His Dog Days Over, Wilfred Star Gets Into The Pre-Roll Business
Jason Gann is either the least likely -- or perhaps most likely -- candidate to start a cannabis company.
As the creator and titular character of the comedy Wilfred, which won awards in his native Australia before being reimagined for a healthy run on American TV, Gann has spent a good part of his adult life walking around in a dog suit. On the other hand, as the bong-ripping lead of a quintessential “stoner comedy,” it was almost preordained that he make his mark in the industry.
In an exclusive interview with Green Entrepreneur, Gann talks about why he got into the business, what weed means to him, and the origin story of that canine costume.
Wilfred was always considered a stoner comedy. In fact, your character smoked quite a bit on the show. So, Wilfred pre-rolls seems like a natural next step. When did you come up with the idea for the business, and what made you think you could succeed?
Wilfred was a stoner comedy because I was a stoner when I did the comedy. I never set out to do a stoner comedy. I wasn't even aware that it was a genre. It was just that I was high when (co-creator) Adam Zwar told me about getting cock-blocked by his date's dog. It's a true story: He was on a date, they went back to her house, and there was a dog on the couch looking at him like, "What do you think you're doing?" I thought it was really funny, and we figured it had to be a short film or something. I wasn't trying to wave a banner for cannabis, though I've been using it and singing its praises for many years. But now, to live in a place where you have legal marijuana [California], I couldn't even imagine that. And then to be able to enter the industry, it feels like I've gotta do it. I mean, who gets famous putting on a dog suit? But doing the pre-rolls makes perfect sense. And win, lose or draw, I've already won, just by getting to do it.
What differentiates Wilfred pre-rolls from whatever specials any local dispensary is offering this week?
For starters, it’s a sun-grown, outdoor flower, and it's grown in the richest soil in Yolo County, California. When you think about the origins of pot growing, they had to go into the mountains to avoid being seen. But now we're in the richest farming regions, and they’re fourth-generation vegetable farmers. I mean, there are cannabis-based religions that think plants have souls and they're our partners, and I definitely believe that there’s such a thing as happy plants -- so having an outdoor flower is very important to me. And I searched extensively to find the right flower. I've been in analytics, in budgets, in sales… because I love it.
Why did you focus on pre-rolls?
You know, I didn't really plan on doing pre-rolls. I was looking at vapes, edibles, pet CBD products. But I did a lot of research — I’m a big fan of Lowell Smokes, they’ve got a great history, great packaging — and I ended up on pre-rolls, which in California are only 6% of the overall market.
When did you first start smoking weed?
When I was about 17, and I just loved it. I was in a rock band in Brisbane in the early ’90s, and I'd go to these musical festivals, and everybody was smoking, and making out, and you'd never see fights. There was such a great vibe everywhere. I'm a highly-functioning stoner, but too much of anything can be a problem. That’s why I think the introduction of CBD is fantastic, where you can enjoy the medicinal value without the psychoactive experience.
Has cannabis remained a part of your creative process?
I, 100 percent, don't believe my creativity comes from weed, because there have been times when I've thought my writing is better when I'm not high. But my writing is definitely different when I'm high. I’d just say my relationship to creative writing and my relationship to cannabis are two different things. If I've got a deadline, I can't go off on tangents, I've gotta stay fairly structured. But my relationship with cannabis is spiritual; I step outside of myself, it's still me but it's like another me, and sometimes when I haven't smoked in a while, I feel the need to reconnect with myself and contemplate life in a different way.
Do you see more celebrity cannabis products coming out, like with all the boutique tequila brands?
We won't really know until it becomes federally legal. hen it's gonna be very difficult to enter this business, as it is for tequila. If I didn't believe I had a brand here, I'd get out. Licenses are too expensive, you have to jump through too many hoops. Unless you're a vertically integrated company, where you're doing it all yourself, the margins just aren't there. And anyway, Wilfred is the celebrity, not Jason Gann.
What would you say has been the most challenging part of being a cannabis entrepreneur?
Turning words into actions. To turn an idea into something physical, that’s a great feeling.
Any thoughts about expanding into other cannabis products?
I just want to offer the best pre-rolls, and at a more affordable price than they are now. Wilfred aired in 35 countries, so I could see expanding internationally, but I'd rather create an international cannabis brand than try to do, say, edibles or drinks; I'd have to spend another year studying just those. I want to do one thing well.