Birth Of A West Coast Weed Dynasty
Inside the dynamic partnership between Exotikz, Jungle Boys and Reef Dispensaries
Several months ago, the heads of Nevada’s Reef Dispensaries, the Bay Area’s Exotikz and LA’s Jungle Boys held a clandestine meeting to plot a course for weed domination on the west coast. Reef Dispensaries, which operates in Nevada and Arizona, had already been working closely with rapper Berner, who heads up the Exotikz brand, making strains like Sherbert and PGSC local favorites. Additionally, as a member of Taylor Gang, it was Berner who brought Wiz Khalifa’s Khalifa Kush deal to Reef Dispensaries.
Thinking of a master plan: Ivan of Jungle Boys, Matthew Morgan of Reef, Berner of Exotikz
Meanwhile, the Jungle Boys have been holding down the Los Angeles scene for the last eleven years with their TLC Collective dispensary, curating some of the most insane cannabis strains in the country. Their meticulous process of “pheno-hunting” finds them searching for seeds in a respective market and growing (and scrapping) those strains multiple times to find the best possible version of the flower. In a time-consuming, multi-year process of perfection, Ivan (yes, just “Ivan”) and his crew obsessively cultivate and curate these strains for the Jungle Boys and now Exotikz product lines. The end results are out of this world, terpene rich flowers that literally smell like sour apples, cherry pie, or anything else you can imagine.
In a story broken earlier this month by LA Weekly, the result of that fateful meeting is finally coming to fruition, as Reef Dispensaries and the Jungle Boys have announced an exclusive partnership that will see this grow process employed in Nevada, branded under the Exotikz banner. Products such as Purple Punch, Pie Hoe, Sundae Driver, and Strawberry Shortcake have been slowly growing in Nevada under the tutelage of both Reef Dispensaries and Jungle Boys for the last year, slated for release at Reef in limited supply in on September 24th, 2017. In short, arguably the best weed on the west coast will now be available in world’s top tourism destination for everyone to enjoy.
We spoke with each Reef Dispensaries CEO Matthew Morgan, Exotikz founder Berner, and Jungle Boys’ Ivan about the details of this dynamic new partnership.
Mike Pizzo: Let’s talk about what’s going on here with Jungle Boys and Reef.
Ivan of Jungle Boys: Well, Berner and myself started Exotikz, so basically if you took the Jungle Boys brand and Berner’s Cookies brand and put them together you have Exotikz. Exotikz allows us to just have fun and kind of do what we want to do. One of the first companies we are working with is Reef Dispensaries. We’re curating an entire menu of probably 20 or so strains to be grown in Nevada at Reef as Exotikz. So we’re helping Reef with everything from the Shortcake to the Sundae Driver to the Wedding Cake. It’s the best of the best of everything.
Berner: I think it’s an ideal situation because both Cookies and Jungle Boys are established brands, but at the same time we are connoisseurs and there is so much new stuff out there. Finding that “new-new” is something we share excitement for, so to be able to find new strains in new markets that we really want to be in, but might not have the time to fully set up and do that, this is the perfect situation. Two big brands coming together to collaborate and pheno-hunt, and find really unique strains for one of the best companies in the business to take on and put on the shelf. I think it’s going to be a good look. If anything, it’s just a fun project that is going to bring nothing but good to the table.
"At the end of the day, we’re craft growers. We don’t have any big investors or a bunch of partners that we have to answer to, so we can kind of grow whatever we want to grow."
Matthew Morgan of Reef Dispensaries: Reef is very excited to grow all of these new genetics. Berner and Ivan are two of the most top notch people in the space, so we’re very excited to work with these guys.
Mike Pizzo: Berner, you are the bridge between the two parties. How did the whole collaboration come about?
Berner: I locked down a deal with Reef before they opened. We partnered and curated the menu for them with the Exotikz brand. Around that same time, I met Ivan and started bonding with everybody in the Jungle Boys and we started to build a brand together. So that’s how it all came together. I had an existing deal with Reef and I just decided to expand and take my deal and bring Ivan to the table and make him my partner with it. I thought it couldn’t be a better move.
Matthew Morgan: I believe Ivan came to Reef first and then I went out to LA and saw the Jungle Boys’ TLC dispensary. That’s kind of how the relationship started.
Berner: It’s unique too, because I see a lot of places popping up in Las Vegas and other markets we’re in, like Reno and Arizona. A lot of people coming to the table are just doing what typical people would do: they find the highest yielding strains in that market and grow them. We’re dedicated to a lot of time, energy and space to find new stuff and finicky strains that don’t yield as much, for the real pot heads, the real connoisseurs.
Matthew Morgan: Also, we’re committed to growing the top tier genetics and strains for the public. With Berner and the Jungle Boys helping us pheno-hunt in Nevada, that’s quite feasible at this point.
Mike Pizzo: Ivan, Jungle Boys has a very refined process in the way that the products are grown. Can you talk about some of the philosophies behind that?
Ivan: Sure. At the end of the day, we’re craft growers. We don’t have any big investors or a bunch of partners that we have to answer to, so we can kind of grow whatever we want to grow. One of the good things that we end up doing is that we end up pheno-hunting a lot of this stuff, so we’re not using a bunch of “clone-onlys” that everybody else has or that have been passed around for years. We want to find our own, new strains. That’s been our heavy emphasis for the last eight years.
Ivan: Once we have other growers like Reef, we want to show them our methods so that they can succeed like us. That’s always been our philosophy. If they are going to work with us and be our partners, we have nothing to hide, we’re going to show them everything.
Matthew Morgan: Definitely. Ivan’s been a huge help through consulting, walk-throughs, and everything else. Fine-tuning the little things. We’re very thankful to have that inside information.
Mike Pizzo: So Matt, what interested you about the Jungle Boys to form a partnership with them at Reef?
Matthew Morgan: I’ve been looking around at a ton of different guys that have been in the game for a long time. To me, the Jungle Boys just stood out through quality, how they operated their business in L.A., their marketing, and their branding. I felt like we were the closest fit to them that we could find. Once I met Ivan and the other Jungle Boys, I felt like we would work well together.
Berner: At the end of the day, what attracted me to them was the work ethic. I do a bunch of different businesses myself, whether it be the clothing or the music or any other endeavor that I have, all I do is work. I work hard to the point where sometimes at night I can’t even fall asleep, getting two or three hours of sleep.
Matthew Morgan: Real talk.
Berner: When I linked up with the Jungle Boys, as well as Reef, the work ethic is what attracted me the most. These dudes get it in. They could easily be comfortable not working as hard as they are, but they do it to constantly improve. You’ve got three groups of people that are just non-stop working.
Ivan, Bern, and Matt
Mike Pizzo: Could each of you explain what you respect about one another’s businesses?
Ivan: I had a chance to visit Reef and I remember leaving there really impressed. I told someone, 'If I could have a shop in Las Vegas by the Strip, it would probably look like Reef.' There’s always little things here and there that everybody would change about anything, but for the most part it is an amazing operation, from the cultivation side, to the store, to the location, the products. It’s legit. I turn down probably 100 deals a day, so this partnership is something that I think is going to be around for a long time.
I had actually met Berner when he came down to shoot and episode of [his YouTube series] Marijuana Mania. I knew about him, we kind of mutually knew each other, and one day I hit him up like “Hey man, you gotta come down. I think you’d be impressed with what we’re doing.” He came down and ever since then we became good friends. We vibe on cannabis a lot and music. We’re just a lot alike, except I’m not a rapper, I’m a grower. We’re kind of like the same person. We’re working, doing our own thing. We’re both fathers, we’ve got girls. We’re not out turning up and partying, we’re just about our work, our business, our brands and building them to be the best out there. We truly feel that bringing all of this together — my honest opinion — is that there is no one even coming close. It’s pretty unstoppable.
Berner: I feel like Cookies is the biggest brand in Northern California and Jungle Boys has been the biggest brand in Southern California, so now you are taking those and putting them together. I feel like the marijuana industry is kind of led by California and I feel like we really can say that we’ve got California. It’s cool to see someone else that grinds like me, day in and day out, passionate about what they are doing.
When seeing Reef in Las Vegas, we had talked to some people before, but finding partners that understand what we’re bringing to the table and how valuable that really is, is the coolest thing in the world. You’ll see as cannabis becomes more legit and regulated that the quality of it is going to fall off. What everybody has always loved about weed is discovery. Finding it and sharing it with your friends. It’s a social thing. This partnership is special because we don’t ever want to see that kind of thing happen. We don’t want people to walk in and see four things you can buy and it’s so commercially grown that has no taste or flavor. We’re trying to keep that out of the way.
Matthew Morgan: As far as Berner goes, I’ve always respected him as an artist. He kind of grinded his way up from the bottom and his work ethic is second to none. I can hit him up at midnight or 5 AM and he’ll either pick up or get back to me ASAP. His phone goes off like a bomb, so for him to get back to everyone is very impressive in itself. I feel like he is one of the most relevant people in the marijuana space today for a lot of different reasons and I have always felt like this would be a strong, long-term partnership.
As far as Jungle Boys, I’ve always respected what they’ve done in L.A. Ivan’s a workaholic, as most of us are. I just felt like it was the closest fit for two of the best cannabis companies in the country. We do certain things very well, they do certain things amazingly. I just felt that marrying those two relationships together could really do something special.
Let’s talk about the differences between Vegas weed and Cali weed, from a business standpoint, a cultivation standpoint, even a product standpoint.
Ivan: People in California have been around cannabis for a long time. Medical has been around a long time. Our shop has been open for 11 years. Eleven years in the business, trends change, connoisseurs like different things. OG strains have always been big in Cali. My take on it was, everyone has OG’s, I want to bring back all of these flavors. Northern California was always about the flavors. They always had the bomb OG’s, but they always had different flavors.
Ivan of Jungle Boys
I kind of took what they were doing in the Bay, but I wanted to do the same thing in L.A. I ended up kind of just changing the game down there, where in today’s market, the OG’s aren’t as popular as they were three years ago. Literally 90 percent of the market was OG strains, with maybe a jar of Blue Dream and a jar of Green Crack. Whereas you walk into TLC today, and you see 50 different flavors and maybe three or four OGs. They’re always there if people want them. They’re fire, but the new stuff out there has better terpenes, it’s returning way more. It’s an easier plant to grow, because it’s not as finicky.
The Vegas market doesn’t come with all of the diseases or the pests that everyone has spread all over the place all of these years in California, where these guys don’t know what they are doing. A lot of Cali growers are spraying all of these harmful pesticides all over these plants and the plants are sick and they come with mold and diseases.
We’re not having to deal with any of that stuff because we are controlling our own genetics. We’re not going to go and grow some plant that tests positive for Eagle 20 or something that we didn’t even spray on the plant. The guy who had it before sprayed that and now it stayed in the plant for six months. That’s serious shit. You’re talking a half of a year with a plant under a light, and there is still poison inside of it. At the end of the day people are lighting that on fire?
But this is kind of California’s fault and the regulation’s fault in the government, because they didn’t do anything with it. They let it pass and they never regulated it, they didn’t do the proper testing, they never gave the proper licenses.
One other thing that we’ve been talking about this weekend are the THC percentages. At the end of the day, until all of these labs are equal, under the same guidelines and threshold, THC percentages from a lab, in my opinion, are bullshit. Unless it’s the same lab across the state and you can take each sample to every single one of those labs and it’s all going to test exactly the same, there are too many variables. From the handling of it, to their procedures, to the machines they use and all of the stuff. So if we’re testing cannabis at 28% THC and then they go and test it and it’s 19%, something is wrong.
Berner: California weed and Vegas weed, the difference is that Vegas is brand new in the weed space. As far as the weed itself, it’s kind of hard to say the difference, because California’s market has been there for so long. It is more educated, the growers have been growing for so much longer. People growing in Nevada is relatively new. As far as the market, in my opinion, people in Nevada and other rec states are trying to buy strictly based on the THC content that they see. That’s just not the case. Californians are educated, we know good weed by the smell, the texture, the trichomes on the outside, just by bag appeal and by touching and feeling it. For years, you’ve been able to go into a dispensary and grab the bud and really see if that’s what you want.
Matthew Morgan: A lot of them wouldn’t even have the THC content, you wouldn’t even know what it was.
Berner: In California, you don’t see it when you go into a store, no one’s really putting that up. A few people do, like Jungle Boys. But in the majority of the stores, you are just grabbing a bud and smelling it. In Vegas and other rec markets people are looking strictly at the THC content. Me, personally, I am a firm believer that the THC doesn’t really matter if it’s good weed. There’s so much more that goes into the weed than just the THC. I think that’s going to be a challenge, but we want to educate people to the fact that there is a lot more to weed than just the THC.
Ivan: I hear this all the time, “Do you have any strains that test 35% THC?” I’m like “Stop it.” If that’s what you are looking for, you’re not a real connoisseur. You’re not a real smoker.
Berner: You’re not looking for taste, smell, or style of high, you’re just looking at a number.
Ivan: That’s like going out on the weekend and saying 'I want 99 percent alcohol.'
Matthew Morgan of Reef Dispensaries
Matthew Morgan: High level, California has much more quality top tier bud. I equate that to the fact that the industry has been around for over 20 years. People have been cultivating on a decent size scale here in Nevada since, what, 2016? So there’s a lot of catching up to do.
The people in California are much more connoisseur based. They base their decisions on many different factors, whereas in Nevada its based mainly off of THC content. Labs in Nevada have actually trained the consumer to buy off of THC content. It’s madness. We have a term that we refer to a lot — the entourage effect — which includes the terpenes and all of these things working together in the cannabis plant that you are consuming, that determine the affect it has on you.
Ivan: You could have 100 different strains all just based on terpenes and THC. They could be from the same exact mother and father, but they are all a little bit different. It’s definitely a window that people need to open up and look into, because I think a lot of consumers get stuck on that THC percentage. All of us collectively are coming together and have agreed to educate people on this.
"The Strawberry Shortcake is phenomenal. I hide it from myself."
We could grow 100 of our strains to all test 30% THC, but we don’t because there is stuff out there that is better. Like the Sundae Driver is some of the best tasting cannabis that I’ve ever had in my life. You know what I mean? It doesn’t even taste real. All of the stuff that we are growing with Reef, nobody has ever grown that before or seen varieties like that. This is an exciting time to release all of this cannabis to the people, because they are going to smoke some of the most amazing cannabis they’ve ever had in their lives.
Berner: I’ve seen Ivan turn down more deals than anyone in the world. I’ve been there through some of the craziest deals and watched him turn them down. So the fact that he allowed me to partner with him for Exotikz is huge. We just want to make sure that people come to Las Vegas you get to experience some of the best cannabis, that’s it. As an herb head and a connoisseur, I want to see every big market have access to this style of flower. Personally we can’t set it up in each market ourselves, so this is the perfect chance to display what the world should be getting.
Matthew Morgan: And Vegas is known for having the biggest, the best, the most extravagant of everything.
Berner: And everybody comes to Vegas, so this is a way that our brand can be seen by everybody in the recreational market. There will be people from Alaska, Norway, Japan, they are all going to be able to smoke Exotikz weed, so it’s honestly the coolest shit ever.
Mike Pizzo: Berner, what are some of your favorite Exotikz genetics that are growing in Nevada at Reef?
Berner, creator of Exotikz
Berner: The Strawberry Shortcake is phenomenal. I hide it from myself. Legit, I’ll stash an ounce jar, and I will hide it in my room. One day I’ll be cleaning my house and I’ll find it and I’ll thank God. The Sundae Driver is like a blueberry Eggo with some exotic strawberry syrup on it, it smells and tastes so crazy. There are just too many to name but these are the ones that I am excited about because I don’t get my hands on them that much. The Mimosa, the Pie Hoe, the Lemonade pheno is one my favorites that is very nice, with the Fruit Roll-up swag on it. There’s a lot of good stuff.
Ivan: All of that, the same stuff that Berner mentioned. The Shortcake, the Sundae Driver, the Wedding Cake, all of that stuff. I’m really excited for everyone to get to try them.
Berner: You’re fresh off of the plane from Tokyo, it’s not allowed there, but you’re in Vegas, you’ve never smoked weed, and you’re going to go to Reef and experience the best tasting shit you’ve ever tasted in your life. That’s dope.
Mike Pizzo: Berner, on an unrelated note, what kind of projects can we look for from you on the music side?
Berner: Hella projects. Me and Styles P just dropped the Vibes album. Me and Young Dolph have an EP that will be dropping in late August, and me and Wiz Khalifa have a full album done called From Seed to Sale that will be dropping on Christmas. That will be coming with a crazy drop at TLC and possibly at Reef in Las Vegas if we can get it done in time. With the album we’re going to be dropping a limited amount of extract flower and a vinyl. The album is called From Seed to Sale, meaning from the breeding, to the growing, to putting it on the shelf, to making extracts, we have our hands in all of that. We want to drop a limited seed pack, a limited run of flowers, a new strain for Wiz, some extracts, and some merch with it that is going to be super-limited. Vegas might have 1000 of these VIP packages, LA might have 1000, people are definitely going to have to get in line. Cheech and Chong dropped the album with the rolling papers, this is the updated version of that.
Photography by Shane O’Neal
Visit Reef Dispensaries’ Las Vegas Strip location at 10 AM on Sunday, September 24th, 2017 for the Exotikz / Jungle Boys tasting event, where the new strains will be available in limited quantities. Keep an eye on ReefDispensaries.com for more details.
This article was originally published on Medium, and produced in partnership with Reef Dispensaries.