All photos by Emily Berkey
About 20 miles north of Hollywood lies a 14,000-square-foot warehouse that rapper and entrepreneur B-Real has spent the last year converting into his new headquarters: a space that holds his recently opened dispensary, Dr. Greenthumb’s, as well as plenty of room for filming videos and digital content, hosting listening parties, and anything else the budding businessman can dream up. On Wednesday, August 15th, B-Real and his business partners finally opened the doors to Dr. Greenthumb’s flagship location in the Sylmar neighborhood of Los Angeles, which had fans lining up at 4:20 am despite a scheduled opening time of 8. As a steady stream of customers buzzed throughout the store, B-Real was present at every turn, spending most of his day on the shop floor speaking with admirers and patrons while signing receipts, bags, and merch.
In order to open the Dr. Greenthumb dispensary, B-Real had to balance running his multimedia empire known as B-Real TV, meetings with the dispensary’s co-owners to solidify decisions, and spending time on the road with his groups Cypress Hill and Prophets of Rage. With cannabis classics like “Hits From The Bong” and “I Wanna Get High,” Cypress Hill has been rapping about reefer since they arrived on the scene in the early ‘90s, and B-Real has long stood as a major proponent of marijuana legalization, making a venture into the canna-business space a no-brainer. His dispensary houses a wide array of options: large refrigerators house infused edibles and drinks, potent waxes and oils line the shelves, and flower sits in jars ready for the customers to sniff and ogle. Brands like Cookies, Mega Wellness, and B-Real’s own Insane are present, and B-Real explains that after Cypress Hill’s upcoming album Elephants on Acid drops, they’ll be releasing a new line of cannabis products called Cypress Hill Brand.
We attended the opening of the shop and chatted with B-Real about the launch of Dr. Greenthumb’s, his opinions on legal cannabis in California, and what the future holds for both himself and Cypress Hill.
The line for Dr. Greenthumb's on opening day.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
MERRY JANE: The other day you opened up your flagship Dr. Greenthumb’s Dispensary in Sylmar, California, which you co-own. Tell us a bit about the process behind this becoming a reality.
B-Real: Well, we’ve had the idea for a few years and it was originally supposed to open up in Santa Ana. That didn’t work out for us although we did secure a lottery ball and license and all that stuff, [but] we had some difficulties with my former partner and stuff that surrounded the opening of the Santa Ana place. So I put that on hold and focused on building my Dr. Greenthumb brand and the line that would come from it, which is the Insane line. I thought to myself, “When the time and the location and the scenario [are] right, we’ll open up a spot,” and fortunately, through my partner Berner who I’ve done a few albums with and we’re good friends... he introduced me to a couple of his partners that he opened Cookies with. I had a conversation with them about possibly partnering up and opening up Dr. Greenthumb’s finally. We talked about locations and timelines, and it went relatively quicker than we all anticipated from when we first talked about it, which was maybe 10 or 11 months ago. When we decided to partner up, they said, “We’re going to move fast on this so don’t be surprised by how quickly it goes.” Being in the cannabis industry, you have a lot of meetings with a lot of people that say a lot of things and half of it, I’d say 75% of it, is bullshit... I’d heard it all before. But I went from speaking to who would become my partners to actually agreeing on it.
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[The partners] said they’d get the facility ready as far as buildout goes, when I was on the road because I had tours with Prophets of Rage and Cypress Hill, sort of toggling back and forth. On one trip, we went and saw the facility and talked about what the possibilities were, and when I came back from the tour a lot of it was built out already. When I came back from my last trip with Prophets of Rage, which was maybe 3 or 4 weeks ago, the whole facility was done! It was just a matter of putting all of the little things together and getting all of the compliant products that would be on the shelf.
A lot of the deals that came my way... a lot of these guys already had their dispensaries open and they already had it modeled the way they wanted it. They just wanted me to come in and partner with them based off that, but the way we looked at it was Dr. Greenthumb’s has to have its own identity. It’s very important to me that people know I’m hands-on with all the stuff I do, and my partners were cool about it. They recognize my experience and my contributions to the cannabis community, so we all came in open-minded as a team to work this situation together.
B-Real with a customer at Dr. Greenthumb's grand opening.
You’ve addressed this in other interviews, but I’d like to get your current answer. Before the 2016 election you voiced that some criticism about Proposition 64, the ballot measure which legalized cannabis in California. You’ve since said you think there are some things that need changing in regards to Prop. 64. Where do you stand on that now, what do you think needs to be fixed, and have you changed your mind?
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I haven’t really changed my mind. The taxation, the regulations, the penalties and all the things they’re coming up with for these businesses to have to comply with are very expensive. Especially with taxes — it’s expensive for the consumer, for the cultivator, and for the retailer; that dictates that you have to charge people more for the product. The taxes are ridiculous and what I was saying back then was [for] all the small business owners that may be compliant and have their licenses and have everything in order, it’s going to make it impossible for them to operate because they’re not coming from a hedge fund-type of group. A lot of these folks don’t have all this big money behind them; a lot of these shop owners that were doing pretty decent and that were in compliance now have to sell their licenses. Now you have big groups with big money coming up and soaking up those licenses. That’s what the problem was. People that were small business entrepreneurs were going to lose out, and they’re losing out right now…
People sort of shit on me for the stance because I’ve been a big supporter of legalization, but not at the cost of an up-and-coming business that potentially put all of their life savings into opening up a dispensary, because they saw an opportunity for them to do well, and it gets shut down and now they’ve lost that money and they’re starting from scratch again. There are people who are going through that, it’s happening, and it’s something that we knew would happen. Those of us who are in the business have to make the best out of what we have, and try to change it as we go along. In five years, some of those regulations are going to lessen and some of that taxation is going to come down and that’s when all that big business comes in.
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It’s almost like a washout of little money to usher in the big money in five years. That’s the point I was trying to make. It might not be popular amongst those who were lobbying for 64, but it was my opinion, and I believe it to be fact because it’s happening now. But some people ask, “Well you opposed 64, why are you opening a shop?” I say to them this: Donald Trump is our president, and I don’t really agree with anything he does or says, but am I going to leave the country? Am I not American because of that? I have this freedom to choose to do business or not, and I created a brand for many years to go into the cannabis market. It may not have went went how I wanted it to with regards to legalization, the policies, and regulations, but it wasn’t going to stop me from opening up a store or my brand.
Thanks for explaining that again.
I thank you for asking that. You rarely get a chance to clarify something like that. People want to hold you to it without getting the explanation as to why. It doesn’t affect me that much when people say stuff like that because I know what my intentions are, and I know what my stance was and I stand by it. I’m not a politician that’s going to come and make an excuse as to why. I’m going to tell you, “Hey, this sucks,” but I’m a businessman, and I’m going to make it work somehow, you know?
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Back to Dr. Greenthumb’s Sylmar location: What are a few of your favorite products in the store, and are you currently stocking some smaller brands and supporting small businesses in that way?
My favorite, off the top, is the Cookies brand. I mean, aside from ours... I could say ours but that really don’t count. Cookies, the Nameless Genetics Brand, Mega Wellness — the three of those brands. We intend to have more. We want to do things called ‘flavor drops’ and bring in compliant flower from other cultivators that do exotics and stuff like that — some with big names, some with not big names, some that are up-and-coming. We want to be able to highlight and support everyone. It’s good to have choices, and for us it’s a chance to bring forth some cultivators and brands that no one knows about yet and highlight them in our shop. In this day and age, aside from the medicinal customer, your average consumer that’s consuming for recreational purposes wants variety. It’s like going to [Baskin Robbins] and having all these different flavors in front of you to choose from.
The space is huge. You’ve said you’re going to use some of it for filming B-Real TV, are you planning on hosting other events there?
Absolutely. One of the plans was to bring our Dr. Greenthumb experience there: listening parties, such as when my album comes out, or if any one of our artist friends like Paul Wall, Berner, or Wiz Khalifa want to do an album listening party or a release party at our spot, we would totally be able to facilitate that. We plan on doing special events there.
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We want to give people an experience aside from being able to pick up quality flower, whether it’s the top shelf or somewhere in the middle. We tried to make it so we have something for everybody, affordable for everybody. Aside from that, we want to give them a positive experience so when they leave they want to come back, they want to tell their friends, and they left with something other than just the flower, concentrate, or edible.
Earlier you spoke about taking meetings with these cannabis investors and how there’s a lot of talk and not a lot of action. That’s so common in the entertainment industry, too. Has being in entertainment for so long prepared you for your venture into the cannabis space?
Absolutely. Absolutely, because a lot of these guys think they’re sharks [laughs]. And you don’t know sharks or whales or apex predators until you are in the recording industry and signed by a major label. Those are where the real sharks are, and in dealing with those guys, you know, coming into this particular industry, I got a chance to see these guys that are trying to be that, and they’ll talk to you like they are that. I’ve had a couple meetings with guys like that, and it was hard for me to not laugh them out of the building.
I’m a very patient man, and I’ll let you pitch whatever you’re going to pitch, but at the end of the day, I’ve been in the music industry so long and heard so many full-of-shit people pitch things that they don’t really believe in, that I could tell in the first five minutes if I’ve wasted my time sitting with this person or not. It was a great education, coming from the music industry into the cannabis industry, because when I did come in it was fairly new, and it’s still fairly new, but in the next five years there’s going to be real sharks and real whales and predators in the water. This is for sure, and people better be ready because that is coming.
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Cypress Hill has a new album coming out on September 28th. It’s the first album in eight years and you’re going on a world tour soon. What can we expect from the album? What’s going to surprise us? Are you going to be doing any events at the shop?
I believe we’re going to do a fair amount of work around this particular album because it’s the first album in eight years, and most especially because it’s produced by DJ Muggs, who is our original producer we started the group with, and people get really excited when all the originals work together. What people can expect is a very dark, psychedelic, grimey type of sound and vibe on the record. When we do records together, we try to be out of the box and not do what everybody else is doing. It’s very easy to fall into the sound of today, to try to compete with everything going on out there. We’ve never tried to compete with what’s going out there — we’re trying to play it in our own space and make everybody come to us.
I think people who have been waiting as Cypress Hill fans will be pleasantly surprised with how gritty this album is. It’s totally non-polished like a lot of the stuff you hear today. The first single we put out, “Band of Gypsies” — we also released a video [for] it and it got an extreme amount of love and support from old fans and new fans, and it’s been incredible. We can’t wait to put the album out on September 28th.
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We’ll also be [releasing] a limited flower drop and concentrate drop with a new line called the Cypress Hill Brand that’s coming in to the cannabis market soon. We’re going to do that drop over at our Dr. Greenthumb’s location exclusively, so if any Cypress Hill fans want to make the trek out to Sylmar to get that Cypress Hill drop that’s coming in September, we invite them all. We have a couple tricks up our sleeve coming up.