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Survival Instincts

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There are numerous reasons why Montel Williams is a vocal defender of the medical properties of medical cannabis and hemp. Had he never discovered the power of medical cannabis many years ago, his life today would be much different. “I don’t really know where I’d be,” Williams admitted to CULTURE, “because of the positive effects it has on my battle with multiple sclerosis.” The talk-show-host-turned-cannabis-advocate uses cannabidiol (CBD) products to alleviate a plethora of problems beyond multiple sclerosis, and the plant’s power was recently put to the test.

In May 2018, Williams survived a life-shattering wake-up call in the form of a cerebellar hemorrhagic stroke while doing his usual intense morning workout—a practice he picked up while serving in the United States Marine Corps and Navy. Thanks to an episode of The Dr. Oz Show Williams watched a month earlier, he instantly knew the popping noise inside his head and sudden fatigue were the hallmark traits of a stroke, so he somehow managed to alert his wife Tara to call 911. He barely survived, and may not have if he didn’t act immediately. Survive he did, and the stroke reaffirmed to him CBD’s beneficial effects. “As a matter of fact, I started using my CBD product on day nine after the stroke,” Williams confided. “I spent 21 days in the hospital. I was using my CBD product from the ninth day on, and I continue to use it every day. I really believe that the speed of my recovery has been based on the fact that I had such a significant amount of protection there to begin with CBD on a daily basis.”

“I really believe that the speed of my recovery has been based on the fact that I had such a significant amount of protection there to begin with CBD on a daily basis.”

 

Williams has known firsthand about the healing properties of the plant since at least 2001. Those convictions eventually led Williams to found LenitivLabs in 2017, a company that sells products infused with various ratios of CBD and THC, including its second generation flagship product line, Montel by Select. Many of the products are regionally specific, and are based upon state cannabis laws. As anyone in the industry knows, operating and serving the cannabis and hemp markets is tricky business. But with Congress’ approval of the 2018 Farm Bill, the federal government’s definition of industrial hemp will be clarified, and it may have imminent implications for hemp-derived products and perhaps CBD.

The cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and real federal reform is on the horizon. “I think that the [expected] passage of the Farm Bill and the signature will send this industry through the roof,” Williams predicts. “I think there are some other things that have to happen. Just the Farm Bill by itself, under the way it’s currently written, leaves a lot more that still needs to be done. And now, this is going to revolutionize it, and it may break the institutional model.”

It hasn’t always been this way, and not everyone has the opportunity to reap the benefits of a regulated plant. While American culture now says that cannabis is OK, thousands of people—predominantly people of color—ironically remain locked up in prison. “There have been a lot of people that have been arrested in the past for a crime that we as a society now accept,” he said. “Over 90 percent of the population unequivocally believes that there should be medical cannabis available for everybody. I think it’s time to expunge records in addition to justice reform.”

“Over 90 percent of the population unequivocally believes that there should be medical cannabis available for everybody. I think it’s time to expunge records in addition to justice reform.”

 

Sadly Williams’ foray into the cannabis market hasn’t been without problems, and his product line was recently hijacked by greedy scammers. Beginning in 2017, online scammers used the Montel Williams name and imagery to hock counterfeit CBD products, leading to multiple complaints to LenitivLabs, which had nothing to do with the fake products. The fiasco caused Williams and his LenitivLabs team a great deal of stress and time. “. . . I’m hoping that now with the Farm Bill that there will be more standards applied,” Williams suggested. “As this industry matures, we’re going to get some really good science behind everything that’s going on. It’s something that I’ve been fighting diligently to clear my name because there were people putting out products in my name that weren’t even from me. They’re counterfeit in the sense that there is no formulation behind the products. I’m glad that now even the judicial system is starting to pay attention to this.”

Despite these hurdles, Williams still has a few more tricks up his sleeve. “Within the next few months we will have a tincture product in place,” he said. “It will be all CBD, and it will also be a product that will be available where medical marijuana is legal at the ratios that are available.” The former talk show host knows that not everyone is going to take cannabis products the same way. Cannabis consumers come from all different walks of life. And who knows what the future holds for the possibilities at LenitivLabs and Montel by Select. “We are definitely working very diligently, offering different types of delivery systems,” he said. “Again, not everybody likes to take gel caps. Some people have a difficulty swallowing things. To be able to offer a tincture or something else that may be slow-dissolving gives the patient the ability to titrate the product themselves. We’re working on a few possibilities.”

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Fabled Filmmaker

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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.

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The Cocktail Whisperer

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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.

 

cocktailwhisperer.com

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Curating Creativity

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It’s no secret that cannabis and creativity are a beautiful marriage, as many studies and anecdotal reports have suggested a correlation between the two. Artists, writers, musicians and other creators have been harnessing cannabis to tap into inspiration for their crafts. But now, with the advent of legal cannabis in many states, it’s finally possible for these creators to organize, assemble and combine cannabis and art creation with their local community.

Enter Denver, Colorado’s Lit on Lit, a unique artistic outlet where writers can combine the creative practice of writing with cannabis consumption. “Lit on Lit was started when the Suspect Press team paired up with Colorado Cannabis Tours and Puff, Pass & Paint,” said Amanda E.K., editor of Suspect Press in Denver and Lit On Lit teacher. Lit on Lit became a space where writers can combine their love of cannabis and the creative process, but still run ideas by each other instead of writing only in the comfort of their own homes. There, students can combine consumption with writing exercises to discuss and share ideas.

“As a writer, I’ve been using cannabis for years to aid in my creative focus and imagination expansion,” explained E.K. “I teach a weekly, drop-in writing class […] sans cannabis, and I wanted to explore the Lit on Lit class again with the combination of weed, which can be especially fun in a group setting where most people have never met before. Given the right ambiance (with my specially crafted Lit on Lit playlist as background music) and open-ended prompts for any level writer, the class can be a cathartic way to reawaken your right brain and boost your confidence in your abilities as a storyteller.”

Even more popular is combining cannabis with the process of visual art. Whether you’re a renowned artist or just dabbling for fun, anyone can try out a Puff, Pass & Paint class. The organization is currently active in 10 cities around the country in California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, New York, Missouri and Illinois.

The cannabis-friendly art classes provided by Puff, Pass & Paint provide as much or as little instruction as students want. Students may choose to follow along with the instructor or completely branch off and explore their own creativity if they’re already experienced artists. Classes are all BYOC, or bring your own cannabis, and consumption and imagination are both highly encouraged.

“Creativity requires thinking outside of the box, letting your mind wander with confidence and wonder. I think that consuming cannabis helps to create that sort of open-minded environment.”

 

All the Puff, Pass & Paint instructors are local artists who come up with their own special classes as diverse and cooking, karate, pottery and nude art. As long as it fits under the artistic umbrella, it can be turned into a cannabis-friendly class.

“I think cannabis helps people enjoy the present moment and removes their fears of being ‘bad’ at being creative,” explained Heidi Keyes, president and founder of Puff, Pass & Paint. “A lot of our students haven’t made any sort of art since they were in grade school, so they’re worried about looking silly or failing. Puff, Pass & Paint is not about that. It’s about feeling free to be creative and also being free to consume our favorite plant, legally, in a safe space with other people who want to do the same thing. Cannabis has always helped me with my anxiety and also to dig into my own creativity, and I started Puff, Pass & Paint to help share that with other people.”

The class is set up for people who are at all levels of comfortability with both creating art and consuming cannabis. The idea is to focus as much or as little on the art as you want, while imbibing cannabis at your own pace. “Cannabis and artistic expression go hand-in-hand,” Keyes added. “Creativity requires thinking outside of the box, letting your mind wander with confidence and wonder. I think that consuming cannabis helps to create that sort of open-minded environment.”

So, next time you’re working on a story, painting, or doing another creative endeavor with the help of cannabis, get out there and find your community. There are folks waiting to hang out, smoke out and get creative.

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