For this first show, Sonia interviews her husband James Brinkerhoff, starting with a deep dive into how his relationship with cannabis began, how he reached the decision to be a part of an industry yet to be established and some key accomplishments in life. This includes early encounters on his road to becoming one of the world’s authorities on the subject of medicinal cannabis cultivation and distribution and a qualified “Cannapreneur”.
Sonia challenges James to get into the “nitty-gritty, dirty flirty” details of how cannabis came into his life and why he chose to commit himself to “Mary Jane”.
I’m just excited about what the future brings and I feel like it’s a freedom movement. It’s a chance for people to get involved, to free yourself from the chains of your health condition may be, or if the free yourself financially, to find a vehicle here with this plant, to respect it and love it and use your skillsets and show the world how you can help this movement in this industry move forward. This plant is going to help all of humanity and society.- James Brinkerhoff
Some Topics We Discussed Include:
[01:09] – James’ backstory and how cannabis came into his life
[07:17] – How James started cultivating medicinal herbs when he studied natural health in Heartwood Institute
[22:30] – Developing a real estate system in the cannabis cultivation industry
[28:03] – The positive side of the cannabis industry, how their kids kept hem in the light, valuing their family’s safety
[29:35] – Legalization of cannabis in Colorado, the ups, downs, and setbacks of the business in the area
[32:30] – Jumping into digital marketing, massive people venturing into the Cannabis industry, growing the social media empire to over 1 million followers
[38:40] – Cannabis and their kids: how they educate their kids about it
[40:33] – Sonia’s biggest take away from their journey in the cannabis industry
[46:02] – How they have been able to spread the information of the health benefits of cannabis to a lot of people through the use of the internet and in the publishing world
[47:03] – Opportunity and income potential of the Cannabis industry both for consumer, advocate or both despite being still in its infancy
[49:40] – Opportunities and diversity: James’ advocacy to educate people to end the fear and the negativity surrounding the use of cannabis
[50:30] – James shares the different educational courses they offer
People Mentioned / Resources
Connect with James Brinkerhoff
Connect with Sonia Gomez
Sonia Gomez: In this episode you’re going to see yours truly, Sonia, sharpened her teeth on our first guest. My husband and best friend of over 20 years and partner in crime, in business and in life, Mr. James Brinkerhoff.
Now James has an interesting journey of where he’s built multiple seven figure businesses inside of the cannabis and hemp space. Has been a pioneer of legislative development and as a part of one of the fastest growing cannabis companies in the state of Colorado. We also own and operate one of the largest online education communities with over 1 million followers and reaching over 27 million people with our content. Ladies and gentlemen, can’t wait to introduce you to our first guests, Mr. James Brinkerhoff. What’s up, guys? This is Sonia Gomez coming to you live from Denver, Colorado. This is our first official episode like no puns intended. Hey, dollface.
James Brinkerhoff: What’s up? What’s up?
Sonia Gomez: Okay guys. So we’re going to dive into some nitty gritty dirty details of where Mr. Brinkerhoff here comes from. And this is not stuff that he freely shares, but this is a huge part of his history and where I met him running around barefoot in, you know, the forest of green, quite literally. Are you clouding out?
James Brinkerhoff: I may or may not be puffing right now on some really killer live resin terpene blend.
Sonia Gomez: Okay, well since we’re consuming than he better be sharing.
So here are the deal guys, we’re going to dive in and talk about some of the things that James has accomplished in his life. What has brought him to this place and how he made the sort of this groundbreaking decision to be a part of an industry that wasn’t yet established, that was very much a part of the wild, wild west. And how he’s been able to become one of the world’s authorities and you know, leaders in this emerging industry.
So without further ado, give my gorgeous husband and “canna-preneur”, James Brinkerhoff, an On the Rise welcome.
James Brinkerhoff: Thanks, Sonia. I’m super excited to be here today and kind of kicking off this first episode 001.
And what I think I want to do is I think I’m going to, I’d like to create a lot of videos. People have been enjoying our videos and so I think I’m going to put all the videos from all of our show we’re going to put inside of our membership site.
So if you are listening to this right now and you want to see all the videos and you want to get inside the membership site with our community and see what everything that’s going on in there, I’m sure you can click the link below or you can check it out somewhere on this page where you’re watching this right now.
I think videos like it’s a really cool way to connect and really cool way to get to know people. And then also I leave, I have chat, a chat inside there. So it’s almost like a Facebook group inside my own membership site and I answer people’s chats and I get questions all the time about cultivation or getting into the cannabis industry or growing hemp, all kinds of stuff.
And so that’s kind of a place where people can get a little bit more of a connection with me and yourself. So with that being said…
Sonia Gomez: It’s a shameless plug.
James Brinkerhoff: It was a little bit of a thing. I want to, you know, I want to address what we’re doing.
Sonia Gomez: We’re supposed to be telling stories here.
James Brinkerhoff: I want to address what we’re doing, so…
Sonia Gomez: Ok. Well, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, James, tell us a little bit about, and not like this stuff. I don’t want to hear the intro that we give people and we’re like speaking in an event or anything like that.
The nitty-gritty, dirty details of how cannabis came into James life and why he chose to commit himself to Miss Mary Jane
James Brinkerhoff: Okay. Well, I mean, we can go back to the very first time when I lost my cannabis virginity. I mean, I’m probably like a lot of kids out there who’s I had an older cousin introduced me, like an older brother or older cousin, so I’m probably like a lot of kids out there the same way. Right. And he was really into the grateful dead and was kind of getting into drugs. Cannabis, mushrooms and LSD and all that kind of stuff that goes along with that. And so he kind of encouraged me that way and he took me to my first rock and roll concert when I was, I think it was 13 years old, 14 years old out here in Colorado.
So I just was a little bit curious about it. Right. And I tried and I tried it a few times here and there and my teenage years, you know, I tried some more times. Start to kind of enjoy it there.
Sonia Gomez: By the way, like after you tried it a few times, you’re, it’s not trying it anymore.
James Brinkerhoff: It means I’m a user?
Sonia Gomez: Your actually…
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, well. I didn’t, the first couple of times I tried it, I didn’t feel anything. It didn’t do anything for me. I think I later learned that sometimes it takes like a few times before you can actually feel it. The first few times it didn’t do anything, I couldn’t feel anything. I tried smoking…
Sonia Gomez: That’s 100% the opposite of my experience. Like I was nine years old, and I found this pot plant growing underneath my friend’s car. Underneath her trailer, her parent’s trailer, which was like their office, which was just, you know, secret code for, we’re still hippies and we listened to our music and pop box is our trailer. And there was a little plant growing outside and I like plucked a leaf, not even a flower.
I plucked the leaves off of it and I tore it up and I made one of those coke can pipe and I smoked that leave and my eyes got so puffy and so red that I was a hundred percent busted. I like, I was walking around with cold spoons on my eyes and my parents kept asking me like, “What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you have cold spoons on your eyes?”
And I was like, “I got sand in my eyes from the river”. I was like probably 11 years old. And like I was hanging out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of older kids who were like, “Just try it, just try it!”
And goddamn, peer pressure. And I, so I smoked the waterleaf and moments later had the worst headache of all time and proceeded to eat an entire box of cereal afterward. So you didn’t feel anything?
James Brinkerhoff: I didn’t feel anything in the first few times. And then after that, you know, I started to feel it and I started to like it a little bit more. And I lived up in the mountains in Colorado, so we had spent a lot of times outdoors. So it wasn’t really like a city vibe.
I lived up in the mountains and wasn’t like, I don’t know what I think of these back to school specials with kids doing drugs and pat stuff. We were hiking up in the mountains and jumping into the rivers and live in that mountain kid life. So it seemed pretty innocent to me. We’d like to have fun. But I did, I didn’t kind of lead into more stuff. I don’t know if cannabis was the gateway drug, but myself personally, I got into drugs and alcohol as a teenager, as many teens do in our country and around the world. And that was kind of like the second, the second step in my cannabis journey was cannabis. It was a gateway out of the drugs and alcohol that I got into as a teenager.
Cannabis as James’ gateway in and out to drugs and alcohol
And I, you know, I got into some Jimmy on it. Like I said, I kind of got into some trouble, was hanging out with the wrong group of kids, and I found a way out to go to college. My mom said, hey if you get out of this situation that you’re in, I’ll help you with your first year of college. So I got into a college, I went over there and I started hanging out with like these naturalists kids, people that were doing yoga and really healthy with themselves and they were really into cannabis. So that kind of, my interest kind of led there and I stopped doing all the drinking and everything else. I was playing around with, partying with.
And I got really into the healthy lifestyle and I started studying health and school and I eventually, my passion led me out to northern California where I attended the Heartwood School, Heartwood Healing School, Heartwood Healing Institute to study natural health. And I studied Chinese medicine with Paul Pitchford. He’s an expert in the field and he’s the author of healing with whole foods. I study polarity therapy with Bruce Burger and I’ve studied cranial sacral. I studied a lot of kind of integrative health therapies and modalities and it was just fascinated by it. I was fascinated by the plants, medicinal herbs and I began to cultivate, began to cultivate cannabis and I’m just farming all kinds of stuff Sonia.
Sonia Gomez: So you’re running around the hills with hippies and many of which had veggie gardens and in the veggie gardens they were high. Let’s be real about the situation. Like they had big tomato plants and then little starts. Right?
James Brinkerhoff: Okay, Do you want to be honest about this?
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, don’t give me any vanilla pudding shit.
“Okay, so my friends told me, 'You got to go out to Humboldt County. That's like where the Mecca of the cannabis industry is.'” -James Brinkerhoff Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: He was trying to give you guys some vanilla ass shit right now.
James Brinkerhoff: And there’s this, and there’s this really cool spot up there called Heartwood. And Heartwood’s about an hour away from the Highway 101 if you’re cruising up the Pacific coast highway.
Sonia Gomez: It’s an hour away from anything.
James Brinkerhoff: There’s nothing up there and you’re like 45 minutes from a gas station. So there is, there was this original group of hippies from Santa Cruz that went up there in the 70s and they started this massage and healing art school. And so it’s like this little community of hippies on this mountain, which are really surrounded by like hardcore rednecks, loggers. I mean this is humble county. It’s like, so where they came to cut down all the redwood trees and the ranchers, the ranch people out there, they’re not hippies. Okay. They’re shooting guns. The riding four wheelers around, all dressed in Camo, but there was like this little community, this little island.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. It’s like a little microcosm.
James Brinkerhoff: This little island in the middle right there that was teaching health. And I ended up, you know, making it about halfway through that school and then I got assimilated into the neighborhood because I was just, I was passionate about cannabis. I think I saw, and then I started to kind of get seed, like gold in my eyes. I was looking around at these guys in that community, in the area that we’re doing very well for themselves growing cannabis. And they didn’t even have to grow that much of it. It was at that time the price was almost $5,000 a pound. Right. This is like the mid-’90s.
Sonia Gomez: And this was like right on the eve of how a proposition 215 passing. So there was a lot of conversation in the community because my mom went to the same college as my husband. Okay. And I was raised in that same hippie community. A lot of them, I was born in Santa Cruz, so a lot of this same, I use the whole term hippie in a very loving way because for me it’s, it was a way of life. It describes the earth people, right? The people who are really passionate about living from the earth and understanding the natural rhythm and flow of life and season and, and how to arrive in the natural rhythm of the world.
James Brinkerhoff: Oh a lot. Well yeah, a lot of the original, like the reason why the Emerald Triangle became what it was, cause a lot of these hippies moved up from San Francisco to get back to the land, to grow their own food, to live off the land themselves and not be dependent on the electrical grid. You know, just start with solar power or water power.
“And the cannabis movement was born of their desire to be independent. It was another medicine, it was another herb. It was another way for them to barter and trade amongst one another.” -Sonia Gomez Click To Tweet
And you know, of course, it’s fed into the black market. I mean, how can we deny the facts? 18 million pounds produced and only 2 million of which stayed in the state of California. The rest of it, you know, trickle across the entire United States, yeah.
James Brinkerhoff: They were growing. Yeah, there were growing like 80 to 90% of all the cannabis for the entire United States. They’re very concentrated, you know, three county area. And what happened was they went from, you know, cannabis is another crop in their garden. Did they finally found out how much it was worth and they, some of these guys, they flew to Pakistan, they flew to India, they flew to the Hindu Kush mountain range and they brought these, they brought the seeds back to Humboldt County and they crossed them with the ones the guys that had gone to the Vietnam War. They brought those strains back and then there was ones from Mexico that were coming up and they started mixing all these strains and creating this kind of the super cannabis that everyone’s talking about today.
Sonia Gomez: Some hippie out Botanists got up there and started to get real with the chemistry of it all. And Chris started to create a lot of the strains that you hear, like E-40 and the top rappers rapping about their orange kush and their purple kush.
James Brinkerhoff: They all came from Pakistan, the granddaddy purple.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. It all came from around the world and some, you know, “tree fairy” or like hippie started just to breed them all together. And now we have a wedding cake and you know, like all these crazy alien strains that are running all over the world. But it all started in this little, in this little tiny Mecca. And that is where I originate from. That’s where my family went to. You know, we followed native American Indians all over the part, all over the United States and you know, so natural holistic herbs and medicines was a part of this. But James’s journey like this is everything that he got involved with was right on the brink of prop 215 passing in California where it was now legal to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of being a caregiver or provider to patients. And we now had six, and then 10, and then 12, and then over 15 different conditions that a MD was able to write you a prescription for and give you a recommended dose or a recommended possession amount, meaning you could be in possession of multiple ounces. You could be in, you could cultivate six plants of your own and caregivers could now start a 501-C3 or nonprofit business and start cultivating cannabis and distributing it or sharing it with collectives all under a nonprofit model. So James entered James who went from going to college at the massage school…
James Brinkerhoff: Perfect timing.
Sonia Gomez: …and got involved with, you know, what was then, you know the new gold rush.
“It was the actual green rush when young people were moving up into the mountains, getting their first little plot of land and learning everything from scratch.” -Sonia Gomez Click To Tweet
How to build and grow and cultivate a champagne level product that was honest to God, like honest to goodness, transforming people’s lives in the way that they approach their health.
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, it was a really interesting time for sure. When I got there, the last thing we were talking about was how these hippies came up and how they, they found out that cannabis we’re so much in there they wanted to be away from it all. Right. And that because Humboldt County in those counties right there, it’s so hilly and mountainous and the roads are super windy.
It’s hard to find stuff and you can hide out in these little valleys all over. So it makes it a perfect landscape to kind of hide out there and not where nobody knows really what’s going on. There are places that are very rural. But by the time I got up there, you know, I was really seeking like the dream, the glory of it.
By the time I got up, there was like right at that time where it was kind of…things were shifting. The money had brought the criminal element in Humboldt County. And while there was still an aspect of like the old hippies and the old light good community people up there, there were more and more aspects of the criminal stuff going on there. Like I had a more than one time, I had guns in my face. I had guns put in my mouth for different re…, you know, for different, it’s crazy. It was, it was really, it’s the wild wild west out there. There’s if you have guys have ever seen that show on Netflix, like the cops, don’t go up there. There are certain areas the cops, they do not go around there and when they show up, all of a sudden you’ll see all these four wheelers and guys in full camou. Like they have their own little possess in different neighborhoods on different mountains up in these areas and you just don’t go there. You don’t go down people’s driveways. You don’t, it has got its own culture up there.
People mind each other’s business up there, you know what I’m saying? So by that time that kind of, that money element came in. We’ll Prop 15, Prop 15 kind of gave you the legalization to grow 15, 21, 99 plants. The doctors were prescribing you depending on what your ailments were, you know, say he said, I prescribe you to rub it all over your body because if you have psoriasis or whatever the ailment is on your skin. Well, he would prescribe a lot of plants because you need a lot of cannabis to melt it down into concentrate or whatever.
So people were allowed to grow 25, 50, 99 plants and then depending on the county that you were in. And people started going, because when I moved up there, nobody was growing it out in the open. All the cannabis was in the woods. It was in the trees. And I was even working with guys that were, we had hired arborists and they were, they were charging like 75 or $100 an hour.
This was like 30, 25 years ago. To clip the trees out, to let the light in, to keep it just enough camouflage that with your flying over in a helicopter, it would look like the tree cover. But on the inside they will cut all the branches from down below, all the way up to the top of the canopy that would let the sunlight come in and bring all that light to their gardens.
And then they would be growing thousands of plants in the forest and nothing was outside. Well, in 1996 when proposition 215 passed, people started growing outside. They started posting their medical prescription and growing 25 plants right out in the open.
And I was one of those guys, right? I worked a couple of years for some big growers and I started to see, and I was kind of a hippie kid. I was, you know, I was going for back to the land. I want to go check out the Heartwood community and check out natural healing and checkout, you know, growing organic vegetables and just being off the grid.
Sonia Gomez: He was looking in a naked community. There was a lot of pretty girls, right?
James Brinkerhoff: It was amazing. It was like five girls to one guy. So, and, that school doesn’t exist any more guys so don’t even think about it. You can’t, you can’t get in there anymore. That they, I think they shut the school down and they opened, you know, open something else there.
Sonia Gomez: Because there were five girls to one guy.
James Brinkerhoff: So you know what we were talking about is like growing this stuff out. So everyone was kind of growing in, on the trees. The big growers are growing in the trees. Well, prop 215 came out and people started standing up and saying, I’m going to grow my medicine and started putting 25 plants outside. So when you put those plants in the full sun and in that climate, when they have long summers out there, right. The growth season starts in April and it goes through the first few weeks of November. You know, people were putting plants outside. They’re getting two, three, four, five pounds per plant. And at that time, the price of cannabis was four, people were driving up the mountain in Humboldt from New York, Florida, and paying $4,000 per pound.
Sonia Gomez: That can’t either be confirmed nor denied.
James Brinkerhoff: And imagine that. So say one plant has two pounds, so that’s $8,000 that guy was making revenue per plant. Now you have to pay people to trim it and it costs you for fertilizer and you have to make sure the dirt is good. And so there are some costs there, but I mean maybe it costs you $400 to grow one plant and all that $400 in and you know, summer’s worth of work or you pay a gardener to take care of it for you and you know, 8,000 per plant and then guys were doing 50 plants. So that’s, so like we’re, you guys do the math there. It’s like $450,000. Right?
Sonia Gomez: Also cannot be confirmed nor denied.
James Brinkerhoff: Well, a lot of people were doing that at that time and so people started coming out of the woods, the cannabis started, getting the flowers, getting bigger, denser, you know guys, more tricks to it. Trellising it. Doing different kinds of things to manipulate and make the flowers, you know, put more weight on the, on the, on the buds and everything. So you know, the medical does start pushing more and more and you started seeing it more and more. I started seeing it on the side of the highway I was seeing grows as you drive down the highway 101. You can see somebody’s plants growing over their fence over there. And it was like, it was wild, you know, before we were hiding out in the woods. So things started to progress 2002, 2003, five, six, right. To the point where I was helping a lot of people start their own little medical cannabis.
Sonia Gomez: Well, what was fascinating about you is not necessarily the fact that you got into cannabis, but how you approached cannabis. Now your background is not really a renegade, although you were a rebellious teenager. I’m just giving you guys narrative on my husband here. But you were rebellious teenager, but you came from a somewhat of ashamed or lost situation. I mean you are not like, you do come from a financially destitute and “all my life is so terrible and I have daddy issues kind of background”, you came from…
A Privileged Rebellious Teenager
James Brinkerhoff: No, I’m a privileged white boy.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, you were a privileged white boy.
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, let’s just get it out there. That’s okay.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, I am. I, on the other hand, came from the backward trap.
James Brinkerhoff: Privileged white boy, had a good mom and a good dad and they loved me. I had everything I needed growing up. We weren’t millionaires, you know? But we were…
Sonia Gomez: No, but your family was, I mean. Yeah, your grandparents were… Ok, this guy, his…
James Brinkerhoff: Well my parents weren’t. But yeah, my grandparents were, my grandparents…
Sonia Gomez: No, your parents were teen parents. They became parents when they were teenagers, but they were the children of Wall Street moguls and oil tycoons like let’s be serious.
James Brinkerhoff: Exactly right.
Sonia Gomez: You came from like a cotillion culture and that’s not anything to be ashamed of. I want to provide that lifestyle for my kids…
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, I mean, I know how to foxtrot and I know how to do the tango, so…
Sonia Gomez: That’s kind of how you copy. I’m just going to say that out loud, anyway.
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, they put me in dance classes. Yep. No, I was one of those kids. Yeah, I’m a privileged white boy, sure.
Sonia Gomez: But they. I think it’s really important to say that because there’s this expectation of people come from privilege. You guys are expected to follow the status quo. You’re expected to go to the bright college. You’re expected to get the right degree, you’re expected to start the right business and you’re expected to hit certain levels of professional, you know, success totally.
And you know your family when they are in this sort of lineage type wealth, they are guiding you along and you really raged against the machine. You told and refused to follow the status quo. You went running and searching for something that was far different and really had to acquire a certain set of social skills and professional skills to be able to do what you did and still were able to make your mark and your millions working. You know like, but you didn’t do it in the traditional sense or how everybody else was doing it with cannabis.
What I witnessed, so James, a little background, James and I have been friends since I was 11 years old. He was friends with, he’s 10 years older than me and was friends with my parents and was like a big brother, best friend type figure for me when I was a teenager. You know, he would like let me go up to his house and work on the farm or you know, borrow his truck to go to festivals and he would cover for me and you know, all types of fun stuff like that. So James and I have a long, long history and I got to witness the type of work that he did.
And, and you imagine somebody who’s in cultivation or in the cannabis industry is just the guy out there and as overall farming and you know, nourishing his plants and stuff like that. But it wasn’t like that. What he did was developed a real estate system. He would go around and identify these farms, built the infrastructure that allowed a family to go into this space that had a nice house, that had a nice screen house and all things that we’re compliant with the according to the law, both county and state, and he would go in there and implement the entire term key franchise system of how to cultivate champagne grade product all the way through to where to distribute it to which collective, which was compliant. And this was the history that he built himself there.
“Helping multiple families achieve financial freedom, earning and buying their own properties that they still get to enjoy and pass down to their kids. ” -Sonia Gomez Click To Tweet
Really discovering and developing, you know, famous strains now and distributing all across the state of California.Really making a name for the areas in which he was serving Mendocino County, Humboldt, all over the place there, which are now like the world-famous. And it was at a time where there wasn’t really, I mean there weren’t mainstream greenhouses. You didn’t get to go into grow stores and cultivation spots like that and say like, “Hey, listen, I’m growing about, you know, 15 plot from wondering what’s the best variation”. People were so paranoid.
James Brinkerhoff: We have stuff dropped off like at a location. Nobody went to the grow store. The grow store was staked out by the feds.
Against all odds, choosing to stay local
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, exactly. So it was, that’s what the most fascinating about me is that against all odds and when you have the choice and opportunity to go deep into the black market where many, many of our friends and colleagues went into, you chose to stay local.
You’re a family man. You had kids who had a wife. Like you had a whole situation, you had a community that you were serving. You were very, very deeply involved with your spiritual community and native American church and you chose to develop opportunities for multiple people and building out these sort of sustainable farms that helped people save far underneath the radar, produce high-quality products, and build a sustainable living for themselves. Nobody was getting rich. We were, you know, there were people who were just, you know, making their way, making an honest living, you know, anywhere from…
James Brinkerhoff: Earning a six-figure income. I was creating a six-figure income for them. A lot of people live on 10 acres, five acres, 20 acres. Kind of the community up there, it’s very rural. Everybody you know has a garden and it has a couple of animals or chicken.
Sonia Gomez: I think that’s a lot to be said for that because now if we look at the trends, you know, 20 years later the real money in this industry and the least amount of stress actually is coming in for the ancillary businesses. So real estate, you know, the picks and shovels of the industry, marketing, you know, the these are the areas that people are making their most money. The cultivators, the distributors, the dispensary’s like these people are the ones that are dealing with the most hassle and the most stress and the most regulations. Whereas the people who are following James’s system of developing, identifying compliant real estate and then developing a turnkey solution and then offering that to the people who are cultivating. Like that’s a huge, huge business now. So now he would be revered and is, cause he’s involved with multiple projects, which we’ll dive into here in a moment. But you know, back then it was like somewhat of a sketchy situation. Whereas today…
Robinhood of Cannabis Culture
James Brinkerhoff: Let me talk about a really gray area because we have, not for profit but they were call was community collectives. Right? And so the collectives, we’d grow the cannabis for the patients down in the bay area to the collective down there. The medical cannabis clubs are collected as what they were called. There was no real way to take in revenue except for donation. We’re not for profit. So that’s kind of how they were all called. And you know, we were just weren’t advertising about it. And
“It's been a wild journey. I think that we pushed it so hard, not just for the money, but I'm making such an impact.” -James Brinkerhoff Click To Tweet
And when you’re cultivating such a quality product and you can look around and there’s, you know, there’s a lot of cannabis out there now and most of it is not high quality and a lot of it’s just being pumped up with hormones and chemicals just so it looks pretty or it looks really big.
Anyway, being able to cultivate that quality product and get it out there to people that really need it and they love it and enjoy it and that creates a higher quality of life for them. It’s just amazing and I think that’s what kept us going and going. So you’re not only helping those people that use the end product, Sonia but being able to set up those families, being able to create like my partner’s, how I had them back then, I call them partners. It was really rewarding.
I was able to help people start and create their own careers and go off and help their own families and go off and help other people. And so it was just super rewarding. I think that’s what helped push me through the tough times. You know, I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. Like I said earlier, I’ve had guns in my face. I’ve had hundreds of thousands of dollars robbed because I had to have cash in an industry that didn’t allow banking.
Sonia Gomez: Still a huge challenge in the industry. So let’s fast forward a little now that we know that you’re the Robin Hood, that you created all this amazing opportunity for otherwise what we would consider underprivileged or you know, people who knew nothing about this phase. You top in this acquired skill, what brought you out of the woods and into the light, you know, into the mainstream cannabis industry in 2009 when Colorado legalized.
Cannabis and their kids: how they educate their kids about it
James Brinkerhoff: Wait for it. My kids, that’s the big answer. My kids, and it’s also my kids is also what kind of kept me in the light as far as I have. I’ve always wanted to be out front with what I did because like you said, I was part of our church community and I didn’t want to be hiding from anybody. I want it to be transparent, but for my own safety and for my family safeties. It’s kind of like a need to know basis. Like you don’t need to know unless you’re involved. Right. But my kids really kept me that way. I want it to be an upstanding member of the community. As soon as they had medical cannabis I went and got my license.
All the growers I knew didn’t go get their license and none of them wanted it. None of them wanted to be attached on paperwork to anything. Everybody was extremely fearful of the government and the feds. So a lot of the growers didn’t touch medical cannabis. They stayed out in the woods and did their thing and made their money. I was one of the ones that stepped down and say I want to grow medical cannabis cause I want to help people because I love this plant. I don’t see anything violent about it. I don’t see anything criminal about it. When we use it for us, it’s you know, it’s like just like how people have a glass of wine at the end of the day. That’s how we use it. So anyway, I stepped out like that.
And 2009, I find out Colorado is going to legalize cannabis for a for-profit model. Meaning you can start a real company, you can go start an LLC or a corporation and start a business. And I thought well now it could now be a good time. I’ll take my kids home to their grandparents and I’ll start a legitimate cannabis business in Denver where they were issuing the very first legal licenses in the entire world. That’s what we did. We cruised over here. I think I sent you over here to do some “buy mission” to see, you know, we were looking at a dispensary to buy.
Sonia on a buy mission on Colorado
Sonia Gomez: I was like cat women. I came over here and I like started to investigate all of the different dispensaries that were coming up for sale at the time because truth be told, Colorado opened for legal cannabis in the year 2000 but nobody really did anything about it until 2009 and as soon as the first person did it, everybody came and did it. And all of us started we had broad stirred dam, which is like all of these, all of these shops popping up on this particular street here in Colorado or in Denver.
And so I started the checkout, all of these different spots, all these different locations. And I settled on one that was located near a hospital, followed all of the rules and it already had all of its certifications. So we were sort of grandfathered in and very, very…I called James and I said, I think I found it, blah, blah blah, let’s head over. So he moved over fourth-generation Colorado boy and now it’s to the family and I’m coming home, I’m bringing all of the grandkids. He came over here and we bought this business.
And within a week we were looking at each other like, what the fuck did we just get into? It was so crazy because we were used to operating our business in a certain way and all of a sudden we were met with all these regulations.
We had to be two-year residents. We had to, I mean there were so many different things that restricted us from doing what we knew how to do, which was serving the patients.
So I, through my journey, which I’ll share with you guys on another episode.
Through my journey, I was referred to Colorado to support the development of House Bill 1084 which was the original legislation that legalized cannabis for a for-profit medical model here and I, I got that recommendation after battling both the medical and the legal system in California for patients safe rights to access.
I was a patient whose rights were violated and I became very, very passionate about wanting to work with and advocate for patients who are having trouble gaining access to high-quality medicine that could in fact transformed the way that they were feeling on a daily basis. And we spent, I don’t know what, three and a half years cultivating incredible products, getting mainstream media recognition for the stuff that we were doing, interfacing with all different types of doctors.
And we finally figured out that even though we were serving tens of thousands of patients, the impact that we were making was still never enough for us. Right? I mean we heard stories from doctors, from parents whose kids have Lyme disease or seizures conditions, vets who, you know, were amputees and coming to us sharing their stories about how this one particular strain was helping their, their ghost pains or chore, Muscle Tremors and PTSD nightmares and all of this crazy, crazy stuff that we never got to, never got to interface with until having the physical location.
And that’s really when we got inspired to jump into digital marketing because we knew that we had to, we knew we were up against some real challenges. Number one, the industry and the money and the people coming into the industry at that time was so big. It’s so massive that big money was coming in.
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, they had millions of dollars.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, they were blowing out these huge Costco size warehouses with subpar, you know, mold infested, just disgusting chem product, flooding the market with it. So nobody…
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, we were up against like the McDonald’s of the cannabis industry. So much of it. So much of it so cheap. There are so much marketing dollars. I was just, I was talking the other day about, I had, we had this little boutique shop and had a small grow with a really high-quality herb.
And every time I would harvest one of the big companies before I could even put it on my shelf and like wait out in the aids and quarters I have a big company show up and they want to buy the entire crop. And after they did that a couple of times, I wouldn’t sell the entire crop cause I had to sell some on my store but I’d sell them like whatever I wasn’t going to sell.
I just sell all of it to this one company and there were like one of the top three or top four companies in Colorado right now. And they offered to buy my company and they wanted to take my genetics and they wanted me to design their grow and they came in and they offered me, I owned 100% of the business. I owned 100% of my brands, the dispensary, I owned 100% of the grow and they offered to buy my dispensary. They didn’t want to put any cash.
They didn’t, they weren’t offering me any cash and they said that I could keep 35% of the dispensary but I would never have to deal with the grow or any bills or anything. You know, they were going to run the entire business and just keep all the shelves, all my shelves completely full of the cannabis from my strains that I was, I was going to help design in our growth while they took me to their growth and it was like the size of Walmart. It was huge.
You couldn’t see from one end to the other. There was like over a thousand lights and there was probably a couple of hundred people in there. It was disgusting. It was like, it’s snow like chemicals. It’s snow like sour, like it was horrible. The whole thing was this hydroponic rockwool garden, and I’m not going to name it, I’m not going to call him out right now. Maybe I’ll call them out in another episode. So that whole thing, like it turned me off and I decided, I knew that I needed some help.
I needed, I, you know, this guy had built and sold multiple companies for millions and millions of dollars and he knew what he was doing, building a company. And he told me his whole strategy and everything and, but I just didn’t like the style and I didn’t like the brand of it. So I denied him there.
Now he’s like one of the biggest guys and I’d probably just be sitting back right now collecting at least million or 2 million a year right now just from selling that deal. I didn’t, I held onto it and I ended up selling it out for break even.
And I just walked away. I could’ve sold it to one of the biggest, you know, so you look back sometimes and you know, it taught me a lot about the business that time, right? So we ended up walking away because it was just too hard to scale and we wanted to get the message out there and we were getting incredible results in stories.
Doctors and nurses banging on the backdoor
We had doctors and nurses from the hospital, they would come and knock, they would call us and say, “Hey, can I knock on the back door and come and get medicine from you guys? Cause I can’t go in the front door because if they see me I could, I could lose my job”. Oh yeah, sure.
So we had doctors and nurses banging on the back door asking for them, you know, the best edibles are the best, you know, what would help, what would help their patients. And we were selling them. To them, it was a legitimate transaction that, you know, we recorded it and we pay taxes, but we sold it all to them through the backdoor.
Again, PTSD, veterans, we had people come in with amputees, with hands that had been chopped off, and that’s when we first found out about CBD. We have these high CBD strains. I didn’t know exactly too much about them and this is like 2009 and I had people coming back to me telling me people weren’t getting high off of it. But I had people come back with, I especially, I had this one amputee who was from Desert Storm. He had a miraculous, he said, I don’t feel any more phantom pains, James, I’m complete, this one strain is amazing.
And I said, oh my God, I found out. So I finally found out what high CBD strains do for people. And just another amazing story. Well, this led me, myself and Sonia to want, I wanted to make a bigger impact. I want to scale my business. I didn’t want to be stuck in retail, right? I’m this guy. I was living up in Humboldt County. I had thousands of acres surrounding me, different places. I got to Rome with my big truck and I used to work on all these different ranches and farms and now I’m stuck in this little concrete brick, you know, dispensing out eighths and quarters. Can you imagine that? I’m making way less money.
Like I’m making like one third or one-sixth the money and I’m working like 10 times as hard. It’s like crazy and I’m not doing this stuff I love. Remember like I was up in the mountains, I was like the natural guy living up in the mountains making these, kind of built this franchise where I’d set up a greenhouse and that build a little cabin and then I would lease it to somebody or I’d sell it off to somebody.
And now I’m like, dude! Now I’m like in downtown Denver, like dealing with cops and like I, I set up the freaking alarm one time I didn’t know how to use the emergency alarm. I set off the alarm, do sure enough, “Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom”. I got the cops like banging on my front window and they all got their guns out there. We’re all pointing at me, “Step out of the building right now we’ve got the alarm”. I have, I had to run out of the building. I’d like to come out of the building. There’s one cop right there. I step outside, I look around, there are six cops. They’ve all got their guns pointed at me. I’ve got my hands in the air. I’ve almost pissed myself, you know, that’s like, I was like having a heart attack. I thought I was going to be arrested. I’m there.
“I am selling weed in a city that I grew up in. They used to be totally illegal and I'm used to being out way up in the hills.” -James Brinkerhoff Click To Tweet
Cops don’t even go to, the cops are scared up in Humboldt. They don’t go around you. And you know, here I am in the city selling eighths to regular customers. Right? So I just wasn’t happy.
I wasn’t making the impact that I wanted to make. You know, when I was younger I thought I just want to grow them as much weed as possible. And as I got older and my kids got older, it became more about wanting to make more impact as possible. And change lives. So…
Sonia Gomez: Oh my God, that’s so warm and fuzzy. So he started a digital marketing company and…
Starting a digital marketing agency, building a social media empire
James Brinkerhoff: Started a digital publishing company
Sonia Gomez: And in two years we’ve been able to grow the digital marketing or the publishing company to over 1 million followers. I think of that time period we’ve impacted over 27 million people’s lives. I get to do the video, he does all the hard stuff in the background with the technology and the posting and, and really communicating with you guys and understanding what you like, what you don’t like, what you respond to.
And he’s really, really into it and the impact of it all. The coolest thing I think from any of this stuff is that we get to like pat our 16-year-old kids son on the shoulder and tell him, “We know son”. We know what you guys are into and it’s okay. And, and really providing just like a safe container for our kids to…
James Brinkerhoff: I’m the coolest dad.
Sonia Gomez: To express themselves and to talk about the things that they’re interested in. And I caught my son on the sidelines because he’s really into football. He’s really into health, you know, and he’s away, he’s doing great in school. Like kids are overachievers and…
James Brinkerhoff: Yeah, my son grew up helping me cultivate in our garden. He knows how to grow cannabis and he’s a championship football player. Totally clean, natural. He has a natural diet, works out five days a week, you know, nobody could tell me that cannabis has affected my family in a battle. My other daughter’s a straight-A student gets A-pluses, you know.
Sonia Gomez: The cool thing was, is that like what’s is on the sidelines explaining to his coach into, into the other kids on his team, like why it’s so important for them to use CBD topically so that they can recover their muscles and reducing inflammation. And I was like, wow, my son is educating kids on the same stuff. And I hear him telling him like, no, no man, you’re not supposed to smoke it. Like you’re just going to use it topically.
That’s how it’s going to help us. Then it’s so cool to just hear my youngest kid ask us questions because they still have the like say no to drugs campaign in school, but they’re in Colorado. We’re actually having open conversations with our kids, allowing them to ask us questions about cannabis and what’s Daddy’s medicine and what it looks like in…
James Brinkerhoff: It’s healthy. Get rid of the lies people, it’s like it’s healthy.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. It’s really, really healthy.
James Brinkerhoff: Get out of the shadows. That’s what I would say, get out of the shadows, get into the light.
Biggest take away about their journey in the Cannabis industry
Sonia Gomez: I think through all of this, the biggest takeaway, and I’m going to ask this same question, James, what’s your biggest takeaway from our journey and how we got here? For me, my biggest takeaway from all of this is exactly what you just said, like the longer that you are living a lie, now, this could be in your, in your marriage, in your relationships, in your work and your professional life, in your home. Like it just, it doesn’t matter. You know if is going to resonate with you.
The longer that you’re living in a lie or existing in mediocrity, preventing you from achieving the greatness that is within you. Or even being able to recognize it, let alone access it. And the minute that we stepped out of, you know, the thing that we thought was igniting us, which was our life up in northern California and in the Humboldt hills and you know, doing all of this incredible stuff that now we see on TV as a part of it, you know, series and then moving into Colorado and you know, being stuck in this box and limited by all of the regulations, all the way through to now where we’re able to freely express and educate and inform humanity.
Not just like one small microcosm of the world and you know, Denver, Colorado, but actually accessing a global marketplace, global info on and at the center of knowledge and distribution of the most powerful thing that we can share with you, which is knowledge and expertise. Information with that you can do anything, right. And so for me, the closer that you can live your most authentic life, the thing that makes you feel the most passionate and the most excited and the most inspired every day.
No matter how far away it seems from you or, no matter how inaccessible or impossible it seems, you can overcome anything and you can create your life to be exactly as you want it to be. If you have the courage and when you decide that you want to take hold of your life and create the life that you should be living, something that you can love and be really proud of, there’s an infinite possibility. Making that switch from, “I can’t do that because…” to, “I wonder how I can do that?” is such an intense journey, but it’s such a freeing feeling.
So I wish that for all of you guys is to really embrace the thing that you’re most passionate about and reach out to the person or people that you think can help you get there, to shortcut your path to success and really start to achieve the things that you know you want to achieve.
Whether it’s losing weight or having a better marriage, or having a better relationship with your kids, or you know, being more successful in your work or through work and, and starting your own business or whatever passion project or, you know, moving across the world to rebuild houses for orphans. Like whatever it is that you love to do, you’re only one decision away. Tony Robbins says, “Change doesn’t take 10 years. Change happens in a moment. ”
It may take you 10 years to get to that moment where you decided to change, but the change happens in one moment. It’s one decision away. It may take you 10 years to get there, but that change happens in one moment.
And that moment, yeah, the instant that you decide to make things different, right? So that moment could be here right this moment. And while you’re listening to this podcast and recognizing that this movement, this mission, this industry, this self-empowerment and self-aware care movement is upon it and we are on the rise right now.
The passion and desire for freedom
James Brinkerhoff: I love it. Yeah, Sonia really the whole story. When I think back on the story of all this and what generated it at all, it was the passion and desire for freedom.
And that’s what led me, that’s how cannabis got me out, got me outside and got me out in the woods in the beginning. It got me on the mountains, go up hiking with my buddies and smoke a little bit and get outside and change my senses a little bit and feel what it’s like to have the wind on my face and the smells of the forest and, and just change my reality a little bit. I was, I was that rebellious kid.
I didn’t, I didn’t buy into the Corporate America to what kind of, I was being fed by my parents, you know, to be a good boy and get good grades and go to a good college and get a good job. And do a good career, just do this little status quo thing. And, and it was that desire for freedom.
Cannabis kind of gave me those freedoms and it gave me my financial freedom and freedom to choose how I want him to live as I journeyed out to northern California, you know?
And then again, chasing that financial freedom to be able to make the choices that I want in this world. And I really see, if you look around, it’s just amazing that this one plant, this cannabis hemp plant, there’s a whole regulation around this one plant, there’s a whole industry around this one plant.
And I guess there’s industries for corn, there’s industries for Coco, you know, coffee. Yeah, coffee. But like this one plant, they haven’t, they have stores that’s just dedicated to this one plant and it just shows how powerful that plant is God’s creation. And for us, for somebody like me,
“I'm just excited about what the future brings and I feel like it's a freedom movement. It's a chance for people to get involved, to free yourself from the chains of your health condition.” -James Brinkerhoff Click To Tweet
maybe or if the free yourself financially to find a vehicle here with this plant to, to respect it and love it and use your skillsets and show the world how you can help this movement in this industry move forward.
This plant is going to help all of humanity and society and I don’t want it to seem like some big crazy conspiracy ramp but look at what it can do for us. Look at the food, the fuel, the fiber, the medicine that it produces for people. The ease that it helps with people and there’s just, we’ve just scratched the surface and we’re in the middle of this big CBD craze and everybody’s freaking out about it, but we’re going to find out there are a lot more uses for hemp then CBD and cannabis and it’s just really exciting.
So we are going to continue to bring a lot of great people on the show. I want people to learn how to save their health and manage their health and manage their pain. The stories that are coming out of this show.
And I also want people to understand the business and you know, in all the different things that are happening in the world with this plant, how it’s being produced, how the farmers are working with it, how it’s being made into these products, and then how marketers are selling it online now and how it’s being spread all over the world with this new and true information.
Right. And so one of the things we’ve been able to do is kind of hack into Internet marketing and in the publishing world and social media and be able to get this message out to a lot and a lot of people.
So this is something that we’re going to continue to do is to help businesses to help small hemp or cannabis businesses with different aspects of their business.
Whether it’s from how they’re cultivating their plants, all the way to how they’re doing their marketing and branding online and how they’re positioning themselves out into the entire marketplace into the world.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. Making that did they made the jump from where they are to where they want to be. And I, I also think that the great differentiator between us is that we have walked those, those trenches, you know, before. So a lot of the people who are veterans in the industry and trying to come in to share their knowledge and expertise, you know, need that hand holding to get in.
And also, you know, people who have no idea about this but know that there’s a mission and a movement that they want to be a part of it and they want to create a business that can stand the test of time and really support the legacy of this industry and its development. Because we’re still in its infancy right now.
You know, we’re, we’re starting to support entrepreneurs who are making the corporate to cannabis jump. And it’s just super fascinating to see how this plant, once again is showing that it is the great equalizer. It is the thing that is bringing cultures and religion and races all together because it is one thing that we enjoy equally and we can recognize the impact. And the income potential that is derived through your participation in this plant and the movement surrounding it so you know, no matter what walk of life you are from, there is something for you here whether you’re a consumer or an advocate or both.
There is a place for you here inside of this industry. There is a home for everybody and it’s our passions to help identify that and provide all of the different facets and a glimpse on the inside with a microscope so that you can see sort of the microcosms and cultures and communities that are thriving inside of this space and are derived from this space and really having an open dialogue about it while connecting you with real life opportunities.
I mean if you’re an investor, there’s information here where you can decide where to put your money to work. If you are just getting started and just have a little, a little savings that you want to throw in here and trying to figure out how you can run your own little home based business.
There’s opportunities for you guys here and we’ve taken a ton of time at that, those things out because we’re so passionate from both the patients and the family business side, representing both perspectives.
You know, we’re really passionate about providing the highest quality information and products so that you guys can make empowered decisions about how you want to build your business, how you want to care for your family and how you want to treat yourselves, the people that you love, the conditions you may be suffering from, and really start to take and become aware of the, your ability to heal your body, your mind, your spirit through the use and understanding of this plant. It’s pretty miraculous. So, with that being said, James, any last final words to our viewers for this episode?
James Brinkerhoff: No, I just want to encourage everybody to end the fear, end the fear, man, I lived a lot of years in fear and it’s just really empowering now to be in the light is your truth, you know, and get in this industry, you know, get involved if you’re using it for a medicine, great.
Get involved somehow. Be our supporter, use your skill sets, you know, whatever your education, your skill set, your background is, get in and help us.
You know, I, I spent a lot of years up in the mountains and when I came back down into retail, I had no idea how to do marketing and sales. And I spent the last six years busting my butt.
I got pretty much a master’s degree and, digital marketing and sales and stuff, and, you know, understanding what it is to be in the marketplace, you know, use your skill sets and help us out, right?
We need accountants and lawyers and we need doctors and we need all just, all different kinds of people to help this industry push it forward, bring things into the light. I’ve been really excited.
We’ve had a couple of offerings over the past year and we have a certification course that teaches natural health practitioners how to use cannabis and help, cannabis and hemp their practices and how to build a six-figure cannabis health coaching business by using the Internet and offline tactics as well. So we have that course.
We also just created a business mastermind for businesses, people that are already in the industry or ready to invest and get in the industry. It’s called the Emerald Circle Masterminds .We’re really excited about that.
Helping businesses and kind of helping us all rise as an industry, business owners coming together and using each other’s unique skillsets and network and talents. So you kind of rise all ships, right? So we’re really excited about that mastermind and new products coming out on the horizon, new CBD products coming from us and just really excited. So many opportunities.
So you guys stay tuned, subscribe to the podcast. I’d love a great or some feedback from you guys. What you guys want to hear about.
Who would you like to hear an interview? Do you want to hear some scientists from Israel that are studying cannabinoids? Would you like to hear from Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg? We’ve got a connection that could get us an interview with Snoop Dogg if we want to. Who, who do you really want to hear from?
We’re going to do some interviews and we’re going to bring in business guys. I’ve got some friends that are doing $100,000 a day in sales on CBD stuff and they sell it all online business opportunities like that.
I want to bring all this stuff out and really showcased the industry and have a lot of fun. Tell some jokes, smoke some good weed. Talk about what we need to talk about, you know, our community, our people.
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