Once upon a time, in the dark ages of cannabis prohibition, you probably didn’t know who grew your cannabis, but if you did, they sure didn’t have their name and a smiling photo on the bag. At California’s BLOOM FARMS, the company wants customers to know who grew the cannabis, whether it’s flower, tincture or oil form. You can find its name on the label and in some cases customers can even read a profile of the product on the company’s website.
It’s just one of the many things that makes BLOOM FARMS a different kind of cannabis company, one that donates a meal to a food bank for every product purchased. “We’ve got to give something back. We’ve got to provide for the community,” says BLOOM FARMS Founder Michael Ray. “We’re focusing more around the reasons why people enjoy cannabis versus just focusing on getting as high as possible for as cheap as possible. A lot of the brands out there seem to be focused just on the highest potency and lowest price.”
Circuitous Path To Cannabis
Ray, 39, was raised in foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Calaveras County wasn’t quite the heart of California’s black market cannabis industry, but Ray says it was “Humboldt County’s kid brother, little cousin.” Many families lived off cannabis cultivation, lived in constant risk of being raided and arrested.
While Ray enjoyed his share of the local agricultural product that supported so many friends and neighbors, he saw a different path for himself. He left the family farm—known as the BLOOM FARM—for college, dropped out and, in a radical change of directions, went to work on Wall Street.
The year was 1999, the economy was booming and the internet was transforming the stock market trade. His brother, who had already made the move there, told him “they were pretty much hiring anyone willing to mash buttons.”
“It was definitely a culture shock but everything I wanted to do when I was young,” says Ray. “You grow up in the country and you want to go live in the big city.”
But as boom times transformed to bust times, of taxpayer bailouts and the housing market collapse, he grew cynical about the stock market and it wasn’t fun anymore. So he went home in 2009.
Back in California cannabis circles, plenty had changed.
“I wanted to make products I’d feel comfortable giving my grandmother and 90 percent THC didn’t fall in that category.”
Reconnecting with old friends, Ray found many were now second- and third-generation cannabis farmers. And they were doing it legally, under the auspices of California’s revolutionary medical cannabis legalization.
And the first time he walked into a dispensary, it was the classic “kid in a candy store” feeling. In New York, he was used to a bicycle delivery guy with three kinds of weed: Brown, kind of brown and green. “There were 40 strains and they all had names and they were lab tested,” he says. “The light bulb went off in my head and said to me, ‘This is the next big industry.'”
So in 2009 he began to learn how to cultivate. Since people were still getting raided by the feds those days, he kept the operation small, selling to a handful of dispensaries and learning the methods and technologies that were changing how cannabis is grown and how consumers enjoy it.
The more he learned, the more he grew fascinated with extraction and vaporizer technology. He saw how crude butane extraction was leading to home explosions and residual butane in the oil. He began to consider starting his own brand, with clean, safe and responsible practices. So BLOOM FARMS was born.
Not All About Potency
Ray believes in four essential tenets of cannabis use: Relief (from pain), relaxation, creativity and fun. These are the focus of the BLOOM FARMS brand, and Ray doesn’t believe delivering the most potent dose of THC every time, which he says is what many products do, is necessarily in line with these outcomes for the user. “I wanted to make products I’d feel comfortable giving my grandmother and 90 percent THC didn’t fall in that category,” Ray says.
That sense of responsibility is also why the company adopted it’s “1-For-1” policy of donating a meal to a food bank for every product purchase, providing 1.4 million meals to date.
“We are first and foremost a mission-driven company. It’s really important to focus on the double bottom line, not just the financial bottom line of the company but the bottom line of the positive impact we are making in the community and for our employees,” says Ray. “Our goal is to improve the quality of life for all people.”
Most BLOOM FARMS products tend to range in the 60 to 85 percent range, which Ray believes is more conducive for many people to actually enjoy cannabis. Their cannabis is sourced from growers all over California thought not, ironically, from the namesake BLOOM FARMS. That’s because Calaveras County officials in 2018 banned cannabis cultivation.
For now, their products are only available in California and Nevada, though they just released a CBD tincture that can be sold throughout most of the country. Ray plans to expand to other states with legal cannabis in the future. His plans are based on his love for the plant and how it can help people.
“I believe (cannabis) is making the world a better place,” he says.
In the cannabis industry, there are all kinds of movers and shakers. Many musicians who get into the industry do so to promote their own name, with a lack of integrity. Not Marlon Asher. Everything the Trinidadian reggae singer does, he does out of his genuine love for the plant, including the music he records and the products that he releases. His seed company, currently under rebranding, is all about creation and cultivation, and his music is all about harmony. Between touring with countless reggae acts and even Boyz II Men, Asher’s fingerprint in the music world is as evident as ever. CULTURE caught up with Asher to discuss his contribution to the Caribbean reggae music scene, including his recent hit “Ganja Farmer” and his love for the leafy green.
Is there anything exciting you’re working on right now that you want to announce?
Right now I’m on tour, and I’ve also been working on my newest album.
What has the recording process been like for this album?
Right now, we’re actually in the planning stages of the new music. This time, we’re really trying to put everything together so there will be a flow, and we won’t have to guess what we want to happen. We want it to be special.
How do you think this is going to stand out from your other work?
What is really going to stand out is the fact that people are going to recognize the growth and the changes we’ve been through over the years.
“I would like to see an end to prohibition and see [cannabis] decriminalized. So far, I don’t really see a benefit from legalization, as the people who have been in the industry so long aren’t seeing a benefit from it; it’s the corporations who are benefiting.”
How did you first get into making music?
I first got into music at my grandfather’s church by being a part of the choir, and I fell in love with reggae music in my teenage years. I started performing around my village, and then I got recognized by some producers and started to make music my career.
When did cannabis first become a part of your life, and why was it important to you?
Cannabis is important to me, because it’s a medicine. You can really see the effects of it and how it helps people. One of my big hits, “Ganja Farmer,” was about the people who are dedicated to cannabis, to highlight some of the things that were going on in my country with cannabis and the people growing it. The song became really popular, and I think it has a really good message.
How has cannabis impacted you personally?
Personally, it kind of puts me in that meditative state that I like to be in when I want to get closer to God. It’s definitely positive when it comes to meditation and mental expansion.
What do you think the world of cannabis is going to be like in the future? How would you like to see it work in five years?
I would like to see an end to prohibition and see it decriminalized. So far, I don’t really see a benefit from legalization, as the people who have been in the industry so long aren’t seeing a benefit from it; it’s the corporations who are benefiting. I hope in the near future, cannabis won’t be criminalized, and no one will be chastised for using it.
What do you hope people take away the most from your music? How do you hope it influences people?
The main message I hope people take away is the oneness of people, the fact that music was made to bring people together and heal people. I really want that to be what I bring to the table.
Is there anything else you want to highlight?
I’m on tour now, and I’m about to start my seed business in the Caribbean. I also just want to tell people to take care of each other and love each other. That’s mainly what I want people to understand.
With your seed company, is there anything you want to announce or highlight?
Well we are currently rebranding, coming up with a new name and a new concept behind the business. We’re planning to launch everything soon.
Kevin Smith is undoubtedly Jason Mewes’ true partner-in-crime, and the two have remained friends through thick and thin—both on and off the screen. Smith’s more recent film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, was released theatrically in the United States on Oct. 15, and he is currently working on the upcoming comedy horror anthology Killroy Was Here and writing the script for Clerks III, which he hopes to release soon. In addition, Smith is working on his Netflix original animated series Masters of the Universe: Revelation, a reboot of the classic 1983 TV show.
Anyone who is familiar with the View Askewniverse knows that Smith adores the leafy green plant. Smith and Mewes recently collaborated with Caviar Gold’s Mike Brunson to create three strains: Snoogans, Snoochie Boochies and Berzerker. The strains are infused with 95 percent pure organic THC distillate and are rolled in kief for a product that resembles moon rocks. The strains are sold in pre-rolls or in 3.5 gram jars.
CULTURE recently snagged Smith at Herbarium, one of his personal favorite dispensaries in West Hollywood, California. In the wake of the nationwide vaping scare, Smith provided some insight about his thoughts on the epidemic, as entrepreneurship within the cannabis industry often overlaps with the vaping industry.
“Well what happened is the government said a couple days ago that ‘we’re taking vaping off the market’ and a lot of states are dropping it instantly like a hot rock, in such a way,” Smith explained. “There have been six to 10 deaths—which are heartbreaking—but the way they were like ‘we’ve got to get rid of this instantly,’ you’d think they know something that we don’t. Like that vaping causes vampirism or makes you turn into a werewolf. But instead they called it a public health hazard.”
“The only question that I have is, and I’m not a vaper myself, is that 10 people have died from vaping,” Smith added. “But how many people died from smoking a cigarette yesterday? Where’s the public crisis for this? It just makes no sense.” Since speaking with Smith, there have been more incidents totally to a several dozen total vaping-related lung illness deaths—but as he said, it pales in comparison to cigarette deaths. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is responsible for 1,300 deaths per day worldwide. The real crisis, he explained, would be better suited to focus on the prevalence of cigarettes or one of the many deadly substances such as alcohol or opioids.
“. . . Ten people have died from vaping. But how many people died from smoking a cigarette yesterday? Where’s the public crisis for this? It just makes no sense.”
Smith has ventured into the cannabis industry multiple times before. Los Angeles, California-based Bud & Roses, for instance, sold two strains several years ago that were named after Smith’s outrageous comedy-horror film Tusk. His latest foray into the industry likely won’t be his last.
The Cocktail Whisperer
Photo courtesy Warren Bobrow.
It’s once again the season to be merry, and for a lot of adults, that means more cocktails at holiday parties and family gatherings. But some people would rather light up around the Christmas tree than drink alcohol and be subject to the inevitable after-effects. Those folks are in luck, because Warren Bobrow, a cannabis cocktail master, is here to make that tradition a thing of the past.
Bobrow has used his unmatched cannabis mixology know-how to write a book on the craft called Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations. He’s also a master menu-creator when it comes to infusions with cannabis. CULTURE chatted with the “Cocktail Whisperer” about how to keep things merry and bright this season with a little bit of liquid cheer.
How did you first get interested in mixology, specifically with cannabis?
I had experimented with mixing cannabis with craft spirits after visiting New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail in 2016. I had scheduled a book signing at the Pharmacy Museum for my third book of six, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails.
At the same time, the museum was holding an exhibit on cannabis in the early apothecary. My dream was hatched! As a master mixologist and cannabis smoker since the tender age of 12 and the eldest grandson of the owner/manufacturer of Geritol, my inspiration was at hand with several books on healing measures, such as my first book, Apothecary Cocktails. The only ingredient missing in that early cocktail book (2013) was cannabis. In the early apothecary, cannabis was probably the only ingredient that actually did anything!
What about cannabis cocktails do you think invites creativity and experimenting?
The feeling of the crossfade is the most intriguing thing. You just don’t get that euphoric feeling from CBD; that’s why I hardly work with it. I like the feeling that I get from THC. And I believe for the entourage effect to be most pronounced, you need THC and CBD—not just CBD. It’s a balance. Like life itself.
Tell us about your writing career—how did you start writing?
I was initially a trained chef from dish sink on up. I have an incredibly deep knowledge of food journalism and writing. Clementine Paddleford was an early inspiration, as was Penelope Casas. I’ve always been comfortable writing in blogs, but never in the “real world.”
After losing my fresh pasta business in hurricane Hugo in 1989, I was forced by necessity to pay off my loans by working in a series of private banks for 20 years, all the while nurturing a career working in wine and spirits on my days off and as a private chef. But it was not fulfilling. I needed to write, but I didn’t know how.
I ended up taking some food writing classes, one at the New School with Andy Smith and the other at the then French Culinary Institute for Alan Richman. Alan said I would be making a big mistake by going back into banking. He was right!
How did you first start using cannabis, and how did it influence your life and creative process?
I was at a good old Grateful Dead show in 1972 at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. The cannabis may or may not have actually been cannabis. It might have been gerbil droppings for all I knew. But there was something in there that made me more relaxed than I had ever been. Our plant brought me relief of the pain of being Warren. It helped me focus and drill down into my own history.
What is your favorite strain or product, and what’s your favorite cannabis cocktail?
My favorite cannabis cocktail is the Mezzrole Cocktail, named for Mezz Mezzrow, a jazz-era musician, who not-so-coincidently was Louis Armstrong’s weed dealer in the ’20s and ’30s. A particularly well-rolled cannabis joint was known by the “Hep Cats” as a Mezzrole. A joint or a reefer might get you arrested if you asked the wrong person for one, like a policeman. But a Mezzrole was the hip codeword for reefer in the Jazz Era.
“You just don’t get that euphoric feeling from CBD; that’s why I hardly work with it. I like the feeling that I get from THC. And I believe for the entourage effect to be most pronounced, you need THC and CBD—not just CBD. It’s a balance. Like life itself.”
What do you think the world of legalization will look like in five or 10 years? Do you think ordering a cannabis cocktail in a bar will ever become the norm?
I hope that the stigma dissipates somewhat along with legalization as it spreads around the country. Unfortunately, there are many preconceived notions about cannabis cocktails. Most importantly, “Will I get destroyed?”
That is a real possibility, but I suggest taking the Thai food approach. Never would you go to a Thai restaurant for the first time and order your food five star, Thai Hot. It’s just not done; you’d be destroyed! Cannabis cocktails are the same. You want to start really slowly. They hit pretty fast, so less is definitely more. You can always add, never subtract.
But should you take too much, some CBD or a combination of peppercorns and lemon juice work just fine. Don’t be like those folks on VICELAND Live (I made them a THC/CBD cocktail with Barrell Bourbon and oven-caramelized blood orange juice) who had way more than one per hour. Each drink was at least 100 milligrams of THC . . . They had several in the first 15 minutes or so . . . and then they went out on live TV. It was memorable.
Is there anything specific you want to announce, focus on, or highlight right now?
I’m doing a mocktail for TSO Sonoma in December, and I’m releasing a live-resin, ready-to-drink mocktail into the market shortly in California. Stay tuned! It’s unlike anything available with an onset time of just a few short minutes, and it’s delicious. My tried-and-true recipes. I’m always focusing on the sales of my book, Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Indigo Books in Canada and most indie bookstores globally.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t be afraid of cannabis cocktails. They were making them over 100 years ago in pharmacies. They work for me with my glaucoma, and I hope they offer a non-confrontational approach to “taking your medicine.” At least no one would know that your Vietnamese iced coffee had both THC-infused, condensed milk and Rhum Agricole from Martinique in it.
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