Name: Justin Lee | Certified Ganjier
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Ganjier Graduating Class: August, 2022
Whitethorn Rose (paradise punch x lemon OG), Starburst 36 (starburst OG x kc36), Riddlez (whitethorn rose x Zkittlez), Funky Charms (grease monkey x rainbow chip)
What was your position before joining Ganjier?
I started working in the entertainment industry 18 years ago. First as an actor, working on various award winning shows and films like “The Interview”, “Shameless”, “Sneakerheads”. Most notably recognized for the role of Annyong Bluth, in the hit comedy series, “Arrested Development.” I also competed as an MMA Fighter for 8 years.
In the cannabis industry, I worked as a Creative Director for various brands. I was the Field Marketing Manager + Community and Content Manager for Cannabistry.
What is it now?
I am the COO + co-founder of Ay Papi Co. (solventless hash rosin, sourcing and pheno-hunting for exotic cultivars) I also still work as an actor, director, and producer – utilizing these skills for media + event production within the cannabis industry, and curating cannabis events aimed to open our community and bring us closer together.
Through the connections made through the Ganjier Program, I have been able to add sourcing to my position, putting together a 50/50 split revenue share breakdown with partnered cultivators. I have also started consulting for a few brands and retailers (with regard to budtender tips + training + cannabis education).
What was your primary motivation for joining the cannabis field?
I feel that Cannabis saved my life.
My passion for Cannabis began after my first hit about 17 years ago. It was at that moment I realized so much fear and stigma was centered around cannabis. I began to research cannabis tirelessly, as I wanted to uncover the truth, not what we’ve been told in school, the media, or society.
Through athletics, I found a new appreciation for the plant as medicine.
When I was competing in wrestling and MMA fights, I injured my back. At 16 years old I went to the doctor and was prescribed an unlimited refill of Norco (hydrocodone/acetaminophen). The Norco broke my body down and made me more susceptible to injury…
When I retired from MMA, I was diagnosed with numerous concussions/TBI that left my body broken down. At this point, my discs were herniated, both shoulders were torn, along with the meniscus. The concussion symptoms were so severe that I was unable to get out of bed for 2 weeks, bed ridden with intense light sensitivity. The dim light to a smoke alarm would cause severe disorientation, nausea, and headaches. My hands and feet were numb to where I would have to crawl to the shower in the morning and warm them up in hot water to get the nerves to fire.
When I went to the doctor, the protocol was to give me off-brand antidepressants for the concussions, and more pain pills and muscle relaxants for the chronic body pain. None of which fixes the problem, but instead exasperates the injuries. I no longer wanted to take pain pills as it was affecting my gut, endocrine system, and overall systematic health. It was literally breaking the body down. I was not comfortable with taking antidepressants for off brand use either.
I decided to use cannabis as an alternative, not just recreationally but more so medically. With every month that passed further away from the use of pain pills, I could feel my body start to recover. I found solventless hash to be the most therapeutic for my chronic pain. I used a lot of capsules and tinctures of cbd blended with other cannabinoids. I found the isolated cbd did not work as well for me, but when in combination with the other bioactive compounds, my concussion symptoms began to alleviate within the first week.
It created a self awareness and responsibility to change my lifestyle for the better. To not just look for a pill to fix things but instead focusing on the root of the problem rather than the symptoms. Cannabis saved my life – This was my primary reason for joining the cannabis field, I want to do something positive and give back with this second chance.
A newly-found source of motivation is to be a voice for our legacy farmers/cultivators – the backbone of this industry. I’m motivated to preserve craft cannabis and promote regenerative farming practices in hopes that this proliferates across not just the cannabis industry but food and agriculture as a whole. We owe it to this land and we owe it to our health and well-being.
Why did you choose the Ganjier program?
I researched and have a ton of respect for all the instructors in the Ganjier program. I was eager for an opportunity to learn from these legends in cannabis. To learn and cultivate a deeper connection with this special plant, as well as connect with a community of fellow cannabis connoisseurs.
What did you expect going into this course?
I went in with no expectations, instead I went in with intentions: to be present, to have an open mind/a beginners mind, to absorb and connect as much as possible.
What did you find?
I found the course to be very intricate, and does a wonderful job covering various topics from history, science, growing methods, retail, regulations, etc.
I was surprised to find such a welcoming and heartwarming group of individuals. All with diverse eclectic backgrounds and from all over the world! Was truly special to see so many walks of life in one room all connected through the power of cannabis. It was an oddly safe space in the sense that there was absolutely zero stigma around cannabis. It felt like an alternate reality of what our world would be like if the plant was never demonized, or what our world was like before it was deemed “dangerous” via propaganda.
Was there a game-changing “A-ha” moment for you during the course?
Two times, the first was our visit to Huckleberry Hill Farms. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s a special and magical place run by Johnny and Rose. They cultivated the highly esteemed and exotic cultivar (my personal favorite), Whitethorn Rose. Stepping on that farm, connecting with Johnny and Rose, hearing them share stories, I knew I not only made the right decision, but had a deeper purpose of wanting to support and be an advocate for our legacy craft cannabis farmers. The mission became bigger than me and became about us.
I think it’s important to mention that Whitethorn Rose was already my favorite cultivar prior to applying for the Ganjier program. I had a dream to meet the cultivators Johnny and Rose. During the program you get the opportunity to visit a legacy farm, and by happenstance, the day of our farm visit, I found out we were going to meet Johnny and Rose at Huckleberry Hill Farms, A-ha!
Second, was when we were doing our practice round of the systematic assessment protocol (SAP). I genuinely enjoyed and fell in love with the process of SAPing. Pinpointing the layers of aroma and flavor profiles. The A-ha moment was when I caught a scent of some type of roasted hazelnut or Brazil nut, to which our instructor, Nikka T had in his notes that he smelled a roasted nut. We both caught that scent and had it written down in our notes prior to sharing. That confirmed this is real and to trust the nose/sense memory.
What skills/knowledge/philosophy have you been able to take away and apply to your cannabis career?
Skill and knowledge of sourcing and pheno-hunting for exotic cultivars that I think will wash well, yield heavy, and dab phenomenally. The philosophy that regenerative farming methods needs to be at the forefront of not just cannabis but agriculture as a whole. To protect and support our legacy farmers so we do not lose craft cannabis all together. This philosophy helped me to utilize a 50/50 revenue share split breakdown with partnered cultivars.
What impact did the Ganjier training have on your cannabis future?
The Ganjier program really helped elevate my cannabis career. I was able to make necessary connections to source some of the best cannabis in the world to wash into hash rosin. Thanks to the program, Ay Papi Co will release the “Whitethorn Rose” from Huckleberry Hill Farms as its very first SKU. The Ganjier program has also set me up to consult and educate retail stores + budtenders on effective customer interaction, tactics, the science of terpenes, sun grown vs indoor, living soil vs organic vs regenerative farming, etc.
The Ganjier program has also opened the door for me to start judging at Cannabis Cups, something I’ve had on my wishlist for quite some time. It’s always an honor to be selected as a judge alongside other amazing cannabis connoisseurs.
To those considering the Ganjier Certification course, what advice would you give?
Give it a shot. It was truly a life changing experience. Humboldt is a breathtaking place and it was unexpectedly refreshing being in an environment where cannabis is not stigmatized, but instead a valued part of the culture. The connections, relationships, and people involved made the journey special. Regardless of your experience level, this is a great place to start learning. I’m a believer that if you’re gonna learn something, it’s best to learn correctly from the very beginning. With some of the most qualified instructors on the planet, there’s no better place to start than with the Ganjier program.