The Wink In Weed: Lessons Learned At Seattle Hempfest

By David Rheins

I’m just back from another epic Seattle Hempfest.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful regions on the planet, and its volcanic mountains, vibrant cities and evergreen forests never cease to inspire wonder.  I cherish my PNW canna-family, and am humbled at how rich and meaningful have been our shared experiences, as we workers in weed have toiled to reform marijuana law, and establish a legal cannabis industry.

Jake The Professor and Don Skakie talk Washington Homegrow

Jake The Professor and Don Skakie talk Washington Homegrow

It is a treat to spend time with legends: Farmer Tom Lauerman, Jake The Professor, Grandma Cat Jeter, Kevin and Crystal Oliver, AC Braddock and Fritz Chess, David Tran, Vivian McPeak, Joy Beckerman, Nurse Heather Manus, Ah Warner and so many others.  This year we were honored to have USVI Senator Positive Nelson, who was traveling with a video crew from 420MEDIA,  visit with us.  I first met Terence, who is universally known as ‘Positive’, at a High Tea at Seattle’s Green Labs Farms a few years back, when as moderator I had the privilege of introducing the pro-pot and “positive living” politician to the cannabis community.  Look for great things from the Senator and USVI (pot tourism anyone?) soon.

The canna family gathers every year at Hempfest

The canna family gathers every year at Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest for me has always seemed like the ‘State Fair of Weed.’  Tens of thousands of people — of every age, shape and size — streaming through a labyrinth of vendor booths, food trucks and tents, smoking weed, hanging out and listening to advocates preach to the choir, and bands sing about “Mary Jane.”  This year was no different, a little smaller — a couple fewer stages due to lack of sponsorship support — and smokier, as a result of raging fires in Canada and Eastern Washington.

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Eden Labs’ Fritz Chess, Flower Girls Queen MJ, and MJBA Ambassador At Large Jake The Professor

At the Curved Papers/MJBA booth, and at a series of industry parties, I had the opportunity to reconnect to my industry friends and colleagues. What I heard was a consistent narrative: these are make or break times for Washington licensees.  Competition is fierce and getting fiercer.  Wholesale prices are brutally low for producers, and while sales remain strong at retail and gross revenues are high, profits are elusive and unfair taxes still eat up most of the profits.  For licensees the choice is straightforward: differentiate or die.

Much of our conversation revolved around the mainstreaming of cannabis — and the impact that the $4B USD investment that Constellation Brands just made with Canopy Growth would have on the mom & pops. The game has gone from grassroots to international overnight, and for the smaller players there is tremendous pressure to scale.  Undercapitalized businesses are putting their licenses up for sale, or looking for partnerships and mergers.


DOPE celebrated its 7th Anniversary with a “Golden Ticket” Party

Cannafest Destiny.  The West Coast is the fertile birthplace of the legal cannabis industry.  While NORML, established in 1970, can rightfully claim authorship of the political legalization and reform movement, the business — and more importantly the community — started in California, Oregon, Washington (and British Columbia).   The legitimate markets that we have created out West have blazed bright, sparks have now inspired entrepreneurs, activists, investors and politicians across the country — from Maine to Maryland, Michigan to Oklahoma. Our duty and opportunity is now to export the incredible experience and knowledge to these new emerging markets.

In a weird wrinkle of federal prohibition, Legal Cannabis has become international, before it has become a national industry!  Our neighbors to the north are rapidly ramping up their legal cannabis industry, and positioning themselves globally with distribution deals in emerging European, Caribbean and South American markets. Public Canadian companies are gobbling up American brands, and deals are now measured in the billions.

Jeremy MIller is organizing Viva Las Hempfest!

Jeremy Miller is organizing Viva Las Hempfest!

No where can we witness the mainstreaming of marijuana better than Las Vegas.  Neon billboards on strip.  24/7 retailers with drive thru.  Las Vegas, once upon a time among the harshest places in America to be caught with a seed or a stem (an infraction that could land you 20 years in the hoosegow) now actively planning the opening of consumption lounges and canna-friendly hotels.  No peace, love and tie dye hippie culture here.  Just the business of entertainment.  It is fitting then that the next stop for the Cannafest Destiny tour will be Las Vegas Hempfest on November 3&4th — Viva Las Hempfest! Hope to see you there!

HONU Wins “Best Cannabis Brand Design” 2016 in MJBA/OMD Poll.

WASHINGTON:  Cowlitz county Tier 3 producer HONU was named “Best Cannabis Brand Design 2016” in an online poll published by Marijuana Business Association (MJBA) and Online Marijuana Design (OMD Agency).  More than 1500 votes were cast in the MJBA/OMD Facebook Survey, which asked cannabis industry participants to vote for the best cannabis brand designs of 2016.

HONU’s Hawaiian-flavored design featuring a stylized sea turtle garnered the brand a total of 245 votes.  “Turtles have always been important to the local Hawaiian people as they provided spiritual influence, tools, food and clothing. But the Hawaiians never “took” from the turtles lightly, they always revered the turtles,” the company’s website proclaims. “We have chosen this as the name for our business as it embodies what we hold sacred as a team.”


Results of the vote were announced at the recent “HOT BOX: The Best Marijuana Design and Packaging 2016” seminar in Tacoma. Team Honu was on hand to accept the award from MJBA founder/executive director David Rheins.  The Hot Box seminar took place June 2, 2016 in the historic Union Bank of California building in Tacoma, WA.

The event was produced by the Marijuana Business Association. Online Marijuana Design was the event’s presenting sponsor.  VIP Sponsors included Great Pacific Packaging, DCG One, PrintWest, Pearson Packaging,, Tryst Print Solutions, Foundry Law Group, Farmer Tom, NWMJLaw, Higher Ground TV, Curved Papers, Guts and Glory, Ganjapreneur, 420Media and Freedom Leaf.

Second place with 186 votes went to Renton, WA retailer Buddy’s. The jazz-themed pot shop was named after proprietor Myles Kahn’s grandfather, Buddy Kahn, a famous Salsa musician and band leader. The hip design of the company’s branding, with a strong retro music feel, was crafted by Guts and Glory creative director Michael Guttsen.

Buddys Poster

With its dramatic Italian glass jar, and a ‘fresh-picked locally’ design approach branding, Tier 1 producer Green Bluff Greenhouse took third place with 157 votes. Specializing in rare, old school Sativa’s, the small grower is quickly gaining a big reputation for quality. Green Bluff owner Rick Lynn Roening was on hand to accept the award.

Dramatic Italian glass jar Green Bluff Greenhouse

Dramatic Italian glass jar Green Bluff Greenhouse

Fourth place went to Tier 2 indoor producer SKöRD Marijuana, whose bold black and cream design and iconic umlauts proudly resonate with Scandinavian heritage.   The company produces flower, concentrates and infused edibles.

skord marijuana logo

Rounding out the Top 5 Best Cannabis Brand Design of 2016 is Curved Papers.  With an “Easy To Roll” theme and a eco-friendly minimalist package that emphasizes the brand value – a new shape for rolling papers that is a true innovation.


Company founder Michael O’Malley and his daughter Grace were on hand at the Hot Box seminar to accept their award.

Curved Papers' Michael and Grace O'Malley

Curved Papers’ Michael and Grace O’Malley




Farmer Tom Calls For A Safer Cannabis Workplace

WASHINGTON: Tom Lauerman, universally known as “Farmer Tom,” is a well-known and beloved figure in Washington’s cannabis community.  Attend any cannabis event in the Evergreen State – from farmer’s market to the steps of the Statehouse in Olympia – and you are likely to see Farmer Tom – long flowing Santa beard and floppy hippie hat – front and center representing the cause.


The Feds Visit A Cannabis Farm

These days, when he’s not working with his business partners on an upcoming line of “organic” soils and nutrients, Farmer Tom can be heard espousing the benefits of establishing best practices and standards for the cannabis  industry – advocating for everything from safer pest management and testing practices to the rights of his fellow workers in weed.

ft today we farm logo

Farmer Tom is a pioneer in working with the Federal Government to create workplace safety standards for the cannabis industry. Last fall, he and his wife Paul invited the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to visit his medical marijuana farm in Vancouver, WA.  The feds spent several days on the farm reviewing for the first time the working conditions on a real cannabis farm.  The visit garnered quite a bit of attention for the media-friendly Farmer Tom, including a feature in this month’s DOPE Magazine.

ft snake oil

I Don’t Make Snake Oil

Workplace safety “runs in the family” for Farmer Tom. “My Grandfather was head of HR at both Republic Steel and Covair and was on the first national safety commission,” Lauerman told MJ News Network.  “I handled OSHA paperwork and meetings while in the corporate world and worked with the Union drafting a workplace health and safety manual.”

As part of his mission to raise awareness of safety issues among leaders of the legal cannabis industry, Farmer Tom will be a featured presenter at a “Cannabis Industry Safety Night” panel discussion on May 26th, an event sponsored by the MJBA Portland, and CannaGuard Security.   Joining Tom will be environmental, health & safety expert Sally Koch, Indy Safety; Paul Equall, Life Safety Corp; and Mike Sotelo, CEO of Consolidar Networks.

Federal agents studied cannabis workplace safety at Farmer Tom's

Tools of the Trade

Farmer Tom has plans to publish a cannabis workplace health and safety manual soon. “I’m working with a few groups developing workplace health and safety standards,” he explained, “and have been approached by Washington state university on doing continued research in the Cannabis world.”

Stay tuned here.




Washington Celebrates Hot Pot Products For The High Holidays

WASHINGTON: Live from the GreenPole, Higher Ground hit the Hot Pot Product Bazaar for the High Holidays! Check out the greatest gifts on Earth for cannabis connoisseurs!

And if you’re lucky, Sativa Santa will pay you a visit this year! (Make sure to leave him milk and cookies…) Thanks to the wonderful sponsors and MJBA (Marijuana Business Association)!

The Walt Whitman Of Weed

WASHINGTON:  “Farmer Tom” Lauerman has invited us to tour his five acres of freedom, the “Garden of the Green Sun” – an organic vegetable and marijuana farm in Vancouver, WA.

Farmer, medical marijuana activist and author, Farmer Tom greets us with a big bear hug like a beatific Walt Whitman of Weed in a great bushy white beard, green grower’s cap and black Hawaiian shirt.

Tom is a well known figure on the West Coast cannabis scene.  You can regularly find him vending his squash and marijuana at local medical marijuana farmer’s markets, and at high profile events like High Times’ Cannabis Cup and Seattle Hempfest, where he happily poses for photographs and signs copies of his Cannabis Consumer’s Guide, a compendium of pot knowledge that he has amassed over his decades as a pot grower and smoker — a stoner poet “Leaves of Grass.”

Farmer Tom met his wife Paula in San Diego in the 1990s.  They fell in love as comrades in arms in those seminal days of the early California medical marijuana movement. She was a massage therapist, and gave him his first massage after a particularly stressful day in the trenches. Although she had known and worked with him in the past, she felt something undeniable when they touched and they have been together ever since.

Farmer Tom

‘Farmer Tom’ Lauerman

When we arrive at the farm, a three-hour drive from Seattle that I make with my dog and a fellow MJ News Network reporter, we are treated to cool water sweetened with lemons and entertained with wonderful stories of the early days of the struggle for patient rights, which they recount with passion and fire.

Tom and Paula are fully embedded into this rural southern Washington town, growing organic vegetables as part of a community-supported agricultural cooperative (CSA) alongside crops of organic cannabis.  For Farmer Tom it is all about organic. “I grow my vegetables and cannabis the same way.  I love growing organic food – organic vegetables and organic cannabis.”

Whether it is by good fortune or good deeds, life’s serendipity has found Tom’s farm ideally situated in Washington, one of only two states with a legal recreational marijuana market (though Oregon just across the Columbia River will likely pass its own recreational law in November, and currently supports a healthy medical marijuana industry for which Farmer Tom supplies product).

Farmer Tom

Organically Grown Farmer Tom Brand

Recreational marijuana makes it possible for Farmer Tom to move beyond farmer’s markets and to begin serving the larger commercial marketplace.  These days there is a lot of interest in organic cannabis – and in Farmer Tom as a brand icon.

“I just want to save the farm. I just want to feed my family – It doesn’t get any more American than that.”

Tom’s photogenic looks have not gone unnoticed as investors and savvy marketers eye the emerging legal market looking for viable brands. Farmer Tom has recently done several deals, one for a limited series of trading cards, and another for the creation of a full-line of Farmer Tom branded cannabis products. He’s got the looks and the resume to be a household name brand, and in fact, he is one heck of a farmer.

Garden of the Green Sun

Garden of the Green Sun

In between rows of impressive organic corn, snap peas, lettuce, squash and tomatoes, the Garden of the Green Sun sports two hoop-houses full of the biggest, bushiest, healthiest looking cannabis plants I’ve ever seen.  As a business journalist covering the legal marijuana industry, I’m used to touring indoor grow rooms full of gorgeous indicas and sativas, but nothing I’ve seen compares to the size and impressive girth of these bushes.

As we wind our way through neat rows of well labeled plants all sporting Farmer Tom’s likeness, we inspect Black Knight, OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookie and other popular strains, and even get an up-close look at a rare Asian plant with most unusual leaves.

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Unusual Asian Strain

At the end of our tour, we are given sharp knives and rubber buckets and pointed back to the vegetable rows where we pick our own lettuce, squash, kale and beans.  The sun is shining and Paula graciously waters my thirsty snow dog and points us back to the interstate with our bounty.

It’s been a great visit, well worth the long schlep.  As we leave, I’m struck at how quintessentially American this agrarian scene is — a small independent farmer growing good organic crops to support his family and community.

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Luna in the garden

Who knows, with cannabis’ new-found legality, Farmer Tom and Paula may turn out to be a modern-day Ma and Pa Kettle success story – hard working farm folks striking it rich, but keeping it real.

Washington Medical Marijuana Grower Opens Farm To Tours

WASHINGTON: Tom Lauerman grows vegetables – sugar snap peas, corn, potatoes, salad mix — on his five-acre farm in Brush Prairie, Wash., that supplies a handful of families with fresh produce through the summer and into the fall.

But vegetables don’t pay the bills. So Lauerman, a 54-year-old surfer who’s smoked cannabis since he was 12, decided to turn his small marijuana grow into a commercial one.

As part of that effort, Lauerman, known by friends as Farmer Tom, has gotten savvy about self-promotion, posting pictures of his freshly planted cannabis on Instagram, designing trading cards for some of his strains and uploading videos about his operation to his Facebook page.

Now Lauerman is opening up his medical marijuana farm, which he calls Garden of the Green Sun, to visitors, hoping Washington’s nascent cannabis tourism industry is a boon to growers.

What Universe Am I On?

It’s criminal that not everybody can take a stroll through a Cannabis Farmers Markets.Walking through the MMJ Universe greenhouse this morning was like walking through heaven. Sweet billowy clouds of pot smoke fills the air, friendly growers and processors display their wares, doling out free samples at every table: smiling people offering me marijuana on the right, and on the left…”smoke this,” and “dab this” and “have a taste.” 
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