Welcome to the first very first installment of The Ganjier Smoke Break. My name is Daniel Montero and I am a proud recipient of the ’16 Ganjier Award You may be wondering, what is a Ganjier? The idea is simple really. What a sommelier is to wine, a ganjier is to cannabis. A ganjier is a ganja professional with a visible passion for cannabis. He or she is someone who is highly knowledgeable about one or more facets of the plant, such as it’s history, characteristics, flavors, and genetics. Thank you for reading my first published work.
It’s the middle of April 2019 and the place is sunny San Francisco, California. The day is Saturday. The streets are swarming with life. Tourists carousing with smiles on their faces and cameras around their necks; locals strolling about with groceries in hand, walking the dog, cruising the slopes and main thoroughfares of the Barbary Coast. I parked my green Prius in the Mission District, the time is 10 am. Today’s adventure takes place at Impact Hub SF, a vibrant, modern community center featuring an eye popping 40′ mural depicting SF history and neighborhood empowerment. The Bay Area cannabis community is gathered here today thanks to the efforts of Nina Parks, an SF native who is the backbone of SF cannabis activism and a leading figure of our industry at large. Her birthday is on 4/20 and the accomplishments already on her belt seem to allude that a career in the California cannabis industry was in her destiny. Her vision is to empower Bay Area equity applicants with the tools and insight needed to find success in our ultra-competitive industry. She has gathered us here today for the last installment of the 6-part SF Equity Sessions Workshops. Topics ranged from Budtending, Compliance, How To Make A Deal, and Healing from the Drug War. Today’s workshop focuses on Cannabis Culture. I’m excited because this is the first panel I will participate in and am at ease because I’m surrounded by friends and get to participate alongside mi amigo Hezekiah Allen.
The time is now 11 a.m. and the 40 or so attendees are milling about munching on breakfast fruit and bagels, drinking coffee, and striking conversation while enjoying a social smoke under the California sun. You can’t help but notice the satisfying degree of diversity among us. That is one of the special aspects of Cannabis. She does not discriminate and has an ability to bind us together in a meaningful way. When we breathe her in and exhale her, she wrestles our egos from us, removes our judgement and facilitates genuine social interaction. Cannabis heightens our senses, and used in the right context, allows us to experience the world in a refreshing new way.
Nina has called us back inside and it’s time for the panel to begin. She enjoys enjoys meditation and yoga in her personal life and gets us in the mood with a quick breathing exercise while we close our eyes and center our energies. Next thing I know I’m being called onstage and am now sitting next to SF hip hop artist Majestic June, cannabis industry entrepreneur John Freeman, the one and only Humboldt native and cannabis activist Hezekiah Allen, and moderator Nina Parks. She asked us various questions such as who are we in the industry, what cannabis culture means to us, how we define our culture, etc. We all spoke in turn and shared similar narratives of how our culture is rooted in our relationship with the plant, how cannabis culture is born from our love for cannabis. I shared that it is this passion that drives us to form a relationship with her whether we simply enjoy a smoke or perhaps an edible a few times a week to those of us who are diving in head first into the regulated industry. I further explained that all of our relationships with cannabis are valid and equal. In other words, just because I’m touching the plant more than you, does not, by any means, make my experience with cannabis superior or better than yours. Our culture has always been inclusive rather than exclusive, accepting and never elitist. The only expression of our culture that I warned about and distance myself from is the relationship born purely from a desire to profiteer from the plant. This type of relationship is unhealthy and unsustainable, just as it would be to have a partner whose only interest is to take from what you have and never give back in return.
I continued by saying that as someone who is strategizing to enter the regulated market, I’ve realized that it is our culture that is our primary weapon to compete in a world where we are up against individuals and entities who literally have $300M in their back pocket. You see, there are entire communities of tech entrepreneurs, computer wizards, and investors who have made a fortune these past 2-3 decades.y. Some of them liquidated stock and others sold their start up, it is no exaggeration when I say that these powerhouses have cantinas full of dinero and are committed to having some fun in the cannabis industry.
My logic is that in this scenario, how do we compete when we are outgunned financially? The books that come to mind are the Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Shogun’s Scrolls originally written by Hidetomo Nakadai, adviser to Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun of Japan and considered one of history’s most ruthless and savage generals. Why do I default to this stream of knowledge? Because as heritage cannabis operators we are facing what is being called an extinction event. If we as a community do not mount an offensive, then we surely will no longer survive in the world that we have called home for decades now. In the words of Sun Tzu, “If you know the enemy and yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”
So what do we, as a cannabis community have, that our corporate counterparts do not? (drumroll please) Culture! We are soaked in cultural sovereignty and cultural wealth. We possess in our hearts the love story that is already captivating the world. It is the love for cannabis that will magnetize global tourism to California. This love story is shared by Heritage cannabis operators from around the world without exception. Even more compelling, companies without culture are doomed to fail. Words like Heritage are meaningful in the business world. As an example, luxury car brand Jaguar markets themselves as a reflection of their Racing Heritage. We have to share our stories with the world around us because if we do not, then our culture will be re-written and our heritage misappropriated. Story telling has always been the most effective form of communication, I’m grateful that legendary SF activist Terrance Alan cemented that for me during a conversation earlier this year. By the time the panel concluded, I was confident that the audience had a much better grasp of authentic cannabis culture and better understood the value that we all have when we see ourselves through that lens. A successful cannabis brand absolutely needs a genuine cannabis story to go with it. I remember encouraging attendees that there is no better story than their own and that branding with a piece of their identity in the mix is a winning formula.
It was time for lunch at this point, we enjoyed fresh burritos from a local kitchen and a couple joints to wash it down. The second part of the workshop was now underway, we broke up into five different groups and tackled various topics surrounding cannabis culture. Each group presented their perspectives and the workshop was complete after the last group went on stage. I would like to acknowledge that although Nina spearheaded Equity Sessions, it was a joint effort between her, Leslie Valencia, Ramon Garcia, Brandon Brown, and Ed Brown. Together they are the Original Equity Group and deserve a standing ovation for bringing equity applicants together from across the Bay Area. The momentum they started is visibly gaining velocity and I feel confident writing this article for Skunk today because of the empowering experience I had while attending 5 out of 6 Equity Workshops.
Before going any further, I must extend a warm thank you to Julie Chiariello, Co-Founder of Skunk Magazine for giving me the opportunity to write. The Green Renaissance is a term that has existed in Julie’s mind for a few years now.. Her intent is to preserve cannabis culture, cannabis values, and the the spirit of compassion. By doing so, we reclaim the culture that is rightfully ours and also begin to define the authentic cannabis experience.
In conclusion, I want you the reader to be aware of the values you hold dear to your heart as you participate in this newest evolution of our cannabis industry.. We are all equal participants in the most free-thinking culture of our modern world. My job and the responsibility of many others like me will be to create cool content for you to enjoy and relate to. Together we can ride this historic wave and together we can forge a better future with cannabis by our side, her wisdom guiding us and her warmth emanating through us.
The dawn of a new age is here. Go Big!!
Daniel Montero has spent his entire adult life in the California cannabis industry. Born and raised in San Jose and canna educated in Southern Humboldt. Daniel started selling cannabis in '97 at age 17 and began cultivating chronic in 2002. He opened Green Walrus Delivery in 2014 and is the recipient of the 2016 Ganjier Award. Daniel closed Green Walrus in 2018 in order to devote his time to the San Jose Cannabis Equity Working Group. His focus is to create a more diverse and inclusive industry while ensuring maximum long term economic benefit for San Jose. Lastly, he is the producer of Ganjier Smoke Break, a series of interviews that highlight authentic cannabis culture and stories rarely shared with the public.