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17 MAY/JUN 201 7

FIELD OF DREAMS

WE SESSION WITH ONE OF THE CANNABIS INDUSTRIES MOST PROLIFIC AND INNOVATIVE BRANDS IN THE GAME TODAY.

REDEMPTION

FIND OUT HOW ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST TATTOO ARTIST USED HIS SECOND CHANCE TO REDEEM HIMSELF TO UNHERALDED SUCCESS.

HUSTLE HARD

WE SIT WITH THIS ENTREPRENEUR FROM LAS VEGAS AND TALK ABOUT HOW HE WENT ALL-IN ON HIS MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR VAPE EMPIRE. ISSUE 17 | MAY/JUNE 2017

$4.20 U.S. $5.20 CAN.

RACKS ON RACKS FROM EX-CON TO ICON. WE PUSH WEIGHT WITH THE LEGENDARY KALI MUSCLE.


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FEATURES

26 HUSTLE HARD

62 FIELD OF DREAMS

44 RACKS ON RACKS

80 REDEMPTION

We sit with an entrepreneur from Las Vegas and talk about how he went all-in on his multi-million dollar vape empire.

From ex-con to icon. We push weight with the legendary Kali Muscle.

TOKEWELL MAGAZINE

We session with one of the cannabis industries most prolific and innovative brands in the game today.

Find out how one of the world's greatest tattoo artist used his second chance to redeem himself to unheralded success.

MAY/JUN 2017


PUBLISHED BY FR3SHLAB CREATIVE GROUP, LLC PRESIDENT, FOUNDING PARTNER RICHARD COYLE RICH@TOKEWELL.COM

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#TogetherWeRise

DESIGN HONEST KITTY STUDIO "NO-NONSENSE DESIGN" EDITOR-IN-CHIEF RICHARD COYLE EDITOR LEILANI ANDERSON DIRECTOR OF FINANCE YVONNE MORTON YVONNE@TOKEWELL.COM

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ith so much going on in the world today, especially in our industries, we need to employ the mindset of positivity and vigilance now more than ever. Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Summon all the compassion, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it without any thought of reward. Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. Remember, where there is a will, there is a way. If there is a one in a million chance that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it. Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door or kick it down. We're all in this together.

CO-FOUNDER SENIOR V.P., OPERATIONS CINDY GALINDO CINDY@TOKEWELL.COM

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS RENE GALINDO, RUBEN GALINDO, SHEERLIE RYNGLER, PHIL DAMAN, STEFAN DIDAK AND MAXIMILLIAN STERLING. LEAD PHOTOGRAPHERS LEAH MORIYAMA | TAADOW69K CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS HECTOR LEYVA AND GFARMA CREATIVE AGENCY VIRL CREATIVE | STUDIO 93 Tokewell Magazine is published bi-monthly by Fr3shlab Creative Group, LLC. Tokewell Magazine does not condone the illegal use or obtainment of cannabis. All content within this magazine is copyright protected and may not be reproduced in part or in whole without explicit written consent from the publisher. Tokewell Magazine is strictly for entertainment purposes only, and is not to be held liable for any misleading orinaccurate material produced herein. ©2017 FR3SHLAB CREATIVE GROUP LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“To be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will.” --Sugar Ray Robinson

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ORGANIC E-LIQUID: NOT A MYTH

WORDS BY: SHEERLIE RYNGLER | CREATIVE DIRECTOR, VAPE ORGANICS

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he recent prevalence of poorly-researched articles claiming that organic e-liquid is “impossible” and a “fraudulent” marketing ploy are damaging to the vape industry as a whole for several reasons. Firstly, preventing existing and potential vapers from exploring an option they may consider preferable can ultimately deter people from vaping altogether; after all, there are organic cigarettes free of chemical additives. Secondly, this distortion of facts is strikingly reminiscent of the struggle the entire vape industry faces as a viable alternative to cigarettes, only these are largely intra-industry attacks and foment division over unity. Finally, and because of the fact that a certified organic e-liquid option has been available for years, such articles detract from the progress and innovation characteristic of the vape industry, especially unfortunate during this critical juncture when we need to shine light upon our achievements as a community. As part of the team behind the first and only USDA-certified organic e-liquid line, it’s high time to tackle these myths one by one… because you deserve the truth.

1. E-liquids Can’t be PG-free It’s true what the naysayers claim: organic e-liquids cannot contain PG (propylene glycol), a synthetic substance derived from petroleum. However, they also falsely argue that there is no such thing as PG-free e-liquids. Many e-liquid brands which claim to be 100% VG (vegetable glycerin) are referring exclusively to the base of their e-liquids, and PG can, and often does, sneak into the finished product through both flavorings and nicotine. Still, that doesn’t translate to the impossibility of crafting 100% PG-free products. While PG is by far the most common carrier of the flavorings used in e-juice, one of the websites went so far as to actually make the following claim: “We have determined that flavoring needs PG as a base.” Certified organic e-liquid doesn’t utilize conventional “flavoring,” but real, plant-based extracts custom formulated to ensure the absence of PG. Extracted via CO2 extraction or steam distillation, with organic glycerin or organic corn-derived ethyl

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alcohol as carriers instead of PG. The alcohol, necessary to solubilize the flavor extracts, undergoes a special and proprietary method of evaporation once combined with the organic glycerin. In the case of certified organic e-liquid, the 100% PG-free claim is guaranteed through stringent third-party regulation.

2. Organic Nicotine Isn’t Available Before Vape Organics launched, organic nicotine was not available anywhere in the world. As a result, one of our fundamental but rewarding challenges as a company has been to formulate and certify organic nicotine. Why? As some authors of the misleading articles point out, tobacco is a chemical-intensive crop and, indeed, researchers examining cigarette smoke found traces of three pesticides, two of which are carcinogenic. Instead, Vape Organics' proprietary nicotine is produced in-house from USDA-organic tobacco grown on family farms in the USA through a unique, cutting-edge manufacturing process. This organic nicotine is extracted through the supercritical CO2 extraction method, free of the chem-

ical residues characteristic of other extraction methods, and utilizes 100% organic VG as the carrier, rather than petroleum-derived solvents (like PG) that are otherwise the industry standard.

3. It Doesn’t Exist Actually, it does… and that’s a fact. While the formulation of organic e-juice is far from simple, the existence of a completely USDA-organic e-liquid line is not up for debate. Consumers interested in organic vaping products should look for the USDA seal to ensure the integrity of the organic claim as well as the absence of: PG, artificial flavors and sweeteners, and synthetic chemical pesticides in the nicotine and flavor extracts.


THESE THINGS WILL KILL YOU FASTER THAN THE FDA

WORDS BY: STEFAN DIDAK | FOUNDER, NOTBLOWINGSMOKE.ORG

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hile a lot of efforts are focused on getting the predicate date changed to provide relief to the industry and continue the important fight to keep vapor products on the market we are seeing the rise of things that will harm the industry faster than the FDA; flavor bans. After all, a ban on selling flavored e-liquid often tucked in with proposed bans on selling flavored tobacco products would kill off the most crucial element of vaping. Several counties and cities are proposing ordinances to ban sales of flavored e-liquid. The boards of supervisors and city councils do not come up with these but are fed policies by the various public health organizations who are still engaged in their war on smoking. The danger with these local ordinances is that once enough of them have passed and complaints about a “patchwork� of laws are brought up the next step is that the policies are written into a bill and taken to the State level where these prohibitions would then cover the entire state. We expect this may happen in early 2018 as the legislative season to introduce new bills is rapidly coming to its threshold.

The unfortunate reality of these bans is that well-funded public health organizations with full-time professionals, working nationwide, are similar to a swarm of bees attacking us in many different places simultaneously. This is incredibly difficult to defend against considering that local hearings are often on very short notice and consumers are often not in a position to voice their concerns. Likewise, lots of areas are specifically targeted for their low density of vapor businesses in order to have as few as possible opponents. Yet, it still remains vitally important that you take the time and effort to oppose and fight these local bans as they are the festering infected wounds that could end up killing the industry faster than the FDA regulations were intended to do. As always, stay vigilant, get involved with your local politics, make friends who may give you an early heads up when things like these may pop up and if possible, get meetings with your local officials before ordinances are written. It is the only viable way of fighting the swarm. But it does depend on you doing your part.

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PICKING WEED:

BY: PHIL DAMAN, ESQ. @DAMANLLP, @VAPOR_LAW

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ur country and others around the globe are experiencing an unprecedented economic, social and technological revolution that ironically is being fueled in part by one of the oldest agricultural products in history: marijuana. Thanks to the increased interconnectivity afforded to us by the internet, the cannabis community and its vast subculture has, over the past three decades grown into the mainstream. Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg cook cannabis infused products on TV together, Seth Rogen and James Franco joke openly about their love for weed, established financial institutions are advising investors on marijuana related technology, and the American economy is getting a much needed boost in the arm from the increased legalization of a cash crop that not too long ago was only sold on the black market. Twenty- nine states and Washington, D.C., have to date, legalized medical marijuana use, with eight states plus Washington, D.C. legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. This explosive

HOW CURRENT LEGAL TRENDS AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES IN MARIJUANA ARE SHIFTING A ONCE BLACK MARKET GREEN.

trend towards the legalization of marijuana has led to record sales of cannabis as well as tangent and popular consumer goods that go well beyond the plant itself and include cannabis extracts, oils, vaporizers, carrying cases, skin creams, anti-inflammatory lotions, and edibles such as curated chocolates, wines, and even cannabidiol (“CBD”)infused water and energy drinks.

tank, showed 57% of Americans said they were in favor of making marijuana legal, while only 37% percent said it should remain illegal. A Gallup poll conducted in October of 2016 produced similar numbers showing that 61% of American’s supported the legalization of marijuana. A mere decade ago those numbers were reversed, with 32% favoring legalization, and 60% being opposed.

However, just like the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, the “Green Rush” is not for the fainthearted. While the economic, legal and regulatory landscape of the marijuana industry is far from the Wild West, like any industry, there is some good, some bad and some ugly that consumers, entrepreneurs and investors might be interested in knowing.

California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada are the most recent states to pass measures during this past November’s elections which legalized the recreational use of cannabis. North American sales of recreational marijuana, grew by an unprecedented 30% in 2016 to reach $6.7 billion in sales, according to Arcview Market Research. Assuming a compound annual growth rate of 25%, financial analysts are projecting North American sales to reach $20.2 billion by 2021 while adding high growth in related segments that sell cannabis related consumer goods including the food and beverage industry, technology, health care, cosmetics and beauty, essential oils and aromatherapy industries all of which currently have

The Good. The American public’s legitimization of recreational marijuana as a consumer product continues to rapidly advance despite its continued classification as an illegal drug under federal law. A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think

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marijuana or cannabis infused products. The marijuana industry’s growth has been even more aggressive than that of the dot-com era. Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) during that era grew at a staggering pace of 22%, significantly less than the 30% seen in 2016 reported with respect to the marijuana sector, an industry which is still in its nascent stage. Investors seem extremely interested in new products like testing and grow technologies. Retail also remains attractive as new brands compete to win the hearts, minds and of dollars of those who enjoy ingestible products, CBD liquids, and high tech vapor pens. Colorado, Washington and Oregon saw their sales jump approximately 62% through September of 2016 over 2015. Investment dollars are heading to California, Florida, Massachusetts and Nevada as an estimated 21% of the total U.S. population now lives in legal adult use markets. Marijuana has demonstrated that it is an effective means to create jobs and create significant tax revenue. The Colorado Department of Revenue reported that that the state brought in almost $70 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2014, which eclipsed its total alcohol tax revenues by over $25 million. That number has only continued to grow, with 2016 numbers reaching $1.3 billion marijuana sales in 2016. Colorado’s final reported numbers showed sales of $875 million in recreational cannabis and $440 million in medical cannabis which collectively generated $200 million in much needed revenue for the state. Colorado tax revenue is being

spent on health care initiatives, substance abuse prevention programs, public school construction, law enforcement, agriculture, anti-bullying programs, and early literacy programs among other things. Given its great potential to boost income in distressed municipalities, we may begin to see cities like Detroit, Michigan, Memphis, Tennessee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Atlanta, Georgia which all have high poverty rates, adopt recreational cannabis laws. These cities may be the first in their states to encourage marijuana-related industries and seek to incorporate a marijuana tax plan. Georgia, Tennessee and Wisconsin currently do not have any laws legalizing marijuana while Michigan only allows for medical marijuana. Considering that Colorado’s recreational sales were nearly twice that of its medical sales, other states seeking a similar influx of tax dollars may be launching ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana soon. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation on April 13, 2017 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Canada, fulfilling a major campaign pledge. The Prime Minister’s bill is expected to pass quickly, making Canada the second nation in the world, after Uruguay, to completely legalize marijuana as a consumer product. Investors are heading to Canada as that government hopes to begin allowing legal sales of recreational marijuana during the second quarter of 2018.

The Bad. Federal law, namely the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”)( 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq.) defines marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug. This is the most

restrictive classification of illegal drugs and is reserved for drugs, substances, or chemicals that are defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” and includes heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote. All states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use have also banned public consumption of marijuana, so there are severe limits on where consumers can use marijuana products. Although more than half of the states in the US favor some kind of legalization, state laws are becoming increasingly incongruous with the federal government’s position regarding marijuana use, possession, cultivation, distribution and sale, all of which are activities that clearly remain a criminal offense under federal law. This gap between federal and state law poses considerable concerns for those who seek consistency and certainty in both the federal civil and criminal justice systems. Focusing on the civil side, certain protections, such as U.S. bankruptcy protection, has been denied for businesses which are marijuana based, even in states where such businesses are legal and fully compliant with state laws. One such example is the 2014 bankruptcy case of Debtors Frank and Sarah Arenas. The Arenases owned a twounit property in downtown Denver; they operated one unit of the property as a marijuana-cultivation business and leased the other unit to a marijuana dispensary. Their business was doing poorly and in 2014, and they opted to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy petition. However, they were barred from bankruptcy by the U.S. trustee who cited Section 856 of the CSA, which prohibits


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property owners and managers from knowingly and intentionally leasing or making available space to individuals for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing or distributing a controlled substance. The U.S. trustee quickly filed a successful motion to dismiss their case “for cause” pursuant to Section 707(a) of the Bankruptcy Code. The trustee’s argument was that a bankruptcy panel trustee would be unable to administer the estate’s assets without violating the Controlled Substances Act and that a bankruptcy court should not aid the violation of federal law. The 10th Circuit upheld this ruling on appeal, holding that bankruptcy relief is indeed unavailable to debtors whose business activities violate federal law. See Arenas v. U.S. Trustee (In re Arenas), 535 B.R. 845 (B.A.P. 10th Cir. 2015)

guaranteed, even when attorneys such as those at our firm help guide the process. Similar questions arise for business owners who are seeking to lawfully mitigate tax law consequences, seek estate planning, or wish to sell to, merge with or acquire another company.

The Arenas case sets an important precedent which has been followed in a rash of similar, subsequent cases. Businesses directly handling the drug have been precluded from filing for bankruptcy, and more surprisingly businesses with income which has been more remotely derived from marijuana-related activity have also been unable to enter bankruptcy court on similar arguments. This string of cases has far reaching implications especially when we think of analogous applications in other areas of civil federal law, which exist outside of the bankruptcy arena. For example, how can business create and enforce their copyrights, patents and trademarks if they cannot apply for protection with the United States Patent and Trademark or Copyright office, when marijuana activity is federally prohibited? While there are some avenues and strategies that have been successful, none are

The “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” seeks to amend the CSA so that the CSA’s “regulatory controls and administrative, civil, and criminal penalties do not apply to a person who produces, possesses, distributes, dispenses, administers, or delivers marijuana in compliance with state laws.”

Fortunately for those picking weed to be the next area of federal reform, this gap may be closing sooner than anticipated. Congress has shown significant bipartisan support in recent months for marijuana legalization. The introduction of two new popular bills entitled: the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017” (“H.R. 975”) and the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” (“H.R. 1227”) have provided many with increased optimism.

H.R. 975 mimics language from what is commonly known in the cannabis legal community as the “Cole Memorandum.” The Cole Memorandum is a memo written in 2013 by then United States Deputy Attorney General, James Cole, which is often cited for the proposition that a business which is licensed to sell marijuana need not worry about federal prosecution if it is in compliance with the state laws of the jurisdiction within which it operates. If passed H.R. 975 would prevent the enforcement of DEA against business and consumers who are in compliance with state

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law and likely increase confidence of investors already in and those seeking to enter the market. H.R. 975 would ameliorate criminal and civil law concerns many in marijuana space face. The “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act” is more ambitious and would have an even greater net effect on cannabis culture, businesses and use. H.R. 1227 most significant terms seek to create law which would largely decriminalize cannabis by removing the terms “marihuana”(yes, for some reason Congress spells it this way) and “tetrahydrocannabinols” from the list of Schedule I drugs enumerated in Section 202(c) of the CSA. Many have long been dismayed that marijuana and tetrahydracannabinols are listed as Schedule I narcotics alongside heroin and ecstasy. H.R. 1227 would likely provide immediate relief to purveyors and consumers of cannabis by swiftly ending the federal criminalization and prohibition of marijuana and would substantially boost economic activities for those in the cannabis space, including government entities that tax such activity.

The Ugly. The Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”), amended its already misguided classification of marijuana as a Schedule I Narcotic by creating a separate code which defines CBD as a Schedule I drug. This new drug code, entitled “Establishment of a New Drug Code for Marihuana Extract,” was published in the December 14, 2016 Federal Register, and became effective on January 17, 2017 just a few days prior to President Trump’s first days in office. DEA announced it was “creating a

separate code number for marihuana extract with the following definition: ‘Meaning an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant.’ Extracts of marihuana will continue to be treated as Schedule I controlled substances.” Therefore, according to the DEA, all extracts including cannabidiol (CBD) will be listed as a Schedule I drug. This action by DEA, if challenged in court, would likely be deemed illegal as it is over reaching, given the Agency does not have the authority to create this kind change which is tantamount to the creation of a new law.

Conclusion. The boost to various state’s economies, the hope that new federal regulations will decriminalize marijuana, and the overwhelming support from the American public which clearly wants to legalize cannabis are all strong signs that those who are willing to pick weed as their winning bet are likely to harvest significant returns on investment so long as they stay abreast of state and federal laws.


The Chalice

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While most people don't connect luxury or opulence with vaping, the artisans at the Skeleton Key aim to destigmatize that notion with their latest installment of their Chalice tips. Vaping is a lifestyle, so elevate yours. The Sardonyx gemstone inlay was utilized to keep a low profile form, and at the same time displaying the delicate lustrous nature of gemstones. The goal was to keep a simple form while hiding the complexity of stone. The clover airflow resembles a quatrefoil, and its design is meant to concentrate airflow into a small point. It’s our opinion that the clover airflow channels concentrates flavor while at the same time reducing spit back on short atomizers.

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hand crafted artisan Cannabis #17

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GFarma has set out to create an extraordinary cannabis experience. By employing their dedication and expertise in cultivation, their goal was to provide cannabis connoisseurs with the highest quality flower in the world. The result was GNUGS -- an artisan cannabis flower, handcrafted for unmatched quality.

SHOP: WWW.GFARMALABS.COM

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In a sea of streetwear brands out there, few have true roots to hip-hop culture. Train of Thought Collective is a clothing brand based out of Orange County, California. Created solely by artist Justin Carrillo. "Do what you feel" is the motto of the company and has stayed true to its roots since day one. There is no big message behind the brand but simply a Hip Hop heads collection of thoughts. “Can we kick it? Yes, we can!”

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@dim.slum & @artmed

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@dim.slum & @artmed

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CANT STOP, WONT

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WO R DS BY : R ENE G A LI NDO S NA P S BY : H EC TO R LEY VA

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Scared money, don't make money. Vegas is betting town. Whether your game is poker, blackjack, or slots, you can’t win big if you don’t go all in. Meet the man who employed that same mentality into one of the largest e-liquid companies in the world today - Vapetasia.

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ou've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run. You never count your money, when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for counting, when the dealin's done. The song The Gambler by Kenny Rogers has been Las Vegas entrepreneur Chris Finch's life anthem since he was young. He's built a multimillion dollar e-liquid empire from the ground up through a little bit of luck, calculated risk and recognizing when to push his chips in. As a table games dealer in Vegas, Chris Finch has witnessed the ups and downs of gambling. He’s seen all the good Las Vegas has to offer but has seen the flipside of it first hand. Like most successful entrepreneurs with their backs against the wall, it was at his lowest point that he found something to keep him occupied - crafting e-liquids. More of a hobby at first, Chris took on two jobs to supplement his income while he fine-tuned his brand. “One thing in business is, that you have to know every aspect of it. You really have to know how to do everything. If you're going to be able to watch over someone and know if they’re doing a good job, so I went to work.”, says Chris. Not one to be deterred, he didn’t let his lack of familiarity with the vaping business stop him from going all in. The lure of forging

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I DON’T KNOW IF I EVER WANT TO BE THE GUY THAT’S ON TOP. I MEAN I DO, WHO DOESN’T WANT TO BE THE MAN ON TOP, BUT I NEVER WANT TO BE COMPLACENT AND I THINK THAT’S MY BIGGEST FEAR, BEING COMPLACENT. his own destiny and being his own boss was too strong, and in the true millennial, hustler fashion, he learned everything as he went. “I literally didn't sleep, I got the bug in me like holy shit I should be back in business and on top. You just gotta earn it!”, says Finch. As the universe would have it, he got his first big break from a connection he made from the import car scene he was a part of. "A friend of a friend owned a vape shop in Connecticut and wanted to buy some of my product.", reminisces Finch. At the time he still wasn’t selling his juice and wanted to be sure he was putting out the best product he could so he gave the shop some to try. As a result of his work ethic and mixology, the owner loved it and his initial order was the catalyst and what put the spark in Chris to keep going. Vapetasia was officially up and running. Always considering

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himself the underdog, Chris was never once complacent. “If you're on top who is there to push you?”, says Chris. He is constantly pushing himself to do more and continuing to develop new and innovative products. His work ethic and dedication are proof positive in the products he produces. Today, Chris is the owner of one of the world's largest and most successful brands in the vape industry. We sit down with the man who never sleeps and we delve deeper into what keeps him hustling and why he’ll always play the role of underdog.

What were you doing before Vapetasia and how did you get started in the game? I had various jobs and some pretty successful businesses before that, but life happened.

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I wasn't doing much. I kind of went through a pretty dark period. To answer your question, right before I started Vapetasia, I was a table games dealer

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What prompted you to start Vapetasia? When I started vaping there was nothing. The only juice I could find was Dekang Desert Ship and I had to order it online. Also, the stuff was pretty disgusting, so it was purely out of necessity. When I started this I had no intention of doing Vapetasia. In the back of my head, I’ve always had ideas of businesses and I was in a really bad spot. I just needed something to keep me busy.

So, basically it was like your second gig to keep your main hustle going? Well, it wasn’t really a hustle at that point. I had a really bad drinking and pill problem. My life was pretty much going to work and immediately after, going out getting blackout drunk and popping pills. That's how I was able to get up and go to work in the morning. The only thing that I was holding on to outside of work was going to the gym, and training to fight MMA. I was depressed and had a lot of anger in me and these were like

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an outlet. Of course, I was still smoking, drinking, and popping pills. I couldn't seem to dig myself out of the hole I was in so I needed something that was a little more complicated and that’s when I started making juice. I went through every flavor I could think of and saved every paycheck instead of going out drinking. Started learning about flavorings and what went into juices and it really kept me occupied. That’s what kept me busy and away from the other things.

Was quitting smoking one of the catalysts that helped spark the business?

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To be honest I never wanted to quit smoking. I enjoyed smoking. Most people in the business have a noble story of how they quit like someone got sick or got cancer and decided to turn their life around. For me it was, I’m a scumbag drinking too much and I’m tired of complaining how I smell like cigarettes. That was purely it. I told myself that I’ll just vape when I go out and talk to girls so I don’t smell as bad. That’s what got me heavily into vaping and one day it just dawned on me that I don't need a cigarette anymore. It got to the point that when I went to work it made me sick smelling all the smoke 24/7. I used my breaks at work to promote my juices by telling people about and bringing in samples for them to try. As they tried them I would use the feedback to use as a reference point to fine tune my liquids. That was a big chunk of what kept me going in the beginning. Just giving away my product.

So many people didn't believe in me. They told me I wouldn't succeed. I said fuck that, and always went against the grain.

When did things start getting really serious for you and your product? It was probably the beginning of 2013. That’s when I was mixing a lot. I hadn’t started Vapetasia yet and was mixing as more of a hobby. Because I’m well known in the car scene, I’ve made a lot of friends. I had a lot of contacts all over the country because there really wasn’t much going on in Vegas with vaping. What changed

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“I literally didn't sleep, I got the bug in me like holy shit I should be back in business and on top. You just gotta earn it!”, says Finch. everything was that I had a friend of a friend who owned a vape shop. He told me that his friend might be interested in buying my product. I didn’t sell my product at the time but this was a huge opportunity. My biggest thing is selling a product that sucks so I wanted him to try it out first before buying. I sent him some bottles and he emails me back saying he wants bigger bottles so his customers can try it. About a week later I get a nasty email from him saying “What the fuck man, my customers are pissed off!”.

That kind of caught me off guard but I’m my biggest critic and I also wanted honest feedback so I called back to see what they didn’t like. Turns out he was joking and the customers were only pissed because they couldn’t buy it. That must’ve really thrown you off! I think this guy just had an amazing read on me and kind of knew my situation. He was just trying to spark a fire in me and get me

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to go on the market with this stuff. He was like “Your product is good and my customers really want it, they’re demanding to buy it. There’s money for both of us to made over here. Look I’ll send you an order and you tell me, yes, or no and I’ll deposit the cash in your bank account the next morning after I receive it.” So he sends me an order of $4,000 dollars. At the time, I had no sense of value of my product. I really didn't know what a bottle should sell for, but when he sent me, it started to get more real and I was telling myself that maybe I can do this.

criteria. It had to be one word, it had to have a keyword like “vape” or “e-liquid” or something pertaining to the industry. Primarily it had to have the word “vape” in it. So I get this order for 4000 dollars, I looked at my list of domain names and picked what I thought would be the catchiest and easiest to find on a search engine. I bought some cheap laser printer labels from Office Depot or something and a laser printer. Made a generic label, and then went on Fiver and hired a guy in India for $5 to make the Vapetasia logo.

So, did you call it Vapetasia at the time you offered it?

What happened after you branded yourself?

No, I didn’t right? I knew I needed to have a brand, and you know, it always stuck in the back of my mind that I wanted a brand so, what I had done was go on GoDaddy, searched and bought domains that fit my

After getting the label together, I fill this guy's order and from then on orders kept coming in which gave me more motivation to keep the business going. One thing in business is, that you have to know every

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… I need to learn all of this. Graphic design, packaging, distribution, just basically anything and everything. I read books watched videos, studied and went to work. #17 P 38

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aspect of it. You really have to know how to do everything. If you're going to be able to watch over someone and know if they’re doing a good job, so I went to work. My job wasn’t flexible with hours so I quit and within that same week, had 2 other jobs to supplement my income on top of the orders. I literally didn't sleep. I got the bug in me, like holy shit I should be back in business and back on top again. You just gotta earn it. It was at that time that I learned photoshop and how to build websites. The first website I built was ours and we used it until 2016, well actually we barely took it down. I designed our labels, flavor menus and watched YouTube videos having some 10-year-old Russian kid teach me how to do all these things [laughs]. That’s the time we live in right, you could literally learn everything if you want it that bad you know.

When did you quit the jobs and focus on your brand?

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It was probably at the end of 2013 that I was able to quit both my jobs and focus solely on Vapetasia. After the big order, I just kept going and built up enough momentum to be able to do that. But that big order in Maryland is what sparked it. I was able to hire someone to call shops and start sending out samples. Within about 6 months time we had 200 retail stores buying our products.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the union for the Vape industry what do we need to do or what direction do you think it’s going to? Honestly, I don’t know and there’s no more honest answer than that. Everyone's got an opinion right? There are so many businesses adjusting just based on opinions, you can’t. You don’t know what’s going to happen. We all went out to the August 8th thing, I submitted my tp1's. I always do my best to be on top of anything that is going to happen in

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this industry. Anything with the regulations, anything with the FDA We do everything within our power to stay on top of it but at the end of the day, nobody knows what’s going to happen.

Vegas is one of the places that is fully legal for Cannabis whether it's recreational or medicinal. What are your opinions on the cannabis industry? To be honest with you this is a topic that comes up a lot. That’s probably no surprise, right? I'm a very strong believer and supporter of the legal use of marijuana. I don’t smoke myself. There have been periods of my life where I have. In the early stages of Vapetasia, I used to smoke every day but it’s just not for me. I need to be on my toes at all times. You know so it’s not something that’s for everyone but we should have the

right to decide that ourselves. It was easier for me to get Oxycontin or Lortab than it was weed, that’s insane! The industry doesn’t make sense for me because of Nevada laws. It’s something that I’m interested in and passionate about. I love helping people and the marijuana industry has that appeal to me. I feel like I can help more people and make a bigger impact but it’s just so different from our industry that there’s no transitioning to it. It’s so different and I can’t lose focus of what I’m doing even though it’s something I want to be a part of.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I'd like to give a shout out to Manny Hilkey, my sales manager, he's a rockstar. Ben Lackey from Vape Social who owned the shop in Maryland and he's one of the reasons why I'm here, and Paolo Luna. We quit our jobs together when I started this crazy company.

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odybuilders are often stereotyped as self-obsessed, two-dimensional freaks who mindlessly lift pounds of iron in their egoistic pursuit of aesthetic perfection. They are creatures of habit executing their routine of dieting, lifting and sleeping with a constant eye on the clock all day, every day. As a result of this faithful dedication to their craft, many of today’s top bodybuilding personalities can be, for lack of a better word - vanilla. Kali Muscle is a man that tosses this stereotype on its head like a Jake "The Snake" DDT. Entrepreneur icon, actor, author, philanthropist, motivational speaker, and father. Kali has been all of these over the course of his life. But, more importantly, this former herculean blockstar is also an

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“I got in this for fun, but now, I know I'm helping people and changing lives. It motivates people. I've been blessed to be where I am now. God chose me for a reason. If I could change the path of someone doing wrong in their life, I've done my job.”

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inspirational figure. His checkered past from ex-con to icon has forged a path by way of bodybuilding and he is living proof of what anybody, regardless of their aspiration or history, can achieve when all the odds are stacked against them. Kali is the epitome of nonconformity and like Frank Sinatra, he did things his way. He’s not your typical white-collar bodybuilder that would grace the likes of commercial fitness magazines, but the counterculture avatar of real world application. He’s not here to school

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you on proper dieting and macros or how to get massive biceps or shoulders. He’s here to disrupt the narrow scope and mindset of the current state of the union of fitness. Kali Muscle was born and bred in Oakland, California into a neighborhood afflicted by crime and poverty. As an active and gifted teenager, he quickly developed a love for the gym and copped his first gig at 24 Hour Fitness. Not one to become a product of his environment by slanging dope or gangbanging, Kali was forced to own his first gun at Elementary School for protection from his surroundings. Outside of the gym, he excelled at a number of sports, including wrestling, track, and even received a football scholarship to Fresno State University, where he was a running back. The stars aligned and the universe opened itself to this young kid from the hood. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Notwithstanding, in Kali's senior year, tragedy struck his family when his older brother was killed after ‘messing around with a gun’. You know what they say when it rains, it pours. His once bright future spiraled deeper in despair, when, in his second year at Fresno State, Kali ran into financial hardship, and soon found himself resorting to robbery to make ends meet. He was later arrested and ended up in San Quentin State Prison, where he collectively spent 11 life-changing years. As a resident of San Quentin, Kali once again turned to lifting for therapy. Pushing weight like a man obsessed, Kali began throwing them thangs around like Skittles. His renewed focus on building his adonis-like physique gave him fresh resolve, a temporary escape from the truth of his circumstance. But disaster struck again when the state decided they were going to confiscate the weights from San Quentin. Not being one to give up on anything, Kali

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improvised and developed new innovative ways of working out like using laundry bags, pillowcases and human weight for example. His resourcefulness frustrated his prison officers, and, consequently, he was sent to the hole for not conforming. Kali saw this as a speedbump shit was not going to derail him from his goal to be the biggest and baddest.

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Released in in 2010, Kali Muscle decided to move to LA to pursue his new aspiration of becoming a professional bodybuilder and actor. After just two weeks of relocating, Kali was offered a role in a Matthew McConaughey-directed music video. This proved to be the launching pad he needed and resulted in an avalanche of bookings to appear in commercials for Fortune 500 brands like Snickers, Comcast, and Honda to name a few.

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Kali’s bodybuilding ascension has met with similar success in recent years. He has landed a series of prestigious titles, including Mr. California 2012, in addition to a slew of other first place finishes. He also has his own Hyphy line of workout supplements as well. Kali also works as a motivational speaker, where he delivers his uplifting message of rehabilitation to diverse crowds and completed his book, which aims to instill hope and positivity across America. The real narrative of Kali Muscle is his inspirational, motivating and empowering journey. From a troubled upbringing on the streets of Oakland, and being locked up, Kali Muscle has made a complete 180 and turned his life around to become the epitome of the old adage, from the Streets, to Success. Kali Muscle doesn't demand your respect, he commands it. He is proof positive that it is possible to transcend society’s handcuffs. With relentless motivation and focus, anybody, regardless of race or circumstance, can forge their own path to success.

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“It’s so funny to say because I was working for God and then this happened. I blamed God for a while, but that wasn't God. That was me. I did 7 straight years in the penn for that.”

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You're clearly a social icon with a massive following, what do you think your messaging is on your channels? What I teach my fans on social media is that if i made it after doing 11 years in prison that anyone can become successful, I am also against Bullying, so I let my fans and supporters know that ain't nobody gonna bully us. I clap back to any negativity. Back in Oakland, all the bullies got they shit handled to them back in the day, so I always been anti-bully.

Who was your inspiration for working out? My uncle Butch, rest in peace was my inspiration. He was buff and was the protector of my mom. He was the first positive role model I seen growing up, but he was the man to me. He was buff and handsome and I thought that's what a man was supposed to look like. Also, Everybody in my neighborhood was going to YA (Youth Authority) or Juve (Juvenile Hall) and they were coming home all buff so being swole was the thing to do. I had also got into sports, and I wanted to be the biggest and fastest.

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It's well documented that you are proof positive of the mantra, from the Streets to Success. How did that start? My whole objective in life back then was to get into the NFL or be an FBI agent. My major was even in Criminology [laughs]. I did everything in power to get a scholarship. I got an academic and athletic scholarship graduated with a 3.8 overall and was the senior class president.

Growing up in the hood, did that derail you from your goal?

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Before I got accepted to Fresno State, I had never got into trouble in Oakland. I had no beef, no nothing. People in the hood just said this youngster is going somewhere. I was this kid that all the dope dealers protected and all had my back because they knew what I was about. Ironically, two months before I caught my first case, I was a camp counselor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I was invited to come be a counselor and I had gone through this extensive biblical course to qualify. Then I went to Northern Arizona University and Cal Lutheran football camp as a coach/ minister.

When did things start going downhill? I had this Chevy Chevelle Laguna with chrome rims (back when they were the shit). It broke down driving from Oakland back to Fresno. All I needed was $500 to get a new engine. I was having a hard time coming up with money to pay to get the engine.So, I called my mom and she didn't have the money, so I asked my football coach, Coach Sweeney for an advance on my scholarship and he didn't have it but he said something that changed my life forever. He said, “A man gotta do what a man gotta do to survive in this world.” Me being from the hood, I took that as a negative instead of something positive.

So, things got lost in translation and you made some bad decisions. I had a pistol at the time and I been critiquing all these robberies I seen on the news so I decided to hit some licks (Robberies). That was my demise. It’s so funny to say because I was working for God and then this happened. I blamed God for a while, but that wasn't God. That was me. I did 7 straight years in the penn for that.


“What I teach my fans on social media is that if i made it after doing 11 years in prison that anyone can become successful, I am also against Bullying, so I let my fans and supporters know that ain't nobody gonna bully us.�

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Word was in prison, they took the weights from the inmates. How did you maintain? In San Quentin, they took the weights from us which was all we had and I started writing down what exercises I could do without weights. I improvised. Everything I was able to do with weights I made happen, laundry bags, water bags, pillow cases, or pushups with people pushing me down or sitting on my back. Squats with somebody sitting on my shoulders.

What did you do after your release? I got released and the first week out, I started stripping and personal training to make ends meet and making a ton of money doing it. I got a new 5.0 and I rear-ended somebody and wrecked it. I drove up to the neighborhood and all the people there were laughing with my car smoking. Just hating on me. Personal training got slow and so did the stripping. I saw all these cats in the neighborhood selling dope and they weren't even that successful at it. I said I'm gonna show these n*ggas how it’s done, so I went out and bought 9 zips of coke. I started selling dope, but it didn't last 3 months. I got caught up and I actually went back to prison several times after I did the 7 years. I ended up doing a total of 11 years in prison. After my last 16 month bid, my patna Trae let me work at his barbershop cutting hair and I made good money doing that.

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You did a complete 180 from being a Christian camp counselor to felon. What do you think the issue was? My problem was always trying to get rich the wrong ways.

When did you realize your YouTube videos were picking up steam? Once I moved to Los Angeles from Oakland In 2010, I had a few videos, nothing viral just some workout videos that I posted on YouTube. I'll never forget this. I was at Universal Citywalk

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and people were calling out my name like Kali Muscle! I was like what? All this from YouTube? It was eye opening.

What made you decide to get into show business? I was watching TV one day and noticed that there was no buff black real n*ggas out there except Michael Clarke Duncan and Terry Crews, so I thought maybe I should try this acting shit. Money was short and I thought why not? I Googled, "how to be an actor", I followed the steps and a week later, I was working with Matthew McConaughey. From then, the commercials started banging out, and I started to do TV Appearances and a few low budget movies.

What are your thoughts on bodybuilding back then to today? TOKEWELL MAGAZINE

Then, it was trial and error. Today, the technology is there so it's simplified. Fitness is life. Everybody around the world wants to be fit especially with social media. Fitness now is at an all-time high. At the Arnold Classic Expo, there were kids 15-16 as swole as me!

What are your thoughts on cannabis and bodybuilding? I had two workout partners back in the day that used to smoke a whole blunt before they worked out, and they were as was swole as me. I've grown it and I have my own cannabis card. One thing to remember is, it's not organic unless you get it from an organic trustworthy source. Back in Oakland, we used to pour chemicals in the hydroponic growing process to speed things up or make it more potent. Unless you’re growing your own or have an organic source, I don't fuck with it. If it's organic, I'm all for it.


“I clap back to any negativity.�

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What does it mean to be a public figure to you now? It's deep. I still talk shit. I tried to tone myself down at one point, and people did not like that. People enjoy the craziness that I bring along with the raw uncut realness. People don't want to be preached to. They want it real. I got in this for fun, but now, I know I'm helping people and changing lives. It motivates people. I've been blessed to be where I am now. God

chose me for a reason. If I could change the path of someone doing wrong in their life, I've done my job. I wasted 11 years in prison, so i try to tell youngstas my story as much as possible so they won't have to go down the same path.

Any last words for your fans? There's no reason for nobody to not be successful.

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It’s no secret that advocacy for the legalization of marijuana is sweeping the nation. If this past November is representative of anything, it’s the growing approval rating of the controversial plant. With more and more states considering legalization both in the medicinal and the recreational aspects, cannabis farm acreage is booming. And while many people underestimate what it takes to produce cannabis on a mass scale, others are taking to the new industry as naturally as breathing, not only producing products but developing reputable brands. One of those brands is GFarmaLabs. You’ve probably seen some of their products gracing the shelves of your local dispensary. Carrying a wide range of edibles, drinkables, vape tanks, and pre-rolls infused with their signature Liquid Gold oils, GFarmaLabs produces some of the finest, most consistent products available on the market today. The company, with it’s user friendly website and wide range of products, invites users to enjoy cannabis whichever way they like best and makes it easy to find their products.

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“NO ONE’S REALLY HAD A CHANCE ON THE FARMING SIDE TO DO IT BIG UNTIL NOW. CALIFORNIA HAS NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO DO IT BIG…WE APPLIED OUR FARMING KNOWLEDGE, SCALED IT UP, AND DECIDED THAT FAILURE WAS NOT AN OPTION.”

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armaLabs was born out of a tobacco and cigar background. The founder's, Ata & Nicole Gonzalez, started in the tobacco industry, and in the late 2000s, left south Florida to move out West and follow what could be described as a contemporary gold rush, or ‘green’ rush, rather. Nicole, a third generation tobacconist who opened her first cigar shop at a young age, saw an opportunity to put her knowledge to use in this new and booming industry. It wasn’t always easy though. Starting with cannabis farms out in Lake County, eventually the company moved south to Los Angeles with the idea of opening up dispensaries in order to sell their crop. As soon as they were up and running,

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they were down again in less than three months. Raids, every dispensaries worst nightmare, struck the company down again and again. “We realized that we weren’t going to be able to survive like this,” Humberto Torres, the company’s Chief Operating Officer tell us. He oversees GFarma’s Washington territory, as well as oversees California’s cultivation sites. ”While we were running the dispensaries, we realized that while we kept getting shut down, some of the products we carried had started branding themselves, and they continued to exist and get sold. So we decided to take a step back and not worry about the dispensaries anymore, and we began to focus on doing branded products.”

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Berto tell us that the transition from tobacco to marijuana really isn’t all that different, even if it’s a whole new industry. “It’s the same, but it is different. We have connections with the tobacco and the alcohol industry, and honestly, those are all models that lend experience to this industry. As far as branding, coming out with products and marketing, trade shows and events, there are quite a few similarities.” With that in mind, the company decided to jump on anything that might make them stand out from the crowd. Take their drinks, honey, and chocolates for example - at one point, the company had 21 flavors of chocolate available, not to mention four seasonal flavors, the company produces a line of raw honey for those looking to satisfy a different type of sweet tooth, and their line of lemonades are enough to make any mouth water.

What motivated them to create such great unique products? Tradition. “We were kind of following the tradition of tobacco blending,” Berto says. “We thought it’d be great if we made these pre-rolls and blends for people We started producing huge yields of our crops, and we needed different vehicles in order to sell it. That gave way to our GSTIKS or jump on the chocolate market, which was just starting to pick up speed, and the natural progression led to our drinkables soon after.” The company follows tradition on more than just a core values level - they do it at the business level as well. Following the idea of a big companies like Coca Cola, GFarmaLabs pride themselves in being able to replicate their processes and create a consistent product no matter where they are, and now

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“There’s so much risk involved alongside everything else that being in this industry brings to the table….It would change our world if we had banking or could get financing.” TOKEWELL MAGAZINE

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Geniuses' at work. "There are no shortcuts in evolution"

with legalization becoming a reality in more and more states, the company really has the opportunity to make it big on a mass production scale. “No one’s really had a chance on the farming side to do it big until now. California has never had the chance to do it big,” Berto states. “Not to say that no one’s tried, but now we’re really getting the opportunity to do so. We applied our farming knowledge, scaled it up, and decided that failure was not an option.” And how does GFarma do it, exactly? “Everything we do starts at the farm,” Berto

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informs us. “As far as pesticides go, we run an all organic operation. As for the nutrients we run synthetics because we’ve found that it’s helped us make an incredible consistent product. From a commercial standpoint, we can predict our outcome, replicate our processes, and being able to produce the same results consistently means that we can continue to run our operation and, as time goes on, experiment with different practices, such as a possible future 100% organic line.” Of course, farming is all fine and dandy, when you’re allowed to do it. Naturally, in such a new and controversial industry, there are many

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obstacles to overcome, some differing from state to state, while others are universal. Every state has its drawbacks, and in the state of California, the biggest issue may lie in the irregularities in regulation. Just because the county has granted a business license to a company does not protect that company from local raids. GFarma is no stranger to these unfortunate bumps in the proverbial road, having been raided as part of a headline grabbing publicity stunt for an upcoming local sheriff election. Raiding legally operating businesses for the sole purpose of personal political gain is unheard of in most other industries, but in the lovely ‘laid back’ west coast state of California, it is just one of the everyday worries that keeps cannabis workers on edge. What else could keep a successful business’ workers on edge, you ask? The lack of banking

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and financial support could be considered the biggest issue the industry faces. The cannabis industry is not what one would call a ‘normal’ industry - most dispensaries and shops don’t take credit cards, although many have ATMs on premises for their guests.

Brandon Leidel CEO | Vapor Shark shot on location

“Even in Washington and Colorado, everybody’s got banking issues,” Berto says. “You go to a dispensary and you have to spend and extra $2 every time you go!” No banking doesn’t just inconvenience the patients and patrons, it also puts the workers’ lives at risk. “When you’re dealing with the cannabis world, whether it be a dispensary, a rec store, or even a brand, you end up dealing with a lot of cash,” Berto explains. “And the assumption is that

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if you’re in the cannabis industry, you must be carrying millions on you, and people get robbed. There’s so much risk involved alongside everything else that being in this industry brings to the table. The banking thing is such a huge thing for us, it would change our world if we had banking or could get financing.” That’s not an exaggeration either. With all the products they produce and all the crops they

grow, GFarma Labs is an oil extraction company at heart, and a company like that requires expensive equipment. Their top of the line machines include the Waters machine, the EDEN, and the APEKS which they use to extract the cannabis oil used in all their products, from the GSTIKS right down to the raw honey. Machinery like that does not come cheap, averaging at around $150,000 each, forcing GFarma and other similar companies to get creative when it comes to financing.

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We asked Berto if he and the company were worried with the state of the industry, especially in the hands of the current Commander in Chief. He didn’t seem too concerned. “Granted, as an industry, we definitely weren’t excited about Trump,” he chuckles, “but we sat back and analyzed the man and his past dealings and such, and we don’t see him as a threat to the industry. Granted, when AG Sessions said his piece, it put a freeze on some of our operations, and our business relationships changed overnight, but despite all that, at the end of the day, Trump is a businessman, and a businessman simply cannot ignore the hundreds of millions of dollars being collected in taxes in states like Washington and Colorado. We’re in a crazy time and space in the industry, but in our experience, you hear talk of bad news, but it’s followed with softer regulations, so I guess we’re hoping that Trump will be like any other politician I guess - say one thing, do another. I just hope we’re right, that he’ll see the broader base and bigger business opportunities in the industry.”

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So how do we solve the problem of getting the rest of the country on board with the cannabis industry? How do we convince those against legalization that the cannabis movement isn’t the boogeyman the naysayers make us out to be? “Unity and honesty,” Berto says confidently. When asked to elaborate:“There is such a lack of unity in

the industry as a whole; we’re still as of yet a very selfish industry. Everyone wants to keep everything they learn a secret and find a way to monetize it. We need a sweep of humbleness within the community to keep us moving forward.” When asked how to do it, he cites Washington as an example. ”That the community out there is very unified. If someone comes up with a different process that yields a little more, they tell their fellow growers. Yes, people are branding and whatnot, but there are no secrets as far as processes go.” And as for honesty? “I think that more people who are closeted within the community need to come out and say it rather than be hypocritical,” he states. “There’s a wellness aspect to marijuana, yes, but there’s also a recreational aspect too. There’s this negative stigma around it that needs to be removed. The fact that everyone treats it like a dirty little secret is exactly why the stigma continues to manifest. The older I got, the more I realized that doctors, lawyers, people you’d never suspect of using marijuana actually do, and they hide it like they hide their sins on Sundays. An incredible percentage of the population actually uses it, and I think they should just be honest about it. It shouldn’t feel any different to go home and smoke your vape pen than it does to go home and have a glass of wine or a drink after work.”

“There is such a lack of unity in the industry as a whole; we’re still as of yet a very selfish industry. Everyone wants to keep everything they learn a secret and find a way to monetize it. We need a sweep of humbleness within the community to keep us moving forward.” TOKEWELL MAGAZINE

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ikers and roughnecks were a stereotype often associated with people who had tattoos. Having body art was often portrayed as a negative stigma, and was considered lowbrow art by many. Unfortunately, many of the stereotypes held some truth to them. Getting inked was often a way for some to show where they were from or their affiliation. There was no real narrative or creative representation of the art form. It was as though getting tattooed was a visual badge of honor or street credibility. For Robert Pho - founder of Skin Designs Tattoo in Las Vegas, he was looking to disrupt that notion and the dilapidated culture through his needles. Unfortunately, there are just not a lot of options for the formerly incarcerated. Robert just wanted to do what he loved to do, and that was to tattoo while being able to provide for his family. Formerly considered a (Bad Boy) himself, Robert didn't get into the game looking for fame or money. That notoriety and acclaim came through his mastery of tattoo art.

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Robert began tattooing at the age of 16 when he was first locked up in 1989. It was during his tenure in prison where he discovered his passion for tattooing and art. “I started seeing guys with really nice tattoos, right away it sparked an interest.�, says Pho. Employing his own body as his canvas, Robert started honing his skill and started tattooing on himself. Later on, he would start to tattoo fellow inmates as a way of commerce and survival. He quickly became a master at his craft

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“artwork is becoming more developed, and a lot more people are getting involved. I’m just glad to be a part of it.” TOKEWELL MAGAZINE

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“I FEEL LIKE I AM STILL LEARNING AND GROWING. I AM 45 YEARS OLD, AND I WANT TO BE TATTOOING UNTIL I AM 60 OR AS LONG AS I AM PHYSICALLY ABLE TO DO IT. ” from the time he was sentenced to the time he was released seven years later at the age of 24.

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Today, Robert Pho is one of the most sought-after black and gray realism artists in the world. He can take a portrait and flawlessly make it look as if it were a photograph, and permanently imprint it on one's dermis. He’s blasted thousands of impeccable likenesses of celebrities from Scarface to Manny Pacquiao to name a couple. His attention to detail and lifelike drawings lead him to receive numerous awards and accolades for his mastery worldwide. If you take a look at some of Roberts captivating works, it's going to invoke one of two things. You're either going to give up on your dream of being a tattoo artist, or it's going to make you hustle that much harder. He took his love for art and his unwavering drive to continue challenging himself and forged an amazing empire as a result of his tenacity. “It's an honor. We are lucky to be where we are today,” says Robert. He never once let his past affect what he would do and become today. Robert had

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every reason to fail statistically, but he's just not cut from that cloth. Robert’s work ethic, perseverance and effortless talent, have made him one of the most sought-after tattoo artists in the globe today and an icon in the tattoo industry. Meet the man whose second chance at redemption has changed the entire tattoo industry forever - Robert Pho.

or lawyer [laughs]. Every time I would get in trouble, I would sit in my room and draw. In school, I was always drawing in the back of the class.

Was it in prison where you really started honing your craft?

Did you always have an interest in art?

Yes, I would say so. I just kept practicing on different people. After that, it just took off. Everyone wanted me to do work on them.

Yes, ever since I was about 5 years old, I have been into art. I always told my parents that’s what I wanted to do. They never took me seriously, they wanted me to be a doctor

When you got out of prison, did you know tattooing is what you wanted to do? TOKEWELL MAGAZINE

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“I feel like we are lucky to be where we are today. I still trip out when people look at me as someone big. It’s an honor.” #17 P 90

No, I didn’t actually. The first thing that came to my mind was worry. I was like, “I have no job skills. Where am I going to work? Where am I going to live?” I was so used to the prison life that I was actually nervous about getting out. I ended up getting a job typing somewhere, but on the side, I would tattoo. It started with just a couple of people. Then that person would bring another person, and that person would bring five more people. Word got out fast and it took off from there.

Looking back, did you think you would ever be where you are today? No, I never would have imagined this. I feel like we are lucky to be where we are today. I still trip out when people look at me as someone big. It’s an honor, but I was never one who liked being in the spotlight. I don’t look for fame.

When you first started, who were some of the artists you looked up to or admired?

The guys who really blew my mind when I started tattooing were Jack Rudy and Tom Renshaw. These are guys who used to be in magazines, and the kind of artwork that they did really spoke to me. I was into realism, so when these guys came out I was just like, “Wow. Tattoo art has really changed.” I wanted to get as real as these guys were.

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Do you think social media is good or bad for tattoo artists? In what ways?

Brandon Leidel CEO | Vapor Shark shot on location

I think it’s both good and bad. It’s good because the opportunity is endless, and it’s free. You don’t have to pay for advertising anymore. You just post, and that’s it. The bad is that it is misleading to a lot of people to think that they are something big when they are not. Because they have a lot of followers, the average person would gauge them by that and what they see on their page. Some of the best artists out there may not have very many followers. It’s very misleading.

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How do you see tattoo artists and the culture evolving in the next five to ten years? Tattooing has been around for a long time, so I don’t see anything that’s going to stop it. The artwork is becoming more developed, and a lot more people are getting involved. I’m just glad to be a part of it.

Is there anything that you won’t tattoo on someone? I like to tattoo things that interest and challenge me, so anything that is too simple I won’t do.

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Robert’s work ethic, perseverance, and effortless talent have made him one of the most sought-after tattoo artists in the globe and an icon in the tattoo industry. How long do you plan on tattooing for? I feel like I am still learning and growing, so hopefully for quite some time. I am 45 years old and I want to be tattooing until I am 60 or as long as I am physically able to do it. To this day, I still tattoo six days a week. I love it.

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Any last words for your fans?

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Thank you for the love and support throughout the years. You are the reason I am where I am today.

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Tokewell issue 17  
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