Seated around a glowing-green studio set with suits, ties, mics and headphones, the crew of Cannabis Talk 101 could easily be preparing to anchor the news on CNN, MSNBC or Sports Center. Addressing a nationwide audience from under the spotlight every Wednesday night are Chris “Blue” Wright and his co-hosts, the Pot Brothers at Law (Craig and Marc Wasserman) and Joe Grande. And when they face the camera and hit the airwaves, cannabis always takes center stage.
“Hello, and welcome to Cannabis Talk 101, the first FM-radio show dedicated to cannabis!” Wright announces, his voice filling the studio.
Since 2015, the radio show and YouTube series have helped to put OC’s growing medical-marijuana industry on the map. Broadcasting via KOCI-FM 101.5 in Costa Mesa, Wright and company are on a mission to teach you everything they know about ganja, diving headfirst into topics ranging from financing cannabis and CBD businesses to current cannabis legislation and city ordinances, plus a dab or two of stoner humor. And they’ve brought in guests ranging from ex-Trump adviser Roger Stone and the Reverend Al Sharpton to rapper 2Chainz and Don Magic Juan.
“Instead of it being just a stoner-friendly, comedy-type show, I said it would be with attorneys that would help with legal information and educate people,” Wright says. “I think that’s what our country needs right now.”
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Though Cannabis Talk 101 is currently one of KOCI’s most popular FM-radio shows, it wasn’t an easy sell when Wright proposed the idea several years ago. At the time, the station passed on it because of FCC concerns and the fact that no one had ever done a cannabis-related radio show before. But when the green rush hit, he was asked to proceed. “It was a no-brainer for me,” Wright says. “My whole life was about cannabis.”
“Which means he was selling dope,” Grande jokes.
“Allegedly,” Wright replies with a smirk.
Originally, Wright partnered with cannabis attorney Chris Glew not only for the radio show. Unfortunately, the two failed to come to a solid partnership agreement and parted ways before things really got started. After their partnership ended, Wright established the Cannabis Talk Network, which hosts seminars and workshops designed to get beginners, venture capitalists and small-business owners baptized in the industry by starting their own weed-related businesses.
During his split with Glew, Wright reached out to the Pot Brothers at Law to draft a dissolution agreement, but he also wound up working with them on the show. Not only did they have a combined 52 years of legal experience dealing with criminal defense and cannabis-related cases, but they also had the right personalities for the job—not to mention the wardrobe.
On any given day, Marc Wasserman walks into the studio dressed to the nines in a fresh-from-court three-piece suit and his trusty weed medallion. As an actor and screenwriter who used law as a way to pay for his film projects, he’s the ham of the group. His older brother, Craig, is a bit more surly and cynical and often sports a chain that says, “BOMB” (probably in reference to the joint he smoked that morning courtesy of West Coast Cure, a dispensary co-founded by his son, Jerett).
The primary motivation for the Wasserman brothers to focus on cannabis law was to protect Jerett from racking up felonies after being arrested on several occasions for possession of marijuana. After Jerett tried his hand at selling cannabis at 19 years old, Marc told his nephew it was a good idea to have a solid defense mounted should he get robbed or rousted by police, both of which had happened in the past. “I said, ‘If you’re gonna commit felonies, you need to have a defense, and this is how you need to do it,’ so that’s really why we became proficient at it,” Marc says. “[The business] was a perfect merger for me and my brother in terms of our separate practices.”
Since deciding to formally come out of the green closet, they’ve found their niche in an expanding cannabis market. And for their marketing plan, they came up with the simplest advice they could think of: “Shut the Fuck Up!” And that has helped to make them a viral success on social media, with more than 300,000 followers on Instagram.
When prompted, Craig busts out the brief, get-out-of-jail-free mantra with deadpan bravado: ‘“Officer, why did you pull me over?’”
Upon any questioning, you should say, “I’m not discussing my day” or “Am I being detained, or am I free to go?”
If detained you say, “I invoke the Fifth [Amendment].”
The Pot Brothers have landed a number of big cases in their career, including one that currently involves the California Highway Patrol and a cannabis-delivery service that it took $257,000 from during a search and seizure.
Though it’s been proven countless times through their winning record of cannabis-possession cases and the testimonials from callers who talk about their experiences on the show, the Cannabis Talk 101 co-hosts don’t always agree on each other’s methods.
“As a person of color, you’re so afraid—if I don’t cooperate, you’re still gonna beat the shit out of me with a baton. It’s fear-based,” says Grande, sitting next to the Pot Brothers in the KOCI studio. Though typically a smiling, gregarious presence, he’s not afraid to give his honest opinion.
“Keep that fear, but do what we say,” Marc says.
“Easier said than done,” Grande replies. “I agree with you, but it’s not easy!”
Despite being sober for 20 years and abstaining from smoking cannabis, Grande’s input from the perspective of a person of color is a valuable asset to the group. He’s worked in radio for years, including as a member of Big Boy’s Neighborhood at Power 106 and with Ryan Seacrest at KIIS-FM 102.7, so he’s used to communicating with urban audiences in the hip-hop community who, by and large, say they aren’t very trusting of cops. “I feel like I’m the people’s voice as well, coming from the minority point of view, and I’m gonna stick up for the minorities and say, ‘No, that’s not how it is,’” Grande says. “I’ve been punked out there by cops for smoking a joint and seen my neighbors get fucked up by police.”
He had taken a hiatus from radio to focus on other projects and ended up in his current job, vice president of sales for Merchant Club of America, a credit-and-debit-processing tool for professionals in the cannabis industry. After he was invited as a guest on Cannabis Talk 101 last year, he was inspired to get back into radio and wanted to help the show succeed by using his experience. Wright later gave him a slot as a co-host, though the first show he did he was totally on his own.
“They asked me to come back, and I was planning to co-host with the three of them, and all of them bailed on the show that week,” Grande says, as the rest of the guys bust up laughing. “I’d never met the guests, and I did the whole show by myself, and after that, all the guys were like, ‘Welcome to the team!’”
Wright’s ultimate goal for the show was to create a respected educational platform that gives the hosts an avenue to talk about their experiences and connect with listeners who call from all over the country. As someone who made it in the cannabis industry, Wright wants to share the wisdom that helped him get out of the trenches of his family business. “There came a point when I said, ‘I don’t wanna sell weed anymore,’” he says. “‘I don’t wanna be handling bags of weed.’”
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The dingy, backyard grow houses and seedy dispensaries where Wright initially learned about the weed game is a far cry from where he sits now, in a corner office with a view through large windows of planes streaking into the sky from John Wayne Airport. The ritzy Newport Beach business park that houses law firms, tax accountants and corporate offices is now home to Cannabis Talk Network, the company Wright built from the ground up four years ago. Despite being constantly on the go with speaking engagements, business meetings and the radio show, he pointedly takes the time every now and then to appreciate how far he’s come.
“I’m on tour right now. . . . I’m in Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta—first-class flights, the whole thing. And I’ve created it myself,” Wright says, looking at a white board full of scribbled bookings for seminar and speaking dates.
Cannabis Talk Network currently hosts a variety of seminars and workshops in the 29 states where weed is legalized. The goal is to teach everyone from young upstarts to multimillionaires how to grab the reins of their destiny as cannabis entrepreneurs. Hint: If you think that destiny includes growing pot, you’re probably wrong. “I have to tell most people, ‘You’re not gonna be a grower, buddy. Let’s be honest, you don’t know nothing about it, you haven’t been growing all your life, and it sucks. It’s a lotta work,’” Wright says.
Part of changing the perception of the cannabis industry is helping people to realize all the aspects there are to this growing industry, including packaging plants, tax accountants, graphic designers, etc. This is where most successful cannabis careers will be made.
“During the gold rush, it wasn’t the people panning for gold who made all the money,” Wright explains. “It was the people who sold ’em the picks and shovels who made the money.”
However, Wright doesn’t let people forget that today’s cannabis industry was built on the backs of yesterday’s outlaws, including his family.
The second-generation weed grower and distributor grew up in a household where cannabis was a lifeline. His father and uncles taught him everything he knows. There were buds in the back yard and usually a spent roach in the ashtray left behind by his dad. Being involved from a young age made him different than his friends in Downey and, later, Placentia, where he attended El Dorado High School.
“Sometimes, kids who would come over to my house would mention it to their parents, and they’d tell their kids not to hang out with me ‘’cuz his parents are drug dealers,’” Wright says. “My dad was always selling weed with my uncles and shit, so I wanted to do the same thing. So I did, too . . . allegedly.”
He also had a passion for music, and with a shaved head, tattoos and G-funk bravado, Wright made a name for himself as a rapper with the local group Imperial Assassins (a nod to Imperial Boulevard). In an era before big-budget hip-hop videos and social media, he was rocking stages and gaining fans; he eventually inked a deal with Death Row Records and toured alongside legends such as Kurupt, Westside Connection, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
By the mid 2000s, gangsta rap was on the decline, so he changed his style completely, opting to jump on the party-rock train spearheaded by popular acts such as LMFAO. He changed the group’s name to Imperial Stars and started cranking out FM-friendly pop. It wasn’t his proudest moment, but he and his band mates earned infamy when they pulled an epic publicity stunt by parking a semi-truck with their name plastered on it in the middle of the 101 freeway, causing a traffic jam that extended for miles. Their motive, he says, was to raise awareness for child homelessness in LA. The exposure and getting arrested on live TV didn’t hurt, either. “I wanted to get exposure for my music; I wanted to do whatever it takes to make it,” Wright says. “If you did that now you’d go viral as fuck.”
Though he never really made a living with music, he depended on cannabis as an entrepreneur. He owned dispensaries and gained (and lost) money in the family business, but in 2006, as his father was dying of cancer, he decided to make a change. From his deathbed, Wright’s father told him that if he was going to stay in the weed industry, he should figure out how to make a legal living with cannabis. “He said, ‘Son, we’ve been in this industry for a long time and made enough money to be good, but you need to do it right and stop hiding,’” Wright recalls. “That’s when I decided to come out of the green closet. I wanted to be a rock star. I knew I was going to get there; I just didn’t know I was gonna get there doing this.”
It took years, but now, he says, he has a stable business, with clients ranging from multimillionaires to first-time business owners who are paying top dollar for the knowledge and resources he can provide.
On his smart phone, he opens up a livestream video of a packed seminar in Arlington, Texas. One of his reps is talking to an entry-level group of students looking to get started in one of the company’s long-term teaching and mentoring programs. Much like a carnival barker, the rep shouts to the packed conference room, “How excited are you guys about cannabis?!”
The crowd’s screams are deafening.
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Though Cannabis Talk 101 offers weekly hot takes and funny segments such as “When Cannabis Goes Bad,” there have been a few times when the crew had their own newsworthy mishaps. One time, a car backed into a fire hydrant outside their former studio in Orange. The water rocketed to the top of the two-story building and landed on the roof, which collapsed, flooding the place and destroying all of their radio equipment. “Four thousand gallons of water went through our building,” Wright recalls, shaking his head in disbelief. “We had an 8,000-square-foot facility, and when that happened, the city of Orange condemned the building because the water damage was so bad. We had to move to a new place.”
But they were back on the air by their usual time on Wednesday, never once missing a show.
Part of the glue holding the show together are producer Mark Karnes and digital-media manager Jennifer Carrasco, who does all the editing, web design and videography. “It’s a pleasure working with these guys,” Carrasco says. “I learn a lot from working with them, and they all bring their own vibe to the show.”
Carrasco started as an intern, and now, she oversees interns. While she’s filming Cannabis Talk 101 for YouTube, she’s also doing live Instagram videos of the guys debating the state of cannabis. For example, during a recent episode, Craig and Grande were talking about regulation of the cannabis black market.
Craig, a proponent of California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2020 (CCHI), wants to remove all criminal penal code penalties for illegal marijuana dispensaries.
“Wouldn’t you think a better solution would be that Gavin Newsom spends his money and time going after the illegal shops that are just pop-ups and going after those who are doing this, selling it and not paying the taxes?” Grande asks him.
“No, because those people want to get into the market but aren’t allowed to because of the over-regulation,” Craig responds. “I hate to say this, and I might get some backlash, but the majority of people whose backs this industry was built on are the ones precluded from getting spaces because they didn’t have a $100 million fund to buy up property.”
“It ain’t poor me, though,” Wright interjects. “Because I’m the guy that started from zero that has a little stash and put myself in a position to make money in this industry—that’s their own fault. But I’m also the guy that believes that the black market is thriving right now, and it’s on purpose. I know some lowkey people that are out there with a licensed facility, still moving product in the street.”
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Nothing Wright has accomplished in his decades-long career in the cannabis industry could’ve prepared him for the day he caught one of his own sons getting high.
The father of two had given him and his younger brother $100 to get some food with his friends. Though they were gone for a while, Wright’s sons didn’t come back with any food.
“I asked for my change, and they said they didn’t have it, and I was getting mad at my younger son, who was acting more suspicious,” he says.
After a few minutes of interrogation, one of their friends broke down, saying to Wright’s son, “Just tell him.”
“Tell me what?” Wright asked. “Did you lose it? Give it to your girlfriend?”
But when Wright looked into the red eyes of his stumbling, mumbling teenage son, he found the answer. “You’re high, aren’t you?!” Wright asked angrily.
Wright brought his son and their friends to the kitchen table and demanded they put whatever they bought to get stoned on the table immediately. “I said, ‘Listen, guys, I think you guys are high,’” he says. “‘Wherever the cannabis is, bring it to my table right now or else I’m calling all of your parents. You got 5 minutes.’”
He then left the kitchen to give the boys time to ’fess up. “I walked into my room and sat down for a second and was thinking, ‘How do I handle this?’ I’m in the marijuana industry,” Wright says. “I was doing it at that age, and I was just happy they didn’t get it from me. I thought they found their way into my stash.”
When Wright returned to the kitchen, a small jar of weed was waiting on the table. “I looked at what they put down,” Wright recalls, “and I said, ‘Is this what [you] guys bought?! You got robbed!’”
He took the jar and gave them what he considers to be his most important cannabis talk to date. “I explained to them, ‘You guys are too young for this; wait till you’re 21 to make these kinds of decisions.’ I told them it’s not okay to smoke in our home or get high—‘Right now, I’m not giving you permission to do that.’” To his knowledge, neither of his sons has gotten high since that day.
But his main concern is making sure people know that advocating for weed and abusing it are two separate things. “Too much of anything is bad,” he says. “I’m pro-cannabis, but I’m not ignorant about it. I run a company, but people don’t get high all day. I’ve gotten rid of people who show up to work high.”
Through all his journeys and reinventions, he realized that what gives him value as a person is being at home with his sons, on the air with the crew of Cannabis Talk 101, or bringing his knowledge to the masses.
“I’ve grown, re-educated myself—the way I talk, the way I look. I’ve focused on being an entrepreneur. I’ve got children who look up to me, and when I look at them, they need to know daddy’s doing something right,” Wright says. “It’s not about selling weed and hustling—that game’s old. Was there a day for that? Of course there was . . . allegedly.”