In the culturally diverse RiNo Arts District of Denver, Colorado, amongst the murals, sculptors and street art exists The Nug Nation, a remarkably creative production company that has dedicated itself to bringing cannabis to life — literally.
The Nug Nation is utilizing high-quality stop-motion animation to transform cannabis into walking, talking characters, or “Nugs” as they refer to them. Each character is named after a popular strain of cannabis like Sour Diesel, aka “Diesel,” Grand Daddy Purple, aka “Daddy” and Girl Scout Cookie, aka “Cookie.”
What started as a humorous and creative way to allow cannabis businesses to showcase brands and sponsor content without violating strict marketing bans in the industry, the good folks at The Nug Nation have carved out a unique niche in an ever-expanding and growing market.
Mikey Peterson, a seasoned filmmaker and Denver native, came up with the idea shortly after cannabis was legalized in Colorado in 2014. And although Peterson is the CEO and founder, he is quick to give credit to his entire team for their dedication and work ethic.
“I recognized the opportunity to bring comedy and cannabis together while creating something completely distinctive that didn’t focus on stoner humor,” said Peterson. “Because the landscape of consumers has changed significantly, we sought a way to reach a broader audience while providing a marketing tool to cannabis brands.”
The initial episodes of The Nug Nation show were created as short-format programs easily consumed on social media platforms and which often reflected current events. In The Nug Nation Episode 2: The Debate, which aired in August of 2016, the team expertly parodied the presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with hilarious results. This got the attention of BurnTV CEO Jason Santos, who quickly worked to bring The Nug Nation brand to their line up of programming.
“At BurnTV, we specialize in bringing a broad scope of cannabis and lifestyle entertainment to the masses and The Nug Nation show is the perfect fit for our brand,” said Santos. “Their uniqueness, quality and ability to bring the funny, without the obvious stoner humor, was a welcome addition to our line up. We look forward to partnering with them on future shows and building our brands together.”
As the show began to gain some traction, The Nug Nation expanded its offerings by creating “Potty Talk With Bong Burgundy,” a spin-off, interview-style show. One of the only non-cannabis strain inspired characters, Bong Burgundy became a fan favorite and since the team had access to some musical artists, the show was created. The first guest was the director, producer and MC legend Redman.
The interviews take place in a public restroom and can be, as the title suggests, somewhat offensive or incredibly funny, depending on your perspective. Since launching the initial episode in 2016, Bong Burgundy (voiced by Aaron Howell, a musician and vocalist in his own right as the frontman of MF Ruckus) has interviewed musical artists Nappy Roots, Scotty ATL, Jarren Benton and legendary Afroman for the series. Rittz was recently interviewed and his candid and amusing episode is scheduled to be released in 2020 on YouTube, social media and the company’s flagship site, thenugnation.com.
After enduring some funding obstacles in 2017, the team started pursuing sponsors and outside work with more enthusiasm, landing contracts with cannabis companies like General Cannabis, Dixie Brands, Chiefton and Salt Creek Hemp.
Startups are never easy, as the good folks at The Nug Nation certainly understand. But their luck would change in early 2019 when commissioned to create a music video for chart-topping artist Billy Ray Cyrus’ new song “Angel in my Pocket,” fittingly about smoking weed. With the assistance of mainstream producer Potsy Poncinelli, they were able to complete the project in spite of an almost impossible 10-day deadline. A job that should have taken two months was accomplished in just ten days by working around the clock shifts and securing additional staff.
In the first of its kind music video, BRC is literally turned into a character made of weed in the stop-motion animated video. In it, Billy Ray gets fired from his dead-end job at the local gas/convenience store before going on a Dukes of Hazzard inspired car jump into a hemp farm. Along with his trusty sidekick, a giant joint, the two battle in an old-west style brawl before they blast into space in a rocket before finding a peaceful place to land and smoke a joint.
With the momentum of the “Angel in my Pocket” music video, The Nug Nation has worked with several new brands to launch some new and exciting shows. Including Hempire, a smokers’ lifestyle brand who was one of the sponsors of the music video and eventually partnered with The Nug Nation to create the upcoming series Hemp 101.
“Hemp 101” is a stop-motion animated short-form social media series focusing on basic hemp education, with a comical twist. Topics range from the differences between hemp and cannabis to more traditional hemp applications. The host of the show will be an anamorphic “joint teacher” giving educational lessons in a classroom setting. Social media influencer and cannabis aficionado Izzy Blazee lends her voice as the teacher. The concept for the joint teacher was inspired by the Billy Ray music video in which his sidekick was a life-sized joint branded with the Hempire logo.
For their part, Hempire is optimistic about the shows’ potential. “Hempire is a sustainable smoke connoisseur lifestyle brand with the ambition of becoming the preferred hemp alternative in the dispensary and smoke shop channels,” said Nicolas Pettersson, Hempire Brand Manager at Swisher International. “The Nug Nation has been identified as a strategic partner to develop unique and engaging online content that speaks to our adult consumers. We are very excited to have The Nug Nation team on our side as we continue to grow our business nationwide.”
As The Nug Nation looks ahead, the future shines as brightly as terpenes on a nug. With several other shows in various stages of development, you can expect more collaborations with emerging and existing brands in the cannabis space and beyond.
Tyson 2.0 Launches New Mike Bites Cannabis Gummies
Nearly 25 years after he was disqualified from the World Boxing Association Heavyweight Championship for biting his opponent’s ears, Mike Tyson’s Tyson 2.0 cannabis brand has just released ear-shaped edibles, Mike Bites.
The new ear-shaped edibles are complete with a missing chunk where Tyson removed a portion of Evander Holyfield’s cartilage in what became known as The Bite Fight. After Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear, the 1997 match resumed. However, after attempting to snack on Holyfield’s second ear, Tyson was disqualified and his boxing licence was withdrawn. The Nevada State Athletic Commission handed Tyson a a $3 million fine for his actions and he didn’t fight again for over a year.
Wiz Khalifa Debuts New Taylor Gang x Stündenglass Collab
Wiz Khalifa and his entertainment company Taylor Gang Ent. have collaborated with Stündenglass, the world’s first gravity-powered infuser, to introduce the iconic gold and black Taylor Gang x Stündenglass.
“I’m honored to have collaborated with long time friend Wiz Khalifa, who is as passionate about this product as I am. Our mutual admiration for Stündenglass made it a natural collaboration,” Stündenglass CEO Chris Folkerts said via a press release.
Taylor Gang x Stündenglass is an authentic collaboration developed after the multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning, Golden Globe-nominated Khalifa discovered Stündenglass and began enjoying it regularly as seen on his Instagram.
“I love my Stündenglass, and I’m pumped everyone gets to experience this with me now,” Khalifa.
The infuser features a patented 360-degree gravity system that elicits a powerful and immersive experience. It generates kinetic motion activation via cascading water, opposing airflow technology and the natural force of gravity.
The Taylor Gang gravity bing comes in an exclusive black and gold colorway and features two glass globes on a metal base made of aircraft-grade aluminum, surgical grade stainless steel, and high-quality Teflon seals.
Taylor Gang includes artists Ty Dolla $ign, Juicy J, and Berner among others — the former of which has his own line Stündenglass collab with his Cookies brand.
“We’re very excited to launch the official Taylor Gang x Stündenglass. We use glass in our everyday lives, so it only made sense to team up and create an exclusive Taylor Gang collaboration for the fans,” Taylor Gang said.
No Super Bowl for Brock Ollie
With medicinal marijuana being legal in 37 states and recreational cannabis allowed in 18, we should be seeing commercials for companies, products, and services almost as frequently as commercials for sports betting, which is permitted in 30 states in some form.
However, mainstream cannabis advertising continues to be non-existent, as demonstrated in the recent news that NBC has rejected an ad by cannabis e-commerce and advertising platform Weedmaps from being shown during the Super Bowl LVI event his coming Sunday.
Weedmaps reportedly approached the network late last year about airing a Super Bowl commercial that would be “similar to a PSA,” according to reports. Execs volunteered to present some of their earlier educational-based programming, assuring NBC executives that it would not contain any direct-sell messages, which are still forbidden under federal law.
“The answer was a hard no — they wouldn’t even entertain the conversation,” Weedmaps Chief Operating Officer Juanjo Feijoo told Adweek. “We see ourselves as trying to be trailblazers in the industry and making new inroads where others haven’t gone before in cannabis advertising. So it was disappointing.”
The contentious ad personifies cannabis as Brock Ollie, a head of broccoli, the veggie emoji commonly used as a visual representation of cannabis in marketing. The 30-second ad takes viewers through a day in the life of Brock Ollie, whose superfood identity is in jeopardy as he is repeatedly misidentified as cannabis. The ad offers a lighthearted take on the industry’s issues, such as social media censorship and a lack of clear advertising standards, which limit cannabis-related commercials during nationally televised events like the Super Bowl.
“Despite three quarters of the country having legalized cannabis and the bipartisan enthusiasm we continue to see in support for change at the federal level, the industry continues to face roadblocks that inhibit competition in the legal market and stifle opportunities to educate,” Chris Beals, CEO of Weedmaps said. “There’s an irony in the fact that the biggest night for advertising will feature an array of consumer brands in regulated industries, from beverage alcohol to sports betting, yet legal cannabis retailers, brands and businesses have been boxed out.”
The game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will be played Sunday in L.A.