be purchasing based on value anymore and the little guy that wants to create a product for you can’t anymore.

The financial aspect of it is pretty sad. In the process of preventing consumers’ access, they also blocked a wave of operators who based their sales model on value for being competitive in the marketplace. Overnight it turned into a battle of flavors and suckers since everything had the same dosage.

Worse off than our pockets? The patients!!!

Clear Evidence

I’ll use Korova’s 1000mg Black Bar as an example; it was predated by their 500mg 51/50 bar. Both were wildly popular with patients, I may have sold six figures worth myself in Berkeley at CBCB where I still work to this day. 

Korova first burst onto the scene in the early 2010s with a lineup of a few cookies and the 51/50. While Bhang Chocolates would get the nod on the earliest lad testing data on their edibles for potency, Korova was right there on their heels as the first baked goods company of note to do it.

Patients loved it. For $20 they could get a 51/50 bar and cut it into squares. The 500mg would go a long way for people on a fixed income that used cannabis as medicine. Korova saw the popularity and launched the 1000mg Black Bar a year later. They became attached to that quality of life they could more readily afford.

Then it all changed on January 1, 2018. The Black Bars went into the freezer the night prior. Patients and advocates thought there might be some fix. But now over four years removed from that day, we know they were unfortunately wrong.  

Smoke & Mirrors

Nothing has ever really come along to fill the high dosage gap that was left by the quest for the almighty dollar. Because how could it have been about safety? Today, as you read this, around 29 people will die in a car collision that involves a drunk driver. So the idea we have to deny the sick access to affordable medicine under the guise of public safety while people are dying over recreational substances is gross.

The sheer economics those patients face now is horrendous. That $40 for 1000mg could now easily run over $100. With that $100 figure based off $10 per 100mg. While probably below average for anything decent to be fair, you’re still talking about a number that is 150% higher than four years ago.

And while it’s easy to focus on the patients. Don’t forget the small farmers. How many people would love to be making high dosage edibles? The dosage cap pushes the industry further towards mass production because you’re making so many more products with the same amount of pot. Again making it difficult for the little guy that may want to do low-dose edibles. How is their standard operating procedure supposed to be competitive with the industry’s monsters?

It’s not. It never will be. At this point, the mom and pops that strayed in on the edible side are surviving off the reputation they built in years past. Sure the big dog can pump out their gummies a few bucks cheaper and ride those lowest costs all the way to shelves but what did they ever do for the game?

In Conclusion

For all these reasons, it’s easy to understand why people get a little skeptical of the 100mg THC cap on edibles. But even once you take the tinfoil off, it’s certainly fair to ask questions. Who is benefitting from it? Are we any safer? Who isn’t able to afford the same quality of life because of it? When you run down the answers to those questions it’s hard to understand why we’re not talking about getting rid of at least a little.

The idea of reform is weird. We all agree the merger of Proposition 64 and California’s forthcoming medical marijuana regulations at the time was a shit show. Yet we refuse to go back and talk about the biggest mistakes that impacted the sick and not just the industry.

The conspiracy in psychedelic microdosing is even scarier. The theory there is that everyone is trying to convince us to microdose, instead of macrodose, so it’s trickier to talk to God. Wild.

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