California Psychedelics Legalization Advocates Push for 2026 Ballot Initiative

Psychedelics policy reform advocates in California are calling for a ballot initiative to legalize certain drugs including psilocybin and MDMA after legislative attempts at change failed to cross the finish line two years in a row.

Last year, California lawmakers approved a bill from Democratic state Senator Scott Wiener that would have allowed regulated access to certain psychedelic substances. However, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the legislation in October, calling on the legislature to instead pass regulations to govern the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs.

Wiener responded earlier this year with a new bill he co-authored with several Senate colleagues to regulate the therapeutic use of psychedelics. But that measure is now apparently dead for the legislative session after a Senate committee failed to advance the bill earlier this month. After two unsuccessful bids at psychedelics reform in the legislature, advocates for change including Wiener are considering a ballot initiative to allow voters to decide the issue.

“We are not giving up, whether that means introducing a new bill or ballot measure, this issue is not going away,” Wiener told KQED public television news after the bill’s demise. “We know these substances are helping people turn their lives around.”

Wiener said that the psychedelics legalization ballot measure would likely appear on the ballot for the 2026 general election. He added that he may also return to the legislature with another bill, noting that both avenues of change can be pursued simultaneously.

Psychedelics advocates are considering whether a potential ballot measure should be broader than the bill to regulate the therapeutic use of the drugs sought by Newsom and are looking to the governor to take a leadership position on the issue.

“We hope Governor Newsom puts his action where his mouth is. He’s the one that suggested this bill. Now is the time for him to also be a leader in this space and help us find a path forward,” former Army Ranger Jesse Gould told KQED.

In 2017, Gould launched the Heroic Heart Project to help fellow military veterans gain access to psychedelics-assisted therapeutic services. Many vets seek out such services in foreign countries where regulations are more permissive to treat post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health challenges. Others make use of unregulated therapists in the United States. Advocates for change say all paths to reform are still under consideration.

“All options are on the table. A ballot measure certainly is,” Gould said. “It’s clear that if the politicians won’t speak for their people then we need to bring this to the people. And this is a popular subject for voters in California.”

Support for Psychedelics Reform Growing

Support for psychedelics policy reform is growing nationwide, with cities including Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Washington, D.C. passing ordinances to effectively decriminalize possession of some psychedelic drugs. Public opinion surveys show strong support for reform, including a 2023 U.C. Berkeley poll showing that 61% of American registered voters support legalizing the therapeutic use of psychedelics.

“Californians will continue to seek out psychedelics for all sorts of reasons, including to help alleviate mental health challenges like PTSD, depression and anxiety. Many will do so without guided support and use psychedelics on their own, which increases risks,” said Jared Moffat, Campaign Director for the Alliance for Safer Use of Psychedelics, in a statement. “We’re not backing down, and will keep pushing to ensure facilitated access to psychedelics becomes a reality in California and that Californians are protected from harm.”

The calls for a psychedelics legalization ballot measure come less than two weeks after Wiener’s most recent legislation, Senate Bill 1012, was rejected by a legislative committee in the upper chamber of the California state legislature. Despite the failure, the San Francisco Democrat vowed to renew the fight. But future legislation could be a hard sell with state leaders facing shortfalls in the upcoming budget.

“We’ve been working for four years to legalize access to psychedelics in California, to bring these substances out of the shadows and into the sunlight, and to improve safety and education around their use,” Wiener said in a May 16 statement after the Senate Appropriations Committee declined to advance the bill. “We’re in a terrible budget year, where all bills with significant costs are at risk. Nevertheless, it’s disappointing for this bill not to move forward. Psychedelics have massive promise in helping people heal and get their lives back on track. It makes enormous sense for California to lead in creating regulated access under the supervision of a licensed professional. I’m highly committed to this issue, and we’ll continue to work on expanding access to psychedelics.”

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Data Shows Growing Number of Native American Tribal Cannabis Business Owners

As more states continue to legalize adult-use cannabis, we’re witnessing a growing trend surrounding ownership of cannabis businesses — namely that Native American tribes are investing in cannabis with tribal-owned stores becoming increasingly more common in recent years.

According to data published in MJBizDaily, the number of tribally owned retailers has grown by roughly 25% since January 2023. As of May 2024, there are 57 tribally owned dispensaries, both medical and adult-use, throughout nine states.

With legal adult-use cannabis becoming more commonplace throughout the country, tribes are entering the industry to diversify their economies and boost revenue. 

Though legal cannabis also carries unique benefits for tribes, as a way to assert their sovereignty and seize the first-to-market advantage in newly legal states, as explained by guest columnist Matthew Klas, a senior associate with Minneapolis-based national consulting firm KlasRobinson Q.E.D. specializing in economic development on tribal lands.

A Closer Look at Tribal-Owned Cannabusinesses

There are 574 Native American tribes recognized by the U.S. government, with roughly 350 falling in the lower 48 states. Sovereign nations may have their own laws that differ from state laws, sometimes more restrictive — like cannabis sales and use bans even within states that have enacted recreational reform — or sometimes offering more leniency than state law.

While many of the stores are on tribal lands, not all are.

Tribes are currently operating businesses in nine states: California, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Washington. 

The data found that the average size of tribal cannabis stores is about 4,300 square feet, ranging from stores with less than 1,000 square feet to complexes spanning more than 10,000. 

Washington state has the most tribal retailers and the most tribes operating shops, at 23 stores operated by 18 tribes. Nevada is second, with 10 tribal stores owned by eight different tribes. Most of these tribally owned shops are located within markets with legal recreational cannabis, though there are exceptions. For example, there are two tribally owned dispensaries in South Dakota and one in North Carolina that currently offer medical cannabis exclusively. 

The data does not include businesses owned by individual tribal members, rather than a tribal government.

Newly Approved Markets, New Opportunities

We can look at Minnesota to see how tribal business owners are able to get a jumpstart on a budding industry, as lawmakers in the state legalized adult-use cannabis last year but have yet to begin licensing retail establishments. 

It’s unlikely that the marketplace will open until at least 2025, leaving a gap between legalization and the opening of the regulated market. However, tribal-owned dispensaries are helping to bridge that gap as two dispensaries owned by the Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation are currently serving adult-use customers with plans to open additional facilities in the future.

According to Minnesota’s recreational cannabis law, the governor can negotiate compacts with state tribes if they seek to take advantage of cannabis sales, but it also “acknowledges the sovereign right of Minnesota Tribal governments” to regulate their cannabis industries even without a compact. Red Lake and other tribes can also operate dispensaries outside of reservations through compacts negotiated with the governor’s administration.

“We see this as a resource not only to reduce harm, but to also bring in resources to help our people recover,” said Red Lake Nation Tribal Secretary Sam Strong.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is also constructing a 50,000 square foot cannabis cultivation facility near Minneapolis, which is larger than any state-licensed grow operations, that will focus on seed-to-sale operations and could be a crucial part of the state’s recreational industry upon full launch.

Similarly, New York has witnessed numerous delays in the launch of its recreational cannabis market, but three tribally owned stores have opened in the state since 2023.

With Minnesota’s specific laws designed to leave room for tribal sovereignty, Klas says that the Minnesota market will be “particularly interesting” to watch in the future, adding that, “Minnesota could see some of the fastest growth of tribal cannabis businesses in the United States.”

The full column can be found here.

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Martha’s Vineyard Dispensary Sues To Allow Delivery of Cannabis From Massachusetts Mainland

Martha’s Vineyard is an island off the coast of Massachusetts that’s known for its 23 miles of scenic hills and beaches. It’s a popular destination for summer vacationers enjoying the quaint Victorian architecture, as of July 2021, it had one medical cannabis dispensary (Fine Fettle Dispensary) which until recently was also the only cannabis cultivator on the island, in addition to one adult-use only dispensary (Island Time) which opened in August 2021.

The cost of living is high in Martha’s Vineyard, and for business owners, it’s expensive to transport goods from the mainland across the Vineyard Sound (aka the stretch of ocean that sits between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Martha’s Vineyard). For cannabis businesses, it’s also federally illegal to have cannabis products delivered from the mainland.

Recently, the owner of Island Time, Geoff Rose, filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) regarding a rule that bans him from transporting cannabis by boat from the mainland. “For more than 11 years, my efforts have centered on providing safe and responsible cannabis to local residents and visitors alike,” Rose explained to the Vineyard Gazette. “I’m hoping that the court will mandate the commission take immediate action to allow us to transport the product from the mainland.” He added that the rule puts a burden on him as a business owner, since he can only sell cannabis that he cultivates on the island.

This rule was put in place because of state and federal regulations about cannabis being moved across water or through airspace. Rose’s lawsuit claims that Vineyard Sound is still within the state’s jurisdiction.

Earlier in May, the other dispensary and sole owner of the island’s only cannabis production license, Fine Fettle Dispensary, announced that it would be shutting down operations. “Very sadly, we have had to make the decision to slow down and then ultimately shut down operations on the Vineyard,” Fine Fettle Dispensary president Benjamin Zachs said to the Vineyard Gazette. Up until now, Island Time obtained all of its cannabis products from Fine Fettle Dispensary.

To bypass this new change, Rose inquired with the CCC about ordering cannabis from the mainland, but the CCC rejected the idea, stating the limitations of violating federal law. In March, Rose had cannabis delivered by boat anyway, and the products were delivered on a Steamship Authority ferry, which is run by the U.S. Coast Guard and falls under federal authority.

The unnamed supplier that Rose worked with later received a warning. He was told not to sell the products delivered via ferry, but that order was later lifted, and Rose was able to sell out of all of the products.

Last week, Rose officially closed his dispensary and told customers that he is unable to receive any new product. “We will reopen when we are able to source products from the mainland,” Rose wrote. “I am hopeful for a resolution soon that will result in more products, choices, and value for you, our valued customer.” 

Through the lawsuit, Rose is calling for the Suffolk County Superior Court to grant an injunction so that he can have cannabis delivered to the island. “[Island Time] is being starved to death by the Commission’s arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent policy against transporting marijuana and marijuana products over state territorial waters,” Rose explained, warning that his employees will seek other jobs if his business is closed for two weeks or more.

On May 9, the CCC met to discuss the situation and potential courses of action. Not only would the lack of delivery cause Island Time to close permanently, but it would also leave medical cannabis patients living on the island without any access to medicine. “If we do nothing, you are going to have 234 patients with no medical access on the Island. That’s the reality of it,” said commissioner Kimberly Roy.

Additionally, local resident Sally Rizzo filed an affidavit with the supreme court as well. “If I have no retail source of marijuana for my medical needs, my quality of life will suffer significantly,” she wrote. “I am unwilling—and should not be compelled—to risk purchasing untested marijuana from the illicit black market or purchasing marijuana from the Massachusetts mainland and transporting it to my home via the Steamship Authority to treat my documented medical condition.” 

The commission itself didn’t provide any comment to Vineyard Gazette due to ongoing litigation, and only verified what the current law allows or doesn’t allow. “At this time, transportation of marijuana from the Commonwealth mainland to the island counties is not one of those accommodations,” the CCC stated. “To the extent permitted by law, the Commission has been discussing what may be possible in terms of extending additional accommodations to these licensees and will be scheduling a public meeting on Martha’s Vineyard within the next month to continue the conversation.”
However, there are examples of products being delivered in some other states, such as New York, where ferry delivery over water is still counted as “ground transport.” Similar rules are in place for the delivery of cannabis from mainland California to Catalina Island.

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Loud Talking

On the industrial outskirts of Oakland, California, tucked among the timeworn facades of warehouses and workshops, there’s a building entrance so nondescript it defies capture by photography—not only would you never notice it if you walked right past it, you wouldn’t even be able to see it if you were looking directly at it. Security is a paramount concern for cannabis businesses operating in “The Town,” and thanks to a serendipitous quirk of forced perspective and pre-war architecture, would-be bandits would have an easier time robbing the Hogwarts Express. This is ideal for a business trying to prevent unwelcome visitors, but much less so for a visiting journalist with a faulty sense of direction and a penchant for getting stoned before big interviews.

In addition to being monstrously difficult to locate, once you step inside the building housing the corporate headquarters for James Loud Genetics, it gives the distinct impression of being—to quote Doctor Who—“bigger on the inside.” Blazing white, labyrinthine hallways with soaring ceilings (accented with large television monitors displaying high definition photos of different stages of the germination and tissue culture processes) connect to specialized, climate-controlled lab rooms, processing centers, and the plush lounge that serves as the studio for the James Loud Podcast.

The titular host of that podcast, James Loud, is the founder and primary breeder at James Loud Genetics, a cannabis brand with deep roots in the pre-legalization weed game.

Loud cracked his first seed in 1995, at the age of 14, and never looked back. Since then, he’s been exploring the bleeding edge of breeding techniques and technology, always staying true to his name and seeking the same Holy Grail—louder terps.

The son of an engineer, Loud’s process has always been rooted in experimentation and innovation, and in the early days of his breeding career—when police helicopters were still actively scanning for the telltale heat signature of a commercial indoor cannabis grow—he responded with a technological solution.

High Times Magazine, May 2024

“I had a garage grow and we grew in octagons,” Loud says. “So we had vertical growing because we were worried about the footprint for the infrared from the helicopter. So we thought the footprint would be less so the heat signature would be less. And so we grew in these vertical grows where we had 26 plants per light, and they all grew towards that center light.”

With that problem more or less solved, he settled into the business of actually growing cannabis, with varying degrees of success at first.

“I really like Chem Dawg, so I grew some and it was just this wall of larf, it was terrible… outdoor it was phenomenal, indoor it was phenomenal in beds, but it wasn’t meant to be grown in a vertical system with a short veg [period], because it likes to stretch… The best thing for the octagon was GDP because it has a very short veg, so you can take something like GDP and veg it for seven to 10 days max and it still wouldn’t get to the light.”

Loud has made a lifelong career from cannabis breeding, a decision that has taken him on a decades-long personal and professional journey, with stops around the world, from Colombia to Spain and beyond, and it all began in the pages of High Times.

Like many of us who discovered cannabis before the advent of the internet, Loud found information and inspiration in the pages of this very magazine. One year after smoking his first joint at the age of 14, he read something that changed the trajectory of his entire life.

“There was a High Times article when I was younger called ‘The Million-Dollar Grow Room,’ and that was my favorite article growing up… it changed my perspective on growing. We had closet grows and stuff like that, but that article put things in the realm of financial possibility,” he says, then smiles a bit sheepishly and admits, “And I just love High Times.”

One million cannabis seeds.

It’s a sentiment that’s proven to be mutual. James Loud Genetics has secured six High Times Cannabis Cup victories and was inducted into the High Times Seed Bank Hall of Fame in 2014.

“Now I want to do ‘The Billion-Dollar Grow Room, and you can only do that with seeds,” Loud says. “We can make a billion dollars with seeds, no problem.”

Considering the facility’s current production rate of roughly seven million seeds per year, $1 billion in revenue doesn’t seem that farfetched.

His decision to dive headfirst into the risky, unregulated world of clandestine cultivation immediately led him down the path of innovation and experimentation. And once again, High Times played a role in his journey.

“I got the Phototron, you know the ones that were in the back of High Times magazine,” he says with a smile. “The first time we grew, one of my friends fucked it up, he poured a whole gallon of fish emulsion and made the weed taste like salmon.”

But, of course, things got better.

“From the moment I got green bud, I loved the taste, the smells, everything about it including the high,” he says. “I was into all the different flavors, and that’s what’s always motivated my breeding.”

Loud is an experienced cannabis connoisseur, and as a breeder he’s all too familiar with the fickle winds of fashion—this year’s superstar strain is tomorrow’s forgotten fad. So it’s not terribly shocking that he’s a bit of a classicist when it comes to the cultivars he’s passionate about; you’ll often hear him talking about the big names of yesteryear, like Super Silver Haze and Romulan with deep reverence and love.

But there’s one particular cultivar whose haunting siren song still echoes tantalizingly to him from a not so distant past, and his eyes glisten with the light of a secret flame when he speaks her name: Cat Piss.

“That needs to be mentioned in the article, how much I love Cat Piss,” he says. “That’s my desert island strain… it’s super nostalgic, we got it in the ’90s, like mid ’90s.” 

James Loud conducts an interview for his podcast.

For Loud, it was the first cultivar he ever smoked that passed what would become one of his go-to tests for gauging just how “loud” some weed is, the re-fire test.

“It’s the first thing that I really remember that you smoked it down to the roach, and you fired it up the next day or even a week later and it still tasted like Cat Piss,” he says.

Younger readers—those of you acclimated to cannabis with the sweet, approachable cake and candy flavors that dominate the current terpene landscape—may not realize that us late 20th century smokers once sought out weed that smelled like animal excretions. Both Skunk and Cat Piss were once towering giants in the minds of stoners seeking the strongest strain, highly prized for the intense intoxicating effects that came along with their raw pungency.

Skunk is undeniably the biggest name that emerged from that era; an amalgamation of three classic landrace cultivars; Acapulco Gold, Colombian Gold, and Afghani, that smelled just like its name. But if Skunk and its direct descendants are like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones—universally acclaimed, widely known, and indelibly linked to the era that produced them—Cat Piss is more like Grand Funk Railroad; equally popular during their shared heyday, but criminally underrated and less widely remembered in the present time.

Loud is setting out to change all that with a project that sits at the intersection of three of his overlapping passions, cannabis breeding, cannabis education, and Cat Piss, a documentary film about his breeding project to resurrect the strain with assistance from the original breeder, which he says will film “this year with a goal of releasing it later in the year.”

During the day of my visit he’s preparing to interview Steve DeAngelo—founder and former CEO of the pioneering cannabis dispensary Harborside—for yet another documentary project collecting the oral history of cannabis. This on top of his recently published book, a groundbreaking textbook on the technical nuances of cannabis breeding and tissue culture, Cannabis Breeding: The Art and Science of Crafting Distinctive Cultivars.

Loud is building a cannabis media empire, and his aspirations are on full display in the slick, professional design of his podcasting studio lounge, which is where the majority of our meeting takes place. It has an elaborate paint job that includes a graffiti-style mural, a large, backlit sign with his logo on it, a wall of Mason jars filled with seeds, a professional array of condenser mics on telescopic stands arranged at a chic wooden conference table surrounded by comfortable office chairs, and a fully stocked bar with everything from Japanese whiskey to cold Imperial ale in the fridge.

The show itself is a fun, informative space where drug war veterans swap stories and give each other their flowers (and/or concentrates) while they’re still alive. The vibe is casual but serious, because everyone involved takes the craft of cannabis cultivation very seriously, but they also tend to be very serious smokers and the James Loud Podcast studio is definitely the smoking section at this facility.

The conversation is wide ranging, often personal, and always entertaining. It’s like Charlie Rose meets Joe Rogan, only instead of asking his guests if they’ve ever smoked DMT, Loud asks them if they’ve ever smoked Cat Piss.

A gen zero tissue culture plant.

At a time when the outlaw past of this industry seems increasingly at odds with the hyper-regulated confines of its present and future, Loud provides a living bridge from past to present and a clear vision for the future.

“We’re slowly but surely becoming tomato farmers,” he says. “The price has gone down. People will be able to make a good living doing it still—obviously there are very successful tomato farmers—but the high prices associated with the black market are mostly long gone.”

The way he sees it, cannabis markets are simply maturing, the way all markets do.

“With mature markets, you see people trusting brands,” he says. “In these unstable markets it’s all about the latest and greatest. I look at it like a Top 40 playlist and there’s not a lot of things that stand the test of time… I think in the future brand trust is going to be a much bigger thing, instead of the latest and greatest thing.”

For Loud, that future is about using meristem tissue culture to secure clean, pathogen-free genetics and following his nose to the next facet of cannabis waiting to be expressed through purposeful breeding.

Guava Gelato Auto

And when it comes to all the new players in the weed game, the ones who never experienced the wild rush of the bad old days of total prohibition? Loud feels like anyone who would subject themselves to the very different challenges of the legal weed game—drug war veteran or not—is a warrior in their own right.

He says his most recent visit to MJBizCon convinced him that the remaining players are all driven by passion, which he believes is the key ingredient to success.

“They aren’t window shopping, they’re really invested in this industry,” he says. “There’s hardship, but the people sticking it out are really passionate about the plant and this is what they’d be doing even if they weren’t getting paid and that’s me, I’m that guy. I’m gonna be breeding no matter what, I’m gonna be smoking no matter what, because this is what I was meant to do.”

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Sunset Connect Buys the Ticket, Takes the Ride

With a tagline featuring a founding year “Since before we could tell,” Sunset Connect alludes to the fluctuating legal status of the world’s most favored flower. When I visit the manufacturing space in San Francisco—a former lambskin condom factory and, later, a photography studio—the bright white walls are a welcome break from the dark gray day outside. It’s the last day of January 2024, and we’re in the middle of an atmospheric river called a “Pineapple Express,” but from founder Ali Jamalian’s upstairs office that oversees the space, I can only hear taps of the rain outside. Jamalian’s broad smile and kind eyes are the type that light up a room. Coupled with that, he’s a great storyteller. Through personal trials and triumphs, Jamalian has grown into a voice that remembers the outlaws of pot’s past. And, with his brand Sunset Connect, he’s proudly repping the profound legacy that San Francisco represents in shaping the availability of cannabis around the world.

“You have to be an activist,” Jamalian says of operating a cannabis company in the City by the Bay. “You have to advocate for the industry.”

Locals will first notice that Sunset Connect’s logo and branding borrow inspiration from Muni, San Francisco’s public transportation system, including buses, trains, and cable cars. The script on “Sunset”is in the same curving worm-like font as the iconic 1975 Muni logo. And, with packaging showcasing the design of paper Muni bus transfer tickets that were retired in 2016, its brand identity stands as a sort of insider call back to an earlier time. Sunset Connect has evolved over the years but is now putting out hash-infused dogwalkers and trim pre-rolls. The pre-rolls retail at $5.

“I think what we really pride ourselves in is the separation, getting all the fan leaves and the sticks and stems out and really being left with sugar leaf and small buds,” Jamalian says as we walk the manufacturing floor. “My whole point was like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to be able to get something to people at a fair price that they can afford every day.’”

Jamalian believes the batch size, 100 grams, is critical to the salability of his 1-gram pre-rolls and says he’s selling about 25,000 each week. 

“We firmly believe that the success of our joints is that they’re hand-topped and twisted,” Jamalian says as I watch an employee complete packing the herb down and adding the wick-like twist of paper at the top. “I think that’s what gives you the good draw and the fact that we grind it in tiny batches of 100 grams.”

Sunset Connect hybrid pre-rolls.

The Connect

Steered by hippies and activists who sold grass in the 1970s and provided cannabis to those in medical need in the 1990s, San Francisco stands as a significant touchpoint for the medical marijuana movement. Actions that took place there and in the greater San Francisco Bay Area led California to become the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996.

The Sunset Connect brand was born in California’s medical marijuana era and was granted a state license as a manufacturing and distribution company in the adult-use cannabis marketplace in 2020. Based in the city’s Sunset District and known as The Sunset Connect, Jamalian and his best friends since freshman year at the University of San Francisco brought cuts of classic strains to medical marijuana dispensaries circa 2014. This included White Widow—an extremely popular strain in the late ’90s and early 2000s following its win at the 1995 Cannabis Cup—and a strain breeders Mr. Sherbinski and Jigga created in a Sunset District garage around 2010, Sunset Sherbert.

While the Sunset Connect team went official in 2014, they had been growing pot together for some time before that. Back in 1999, the feds charged Jamalian with possession and intent to distribute weed, and since he was a German-Iranian with a green card, he faced deportation. Spooked from the ordeal, he returned to Germany for a time and returned to the United States when his friends called him back into the game.

“At that point, the boys were already blowing up like 15 houses in the Sunset and around town and doing really well with it, vending to dispensaries, but mostly moving it black market,” Jamalian says. “So I came back… I started with one house on 47th [avenue] and about two to three years later about four to five houses and then between us we had like 30-35 homes.”

In 2018, when Jamalian started working to bring Sunset Connect into the adult-use cannabis marketplace, he began to get politically involved with organizations designed to advocate for the industry. But within those groups, such as the now-defunct California Growers Association, he says he often found business owners campaigning on behalf of their companies rather than the community.

Sunset Connect is making plans to cultivate its own flowers again.

“Everyone that I worked with was moving weight and risking their lives to move weight,” Jamalian says. “And most of them didn’t get to transition…The heads in the Sunset weren’t being considered because we didn’t have warehouses; we had homes. Because back then, the criminal liability of growing at home was a lot less than the criminal liability of a 90-light warehouse.”

His role as a public-facing cannabis grower took the next step when Jamalian connected with Jane Kim, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who was running against acting mayor London Breed in 2018.

“When I met Jane, I told her I was already trying to build this place up and go legal, and she’s like, ‘In this city, you have to become an activist,’” Jamalian says. “She really taught me the way around City Hall.”

In January 2020, Jamalian became a member of the San Francisco Cannabis Oversight Committee, a representative group of cannabis company leaders that advise the board of supervisors and the mayor regarding implementing and enforcing city laws and regulations relating to cannabis. Beyond his political work, he’s always looking to network inside the cannabis community and puts on a monthly gathering in a Sunset District bar for budtenders.

“I think building a community, not to sell your product, it gives people an emotional connection to your brand,” Jamalian says. “We were the underdog, and we still are, and I think people like to root for the underdog.”

Kim’s cousin, Sam Joo, now works for Jamalian, handling compliance and production. Upon meeting him, Joo is locked in deep on the computer, navigating a change in California policy that vastly reduced the number of labs authorized by the state to test cannabis. When we chat about the current scene, he uses a phrase that became a touchpoint in describing California cannabis before its adult-use stage, the Wild West.

The Sunset Connect facility.

“We don’t have a choice but to build our production around what the labs are capable of doing,” Joo says. “I guess the excuse is that it’s new. I don’t know if other industries have faced what the cannabis industry is facing, but it feels like the Wild West, you know, where nobody really knows what they’re doing.”

The fluctuating nature of the regulations in the state’s adult-use cannabis industry has compounded with other factors, such as a dip in wholesale prices, in driving many longtime weed companies out of the market. Cannabis cultivators in California are disappearing in droves, and San Francisco is no exception to those statistics. Reporting done by the Cannabis Business Times in March 2023 shows that the state has lost thousands of cultivation licenses in recent years.

Jamalian tells me he’s learned that surviving in the cannabis industry means you have to be willing to expand and contract. He is readying for his brand to grow and plans to cultivate and release flowers under the Sunset Connect brand again soon. With that anticipated launch, he’s bringing back Dosi-Pie, a Velvet Pie and Do-Si-Dos cross. It’s the strain he says the brand was most well-known for at dispensaries back in the day. Sunset Connect’s current version has a peppery spice on the nose and tastes how sandalwood incense smells.

Sunset Connect’s current focus is affordable pre-rolls.

Now in his second term on the oversight committee, Jamalian uses his decades of experience in the city’s cannabis scene to advocate for the weed industry that remains in San Francisco.

“The market is on a downward slope; there’s going to be 30% of brands who disappear,” he says. “People are looking for good flowers from San Francisco. Also, there’s not a lot of outfits here anymore producing really good flowers.

“So, while San Francisco contracted, I think similar to the AI boom, cannabis companies are about to bloom again. Because the few that are left, they have a foot in the market, they’re now established, and people are like, ‘Wait, San Francisco is where the best weed in the world all comes from.’”

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of High Times Magazine.

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