Tony Tarbox : A Voice Box of the Cannabis Industry
Like many who broadcast over radio waves, you may recognize his smooth, composed announcer’s voice long before you would recognize him on the street. If you’re interests happen to lie in the world of cannabis (and I imagine they do, considering the website you’re currently on), you’re more than likely familiar with Tony Tarbox, the host of The Hemp Cast. The Hemp Cast (hah! I get it, like, THC!) is podcast produced out of Boulder, Colorado. For listeners, the podcast promises to “navigate the brave new world of legal marijuana, through cannabis culture, lifestyle, politics, music, art, food, and more,” and does not shy away from the myriad of current events and controversial issues surrounding the cannabis industry.
I had an opportunity to sit down with Tony, to learn a little bit more about him, his podcast, and his take on the current state of the cannabis industry.
Max Eliot: Tell us a little bit more about yourself. What’s your story?
Tony Tarbox: I grew up in Ames, IA with a family of five. Normal, Norman Rockwell childhood and adolescence. Because it was a college town, cannabis was prevalent in much higher capacity than around my friends from more rural corners of the state. It wasn’t really until my mid to late 20’s that I really started to use the plant as a substitute for alcohol to relax and socialize. I quickly discovered on my own that the lack of a real hangover and the fewer bad decisions I’d made using cannabis meant that for me, it was a better choice than booze. During this time I was employed by and eventually ended up running an alternative commercial terrestrial radio station. Being a broadcaster forced me to engage in the world around me as much as possible to succeed in both entertaining and informing my audience.
Iowa is a very political state. Most everyone I know there has a great understanding of politics and government, likely due to the exposure that the state has with it’s early entry into presidential politics each election cycle as it’s primaries are among the first in the nation. Iowa’s residents, myself included, are under constant barrage of political advertising on a scale that much of the country never experiences. Because of all this vitriol, even “dick and fart” rock radio morning shows are expected to weigh in on these Tony Tarbox The Hemp Casttopics to stay relevant.
I never really thought of myself as an activist or talking head on the subject of politics, cannabis or otherwise but, as my comfort in my own cannabis habit developed alongside my burgeoning career in radio and the increase of cannabis conversation on a national level. Since, the best way to be taken seriously to an audience is to talk on what you know, cannabis politics entered the on-air conversation with increasing frequency. It was easy to get impressive guests to join in the conversation on this little FM station in Central Iowa because of the amount of eyes and ears on the state during election cycles. I was able to have very meaningful conversations on the subject with Allen St Pierre, Gary Johnson, Rudolph Guliani, Cheech & Chong, and dozens of local and statewide experts.
After nearly a decade of broadcasting on my hometown station under my belt (no small feat for a broadcaster, most people aren’t that lucky), my wife and I began looking for new adventures. My wife went back to school and graduated with her Master’s Degree in business and the ensuing career hunt landed us both here in Boulder six months before the first adult use shops opened their doors to the public.
The appreciation I had gained for news and politics while doing radio work in Iowa was able to be applied to the stories pouring in from all corners of the state and from every beat. Sports, lifestyle, news, community, opinion….cannabis stories were popping up in every corner of the media and I was eating all of it up.
In my search for more cannabis news, and because I had an hour long commute each day, I turned to the podcast world to feed my craving for cannabis discussion. There were tons of cannabis related shows on Stitcher and iTunes, but none of them really spoke to me. They ran from the very well produced and extremely but way over my head, Adam Dunn Show to other not-so-very-well-produced shows that were pretty much a couple of Spicoli clones waxing nostalgic on different strains they’d like to try. I was looking for something for the everyman. I was looking for a show that spoke to the everyman cannabis user. I wanted to find something that sounded like the talk shows I heard on the radio but focused on the aspects of this burgeoning cannabis industry. I wanted to find something like Mike & Mike but with pot.
I couldn’t find anything out there that fit the bill and since I wasn’t in a position to create a show using traditional media at my then-current broadcasting gig, I started this podcast.
M : Tell us about the Hemp Cast. What kind of podcast is it?
T : It’s cannabis discussion for the everyman. I want to be able to talk to the large segment of the population who uses pot but doesn’t know what the differences between indica and a sativa strains, or how to properly dose an edible. I want to talk to people who want to use the plant as a substitute for alcohol and I want to do that by having frank and fun conversations with people all over the industry.
M : How did you first get involved in the marijuana industry? Why did you get involved?
T : Pure curiosity drove me into the cannabis business. I was devouring all the news surrounding the burgeoning cannabis industry in Colorado and I followed an opportunity that presented itself. I registered with the State, received my support badge allowing me to work within the industry and took a job with a team of talented people in an organization who’s culture and consciousness most aligned with my own. It’s exciting to be working on the forefront of something the world has never seen before, especially on this level.
M : How would you evaluate the first year of legal recreational marijuana sales? Is there anything you would change about the current state of affairs?
T : It’s been fun. The challenges are there sure, but overall it’s hard for me to come up with too much to be negative about. There are three things that should be addressed in this industry that I see as most important right now.
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- Banking: there are some inroads coming here with a credit union for cannabusinesses opening next month but some more banking freedoms are important so that this industry can do day to day operations like the rest of the business world.
- Public Consumption/Hash Bars: The number one question I get asked both as a budtender and as a resident of Boulder is where people can legally consume cannabis. I’m a great guy but I’m not inviting you all over to my place for a session…so you’re pretty much boned in that regard.
- Purchase Limits for Out-Of-Staters: As it stands now, an out of state visitor to the state of Colorado can purchase 7g of dried cannabis bud, concentrate, or edible/topical goods. The problem is that a gram of hash and a gram of flower weigh the same but are completely different beasts. In the case of edibles, the state doesn’t count the sugar, eggs, milk, etc…they only care about the amount of active THC in the product, which is measured in milligrams. An out of state visitor, if they were so inclined, could make a purchase of seventy packages of edibles containing 100mg of active THC per adult use shop, per day. Now we have neighboring states filing lawsuits and challenging these laws we have on the books in Colorado because we aren’t doing enough to quell the movement of these products across state lines. While I think that these lawsuits are a bad idea and in poor faith, I do think that we can make some friends next door by treating edibles and hash different from flower when it comes to purchase limits on weight.
M : What do you see in the future of cannabis in the United States?
T : Barring some federal action that might shake up or disallow these legalization laws at the state level, more states to legalize. I expect to see some sort of “trademarking” of genetics which could help branding and legitimization of the talent held by the growers and producers of cannabis product in states that have legal markets. Advances in tech will be fun. I see the legitimization of the cannabis industry across the country already fostering growth in countless other industries surrounding it. You can now consume cannabis in ways I never dreamed of back in Iowa. Vape pens, hash oils and concentrates, and the inclusion of cannabis to the culinary world will be the fronts I’m most excited to see develop.
M : You sometimes discuss your “favorites” on your show. Do you have a favorite dispensary in Colorado?
T : Geographic convenience originally drove me to The Farm in Boulder. It was the quality of the product and the service of the staff there that cemented me as a customer.
M : What are you smoking these days?
T : Right now I’ve got some great kush from The Farm. It’s a Hindu Kush cross with an unknown male that makes a great substitute for a couple fingers of Jack Daniels at the end of the day. Not too sedative, but very relaxing and a great flavor. I’m working late a lot right now so that’s coming in really handy as a great way to de-stress after a long day. On days off or if I’m in party mode, I’m always up for some Durban Poison or a Durban heavy hybrid.