I never took his advice and have been a marijuana activist for years, but I am also an American capitalist. It has always been my dream to end cannabis prohibition and make billions of dollars selling legal marijuana, to form a large marijuana conglomerate that will change our economy and the world. I?ve been planning this for years. On my limited budget, I sought out situations that would gain me free publicity for both my company and myself.
In 1993 I opened a bong retail store on Melrose Place in Los Angeles called 2000BC: The Stoned Age Hemp Shop, which I?m proud to say featured an amazing selection of glass in an era when there wasn?t a lot of great pieces around. The store centerpiece was Bong Canyon, inspired by Supai, Arizona. Supai is the only village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This remote settlement is inhabited by the Havasupai Indians, called ?Rastas of the Canyon? because they have a strange connection to the Rasta movement of Jamaica. Bob Marley was planning to visit the village just before his death, Rita and Ziggy eventually made it. I have had a love affair with Havasupai Indians and their land for most of my life.
While there in 1996, I had heard about a loophole in Arizona law that allowed marijuana to be sold legally with the purchase of marijuana tax stamps. The 1996 Super Bowl happened to be in Tempe, Arizona and it would be televised worldwide to over 750 million people. I decided that being there could bring huge exposure in exchange for what I perceived to be a small risk factor. I had purchased my business license in the name of my corporation 2000BC Inc. so I used company money to buy a quarter pound of OG Kush, which I called ?the Johnny Cottons? because they looked like little green cotton balls in the gram bags. I was going to the Super Bowl planning to gain publicity for the store and earn back my money. Other people were there to do the same thing. Richard Davis and his traveling Hemp Museum showed up, as did an activist named Ron Kizinsky. The night before the Super Bowl, Davis held a press conference on the local news about the museum and his marijuana concession stand. The journalists showed up to cover his press conference, but so did the police who promptly arrested him and seized his weed, his tax stamps, and the whole traveling museum. I, on the other hand, had individually bagged and stamped 100 separate grams of Johnny Cottons ready for sale ? no matter what. The last thing I was going to do was drive back to California with it! I showed up at the stadium an hour and a half before the game began and set the goal of being out of weed by start time. I set another goal: if I did get arrested, it was going to be in front of the world media; so I ran from camera to camera, hawking my bud in front of them hoping that if I got arrested that the tax stamp would make international news.
Glaucoma Jim of Arizona NORML joined me at the game with two of his medicinal marijuana-using friends: HIV Bob and Wheelchair Eddie. It was the three of us slinging bud to football fans on that hot January 28th afternoon in Arizona, 10 years ago. I was photographed and interviewed extensively by local and national media, and we sold all 100 grams at $20 a gram (I said I was a capitalist) by game time, and encountered no hassle with the police.
A long with my store in L.A., I was producing The Weed Show, a weekly cableaccess series in 1994. It was pretty remarkable. I filmed activists, gardeners of pot, even grow rooms. In 1995 I interviewed Dennis Peron at his thriving San Francisco Compassionate Caregivers Club, housed in a multi-story building. From 1995 to the end of 1996 when Proposition 215 came into effect (legalizing medical marijuana clubs) I dispensed medicine for about thirty people in L.A. whom Dennis had referred to me. In addition, I was serving a growing crowd of celebrity weed connoisseurs. Brad Pitt bought my premium glass pieces by Jerome Baker for friends and cast members but smoked with me out of a Honey Bear squeeze-bottle bong. I traded nugs with Kirsten Dunst at a restaurant, where we compared the merits of each other?s stash. Sometimes it is wonderful to be in L.A.
At 2000BC we called a bong a bong, and for that I got arrested. In America, you have to call these lovely glass artworks ?water pipes?. I filmed a commercial (directed by Peter Shore, Pauly?s brother) and it aired on local TV with customers coming up to the counter to ask me for bongs using euphemisms. To each customer I?d retort, ?Do you mean a BONG?? It was a great commercial, but it got me busted. Four cops came that summer of 1996 and all of them had mustaches and Hawaiian shirts. I was busted by Magnum P.I. look-alikes. They photographed the word ?bong? beside a marijuana leaf logo. This was their evidence, combined with my very successful and cheeky commercials. I told them ?We?re at a constitutional crisis here, guys. I bought plastic units, ?bongs? as I like to call them, ?water pipes? or whatever you want to call them, and under the First Amendment, I can call them whatever I want.? Seconds later, the cops had me in cuffs and put me in the waiting cruiser. I told them about hemp and the absurdity of prohibition. They reminded me I had the right to keep my mouth shut and that I should exercise that right, then looted my store of all the bongs and seized them. I was released and a judge acquitted me, but the police refused to return the thousands of dollars of seized merchandise so I had to sue the City of Los Angeles. The police were dumbfounded when they were ordered to return all my bongs.
2000BC continued to run until the end of 1999, when the landlord raised the rent prohibitively. The Weed Show ended in 1998 and in 2000 I split up with my wife. I took my three small children to a very pleasant 40-acre ranch in northeastern Arizona. There, I taught local Native Indians to blow glass pipes and bongs and distributed the pieces they made. This worked well until July 2003, when the ranch burned down and left me in desperate ruins. I decided this was my moment to try and parlay my experiences into some kind of media career. I started writing the book 9021GROW within a week of my ranch house being razed by fire, and three months later I finished the 600-page draft. At that time, it was a polemic on the worldwide implications of the suppression of hemp combined with personal experiences from my previous decade. After the first draft was done I edited for a year, realizing the focus would have to be narrowed down. When I had a paperback advance publication copy of my book in my hand, I heard from friends that a new show about marijuana dealing was being produced by Showtime. I wanted in on that. I thought my big opportunity in acting was right before me.
I have always wanted to be on television. In L.A. you have to act like celebrities aren?t important, but the town is obsessed with Hollywood. People talk about famous folks as if they are family and use first names as if they are best friends. To work in Hollywood is difficult. You need to have experience to get a job, but how do you get experience without a job? Most people know someone. There is a saying that, ?In Hollywood it?s all about who you know.? It?s true. And luckily for me, my good friend?s sister created Weeds for Showtime. My friend told his sister I was just finishing a new book called 9021GROW and that I was the ?famous guy? who sold legal pot at the Super Bowl, so she asked me if I would come in for a few hours and meet with the writers and producers of the show.
I?ve been doing the hemp and pot thing for years, but I haven?t really acted since high school. My only credentials for the meeting were my book, the recommendation of my friend, and the fact I had sold legal pot at the Super Bowl. To add credibility, I brought some empty containers of medical grade marijuana and several CraigX almond and chocolate bars. (Chris Bliss of the medical marijuana food Bliss Company named the CraigX bar after me.) This was my experience as a ?marijuana expert?. I wore a suit and my glasses to the meeting, adding a look of authority. Apparently the producers were impressed with my appearance because they pulled me aside into their private office and asked if I?d work as a professional advisor. Of course I agreed, and it was then I asked to be in the show. At the moment they loved me and they were in a great mood, so they said yes.
See, I once read that you?ll never get what you want unless you ask for it, and the worst someone can say is No. I also understood that the opportunity to speak with producers and writers doesn?t come around every day. Their time is very valuable, and it?s difficult to get meetings; if you do get one, it?s rare that they?ll actually listen to you. But I was a weed expert and these guys needed me ? or someone like me, and they were listening to what I had to say. I knew that I could act too. I was studying acting in high school at the same time as Johnny Silverman, Crispin Glover, Nicholas Cage and David Schwimmer; they all had decent careers as actors. I was also friendly with Lenny Kravitz, Silverman and Schwimmer, so I felt as if I could be a star if these guys were.
In the meeting with the writers and producers I was asked about the medical marijuana clubs, the impact they were having and the career path of pot growers. They asked me to write out what someone might say if the owner of a cannabis club greeted them. They then wrote a scene around some of these answers for a character named ?CraigX?. I thought I could be an integral part of the show, and I was pretty sure that I had the job. Immediately after the meeting, one of the producers called me and told me to come in for my audition. I thought, ?What audition? I?m playing CraigX. Who else are they going to get?? I thought they had named the character after me so I could play it without being a member of the Screen Actors Guild ? though I am a member now. So I showed up at the audition and there were two guys that looked like me, walked like me, talked like me; it was the Slim Shady of acting experiences. Thank God I got the job or I would have had to explain to everyone why someone else was playing me on television. I imagine one day a movie about my exploits in the pot business will be made and someone else will play me, but I wasn?t ready for being portrayed by a stranger just yet.
The day after the initial meeting, I was called by one of the writers for the show as he had been busted with weed the prior night. I wasn?t sure if it had really happened or if he was getting some free ?consulting? but I told him of my experiences and offered a bit of nonofficial legal advice, and asked if it was helpful. He really had been busted! At least I knew what to tell him.
Working in the biz is just that: work. You have to do the job well if you want to keep it. I felt confident about acting because I knew could do it, so started telling my friends that I was going to be part of Weeds. I thought I was going to be in at least five episodes or more. I was realistic about not being a ?star? overnight, but felt this could lead to other jobs. In fact, I?ve done three movies since then, and one is a stoner film, National Lampoon?s Totally Baked.
My character in Weeds, CraigX, is the Compassion Club owner. I only have one scene in season one, but more in season two. In actuality, I did own the first medical marijuana dispensary in L.A. after I had met Dennis Person, even before Proposition 215 passed in 1996. Playing the pot club owner for Weeds was not a stretch for me, but it is somewhat intimidating being on camera with big stars such as Kevin Nealon and Mary Louise Parker. People always ask me about Parker and Elizabeth Perkins. I never got to work with Perkins, although I did meet her when the whole cast got together around a giant table and read the final script for the producers and the network. Tonye Patano, the South Central weed dealer, was very nice and though we weren?t in the same scene I had lunch with her at craft services. Parker was great to work with. She was very generous, and when I messed up she didn?t make me feel bad.
Kevin Nealon was also cool to work with too. He was so funny, and improvised many of his lines. For example, he was supposed to ask me for pot in the club and the line used was, ?Got any of that Steven Hawking? I want to get wheeled out of here.? One line not used was ?Hey, got any Rush Limbaugh? Yeah, I want something that?ll make me stupid.? Kevin was cool in that he knew it was my first time acting professionally, so he asked me how it was going in a nice friendly way. ?You feeling nervous or are you okay?? I answered, ?I?m just trying to pretend as if everything is happening for real and that the cameras aren?t even here.? He looked me straight in the eyes, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ?Yes, that?s what they call acting, why don?t you keep it up,? winked and walked away. He was a chill guy to be working with for my first acting experience. I was a fan of his when he was on Saturday Night Live.
The director of my episode, Craig Zisk, let me make up a few of my own lines. When Kevin Nealon first walks into the club, in the script my line read, ?Hey, how are you doing Douglas?? Instead I said, ?Douglas, Que honda huevos?? which is Spanish slang for, ?What?s up dude?? I wanted to give it that L.A. feel; more than fifty percent of all people living in L.A. speak Spanish. I speak it fluently and so do many of my white friends, so we add it into our daily conversation as Spanglish, and I thought it was authentic for my character.
I was hoping to get in more episodes for season one because I was always asked for specific pot culture or cultivation information. Thankfully, Weeds has been renewed for a second season since we were the number one original show on Showtime. My character will be in at least two episodes, so I will continue consulting and acting in the sophomore season of Weeds, much to my delight!
? Craig Rubin?s new book 9021GROW is available at www.amazon.com He also has two web sites: CraigX.com and Hempinvestment.com Season One of Weeds will be available on DVD in April 2006. Season Two is being filmed from January to June 2006, and will premiere on Showtime (USA) in late summer 2006.