The Legendary cultivators are prepping for their first Illinois drop and gave an update on their return to California
Few things have been more devastating to the California top-shelf cannabis smoker in recent years than the night IC Collective burned down in July of 2021. We caught up with founder Ben Brown as he prepares to enter the Illinois market and return home when possible.
Backboned by Brown’s links to the Chem Fam, the network of famous OG growers that ran the Chemdog strain found by Greg Krzanowski in Massachusetts over a quarter century ago, IC Collective was famous for having the gas. Over the years, Brown collected a variety of killer flavors he would pair with the Chem and each other. The results would start filling their trophy shelves in 2013 and lead to their famous mantra, “We run on fuel.”
In a world of dessert weeds and new equatorial concoctions that breeders pray may end up the next cookies or Z, most still associate the most potent marijuana in the world with that petrol or fuel smell that much of IC Collective’s catalog possessed in spades. And even the things that weren’t fuelly smelling were notable representations of whatever they were. I stand by the statement the best Zkittelz I ever saw that wasn’t grown in Mendocino was grown by Brown.
Despite the large volume of cannabis being grown in California, there are only a dozen or so cultivators that can compare to IC Collective. Hence, even with all that other weed, the void they left behind was massive. Especially given how few other people in that dozen actually specialize in fuel.
But things are looking up. After a massive 1800-seed pheno hunt of gear Brown has been working on or hoarding for a decade, they are ready to send their first product to retailers in over two years. In the end, it looks like there will be about a 26-month gap in production.
“I think our last delivery was July 2? Or July 1 2021. And then we burned down on the fourth. Two years dude,” Brown told L.A. Weekly. “The only thing I say that at that building was some mom plants.”
Thankfully the 12 strains he was able to rescue were some of his bangers. But not all made it, the Ziablo that was winning a lot of stuff was among the fallen. But Brown pressed on with what he was able to save until he finally got his Illinois rooms going.
IC Collective got the permit for Illinois a week after the fire in Oakland. Needless to say, the week between was one of the more stressful of Brown’s cannabis career. As the pound price has crashed in California, we asked if he ever considered throwing in the towel in The Golden State, despite the presumption it’ll eventually be the production capital for the global connoisseur class of smokers that buy top-shelf products from people like Brown.
He emphasized he’s plenty familiar with the challenges of California. But he’s one of the people that grows fire that’s good enough to deal with those headaches.
“We did the same amount of money every year because we didn’t have the funds to build outright,” Brown said. “So I know that challenges in California, like how expensive it was. Even though we were successful, we really didn’t make any money or be able to progress our situation. So I was constantly trying to get better. Get my situation better in California. So that’s how I got to Illinois.”
When the firefighters let Brown rescue his plants the next day, he was but one of over 400 applicants hoping to cultivate in Illinois. He didn’t know how the next week would play out.
“And so that was like a long shot, and then I had already been trying to get a bigger building in California. And on the 15th, we won the license. So July 15, 2021, 10 days later, we won the license in Illinois, and then later that night, I got approved for my conditional use permit for another town in California,” Brown said.
That town was West Sacramento. He just needs time and revenue to get back to doing it properly in California. Come early October, he’ll have both.
“I have the building, I have two licenses for distro and manufacturing. I have building permits. I have half of the equipment. Like it’s a real thing,” Brown said, “It’s just you ask the question like you, you watch this, the 2021 market, and yeah, I’m scared and I think we can do it right.”
Brown said anyone who can make it in California can make it anywhere since they’re basically selling bottled water next to a waterfall and still surviving.
“But yeah, it’s hella scary to come back to work here,” Brown said. “And before it was just all me, everything I work for I dumped in, and now I have supporters and like if a fear of disappointing other people, you know, or like failing is the ultimate fear for me. So we are slow rolling California, but I mean, I was just on the phone with the municipality the other day telling them that we’re still in the game.”
When asked if he expected to have the gassiest weed in Illinois come September, Brown replied, “1,000%.”
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