This year’s Marijuana Business Conference was held in Las Vegas in mid-November, just four months after Nevada legalized the sale of cannabis. Among the more than 17,000 attendees estimated to have participated in the industry’s largest conference, Ebbu positioned itself for something much larger.
Founded by Jon Cooper in 2013, ebbu LLC has been investing in multi-million-dollar pharmaceutical research and development efforts in Evergreen, Colorado for a singular purpose: deliver the exact same experience, every single time. This task isn’t an easy one. And it is the primary reason for the shift in focus of ebbu from consumer-facing products to technology-based formulations that deliver consistent and reliable experiences time after time. Ebbu, as Cooper puts it, has transitioned from a cannabis company to a cannabinoid company. And this transition is about to make big waves throughout the cannabis space with upcoming partnerships.
At a private party held in the gorgeous estate of Wayne Newton, big business was seated at the table, and they were hungry for more than the five-star meal being served. Green Table and ebbu hosted a private, invitation-only engagement for just under 200 attendees ranging from legislators and celebrities to influential cannabis business leaders and Wall Street investors. While enjoying a feast from Chef Randy Placeres, guests entertained business pitches and talked plans for future investments in the burgeoning industry.
“When I actually got into this business, I feared cannabis. I grew up supporting ‘Just Say No.’ We were told that all these drugs were bad, including marijuana,” Cooper offered at the close of the meal. After recounting his first experience with the plant in college — enjoying a 3-foot bong that “totally wrecked” him — Cooper continued that his experience with the plant could be described as inconsistent at best, with experiences ranging from awesome and euphoric, to horrific and anxious.
A beaker of oil at the Ebbu lab. photo by Ben Owens @cannabenoid
As an adult with a family, Cooper had little interest in the cannabis industry. This was largely related to his uneasiness to trust cannabis to deliver an experience that consumers could trust. “Why would I try something that I didn’t trust?” Cooper asked the audience. But after many stories and exchanges with people whose lives had been immeasurably changed or saved by the plant, he started to wonder if there was a way to isolate certain experiences. “What if I could grab those awesome experiences and capture that in a bottle, and it didn’t matter where I went, I could get that same exact experience every time?”
Ebbu developed an extraction machine, Zeus, that can isolate 18 compounds from the cannabis plant. This allows them to create specific combinations in a laboratory setting and experiment on in-house grown cells, like serotonin receptors, to identify the most ideal formulations for certain “feelings” with a variety of cannabinoid and terpene ratios. “We grow live human receptors in house,” Cooper explains, “which allow us to measure and understand how to fix things like anxiety and depression and create things like Chill and Energy sensations.” These formulations can be used in vapes, edibles, topicals and more to deliver a consistent experience. But before ebbu could bring its vast library of human sensations to market, the company was approached by others looking to invest in, or purchase, certain formulations for proprietary use.
While sipping medicated mocktails at the party crafted by Top Shelf Budtending’s Andrew Mieure, the comparison to alcoholic beverages comes up. Cooper posits that if you go anywhere in the world and you buy the same beer, you’ll have the same experience; why can’t people have the same sensation with cannabis? Working with Mieure, Cooper’s idea was that consumers would get a better sense of how many drinks they would require to acheive the desired state of mind if each drink offered the exact same cannabinoid combinations. Knowing how much cannabis you’re consuming becomes as important as knowing the ABV of your beverage, and many companies cannot yet deliver the same exact experience each and every time.
Ebbu’s partnerships efforts are being highlighted in a modest rebrand, moving toward the “ebbu Experience” as a whole, powered by ebbu’s cannabis innovations. These efforts are beginning to see the light of day in the public market, and large moves by global interests are reinforcing the optimism for the future of the industry. Large deals like the recent purchase of a portion of the multi-billion dollar Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth by liquor giant Constellation Brands have reinforced the possibility of mainstream, legalized cannabis. Constellation bet in a big way on the future of mainstream cannabis, but unless they can deliver on consistent, predictable experiences, similar to those that ebbu has already developed, Constellations products may never see the light of day.
If the Marijuana Business Conference revealed anything, it’s that there is a plenty of optimism about where the industry is going, what it will be able to deliver, and how soon it will be able to deliver it. Be on the lookout for products powered by ebbu in the next 8-12 months as partnership efforts become public and the mainstream cannabis industry gets a bit more consistent. ♦
Cannabis is going primetime with the first nationally televised ad for a cannabis-derived product. Palmetto Harmony made history this month by securing the first advertisement of its kind for their line of hemp-derived CBD products set to air across the nation.
The 30-second TV spot (which was produced by DCP Media in conjunction with THC Productions, the video division of The Hemp Connoisseur) is set to air on several nationwide cable networks as well as 71 local stations, featuring the innocuous imagery one would expect from just about any wellness product on the market. What the ad doesn’t feature is any mention of cannabis or the cannabinoids contained in Palmetto Harmony’s products.
“Because it’s a national commercial, we had to be very, very careful what we say,” says Palmetto Harmony CEO Janel Ralph. “In order to get our foot in the door this is the way it needs to be structured.”
The ad may represent a watershed moment in the marketing of cannabis products, but Ralph is all too aware of the fine line required to not just have the ad approved for national broadcast, but to avoid offending federal food and drug regulators. Claims of efficacy are out of the question without scientific studies backing them, a problem raised by a series of FDA warning letters sent to several CBD sellers in September.
With the threat of a federal crackdown looming larger than ever, the ad would seem to represent at least a slight tempt of fate, but Ralph isn’t concerned. “If I conduct myself in a state of fear of what would happen then nothing will ever get done, so I can’t do that,” she says.
Ralph says that Palmetto operates legally under the 2014 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp pilot programs under certain conditions. The CBD in Palmetto’s products is sourced from state-legal grows in Kentucky and Colorado, and as for the ad, she’s being incredibly cautious, hoping that it will lead viewers to the company’s website, where the products’ cannabinoid content is apparent and customer reviews serve as the only indication of its use in the treatment of any medical conditions — though even this gives her some reservations.
With as much surety as one can have in the situation, Ralph is more than happy to be the first to make such a stand. “I’ve never felt like I have an illegal business because I don’t,” she says confidently.
Navigating all of this means that Ralph has to spend less time on her business and more time acting as a lobbyist, lawyer or politician just to be sure that she is staying within the not-so-clearly scribed lines. “I have to wear many hats,” she says. “It comes at you from so many different directions.”
But for Ralph, this tumultuous dance is worth the hassle. “I love and respect this industry, even though it’s wasn’t something I ever wanted to actually be in,” she says.
Ralph founded Palmetto Harmony after struggling to find worthwhile CBD products to treat her daughter’s lissencephaly, a rare disorder in which the brain fails to develop its characteristic folds, leading intractable seizures. Ralph began her ingress into the world of CBD treatment as many parents do, hoping to find a miraculous solution overlooked by the medical establishment, which led her to found the Facebook group CBD 4 Children w/ Epilepsy.
“I figured if I created a platform for these people that are looking for it, then eventually somebody would step up and supply them,” says Ralph. “That was a horrible mistake.”
Rather than serving as a source for product information, the page introduced her to what she refers to as the “Facebook industry” of CBD sellers. In the gray market of online CBD products, Ralph found a wealth of dubious vendors and few properly labeled products. “Most of them didn’t even have CBD in them, to be honest with you,” she says. Some of these products were high in THC, she claims, and some even contained potentially harmful contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides.
The ordeal propelled Ralph into the cannabis industry, where she linked up with a Kentucky-based farmer growing high-CBD hemp to treat his own epileptic child during the first year of the state’s pilot program, and in March of 2015 she launched Palmetto Harmony.
The company takes its name from Ralph’s home state of South Carolina — known as the Palmetto State — and Ralph’s very first customer: her daughter, Harmony.
While the company sources its hemp CBD from subcontracted farms in Colorado and Kentucky, its manufacturing facility is in South Carolina, making Palmetto Harmony the state’s first cannabis company, according to Ralph. South Carolina’s hemp program will be coming online next year, and Ralph is planning to move into their 45,000-square-foot growing facility to allow for further expansion of production.
Ralph’s goal at Palmetto is to address the issues she found when first entering the CBD marketplace as a consumer. She’s striving for transparency in sourcing and verifiable cannabinoid, terpene and contaminant readouts from by labs certified by the International Organization for Standardization that can be independently verified by consumers.
Ralph is a lifelong customer of her own company, having replaced 95 percent of the drugs prescribed to her daughter with CBD products manufactured by her company. She’s posted her daughter’s before and after EEG images on her personal Facebook page, showing what Harmony’s neurologist described as nothing short of divine intervention. “It is so shocking that anybody with a layman’s eyes can see how her brain, on every single level, has now woken up and started to function and connect together,” Ralph says of the images.
Of course, none of this is apparent in the ad, or in any of the company’s marketing material. Instead, Ralph is relying on the curiosity of potential customers and the reviews of existing ones on the website to elucidate the company’s television spot. But even with this cautious approach, Palmetto Harmony is making historic progress. ♦
One of Portland, Oregon’s nicknames is “Bridgetown,” due to those numerous structures spanning the Willamette River – that body of water dividing the east side of the city from the west.
Through his work on numerous fronts, Portland resident Jeremy Plumb himself serves as a bridge within the cannabis world.
Plumb facilitates connections, furthering the exchange of ideas and the inclusion of participants. “I’m apparently a bit of a communitarian,” says Plumb, who co-founded one of the most celebrated dispensaries in the city, Farma. “I have a wide network of relationships.”
Plumb provides a link between Old School activists, who set in motion what he calls the “folk medicine revolution,” and newcomers to the field, who bring additional skills to the table. “I think wonderfully about all those people who did the early work,” Plumb says, before adding, “It’s just we now have to go further.”
He seeks to gap geographical divides. Plumb wants to improve strained relations between growers in sunny Southern Oregon and dispensaries located in the often wet and overcast north, where the majority of Oregon’s consumers — who predominantly prefer indoor-grown weed — live.
And while Plumb operates locally, he thinks globally: How can cannabis be produced and consumed in ways that benefits not only our health, but also our planet and its overall climate?
However, despite “always trying to bridge things,” there are areas in which opposing sides do not meet – Plumb’s drawbridge raises, he sticks to his side’s position. As the Executive Director of the Open Cannabis Project, Plumb decries the filing of utility patents for cannabis plants with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, endorsing an open source model for plant genetics. (More on that controversial subject later.)
And he encourages new ways of approaching cannabis, refuting the notion that categorizations such as indica or sativa, for instance, serve as accurate determinants of how cannabis will affect a person.
His speech is dense, weighty, scholarly, urgent. Listening to him talk is like attending a graduate-level university class. He spins off narratives that span disciplines like genetics, physiology, psychology, law, and computer science — like when he compares cannabis genetics to operating systems like Linux, Microsoft, and Apple. With his rounded glasses and clean-cut, authoritative presence, he could be a psychologist — which is fitting since he has a master’s degree in Jungian psychology and has worked as a counselor.
And just what is Oregon’s gestalt? According to Plumb’s analysis,which is very similar to impressions outlined by others, the state possesses a self-aware, environmental mindset, as well as notable culture of local beer, wine, coffee, farm-to-table restaurants and, especially in Portland, food carts. Plumb says, “Oregon is a tiny state with a relatively small population, and we are hell-bent — with religious devotion — on having the best damned craft products you can produce.” Of course, leave it to Plumb to bring that same sensibility to “the most phytochemically-complex plant on the planet.” Plumb says, “Hops, grapes, tea, coffee… none have the multifacetedness that cannabis does.”
From an early age, cannabis became his life’s calling. Plumb says, “I love to serve the plant, itself and its vast potentials — and all of those people it can serve.”
Plumb was born in Denver, Colorado in 1977. He spent the first couple years of his life at 8,000 feet above sea level in Hilldale Pines, and then lived in Boulder. When he was eight, his mother and her husband relocated with Jeremy to Northern California. In fact, an article in Portland Monthly claimed that Plumb’s stepfather was “a major marijuana trafficker.” Regarding his youth, Plumb simply states, “There had already been exposure to cannabis in my family.”
As a teen, Plumb says he lived “next door to a leading organic cannabis farmer in Sonoma County, and he took me under his wing.”
He soon discovered that cannabis soothed his nerves: “I was sensitive to alcohol, very rarely drank, and enjoyed cannabis and all the productive, creative, introverted states that it would evoke. And it balanced my anxiety. Generally, I’ve always been a high-anxiety person. And I was able to reduce that to a tolerable, creative threshold, which then allowed me to be a high-functioning person.”
Photo by Gregory Daurer
Publicly, he became a proponent for the plant in the early ’90s, after reading Jack Herer’s seminal book about hemp and marijuana, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Plumb began working with activists Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad, an editor of Herer’s book, on an educational campaign called Shattered Lives, which spotlighted the tragedies of drug war prisoners.
Plumb began communing with cannabis movers and shakers in Northern California: ganja farmers in the Emerald Triangle; the San Francisco medical marijuana activists who would spearhead California’s successful medical marijuana initiative in 1996; and the founders of Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Santa Cruz, one of California’s earliest dispensaries.
In 2000, Plumb moved to Oregon, a couple years after Oregon passed its own medical marijuana initiative. In fact, the state possesses a history of pioneering cannabis values, being the first to decriminalize marijuana in 1973.
In Portland, where the mayor had ordered the police to treat marijuana as the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority, Plumb discovered a brand new world of informational exchange. He spent time at grow shops where “people would talk openly for the first time [about cannabis cultivation]…No one [in Northern California] talked openly about what was really going on, except to their very closest friends.”
In terms of his development, Oregon’s spirit of openness and exploration served as a “rocket ship,” furthering Plumb’s skills and education. One scientific acquaintance had been applying his laboratory analysis background towards “cracking the matrix of cannabis.” There were patient-growers who provided “open-source processing information for patients around the world.” Continuing that tradition today, Plumb says of Oregon’s cannabis scene, “We’re really on a mission to be a resource to everywhere [else].”
Plumb continued his studies of medical cannabis in earnest, eventually with the financial backing of a supportive cancer patient. He spent years doing research and development on different strains, different grow mediums, different set-ups, and even had his flower tested for cannabinoid and terpene content, all culminating with the “flower-forward” dispensary Farma, which Plumb co-founded in late 2014.
His onetime work as a counselor came in handy when he began budtending at the shop, necessitating the use of empathic listening skills, while serving severely ill people.
Plumb doesn’t think budtenders should tell patients what strains to use for which ailments. Rather, he uses the term “curate” to describe Farma’s approach: being able to share with customers the scientific analysis for every batch of flower, pointing out the unique properties of each. (If the customer so desires the information, that is. Not all do.) “To curate well, you have to be able to describe not just the THC and CBD, but the complex phytochemisry of the plant,” he says.
Rather than attributing overriding importance to a plant’s genotype (specific strains or hybrids such as Chemdawg, Golden Goat or Harlequin), Plumb emphasizes the plant’s chemotype: “The specific compounds in this particular batch of flower product, which will vary, even if it’s the same producer and the same genotype, batch-to-batch, based on fluctuations in the environment (such as humidity, harvest date, lighting, watering, grow medium).” As an example, take the same Blue Dream genetics, Plumb says: “If we had twelve different growers producing this with all their unique environments, we’d still see twelve different chemotypes.”
Plumb dismisses review sites that “ascribe attributes to a particular strain.” By allowing customers to consider the lab results for the chemotypes themselves, he says, “It actually empowers patients and customers, who are consuming cannabis, to actually have a more intimate relationship with the chemistry [of the plant] and their [own] unique physiology.” Farma has most of its cannabis tested for 64 compounds. “We were the first dispensary in the world to publish all the terpene data,” asserts Plumb.
Based on test results or common lore or personal experience, many of Farma’s consumers shy away from outdoor-grown cannabis because it usually doesn’t pack as high levels of cannabinoids as indoor-grown weed does. Plumb, an experienced indoor grower, has suggested ways for outdoor growers in Southern Oregon to improve their results — although he acknowledges that some of them consider indoor-grown cannabis, and its producers like himself, to be “evil.” Plumb says, “I’ve been trying to help people in Southern Oregon to become more sophisticated with supplemental LED lighting and flower-forcing and living-soil regimens that can make a really competitive product.”
Plumb is no stranger to competition: He co-founded an Oregon-based judging event called the Cultivation Classic. Only cannabis entries grown organically in living soil, using integrative pest management (no pesticides added), are allowed to compete. Lab results for each winner show “all of the terpenes and minor cannabinoids,” as well as THC and CBD. Additionally, the entries’ genetic backgrounds are established by Portland’s Phylos Bioscience; the strains’ genotypes can then be compared to one another thanks to a computer program that that creates a graphic visualization of the similarities or differences between each entry.
In order to promote a green agenda during cultivation, Plumb says, “We also had the very first carbon-footprint analysis.” Those results are shared in an open-source fashion, so growers throughout the world can learn how to minimize their contributions to global climate change.
Farma, photo by Gregory Daurer
Scientists such as Dr. Ethan Russo and Dr. Adie Poe have been keynote speakers at the event, and Plumb has been joined at the dais by prominent awards-presenter Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, one of the staunchest advocates for the cannabis industry in Washington, D.C.
The Cultivation Classic was inspired by a visit Plumb made to Blumenauer’s office in D.C., during which the two discussed how to keep Oregon’s presence in the national cannabis scene consistent with their state’s values. “He knew Oregon is defined by craft and ecology,” Plumb says of Blumenauer. “Principally, that is our [state’s] ethos.” According to Plumb, it’s a positioning unlike Oregon’s northern and southern neighbors, Washington and California,where, more often than in Oregon, corporations overshadow smaller craft growers.
One way Plumb hopes to protect the industry is through his work with the Open Cannabis Project. Plumb is the group’s Executive Director; its Board of Directors includes Chris Conrad, Valerie Corral of WAMM, grow expert and author Jorge Cervantes, Teri Robnett of Colorado’s Cannabis Patients Alliance, Rick Doblin of MAPS, and computer engineer and civil libertarian John Gilmore, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Open Cannabis Project is concerned about big corporations filing utility patents on plants, which they say will produce a specific chemotype – a chemotype that can also exist within other breeders’ strains. Plumb cites one of the entries at the Cultivation Classic as an example of what he’s talking about: a plant with close to a one-to-one ratio of THC to CBD, and no noticeable level of one specific terpene. Plumb understands there’s already been a patent granted by the United States Patent Office for just such a plant.
Plumb says, “It really stymies the ‘folk medicine revolution’ and the potentials we sit at the edge of, when one corporation could go ‘Monsanto’ on a lot of the rest of the industry and start ruthlessly suing — based on patent claims — companies that [have plants with] similar chemotypes … And that just gives too much power to a couple of corporations.” Corporations, he notes, which are able to spend upwards of $100,000 to file a utility patent on each plant.
Through five of its partner labs, the Open Cannabis Project has been building a genotype database of existing plant strains. Legally, Plumb points out, anything that’s been available publicly for over a year exists within the public domain – it can’t be patented. (The project seeks to aggregate chemotype data for the plants, as well.)
To be clear, Plumb isn’t against all plant patents for cannabis — just utility patents. The Open Cannabis Project states on its web site: “Breeders can protect plants that they have newly developed (within the last year.) New varieties can be protected by simple plant patents (through the USPTO) or Plant Variety Protection (through the USDA). These types of protection are narrow, they apply to only a single well-defined plant variety and they are affordable.”
As opposed to utility patents, Plumb adds, “Plant patents are very narrowly-applied to a unique, clonally-propagated cultivar that is the original work of breeders, and the reason we like those patents is [because] that actually supports breeding innovation.”
Ultimately, Plumb would prefer to see the distribution of plant genetics modeled on a Creative Commons type set-up. “We have to protect the fundamentals, and make sure that people have access to these building blocks of the therapeutic revolution that botanical medicine is offering — and [that] cannabis is the spearhead for,” he says.
Some longtime activists feel that Oregon’s medical marijuana program has been decimated, since dispensaries have been forced to legally choose between serving either the medical or the recreational market, according to recent state rules. Through an upcoming project, which he says he can’t presently reveal the details of, Plumb and a statewide network of other parties hope to remedy some of the inequities. He dangles a question: “How do you give away the most cannabis to the people who need it the most?”
At his shop Farma, not far from Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge, Plumb says, “Anybody who’s had a long-term relationship with cannabis, I believe, inherently learns, at some point in the process — if they’ve gone deep enough — that there’s a part of this that’s really about altruism. The best parts of the movement have always been based [on] really trying to do good.” ♦
New York restaurateur Ryan Chadwick found it challenging to find comfortable, affordable employee housing for his workforce — so he’s building his own housing out of hemp.
“The biggest thing is building the prototype and I wanted to make sure it had hemp involved in it because I want to make these as sustainable and energy efficient as possible,” says Chadwick who owns seven restaurants mostly in resort towns — he’s on a mission to provide them with a solution to their often limited supply of affordable employee housing.
Originally, Chadwick had been buying vacation homes for his staff in towns like Nantucket, which proved to be very expensive. He looked to a cheaper option: houseboats. Employees could be stationed near their work, have a comfortable place to live for the season, and it was a little easier on the company funds.
However, two of his restaurants, The Grey Lady and Escobar, are in Aspen, Colorado (The Grey Lady is also in New York City) where he lives part of the year.
“So, I went from buying homes in resort towns, in Nantucket, which is quite expensive, to buying house boats and having people live on house boats.” But Chadwick quickly realized, “I can’t take a houseboat to Aspen with me. So, then I decide I make these homes that are moveable.” The serial entrepreneur kicked in: “Then I started thinking maybe I should make a business of it.”
Which is exactly what he’s doing with Kondo.
Each unit is anchored into a trailer with wheels and when it’s set up for the season a skirt will go around them so they don’t look like trailer homes.
Two 200-square-foot units connect to each other sleeping five. Five sets of two units will go on a half-acre lot, ideally located near docs, beaches, ski resorts or wherever is convenient for people to get to and from work.
A pilot program of six conjoined units that will sleep 30 people is slated to launch next summer in Montauk. At $150 a bed per week, these units are $50 cheaper than what companies pay on average, says Chadwick.
In the first unit, a guest would enter through floor to ceiling sliding glass doors into a common room with a loft above. The kitchen is on the back wall, a bathroom with a shower is to the left, and above it another loft area. Take a right and they’ll head right into the second unit with sleeping space and another common area.
“[They’re] kind of like sailboats turned upside down. Like an inverted sailboat attached to a trailer that’s attached to a truck,” says Chadwick.
The goal is to have the modulars made of 50 percent hemp, the rest being materials like aluminum inserts in the walls for support, the steel trailer, and insulation. The outer walls will be made of a fiberglass and hemp matting in a poly-based resin infused into a seamless mold. In between the interior and exterior walls will be a foam insulation used in conventional houses. They are also looking into what it would take to furnish them with hemp furniture.
Kentucky-based fiber manufacturer Sunstrand provides Chadwick with non-woven hemp mats made specially for the homes.
Patrick Flaherty, director of product development for Sunstrand, says the hemp material is largely aesthetic and isn’t providing much structural support. But the product they developed for Chadwick could eventually replace a lot of the fiberglass in the house and other buildings.
“It’s in there mostly as aesthetic,” explains Flaherty, “but this is getting us down the road where it can be used as actual reinforcements.”
Hemp is lighter than traditional building materials, which means the homes will be even easier to transport, which is the plan.
In Aspen, where Chadwick plans on having Kondo offices, there are about 3,000 affordable units, “and it’s still not enough,” says Deputy Director of Aspen/Pitken Housing Authority, Cindy Christensen. Nineteen percent of the workers are seasonal employees while the rest live there full time, and retirees can keep the house they are living in, which takes it off the market.
At one point the city aimed to supply 60 percent of the necessary workforce housing, but they came up short. Now there’s enough for less than half the employees. The median price of a house in Aspen is $575,000 according to the online residential real estate site Trulia. The average price per square foot is $861 and the average monthly rent is a whopping $24,000— a price difficult to pay for those working hourly position in the hospitality industry.
Rendering of a Kondo community.
There’s more trouble too. “We don’t have a lot of land left to tell you the truth so you’re kind of limited to the kind of projects you can do,” says Christensen.
In the past, the city required developers to reserve 70 percent of each project for the city’s workforce, putting the remaining units on the free market. However, in today’s economy, that doesn’t turn a profit.
The latest initiative involves giving credits to builders who complete a wholly employee housing project. That developer can then sell the credits to another builder so they don’t have to build units for the workforce.
Aspen housing has already been looking into incorporating tiny homes into the workforce housing plan, but it would take reworking the city’s zoning code. Tiny homes tend to be in the 200 square foot range and Aspen dictates units can be no smaller than 500 square feet.
A company like Kondo could be a major asset to a city like Aspen.
But Chadwick isn’t stopping with Aspen. He plans on hiring someone to oversee his restaurant group so he can focus on Kondo full time. He’s talking about rotating his fleet seasonally to supply major resort towns across the country with sustainable, comfortable and affordable hemp housing for their workforces. ♦
When people talk trash about the cannabis industry, Amy Andrle, owner of L’Eagle Dispensary, talks trash right back.
“We have to show that this can be a responsible industry,” she said. “One of our biggest hurdles is educating — telling people who come into the shop what can be recycled. Just like anything else, (packaging) can be washed off and put in the recycle bin. It’s about getting people asking what can be recycled? What can be composted?”
For many dispensaries and retail stores, figuring out how to dispose of trash is easier said than done. To qualify for the dumpster, packaging has to be completely free of marijuana debris.
“For any of the material to leave the site, it has to be unrecognizable — usually it gets mixed with sawdust which adds about 50 percent more waste,” said Laurie Johnson, executive director for the Colorado Association for Recycling. “My biggest piece of advice initially is to do better recycling. Even outside of (marijuana) packaging, they have so much other material that can be recycled.”
Johnson also likes seeing packaging that is compostable, so that it can go into the same bin as green waste.
Still, the initial implementation of a composting plan can be tricky. Grant Parsons, sales manager for Alpine Waste, said only pesticide and chemical-free plants should be composted.
“I think the biggest thing is getting all the employees on the same page as far as what’s accepted and recycled,” he added. “If you have one person who doesn’t understand the program, it can be really easy to contaminate a whole dumpster full of compost.”
But, Parsons added, the challenge is worth it, “One major selling point for all of our customers is sustainability and compost. Now that the cannabis industry has started to grow, it lines up with what we do as far as recycling.”
In addition to traditional composting and recycling, Kind ReDesigned is advocating for pickled compost, or bokashi.
“Loosely translated, bokashi means, ‘fermented organic matter,’” explained Ren Gorbis, Kind ReDesigned’s compliance and operations manager. “It has been used for generations to reduce, reuse and recycle organic waste. Bokashi uses earth-friendly micro-organisms to quickly break down and effectively ‘pickle’ organic waste. … Liquid generated through the fermentation process may be used as a high quality probiotic plant food. The biopulp makes wonderful cannabis composts, soil conditioners, and recycled cannabis-based soils.”
While composting stems and recycling plastic may seem like small measures, each act adds up.
“We’re focused on the whole picture,” Andrle said. “Creating best practices is about living up to your philosophy. Someone’s going to call you out on it, so we want to be authentic and walk the walk.” ♦
80 years ago, Harry J. Anslinger engineered America’s marijuana prohibition. Noted authors – and a distant relative – weigh-in on his reefer madness legacy.
By Gregory Daurer
Eighty years ago this October, the very first convictions under America’s brand-new, federal law against marijuana took place in Denver, Colorado. On October 8, 1937, a week after the law went into effect, Judge J. Foster Symes sentenced two men to federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas: Samuel R. Caldwell, 58, received four years for dealing the drug and Moses Baca, 26, got 18 months for possession. Allegedly, Baca had tried to kill his wife while under the influence.
“I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics — far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine,” said Judge Symes, as noted within the Denver Post. “Under the influence men become beasts, just as was the case with Baca.”
Sitting in the courtroom that day as a spectator was the very man who had urged Congress to prohibit marijuana, through his testimony accusing marijuana of leading to ghastly crimes: Harry J. Anslinger, who was appointed the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930.
Anslinger chimed in to the Post, “Marijuana has become [the country’s] greatest problem …We, too, consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics.” Quite a stretch but, after all, this was the same man who had authored the propagandistic article about marijuana entitled “Assassin of Youth.”
Within Anslinger’s reefer madness horror show, marijuana was so scary that if Frankenstein came face to face with it “he would drop dead of fright.” Anslinger was especially fond of telling the story of a young man in Tampa who had killed his family with an axe, while supposedly under the influence of marijuana. And he publicized racist quotes from the likes of newspaper editor Floyd Baskette of Alamosa, Colorado: “I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret [sic] can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents … who are low mentally because of social and racial conditions.”
Larry “Ratso” Sloman, whose book “Reefer Madness: The History of Marijuana in America” was first published in 1979, weighs in anew on his onetime research subject: “Ah, old Harry. He was one of the first purveyors of ‘fake news’ when he developed a gore file and publicized inaccurate stories that ‘chronicled’ horrific crimes due to the pernicious influence of reefer. He was a racist and a misanthrope and demonized Mexican and black users of Maryjane. And, ironically, he wasn’t even a true believer — his ‘moral’ diatribes against weed came from a totally cynical position of self-interest. He was a consummate bureaucrat who modified his Bureau of Narcotic’s message about marijuana (and other drugs) when it suited his needs and enhanced his operating budget. In the end he was a wannabe J. Edgar Hoover who made a lot of peoples’ lives miserable.”
(Sloman, for whom Anslinger remains a contemptible figure, knows about larger-than-life characters: The former High Times editor has written about traveling on the road with Bob Dylan, co-authored autobiographies of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and boxer Mike Tyson, and crafted song lyrics for John Cale and Rick Derringer.)
Whether or not Anslinger was a true believer; whether he campaigned to make marijuana illegal in order to prop up his agency or in order to surreptitiously make hemp illegal on behalf of competing industrial interests (as has been alleged by the late author Jack Herer in his book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”) — or both; whether he held virulently racist views — all continue to be the subject of discussion.
Anslinger is reviled by many: One YouTube video depicts an individual urinating and defecating on his simple, flat gravestone, located in Pennsylvania.
But he’s still celebrated by the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, whose contempt citation involving racial targeting was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump. Arpaio, a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics under Anslinger, told author Johann Hari, “When you go back to Anslinger — you got a good guy here!” (Over the years, Hari and other authors have explored what they consider to be Anslinger’s racist underpinnings, in addition to wrongheaded policies.)
But there’s also one Denver woman who celebrates Anslinger’s spirit, even though she’s ashamed of what he did to institute marijuana prohibition. She cheerily refers to him as her “Uncle Harry.”
In one of his books, Anslinger describes a formative experience that led to his prohibitionist thinking. When Harry was 12, he was visiting a neighboring farmer. The farmer’s bedridden wife began howling in pain. The farmer urged Harry to drive a team of horses to a drug store to pick up a medicine. When the husband administered the drug to his wife, she immediately stopped her wailing. Anslinger writes, “I never forgot those screams. Nor did I forget that the morphine she required was sold to a twelve-year-old boy, no questions asked.” (Despite being readily available, presumably Anslinger never availed himself of any morphine as a youth. Which makes one question whether prohibition is in fact what keeps young people off of harmful substances, rather than, for instance, education or common sense.)
As a young adult, Anslinger began working as an investigator on the Pennsylvania Railroad, rooting out fraud.
Then, employed by the Treasury Department, Anslinger fought bootleggers during alcohol prohibition. Later, he changed his tune on the wisdom of those policies: “The law must fit the facts. Prohibition will never succeed through the promulgation of a mere law observance program if the American people regard it as obnoxious.” In his senior years, one of his co-authors noted that Anslinger enjoyed a “good martini.”
Anslinger lasted 32 years in his position of power, working for both Republican and Democratic administrations, and through challenges to his position. Early in his career, he got into hot water by referring, within an official government document, to an informant as a “ginger-colored n—-r.” Despite a US senator from Anslinger’s home state of Pennsylvania screaming for his removal, the commissioner kept his job. Over the years he was supported by a variety of civic groups, as well as pharmaceutical companies to which he granted the sole rights to manufacture narcotics.
One of his most noted — and controversial — achievements was ushering in marijuana prohibition via the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. (Although the act was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1969, cannabis was quickly made illegal again during Nixon’s War on Drugs.)
It’s safe to say that Anslinger prevented research into medical cannabis, and saw that it was removed from the nation’s pharmacopeia, during his 30-plus year career. “It is too unpredictable to be a good servant of medicine,” claimed Anslinger. However, that doesn’t mean that he was against all types of marijuana research: During WWII, Anslinger, closely tied to intelligence agencies, allowed his agents to dose unsuspecting subjects, in order to find out whether a super-potent form of cannabis could be used as a truth serum, something that might possibly loosen the lips of enemy spies.
He authored two books after his retirement, “The Protectors” and “The Murderers”. In the latter, Anslinger wrote, “From the start I have thrown the full efforts of the Bureau not against minor characters trapped in their weakness and despair but against the sources — major violators, the big hoods, the top-drawer importers and wholesalers in the international traffic and on the national syndicated crime scene.”
Yet despite claiming to only be targeting big-time traffickers, his agency spied-on, harassed and incarcerated petty users — among them noted musicians, actors, and athletes. In his book Chasing the Scream, author Johann Hari documents how Anslinger’s agents hounded the great jazz singer and heroin addict Billie Holiday to her death — quite literally, on her death bed. Yet Anslinger let a white socialite, who was addicted to a narcotic, off the hook because she came from, as he wrote, “one of the nation’s most honored families.”
The commissioner wasn’t just publicly incensed about people using dope, he received publicity for his agency’s campaign against the doping of racehorses, as well.
Whether traffickers targeted two-legged or four-legged users, Anslinger faced off against them. Anslinger detailed his agency’s battles against the Italian mafia, which the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover refused to acknowledge even existed. But changing political times led to shifting targets: First he stated that the major drug runners were Italians, then during World War II they were agents of Imperial Japan, and then during the Cold War they were the Red Chinese — a charge that many international diplomats found laughable.
Did marijuana users graduate to heroin? Not on your life, he testified in the ’30s. But, within 15 years, Anslinger changed his tune on that, endorsing what’s been called the “gateway” hypothesis.
Whether or not one relatively benign substance actually led to the more dangerous one, Anslinger made sure that marijuana users and dealers received the same mandatory minimum penalties as users and sellers of heroin, through his support of the Boggs Act in 1951.
Anslinger died in 1975. Towards the end of his life he was on drugs himself; due to a weakened heart, he was medicated with morphine (the same drug that had had eased the screams of that farmer’s wife when he was 12, as “Chasing the Scream” author Hari has noted).
Even after his death, his legacy of prohibitionist drug policies lives on globally.
Have you heard of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which still remain in place, making it legally difficult for any country to enact sensible drug policies?
For that, you can thank Harry J. Anslinger, who was a major arm-twisting lobbyist on its behalf.
Like Larry “Ratso” Sloman, author Alexandra Chasin also sees contemporary parallels to Anslinger and his policies.
Chasin says, “I think [US Attorney General] Jeff Sessions is the re-animation of Harry Anslinger, because he has the same kind of Manichean world view that is very black and white, in which everything related to black market drugs is bad and in which, in particular, the black market in drugs is populated by people of color, people coming across borders.”
Chasin — a literary studies professor, self-described on her website as a “language engineer, revisionist writer, and cultural worker” — is the author of the book “Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger’s War on Drugs”. Within it, she points out how America’s drug war — which Anslinger was largely responsible for — overwhelmingly targets people of color. Chasin writes, “Rather than solving social problems, drug policy and law have, in effect, constructed criminality along identity lines, turning a criminal justice system into an administrative mechanism for racist and classist social control.”
So were Anslinger’s policies driven by racist beliefs he personally held?
Whether consciously or unconsciously, Chasin believes they were: from Anslinger collecting press clippings in his “gore file” documenting crimes supposedly committed by African-Americans and Latinos under the influence of cannabis to his bureau’s harassment of African-American jazz singer Billie Holiday, as but two examples.
In his later writing, Anslinger would say that his bureau had hired more individuals of different racial and ethnic backgrounds than any other federal agency, and that although there were, for instance, Italian or African-American individuals involved in notorious crimes, those ethnic or racial groups included good, honest people. Chasin believes that was Anslinger changing his style to fit the times, couching his animus. “[He was] looking to present a different persona,” says Chasin.
According to Chasin, Anslinger believed that immigrants and people of color were using drugs to destroy the fabric “of what he imagined to be an intact, white, homogenous society” — with marijuana being a particular weapon of choice.
Asked if there’s anything about Harry J. Anslinger that she admires, Chasin takes a long pause to mull that question over.
Ultimately, her answer is no: “I would say that he’s not really a figure that I admire.”
Mary Carniglia sees something to admire in Harry J. Anslinger: “I’ve got a feeling that he was a stand-up guy. That he was a man of the people. That he was really somebody to be reckoned with. He could be intimidating, physically and energy-wise, because he knew he was standing up for what was right.”
But that doesn’t mean that Carniglia approves of the federal prohibition against marijuana, which Anslinger championed.
“I’m just a huge weed snob,” she says. “Golden Goat is my favorite.”
Carniglia’s not just a “weed snob,” she’s related to Harry J. Anslinger. Harry’s older brother, Robert Jr., was Carniglia’s great-grandfather; her mother was an Anslinger. Mary was about three years old when Harry died in 1975, and she thinks there might still be a family photo somewhere of him holding her as a baby. She refers to the onetime commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics as “Uncle Harry.”
Carniglia says she was smoking a joint with a cousin when she learned about her late relative’s historical ties to marijuana prohibition.
“You know the reason this is illegal is because of Uncle Harry,” her cousin informed her.
“What are you talking about?!” asked Carniglia. “Uncle Harry?!”
Carniglia admits, “It was pretty crummy to find out that [cannabis] was illegal because of the bullhorn of my uncle. That’s embarrassing.”
She speculates, “I think he really felt like he was doing something that was going to keep people safe, somehow. People always say racism, and I can’t believe that … I didn’t get that growing up from any of my family.”
Unlike authors Sloman, Hari, and Chasin — who in no way suggest that marijuana prohibition was tied to hemp’s competition with synthetics or with timber interests — Carniglia does believe there was a conspiracy involving hemp, just like Jack Herer alleges in his book. She says, “And the only thing I know [Harry J. Anslinger] waffled on was the whole hemp thing, because he didn’t want anything to do with getting rid of hemp. He thought that was a ridiculous idea. They told him, ‘You have to!’”
Who told him that?
“Well, the people with the money. The people that gave him the job. The people that were telling him what his directives were.”
Would that have been the head of the Treasury Department, Andrew Mellon, who it’s said was related by marriage to Anslinger, and one of the reasons Anslinger got his job? (Contrary to what’s been written in several books, Carniglia adamantly disputes there was ever any family connection between Mellon and Anslinger.)
“It may have been,” she replies, before conspiratorially adding, “But I feel like it was Rockefeller.”
One thing Carniglia knows for certain is that the Anslingers never had much money. Harry J. Anslinger spent his last days in a modest house he’d purchased in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
From the Great Beyond, Carniglia envisions her uncle letting out a huge sigh over the “global impact of not just cannabis being taken out of medicine but of hemp being taken out of the world … All his work his whole life had been for nothing. I felt his deflated spirit.”
Carniglia, who grew up in California and New Mexico, moved from the East Coast to Colorado in 2014 in order to get a job in the cannabis industry. She presently works at an office which connects patients seeking medical marijuana recommendations with a doctor. Carniglia often fields calls from sick and dying people, their relatives and parents of ill children who inquire about relocating to Colorado. She gives them information, advice and, perhaps, even hope.
Carniglia says she personally uses cannabis to treat PTSD, and she’s personally experienced how the war on drugs adversely affects people: Carniglia says she once found herself in a compromising position with a police officer who agreed to accept the $80 bribe she discreetly offered in place of charging her with possession of a small amount of marijuana, rather than insisting on any sexual favors from her.
As for her Uncle Harry’s legacy — being the man who engineered federal marijuana prohibition 80 years ago — she expresses a desire to help right the policies he brought about.
Carniglia says, “I feel a moral obligation to unscrew-up what he screwed-up.” ♦
Times are changing, especially in areas with legal cannabis. The world premiere of the documentary, “The Legend of 420” came to Colorado — affectionately referred to as #Hollyweed — on the last day of September, 2017. Produced and directed by Peter Spirer, the movie features stories from prominent cannabis activists and celebrities. Spirer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary “Blood Ties,” showcases the changing views on cannabis through interviews with Tommy Chong, Melissa Etheridge, Michael Des Barres, “Bong Appetite” host Abdullah Saeed, activist Amy Dawn-Hilterbran, and many more. Millennium Grown hosted the premiere to an RSVP-only crowd at Denver’s Cultivated Synergy.
Attendees gathered outside begging around 4:20 p.m. and were greeted, ID’d and given wristbands that provided access to an on-site consumption bus, an empanada food truck, as well as the main event. The screening began a couple of hours later, giving guests a chance to meet and greet with many of the featured interviewees. Hosts Sean Savoy and Stevie Kaye dressed to impress, in cannabis attire fit for the formal “green carpet” event. The event was a definitive nod to the film industry and high class premieres with a Colorado cannabis twist. “It was such an incredible world premiere event. Truly, Denver is Hollyweed now,” Hilterbran remarked.
Event host Amy Dawn-Hilterbran speaking with chef Jarod Farina, photo by Ben Owens @cannabenoid
Following the screening at Cultivated Synergy, select guests were invited to a private afterparty at Herban Space, above the Herban Underground. There, they enjoyed conversation, a green room, and infused food and drink offerings. High Times cannabis chef Jarod Farina offered infused appetizers and small plates throughout the evening, including bruschetta with infused balsamic vinaigrette on toast, infused sweet and sour pineapple chicken bites, and infused teriyaki tri tip with pureed mashed potatoes served on crackers. Additionally, Andrew Mieure of Top Shelf Budtending crafted cannabis-infused mocktails such as the “canna caramel apple” drink, which is made by mixing organic apple cider, cinnamon, and caramel with Stillwater’s water-soluble Ripple THC, and features a rim coated in a caramel, brown sugar mixture and lightly accented by Moonshine Haze terpenes from 14er Boulder.
Thanks to the likes of Johnny Magar, professional joint roller, many in attendance were privileged to smoke a stack of $100 bills — or at least a lookalike stack of bills. Magar brought multiple creative rollings, including a gold-coated necktie blunt that he wore all evening. Hilterbran was very proud of everyone involved, including the people who attended the premiere. “Working with such amazing people … it was absolutely a dream for me. But it was the 420 people watching that world premiere, surrounded by glitz, glam and the freedom to consume — cheering, sometimes crying … I knew right then, we had accomplished something substantial. I couldn’t be more proud, and certainly couldn’t have done it without my team.”
Abdullah Saeed and Jake Brown, photo by Ben Owens @cannabenoid
Another notable attendee, Bobby West, commonly known as Uncle Stoner from his videos and USA Squash Off competitions, was very impressed with the event and movie. “A legendary evening filled with cannabis education and friends … I’m looking forward to part two,” West fondly summarized.
After a night of many laughs, ashtrays full of artistic blunts and joints, and plenty of dabs, the evening was a big success both for those involved as well as the cannabis community at large. Events like these showcase the professionalism and perseverance that are so prevalent in Colorado’s cannabis industry and the national cannabis industry at large. The documentary is a must-see and is available on iTunes and Amazon Video. Fire up your favorite cannabis device, and enjoy “The Legend of 420” with a few buds. ♦
Don’t get me wrong, pizza rolls will always have a special place in my heart right next to the TV show “Recess” and tie-dyed 8-ball Pogs. If you’re a Denverite,you know what I’m talking about — the giant pizza rolls were screened on the commuter rail and RTD buses with slogans like “better when baked” and “it’s high time for pizza rolls.” I’m sure dozens of other “hip” frozen food companies are re-evaluating marketing strategies in other legal states as I write this, because those dumb stoned kids sure are suckers, right?
Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you one of the greatest challenges is fighting drug war era stereotypes that paint the cannabis consumer as a patchouli-scented couch potato incapable of feeding himself. In this vein, the first season of Netflix’s 2017 stoner comedy show “Disjointed” blows smoke and ogles the animals in the zoo.
Following the passage of Prop 64, “Disjointed” imagines what recreational cannabis will look like in California as lifelong activist Ruth Whitefeather Feldman (Kathy Bates) opens her own strip mall dispensary. The store is managed by Ruth’s son Travis (Aaron Moten) fresh from an MBA program and is populated by LA misfits. Playing the role of Mr. N.I.M.B.Y. is black-belt Tae-Kwon-Doug (Michael Trucco), and Tara Sands makes an appearance as an overtly desperate housewife.
In between strange encounters over the counter and awkwardly placed vlogs, the show addresses questions everyone in the industry is asking — what does it mean to sell out? How do you bridge generational gaps? How much is too much? How do you “come out” to a family member? Is there a middle ground for prohibitionists and stoners?
Instead of being the subject of contemplation however, these questions are mainly set ups for flat punch lines. When one considers the legacy of the show’s creator, sitcom king pin Chuck Lorre, it isn’t all that shocking that Disjointed is offensive in all the same ways as “The Big Bang Theory”.
The show isn’t an entire flop — just the live actions parts. Each episode features a psychedelic representation of a PTSD episode animated through the eyes of Carter (Tone Bell), a veteran suffering the condition. According to Stash Media, Dave Hughes, creator of Adult Swim’s “Off the Air,” gathered a dozen different animators to create ten pieces of visual mastery. In one scene, Carter has a flashback as he opens the fridge and ends up imagining stop motion bacon and eggs battle over a chocolate cake. In another episode, Carter’s psychologist asks him how he’s been doing, and the screen dissolves into visions of all the things he is unable to put into words.
The generation of legal weed needs its own manifesto to stand by, but “Disjointed” is not it. It is far away from the freedom of “On the Road” (1957) and too campy to be “Fear and Loathing” (1971). It lacks the simplicity of “Dude Where’s My Car” (2000), and the coming of age honesty of “Dazed and Confused” (1993). Even “Wilfred” (2014) managed to incorporate cannabis as a central component without letting it overpower the plot.
If “Disjointed” ran on cable TV, the laugh track and cut scenes would be status quo, but because it came with that red and white stamp, I had pretty high expectations. Between “Orange is the New Black” (2013-present) and “Making a Murderer” (2015), Netflix has proven it can produce content that is equal parts entertaining and critical of the institutions it examines. Unfortunately, “Disjointed” is an exception to the rule. Instead of satisfying my hunger for honest content portraying the highs and lows of a budding industry, the series burnt my palate like a plate of pizza rolls eaten too soon out of the microwave. ♦
Lyons Orange Juicer, photo by Scott Southern, @Boro.Vision
Sam Lyons, better known as Lyons Glass, grew up in a relaxed Vermont household surrounded by a cannabis friendly circle. He was introduced to cannabis by his older sister at the age of 15, around the same time he was introduced to glass blowing. Their father had rented out space on their property to a young couple who happened to be glass artists and he would sometimes watch them work. Almost immediately, he decided that he wanted to be a pipe maker. Sam’s mother was an artist and encouraged his artistic exploration despite his lack of knowledge about the glass world beforehand, and she paid for his first glass blowing class at Snow Farm, an art school in northern Massachusetts. As a naïve 10th grader guided solely by the desire to make pipes, he didn’t yet understand the difference between lamp working (the process of making pipes over a torch) and glassblowing (hot shop, soft glass manipulation in a kiln that includes large-scale, non-functional work like vases, plates and more old-school Italian style glass art.)
At 16, he took a class led by artist Peter Muller, who is now well known in the glass circuit for his VooDoo Doll work. The class was a traditional art class and was not geared specifically toward learning how to craft pipes. “I was bummed because I wanted to make pipes and Peter got that, he must have thought, ‘This young little stoner must have signed up for the wrong class.’ It was a four-day course, it was a place where we could spend the week and take the full class. I actually still have some of the work I made at that first class. Peter had this cool assistant and on the final day without anyone else knowing Peter and his assistant said that when the other students had left that they would teach me how to make something that rhymes with wrong, and I busted out with a giant smile because he was going to teach me how to make a pipe,” recalls Lyons with a smile. At the end of that session, they had made a basic tube that Lyons smoked out of with Muller’s assistant.
During that period, he also met artist Joe Peters who was making pendants at the time.
Shortly after completing the class, his mom helped him sign up for an art grant program and he was able to purchase his first torch, which he set up in his mom’s pottery studio. He had a basic top-loading kiln that only had three settings and he would bounce back and forth between two to dial in the correct temperature. “I mostly ended up just breaking things,” says Lyons. Eventually, he found a pair of local artists who were into bead making. They taught him how to make spoon bowls and some other basic skills, allowing him to start making actual functional pieces. “There was no understanding at all, I still remember those days,” Lyons reflects. “I would just pour glass and fill a tube and try to make a bong bigger than I could hold and I would look down and just have it cobweb thing you couldn’t even smoke out of.”
Lyons Glass x Darby Holms Collab, photo by Scott Southern, @Boro.Vision
As a high school student, Lyons wasn’t as focused on producing functional work, just dabbling in the basic skills with his home torch. “I was just messing around and I had the joy of learning. I wasn’t selling any pieces or anything, but sometimes I would try to make a pipe for a friend or something like that. I used to sell weed and at one point decided to really shift my focus from selling weed to blowing glass,” Lyons explains. He would take classes and watch live demos when he could, including one particular demonstration led by Muller and Peters, who were making a non-functional sculpture. To this day, Lyons recalls this demonstration fondly as a moment he recognizes as foundational in his passion for glass art.
After high school, he decided to invest in improving his prospects as a glass artist by signing up for college classes. Through a series of lucky events, he ended up being the last person, student number 23, to be allowed into a scientific glassblowing school program at Salem Community College in New Jersey, a school that specializes in scientific glassblowing. It was the first time he had glassblowing friends and people to bounce ideas off of. He flourished in the friendly environment.
“I really had the chance to learn any techniques I wanted from my teachers and had the chance to learn about the pipe scene from the other students, so it was the best of both worlds,” Lyons explains.
But that optimism turned sour during his last semester when his apartment was raided, and he was arrested on cannabis-related charges. The ordeal prompted him to drop out of the program. Although he didn’t graduate, he felt he had all of the knowledge necessary to pursue a career in glass blowing. He decided to move back to Vermont, where he built a studio in the same barn on his parents’ property where he first had been introduced to glass blowing as a teenager.
“I got really lucky with some of the people and the timing of when I met some people that really helped my career. While I was still in college my teacher took us to an unofficial field trip to a trade show and it was filled with work by Elbo, Slinger, Laceface and other incredible artists,” he says. A good friend of his was working as an assistant to Elbo at the time, and he propositioned the artist to hire Lyons when he was ready to move on.
At that trade show, Lyons witnessed the premier of “Degenerate Art,” the first film about the glass pipe industry put together by glass legend Slinger. “To see everyone’s reaction to the film and to see Slinger’s reaction to the film, it was palpable, I could feel how real it was and I had a good vantage point of my skill level at the time, (around 2011) and where I wanted to go. And it really motivated me in huge ways and I told myself I could make it in the pipe industry. I told myself I could get better and develop my art and really make a living making pipes,” says Lyons.
Lyons Glass x Darby Holms Collab, photo by Scott Southern, @Boro.Vision
But technical skill and passion isn’t enough to make a mark in the world of functional glass, and Lyons found himself listless in his early forays into the world of professional glass blowing.
“Before I discovered my citrus theme I had a hard time making things. I didn’t know what to make, I didn’t have any style yet, I had some skill but no style. I soaked up everything that happened and all of the experiences at school like a sponge and tried to learn as much as I could from my friends and teachers and stored it and got ready to apply it later,” he recalls of his early days.
During that time around 2012, Elbo moved back to Massachusetts, and Lyons made good on his earlier connection, becoming Elbo’s assistant. Lyons worked with Elbo for about a year making pickle pipes and other preparation work, providing him the opportunity to learn about the process of sculpting, themes and business. “Elbo taught me a lot about glass and a lot about the game, and would basically try to tell me to always keep going and keep hustling,” says Lyons.
After the yearlong apprenticeship, Elbo moved to Philadelphia, and Lyons was reintroduced to Peters. Peters and Lyons hit it off well and Lyons started working for him, a jump Lyons still recognizes as very lucky. “I was absolutely pumped and I was very fortunate to have things happen the way they did. I definitely consider myself blessed, I was more of a craftsman before the process of being able to work with other artists and through that process I found myself as an artist,” he explains.
During the summer of 2013, Peters taught Lyons everything he knew about working with color, and in 2015, Lyons followed him to Colorado, where Peters founded Dreamlab Glass. “The first year of working for Joe was slow and really revolved around my strengths. And as time went on, I began to help out with millies and that’s when I really started to learn how to make millies, and had the chance to go through the wins and mistakes and see his process. I got my juice concept from watching Joe work on his honeycombs. I actually offered the idea to Joe first when I first thought of the idea and Joe told me to go for it and pursue the idea as my own and I began developing the citrus theme and style,” says Lyons. “Citrus became my thing, and it lines up with the colors I love and the weed I like to smoke and a huge tip of the hat to Joe Peters for teaching me the things he did.”
Soon, Lyons had found his signature. “When I figured out the juicer it became my tube shape that developed after stopping my work with Joe and Dreamlab around the summer of 2016. I really branched out on my own and continued to develop the juicer and I wanted to make something that was technical, functional and beautiful, so the juicer was something I really wanted to be my solo signature piece,” explains Lyons. “I think it combines all of my different backgrounds with everything I have learned from everyone while also developing new things on my own as I’ve gotten better as an artist.”
Currently, Lyons calls the Denver studio known as The Portal home, and he continues to be known for his citrus theme as well as for his juicer pieces. “In my career I’m excited to say that I’m finally feeling some stability within my business and work and trying to expand with new themes and new things within my work. And that is exciting to me; branching out and getting back to seeing what new ideas I can come up with,” says Lyons. “In terms of the industry, I am just excited to see it grow and see more studios pop up, see more cool glass community gatherings and everything happening in the industry. There’s some real weight and camaraderie within the movement and it’s cool — it’s global, it’s one big family.”
Work by Lyons Glass is available for viewing on his social media page and in person at Purple Haze in Denver and other galleries across Colorado. ♦
Looking for the perfect gift for the cannabis consumer in your life? Look no further. We think these products will make a great gift for your connoisseur this holiday season!
Dixie – Synergy: Holiday Gift Box
Dixie makes finding a gift for that cannabis aficionado in your life a breeze by wrapping several of their Synergy products in one box. Each item is infused with a mixture of 1:1 CBD and THC, ensuring that there’s something beneficial for everyone. There are two versions available, one with gummies and one with bath soak, both versions come with a milk chocolate bar and relief balm. Once the goodies are used up, the wooden box is a pretty cool place to store their cannabis knick-knacks. dixieelixirs.com
photo courtesy of Sweet Mary Jane
Sweet Mary Jane – Peppermint Crush
There’s something so holiday-y about peppermint and white chocolate. This ten pack of 10-milligram hearts capture the spirit of the season, and make a great gift for someone you’re sweet on. They’re also a great stocking stuffer, or a tasty addition to a holiday meal with the family. www.ilovesmj.com
O.pen – ISH pen
O.pen Vape is an OG of the pen game and these cartridges are their next evolution, mixing THC distillate with a variety of fun flavors. Because they’re made by O.pen, you know that they are discreet and easy to use. The ISH is sure to be a swish. openvapeshop.com
photo courtesy of Sweet Grass Kitchen
Sweet Grass Kitchen – Pumpkin Pie
You know who doesn’t like pumpkin pie? Terrorists, probably. These adorable mini pies are infused with 10 milligrams of THC, and are the perfect treat in the holiday months. Sweet Grass Kitchen uses only cannabutter in their products, so these things are just like mom would make — if she was cool.