“When people see me, I want them to be like, “What the fuck?!?”
If that’s the reaction Nicholas Cunningham is going for, he’s most certainly achieved it.
Cunningham runs a fleet of luxury vehicles that operate in a legal gray area as a mobile marijuana delivery service.
Some would say Cunningham paved the way for cannabis entrepreneurs who arrive in DC, ready to capitalize on the district's legal, yet unregulated cannabis market.
“I sparked some shit. I’ve heard about two more people that started delivery services in the past two weeks,” he told MERRY JANE.
(Photos: Terrell Young/MERRY JANE)
It was just under a year ago that Cunningham brought the “Kush Gods” to Washington, DC, cruising right through a legal loophole, propelling himself straight into a whole lot of cash, notoriety, and legal troubles.
Under current DC law, it's legal to possess, grow, smoke, and gift up to two ounces of weed, however if you sell it, you could end up in jail. From a business perspective, DC’s unregulated market is wide open.
All of the paperwork, taxes, capital, and legal hurdles required to launch a legal weed operation in states like Colorado or Oregon is non-existent in the nation's capital.
“Looking at the laws, I felt it’s way too open for me to not take advantage,” Cunningham told MERRY JANE. The Kush Gods were able to skirt the law by “gifting” THC-infused treats including Kush Rainbow Airheads, Hash Fruit Loops, and Kushberry Muffins, all made by the Gods.
In exchange, patrons offer monetary “donations". Similar businesses exist elsewhere, but Cunningham claims to be the first in Washington, DC. The idea for the delivery service on wheels was born 2500 miles away in Los Angeles, where a then 31-year-old Cunningham, who was working freelance gigs in the music industry, stepped out on faith.
“My birthday was the week before and I felt like, ‘Yo, I need to make a move. I need my own stability, my own shit.' So I decided to start my own company. I already had the Lexus, so I took a chance and I spent my rent money, $2500, and wrapped the Lexus.”
After getting hands-on experience with the marijuana cultivation process in Denver and Los Angeles, Cunningham recalls the thrill from the first time he boldly drove through Hollywood in his newly Kush Gods-branded car.
“We’ve all read the stories about these rich white guys, you know, doctors and lawyers who quit their jobs to get jobs in weed,” Cunningham told MERRY JANE. “In LA the game isn’t the same. Weed has been legal for 20 years. They aren’t as excited about edibles as people on the east coast.”
And just like that, armed with his lone, nug-canvassed coupe, Cunningham traded California’s crowded weed scene and headed East to his father’s hometown of Washington, DC. Fast forward one year and three months, “I never expected to be at this point this fast,” he said.
What’s ironic is that his iconic canvas, the symbol of his success and business growth, is the same thing that led DC police to plot his demise. In March, Cunningham pled guilty to two counts of selling marijuana to an undercover police officer.
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Cunningham flatly describes the undercover sting in one word: “Entrapment."
“You’ve seen the cars, it’s obvious what it is. Why are you investigating me? I’m out in the open! They raided all three cars at once with vests and guns. It was real extra for some misdemeanors,” Cunningham said.
Several of his vehicles were seized in the sting.
“I finally got them back, and they’d been sabotaged,” with one of the vehicles suddenly catching on fire, Cunningham told MERRY JANE.
Critics of Cunningham’s flashy marketing strategy find the Kush Gods, “damaging to the legalization movement,” the Washington Post reported.
“I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for the Gods,” Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws told the newspaper in April. “I think they’ll be put out of business for a long time.”
Despite Cunningham’s arrest and reported order from DC police to unwrap the branded cars, the Kush Gods continue to operate a thriving business, dominating the edibles market.
Cunningham has hired staff to assist with operations, and each day his team takes to the streets of DC to spread the word on the therapeutic effects of THC and the healing properties of marijuana, particularly with cancer patients.
“The ladies are my budtenders, they work the cars. They are also getting into modeling and music.” Last month, the Kush Gods dropped a mixtape, The Kingdom of Kush, featuring a collab with Young Dolf.
Check it out.