How did you enter the Marijuana industry?
“I’ve been with Kolas for 5 years, and I was interested in the cannabis business much like many people in California have been since it’s grown so much. An opportunity came my way from a group that owned medical cannabis dispensaries, and they wanted my help because of my history in the restaurant industry, and helping establishes entertainment venues. So they asked me to join the Kolas team to help them prepare to open the recreational side of things. So I started in one store, implementing a vertically integrated system; putting in place supply, human resources, and all of the things a normal business has. It’s been 5 years, and we’ve grown our vertical integration and expanded this system to all of our stores.
As Kolas has progressed, we became the #2 sponsor of the Aftershock Festival, and we also sponsor a VIP area at the Ace Of Spade’s venue. So with our growth, we have kept ourselves involved in the music scene. When bands come through Sacramento we enjoy hosting them and getting our customer base excited about their music, as well as showing the artist the local music scene in Sacramento. We were also able to sponsor the ASHBA music video for ‘Hypnotic’ and were honored to be a part of that.
So overall, Kolas is involved in the music scene locally and we’re working on expanding our reach once Live comes back – but personally, I am a music enthusiast. Naturally, music and the cannabis industry seem to go together very well. Kolas is always looking to expand our reach in the music industry; we’re a part of Aftershock again this year, and we’ve opened the Kolas Lounge. The Lounge is an area where we aspire to not only bring local musicians in to play for our great customers, but we also want to bring in local artists and vendors for nights that exemplify the rich culture of Sacramento.”
What do you feel is the modern tie between music and marijuana?
“Overall, I think cannabis use has become more widely accepted and a lot of people are creating different experiences with it, from recreationally to medically, and even therapeutically. The culture is no longer exclusively “Let’s smoke a joint and get high”, some people are using it for pain, for sleep, or relaxation. Many people use it just to take some of the edge off after a long day, similarly to a glass of wine, or passing a joint with a group of friends, in place of having a round of beers. As someone who works many different jobs, and who’s lifestyle is “Go Go Go”, its nice to be able to put a record on at the end of the day and enter that deeper state of relaxation.
When you’re at a music festival or in your music scene, cannabis enhances those experiences for some people. In the Rock scene, back in my day, whether it was AC/DC, Led Zeplin, or “A Day On the Green” in Oakland, ‘weed’ was a big part of those events. Marijuana is often used to elevate the experience of listening to music, live or recorded, furthering the entrancement giving the mind the ability to slow down and pick up on new elements.
Cannabis use isn’t limited to any one genre either. When we first sponsored Aftershock, three years ago – we were at a heavy metal show, where the music is intense and high energy, but the crowd was comfortable and relaxed. It was clear to us that cannabis was playing a big part in that. Of course, like anything else, it’s not for everyone – but at many of the venues I’ve been to, regardless of size or genre, music and cannabis seem to go together very well.”
Can you speak on the personal wellness and empowerment aspects of the cannabis industry?
“Back in the day when marijuana wasn’t widely available, it was highly unregulated, and you sort of just got what you got. Now when you go to a dispensary, not only is everything tested and certified, but you also have a range of choices. At Kolas, we carry over 60 different brands and over a thousand different products; We have everything from flower, to drinks, to tinctures, to CBD-only products. When you enter our stores, we cater to all walks of life and all types of needs; we have the youngsters, senior citizens, the hip-hop crowd, businesspeople, and the rockers. At Kolas we do put a focus on Veterans and easing their struggles with whatever they have come back with from wherever they’ve served.
Cannabis is often thought of as a safer alternative than alcohol, considering its non-addictive properties. The ingestion of cannabis also doesn’t have to be psychoactive, with balms or topical treatments, they can work subdermally to target specific areas of the body. Of course everything should be used in moderation, but considering the innovative ways to ingest marijuana there are almost no long term effects on the body, in the same way that alcohol consumption or prescription medication can have.
In terms of the ’empowerment’ part of your question: Kolas has also opened a path of employment through our program, Kolas University. Last year we put over three hundred people through the university, which provides an accredited education. Some people go through the program to better their employment opportunities in the cannabis industry, but others simply want the knowledge of how marijuana works, what the proper dosage is, and how to take it, before they start consuming it. So the education goes a long way from employment, to usage, to spreading proper information to the public.
We also work with each of the ethnic chambers of Sacramento to provide further education and employment opportunities to diverse groups of people. At the moment, we’re putting through about 15 people every other week and doing our best to find them jobs. On the job side of things, it isn’t limited to sales or being a budtender, but there is are also opportunities for front-of-house and office positions, as well as positions in the Grows that we operate. Our goal is to be able to provide a pathway to excel and, eventually, have entry-level employees move into management positions and higher-paying careers. So there is now a road to move forward in the world of cannabis – where someone may have wanted to work in a dispensary for just the discount before, now there are real career opportunities that can lead to bigger and better things. Kolas is all about community, creating upward mobility, and bringing people together through education, and supporting the arts.”
Recently, Kolas has partnered with EDGEOUT to create Roc&Sol – Can you speak on the brand and its goals?
“In the beginning, Roc&Sol was just going to be a cannabis brand, but as it evolved, we started to think of it as more of a lifestyle brand. Our logo contains the solar symbols for the Sun and the Earth, so Roc&Sol represents an overall mission of bringing light to the world around us through charitable organizations like Cannabis cares. Of course, the name also brought us to the music side of things, with it being a play on words considering the ‘Rock’ and ‘Soul’ genres.
So Roc&Sol is two-sided: First, it’s a lifestyle brand built around giving, art, and music. Second, we also create cannabis brands – and one dollar of each product created under the Roc&Sol brands will be donated. So we aim to create a brand, that when people see the logo – whether that’s on a product or on a loyal customer – they don’t just think of ‘cannabis’ but they associate it with the charitable side of giving, art, community, and music.
On the business side of things, as we create these brands under Roc&Sol, we get to micro-test them in the Kolas stores and get a tremendous amount of feedback from our customer base. From there, we can finetune that product and launch it on a larger scale. Every brand that is created under Roc&Sol, will donate a dollar from each product back to Roc&Sol to be donated to charities that support art and music. We’ll donate on a quarterly basis; whether we have $500 or $5000 to donate, we will announce the charity chosen for that month and report the donations openly. We aim to be as transparent as possible, as a for-profit company that is earning in order to donate.
We’re already working with many different artists right now – from musicians to muralists, to designers – who are helping us with outreach and developing the lifestyle aspect of the brand as well. For example, we’re collaborating with John Tessler, who worked with Tower Records for years, and he is designing shirts for Roc&Sol. A portion of those proceeds will also go towards our charitable giving.
As these things develop, ultimately – I don’t want to get ahead of myself but – we want to be in hundreds of stores, with the ability to donate tens of thousands of dollars to different charities nationwide that support music, art, and culture. We have 5 faces in our office, painted to remind us what our message to the public is. One face represents the far left, and one the far right, the inner two show ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ symbols – but the middle is an equal sign, because in the end, plus or minus, far left or far right, we’re all equal. We want to be a force for good, and that’s where we’re trying to take this.”
What opportunities do you predict Kolas / Roc&Sol will be able to offer for rock bands or artists?
“Kolas can help anyone launch a product A-Z because we’re vertically integrated. But it isn’t enough to just put a name on a product; it has to be quality, and give the customer a reason to keep coming back to purchase it. Roc&Sol can certainly aid them in developing that unique product that will play off of their brand. Creativity and patience are key when constructing a product, and Roc&Sol can help them narrow in on their artist message, which is the most natural pathway to a strong brand that people can believe in.
On another level, though – Kolas stores see upwards of 70k people a week, so when these musicians come to Sacramento, our priority is helping them gain exposure to our customer base. We have really wonderful relationships with local venues like the Ace of Spades, so being able to invite our customer base to those shows and helping people come together through music is really what we’re all about.”