Made-in-L.A. Marijuana Strains Find a Market in Las Vegas

Ivan of Jungle Boys, left, with rapper Berner and Matthew Morgan of Reef DispensariesEXPAND
Ivan of Jungle Boys, left, with rapper Berner and Matthew Morgan of Reef Dispensaries
Shane O'Neal

California knows how to party, you say? Indeed, as the marijuana spotlight returns to its rightful place as a result of voters’ November passage of recreational legal weed in California, cannabis producers here have evolved beyond old-school strains like O.G. Kush.

Los Angeles producer Jungle Boys has developed its own "flavors" of flower, including an Exotikz line created with rapper Berner, known for his "cookie" strains. Newer products include Jungle Cake, Wedding Cake and Strawberry Shortcake. The weed is so in demand that Reef Dispensaries in Las Vegas has inked a deal with Jungle Boys to carry some of its products in its Sin City stores beginning with a limited-release debut in mid-September, the parties recently announced.

"A ton of our clientele in Vegas knows who the Jungle Boys are," says Matthew Morgan, CEO of Reef Dispensaries, which also has shops in Reno and suburban Phoenix. "Their reputation is that they have the highest quality in the region if not the country."

Jungle Boys has become a phenomenon in Los Angeles cannabis circles, thanks in no small part to its 388,000 followers on Instagram. The producer also is affiliated with the TLC Collective near Boyle Heights. "We have a lot of our own strains and do collaborate with different breeders," says a Jungle Boys principal known only as Ivan. "We have 550 strains in our vault. A large portion are seeds that we developed. That's what separates us from others. Plus we have the largest dispensary in the largest market."

The deal between Reef, known for carrying rapper Wiz Khalifa's own cannabis brand, and Jungle Boys indicates the broad influence Los Angeles marijuana culture could have on a national market that has seen nearly 30 states enact some form of pot legalization. Recreational pot sales are slated to begin in California in January.

Morgan says that branded marijuana products are the lifeblood of contemporary pot retailers. "If you don't have branding, you're going to have a race to the bottom," he says.

Ivan of Jungle Boys says it took more than 2 years to develop the Strawberry Shortcake slated for Reef in Vegas, but that it was worth it because the retailer can charge a little more for premium, branded products.

"Everybody has Blue Dream," Ivan says. "We're going for the connoisseur market. Our prices are a little bit higher but we've proven that growing quality products is viable."

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The agreement with Reef is more like a licensing deal: The Vegas dispensary chain will get seeds and genetics and will be able to grow its own Jungle Boys products, the principals say. Moving weed across state lines could be legally dicey.

"Geneteics is half the battle," Berner says. "The Jungle Boys are able to teach the growers at Reef." Ivan adds, "With Reef we're taking the partner approach, giving them genetics and knowledge from 13 years of cultivating and giving them formulas for these strains."

The Vegas dispensary is betting the high rollers will want the the Los Angeles cannabis experience. "The connoisseur only wants the best quality in the country," Morgan says. "So we will be cultivating Jungle Boys in Nevada and it will be marketed as Exotikz."


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