While Hollywood Undead continues to crank out its unique, energetic music for countless fans across the world, the band also recently launched its Dove & Grenade brand in Oklahoma’s booming medical marijuana market, turning a passion for cannabis into a legal, licensed enterprise.
Band members Jorel Decker (guitar, vocals) and George Ragan (bass, vocals) initially tried to get a license in California, but the Golden State has become so fraught with miles of red tape, they moved operations to Oklahoma City, to keep the Dove & Grenade dream alive.
Decker recently spoke with Marijuana Venture about his philosophy in business, the challenges faced in California and whether Hollywood Undead — which surpassed 1 billion total global streams in 2018 — will use its influence to promote Dove & Grenade.
Marijuana Venture: How long have you been involved with marijuana and when did you get into cultivation?
Jorel Decker: Since 2013. I sold my car to get some money and make room in the garage for two tents to grow in. I was honestly trying to make some extra money to pay the rent. It was a strange time for the music industry and my band. We were doing well on paper but weren’t making any money. Streaming music wasn’t a thing yet. We were so in debt that I couldn’t even pay my rent after tour. I needed something else I could do and still be in a band. So there is a hydroponics store on Hollywood Boulevard called Superior Hydro I always passed. One day I walked in and started asking them questions. I was broke so I sold my car for the extra money and bought the hydro equipment I needed to start. Fell in love with it from day one.
MV: What were your original plans in California, and what were the main obstacles you encountered while trying to get licensed?
JD: Like anybody in any business that is black market, you want to go legal. The main obstacle was compliance. It’s so overly regulated. They’re acting like you’re working with nuclear reactors or something when you’re just growing plants.
You have to know somebody on city council to obtain a license. Licenses are worth around a million dollars right now, I believe. That eliminates 99.9% of growers. Then you need money for a building in a “green zone.” Real estate doubled or tripled in green zones. Then you need money to build out your facility and pay the rent and power for six months before your first harvest. You’re talking millions of dollars here.
We pooled money together from a lot of people and went for it, only to have the city shake us down for money, then shut us down for absurd reasons — like diaper changing tables. It takes months for them to come back after every failed inspection, then they want their taxes at the end of the year. So you’re not allowed to grow but you owe $180,000 to $250,000 for the year in taxes. It’s not really doable. Its virtually almost impossible to go legal in California unless you have millions to burn.
MV: How is Oklahoma different from California? Is the medical program in Oklahoma running smoothly?
JD: It’s a lot more lenient in Oklahoma. Anybody and everybody was allowed to acquire a license, which I can’t say was a good idea. A lot of people got excited and jumped on it and lost a lot of money — people that had no business being in the cannabis industry. It’s sad to watch.
Things seem to be going smoothly so far. I can’t pretend to know too much on the politics of California compared to Oklahoma, but that’s what it boils down to, because cannabis is a business. It boils down to politics.
MV: Do you see the Dove & Grenade brand as a licensing opportunity? Are you looking to expand outside Oklahoma?
JD: I’d love to license the brand eventually. It’s the only way to expand, because you can’t sell cannabis over state lines currently. The issue would be quality control for me. I’m a true-blue grower; it would kill me to see some mediocre weed being sold under our name. It wouldn’t be worth the money to me. So I’d have to really be cool with the grower and company and see that they produce some top-shelf stuff. I wish we could do it all ourselves, but it isn’t possible.
MV: There have been a lot of celebrity bands that have come and gone in the cannabis space. What mistakes have the celebrity brands made and how do you plan to do things differently?
JD: Just because you smoke weed doesn’t know you mean jack shit about it. It’s easy for them to say, “I know good weed!” Well, no shit, I can take a sip of some shitty beer and tell you it isn’t good. It doesn’t mean I should be slapping my name on beer and selling it.
I personally think they don’t get deep into the business and check the quality before getting involved. Everyone is under the assumption that weed sells itself.
Are people gonna buy some amazing weed on the shelf that has no name or some brown shit next to it with a celebrity endorsement? The answer is obvious.
I’d just be more hands-on. It’s what I do, with cannabis and music. I wouldn’t let our merch company sell Hollywood Undead shirts that fell apart after one wash.
MV: Do you think Hollywood Undead’s following can be a big asset for the Dove & Grenade cannabis brand or will you try to keep some degree of separation?
JD: I’d like to keep some degree of separation. No matter how much I tell people I’m not jumping on a bandwagon, and I live, breathe and eat this shit, it won’t reach enough ears. People will see it and say, “That band sells weed now?!”
We’re already producing some of the best stuff seen in Oklahoma currently, so the quality speaks for itself. That’s the plan!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.