Jim Belushi likes to smoke cigars. He's often seen chomping on one during scenes of his Discovery series, Growing Belushi. The second episode of Season 2 drops Wednesday night.
You'd figure the cigars would be stuffed with the premium cannabis grown on Belushi's Farm in Medford, OR. They're not. They're Cubans.
It's my first question in our Zoom inteview because he's sitting their holding a stogie.
"No, it’s not a blunt," Beluishi tells me, laughing.
But then he gets serious.
"I didn’t want the show to be a stoner show where you’re seeing people get high all the time or goofy. There have been a few failed comedies that have been put there trying to represent our industry where they just had a bunch of burned-out stoners because they thought that’s funny. I think that put a bad taste in the audience’s mouth about our industry. So, I wanted to show a more realistic look at growing and the cannabis industry. You’re not allowed to get high when ou’re working. I didn’t want to find the comedy through that. With the exception of earlier in my career, I don’t drink on camera. I think there’s kind of a responsibility thing involved with it too."
"California’s a hot mess. I don’t know if I even want to go there with my brand."
But he does eat cannabis on camera in Episode 2 when Guy Fieri visits the farm and they make an infused ice cream.
Belushi, 67, reminds me that he "showed how to smoke a vape pen and smoked that" in a Season 1 episode in 2020. "It was instructional and had purpose and integrity. I just want to keep everything about our industry honest and with integrity and show this is a real business, with real testing, with agriculturalists who really care about the plant and care about the consumer and are trying to build confidence in cannabis."
He breaks off 2.5 mg pieces of Bhang or Glazed cannabis chocolates before going to bed or after a day's work "if there's a lot of anxiety." Belushi particularly enjoys his 19% THC Cherry Pie strain. "For me, one hit is like having a glass of wine or two."
In Season 2, we watch as Belushi and his team re-outfit the farm with light-dep greenhouses. The goal is to have 100 pounds ready to deliver to Nectar in Portland. The previous couple of grow seasons were marred by pests, rain, mold and nearby wildfires.
"It’s a commodity that goes up and down, depending on weather, fires, a bad rain, a lot of mold," he explains. "It’s farming! Two seasons ago everybody lost 35% easily to mold. They had a big mold problem this year too."
"The message from all the celebrities should be that cannabis is a medicine and pathway to healing. That’s the journey I’m on."
The result has been wide fluctuations in wholesale prices. "This is my second downturn," Belushi notes. "It went down to people selling for $350 a pound, $600 a pound, the industry’s over and the farms are going to close down and quit. Then it came back. It got up to $2,200 a pound I was selling in July. Now, there's the glut and the illicit market in California is flooding Oregon with illicit autoflower weed. It hit rock bottom six weeks ago and now I’m finding it climbing a little bit."
Belushi's concerned about legacy farmers giving up on legal cultivation and going back to the illicit market.
"California’s a hot mess," he grimaces. "I don’t know if I even want to go there with my brand. The margins of profit suck in California. The farmers, the guys in the hills in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, were lured out. 'Are you sure?' they asked. 'Yeah.' They come out and they have to pay $5,000 for a license and now the counties dictate the water usage. All of a sudden, they’ve got five different organizations on their property blocking so many things. They have to pay lawyers. They’re going broke. 'Screw you, we’re going back to the illegal market.' That’s what’s happening."
Belushi is pouring thousands of doillars into his farm and has no other investors, he says - it's just him.
"I've just got to do what’s in front of me and explore and heighten," he says. "As an improvisational actor, our study is exploring moments and heightening them. What’s this in front of me and how can we make that bigger, how can we do that? So, it just kind of led me this way."
As a celebrity, Belushi has a bigger reach than most entering the cannabis trade. He believes he stands out because he's a grower and not just another famous person selling pot.
"Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson aren’t growers like I am," Belushi says. "But I do think they’re great advocates for cannabis. They have a relationship with the plant that runs very deep. Somehow it’s got to be medical for them. They’re like the pioneers. But the true pioneers are the ones who are sitting in jail still today for being arrested for either carrying or selling three pounds of cannabis. They’re the ones that we need to get out of prison because we're making a living, and not a very good one, of selling this when they’ve gone to jail for it. The more celebrities step out, it normalizes cannabis more as a medicine. The message from all the celebrities should be that cannabis is a medicine and pathway to healing. That’s the journey I’m on."