GRiZ Won the Celebrity Weed Game Without Selling Out
The DJ and producer tells us the story behind his Cannabis Cup award-winning strain, and why corporate weed is "just a bad idea."
GRiZ may not have won a Grammy just yet, but his personal weed strain did take home a prestigious award at the 2015 Cannabis Cup, the world's longest-running marijuana competition, held annually in a number of US cities.
Produced by Native Roots, a local dispensary in GRiZ's adopted home state of Colorado, GRiZ's marijuana varietal is a hybrid cross of Tangerine Haze and Pakistan Chitral Kush that was, according to its breeders, "developed to have an earthy, citrus aroma and a balance between heady sativa energy and relaxing indica effects." It won "second place flowers" in the People's Choice category.
The naming of a strain after a person has always been considered an extremely high honor in the pot growing world—one reserved for those with a true love of the plant and a considerable contribution to cannabis culture. With roots dating back to weed's outlaw days, the practice has traditionally honored beloved activists like Jack Herer, but more recently, with legalization transforming this once underground scene into a "green rush" of capitalistic opportunity, the trend has been for musicians to license their names to marijuana companies, including the likes of Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Melissa Etheridge, Whiz Khalifa, and even (posthumously) Bob Marley.
GRiZ, however, is known for giving away his "future funk" compositions online as a way to spread love to his fans, and thinks the cannabis industry should seek a similar "stoner-to-stoner" approach in dealing with its loyal customers. The 26-year old acclaimed DJ and producer—who just launched his own line of 4/20 apparel—is a loud and proud weed legalization advocate, and credits cannabis with everything from enhancing his creativity to helping him unwind.
Still, he's no fan of Big Marijuana. "We don't need the government to come in, get lobbied by corporations and then decide that only these big companies can have the licenses to grow and distribute weed," he tells THUMP. "That's actually really irresponsible. That whole corporate weed game is just a bad idea."
So how will the saxophone-blowing, funk-embracing electronic music sensation celebrate this year's high holiday? We assumed high as fuck, but then called him up to verify.
THUMP: What went down the first time you celebrated 4/20?
GRiZ: The first 4/20 thing I ever did was trying to smoke as much weed as humanly possible on 4/20—or I guess as much weed as I could afford at the time. Now I've celebrated so many 4/20's it's just like, how ridiculous can it get?
How did you mark the occasion last year?
Last year for 4/20 I was in Michigan, so we did a livestream where I DJ'd a lot of marijuana-related songs direct from my buddy's grow op in his basement. It was pretty fucking dope. We had like two million people tune in.
And how'd you end up with your own weed strain?
There's this company called Native Roots out here in Colorado and basically we're mutual fans. They've got the weed thing and I've got the music thing, so it works out nice. When they offered me the opportunity to create my own strain of weed, that was a fucking dream come true.
They gave me all these different samples with no names on them, and over the course of a month I blind taste tested them all and gave them notes. It was really fun. I mean it was like every stoner's fantasy. Until finally I picked out the one, and we called it GRiZ Kush. They've been selling it ever since. In fact, it's like their best-selling strain of weed.
What about that strain called to you?
GRiZ Kush is chill. It's not something that's too in-your-head high. I'm a functional stoner, I like to smoke all day if I can, and that strain doesn't put you into outer space. It's physically relaxing, but it doesn't make you feel tired or sleepy. And it's mentally energetic. It keeps your thoughts well-lubricated. My job is to write music all day, and it's the perfect vibe for that. Also, it's got a good fruity smell and taste to it. And it's purple, which I like.
Have you been to where the GRiZ Kush grows?
Yes, I took a tour. Ever seen the movie Goodburger? That place is Mondo Burger of weed. It's indoors, but like fields and fields of weed, far further than the eye can see. It's crazy man.
Do you have a favorite strain besides your own?
I'm always nostalgic for Strawberry Cough, that was the first strain of weed that I really loved. And then it was Durban Poison, and more recently Golden Goat—the smell of that strain is just so iconic, you recognize it in two seconds.
Ever grow your own?
My friend nearly burnt down his house trying. Well, not the entire house. But what happened was he put the plants into flower—mind you, this was a long time ago—and we went out partying. Unfortunately, he'd switched to 400 watt high pressure sodium lights to simulate the autumn sun [so the plants would start budding] and didn't have the power checked correctly. The whole thing was inside a closet.
Anyway, we're at this party, celebrating entering the final phase of this grow, and my friend gets a phone call, freaks out, and leaves. Turns out, his house was on fire. Should have checked the power and shouldn't have been growing in a closet with carpet as the flooring. That was really stupid. So maybe in the future I could see having an outdoor greenhouse, but I have no plans to ever do it indoors again.
Is getting high part of your creative process?
Marijuana's so involved in my life, I don't really think about it like, "Okay, here's the weed, now I'm gonna roll it up, get really fucking stoned, and then write the next Dark Side of the Moon." I smoke weed all the time. Weed is almost fucking passé.
But what marijuana still consistently does for me is, it's like putting on a different set of ears after I work all day. Also, after I drink a ton of coffee and get really caffeine-fueled, I light up a joint—that's my preferred method of smoking—and find that it puts me on a nice vibration where I don't have to worry about the outside world as much.
What's happening this year for 4/20?
I'm gonna throw a secret party somewhere in Denver. And I've got a bunch of weed that I'm gonna give away. So you'll have to come find me.
Any clues for finding the party?
Just follow your nose.