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Author: Misty Contreras

The Now and Future of Yellow Acres Farm

Aran Arriaga is the Founder of Yellow Acres Farm

Texas Hemp Reporter: So how does it feel to be out in the Texas country

and farming hemp?

Adan: We’re in East Texas about 30 miles out of Louisiana. It’s pine country, hot, Jasper County. It’s great I grew up here, this is our family farm so…

Texas Hemp Reporter: What strains are you presently growing?

Adan: There are two: we have Cherry Wine and Otto II x BaOx. Both are high CBD content plants, above 6%, legal THC percentage of course.

Texas Hemp Reporter: What is your experience of the Texas Hemp Industry?

Adan:  I find Texas to work as a team. The farmers, manufacturers, samplers, they band together networking. Texas can become the lead in the country in hemp production; Matt Buchanan did some sampling for us, then follow up then there’s Greg of Sweet Sensi, he works with us on rosin press extraction. I think our farm hopes to become a disrupter especially of outside raw hemp coming from out of state. Yellow Acres Farm (YAF) is a relatively small farm 85 acres but we plan to enlarge, improve our business model through growth.

Texas Hemp Reporter: What are your opinions on the Texas laws on growing hemp?

Adan: This year our team invested in lobbying, down at the Capitol, approached the House and Senate you know there’s a split in the community as well as the laws, marijuana versus hemp. The laws are are jumbled and the legislators don’t seem to study up on the difference between those industries. The scientific nomenclature versus the legal is all off, there was a bill introduced that would bundle hemp with cannabis and marijuana, and this is bad for growers. We need to insure that our businesses, our livelihoods are safe and we need to band together to amplify our interests. We did have a positive development hemp farmers now have a window of testing extended from 15 to 30 days, but this is only the beginning.

Texas Hemp Reporter: Is the Texas soil great for growing hemp?

Adan: We do a lot of enhancement work with our soil here, it’s a bit sandy. We are all natural so we add compost, minerals, microbiology, we practice replenishment. Yet the Texas climate is super for high CBD-yielding strains, the humidity these plants thrive on. So I believe we will become the lead producer of hemp as growers in the future.

Texas Hemp Reporter: Who does your team consist of?

Adan: There’s four of us, my brother Saulo who handles kind of the Operations manager position. And there’s the “bad boys of hemp” from San Antonio. Issac is our Brand Management person, handling marketing, networking and then Joshua who is our main farmer: he’s a real cultivator, checking details like the ph of water used, soil testing micro-remediation, composting, etc.

Texas Hemp Reporter: What about your R&D aspects?

Adan: I used to work in the beverage industry. I saw a lot of issues there especially concerning cannabis-infused drinks.  Canada is a country that does a ton of research into cannabis. They have accumulated many patents. We had approached a Canadian Pharmaceutical company, in order to see if we could license one of their products. They couldn’t but I learned all about the issues of delivery of cannabinoids. Nano-emulsions, CBD, CBG, Delta-8 etc. For instance canning: the inner-lining is often lipid-resistant creating a short shelf-life. And many consumers also want a translucent beverage for themselves. Well CBD oil has color, some of the organolipids do as well. So we have been developing the quality of how these cannabinoids can be delivered as well as naturally preserved.

And these processes are not limited to drinks, tinctures and topical’s also. It’s a learning process.

 Yellow Acres has a patent-pending for “A Method of Extraction for Immediate and Extended Release of Cannabinoids.” We’re concentrating on a process of single-dose extended duration release for both products and extractions.

We also think that licensing our IP can be very beneficial to other growers and researchers as well as developers. We hope to see the YAF label on a CBD beverage soon. And we’d like to develop gummies and candies and show them on the website. Being a farm we grow lots of vegetables so we’re using a burp-less cucumber to create a Yellow Acres Farm brand of pickles too!

CBD and Pets

Dogs.  We feed them, love them and keep them healthy. But what about the things we can’t control? A thunderstorm or the sound of fireworks outside of your house could make for a frenetic evening for your pet. You want to do whatever you can to soothe them.

Tracy Fleming, owner and operator of Beautiful Me Skincare Studio in Austin, tells us about her best friend, Snoodles.

“We got Snoodles when he was just barely old enough that you can adopt them. He was not even a foot long, you put him on the ground and he would literally JUMP over grass that was 3 inches long, like he was a little rabbit. He’s ¾ long-haired chihuahua and ¼ Shih Tzu. He is so sweet, he loves everybody, even children. We give him 50 power-kisses every day on his cheek and he’s not disturbed, he just kind of rolls his eyes. I was a single mother and I was looking for a dog. My daughter wanted a chihuahua she could dress up because we had just watched Beverly Hills Chihuahua. When we got him, his name was Snickerdoodle. He was the only boy left and he had the most personality of all of them.

“Snoodles freaks out when there’s thunder, lightning, storms, any kind of loud noises, even dings and beeps. Anything like that freaks him out, he shakes like a leaf! I mean, I’m talking tongue out, drooling, eyes completely dilated, shaking, crazy. We use a hemp extract from, owned by Austinite Brendan Findlay. What’s cool is that they do CO2

extraction and they have a 3rd party that tests the profile and potency of all of the products. Their farm is in Colorado and everything is grown without pesticides. He really benefited from the product. We were under full-cannon, fireworks, holding him, and he wasn’t even shaking! That was when I knew that stuff was special. We just put a few drops of the liquid tincture on his paw and he licks it up. It takes about 10-15 minutes to kick in and then he starts chilling out and relaxing. What’s great about the tincture is that you can put it on any type of dog treat, or in their food or water, but putting it on their paw guarantees that they’re going to consume it. It’s a natural reaction for the dog to want to get it off by licking it.


“He’s 11 years old now. He lives with four cats who clean him, and he takes care of their ears, it is so cute! He is happy and very spoiled, of course!”

Vet the Farm, Don’t Bet the Farm!

An Interview with Frank Schultz

by Misty Contreras

TPS Lab, a mainstay of the Rio Grande Valley and the farming industry for over eight decades, wants to help hemp and marijuana growers achieve success and higher yield of crops.   TPS Lab President Frank Schultz explains the importance of research and patience as many new farmers and entrepreneurs dip their toes into this emerging field.

Texas Hemp Reporter: How did you begin in the field of soil testing, can you give us a bit of your origin story?

TPS Lab: The lab was established in 1938 by Dr. George Schultz (no relation). I am the third-generation president and conservator of an 80-plus year-old institution, starting as a client in the early 2000s.

THR: You have clients all over the globe, but here in Texas, what would you say is the single, biggest challenge a farmer will face in terms of crop health?

TPSL: Education. We often get calls from people who say they are interested in growing hemp but it emerges during the conversation that they have done little to no research into the plant, its unique requirements, possible markets or the industry in general. Unfortunately, we have seen and heard firsthand accounts from people who lost millions of dollars due to lack of experience or faulty research. Some “bet the farm” and lost it.

Even experienced growers, from gardeners to well-established farmers, often do not appreciate the costs, infrastructure required and especially the labor-intensive nature of growing CBD industrial hemp. (We saw a reduction in hemp acres grown with our clients in 2020 from 2019, largely due to the realization of the labor required.) Additionally, experienced growers of other crops are accustomed to few changes in plant varieties and genetics year after year.

However, new hemp genetics are being developed continuously to enhance oil percentages and characteristics, and suitability for specific growing conditions and regions. This means that a grower must constantly be on the lookout for new varieties to better suit his growing conditions and accommodate dynamic market demands for the latest desired CBD isolates.

A BIG mistake some of our clients made was in retaining marijuana consultants to advise them on growing industrial hemp. With the understanding that genetics is where it all starts and is key to the capacity of cannabinoid production and composition (or lack thereof), the growing practices for each are quite opposite in several ways:

Money bag on the background of agricultural crops in the hand of the farmer. Agricultural startups. Profit from agribusiness. Lending and subsidizing farmers. Grants and support. Land value and rent.

● With marijuana, the varietal genesis is typically C. indica L., due to its penchant for producing high levels of THC. Plant stress is purposely induced during the middle and latter stages of development to further stimulate the production of THC. This is done by limiting fertilization, water, light or causing any other factor to induce stress.

C. sativa L. is the varietal genesis of industrial hemp and typically has a lesser penchant for producing THC. However, THC production is still stimulated by plant stress. Accordingly, it is essential to limit stress in order to limit THC content to 0.3% or less to have expectations of a harvestable crop – even for sativa.

The good news is that we can do much to limit stress and encourage production of CBD by providing balanced nutrition at critical times during plant development and to at an extent, managing water. We can even compensate, to degrees, for other stressful conditions such as weather. With marijuana, stress is encouraged.

But there’s more: Because you get a harvestablecrop does not mean that you get a sellablecrop! Over the past several years, we’ve seen processor’s demands increase for percentage of CBD and even for particular isolates of CBD (CBG, CBN, etc.) – and now, ∆-8 THC (in Texas). The appropriate genetics, stress management, cultivation practice, and correct, timed nutrition and water are the answer.

THR: Can you describe your operation in Edinburg?

TPSL: We are a consulting agronomic laboratory. We’ve been in the same location for decades and have current technology analytical instruments. We are open to the public and encourage growers large and small to bring in their samples or visit with one of our consultants to get answers to their toughest questions.

The main and unique features of the lab are its proprietary methods of soil and compost testing, emulating the way plants take up nutrients in any soil type and calibrated against actual plant uptake (Plant Natural® Soil & Compost Tests); its Ask The Plant® plant sap analyses based on proprietary plant nutrition standards and its What’s In Your Water Becomes Part Of Your Soil® irrigation and spray water analyses for quality management.

Test results alone have little meaning to most growers, so our main product is the experience and ability to interpret lab data and provide our clients with specific interpretations and recommendations for their specific crop and their particular growing circumstances. Accordingly, every test and recommendation is custom and written by a senior consultant – no “shotgun” approach.

THR: Is Plant Natural Innovations your company as well? Did you formulate the CSL+ Organic Fertilizer?

TPSL: Plant Natural® Innovations was established as an independent company to provide formulations of some recently-available and highly-beneficial products which are not generally recognized by growers. The lab’s most senior consultants proposed, developed and designed CSL+ and other organically- based products based upon their decades-long experience in soil health and plant nutrition. Product lines will expand as development continues.

THR: Can you tell us about your “Ask the Plant” program?

TPSL: The lab began testing plant sap (petioles) in 1964, making it an early pioneer in private-lab plant testing. One of my predecessors, Dr. Albin Lengyel of Phoenix, Arizona, started testing plant sap in cotton in the late ’40s and later extended it to many other crops around the country. Another legacy from Dr. Lengyel is the Plant Natural® Soil & Compost Tests.

Originally, Ask The Plant® (ATP) was intended to be a season-long “dynamic” nutrition program for growers to allow them to apply appropriate nutrients in appropriate amounts at critical stages of crop development for best ROI by periodic in-season testing, based upon the physiology of the crop. However, we get many calls sometime during the season from growers who are having serious problems and need help immediately.

Money with sheet of marijuana close-up on background of one hundred dollars with an artificial ray of light, high quality image. Thematic photos of hemp and cannabis

Accordingly, much of ATP has evolved into “911” calls concerning physical crop damage (such as by wind, sandstorm or hail) or sudden manifestations of insects, disease or nematodes. We have had remarkable success in guiding our clients past these, and on to doing well by the end of the season.

By the way, HEMPlan® is a comprehensive, specialized and extended version of ATP, exclusively for industrial hemp growers, based, in part, upon a decade of experience with Canadian growers, plus decades-long experience in other exotic and high-value crops around the world.

Again, HEMPlan®, as is ATP, is intended to be a pre-season-to-harvest program, but as with ATP, we get calls from growers sometime into the season about problems they’re having. Unhappily, some call us too late for us to be able to salvage them.

THR: Do you have a success story you’d like to share of a farm you’ve been able to help?

TPSL: Yes. Some years ago, we were working with sugar beet, potato and mustard (plus other) growers in the Pacific Northwest – fairly high-value crops at the time. They had been relying on state extension agents and their local co-ops for advice for years. And it had stopped working – to the extent that several generations-old family farms were facing soon bankruptcy.

Our VP of Research, formerly a tenured professor at the University of Maine, thence a Senior Research Scientist with the USDA – ARS, Weslaco, went on a field trip, together with our COO, to visit with some of our clients up there. He told me that as a [cloistered] academic, it was the first time he ever visited with people who were the end-recipients of and directly impacted by his research.

One day, he was sitting in the kitchen of a farmer, whose farm was in dire straits, when his wife leaned over and whispered, “please help us!”, our VP said that he suddenly realized that what he did seriously impacted real people. Before, it had been simply academic.

This farm, and one other facing bankruptcy, and others did well by the end of the season.

It wasn’t magic – it was simply applying long-established agronomic principles combined with recent discoveries which seem to have been ignored or forgotten by the institutions.

THR: What do you enjoy most about your work?

TPSL: I really enjoy hearing the success stories and how we help improve the clients’ circumstances – sometimes even to the extent of saving their farms.

All considered, it’s not a bad way to live.

For more information on TPS Lab’s custom plant, soil, water and other testing and consulting services, visit or call 956-383-0739.  They can also be visited at 4915 W Monte Cristo Rd, Edinburg, Tx 78541.

For more information on Plant Natural® Innovations plant nutrition products, visit or call 956-380-4050.

CBD Crawl: South Austin

South Austin is known for its food trucks and funky vibe, tight-knit retail communities and lack of parking, and yeah, we’re the meat eaters.  But a new wave has hit South Austin, and Austin as a whole: CBD dispensaries.  Texas is still anxiously awaiting legalization.  As of Sept 1, the availability of medical cannabis was widened and the dam was broke on the legal THC levels for medicinal purposes, a win for those suffering from PTSD and cancer.  A step in the right direction.

For the time being, we must take our victories where we can.  Hemp and CBD were made legal to grow and consume in the state of Texas in 2019.  Industrious entrepreneurs eagerly seized the opportunity to fill a niche and pioneer the CBD startup. 

Locally, we have seen the rise of a new market, and pandemic be damned!  The owners of these boutiques have survived the long quarantine and are severely knowledgeable and, in many cases, you will find them on-site.

My first stop was American Shaman, where owner, Julien Lamb, greeted me in the well-lit, cozy showroom. 

“Shamanism has roots in many cultures, in terms of healing and bringing knowledge back to help people.  American Shaman is kind of a play on that.  I think that’s the inception of the name.”

“We used to grow this stuff back in the 1800s, and make clothes out of it.  And during WWII all the rope was made out of hemp for the Navy.  In Australia they’re doing 3D printing of houses with hemp paste.  It could replace a lot of industries but there’s a lot of investment in that pre-established stuff.  We must have progress, progress by going back to what we used to do.  I grew up with D.A.R.E and that kind of fear-based rhetoric is the opposite of progress.  The lumber industry was huge against growing and cultivation of hemp because it’s a threat.  Hemp has a 90-day growing cycle, you don’t have to chop down forests anymore.  There’s been a hundred years of ‘reefer madness’ thanks to Harry Anslinger and the DEA.  My favorite thing is, D.A.R.E. has actually sent out a message of, ‘hey, we’re sorry about all the things we said about marijuana’.  That was actually posted on social media.”

“I grew up with D.A.R.E and that kind of fear-based rhetoric is the opposite of progress.  The lumber industry was huge against growing and cultivation of hemp because it’s a threat.  Hemp has a 90-day growing cycle, you don’t have to chop down forests anymore. ”

“I grew up with D.A.R.E and that kind of fear-based rhetoric is the opposite of progress.  The lumber industry was huge against growing and cultivation of hemp because it’s a threat.  Hemp has a 90-day growing cycle, you don’t have to chop down forests anymore.”

Hit Julien up to get some quality CBD products for you and your pet,, 1901 W. Wm Cannon, Ste 109.

My next stop was Joy Organics, at 902 N. Lamar.  Owner, Danielle Smith, was on hand in the chic boho boutique and excited to show me the array of products they have available, from tinctures, gummies and dog treats, to energy drinks and bath bombs. 

A particular source of pride for Danielle is the launch of her own line of personal care products, Wild Bloom.  “I grew up conservative, and I want people to be able to feel comfortable about expressing their needs to achieve sexual wellness.”  Wild bloom is about inclusivity, and “facilitating a space of healing mind, body and spirit and empowering others to be their most authentic selves”.  Danielle actually had a hand in formulating the Wild Bloom CBD Pleasure Gel, a water-based gel that is safe for use with condoms and toys. 

Visit Joy Organics or to put together a holiday gift set for your loved one.

Next was MaryJae, at 2110 S. Lamar Ste E.  Jae Graham, owner and founder of Mary Jae, knows firsthand the positive effects cannabis can offer to those suffering from cancer.  In 2000, Jae and her brother shared cannabis with their father, Larry, who was diagnosed with cancer and cirrhosis.  When doctors questioned why Larry’s quality of life had increased so dramatically, Jae was reluctant to share the truth with them, fearing prosecution.  After all, Hispanics are more than twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.  But Larry lived another 10 years. 

This experience inspired Jae to “create a safe space where the elderly could come in, women, people of color, the queer community, everything that we are”.  Jae says that people have read Larry’s story, and they actually come in to her store seeking help for themselves or a family member.  Often, especially with older people, it is a moral issue.  They think CBD will get them high.  But as attitudes change and trends emerge, those in need will open their minds to the benefits of cannabis.

Stop in to Mary Jae, or check out their website,

This is the first in my series, “CBD Crawl” (think: “Pub Crawl”).  Hopefully I can entice you to visit one of these shops soon!

Profiles in Hemp Farming: Robot Pharmer

By Misty Contreras

Texas Hemp Reporter: When did you begin farming?

Robot Pharmer: We began farming in September of 2018, immediately after our licenses were granted. The founders are Jeff Ely, Isaac Ramirez, Josh Wheat and Brandt Hamilton.

THR:Where are you located?

RP: Our farm and extraction lab are on a 20-acre property in Broken Bow, OK. The first of our 2 dispensaries, Robot Pharmer Dispensary, is located in Broken Bow as well. Broken Bow is in the southeast corner of the state near the borders of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Our 2nd location is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We have a warehouse on the edge of downtown that has our Tulsa dispensary, as well as our cannabis kitchen, a processing lab and a small container grow for pheno hunting. 

THR: Can you describe your growing/processing operation?

RP: We grow indoor and in greenhouses. We have 5 indoor grow buildings consisting of 40 lights each. We grow organically in raised beds using living soil. We have three 3000-sq. ft. greenhouses also grown in living soil.

As far as processing, we process our own product through hydrocarbon extraction. We began the extraction portion of the business about 1 year in (Sept 2019). We make concentrates such as diamonds, batter, budder, shatter and sauce. We also utilize these concentrates to make vape cartridges, RSO and edibles. Our live resin edibles are a favorite here in Oklahoma! We recently won 2nd place for edibles at the High Times Oklahoma Cannabis Cup for our Robot Pete’s Live Elixir. It is a live resin syrup that can be added to any drink or beverage. We have an amazing chef, Branden Bentley, who has taken marijuana edibles to another level! Chef Branden utilizes real fruit purées and other great ingredients to create the best-tasting edibles around. On top of the great flavor, we use live resin cannabis oil. Most cannabis edibles are made using THC distillate. The problem with THC distillate is that many of the other cannabinoids and terpenes are lost through the distillation process. Live resin is a full-spectrum cannabis oil. Whatever was in the strain of flower shows up in the live resin oil. This is why the effect of our edibles is more like the effect you feel from the actual flower. 

THR: And what is the origin story of Robot Pharmer?

RP: Our partner, Josh Wheat, created the brand Robot Pharmer originally as a cannabis culture brand featuring great artwork, apparel, posters and stickers. His vision was to create a global cannabis brand to help de-stigmatize medical cannabis and the industry as a whole. He decided a character would be the perfect way to do this. That is when the idea of Robot Pete was born…a robot “pharmer” who could educate people on all aspects of medical cannabis. Once he came to this revelation, Josh was on a mission to find an artist that could pull off his vision. Eventually he came across John Ortiz, an artist out of Los Angeles, California, that had helped several mainstream streetwear brands get off the ground.  With Josh’s vision and John’s artistic talent they created a series of art pieces that would eventually become the base of the company we have built here in Oklahoma. 

When this opportunity came about in Oklahoma, the 4 of us decided to partner up and apply for licenses. Brandt owned a property with a couple buildings and a couple cabins. We applied for our 3 licenses and to our surprise we were approved for all 3! I say surprised because at the beginning it was taking a real shot in the dark. No one really knew if the state of Oklahoma was going to do what it said it would do and approve anyone who qualified or, because of the volume of applicants, only accept a certain number of us. Luckily for us it was the former. As soon as our licenses were approved Jeff and Isaac moved up from Austin, and Josh moved down from Seattle. Together, the 4 of us began building and growing. After our first crop was ready, Jeff and Josh drove all throughout the state meeting dispensary owners and getting our flower on to their shelves. That is how it all started. Today we are on the shelves of over 100 dispensaries in the state. 

For more information, visit, or in person at 1212 E 1st St in Tulsa, or 208 S Park Dr in Broken Bow, OK.

Profiles in Hemp Farming

Eddie Velez, Oak Cliff Cultivators

 Texas Hemp Reporter: Where are you located?

Eddie Velez: Our hemp farm is centrally located in Brady, the heart of Texas.

THR: When did you begin farming?

Eddie: I’m not your typical farmer and I had no farming experience until recently.  In my previous life, I spent 15 years responding to disasters across the country,  with over 10 of those years with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Region 6, in Denton, TX. 

In early spring of 2020, my wife and I quit our careers, cashed out our retirement, and dove headfirst into the Texas hemp industry.

THR: Is hemp your primary crop?  And what do you produce (pulp, CBD, textiles)?

Eddie: Hemp is our primary and only crop.  We cultivate award-winning hemp flower.  In December of 2020, we won “Best hemp flower in Texas,” at the Taste of Texas Hemp Cup.  Additionally, we won 6 out of 9 categories at the cup, to include: “highest CBD, best indoor, most pungent, most ripe, and final presentation.”

We produce premium CBD and CBG hemp flower.

The Awards Eddie and Oak Cliff took home in the first Annual Taste of Texas Hemp Awards in Wimberley last December.

THR: Do you offer any specialty products you would like to talk about (organic body care, construction materials)?

Eddie: Cultivating Cannabigerol (CBG) has been a great success for us.  CBG is still new to many people and offers a great alternative to CBD.  Unlike CBD, CBG interacts more directly with your body by binding with your CB1 and CB2 receptors and typically has no THC, which opens the door to many clients wanting to use hemp products without the THC. 

Another specialty we have but not necessarily a product, we like to educate and inform our clients about each of our products’ terpene profile and potential beneficial use.

 THR: Can you describe your growing/processing operation?

Eddie: We are a family and veteran-owned Texas hemp company.  We operate a boutique hemp farm, focusing on cultivating exceptional hemp genetic products for your wellness & culinary needs.  Our farm consists of 6,000 sq ft of greenhouse growing space and a 2,000 sq ft indoor climate controlled dry house.  We did a lot of research and visited hemp farms across the country, and we noticed that drying was essential in producing premium hemp flower.  

THR: What are your hopes or expectations for the future of hemp farming?

Eddie: We involve our children in everything we do with the hemp farm – from planting seeds to the finished product.  We hope to instill the knowledge and experience with them, so they can continue to redefine cannabis in Texas.

THR: How have the challenges you encounter every day helped you become a better farmer?

Last year was our first grow and everything was a challenge, from building the greenhouses to go-to-market strategies, to delivering our products.  We’ve asked a lot of dumb questions over the past year which has helped navigate us through those farming challenges.  Building a network and fostering positive relationships has helped us tremendously.  

Eddie Velez, Oak Cliff Cultivators

Ricky Ross & Kevin Booth: The Drug War

Some days, you sit back and realize how all of your hard work has paid off.  Some days, you may have the privilege of talking shop with a man whose work you’ve admired for over 20 years.  I had the pleasure of interviewing these two men, and then the very next day, Mr. Tommy Chong.  I can’t really put it into words what it means to me to be able to listen to these two guys shoot the breeze with each other, bringing together and broadcasting the conversation between two people whose relationship has spanned decades.  And I must not discount my own connection to some of the players we will be mentioned during this piece. 

Russell Dowden: All right, welcome to the Texas Hemp Show.  I’m Russell Dowden, publisher of the Texas Hemp Reporter magazine.  This week on the program, we’re getting ready for the July issue where we’re featuring Tommy Chong, Kevin Booth, Steve DeAngelo and Ricky Ross.  Ricky Ross will be calling in today from California, and then a little later, Kevin Booth will be talking with us.  The two gentlemen actually know each other because Kevin, of course, did the documentary “American Drug War” back in ’06 and interviewed Ricky Ross several times when Rick was in prison.  So, those two knew each other and may eventually cross paths again as we transition between interviews today.  Good stuff today as we get ready for the July issue of the Texas Hemp Reporter magazine that will be available all around Austin and throughout the state of Texas.  Many of these will be available for the first time in Houston, Texas.  We’re adding many of the smoke shops from Houston to the eastern side of the state.  Looks like the July issue will drop right here in the city of Austin on Thursday, July 1st.  We expect the magazine to be out that first weekend of the month of July, so right before the 4th of July weekend, we should be able to get those out to everybody.  Be sure to follow us on social media @texashempreporter on Instagram and @txhempreporter on Twitter.


Freeway Rick climbed his way back to the top after serving a 20 + years on a life sentence in prison, only to have the case overturned.

RD: Welcome back to the Texas Hemp Show.  I’m Russell Dowden with the Texas Hemp Reporter magazine.  Visit us online at and txhemporter on Twitter.  I’m looking forward to getting this next issue out for you guys.  Joining us today as we cut out of commercial break is Rick Ross.  Good to have you part of the Texas Hemp Show, my friend.  How are you doing out there on the West Coast, Rick Ross? 

Ricky Ross: I’m well.  How are you?  

RD: You and I met, I don’t know if you recall, when you were doing the book tour for The Untold Biography.  I missed you down there at Brave New Books and rushed down to 6th Street where you were doing a book signing and I bought Gary Webb’s book, as well as your book and you autographed both.  I don’t know if you remember that.

RR: I do.

RD: You do?  Yeah, you gave me your number and I’ve actually had your number in my phone for some time.  I just finally reached out to you guys, I thought it would be good to have you on the program, as you’ve got some products you’ve been doing.  I thought it’d be great to have you on and discuss that.  It was about five years ago.  Better late than never, huh, Rick?

RR: Absolutely.  Absolutely.

RD: Well listen, man, thanks so much for being on the Texas Hemp Reporter with us.  How’s life treating you these days?

RR: I’ve been good.  I’ve been good.

RD: I thought we’d just get you on, get a little bit about your background.  We won’t go into a whole lot of your backstory.  I think a lot people know that story now, Rick.  It’s been well-documented and well-covered.  I became aware of your case through Gary Webb’s work and then through our friend, Kevin Booth’s film, “American Drug War” in ’07.  Can you just give us a real quick condensed version on your history with the drug operation and how you kind of got mixed up in that whole Iran-Contra affair with the players like Oliver North, Noriega and the CIA.  Just give us a little condensed version and then we’ll talk about some of the things you’re involved in today.

RR: Well, I started selling drugs at 19 years old after it was discovered that I wouldn’t be going to college because I couldn’t read or write.  I started with $125.  Before I finished with the dope game I was making as much $3 million a day.  The prosecutor estimated that I had made at least a million dollars every day for two years.  

RD: That’s impressive.  That’s impressive.  You know, the CIA has long been rumored to sell drugs to finance their proxy wars, Rick.  They overthrow foreign regimes.  Did you ever hear about Cele Castillo?  He wrote a book called Powderburns.  I’ve had Cele on.

RR: I know Cele.

Street Wise Clothing Co. is just one of Ricks new brands. A Rapper stole his name while he was in prison and made a career.

RD: You know Cele?  I thought that that might ring a bell for you.  Can you speak to the drug war, Rick?  How it gets the American people and the prison system that incarcerates thousands of non-violent offenders?  Does this broken system upset you anymore?  Or have you kind of overcome any animosity you’ve had toward that?  How do you feel about the system itself these days?

RR: First of all, animosity is for weak people.  It’s not for the strong, because when you’re strong, you change whatever it is that you know isn’t right.  And so, I’m working to change whatever it is that I believe to be the proper formation.  So, when you say, do I have animosity?  No, I don’t.  But, I don’t like the ways this war on drugs is being handled.  I don’t like the way the police have been handled in some cases.  And I’m working to change all of those things.

RD: You’re story’s really interesting to me, Rick.  And I remember when Kevin would call you in prison for his films.  You know, listeners, Rick taught himself to read in prison and worked on his appeal case.  Did you ever imagine one day that you’d be speaking to the youth or doing special events or being such a positive influence on today’s youth?

RR: No, I didn’t.  I never thought I was capable of speaking to crowds.  I was more of a behind-the-scenes type of guy.  You know, when I sold my drugs, I would stand behind everyone else and let them do my dirty work.  So, I was more behind-the-scenes, but now, I need to be on the front lines because whenever you start something, nobody wants to participate until it starts to go.  Right now, it’s not going the way that it needs to be before other people will get involved.  So, right now I’m on the front line.  I’m pretty much doing everything right now.  I do all the grunt work as well the behind-the-scenes work.

RD: You’re Los Angeles’s most notorious former-kingpin launching his own brand of cannabis.  I see you’ve opened up a dispensary.  You’re taking control of your legacy.  Tell us about some of these business ventures that you’re involved in now.  When did you start selling cannabis legally?

RR: Well, I actually have three brands out right now: Freeway by Rick Ross, LA Kingpins and I also have one called Yayo.  Kingpins is the oldest, I started that one about a year ago, right before the pandemic hit.  The pandemic has really hindered me from really getting the brands in the space that I would like them to be in.  With the Yayo, someone brought it to me and asked if I would partner with them on that and I go a kick out of it and I thought “we used to use that for cocaine!” So I thought it would be interesting, so I went for it. 

RD: That’s very cool.  I saw a documentary a while back called “I Want My Name Back” and it had to do with some east coast hiphop.  It was a different kind of story.  We know about the rapper, Rick Ross, who has taken your name and made a career off of your back.  You’re getting some deals in your business now, and these are kind of the licensing deals that you’re doing on your own but you’re starting to develop your own kind of licensing things with Freeway Ricky Ross.

RR: Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Not only am I doing my brands, but I’m also helping other people get their brand started.  I’m helping Cody Shane, his brand will be coming out soon, as well as Duke Deuce, also Dee Brooks.  So, I’m helping other people also get their brands started.  I’m also building a grow facility that’s going to produce about $6 million worth of cannabis every 2 months.  I don’t know yet what it will be called, maybe “Freeway Farms”.  Most important is that it develops great cannabis.

RD: Didn’t you do some work with the National Diversity and Inclusion Cannabis Alliance?

RR: Absolutely.  I’m still on the board.  I support them 110%.  They had a big hand in me actually getting my license for my dispensary.  They taught me the political game of marijuana.  We all went downtown to City Hall, we marched.  We went from councilperson to councilperson and we told them exactly what we wanted the law to say, even though we had to compromise. But for the most part, we got our way and we got things into the law that we needed in order to help me and others get a license.

RD: How can folks learn about these brands?  We have restrictions in the state of Texas on what we can purchase online but still, we have listeners on the Internet.  How can people get Freeway by Rick Ross, Kingpins and Yayo?

RR: The easiest way to get them is, when you come to California, you can go on my website and you can find the stores that sell my stuff.

RD: Texas is still struggling to get these marijuana laws relaxed and it’s kind of been the hot button the last few weeks and there’s talk of the Feds rescheduling marijuana.  Do you think the federal government might make the move to make marijuana legal before long?

RR: I think they will.  I don’t think it will happen this year.  I voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris because I felt that they were leaning for legalizing marijuana and opening up the banking system.  It will be so much better when they open up the banking system.  Right now, you make this money and you have to keep in a shoebox in your closet.  It would be nice if we could do some banking and accept credit cards.

RD: We are having problems with our business with the state of Texas and Texas Hemp Reporter and we have to choose wisely with what our merchant services are, and this is just hemp!  It’s not even in the marijuana space yet and it’s already controversial.

RR: Well, I’m from Texas, I was born there.  You know Texas is the lone star state, so you guys will probably be the last ones to make marijuana legal.

RD: Sadly, that’s probably true.  Mexico is now legal with marijuana.  Louisiana has a medicinal program.  Oklahoma has medicinal and recreational.  Arkansas has a medicinal marijuana program.  New Mexico, to our west, has a recreational marijuana program.  In fact, when you leave El Paso, you can go straight to the Pacific Ocean and it’s all legal cannabus.  So, Texas needs to get with the program, not just recreational, we don’t have good medicinal for our veterans or our cancer patients.  Texas is just behind.

RR: That’s what happens when your politicians are out of touch.  They don’t know what’s going on and what the people want, and they don’t care what the people want.  They’re out there to serve a purpose, and that’s what they do.  And that’s what our politicians here were doing and that’s why we went to their office and we let them know that if you don’t get your stuff right, we’re going to get your ass out of there.


RD: The producers didn’t really want to tell your movie story, sounds like, in Hollywood?

RR: They wouldn’t give me a definite release date and they didn’t want me to be part of it.  If I sold my rights, if they tried to do the movie with someone else, they would’ve been sued.  So, I couldn’t take those deals.

RD: How accurate are the stories being told in films like “Kill the Messenger” or “Snowfall”?

RR: Snowfall is a cartoon.  Who would do a movie about a black drug dealer who was involved with the CIA in south central LA, and made billions of dollars?  And you’re doing this movie, Freeway Ricky Ross is out of jail, walking the streets, you have his phone number in your phone, and you don’t call him?  At least, if not after making his story, at least consult with him?  It’s not an accurate story, they weren’t trying to look for the facts.

RS: Describe the irony about how you once sold drugs illegally, went to prison, and then all these years later, now you have a profitable, legitimate business now.  Describe that.  How does that feel for you these days?

RR: It just feels surreal, unreal.  How could you be in prison with a life sentence without the possibility of parole, and now here you are, in an industry where you’re about to make billions of dollars, where you’re about to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the world?  It just seems crazy.  Only in America!

RD: Your story is really amazing and I’ve always found it inspiring.  Being a fan of Kevin’s work, it was such an inspiring film, “American Drug War”.  Tommy Chong is featured in the film as well.  The question is, have we improved on our policies surrounding drug laws?  We have a lot of work still yet to be done with regard to the prison system and the criminalization of drugs.

RR: I think we have get these old-ass, lying, cheating politicians out of office.  Let’s get politicians who actually SMOKE marijuana, not these guys who say, “oh yeah, I smoked but I didn’t inhale.”  Let’s just bring in a whole new fresh crop of people who grew up smoking marijuana, walking the streets.  We have people in there now who never caught the buzz, they don’t fly commercial.  Who are these people?  Where are they from?  Until we get rid of them, our country’s going to be the way it is.

RD: Kevin Booth is chiming in, we were just singing your praises.  Kevin, welcome to the Texas Hemp Show.

Kevin Booth: Hey!  What’s up, Russell?  Is that you, Ricky?

RR: What up, Kev?

Kevin Booth: Hey, what’s going on?  Are you in LA?

RR: Yeah, I’m in LA.  I’m at the tennis club with the baby.  I told you, Russell, me and Kevin talk all the time!  I’m not going to forget Kevin, he used to send me money when I was in jail!

RD: Well, we had Kevin scheduled for the podcast about a month or two ago and then one of my writers reached out to your team, Rick, and wanted to interview you for the magazine with your new products, and I then I ended up scheduling you on the same day as Kevin without realizing it. 

RR: We have no problem getting together.

KB: We’ve got new things hopefully in the works too, so we’ve been talking a lot.

RD: Kevin, I don’t want to put you guys on the spot, but I will.  What’s going on?  Is there a film or something?  I know you probably want to keep a tight lid on it but I have to ask.

KB: I’ll let Ricky take the lead on that, but I’m here in Texas and it’s tricky and it’s funny but everyone I know gets high and buys weed, and yet, it’s extremely illegal.  So, it’s a lot trickier here.  But once it becomes legal here it’s going to be a huge market. What pisses me off is this whole idea that if they legalize weed then more people are going to start smoking it.  I’ve never met a single person when I was living in California that started smoking because it got legalized.

RR: No.  What it does is, it takes the street element out of it.  You don’t have to drive into some neighborhood where there’s 50 guys on the street, everybody’s toting guns and who knows what else they’re doing.  And you have to come buy marijuana.  It takes that element out of the game which, I’m sure the cops like because it keeps up a bunch of mess and they can arrest a lot of people.  So if you want to keep mess going then you keep it illegal.

KB: Yes, and the other thing it changes too is, just from the people I’ve known, the only difference is that now, they have a bigger selection, they pay less money.  The places they go to, it’s controlled.  But, I’ve yet to meet the person who just started getting high because it became legal.  I guess the argument is always about kids, right?  So, I’d rather have my kid smoking hemp, CBD or anything other than these nicotine cartridges, right?

RR: But the guys on the street, they don’t care how old you are when you come to them and buy.  At least at the dispensary, they check everybody’s i.d., make sure they’re 21 or older.  And you know that your product was grown organically, they didn’t use tons of pesticides on your product.  Those are the things that you get when you start to bring things to the legal market.  On the black market, nobody knows what they’re smoking.

KB: I don’t know how old you are, Russell but, when I was a kid, and I first started finding out about marijuana and I was going to Stratford High School in Houston, the thing was that crappy Mexican marijuana had paraquat on it.  And now there are lawsuits about paraquat.  It was a cure-all cheap bug spray that basically is the equivalent of agent orange, some Dow Chemical, DDT, horrible nightmare stuff.  The thing is, when you get black market marijuana, you’re probably going to have something like that on there because I’m telling you, it costs a lot more to grow organically.  It’s way harder and way more expensive and time consuming to grow organically.  So, when you keep that stuff illegal, that’s what your kids are smoking.

RD: To answer your question, Kevin, the first time I smoked marijuana, I was 12 years old and I was stealing it from my parents.  My parents were hippies, they met in LA and got married in Vegas in ’69.  Dad was a musician.  Unlike your parents, Kevin, my parents were kind of stoner-hippies so I knew what marijuana smelled like.  So, when I was living in south Austin with my Mexican friends, they started encouraging me to steal weed from my parents.  That was my introduction to marijuana.

KB: It wasn’t until I was older, in college, where suddenly this thing called “hydroponic” came up.  So, suddenly, if you wanted to spend way more money, you could get this amazing-smelling stuff that made you feel really good in a totally different way.  That was the breakthrough.  And my understanding was that was the first kind bud but, in Texas we just called it hydroponic back then.

RD: Well, Rick, any final thoughts?  Would you like to plug your book?

RR: Thank you, Russell.  And thank you, Kevin.  You always come in with some encouraging words and some knowledge so thank you again, as always.  And people, if you want to get my book, T-shirts, and all of my products, go to  Also, you can follow me on Instagram at freewayricky, and Facebook at TheRealFreewayRickRoss.  I also manage fighters now, you can watch my fights on 

RD: Thank you, man.  God bless you.  We appreciate Freeway Ricky Ross being part of the Texas Hemp Show this afternoon.  This is so far out, Kevin, the timing.  I’ve been anticipating that interview for six years.

KB: Rick mentioned his book, was that 21 Keys of Success or 21 Kilos of Success?

RD: Ha ha!  That’s 21 Keys of Success.  If you’re looking at his website, that title is actually a play on words.  Standby, Kevin.  We’re going to talk with you about your film work and some of the films you’ve been involved in, and talk about the old days, and see what you guys have cooking.


RD: Tomorrow, we’re having Tommy Chong on the show.  He’ll be talking about some CBD products that he has released.  He has defeated cancer multiple times.  He used high-grade CBD to assist and manage with the pain and the side effects of the treatments.  You interviewed Tommy for “American Drug War” while he was still in prison, isn’t that right, Kevin?

KB: Yeah, he was in Taft.  It was quite a feat to get in, I remember.  I had to go through some major hoops to get in there.  I think they only allowed a total of three journalists ever to get in and see Tommy.  When we finally got in there, it was a special day.  I also actually got to interview his wife and his son.  I got to know Shelby and Paris.  And I kept in contact with Tommy over the years.  I actually saw him a couple of years ago and he’d been through the cancer thing and at the time he was doing some Rick Simpson stuff.  I don’t know about his involvement with CBD but he’s definitely the poster child for CBD.

RD: Most of the time when I was interviewing him or Cheech, it was about the comedy.  We got to interview them for the “Get it Legal” tour and before that, the “Light Up America” tour.  He’s definitely a proponent for change with the drug war and certainly a victim of it, as your film “American Drug Wars” certainly documented with everything that went on with Operation Pipe Dreams.  Can you give our listeners a little bit of your background?  You grew up with Bill Hicks in Houston, can you tell us how you got started with films?  I remember seeing your earlier film, “Ninja Bachelor Party” because it used to come on public access in Austin in the old days.  It’s great to have you on, bro!  Three of your films certainly have been related to the drug war, how did you get started in all of that?

KB: Well, if we’re going to talk about “Ninja Bachelor Party”, I guess I’m going to have to drink a little Robitussin.  I grew up in Los Angeles and then moved to Houston and met Bill when he was a freshman and I was sophomore at Stratford High School in Houston.  We started a rock band called “Stress”.  None of us knew how to play instruments but we knew we wanted to be rock stars, so we just started rockin’ out and before you knew it, we learned how to play instruments.  We started doing high school talent shows and then keg parties, and then the relationship kind of blossomed from there.  I produced a lot of Bill’s comedy records and I did his first standup comedy concert called “Sane Man” and I did “Rant in E Minor”, “Relentless” and “Arizona Bay”.  We had another band called “Marblehead Johnson”.  At the time of “Ninja Bachelor Party” I was going to film school at UT Austin,  my other band I was in had gotten a record contract with Chrysalis and so I guess I was not real serious about being a student but I was in film school after dropping out of engineering school.  I decided to buy a color video camera, and we started making a karate epic.  Our first goal, we really wanted to be able to make porno movies but we didn’t know any girls, so we decided to make it karate.  It was the 80’s so, just bare with me.  We spent years and years working on this 23-minute epic.  It was funny because it ended up getting released by Warner Brothers on DVD, this really crappy homemade thing.  It was kind of like a Simpsons episode, every single line had to be funny, so it’s 23 minutes of non-stop humor.  You get to see Bill doing a bunch of characters, actually, Bill does my parents’ voices, which is always hilarious for me to watch.

RD: (laughs) Kevin, is it on YouTube?  Does the younger generation get the chance to see this, or is it still locked in a vault?

KB: I think everything I’ve ever done is on YouTube.  I wasn’t aware that you could control it.  I spent a couple of years trying to control people bootlegging stuff, it was an interesting experiment.  When American Drug War came out, it was on Showtime.  This was back in 2008, we were selling tons of DVDs and I would get all freaked out when I would see how somebody put the entire movie on YouTube and I would demand they take it down.  So I decided to do an experiment and the experiment proved that we sold more DVDs when it was up for free on YouTube, so I started realizing, it’s a big world out there.  Coming from the whole Patriot movement, back in those days when everybody had the spirit of, if they were made a film, just spread it around.  So I tried not to be a control freak or thinking that people have to pay to watch my stuff.  I’m not down with that.

RD: HA!  Kevin, I got into publishing after 9/11.  I don’t know if you knew this about me, but I was in that crowd with Alex Jones and SMiles Lewis and Jeff Contreras and all of those guys had different shows on ACTV public access here in Austin.  You were involved with that as well, you had projects that you did.  We were publishing “Austin ParaTimes”, the big sister to what would become “Weird Magazine”.  Alex Jones would talk about my magazines on his show.  This was the late 90s/early 2000s.

KB: Well, first of all, I was producer number like 137, or something like that, at ACTV.  So, I was making access tv shows when you and Alex were just a glint in your momma’s eye.  I was into public access back when the studio was on Red River, where it was one room in a garage apartment.  Then later, it was in a building on Barton Springs Road.  So I started public access probably around ’83.  I did a show called “Sacred Cow” back then, running around with Bill and Sam Kinison and we were just kind of making these crazy videos.  Do you remember a guy named George Woolley?  Alex used to impersonate him.  One day he was like, “uh, this here Internet’s gonna big one day.”

RD: I remember watching you guys and I looked up to you, Kevin, as a young, aspiring RTF student at 20 years old. 

KB: That was a huge mistake.

RD: I remember in ’93 you and Bill went to Waco, and Bill did this runoff of the Branch Davidian Compound, going on and on with all the different offshoots of Davidians.  What was that project?  Did y’all just go up there to film?

KB: Well, this is before anything horrible or tragic happened.  This was right after the shootouts but before the fire.  We made a video called “On the Seventh Day” because we were there on the seventh day of the siege.  Bill and I were working on some records and videos together and we were both news junkies. I think starting with the Iraq War and Desert Storm, we both became CNN junkies and one night, Bill called me and said, “are you watching?” and I was like “yes.  I can’t believe it” and some frustrated rock guitar guy holed up 2 hours north of Austin, Bill was like, “in or out?” We decided, “we are going to this thing.”  So he flew to Austin and we rented a car and we brought a little Hi8 camcorder and some other things.  I had my ACTV badge.  So, we drove through all these DPS checkpoints to get to the compound and we came upon this DPS checkpoint and this guy was like, “are y’all with the media?” and Bill goes, “no.” and the guy made us turn around and we sat there for like half an hour and I thought, “well, I’m on access tv, I’m in the media.” so then we turned around and we go, “we are with the media!” and the DPS guys were like, “what do you mean, you’re with the media?  You guys were just here a half hour ago and you said you weren’t,” and I was like, “I am with the media.” and I showed him this like $50 camcorder.  So they ended up letting us in.  I showed them my little access badge, and so we got in with the press pool.  The compound was maybe like a mile or so behind us, you could see the signs, they were hanging signs out the windows at the time.  It was just this endless row of satellite trucks.  We just set up there and Bill started just riffing.  This was before it even turned tragic. Once the fire started, everything changed.  I think that was the big turning point with Bill’s career too because this video started circulating around access tv, where it showed the flame thrower coming out of the tip of the tank.  Once Bill saw that, I think that was a real defining moment in his career, where he went all-in and said, “f**k the government.”

RD: Yeah, he really did change then, it was interesting.  Let me ask you something, Kevin, I would be interviewed on Jack Blood back in the day and people would ask me, “is there something in the water in Austin?”  The perception was that we were all conspiracy theorists.  Years later, I ended up publishing InfoWars magazine for Alex.  Why were we all gravitating that way at that time around the late 80s/early 90s, in your opinion?

KB: Good question.  It all started with that damn Kennedy assassination, and it spun out from there.  When I was a kid, that was the only conspiracy we had.  And then it just broke loose, now it’s not even fun anymore.  I don’t know what it was about Austin in those days.  I like to think that Austin access tv had a lot to do with it because that was a real headquarters of free thinking and i think someday somebody could make a great movie about it.

RD: Who was the guy who would dress up like an old lady and talk like an old lady and take calls from viewers?

KB: Old Bitty.  That was also the days of Dave Prewitt and Raw Time and Dave TV.

RD: Yes, I’ve had Dave Prewitt on.  I know Nathan Olivarez also.  I’m so glad you’re back in Texas, I know you were in California a while.  What’s going on with you?  Joe Rogan moved to Austin, I know you know him from way back.

KB: Yes, I did a standup concert for Joe in 2000 called “Belly of the Beast”.  There was a little interlude where Alex Jones and Joe were dancing around wearing George Bush masks and we had a UFO in there.

RD: Was that the one where Joe gets Chris Athenas in a headlock?

KB: No, that was actually when we were shooting American Drug War in Los Angeles and Chris was on my crew when we shot the Bloods and T Rodgers and Lucky Rodgers over in the jungle and that night we ended up the Comedy Store, we were staying at the Hyatt, right next door.  I was hanging out at the Comedy Store and that’s when Chris Athenas was kind of screwing around with Joe and you could tell Joe was not thinking it was that funny anymore and Joe was like, “Kevin, this guy in your film crew is kind of insane.” and Chris was pushing his buttons and then Joe put him in a headlock and I was filming the whole thing.  And to this day, it’s one of the most popular things I’ve filmed on YouTube.  It’s got like millions and millions of hits!

RD: Chris had a show on access called “Reality Expander”.  Our guest, Kevin Booth, going down memory lane here, drinking the acid water from south Austin with Kevin Booth here.  What’s your experience with hemp?

KB: Well, I just got my license and my permits.  My dad bought a ranch down in Fredericksburg.  It’s like a gem out here.  It’s a beautiful place, thank God.  I was pretty fortunate to be able to escape LA and come back here after 14 years of living in Hollywood. To come out here and live on a ranch has been pretty nice.  I feel like I just dodged a bullet with the way things are going out there.  So, I got my hemp license, and I’m just experimenting.  I’ve secured the names Texas Hill Country CBD, Texas Hill Country 420 and Texas Hill Country Hemp.  And what does Texas Hill Country stand for?  What are those initials?


KB: You got it, man!  It’s gonna happen, man.  We’re in an experimental phase, we don’t have any products yet, we’re just getting started.

RD: How long have you been back?

KB: Since the end of 2018.

RD: That’s fantastic, Kevin.  Whatever Kevin’s got cooking, for folks who don’t know.  American Drug War was on the cover of Weird Magazine in 2008, and then we had How Weed Won the West, another documentary film you did that was also on the cover of Weird Magazine in 2010.  And then, when I left InfoWars, I started publishing Paranoid, Kevin, for a little while there and American Drug War 2: Cannabis Destiny was actually on the cover of that one so, if you ever do another film, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be on the cover of my current magazine!

KB: Well, that whole chapter of my life, that’s sort of outside of the drug war, I shot a movie about Bulgaria, and Russian corruption and all that.  I spent several years over in eastern Europe, I was kind of hiding at a ranch with all these Russian oligarchs pissed off at me. I needed to get out of LA for multiple reasons. (laughs). There’s a movie on Amazon called “Shadows of Sophia” which is not a drug war film.  Every once in a while you have to step out of your comfort zone, but I don’t think I’ll be making any more foreign films.  It was a really hard and weird experience.  But it was a great experience.

RD: Well, Kevin, I have an idea for a film.  It’s called “Memoirs of a Paranoid Publisher”.  It’s about a magazine publisher that starts publishing paranormal conspiracy articles in his youth and later starts publishing rock n roll and sports and then hemp!  Oh wait- that’s my life! 

KB: It’s funny that you quit working for Alex Jones and then you started something called Paranoid.

RD: Well, I kind of did that on purpose.  Alex was worried that I was going to start a competing publication.  I was like, “a fisherman fishes.  A publisher publishes.”  It’s what I know how to do.  Fire off your website, Kevin, and tell folks how they can get in touch with you and your work.  I don’t know if you still have the Sacred Cow website, that’s how I remember you.

KB: Yes, I still have it but it’s under construction.  Just google me, google my name or Sacred Cow Productions or find me on Facebook.  I can’t figure it out anymore, I can’t keep up with that dang Internet.

RD: Kevin Booth, thanks, man.  It’s so good having you on the show, that was really cool to have that little transition there with Ricky.  Listen, if Rick comes into town, y’all holler at me sometime.  Stay in touch, my friend.  You know where to find me on Facebook, as well.  And thanks again, Kevin, for being part of the Texas Hemp Show.

KB: I love Rick and thanks for having me on and I hope to be back!

RD: Kevin’s mainly known for a lot of films- American Drug War was very popular.  Look for a version of this interview in print in the Texas Hemp Reporter the first of July.  You guys enjoy your summer and thanks for tuning in..

Happy Karma Hemp

Texas Hemp Reporter: Who is Happy Karma Hemp?  Can you tell us a bit of your origin story?

Laran Snyder:  I started my business to be unique and different and to really help others, but also from a completely non-business like standpoint, my degree is in opera and while I was getting my degree I was studying minors in psychology, art and German and I also went to massage therapy school while I was going to university, this was in 1996 and 97.  It’s just so funny, because even though I always knew that music was something that I wanted to study and have as part of my life, I’m like a Jill-of-all-trades, so to speak.  I know a little about a lot of things, and they all go hand-in-hand and they have cohesively formed this circle that has become what my life is right now.  When I started my business, I wanted to do so debt-free, so being a musician and a massage therapist, I took tips and extra income and saved, from the ground up, and that’s how I’m still running my business, so I chose to run it very small and go slow, kind of like what you do with CBD!  You go slow and low, and slowly go up on your dose.  And that’s what I’ve been doing with growing my business. 

THR: Many people turn to CBD as an alternative to standardized medicine.  Have you received positive feedback from your customers?

LS: I believe there are SO many ways that people can heal themselves and enlighten themselves and some of those are through music, massage, natural medicine and cannabis (CBD), hemp especially, being this amazing and miraculous plant that can heal the planet itself: the ground, the soil, the air, and then, of course, its inhabitants.

I’ve always believed there’s a symbiotic relationship between different things in life that all work hand-in-hand toward the betterment of human life, the energy of the world and how the planet resonates in positivity and experiences.  It just kind of allowed me to be Superwoman.  Using CBD topically on clients allowed me to go beyond the ability I already had as just a massage therapist, by relaxing and relieving muscle tension and pain, I didn’t have to work as hard to get those muscles to relax, so I didn’t have to take them closer to a level of pain, so to speak. 

And personally, I’ve used CBD for myself, with the help of both of my doctors, to wean off of a lot of my medication that I had been on for decades.  I had childhood depression with underlying anxiety and PTSD.  Starting at the beginning of my 30s, the depression kind of got better, but the anxiety reared its really ugly, terrible head.  I was a completely different person and was full of anxiety all the time.  It was kind of like the Tasmanian devil, running around.  That’s kind of how my anxiety presented to other people.  CBD actually helped me remove myself from that storm that was around me constantly, but it also helped with so many other aspects of my life, including pain and inflammation, so I was able to replace those medications.  That was when I knew that I had to go into this industry.  Being on medications as a child when your brain is developing, that’s already a really difficult time.  And with children who have problems being themselves and being insecure about who they are as people, it’s just really tough for kids.  Even though I believe that things happen for a reason, I do wish that CBD had been around and prevalent and available to that little Laran because it’s been like an emotional support dog.  It’s like a big supportive hug!

I’ve had a client who said that she was sitting in traffic and she was thinking “man, I can’t wait to get home and have my CBD” because she was really stressed, and she said she started salivating just thinking about it, like she couldn’t wait to take it because it tastes really good, as well.  And just by doing that she felt her stress come down a little bit.  I was like, “hey, that’s really cool!” I’d never thought of it that way until she said that.

A lot of my clients use my topical for their children because it’s an all-around multi-purpose salve as well as a super-duper pain relieving salve.  What’s cool about it is that it’s 100% natural but also organic herbs (I call them yummy herbs), they are meant to combat inflammation from all sides. That, in correspondence with full-spectrum CBD or full-spectrum hemp extract with CBD, can be used even on sunburns and bug bites and boo-boos.  This one girl burned her hand by picking up a curling iron from the hot end (not the handle) on its highest setting and burned the living tar out of her hand and she was going between this wedding venue and her hotel and she stopped on the way and I gave her a sample of CBD under her tongue to help combat the inflammation and the shock and she also applied my salve to the site because it’s loaded with arnica.  Arnica is one of those things that, the minute you have a burn or some type of trauma on your skin, as long as it’s not an open wound, you can coat it with arnica and that starts the healing process immediately and it helps remove the trauma so that you can start healing.  We can’t heal when we’re in a state of inflammation.  She came back an hour later, wanting to buy the salve and a CBD oil because she said she was already feeling more relaxed, and she’s kept in touch on Facebook (she lives in Buffalo, NY).  So, it’s little things like that-little coincidences.  The universe brings people that I’m able to help to my booth, and that’s the beauty of it.

THR: From where do you source your CBD?  Where is it tested?

LS: People still aren’t completely educated on CBD, and so I do feel like maybe some people, just to try it, are going to spend less on the lower-end products that maybe got their hemp from Romania or China, where they use Roundup to make the plant easier to cut.  Even though they have to do third-party testing on the final product, it doesn’t mean that the actual testing of the hemp didn’t show some type of pesticides.  It’s a little scary to me because it’s so unregulated.  That’s why I get my hemp from my farmers in Oregon.  They have a GM-free certified USDA organic certified and kosher-certified extraction facility.  I’ve been with them since Day 1.  So every single product uses the exact same strain from the exact same farmer every single time.

I did the research but then I chose to formulate our products so that our formulation is different from everybody else in the industry, so we do NOT white label, we don’t resell other brands.  Every single ingredient, I vetted where they were coming from to make sure that not only are they ethically sourced from sustainably grown farms, but also ethical (meaning, not taking from Indigenous peoples, leaving them with resources to continue to support their families.  Instead of taking everything and then they don’t have something else to grow), we never use palm oil because it contributes to the deforestation of the rain forest.  We don’t use soy, because not only can it contribute to hormone imbalance in men, women and children, but also it’s one of the most genetically modified plants on the planet.  Things like this to some people don’t really mean anything, and that’s okay.  But to me, being an ethical and sustainable and even hopefully becoming a regenerative energy company where we choose farming that’s regenerative.  But what it does is it actually helps reduce the carbon footprint we create and have created.  People don’t realize that corn and soy and even strawberries are some of the most genetically-modified plants.  And I LOVE corn and I LOVE strawberries, but I make sure that I always buy organic and it’s really hard to find organic corn because it’s usually genetically modified. 

THR: What is the market like in Texas for CBD?

LS: A lot of people don’t know that we’ve actually been around since the beginning in Austin, which makes me chuckle when they start realizing it, because we didn’t have the budget for the marketing and lots of advertising and exposure, and so now it’s really word-of-mouth, which I think is a wonderful way to grow anything, it builds so much more trust and loyalty. 

When I was researching and doing the formula for Happy Karma, I hadn’t even completely decided on the name yet.  And there were no other CBD companies on the radar in Austin.  Other than a couple of pharmacies and a couple of smoke shops, nobody was an actual CBD store yet.  Rawsome was the very first and then we opened a month later in March of 2018, so we are one of the first Austin-based and women-owned CBD companies, which is something I’m really proud of as well.  Being a pioneer of the industry has been pretty amazing.  So much has changed in three and a half years.

There were tons and tons of obstacles being in this business, before it was federally legal, before it was state legal, before there were (and still aren’t completely) the banking laws that we need, not having a way to do merchant accounts and all of these things that we were having to skate around and figure out.  It’s so much easier now for new people to get into the industry.  It’s been an interesting ride so far.  For me, it’s not about going out and meeting hundreds of people in the industry, it’s about the people who are not in the industry whose lives can be impacted.

THR: You’ve recently been recognized in your field and awarded Best Texas E-Commerce Retailer and Best Texas CBD Manufacturer at the Texas Hemp Awards.  What do you think sets you apart from your competitors?

LS: It’s such a huge honor to know that more people follow and get word-of-mouth and know about my company than I ever thought did, which is humbling in and of itself.  In the very beginning, I planted a seed and I’ve been tending to those rows of plants and I know that they’ve been growing, but I had no idea how much they’d grown.  The seeds blew off into other fields that I didn’t know about.  Three and half years later, I’m just now hearing about those plants that are growing in other people’s plots, so to speak.  I’m learning how many people actually have been following me and my business and the reviews and the success stories.  So for me to have had the votes and to win the Best CBD Manufacturer and the Best CBD Retailer, I was originally in the Best CBD Manufacturer and then she decided the last day of voting to make an e-commerce category.  But to win the best CBD manufacturer was amazing!  I didn’t think that was going to happen.  And then, we made the top five of the “Best of Austin” Chronicle issue, which was huge!  I was told that thousands upon thousands of votes were cast.  The fact that enough people nominated us to get us into the top five was so amazing.  It blew my mind, I had no idea.  I mean, that’s a lot of people! 

At the very beginning, when I opened, CBD wasn’t that well-known yet, and so there weren’t all these shops around that carried a white label brand.  There were all these shops that were looking for CBD suppliers, and they were calling me and asking me, but the thing is, my products could’ve been sitting next to five other white labeled products, and they could’ve all theoretically come from the same manufacturer, from the same generic formula.  To me, that dilutes the quality of my brand.  Someone did say to me, though, “Laran, when you go a store, you have your low-end products and you have your high-end ones, and it’s up to the consumer as to whether they’re willing to pay for quality or quantity, getting something for cheap.”  You’re getting what you pay for, I guess.  I really prefer being there to educate and tell people, relaying the difference, for them to make a decision.

THR: Can you explain the process of infusing Reiki into your products?

LS: Reiki is an energy modality.  Everything is energy and energy is everything.  Every single thing, even a stone, everything is made of energy.  Just like the experiment where the kids “bullied” one plant and complimented the other, it’s the same thing with everything.  There have been scientific studies about how positive energy changes the freezing structure of molecules making snowflakes.  Energy can really help everything.  The same is true with intention, for example, somebody who’s Catholic might get some holy water or get a blessing from a priest or something, this is not a religious thing, it’s just a belief that by putting intentions into the body, it’s a body modality.  It’s something that massage therapists can be trained to do for their clients.  But then, you can take that and put it into anything.  Almost like saying a blessing over your food before eating it, it’s the same kind of principle.  So, what happens is everything is made and manufactured and tagged and labeled, and then a third-degree Reiki master infuses them with intentional energy.

THR: Where can our readers buy your products?

LS: Having my booth at SoCo Maker’s Market, I get to meet so many amazing Austinites that come by and shop on south Congress.  Me being a world traveller, I love being able to meet people from all over the country and the world!

I don’t do anything like anybody else.  I don’t like to be a crowd-follower.  I’m either a crowd-starter or I like to stand on the sidelines and be completely different, I always go against the grain.  I get SO many calls asking where I’m located.  At times I do wish we had a storefront so that we could accommodate the people who want to come in and browse, and the people that want to come in and meet me, the people that I spend hours on the phone with.  They’re always shocked at how much I’m willing to give them, but I do that because I think it’s important that they feel validated, even if I’ve not been through what they’re going through, I can still empathize.  It’s not about a sale to me.  And that goes all the way back to what I said before about me running a business totally NOT like a business!

That’s the nice thing about being the owner of a company, I’m able to help my fellow musicians and other people when they need it.

THR: That’s the rewarding part, right?

LS: Yeah, we can get so wrapped up in ourselves and “me, me, me” and it just feels so good when you’re able to help somebody.  There are times when someone’s injured or hurting or they need emotional support and you know that, especially during COVID, you can’t be there, you can’t bring them food.  I have a friend who lost her mom during COVID, and I couldn’t be there to give her a big hug.  I felt hopeless, and I thought, “what can I do to help her?” and I thought, “wait, I’ll give her an emotional support dog!”  So I gave her a bottle of CBD to try to help her through.  It’s a nice way to be able to help other people, to give them the gift that keeps on giving.

THR: Where do you see the future of hemp as a renewable resource?

LS: People say we have a lumber shortage.  No, we have a tree and forest shortage.  One acre of hemp can replace three acres of trees in three to four months, instead of 30-60 years.  Let that sink in.  That’s not only sustainable, it’s part of regeneration.  Those plants are taking a lot of crap out of the air, and they’re pulling it into the soil, and the soil is re-nitrogenated by the plants and it’s helping with the water runoff because all of the water is going down instead of running off.  It’s helping to put microbes and fungi and all of these great nutrients back into the soil.  Just doing little things.  We don’t have to do everything the right way or whatever we think is the right way.  Just taking little steps for our bodies and for the planet is something.  Just because I use compostable gloves when we’re manufacturing, and doing things that I know are going into the compost or into the trash and the recycling, doesn’t mean that everybody has to do that.  It just makes me feel good at the end of the day, doing something a little extra.

THR: What is your impression of this unprecedented time, where we may finally feel safe to spend time with our friends and family again?

LS: In getting older, when you make a decision or when something happens in life, you don’t always know what kind of waves and ripples you put out until sometimes several years later, and then you start hearing back from people.  So, sometimes we plant a seed and we walk away and we don’t know whether it caught and grew or if it created other plants and that’s how this whole process has been for me.  And then of course with COVID, it just got much more deep and energetic.

 Me being a massage therapist and a professional vocalist (I’m in the Patrice Pike band), before COVID, we had a residency at the Saxon Pub every Thursday for eight years.  So, the Saxon was my second home!  Everything’s changed.  That was a source of income.  But with my business, I’ve never had to impose sales quotas on myself.  I want to be able to go to the market and introduce myself and explain the amazing things about this plant.  If I meet new people, and I give them a business card and share some information and they leave with a smile, then I’ve done my job.  It’s such a rewarding thing to come home every day and be able to tell my wife about all the great people I get to meet.  That’s how I built my business, by not just thinking about money, and it just rolled back into itself and it’s still such a pleasure to be able to go and meet people and talk to people.  I hand-write a thank you note for every single order that goes out.  The slogan for Happy Karma Hemp is “Create Happy Karma”.  I believe we can create happy karma by helping others first.  By doing good things or having good intentions, by going above and beyond, whether people ever know it, is not the point.  The point is that, energetically, it’s a positive, kind, intentional thing.  It’s not necessarily up to those people to reward me back, the universe takes care of me.  God, the universe, takes care of us in a plethora of ways that we may never even notice or know.  

We just had our first post-quarantine performance at Saxon last week.  One of my posts recently on Instagram was about being kind to oneself, and a lot of people have grown and changed over the past 15 months and change is not bad, it’s just change, it’s just different.  A lot of people have become a little more enlightened and a little more sensitive to energy and more in tune with nature and they’re vibrating on a different frequency.  So, for some of these people, the thought of going back into big crowds is too much, myself included.  I have been, most of my life, what I would consider a super-extrovert but I changed over the pandemic and I enjoyed being home and being in the back yard and being around nature.  And my sensitivity became heightened, so my very first show back at the Saxon was very overwhelming, just to see all these people that I used to see every week. At the same time that it was a wonderful, glorious reunion, it was also intense being around so many people and feeling that energy.  The pandemic and the events over the past 15 months have brought up some controversial issues.  Hopefully, people will recognize that it’s so much easier to be kind than to be right.  My first gig back was just really overwhelming and I was realizing that at least half of the people I was talking to were having the same struggle. Over the next six months, some people will just sort of tiptoe out and some people will come out with a vengeance, and that’s okay. 

It’s amazing after three and a half years of my company, to be able sit back and go, “whoa, I created all of this completely from nothing, all by myself, from scratch.”  And when someone says it’s helping them, it’s amazing to stop and remind myself that I helped somebody.