After seven years of percolating, Khalifa Kush is finally hitting California store shelves this week. 

For the better part of a decade, its namesake and founder Wiz Khalifa has eyeballed the cannabis space. One might even argue Khalifa Kush is a legacy idea that took a little time to execute right. But the work is done and the weed, which we sampled ourselves before tomorrow’s big launch, is exceptional.

We sat down with Khalifa a week out from his big launch. While everyone knows he puffs tough, he dove into his first experiences with more elite cannabis to give context to the path that’s led to the first Khalifa Kush drop tomorrow. 

“I started traveling going on tour, of course needing it on the road, I’d get it a lot of different  places. Some kids would have packs sent in, others grew it,” Khalifa told L.A. Weekly. “But I didn’t run into the best I ever smoked until I got out here on the west coast. And that’s when I met Berner.”

Khalifa describes meeting the Cookies co-founder as his personal Renaissance moment when it came to smoking the heat. He’d loved what he thought was great pot already, but the finest wares California had to offer introduced him to another level of excitement.  

“And he actually showed me like real plants, and showed me how to cure and things like that stuff,” Khalifa said. “Stuff I’d never seen and never really even knew about. He taught me about phenos and different genetics, and all of that stuff.”

With the help of Berner giving him a wider sense of cannabis quality and the game, Khalifa was able to start transitioning to a deeper kind of connoisseur. Eventually, Berner brought him into the lucky few getting to test the newest heat from Cookies before it hit the streets. 

When Khalifa would return home to L.A. from tour, Berner would head south with the full variety pack for them to sample. In those sessions, the idea that would become Khalifa Kush was born. 

“He would bring a lot of different weed down, and we would test them out and kind of name them. Just really coming up with a fashion line, but it was weed, higher-end weed. And the Khalifa Kush was one of those brands that made it through.” Khalifa said of the origins of his kush. 

He noted when Berner first brought it down that people in the Bay weren’t quite feeling it. I think one of the things about San Francisco’s distaste was how reminiscent it was to the Cherry AK-47 terpene profile that was some of the best terps coming out of Sacramento in the early 2010s. The Khalifa Kush has a bit more fuel on it though. 

Berner expected the flavor would be more appealing to Khalifa than some of his friends back in the bay, and he was not mistaken. The flavor that tasted like a pairing of OG Kush, AK-47, and a gas station was exactly the kind of phenotype Khalifa wanted to start building from. 

“And he named it after me and we just kind of have just been on the road to make it what it is now ever since,” Khalifa said, “Whether it’s the brand name, making songs about it, actually putting it in people’s hands so they know what it tastes and smells like. But we’re really excited to finally be in stores and it being the actual product that me and Berner started out with. It’s the one, not the two.”

Khalifa would go on to elaborate on some of the hurdles he’s seen in the marketplace over the years working to get to shelves. He argues the biggest surprise was just the volatility of the market. “There were a lot of times where they were ready to push the button and go, then we had to like go all the way back,” he said about watching the market’s ups and downs. 

But there was still value to be had. Many entrepreneurs entering cannabis didn’t want to touch the space until the dust had settled. Some were waiting for banking access that never came, others to see if the ghost of John Ashcroft would wage a federal war on legal pot, while others just wanted to see others learn the hard lessons. 

Whatever the reasoning, there are a bunch of good ones when it came to waiting for a second to enter the cannabis space. And regardless of which boat you found yourself on, you learned a lot over the years since California’s first legal weed sale.

“So I was just getting to know the ins and outs of the game, and just waiting for the right time and just literally figuring out that sweet spot,” Khalifa said. 

There was plenty to take in. From L.A., Khalifa has had a first-hand view of the perils of the cannabis industry at both the municipal and state level. But he wasn’t sitting on his hands. 

“It’s been crazy, and I think not as much waiting as it is just trying different things, trying to enter in different spaces, fuck with different people, different companies and things like that,” Khalifa said, “Luckily, I’ve had a really strong team that has been able to make it through the entire journey.”

One aspect of keeping the team tight was it made it easier to cut the pieces out that didn’t really make the most sense. Khalifa argues now they’re at a point where everything is moving in the right direction whether it’s inside the company or out.

“A lot of it has to do with the laws and just the availability of the space to work,” Khalifas said. “So now that everything is changing, and we’re getting better with that, it’s all lining up for the work that we put in overtime, to pay off.”

Khalifa’s whole interaction with the cannabis space is a lot different than most of his peers. With the exception of Berner and B-Real’s complete vertical entities that can grow, distribute, and sell through their own retail entities, there aren’t a lot of celebrities getting as hands-on with the genetics process as Khalifa. 

Much of the time, we see celebrity pot wasn’t grown specifically for those brands in the first place. California has a large market for purchasing bulk legal flowers. We asked Khalifa what it was like having the reverse ethos of so many that wanted to get in quick with anything, as opposed to his wait to come out the gate with his exact vision that started at his coffee table with Berner.

“It’s been good and it’s been fun to actually be a part of the expansion of recreational marijuana,” Khalifa said. “Of course, I’m happy to have my brand in the stores and different states, and stuff like that. And be able to launch and show up showing love, but it’s just all about the plant.”

Khalifa went on to speak a bit more about how his kush originally won his heart, as he explained the excitement he hopes California consumers will enjoy when they take it home for the first time this weekend. He emphasized it is the exact same one as the original cut. In hopes of bringing out its best attributes, it’s passed through the hands of a few growers over the years. The ultimate goal of that search was to try to make sure people experience it the same way that he did. 

“I would never want people to get like a watered-down version just because it’s being mass produced,” Khalifa said. “So even with this first batch, you know, coming in, there are some things that are going to change a little bit.”

Khalifa went on to say there wasn’t any real stress in the hunt for that grower. He knew what he was getting into from the start and always envisioned anything that was going to be done well to be a long-term process. 

For Khalifa Kush’s CEO DJ Saul, maybe there were a few days where he bore the brunt of the less-fun stuff. 

“I mean, lots and lots of R&D testing, discussion, hard conversations, easy conversations, fun conversations, I mean, all of it right?” Saul told L.A. Weekly. “But at this point, we are extremely confident with who we ended up working with, what we’re actually bringing to market here.”

Saul noted the brand has plenty in store for 2022. Expect to see Khalifa Kush enter more markets and expand from the flower and preroll lineup it will launch within California. But the quest to grow is where great pot can take a hit sometimes. He said you should not be concerned. 

“100% quality first, and everybody says that; we say it and mean it,” Saul said. “Not to knock anybody else, but if we do have to make some sacrifices on the scale to make sure we’re only delivering products that Wiz himself would not only smoke but approve and enjoy, that’s what we got to do.”

Much of the lab work to preserve Khalifa Kush took place at Node Labs in San Francisco. The lab’s cuttings are made from the plant’s meristem. This part of the plant is so fresh that any nasty things it picked up over the years haven’t touched it yet. Those clean cuttings were propagated to supply those first retail waves of Khalifa Kush. 

While not in the lineup for release, The Khalifa Mints collaboration with Compound Genetics is also definitely something to keep an eye out for in the future. The version we sampled last spring was fantastic. 

One of the most important conversations happening in the cannabis industry at the moment is whether the communities that were hit the hardest by the War on Drugs are getting their shot in the industry. Khalifa was familiar with the racial disparities he saw in Pittsburgh’s policing, long before he got to California, and it could be said he’s spoken on the criminal justice aspects of cannabis more than most big names entering the space. 

We asked Khalifa how excited he was to be able to add being a Black business owner in the space to his voice, as he continues to push for progress?

“I’m really excited,” he replied. “Part of what I do is just breaking down those barriers and those walls and those color divisions that people see. And as you said, it hasn’t happened overnight, but we’ve been putting in work for a lot of years, probably 10-plus when it comes to this space.” 

Khalifa is also excited to represent for people who love exotic weed. He didn’t build a character to convince people he enjoys cannabis. 

“But it definitely makes me happy and you know that I could just be myself and represent for the community and people who are like me, and even though it might be a process,” Khalifa said, “we’re willing to go through it and take the necessary avenues to get to where we’re at now. And nothing is compromised in the process. So I’m super happy about that.”

 

LA Weekly