Today, as Jerry Garcia’s namesake cannabis brand debuts, the beloved, late Grateful Dead frontman — who along with his bandmates was demonized for decades for drug use — would have been 78. And he would be in awe of how far the marijuana movement has come.
“He would be so excited. So proud. And [that it’s] like [saying] a big f@#* you to the man,” shared Trixie Garcia, Jerry’s daughter and spokesperson for the Garcia family, in an exclusive phone interview. “When Nixon attacked the anti-war protestors by making the drug war happen — we know that the stereotypes were artificially implanted against long hair hippies, pot smokers, and Black people. We won’t stand for that anymore. We want to uplift the stereotypes and heal some of those wounds. We’ve always worked to create a society that we want to be a part of, and are a part of, instead of being outcast from.”
It was Trixie who first revealed plans for Garcia Hand Picked (GHP) last December during opening night of the Home for the Holidays shows celebrating Jerry at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. It was five years and many meetings within the legal cannabis industry in the making. Countless companies vied for such a coveted collaboration. The decision on Holistic Industries as its official cultivation and distribution collaborator was up to the Garcia family — comprised of Trixie, Jerry’s ex-wife Carolyn Garcia (aka “Mountain Girl” and author of the 1977 book Primo Plant: Growing Marijuana Outdoors), daughter Annabelle Walker and step-daughter Sunshine Kesey.
Based in Washington D.C., Holistic Industries is one of the leading private, vertically integrated MSOs (multi-state cannabis operators) in the U.S. spanning California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.
For CEO Josh Genderson, who founded Holistic in 2011, the opportunity to develop GHP with the Garcia family was kismet. A self-described Deadhead, as is the majority of Holistic’s senior leadership team, he had turned down every licensing opportunity that had come his way. He changed his tune after a chance meeting with Red Light Management about Genderson’s advocacy for cannabis vending at concerts. Red Light happened to have Jerry Garcia’s estate as a client.
“Growing up and still to this day, my main hobby is live music and that hobby really was cultivated by the Dead and the [jam band] scene that came out of the Dead,” Genderson shared with me during a recent phone interview. “I’m 36 so I missed the boat [of seeing Jerry live], but my whole world changed when I listened to the Europe ’72 album when I was 15 or 16 — it just blew my mind.”
Aligning with a corporate cannabis team full of Deadheads was a major deciding factor for the Garcia family. The band’s legions of loyal and longtime fans are known to speak out against anything they decide is disingenuous — the news of GHP included.
“It’s always risky,” admitted Trixie, now 46. “Like, people are going to say, ‘Oh man. They’re exploiting Jerry again.’ No. That’s [our family’s] number one thing — don’t offend the fans. Don’t offend the people that Jerry means so much to. That’s the worst thing we’d ever want to do, so we lead with that always.”
“I think the difference between us and any other cannabis business of our size — we have more than 500 employees now — is the way we got here,” said Genderson. “We built the company very purposefully and passionately and culture is so important. We had the reach and the capital to really do this right. We also had the desire to make GHP super authentic. The last thing in the world we ever wanted to do was have a kitschy celebrity brand.”
Amid an ever-expanding marketplace of celebrity-backed cannabis brands (Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart’s Mind Your Head included), Holistic’s chief marketing officer Kyle Barich likened GHP’s launch to filling a missing fourth spot on the “Mount Rushmore of Weed.”
“If Snoop and Bob Marley and Willie Nelson already have [cannabis] brands — Jerry was the only one missing without one,” explained Barich of the earliest inspiration for GHP. “If there’s anyone who is forebearer of cannabis culture, who raised consciousness about marijuana in the United States — and beyond — Jerry is on the top of that list.”
Jerry himself first got high as a teenager. As he recalled to Rolling Stone in 1972: “I was 15 when I got turned on to marijuana. Finally there was marijuana: Wow! Marijuana! Me and a friend of mine went up into the hills with two joints, the San Francisco foothills, and smoked these joints and just got so high and laughed and roared and went skipping down the streets doing funny things and just having a helluva time.”
Every aspect of GHP was carefully curated by the Garcia family “to create an inspired cannabis experience that’s spontaneous, harmonious and can bring people together in the way only Jerry could.” Holistic and the Garcia family worked together — beginning with a dedicated “Jerry Day” at Holistic’s headquarters — in identifying and selecting old school strains that were Shakedown Street favorites as well as new genetics passed down from life on tour. Strains available at launch include Chemdog (Sativa), SFV OG (Indica) and Fire OG (Hybrid), among others.
“We don’t probably have to convince you that the Grateful Dead still is relevant,” said Barich. “It’s incredible all these years later … 25 years after Jerry’s been gone. With John Mayer entering the scene and drawing this whole new crop of younger fans and all the fashion work being done — it’s amazing.”
Alix Kram, the VP and head of global retail and brand licensing at Warner Music Artist Services, which holds the Grateful Dead license and who worked with Nike and Chinatown Market on two buzzy drops, remarked last month in WSJ. Magazine, “Part of the way to keep the music in perpetuity is by touching the younger generation and right now the younger generation speaks through product … [if a shoe collaboration] touches one in every five and influences them to understand more about the music, then we’ve done our job.”
GHP is poised to connect multiple generations to the music far further and on a much deeper level through cannabis — even during a pandemic.
“We had plans to launch the brand earlier this summer during festival season with an exclusive concert, but due to COVID, we had to pivot to a safer experiential activation,” added Barich. “As we roll out the new brand in California, we will also debut ‘Bertha,’ a custom, COVID-friendly Airstream that will start touring dispensaries up and down the coast of California, filled with merchandise, music and magic.”
As for how Jerry might have handled seven months (and counting) without live music?
“I can imagine there would be software engineers working on some real time streaming so that he could remotely jam with someone on another continent,” reflected Trixie with a laugh. “He had that ability to detach, pop into the surreal, the magical, the mysterious, and be like, ‘Hey. Slough off all of the bullshit, and just be.’ He had those simple tricks of changing your perspective that can really change everything. We just want everyone to take Jerry home every night in the form of a nice joint and enjoy themselves. Man, what a trip.”
Garcia Hand Picked highlights:
• The “Garcia Hand Picked” name and logo pays tribute to Jerry’s iconographic hand — most of the musician’s right middle finger was lost in a wood splitting accident in 1946 while on vacation with his family in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
• GHP’s lead brand imagery was reimagined from a photograph taken of Jerry in front of the Great Pyramids in Egypt in 1978; it’s Trixie’s favorite image of her father.
• Trixie revealed that Jerry rarely smoked weed by himself, rather, “It was more of a social interaction; a joint became a bridge between him and those around him” so Holistic and the Garcia family put an emphasis on pre-roll packs. Eco-friendly packaging made from recycled paper comes with matches and a custom glass tip with Jerry’s handprint.
• The line of edibles, “Jerry’s Picks,” are gummies shaped like Jerry’s actual guitar picks.
• Each product is paired with a curated playlist of Jerry’s music that corresponds with each of the strains to bring out the best experience.
• Concert-like merchandise, including apparel and accessories with Jerry’s original artwork, the GHP logo and other limited-edition designs will also continually be released.
Holistic industries conducted a fan contest in September to hire a brand ambassador (aka tour bus driver) to take “Bertha” on the road in celebration of GHP’s release. GHP products will be available in select dispensaries in California starting in mid-November with plans to expand into additional states in 2021. For a list of initial stockists and to find “Bertha” in a city near you, visit garciahandpicked.com (sound on!).