Often when cannabis business insiders inform their tales, they’re executives or CEOs. However Jackson Tilley’s rise from intern to top-dog depicts a extra sober aspect of the business — and the motion.

Lead picture of Jackson D. Tilley by Karly Goranson

Previously few years, bookstores have been flooded with tomes overlaying marijuana legalization’s broad sweep throughout political, social, judicial, media, and monetary landscapes. Virtually each single certainly one of these books has been penned by journalists, historians, or weed business executives. 

So, it was high-time that somebody who began on the backside of this fledgling business is now right here to share his story with a world thirsty for more information on authorized weed. His identify is Jackson Tilley, and he’d such as you to know that despite the fact that he doesn’t eat cannabis as of late, he believes each accountable grownup has the precise to securely and legally entry it.

“My story just isn’t distinctive,” Tilley writes within the introduction of his memoir-meets-market-analysis, Billion Greenback Dimebag: An Insider’s Account of America’s Legalish Trade. “My purpose just isn’t riot. I merely need to change the hearts and minds of those that query private freedom in the case of using cannabis. I sit up for the day once I don’t need to argue with strangers in regards to the glory of a regulated cannabis market.”

After all, Tilley hadn’t at all times abstained from weed. As a youthful man born and raised in Colorado, the primary state to launch authorized adult-use marijuana gross sales, he might at all times rating some herb. And despite the fact that, like most People, he was subjected to public schooling’s anti-drug DARE packages — the sorts that drive children to signal ineffective waivers swearing off all medication — he started puffing the inexperienced as quickly as he left dwelling and entered faculty. 

Whereas a scholar on the College of Colorado-Boulder simply because the Centennial State went authorized, he locked down an internship at one of many state’s largest weed vape pen firms, o.Pen Vape. From there, the e book chronicles his journey from an intro-level gross sales rep to turning into the Director of Communications at Organa Manufacturers, o.Pen Vape’s dad or mum firm and the nation’s largest distributor of state-legal weed.

In a nutshell, Tilley’s story is the traditional American story of working up the ladder from the bottom stage to the crowning high. He’s now one of many level individuals who mediates the nationwide dialogue on weed and legalization among the many nascent business, the mainstream media, and a public that’s been concurrently fascinated and overwhelmed by the sudden deluge of cannabis-centered information. 

To search out out extra about Tilley’s story, in addition to his insights into weed’s legalization and normalization, MERRY JANE gave him a hoop in New York Metropolis, the place he at present resides. 

MERRY JANE: There are already dozens upon dozens of books on cannabis and cannabis legalization proper now. What impressed you to write down this e book?

Jackson Tilley: Working on this business, I’ve at all times been extra focused on first-person narratives. I hadn’t actually seen a e book written by individuals like me or talking for individuals like me, so I made a decision to write down one myself.

I’ve learn lots of what we might contemplate the usual blue-chip e book that’s been written in regards to the business. As I’ve labored within the cannabis house for the previous 5 years, one of many items I felt was lacking was extra distinctive and various voices. Being somebody within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, and as somebody who’s sober, I felt like I might distinctive a perspective that had not been shared. That was actually the primary driver. 

I don’t know many sober individuals who work in cannabis, however I do know there are some. I believed that alone would supply an attention-grabbing framework to write down a e book. That was step one, then, thankfully, I bought related with some nice individuals who helped me flip it right into a actuality.

Have you ever confronted any stigma being a sober particular person working within the business? Has it ever gotten in your approach, or have most business insiders and advocates been superb with it?

For positive. I feel there’s at all times just a little little bit of a story round, “How will you assist merchandise that you just don’t actively use?” I have a tendency to search out lots of that to be just a little bit baseless, and I personally haven’t confronted any stigma first-hand. However I’ve additionally gotten out in entrance of that in lots of methods, simply by being a powerful advocate for private freedom. That’s actually the purpose I attempt to make within the e book: Even should you don’t use cannabis regularly, or in any respect, I feel lots of people can nonetheless discover a option to get behind this notion that there are these immense medical advantages to it. Additionally, [ cannabis being] a substitute for alcohol is one other argument. 

There’s much less stigma round being sober, I feel, as a result of extra individuals are getting on board with the concept that you don’t have to make use of [ cannabis] to assist it.

You began off in Colorado, however you now dwell in New York Metropolis. New York’s been gradual to implement legalization, and the legislature there lately determined to formally decriminalize weed as an alternative of regulating its gross sales. Being at ground-zero in New York, what variations are you seeing with legalization there in comparison with the way it rolled-out in Colorado?

It’s attention-grabbing, and I feel whereas lots of people had been actually dissatisfied with the result over the last legislative session, clearly decriminalizing it’s a step in the precise path. For all of its faults, I’ve to lean into this concept that I feel it’s considerably admirable that the legislature is making an attempt to be as accountable and acutely aware as doable when making these choices, as a result of it has a wide-reaching influence. Colorado was form of the good experiment in all of this, and it labored out to our profit and the good thing about lots of different states — trying to Colorado as a mannequin for legalization. In New York, I feel there are extra legislative complexities because of the scale and measurement [of the state’s population], however I’m assured that it’ll be labored out by the following session.


At one level within the e book you, you element taking a break from the business earlier than getting in once more. And after you returned, you bought a candy promotion to VIP Relations at Organa Manufacturers. How did issues change for you when that occurred? I’m assuming this new place required you to rub shoulders and community with large names and celebrities.

It was positively a turning level. Usually, once you’re working with individuals of a sure caliber, it’s at all times Ask, Ask, Ask. Persons are at all times coming to them wanting issues. Organa got here to them at an excellent time. We weren’t asking for something in return, we had been simply focused on having our merchandise within the arms of case-makers who might actually transfer the cultural needle. We had been simply providing these things up with out asking for something in return. And I did meet lots of celebrities at the moment, however none who I ought to identify right here [laughs].

The place do you see issues going now when it comes to cannabis legalization and its rising corporatization?

I feel we’re actually on that path. My reasoning is at all times going to be break up. There might be consolidation amongst greater names within the business, however as with most different consumer-packaged items, you additionally at all times have smaller boutique manufacturers. The identical might be true within the cannabis business. 

Because it’s extra “normalized” — and I at all times pause earlier than I exploit that time period, as a result of I feel when it comes to social acceptance, we’ve actually come a great distance — and when speaking about “normalizing” or “eradicating the stigma,” I feel that’s largely been finished. There are actually swathes of the nation the place that’s not the case, however on the entire, it’s. 

We’re seeing these results take maintain, whether or not that’s firms going public in Canada or only a proliferation of cannabis retailers throughout the nation. We’re seeing it take maintain on a cultural stage, so, naturally, as with most social actions, the laws comply with go well with.

Gallery — The Well-known & 420-Pleasant:

There’s a historian, Emily Dufton, who lately revealed a e book on cannabis legalization. She made an argument that legalization was not inevitable, and that there have been issues that might nonetheless derail it. Do you are feeling the identical approach?

I feel [federal legalization] could also be additional off than many want to imagine. However I do suppose that’s it’s an inevitability at this level. On the finish of the day, a bell has been rung, and I don’t understand how you may step again from that at this level. Maybe possibly it received’t occur on the timeline that folks need or that folks suppose, however on the finish of the day, I feel it should occur.

We’ve simply reached crucial mass the place there may be a lot capital, and so many new jobs — and a lot shopper curiosity — which can be tied up within the business. I battle to think about a world the place, within the subsequent 5 years, there isn’t some form of sweeping regulatory change in favor of the business.

On that be aware of jobs: For people who find themselves pondering of stepping into the business, what ought to they anticipate earlier than they make that transition?

The downsides and the upsides [in this industry] are one and the identical, for me. I’ve a specific working type the place this business actually fits me. The unpredictability of lots of issues which can be inherent in any nascent business — not simply in cannabis, however something novel — is actually thrilling, and it holds my consideration in ways in which different issues don’t. There’s some instability on this business which will flip some individuals away, however I discovered that invigorating.

The queer neighborhood and the AIDS disaster within the ‘80s and ‘90s pushed medical marijuana legalization in California and, finally, the remainder of the nation. As a homosexual man working within the business, have you ever skilled homophobia, personally? 

I might say that it has advanced in lock-step with the broader public notion of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood. There are methods to enhance, the place we now have extra queer individuals in management positions throughout the board, and thankfully, I work for a corporation that’s tremendous forward-thinking. We’ve been marching in Pleasure Parades so long as we’ve been in enterprise. And that could be distinctive to us, however I discover the business to be pretty inclusive on the entire.

But it surely’s humorous to me, and I level this out within the e book, queer tradition and cannabis tradition are inextricably linked as a result of they share an origin story. One of many large the reason why we now have cannabis within the kind that we do at this time is due to Dennis Peron and the AIDS disaster. That’s a narrative that’s ignored lots of occasions, and I’m unsure why it’s not highlighted extra, however I see it cropping up increasingly. If something, that’s a sign that we’re shifting in the precise path.

I’ve skilled each extremes within the cannabis business: I’ve labored with supposedly reformed neo-Nazis at a dispensary, and I at present work for a media firm that’s extremely queer-friendly.

You make a very good level: Within the broader media panorama, it’s gotten cognizant of LGBTQ+ points, and it really works to take part in that dialog in a significant and optimistic approach. I feel, as we’ve seen the media panorama increase to incorporate cannabis in it, that’s altered the dialogue in lots of methods. It’s not essentially distinctive to this business, however I feel the elevated visibility that it brings about, it will increase acceptance, too. However I hate that phrase, “acceptance.” I feel we’re simply at some extent — for all the issues that we now have within the LGBTQ+ area — we’ve actually come up to now that it’s exhausting for me to say there’s nonetheless a notion difficulty on the day-to-day.


Talking of medical weed, some of us are afraid that leisure legalization would be the demise knell of the medical motion. That after state, and doubtlessly the federal, governments begin raking within the tax revenues on leisure, they received’t see a lot use in regulating medical cannabis. Do you see that taking place?

The information in Colorado doesn’t lie: Leisure cannabis makes up the overwhelming majority of the cannabis transactions that occur. However even should you’re utilizing it for medical functions, I feel it’s simply simpler to purchase it in a leisure market. You don’t need to see a health care provider yearly, and the tax financial savings you’d in all probability have by buying it medically would off-set the prices you incur yearly [to get a medical cannabis card]. I don’t suppose medicinal use has gone down. I feel it’s simply transitioned to a distinct storefront, primarily.

Coming again to your e book: If there was one factor that you just needed readers to remove from it, what would it not be?

You don’t have to eat cannabis or have it’s part of your each day life to get behind this concept that folks shouldn’t be sitting in jail for easy cannabis possession. That companies shouldn’t be unfairly taxed due to the road of labor that they’re in. That consenting adults ought to have the ability to make no matter choices they need to about what goes into their very own our bodies, so long as it’s not hurting anybody else. 

It’s actually this overarching narrative round supporting this concept of private freedoms moderately than “ cannabis is the car to realize them.” 

To get your arms on a replica of Tilley’s e book, “Billion Greenback Dimebag,” click on right here.

Comply with Randy Robinson on Twitter