After over 20 years of excitement around OG Kush in Los Angeles, one of the men who spread it to the masses became the furthest grower south ever to win the world championship of outdoor pot.
Josh Del Rosso, or Josh D as he is more famously known, absolutely crushed the mixed light category at The Emerald Cup in 2019, which the cup defines as the cultivation of mature cannabis outdoors or in a greenhouse where supplemental lighting can be utilized. Four of the top 10 entries belonged to Josh D’s Santa Barbara operation. While the Ice Cream Cake took home the top prize, Ghost OG, Motor Breath and the Dynasty OG we featured in our Thanksgiving picks a few weeks prior to the cup also found themselves with a coveted top ten slot.
With the volume of entries for The Emerald Cup every year, it’s an impressive feat to even get one strain in the top 10. Doing it with four is ridiculous.
But it wasn’t always crazy OG Kush. Del Rosso came west at age 14 from rural New Jersey in 1987; he hadn’t discovered his green thumb yet but already experimented with pot before the move to California.
“I grew up in the middle of nowhere in southern New Jersey,” Del Rosso told L.A. Weekly. “When I moved out to Los Angeles I was pretty upset about moving. Then I found some green bud and I was like, “OK, this was meant to be.”
Now in his mid-40s, Del Rosso said there were a million little things that had to go right to get him here. By 1996, he was in the L.A. scene pretty heavy and already growing. Del Rosso’s pal Chris Learer was about to graduate college in Florida. Learer and another friend were graduating and he pitched the idea to Del Rosso about the three of them going in on a place in California.
That third person was Matt Berger. Berger would eventually be known as Matt Bubba, the Bubba in Bubba Kush.
“We moved in together,” Del Rosso said. “I found us a house that had an underground area where we could grow cannabis, and we did.”
As soon as they got the house, they set up a grow only accessible through a trapdoor in Del Rosso’s closet. “So we were in the foundation of the house, it was a really large area. It was perfect.”
The first plants in the space came from Del Rosso’s collection of seeds he’d gathered over the years. Berger would claim to the squad that Florida had the best weed.
“I was like there is no way, this is California,” Del Rosso replied to his partner. Berger said that Del Rosso had to see this variety called Kush. Del Rosso dared Berger to attempt to bring the cut back to California. “Bring this back, I’d like to see this variety you’re always raving about,” he said.
“And so he did,” Del Rosso said with a laugh.
Berger went back to Floridas to visit his friends and when Del Rosso arrived at the airport he had a ziplock bag with about 15 cuttings.
Of those cuttings, five ended up being the Bubba Kush. Another five were what we know as OG Kush today. And the remaining plants were a strain called KY, Kush crossed with another ingredient Del Rosso never figured out.
While all of the Bubba and KY cuttings would produce roots, only one of the precious Kush cuts would survive its transcontinental voyage.
“We grew it up, I took some cuttings, and this is where the entire thing started from in Los Angeles,” Del Rosso said. For the next 14 years, nothing would compare to the finest OG Kush cuts, and to this day it is still the preferred gas station-smelling, high impact cannabis of many connoisseurs.
As for watching it stay at the top? “It’s definitely cool man,” Del Rosso replied emphatically. “At some point I was pretty shocked about the popularity it was gaining so quickly, and everybody started calling basically everything Kush. It wasn’t Kush, but that’s what everyone in Los Angeles was hearing about and that’s what they wanted.”
Del Rosso and the small circle with the original cut added the OG to differentiate it from the new knockoffs. “To designate that it was really the original Kush from Florida that came from our group of guys,” he explained.
Del Rosso now admits in those early days he didn’t realize it was medicine. The idea of exposing himself and bringing in weight to dispensaries around the turn of the millennium was just simply the opposite of the way he operated.
“But every year it felt like we were being exposed to more benefits from it and it felt like they were being hidden from us,” Del Rosso said. Seeing results for patients suffering from vicious forms of epilepsy and Crohn’s Disease helped the point hit home harder. “I just knew it helped with my attitude. It helped with my balance psychologically and thought “maybe this will click for you, here try this I know it’s illegal. But fuck what they say, always question authority you know? And here we are.”
Del Rosso says Proposition 64 helped with his criminal justice concerns, but the direction the quality of product has taken in the years since is worrisome. We asked if the bar for a permit being set too high ended up hurting the overall quality of weed in the marketplace?
“I think they originally designed it a lot more fair,” Del Rosso said pointing to square footage caps. “I thought we would all have the same size facility and have a healthy competition out here and it would create a healthy market. Then the lobbyists get in there, and then they’re saying you can go as big as you want if you have the money to buy up licenses to piggyback off each other.”
Del Rosso points to that moment as what put out the small farmer. “People could afford a 22,000-square-foot space, but they couldn’t afford to compete with someone like us who has 180,000 square feet.”
While the market is seeing a wider downward price trend as cannabis continues to exit the traditional underground market, Del Rosso said when it comes to actual quality cannabis prices are going up.
“I don’t see the whole price drop, that’s for weed that’s not very good,” said Del Rosso.
He said at some bulk producers in the Pacific Northwest he’s heard of prices getting down to $38 a pound. “But for good weed? In Washington? They’re still getting top dollar. Good weed is still going for over $2,000 a pound in Washington and Oregon.”
We asked Del Rosso where he thinks the top-shelf price point will balance out in the years to come? “For decent weed, it should be $40 bucks out the door. For really good weed? Maybe $50 bucks out the door.”
Del Rosso believes the problem is retailers are out of touch with reality as he witnesses them attempt wild margins, almost tripling wholesale prices.
“That’s unfair, I’m over here spending 120 days nurturing a plant to get it to market and within one transaction they’re making three times what I made? That’s ridiculous. I understand people have overhead, but it’s all about selling volume. It’s now about selling the most expensive weed.
A famed indoor grower, when Del Rosso first got the opportunity to move to the greenhouse, he was not excited. “But it gave me the opportunity to provide to the masses at $40 an eighth.” His favorite accounts are the ones that keep the price right there and he thinks everyone wins.
Now Del Rosso not only sits as a generational cannabis influencer from before social media was a thing, but also a world champion.