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MzJill: The Expert Cannabis Cultivator Putting Patients First

We caught up with infamous grower MzJill to talk cannabis genetics, growing in Oregon and the burgeoning legal cannabis industry.

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MzJill
PHOTO | MzJill
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If anyone can be considered a cannabis superwoman, it’s MzJill. She began growing cannabis twenty years ago as a single mom with three kids. Now, after trudging through the dark ages of cannabis prohibition, she’s pioneered two game-changing cannabis genetics companies and has helped patients across the west coast find long-awaited moments of peace.

We caught up with the infamous grower to talk cannabis genetics, growing in Oregon and the burgeoning newly-legal cannabis industry.

Meet MzJill

Her first major venture was TGA Genetics. Active until 2017, MzJill and TGA earned their fair share of media attention — High Times featured TGA strains on numerous occasions over the past decade. She was also the first female breeder to do so.

Now, at MzJill Genetics, she’s continuing to craft some of the best cannabis cultivars on the market.

Yet, unlike many who enter into the cannabis game, starting a strain revolution wasn’t what MzJill had in mind when she began growing. “I originally started as a means to provide my own medicine for my scoliosis,” she told us. It didn’t take long, however, before her green thumb began to show its color.

Growing Medicine

“I started helping other people. That’s what really got me going,” explains MzJill. “I had some other patients that were in need of meds, that weren’t as able to grow, or understand how to make cannabis cookies, medicated cookies, or edibles.”

In fact, it was through helping a patient, a woman with multiple sclerosis that needed help setting up a garden, that MzJill developed her first two award-winning strains, Agent Orange and Jilly Bean. Agent Orange was created in honor of MzJill’s father, a Vietnam veteran who developed cancer after being exposed to the toxic herbicide.

MzJill received an Orange Velvet clone through her patient, a plant which then became the mother of her two top-performing cultivars. Orange Velvet itself features a smooth and creamy quality, a subtle and familiar flavor that was passed on to both Agent Orange and Jilly Bean. The flavor and crystal-coated appearance of these plants, however, are not the features that set these plants apart.

MzJill has a history of crafting the perfect plant for a patient in need.

“A lot of people are growing for flavor, for terpenes for concentrates,” MzJill said. “While I still really focus on the flavor of the cannabis, I also want to make sure that I have the medicinal qualities that can help other people.”

The Brian Berry line offers the perfect example. The line, masterfully bred by MzJill Moser Seeds, features eight distinct strains. While these plants can feature impressive yields and many feature a gorgeous purple-tipped coloration, the plants themselves were developed with a different intention in mind: to create truly high-quality medical cannabis.

“The line was named after my friend, Brian Damewood, that passed from ALS [a neurodegenerative diesase]. He was actually able to smoke the very first flower that came from the original Brian Berry Cough three days before he passed.”

Although, MzJill was quick to point out that finding the right plant for a patient’s specific needs is no easy feat. “You can have one strain that can be absolutely fantastic medicine for one person,” she begins, “and the next person can get anxiety or depression from it.”

“So, every strain is not going to be suited for every person. You always have to look and find out what is going to work best for your symptoms and needs.”

Cannabis for Patients First

Given the standout personalities of strains like Black Cherry Soda, Jilly Bean, and Brian Berry, MzJill certainly knows how to create exotic concoctions that work. Yet, selling seeds is only one part of what this experienced breeder actually does.

“We put a lot of love and care into it,” says MzJill. “We don’t just want to rush through it. We take the time to make sure that we are getting the very best female and using her in the cross, and that’s really what we have to do.”

“People are just rushing into it,” she continues, “they’re throwing plants together and not taking the time to stabilize the line. You know, you have a patient and they buy a pack of seeds and they get 10 completely different plants, that’s not very helpful for them.”

Considering that MzJill grew her first plant in 1997, she certainly is the person to ask about expert cannabis cultivation. MzJill got her start when the plant was still illegal in the state of Oregon, although medical cannabis was legalized in the state in 1998. Still, it was a time when cannabis-consuming women faced a real threat of having their children taken away if they were caught cultivating the herb. In many states, this threat is still very real.

Given the high risks, you have to really love what you’re doing to continue. With the big boom in the industry after legalization, however, the community around medical cannabis has changed.

“Now, you have a lot of people who are fresh out of college or a lot of people with a large amount of money who want to invest, and they’re not getting into it for the right reasons,” says MzJill. “They are seeing money signs, they don’t care about the patient. They don’t care about the people who were pioneers of the industry, so I feel that it had more heart before.”

Luckily for patients and cannasseurs alike, MzJill isn’t getting out of the game anytime soon. She and her business partner, Moser Seeds, have several new lines in the making. “We are going to continue to expand,” she says.

“We are working now on the Jilly Bean line, which will have a minimum of five different specific flavors. They will all be Jilly Bean line, for example, Urkle crossed with Jilly Bean will be a Grape Jilly Bean. We are also working on feminized lines, there are quite a lot of new ladies in our library that we are working with.”

In the meantime, MzJill’s advice for new growers in the industry? “If you have a garden, if you’re a successful grower, find one person that you help on a regular basis, and stick with them.”

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New Odor-Proof Bags Will Keep Your Stash Safe & Stylish

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Higher Standards x Revelry

Cannabis carryalls have come a long way. Continued advancement in smell-prevention technology has created a new breed of odor-proof bags. Just in time for 420, two of the cool kid brands have just launched a collection of form-meets-function travel bags to keep your stash safe.

The Higher Standards x Revelry collection fuses East Coast style with the West Coast spirit of adventure. Each odor-proof bag in the collection is made with Revelry’s signature three-layered carbon filtration system of activated charcoal and synthetic filters that soak up all unwanted smells.

The collab showcases minimalist design with maximum technicality across four odor-proof bags — a fanny pack; zip pouch; dopp kit and backpack. Additionally, the bags are waterproof, made from lightweight fabrics with heavy-duty rubber backing, and seal shut with double-lined zippers.

Higher Standards x Revelry collection is available now in stores and online.

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The Highly Anticipated Collab Between Bllrdr x G Pen Has Dropped

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Bllrdr x G Pen
Noah “40” Shebib with the new G Pen Dash | PHOTO Mark Blinch

G Pen has partnered with Bllrdr to introduce a new collaboration, an exclusive co-branded global line of G Pen advanced technology vaporizers, starting with the Bllrdr x G Pen Dash.

This collab integrates new cannabis products from Bllrdr with G Pen’s proprietary innovative technologies and hardware, to make for even more brand diversity of the popular G Pen vaporizers.

Helping to both elevate and advance the cannabis experience, the two companies have a shared history of innovation, something that is set to continue with each brand to bring sought-after collaborations to the market.

Bllrdr x G Pen
Noah “40” Shebib grinds his iconic Afghani BullriderPhoto by Mark Blinch

Bllrdr is a Toronto-based cannabis brand founded by Noah “40” Shebib, a Grammy award-winning producer, and Jef Tek, a legendary cultivator. The brand is known for its extensive market-leading cannabis genetics and small-batch production, developing rare and special cut strains.

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Shebib discovered the benefits of using the Afghani Bullrider cultivar. Tek’s late wife, medical marijuana activist Michelle Rainey, who suffered from Crohn’s disease and cancer, also found the strain offered relief from her symptoms.

G Pen, known for championing and celebrating the connection between consumption and art, is thrilled to partner with Bllrdr, Canada’s best new lifestyle cannabis brand, supporting its people and their mission.

“I’ve known Noah since the early stages of G Pen,” says G Pen CEO and founder Chris Folkerts, “and this partnership brings it full circle.”

“It’s an honor to be a part of the launch of the most highly-anticipated and unique genetics in the Ontario market.”

Bllrdr x G Pen
Noah “40” Shebib at his studio in Toronto with the new G Pen Dash | PHOTO Mark Blinch

Now, the two brands plan to bring sought-after collaborations to the market increasing the brand diversity of the popular G Pen vaporizers by integrating new cannabis products from Bllrdr with G Pen’s proprietary innovative technologies and hardware.

This first release from the G Pen x Bllrdr Collection is well-timed, with the launch of Bllrdr’s highly anticipated Afghani Bullrider strain — considered as one of the rarest genetics on the market — now officially available on the Ontario Cannabis Store. And just like Afghani Bullrider, the Bllrdr x G Pen Dash delivers satisfying and flavorful results.

The Bllrdr x G Pen Dash is now available in select Ontario retailers and on bllrdrco.co.

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5 Tips for Owning and Operating Successful Cannabis Dispensaries

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Cannabis Dispensaries
PHOTOS | Shiny Bud

The cannabis retail landscape has changed. Once regarded as somewhat of a novelty, legalization has allowed cannabis dispensaries to evolve into modern and innovative retail storefronts more akin to an Apple Store than the dark, secretive spaces they used to be. Some, like Shiny Bud, are proving to be leaders in the space, setting an exemplary standard of a contemporary cannabis retail experience.

Shiny Bud is one of Canada’s most successful dispensary chains. They pride themselves on offering customers a premium experience from the moment they enter, from a contemporary and inviting store design to highly trained staff, and of course, premium products.

Co-founder Alex Ledesma joined the cannabis industry when the Canadian government passed the Cannabis Act in 2018. She comes from a forward-thinking family of entrepreneurs, so the move to cannabis was an obvious next step.

“I saw an opportunity to be part of something big in Canada’s history, so we started following the industry, and applied for an application,” said Ledesma. 

Shiny Bud opened its first dispensary in Toronto on February 14. Fast forward only a few months, and the company has opened the doors to its fifth location in a small town called Orleans, just outside of Ottawa.

“We have a pretty aggressive rollout,” said Ledesma. “Coming from a quick-service industry, we’re quite comfortable with builds and finding locations. We took our expertise from that and put it into cannabis. And it’s all completely within the family.”

Shiny Bud was awarded 75 dispensary licenses by the Canadian government. The company’s expansion plans include two more Ontario store openings this year, bringing the total number of store openings to seven. And they have no plans to slow down.

“We should be hitting 30 stores by the end of 2021. And we’re planning on maxing out to 75 stores allocated. When we stop to think about it, it can take our breath away.”

The constant march forward of legalization has created an ever-growing interest in dispensary ownership. Below, Ledesma offers up five pieces of advice for those looking to enter the cannabis game.

1. Have a Well-Trained Team That’s Focused on Customer Experience 

As the industry is still so young, formal education in cannabis is still relatively scarce amongst prospective employees. For Shiny Bud, this presents an opportunity to reinforce one of their most important business objectives: provide cannabis education and training for their budtenders to pass on to their customers.

“Education is everything because the industry’s so new,” Ledesma said. “We truly believe that we’re an industry where we need to listen to our guests. This is one of the first things we teach our budtenders, along with providing a safe and educational experience for our customers in-store.” 

For many customers, the biggest value in going to a dispensary is learning which products are best suited for a specific condition or effect, whether they’re seasoned cannabis consumers or newly curious. 

“The goal for budtenders at Shiny Bud is to ensure customers are choosing the right product for them to provide a safe experience both in-store and at home,” Ledesma said.

2. Create a Guest Centric Environment 

This goes without saying, but customer service is critical to the success of any retail operation. Ledesma attributes Shiny Bud’s success to the brand’s core vision of providing a “fast and friendly cannabis retail destination.”

“We strive to offer our customers a unique and memorable experience — this has stayed with us since day one,” Ledesma said. “When you walk into any of our Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries, they’re bright, they’re big, and there’s a lot of education. The budtenders are dressed uniformly, and there’s personality — it’s not what people expect.”

Watching the change in customer demographic has been encouraging to Ledesma, who notes the increase in the 60+ demographic looking to add cannabis to their health and wellness, whether it be recreational, or to aid with a specific ailment.

“As a disclaimer, we always have to tell them that we’re not doctors and we can’t give them medical advice, so to start low and go slow,” Ledesma said. “It’s nice to see people like my mom, my dad, and grandparents come through the door, because you also know you’re helping break down the stigma.”

Cannabis Dispensaries
Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries are bright and clean, with plenty of quality products and customer education opportunities.

3. Stock the Best Inventory 

With so many quality products now available, choosing which ones to bring to Shiny Bud is quite a lengthy process. 

“We carry out a lot of research in terms of what’s new or trending, and what our customers are looking for in each location,” Ledesma said. “I wish I knew consumers’ buying preferences before our initial order was placed. We ended up buying too much!”

“We also use recommendations from our team members, our budtenders, and our customers. A lot of times we bring in representatives of the licensed producers to educate our budtenders about the products we’re selling.”

The three most popular purchases across three Shiny Bud locations are dried flower, vapes, and pre-rolls. “Our most frequently asked question is, ‘what is your highest THC or CBD?’” Ledesma said.

4. Have a Great Location  

The age-old proverb of “location, location, location” rings true in the cannabis industry, too. Finding the right real estate is arguably the most important part of retail success. Plus, because of the industry’s prohibition history and the nature of the products being sold, it’s important to find understanding landlords.

“Initially, landlords have said to us, ‘absolutely not, we will not entertain the idea of having a cannabis retailer here,’ so I invite them to take a look at one of our dispensaries so they can see the vision of what and who we are as a company and as an industry.”

5. Ensure Your Cannabis Dispensaries Connect with the Community 

Dispensaries are already major focal points in their communities. For Ledesma, giving back and helping break down old stigmas related to cannabis is a top priority. 

Shiny Bud is in the process of launching a collaboration with Tsaichedelic to create a line of tie-dyed tees and other merchandise. The proceeds will go towards supporting Cannabis Amnesty projects, like providing legal counsel to get those with criminal records over minor cannabis charges expunged. 

“Being a woman and a person of color in the cannabis space, I really believe in the fact that it needs to be the same playing fields for everybody,” Ledesma said. “Teaming up with Cannabis Amnesty just felt right.”

With the regulated cannabis market still so new, it’s important that business owners are able to adapt to changes and weather the ever-changing landscape of cannabis and the regulations.  

“It’s ever-changing, so we’re constantly learning and growing from it,” Ledesma said. “Regulations are always changing, so being fluid helps a lot.”

Look for Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries in Canada and keep an eye out for their expansion into America in 2021.

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