Interview: Bobby Nuggz

Arctic Smoke Shop, West Warwick (Photo: Michael Bilow)

Arctic Smoke Shop, West Warwick
(Photo: Michael Bilow)

We caught up with local cannabis activist Bobby Nuggz (fb.com/bobby.nuggz) at the March 7 grand opening of the Arctic Smoke Shop on Main Street in West Warwick.

Michael Bilow (Motif): Let me get your thoughts on the cannabis situation right now. What do you think is the highest priority?

Bobby Nuggz: With the legalization bill?

MB: Anything.

BN: I think right now the highest priority is making sure that all of our patients and caregivers have access to everything. One of the problems that I’m hearing right now is that they’re trying to ban extractions in the State of Rhode Island for adult use and recreational, which in my opinion is completely preposterous. If we’re going to legalize the plant, why limit access from all of the THC products that are available? I’ve come to find in the last week that Rhode Island is now at a standpoint with all these politicians that have no idea what they’re talking about or the science behind extractions whatsoever. So I think the main priority we should be focusing on is making sure that we’re going to be allowed to have extractions, because before we know it they’re going to pass this recreational bill in Rhode Island and [extractions are] going to be banned, and the only people [making] extractions is going to be monopolized just like everything else. That’s one of my main concerns right now.

[For a primer about extractions and concentrates, see: https://greencamp.com/cannabis-concentrates/ ]

Bobby Nuggz (Photo: Michael Bilow)

Bobby Nuggz
(Photo: Michael Bilow)

MB: How familiar are you with the [recreational] legalization bill?

BN: Honestly, I’m a patient. That’s been my main focus for years, fighting for decriminalization and medical in Rhode Island. Legalization has frustrated me in a lot of different ways, even to the point where I’m just kind of done with Rhode Island and with where everything has started to head. I’m really proud that we’ve had our cultivation centers and now out-of-state patients can come and buy medicine here, but there’s such a monopoly in this state. It’s hard for an up-and-coming little guy like myself who would like to have a stake in a business one day to feel like I have a future in all this right now. It’s scary.

MB: What do you think about the part of the legalization bill that would ban home-growing by medical patients?

BN: That was the next thing that I was going to mention. How can you pass a legalization of cannabis bill in any state in this country without having cultivation rights? Does that make any sense to anybody? You have to have cultivation grow rights. Everybody should have the chance to grow six plants at home if it’s legalized and that’s what you want to do with your time, your money, to grow a little bit of cannabis. Why not? So, in my opinion, if they don’t have grow rights and extraction, we’re going to have the worst recreational program in the United States of America. We’re the smallest state in the country, we’re in debt, so who’s making these decisions right now? No one educated enough to make logical ones.

MB: Massachusetts does not prohibit or restrict home growing.

BN: I know, they don’t, so I don’t understand why we’re not looking right next door. This is Massachusetts and Rhode Island, it’s not California. We’re right next door to them. We’ve got to pay attention right here in our home area. It’s a shame that it seems like it’s going to be so drastically different with everything else right now.

MB: What have you heard through the grapevine about passage of legalization? What do you think its chances are?

BN: I think there’s a chance. It may take another year, 2020 is in my opinion what’s it’s going to end up looking like. It just seems like they’re trying to let a lot of these people right now make their money before recreational comes, and then they’re going to make more money. It’s a rat race. We’re in a whirlwind cyclone out here right now, just like California was, four, five, six years ago with Colorado legalizing, we’re in a whirlwind right now and it seems like it’s, unfortunately, an elitist thing that’s been going on and on for a long time and, I don’t know, I just hope I have a future in the legalization aspect of it. But right now my main focus is still patients. I feel we’ve taken a major backburner on patients and have kind of forgotten where all this even came from: HIV patients, cancer patients, people who really established medical marijuana that are now backboning off of that into legalization.

MB: Do you think that the Rhode Island medical program is working well?

BN: Personally, for me, I’ve been a patient for eight years, yes. We have a good medical program. I’ve always had good access to cannabis. All the dispensaries now have rosin and different varieties of cultivars, styles, different things like that. We’ve always been able to grow our own cannabis. I’ve been able to assign a caregiver. There have been different things that they’ve taken away and diminished that have affected patients in different ways, such as the plant tags. That was preposterous, it’s just another way for them to make more tax revenue off of patients. At the end of the day, our medical program is great, and I hope that recreational doesn’t affect it too, too much because without my caregiver, I and my mom wouldn’t have access to the medicine she needs because she doesn’t drive, she is handicapped, she can’t drive to Providence 30 to 40 minutes. We live in Foster, that’s in the middle of nowhere out here, so for her to get to a dispensary to try to access her medicine is very difficult, so if they end up wanting to phase out caregivers, we see that being the future here and I just hope it doesn’t happen because medical is the lifeblood in this state.

MB: When I talk to the legislative and legal people, they argue that the elimination of home growing is essential to prevent development of a black market.

BN: I could say that’s true, but I think that at the end of the day, it’s just trying to protect their pockets.

MB: What other priorities do you see?

BN: My priority right now is just really gaining more momentum and trying to end the stigma, especially about cannabis concentrates and vaporization, because I feel like it’s such an important medicine in general, so my main priority is ending the stigma still. All of my friends have seemed like they’re caught up in that whirlwind and they’re trying to make money. People don’t realize we are not free. We have a long way to go before we’re free and a lot of fighting to do before any of this even makes sense. Really our kids, they’re the future, that’s part of my goal to educate the youth, they’re going to be the ones who make sense of all the mess we’re making right now.

MB: So you’re talking about this as a civil rights issue?

BN: It is. I don’t think people are realizing that’s what’s happening right now. Corporate cannabis is something I’ve always been against. I never wanted legalization eight or nine years ago. I was paying attention to activists and we feared the exact thing that’s happening right now. It’s our worst nightmare.

MB: Why?

BN: Corporate cannabis aren’t for the people. This was for the people, led by the people, a grass-roots movement. Now it’s an industry and the movement’s going to be left behind because of money. Corporate cannabis, corporate pharmaceuticals, everything like that, they’re trying to take this from us. They want to patent cannabis, THC, and make their own. CBD, who knows what’s going to end up happening with that, it’s another whole avenue right now that’s such a hot topic and still vastly confusing everyone, they want control, they don’t want us involved. Small mom-and-pop businesses in my opinion are the heart of it all. With corporate cannabis, those things aren’t going to be much of a future.

MB: Ultimately, cannabis is agriculture. Do you see any parallels with the way other agriculture is done?

BN: Especially with Colorado and Oregon, I feel like it’s become a cash crop just like everything else. I really hope to see more hemp, honestly, be grown across the country in every state. My family has owned a farm for a hundred years in the State of Rhode Island and it’s historical property, historical land. We grew different types of herbs, ginger and ginseng, on our properties 67 years ago. I’d love to be able to get a license where I could grow hemp in CBD-rich varieties and start my own fibers company and my own brewery beer with hemp.

MB: Hemp was a huge crop in the 19th Century.

BN: It was probably the biggest crop in the 19th Century and it’s a shame that prohibition would stop something so sensible that we already had established, well established, and it was helping the world. Everybody made it to trade, their boats, their sails, everything like that. Why would someone stop that? Basically that’s what it came down to, another corporate-minded person who wanted to make money off of things and made it illegal.

MB: The federal government recently backed off a lot of hemp regulation.

BN: It seems like they have, for sure, but even with the hemp CBD, I’m still seeing people go to jail. Just recently two people in Rhode Island have caught a case for CBD; it’s a limit thing, I guess. People don’t know exactly what’s legal right now and what’s not, so it seems like we’re walking that fine line between black market and gray market right now. And in my opinion, black market matters, it’s always going to matter, more now than ever, especially with all this corporate cannabis and shit weed going around. I read this morning Oregon has six years of overages right now of cannabis.

MB: What do you mean?

BN: Six years of overstock of cannabis in Oregon.

MB: They have a six-year supply?

BN: A six-year supply right now in this year for six years in advance. There’s enough weed for the entire country for years I’d imagine. So that cannabis is just going to be sitting there. And then imagine California, and then imagine Colorado, or Missouri, or Michigan. All these places have so much cannabis, it’s going to become stagnant, and I think that quality control and boutique growers are going to end up becoming the future, one hundred percent.

MB: From an economic point of view, cannabis has a high price because its scarcity is caused by its illegality. I heard the former chief tax counsel for the US Senate Finance Committee [Pat Oglesby] say that if cannabis were deregulated it would fall to the price of oregano.

BN: I can only imagine. That’s a real possibility and I guess that’s a scary bottom line and fact to face for people, is that the price of cannabis can drop dramatically. Supply and demand.

MB: Would that have an effect of, if there are corporate interests who want to keep the price up, preserving the illegality?

BN: I think so. It just comes down to monopolization again, and the elitists trying to take everything that we established and worked for. I have a feeling we’re going to have to try to make reversals on these laws in the future and amend new things that make more sense, because right now it’s just benefiting few. I’m big into learning about equity right now, social equity, and I really think people of color should be empowered right now and have a huge say in how this is going to go in the future as well. That’s something that I’ve been paying attention to. Now in our business and our industry, surprisingly, that’s such a huge thing, is equity.

MB: How would you feel about re-examining people with criminal records?

BN: The expungement thing could be a guiding factor and like a savior to the whole friggin’ world. I can’t tell you how many friends I know who got caught for a little bit of cannabis, now have a felony on their record. They can’t get certain jobs, it’s affecting their kids, their family, for a little bit of plant matter. I think having expungements for people who are non-violent cannabis offenders is one of the best things that we could ever do with legalization, and it should be mandatory.

MB: Where do you see everything – the laws, public perception – five or 10 years out?

BN: Five or 10 years out, I see the entire country being legalized, more along the lines of 10 years out. It’s all going to have a long way to go, but as you’ve seen Florida on board, there’s a huge propelling factor for the whole Southeast Coast of the United States. I think the whole country’s going to end up being legalized, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more people starting their own businesses and less people going to jail and getting their friggin’ doors kicked in and raided still every day.

MB: Anything else you want to add? What did I not ask you that I should have?

BN: You brought up so many great points, honestly, like we just covered CBD, we covered extractions, we covered the recreational bill, we covered expungement. There’s no better time than now. If you’re thinking of getting in this business, don’t hesitate. You’re going to get ran over quick. A lot of bullies trying to make it in this business and if you start now and earn a good reputation, you’re going to do just fine, but don’t hesitate and don’t wait.

MB: What advice would you give somebody who wants to pursue it as a business?

BN: Be persistent. Network endlessly. Start your social media pages. Just get your name out there and put it in front of the right people, as soon as you start to do that you’re going to realize the domino effect is going to take place. Once you keep seeing that domino effect, go into more places and insert yourself in a business and it’s just going to take off for you – before you know it, you’re going to be an established brand.

MB: You’re something of a cannabis celebrity. Do you find that has negative effects?

BN: It does have negative effects in the sense that I have a target on my back. There’s new thing called a “troll” on social media. I’m only out here trying to put positive things across, trying to do positive things for my community and for our movement. I think that’s the only negative thing: Social media, putting that target on your back as being that person people look to and listen to, sometimes you’ll get that wave of negativity from people, and that’s the thing I try to stay away from and not feed into any of that drama. I’ve got too much important stuff with too much of an impact for me to worry about that.

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