Earlier this month, in an episode of This Week in Cannabis News, we caught up with Jesce Horton, CEO of LOWD, a Portland, Oregon dispensary. This is the first in a series of conversations with Black leaders in the cannabis industry during Black History Month.
First, LOWD stands for Love Our Weed Daily, and it just sits on the fact that we're all everyday regular consumers, lovers of the plant, lovers of different strains and different aspects of the industry and culture.
I think the second piece is that, many of us who are from cannabis culture and especially Black and brown culture, understand the word 'loud' to really be about the expression of cannabis. Some of the best the best features are very loud and pronounced. Especially the smell; it's loud, that's kind of how we how we talk about it. So that's how we hunt genetics. That's what we look for, that's what we seek to grow.
The third aspect is really our expression of who we are in the industry and our voice. We think that this authentic voice from the basemen of some of the earlier days in the cannabis industry and the culture that's come along with that, the love of the plant and the protection of the direction of the industry. I think in a lot of ways we're very loud about it. We're out, we're in the community, we're talking about these different issues and also helping to helping to to move some of these different issues forward. — Jesce Horton
Without a doubt, support Black-owned businesses. Their offerings are amazing and I think they're adding a lot of value to the market in a number of different areas around the country. The second is donating to organizations like new project organizations like MCBA and Minorities for Medical Marijuana.
And I think the third thing is just taking the time to really understand and then communicating to others that, you know, this idea of equity in the cannabis industry, diversity in the cannabis industry is not, you know, just a moral argument. I think that's only half of it. I think we lose a lot of the progress by only looking at the moral aspect of it. In so many ways it's an economic argument, right? We also need these communities that feel taken advantage of by the cannabis industry, whether that is the legacy market or the newly legal market, a lot of the same communities feel like there's not a space for them. So I think it's a really big argument and anyone who is looking to try to help to further the mission first and foremost needs to understand and communicate that it's a complex thing. — Jesce Horton
So right now, some of my favorites right now are actually unreleased. We're doing a lot of different testing with different strains that are crosses of our favorites—Platinum Garlic Cookies, which is one of our top sellers in Oregon, and Cake Mix. We've done some crosses there, and that's called Maple Bacon. So we're releasing Maple Bacon, true to this Pacific Northwest flavor palette. Over the next few months, we've got a really dope celebrity release. But my favorite all time? That's tough... I would say my favorite of all time is still got to be Jack Herer. — Jesce Horton
Jalen Jones: We have the legend himself, we have Jesse Horton with LOWD Farms tuning in with us to kick off our Black History Month spotlight. So, Jesce, if we can, man, it's not about us—I'd love for you to give us a brief introduction on who you are, how you how long you've been in the industry, how you got here.
Jesce Horton: Hey, thanks a lot Jalen. I appreciate all of you and Dutchie for having me on. As you mentioned, my name is Jesce Horton. I am the founder and CEO of LOWD. We are a cannabis cultivation company licensed here in Oregon, focused on a real premium cannabis, lifestyle, culture and all those things that kind of intersect with what's happening in the Pacific Northwest and our culture and cannabis. And also, you know, I've done a lot of work in the nonprofit sector with nonprofits like the Minority Cannabis Business Association. I co-founded that and ran that for a few years with some of the dope people across the country and also a nonprofit that I work with called New Project, which is focused more on the economic uplift side of things and helping other businesses similar to mine get an opportunity to get funding and grow in the cannabis industry.
Jalen Jones: Yeah, that's awesome. You wear a lot of hats, and I mean, it's crazy that you only hit on the surface cause I think I saw something where you doing some adjunct teaching at a few different universities, leaning on their cannabis curriculum as well. So it's dope to be able to see how much you're able to really spread out and touch the industry and those folks that are looking to enter the community. But then you're also a master of your craft—I've seen you in passing, but we actually had a chance to meet MJ Biz, actually at the Minorities for Cannabis Association meetup, and it was dope being able to cross paths and kind of connect over what you guys have been doing. Could you kind of back us up a little bit, though, and kind of talk through why it was important for you to name your brand LOWD and where that came from?
Jesce Horton: Yeah, Dope. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I am doing a lot of stuff and sometimes I feel like I'm doing too many things. I'm kind of trying to keep up now. The professor stuff is really dope and also working in some consulting ventures with Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's in the cannabis industry and a couple other companies out there on the East Coast that are getting started up and, you know, to to the other don't know too. Why did we want to name it LOWD? You know, I think for for a number of reasons, I think primarily is for authenticity. We really wanted to express who we are, where we're from and what we're what we're about in the cannabis industry. You know what it stands for? LOWD first and foremost is an acronym that stands Love Our Weed Daily. So LOWD stands for Love Our Weed Daily, Love Oregon Weed Daily. And it just kind of sits on the fact that we're all, you know, everyday regular consumers, lovers of the plant, lovers of different strains and, you know, different aspects of the industry and of the culture. And I think, you know, the second piece, right, is that we all, many of us who are from cannabis culture and, you know, especially Black and brown culture, understand the word loud to really be about, you know, the expression of cannabis right now. You know, some of the best the best features are very loud and pronounced, right? Especially the smell, right, is really loud, it's kind of how we how we talk about it. So that's how we hunt genetics. That's what we look for, that's what we seek to grow. And where we want to be is kind of in that area of premium cannabis that, you know, you and I would consider loud. And I think the third aspect is really our expression of who we are in the industry and our our viewpoint and our voice. We think that this authentic voice from kind of from the basement, from, you know, some of the earlier days in the cannabis industry and the culture that's come along with that, the love of the plant and the protection of the direction of the industry. I think in a lot of ways we're very loud about it. We're out, we're in the community, we're talking about these different issues and also helping to helping to to move some of these different issues forward.
Kwaku Abankroh: Love it. I think it's great. You know, I've been digging deeper into your brand and your website. Your whole creative approach is incredible. And just owning that word, you know, that word loud. It's something that comes from us, you know, something that comes from Black culture. So having that be something that's pronounced and in a prominent Black cultivation, a prominent Black brand is is just great to see. I'd love to, you know, transition into learning a little bit more about new project. I think the full name is New Leaf Project, and it's something that you're doing for. Our community from Black and Brown thought to have an entry way into the cannabis game. Can you tell us a little bit more about that work?
Jesce Horton: Yeah, of course. So we started off as New Leaf Project and we're actually rebranding to New Project due to some similar naming and different aspects of the industry. Right? So it is now New Project and essentially it's the evolution of a lot of work that I've done with the Minority Cannabis Business Association, with MCBA. There was a three pronged approach, right? One was the medical aspect of it and how medical cannabis and the connection with our community could help in a lot of different ways with a lot of the diseases that affect Black and brown communities more than the majority cannabis alleviates and help secure in a number of ways. So working on that messaging and working with different doctors like Dr. Rachel Knox was was really important to get that forward. The other aspect of the MCBA was policy and understanding. That was one of the biggest barriers for us to really get in and make sure that we had policies that were inclusive and open and really embracing communities that have been targeted by cannabis prohibition enforcement. But the third piece of MCBA was all about economic empowerment and seeing. Right, how tax appropriation, you know, these dollars that are being generated through these businesses. How they can really help to benefit our communities and individuals who are looking for generational wealth. So and moving away from that nonprofit and focusing more on business and focusing locally. My partner, Jeanette, who you know is my partner in the organization, really wanted to kind of work on things that were more focused right on the things that we can really tangibly, you know, have more impact in. And we thought economic empowerment was that that vertical or that piece that that that would do that. So we started New Project and the first partnership that we had was with the City of Portland. They gave a percentage of their cannabis tax to the nonprofit and we gave that out through grants primarily to Black and brown businesses, but also businesses that have been affected by cannabis prohibition, prohibition enforcement. And then we kind of added layers to that by working with other businesses. We were able to add, you know, another half million right to what we were doing. And we started doing small loans and then, you know, growing that even more and getting more dollars from our government agencies, but also more and more dollars from donations and more and more dollars from different corporate partnerships that we have with companies like cookies, companies like while companies like Hawthorne Gardening, you know, some of the largest companies, but also some of the smallest companies out there that believed in the idea of this kind of public private partnership working together to to help with this economic barrier that's in front of a lot of people in the cannabis industry. So at this point, New Project has crossed over the $2 million mark in grants and loans that have been funded primarily in our communities and and all in the cannabis industry, and also landing new contracts with other states to do some of this work out there in the community based on the blueprint that we've been able to lay out at new projects. So it was really impactful work, but also very rewarding work and opportunity that we can really see the real benefits on a on a weekly basis and how, you know, the growth of the cannabis industry can help to uplift businesses out there that that really need support and resources.
Kwaku Abankroh: Bravo, man. Thank you. Thank you for that one and four for thank you for focusing on the fact that there are people in this industry that do need that help, understanding that not everybody is an MSO coming with, you know, a blank check book. And they might need that assistance, that bridge, to get to a point where they're reaching profitability, understanding the game that they're playing and realizing that, you know, the government can be on your side in certain ways, too. Like you said, tax appropriations, stuff like that. Moving those dollars in a place that lets the business grow. We're doing this focusing on Black History Month and we wanted to highlight you, but we want to also give a little bit of direction to folks that want to stay involved, want to, you know, support the black community. How do you think that folks, Black, brown, white, everything can support and highlight black brands or just black people during Black History Month?
Jesce Horton: Yeah, for sure. I think there's a few different ways. I think, you know, first and foremost, definitely with with your with your economic dollars and your in your buying power. Really researching the companies that are standing up for these missions. It's not always just Black and brown companies, right? There's a lot of companies that. Not a lot. But there are some good companies out there. That believe in the mission and are moving that mission forward that I think are worthy of that support, even in times like Black History Month. But without a doubt, supporting Black-owned businesses, they are growing in the cannabis industry. Their offerings are amazing and I think they're adding a lot of value to the market in a number of different areas around the country. I think, you know, the second, without a doubt, donating or using those dollars to donate to organizations like new project organizations like MCBA, organizations like Minorities for Medical Marijuana, we can kind of go along with a number of other organizations that have been doing really good work for a long time. And I think, you know, the third thing is just taking the time to really understand and then communicating to others that, you know, this idea of equity in the cannabis industry, diversity in the cannabis industry is not, you know, just a moral argument. I think that's only half of it. And I think we kind of lose a lot of the progress by only looking at the moral aspect of it, I think. And in so many ways it's an economic argument, right? In that one, you know, we need more innovation in the industry. We need more brands that really speak to the wide demographics in the cannabis industry. We also need these communities that feel taken advantage of by the cannabis industry, whether that is the legacy market or, you know, the newly legal market, these a lot of the same communities feel like there's not a space for them. And I think that the more our industry ensures that there is a space for them, the more they will grow economically as well. So I think it's a really big argument and I think that anyone who is looking to try to help to further the mission first and foremost needs to understand and communicate that it is a complex thing. And it's not just not just a moral thing.
Jalen Jones: Very well said. In the switch gears a little bit as we kind of wrap this up. And I've got a lot of different strains rolling out right now. What's your favorite strain currently that you guys are cooking up? And what's your favorite all time strain?
Jesce Horton: Cool. Yeah. Wow. And that's that's tough. So right now, some of my favorites right now are actually unreleased, where we're doing a lot of different testing with different strains that are crosses of our favorites, platinum garlic cookies, which is one of our top sellers in organ and cake myths. We've done some crosses there, and that's called Maple Bacon. So we're releasing Maple Bacon, kind of true to this Pacific Northwest flavor palette. Over the next few months, we've got a really dope celebrity release. I want to talk about who that is. But sweet and Sour Diesel is one that we were able to cook up with a really, really cool celebrity that I'm excited to announce here over the next few months. And without a doubt, again, Platinum Garlic Cookies is the top seller that's in the shelves right now here in Portland and throughout Oregon. But I think my favorite all time and that's tough. Oh, wow. I would say my favorite of all time is Still got to be Jack Herer. Or you know what? I'm just going to kind of say that. But also I'm going to say 503. Why? And I think, you know, because those are two strains. Jack Herer, 503, WiFi are strains that don't have all the frills or like this new exotic stuff. It's not really colorful, all these things. Right? But the effect and the feel of those strains is is something that, you know, is just amazing. Right. And kind of top of my list when almost everything that I've smoked. So I think I think those are my two favorites.
Jalen Jones: You just threw you just threw some fire at us on the low and then you just gave us almost a preview of what's to come with a lot of these strains that are coming. But where can folks find you guys throughout Oregon?
Jesce Horton: Yeah, you can check this out. Some really cool shops throughout Oregon are to name a few. Or Grove is a really cool shop that we you know, we have the connection with places like electric lettuce top crop is you know one of our favorite shops preserve Oregon homegrown. You know we got a lot of others about 80 shops in the time between 60 and 80 shops throughout the state of Oregon. So really don't partners in those just some that come on top of my mind. [00:15:06][29.9]
Kwaku Abankroh: Well, thank you so much for your time, Jesce. Even better, a lot of those shops are dirty shops, electric lettuce or grown. They're all using dutchie. So please make sure to check those out. We appreciate you. Thank you, Jalen, for your for your thoughtful questions. Thank you, Jesse, for your thoughtful answers and have a phenomenal Black History Month. I hope you continue to shine not just this month, but all year, Black History Year every every year. But we get this month to really shine. So thank you again, Jesse.
Jesce Horton: Thank you so much for your time, fellas. I appreciate it.