When Jim Belushi talks about cannabis things can get intense. Over our brief half-hour chat, one thing became abundantly clear: His passion for the plant is undeniable. Belushi truly loves weed. This is probably why one conversation is all it took to convince Live Nation’s CEO Michael Rapino to put up the money for the actor, comedian, and cannabis farmer’s new three-part docu-series on Discovery Channel, Growing Belushi.
“I told Michael Rapino this idea and in eight minutes he stood up, shook my hand, and said, ‘how much money do you need?’” Belushi tells me. “I’m just so grateful for this guy to believe in this project.” Growing Belushi follows the Blues Brother on his quest from Los Angeles to Southern Oregon (where Belushi has spent the last few years growing a cannabis empire) to the mountains of Columbia on a quest for the Santa Marta Gold Strain, an elusive high terpene strain of land raised weed. Throughout the series, Belushi attempts to shed cannabis in a different light than it has been shown. And while Belushi is always funny, his new series couldn’t be further from a typical stoner comedy.
The reality of cannabis legalization, even the dark sides, isn’t lost on him. This is why in between touring with the Blues Brothers, making movies in Hollywood, and growing pot on the farm, Belushi spends his time on the board of the Last Prisoners Project. The organization helps people who are serving 15 to 20-year prison sentences for cannabis possession.
“Michael Thompson in Michigan had three pounds of marijuana on him. He served 25 years for pot and now he’s in the hospital with COVID!” Belushi continues, “while we’re selling it on the street. The injustice of it!” It’s this depth of interest, from the healing powers to the business side of things, to the injustices left unaddressed that make Jim Belushi such a fascinating and vital voice in the cannabis space.
Ahead of Growing Belushi‘s third and final episode, airing this Wednesday, September 2nd, we chopped it up with Jim on all things weed, including what he looks for in a strain, Growing Belushi, what made him want to become a cannabis farmer, and why always looking for the highest THC content isn’t always the smartest way to shop for bud.
So what exactly are we getting into with Growing Belushi?
It’s called Growing Belushi. It’s not called “Growing Pot.” So there are three things going on here. First, It’s very informative and educational content about the safety of marijuana, the growing of marijuana, the testing of marijuana, the medical benefits of marijuana, and the use of marijuana — explaining the CBD, THC, terpene contents. What is in a vape pen? What is the oil? Whether its full spectrum or distillate. How to smoke it. How to buy it. The second thing is the actual agricultural farming business of growing cannabis as well as the industry of growing cannabis and selling it.
Finally, there is another section about my personal growth through following this marvelous plant. About my own PTSD and how it has helped me cope with things. And of course, the fourth thing is, it’s funny! But it’s not a stoner show. It’s not like people are getting high in this. It’s not like anyone is smoking pot like “I’m reeeeally high, man!” It’s cool. It’s very real.
So you’re trying to show cannabis in a new light?
Right, a different light than it’s been shown. They’ve done comedies where it’s just stoners and dispensaries. I’m trying to show it in the light of what it’s like for those of us in the industry.
You’ve left Hollywood to spend more time on your Oregon farm. What made you decide to make that change?
Well, I wouldn’t consider it a change because I’m still in the Hollywood scene. I’m still an actor. I still do the Blues Brothers with Danny. I do an improvisational group with Larry Joe Campbell, and we travel all over the country. I still do movies, TV, and now with the show, I’ve kind of married that world with the farming world.
What have you learned living the farm life, and what made you decide to grow cannabis in the first place?
Well, I had a friend who lived down the river in Oregon. His children are the same age as my children, and they all went to school together in Los Angeles. He had this huge ranch on the Rogue River and he used to invite our family up in the spring and fall. And my god, we had so much fun in that southern Oregon area. It was just so gorgeous, and it was a great family experience. One time, I went into the river skinny dipping, and I came out and it was like a baptism. I talked to the ranch manager, I said “Are you familiar with property around here?” And he said, “I’m from here!” And I go “I think I want to start looking for property” and he found this old Elk’s picnic grounds with 1,800 feet on the river, which is very unusual. There’s a long story there, but I eventually got it.
I’ve been reworking it for years. I built a house there, and then the farm behind me came up. My neighbor Becca, who I loved deeply like a sister, she passed and she wanted me to have it so I bought it from her. So I had another 80 acres of ag-land, and I thought, “I don’t know what to do with it? Raise cattle, grow alfalfa?” Cannabis became legal that year, so I said “Hey! It’s the new agriculture!”
So Danny Akroyd introduced me to Captain Jack and another guy I knew, Jeffrey Iverson. I brought them to the farm and we started growing their plants. Captain Jack used to be the weed dealer for SNL in the early ’70s.
What strains are you growing on the farm?
Well, he’s got one. He had seeds from the bottom of the Kush Mountains that he got in 1971 or ’72. He brought those back and grew them from seeds to flower and that was the strain he used to give to the smokers on Saturday Night Live. He was known as “The smell of SNL.” It was the most creative, old school weed, and it is just really fun and great medicine. I think they wrote a lot of sketches on that stuff because it really is fun stuff.
He has a strain called Gulzar Afghanica. I have a strain called Cherry Pie, which is my favorite. It’s got about an 18-19 percent THC, two percent, maybe 1.5 percent CBD. But, it’s got about three percent terpenes. So it has a real nice entourage effect.
For me, it’s mild. I use it as a microdose just to chill me out instead of beer or whiskey or wine. I call it the “Marriage Counselor.” I came downstairs one day and my wife was like “Are you hungry?” And I said “Yeah, let’s go out to eat. Where do you want to go? What do you want to eat? Maybe some cheeseburgers?” She said, “eeeh, that’s a little heavy for me, anything else?” I said, “How about some sushi?” “Eeeeh, I had sushi last night with my mom. Anything else?” I said, “How about that natural food place?” She goes “Eeeh, Cilantro Cilantro Cilantro? They put cilantro on everything!” I said, “What are you wasting my time for?! You know damn well we’re going to go where you want to eat what you want to eat!”
The next night, I take a little hit off the Cherry Pie and I come downstairs and she says “Are you hungry?” I go “Yeah!” She says “Where do you want to go?” I say “Baby, we can go to Taco Bell as long as you’re sitting across from me.” And she goes “Wow, aren’t you charming?” And I say “Am I?” So I call Cherry Pie the Marriage Counselor.
I’ve also got Black Diamond OG. I go to a lot of dispensaries myself. I deliver it. I talk to people. I make personal appearances. I meet a lot of people and this is really where my education comes from. I met a veteran who said he was a medic in Iraq. He said “I saw things happen to the human body that no one should ever see. I have PTSD. I can’t talk to my wife. I can’t talk to my children. And I can’t sleep. I won’t take that medicine that they give me. Your strain, Black Diamond OG is the only strain that puts me in a place where I can relate to my family and I can sleep” and he kind of teared up and he hugged me. And I said “Hey man, I didn’t make this” and he said, “No but you’re the steward.”
That’s when everything really changed for me, that moment with that man. Then it really did become about medicine for me, because the more dispensaries I’ve visited, the more veterans I’ve met in wheelchairs who say the Black Diamond helps them with their nerve spasms. I’ve met women who’ve had 85 bones broken in their body from car accidents and got off of opioids and use this as medicine, and they’re just so grateful to the medicine. I hear story after story of the beauty of what this plant is doing and I believe that there is a way to put a dent into this opioid crisis with cannabis.
I believe that if my brother John was a pothead he’d be alive today. I really believe that.
What makes a good strain of cannabis to you?
There are so many different strains out there, it’s like wine. But with cannabis, there are also so many different effects, so it really depends on what you’re looking for. A lot of people look for it to sleep. A lot of pf people look for it for pain. A lot of people look for it to go to a concert and enjoy the way it enhances the music. The way that Cannabis helps with Alzheimer’s, headaches, PTSD, seizures, arthritic pain, it also enhances the sound of music. It vibrates the taste of food. It stimulates creativity. It enhances the touch of your lover’s skin. But it also brings joy, euphoria, good feelings, generosity of spirit. All of that is the wellness of cannabis.
So when you ask me what I like? I like the Cherry Pie. I like a lower THC with higher terpenes. I think the entourage effect gets rid of the possibility of anxiety or anxiousness. I’m functional on it. I can talk. I’m a little more charming a little more forgiving. I can sleep. I microdose, I take one little hit. I’m not a guy who is blowing joints, but other people do and that’s their thing.
But for me, that’s what I like. I have five or six other strains, like the Blue Dragon. That’s a lower THC and more of a Sativa. But then I got a thing called Chocolate Hashberry that I won’t go near because it’ll knock your ass on the couch. I got a Bubble Mint that if you smoke too much of it it’s almost like mescaline for Christ’s sake. There is a Lemon Chiffon Cake that will knock you out. I only smoke about two or three strains of my own that I grow because of what I like.
Do you have a preferred method of consumption? Smoking, edibles, vapors?
I like to take one little hit off a joint. But I really like the edibles now. There is this company, Bhang Chocolate, that I’m starting to work with that I like. I’m also growing chocolate in Oregon with another great chocolate company. I like to take two-and-a-half mg. It really helps me sleep. Five mg is most dosages, which is like a warm hug. Dut depending on the THC level in your body, you can take up to 10 or 15 mg. I prefer just a little edible, and a little hit off a joint.
Vape Pens, they’re getting so much better now. I’m releasing a Captain Jack Vape Pen through Select Curaleaf in Oregon. We’re making it right now. 300 pounds of Captain Jack that we’re making into a full spectrum vape pen that releases in September. The terpene values in it are great, the entourage in the full spectrum is better, and it lasts longer. Maybe an hour or an hour and twenty minutes. The distillate is like a 20-40 minute bump which is really great for management, but I go more toward the full spectrum.
Now, they’re doing live resin vape pens, which I’m curious about. But it’s important that people find what works for them. For all the novices, I always recommend 2.5 mg of chocolate, or I start them off on a CBD. I like chocolate better than gummies. I just believe the fats in the chocolate blend together in the THC better, go through your liver better. I feel like the gummies have too much sugar in it. There is sugar in the chocolate too, but I don’t know, for some reason, I feel like I get too high with the gummies.
I took one to bed and in my dream, it was like an Ayahuasca journey, fireworks, and these lights and it looked like there was this carnival with a Ferris wheel and I was in my dream going, “Man, you’re high!” But with the chocolate, I don’t experience that at all, I just experience my body relaxing and drifting off to sleep, and I just have a very nice sleep.
I love talking about this shit, Dane. You’ve got me going!
I hear for some time you’ve been looking for the Santa Marta Gold Strain. What’s that all about?
Well, we have great hope for it. There is a problem with the land-raised strains. They’re classically lower in THC, but that’s okay because the Terpene levels are so great. You can get higher on a 15 percent THC joint with the right terpenes than you can with a 23-28 percent THC. But the marketplace demands higher THC levels, which doesn’t make sense!
You drink a bottle of wine at 14 percent, you still get high. You like the taste. You like the feeling. You don’t want to drink white lightning at 100 percent alcohol. It’s just you can’t convince the consumer, and the retailer is stuck because they get a higher price for a higher THC.
So the Santa Marta Gold, we’re growing right now and I’m curious about the THC level. But I have great hopes for it.
Keeping Cannabis affordable is something you’re very passionate about. Why is that accessibility so important?
Well, Dan Aykroyd and I are doing the Blues Brother and it’s a working man’s thing. Blues Brothers are musicians and they’re working men. He came up with the Blues Brothers Working Man’s brand because 53 percent of the consumers of cannabis are working people. It’s important to keep the medicine for them affordable.
These veterans aren’t making a lot of money. They’re hurting, and you want them to get their medicine. College students, you want them to have their medicine. And it’s medicine! I really believe that, Dane. There was this woman on the street in Portland that I watched for three nights walking across the street because I was having a cigar at night. And one night she screamed, nobody was around her, it was a little thing, walking with a plastic bag of oversized sweatsuits that she must’ve gotten from a homeless center. But she screamed so loud on the third night it was like she took a knife in the belly. Nobody was around. And I thought to myself “god, if I could just get her an edible, maybe it would stop the screaming.” I started thinking, “you know what? We are all screaming inside.”
Whatever trauma we’ve experienced, whether it’s divorce, or severe illness, or death in the family, or losing a job, or even right now during this time, people are screaming in their bodies with worry and loss of control. Most of us find a way to manage it, and the people on the street have lost their management. So I’m trying to figure out a way to get cannabis to these people, and I do have a program I’m starting in Portland, but I can’t talk about it yet.
My point is, we all need the medicine to help our screaming. Some people go get a beer or a whiskey, or some people over-exercise or over-work, everybody chooses something to help them with their management. And cannabis, I believe, is the safest, most organic, most spiritual, forgiving generous medicine we can use. Forget Xanax and Valium. Ambien, which will get you to sleep, but man it makes you weird. All this shit goes through your liver or sits in your brain. But cannabis is just so sweet and generous.