With his trademark hat, sunglasses, and devilishly awesome goatee, Subcool has become an iconic symbol for the growing cannabis industry. But what does it mean when he loses the glasses? Recently, with rising public acceptance of cannabis, Subcool has entered a whole new era. An honest era, where you can wear your bloodshot eyes with pride.
Five years ago Subcool faced a huge challenge in his life; he was diagnosed with a chronic illness called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. Alpha-1 is a genetic condition passed from parents to their children through their genes. This condition may result in serious lung disease in adults and/or liver disease at any age and essentially, Subcool’s body had begun to attack his lungs. In the aftermath of the diagnosis, Subcool was inspired to help others facing difficult surgeries and chronic illnesses and to launch The Weed Nerd YouTube channel. The channel now spreads medically relevant cannabis cultivation tips worldwide.
He and his fellow Weed Nerds also raise funds for children facing complex and costly operations. One early recipient was Katrina Flowergarden, a young girl who had been diagnosed with leukemia. When her parents received the money they were confused at first by the name on the check, Weed Nerd, but later wrote to Subcool to express their gratitude. “We felt alone and now we have a family.”
Their charitable work has attracted big name guests to the channel, including Danny Danko and Ed Rosenthal. “I’m raising money for kids. Who’s going to say no?” Subcool says of his special guests. All he asks is that the patients he helps have a Gofundme page. “Every dollar that is made, YouTube gets 30%, and I pay it out of pocket.” he said. “And…” he added, laughing, “it drives the other seed guys crazy.” With episode themes like Friday Night Roundtable, and Hash Church Sunday, it’s easy to see why this channel is so popular.
But how did TGA and Subcool launch into orbit, and why is it that he is the only seed breeder and American grower to win the Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award? It all began with a deep connection to both the male and female plant. At some point, Subcool took a look at at his finances and decided growing would save him a lot of money. In the end, it changed his life. The herb treated his medical conditions, and led him to the West Coast to be with his wife MzJill.
In 2001, MzJill and Subcool created TGA Seeds with a dedicated and talented team of medical growers. Wanting something different from the mainstream and misleading world of cannabis genetics, the growers began something called “open source breeding”. This meant seeking information and learning from large amounts of data from medical growers worldwide.
The first strain TGA genetics created was the lemony delight known as Jack the Ripper. Subcool and his wife began selling their seeds, but what excited the pair the most was having others grow their medical strains. The biggest breakthrough in their business began with a big risk. The setting: the very first International Cannabis and Hemp Expo in 2010. Many companies were too afraid to sell cannabis products, including seeds. Not sure what the consequences might be, Subcool and MzJill decided to go ahead and sell their seeds during the first few hours of the conference. To their surprise, it was an incredibly successful venture in those three days. With this major success, the team was more excited than ever to share their strains.
After the expo, other companies followed TGA’s example. Subcool had already begun inspiring the direction of the growing industry. Over the next several years, TGA’s legacy would spread into Oregon, Washington, and Michigan. Today they are an international business operating facilities in Europe, even Amsterdam.
“We always said we wanted to overgrow the planet…and now that is happening.” Still, TGA is fighting for an industry that will treat cannabis businesses equally. Living on three acres of mountain property, TGA is currently working with a team of lawyers to navigate the legal system in a country that is both embracing, and limiting the growth of an industry just learning to walk.
For cannabis growers, protecting your crop means not only defending the plant from government officials, but also from animals, criminals, and other dangers. “I’m still very much an activist. I’ll look right at the cameras and start cussing at the government…” he states. “They say if you are in cannabis ’Do not have a gun, or money on your property.” He went on to explain that this makes you a target.
If a business is unable to bank, like most of the industry, it is also impossible to invest cash. “I complain every week. Let me put my money in the bank.” he said, “We are treated differently. I have a factory in Washington, California and Oregon and can’t ship (seeds) out of state.” Even with these struggles, Subcool knows how to have fun. Recently, he threw 10,000 seeds off the stage at the High Times Cup. Subcool is grateful for his calling, having made many friends and connections along the way. “If I had a normal job I would be f-ed.” he said. For new growers, he has more than a few tips on how to best grow cannabis. Begin with watching every episode of the Weed Nerd show.
“Simple is better. It just is. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s good. Stay away from gimmicks, stay away from chemicals, cannabis is best grown organically in soil,” he said. With 37 total strains, TGA continues to ease the suffering of medical marijuana patients internationally, paving the way for a more honest cannabis industry- glasses off and free from hype.