George Washington once said, “Make the most of the Indian Hemp Seed and sow it everywhere.”
A few hundred years later, in 1998, on a song called "Dr. GreenThumb," B-Real of the legendary group Cypress Hill, rapped:
"God Bless the whole crop / Please God, don't let me see no cops / Trunkload, ready to hit the highway / Don't let the eye in the sky fly my way / Or we gonna have big trouble, that's no shit"
The founder of our country saw the value in weed, but unfortunately generations to come felt differently and those who sought the joy of a J were forced to do so in secrecy for fear of persecution.
Now though things are changing, the laws are changing, and B-Real (A.K.A. Dr. Greenthumb) is on the cutting edge.
A few weeks ago, I highlighted some of hip-hop’s weed entrepreneurs, and nobody impressed me more than B-Real. While most rappers simply attach their name to a product, B-Real is really doing it and doing it big. He’s not just endorsing products, he’s making his own (we’ll get to that) and he’s even in the process of opening his own collective in Santa Ana, California. So when I got the opportunity to speak with him about my two best friends, weed and rap music, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.
I can say with certainty that anybody who loves weed has thought about heading West in search of the wealth that nuggets can bring; it’s 1949 all over again. Opening your own dispensary, making a legal living off weed, is a dream come true, and there’s very real money in it. It really hit me when I asked B-Real to compare his profits from music to the marijuana industry. Buds or bars, which is better?
"The turn around on what you are making is a lot faster than in music. From studies of collectives, some turn over $50,000, some 50K a week, it just depends on the traffic. That’s how fast it happens. The music industry is rather slow. You get paid quarterly on your royalties and publishing and that depends on if you have successful records. Chances are most of your money is coming quickly via shows and merch. That's the right away money.
If you want to compare shows to dispensaries, both turn around fast, but the wear and tear on your body from doing 30 some odd shows every couple months as opposed to being behind the counter. (laughs) There’s a big difference."
But before you pack up your bags and head to California, keep in mind you can't just stumble into it like that bag of Doritos you thought you already ate. It's a lot of hard work to get to the point of even opening a dispensary. B-Real literally won the lottery, that was a huge step, but that was just the start.
"We heard there was a vote that was going to happen in Santa Ana to give 20 shops permission to open legal collectives and we decided to throw our name in the hat. To get in the lottery you had to apply and they had to do background checks, you had to have the property you would actually be putting the collective on, and it had to be zoned in the proper area and it had to be approved by the city, so it was quite a lengthy process. We're still going through it. From the 20 shops that hit the lottery, only three of them have opened and that's because since it was so new in Santa Ana they didn't have a big staff to process the openings of these collectives. Now, we're playing the waiting game. We’re sitting on the runway waiting to take off."
Damn. That’s like waking up on Christmas, opening up that Xbox and being told you can’t play with it until next Christmas. Meanwhile, Jimmy from two houses over is mowing down zombies while you watch. Every cloud has a silver lining though. While the wait must be excruciating, it gives time for B-Real and his partner Harry Gordy to plan.
"My partner Harry Gordy is dealing with the day-to-day while I deal with the music market and brand. We are dealing with it as a team. We want this place to open so we are constantly following up with the city to see where our position is. We strategizing on how we are going to market and promote the place. The layout, the interior, the experience people will have when they come to get their meds. Just trying to keep the brand out there and keep it strong and relevant and let the people that support us know that we're going full force."
Branding is everything and B-Real’s brand is hip-hop. Weed too, but also hip-hop. People love music as much as they love weed and given who he his, I had to imagine hip-hop is an integral part of what will separate the Dr. GreenThumb experience from your average run of the mill collective.
"I think music and marijuana go hand in hand. One way to talk about it is in songs, so we'll have some songs that relate to the actual collective. Who know's maybe, once in awhile, we might throw a special surprise "cheef and greet" or a performance, if the layout allows."
Still, we’re a long way away from a Cypress Hill show in Santa Ana. All B can really do now is continue to push his products (the High Times Cannabis Cup award winning Phuncky Feel Tips) and of course his own strains.
"We have the Jet Fuel OG and the Dr. Greenthumb Tangerine. We’ve been involved in the culture since the early '90s. It was about taking the strain we've been working with since since then and branding the strain we make under our banner. This is the product that comes from us. These are strains that have been in our hands for a long time.. It wasn't necessarily about trying to obtain this or that, because we've always had it, but at the time we had it was only known as OG kush, but now there's so many people growing it and everyone has their own version. We saw a vision of branding our OG and calling it something different."
Maybe I’m biased (I am) and maybe I don't have a degree in business (I don’t) but it seems like the best thing B-Real can do is release music. He said it himself, “Music and marijuana go hand in hand.” I was worried that the work that goes into his budding business might mean he has less time for the music. I was wrong. Very very wrong. New Cypress Hill anyone?
"We are working on finishing up the next Cypress Hill album, Elephants On Acid, produced by DJ Muggs. That album is a new piece of work, but it's also to celebrate our 25 year anniversary as Cypress Hill. That's the big thing. There's a song called Reefer Man. That should be coming very soon. I’m working a couple other projects too. One with my partner Berner, we'll be doing an album together. Another solo album and other cameos and features. And all the stuff we do on B-RealTV."
NEW CYPRESS HILL!!! Also, as both a weed enthusiast and lover of hip-hop, it's very cool to see them come together like this. For years both marijuana culture and hip-hop were marginalized, unfairly judged and even punished by the law. Now that both are becoming integral parts of American culture, it's great to see B-Real as a representative of both cultures, reaping the benefits.