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A 4/20 chat with ex-Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura about his new cannabis brand (and Led Zeppelin)

This interview first appeared in Nuggets, the Star Tribune’s weekly email newsletter about legal cannabis in Minnesota. You can subscribe to Nuggets at startribune.com/nuggets.

As the 38th governor of Minnesota, former mayor of Brooklyn Park, actor, author and ex-professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura is undoubtedly Minnesota’s best-known cannabis advocate and enthusiast. He recently announced his new cannabis brand – Jesse Ventura Farms, a collaboration with Brooklyn Center-based hemp-derived THC edibles maker Retro Bakery – which will offer a variety of THC-infused chocolates and gummies. The brand will officially launch Saturday with a 4/20 event at Hook & Ladder Theater and Zen Arcade in Minneapolis.

Nuggets spoke with Ventura earlier this week while traveling by car with his son Tyrel, who is head of branding for Jesse Ventura Farms; his wife, Terry; and the brand’s chief creative officer, Tabetha Wallace. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You’ve told the story many times, but can you briefly share for our readers how you became a cannabis advocate?

Jesse Ventura: What really made me focus on cannabis for a large part of my life is the fact that it gave me my life back because the First Lady, Terry Ventura, started having an epileptic seizure and the pharmaceutical industry failed to find a solution. thing. We went to the doctors and they gave her four different medications: anti-seizure medications. None of them worked. In desperation, we drove to Colorado, where the ban had been lifted, and we were given drops illegally under the tongue. At that point she took the drops and has never had another attack since. Then it finally became legal in Minnesota, so she was eligible to get it here. And she has been using cannabis ever since and remains seizure-free. I don’t want any family to go through what we went through. It should be easily available to people. In fact, I have stated that the people who have banned cannabis should put them in jail.

Can you tell me about Jesse Ventura Farms? What is this new venture of yours?

JV: What it is is that we’re getting into the cannabis industry here in Minnesota now that it’s no longer against the law. I do, you might say, the same thing Willie Nelson, the singer, does. Years ago I was a Miller Lite all-star, pushing Miller light beer: “light beer, less filling, tastes great.” All that kind of stuff. I was also a spokesperson for Minnesota Brewing, Pig’s Eye and Grain Belt and all that. Now that I’ve made the switch, I believe cannabis is much safer and much better than alcohol, so I’m going to promote cannabis using a Minnesota company – all grown in Minnesota, all done in Minnesota, to promote Minnesota. We are very excited about all this.

How did you come into contact with Retro Bakery?

JV: When the laws changed and we realized that the opportunity was now there for the cannabis industry to grow and expand and become normal in Minnesota, we – my son and his three partners, it wasn’t really me, they made it happen . They are real Ventura Farms. I am the figurehead. I am the name, but they are the brains behind the force. So they went on and founded –

Tyrel Ventura: I can tell that part of the story. When Jesse announced he wanted to put his name on a Minnesota business when it was legalized (in August 2023), we started meeting all the businesses already based here and Retro Bakery really rose to the top. They really wanted Jesse. They are located in Brooklyn Center, so right next to the city where he was mayor. It’s a great, multicultural, diverse company. They have a great product and we really gelled. There was a great synergy between the two groups and that is why we chose them.

Governor, do you play a role in making these products? Are you involved in the choice of the type of product or flavor?

JV: Well, I definitely taste them all. If my name is on it, I’ll try the different flavors. I think we have six or eight flavors of gummies. My wife personally doesn’t like gummies. Not even cannabis, not any kind of gummy. They’re kind of like eating Dots, you know? Things you used to get at the cinema.

What does your wife prefer?

JV: I can’t answer that right now, I would have to ask her.

Terry Ventura: I like chocolate.

JV: She likes chocolate. She shouted from the backseat that she liked the chocolate.

Thank you. Do you have a favorite flavor or product from this line?

JV: No not really. Unfortunately, I can’t eat chocolate today due to health reasons. I am limited; I have to deny myself the best tasting chocolate cannabis you will ever taste. That’s the hard part about it. Not being able to eat it.

Tyrel Ventura: You liked the Maui Wowie (gummies).

JV: I liked the Maui Wowie.

Do you see your brand expanding into the flower or concentrate market as cannabis licenses become available?

JV: Absolute. We are going to expand into every aspect of the cannabis market. I am a great believer. My friend is Tommy Chong, from Cheech and Chong. Tommy is a very smart man, believe it or not, don’t go by what he does in the movies. Tommy told me unequivocally that they are making a mistake when they categorize cannabis into medicinal and recreational. He tells me the whole plant is medicinal. Those who smoke it for the euphoric feeling do it for mental health. Like you post-traumatic stress guys, and stuff like that. They do it for mental health. The entire plant is therefore a medical plant.

Your launch party for Jesse Ventura Farms is coming up on April 20th at the Hook & Ladder in Minneapolis. I understand you will be there. What’s going to happen there?

JV: I’m going to take pictures and meet people and we’re going to launch the party. We have an invite for a few celebrities who will be in town for something else. We told them that if they want that, they have to come over. It’s exciting to launch our company and let Minnesota know that cannabis in Minnesota is alive and well – that there are businesses here that are grown in Minnesota, produced in Minnesota, and promoted in Minnesota. That’s the most important thing I want to do: as the 38th governor of Minnesota, I’m promoting a Minnesota company here. Keep the money in Minnesota.

Are there any legislative changes you would like to see made to cannabis law in Minnesota, this session or in the future?

JV: I would like to see cannabis treated the same as alcohol. What I mean by that is they don’t restrict you from going to the liquor store, right? You can walk in there with your American Express card and clean out the store and fill up half a tank if you want. But my point is: treat cannabis the same way. Don’t make demands just because it’s cannabis that somehow makes alcohol more acceptable.

If you can’t eat gummies or chocolates, what’s your favorite way to consume cannabis?

JV: I can eat gummies, I just can’t eat chocolate. I can’t eat ketchup or chocolate anymore. I can eat ketchup as long as it has salt in it. Heinz makes salt-free ketchup. You will receive training in nutrition.

Tyrel Ventura: But you vape.

JV: I usually take most of my cannabis by vape.

Do you remember the first time you tried marijuana?

JV: Yes, it was right at the end of my senior year of high school. 1969.

Can you tell us something about that experience?

JV: My boyfriend’s parents were leaving town and leaving the house for us for the weekend. His brother went to the University of Minnesota, and bad things happen when you have brothers at the University. He happened to bring home some marijuana. He rolled it into a joint and we smoked it. I remember the first time I smoked it, we were just all your typical kids drinking beer and booze and whatever we could get our hands on. I took my first hit of marijuana and I remember turning to my friends and saying, “To hell with drinking, this is way better.” But then I joined the US Navy, and of course you can’t exactly use marijuana there on a regular basis. Although they didn’t test for drugs back then.

Did you still consume while in the Navy?

JV: Once or twice. I did it when I saw Jimi Hendrix.

Where have you seen Jimi Hendrix?

JV: San Diego, July 28, 1970. I even know the date. That’s how important Jimi Hendrix is. (Ed. note: The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed in San Diego on July 25, 1970, according to jimihendrix.com.)

Doubtless.

JV: I did a few too when I saw Led Zeppelin in ’72.

Oh yeah, where was that?

JV: San Diego.

Were you based in San Diego?

JV: Yeah, and what was good about Zeppelin was that our pot was so good that when we got to the ground floor and it was time to leave, we looked at the arena and the steps looked like a stairway to heaven.

Nice.

JV: (Laughing.) You can see I’m having fun with you.

I can appreciate. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

JV: Just to let them know that cannabis, that the genie is out of the bottle now, and to start educating yourself about it legitimately – to not believe all these stories you’ve heard about the ‘war on drugs’ quote and all the things that entails. continue with that. This is a medical product. This is a product that could benefit millions of people and we have worked for years to destroy it. Now finally, in the year, here we are, 2024. Come on. It took us so long. So my message to people is: get to know yourself and then make a decision about things.