It’s a meeting of two globetrotters when legendary cultivator Champelli, the Bay Area OG, and Josh Schmidt, a veteran pioneer of West Coast cannabis and Vice President of Business Development at Natura Life Science, sit down for an unprecedented chat. These mavericks share the “cannabis cowboy” experience of pre-legalization California and mutual friends such as rapper Berner, co-founder of the global juggernaut Cookies, and Grammy-winning producer Cozmo. With new collabs in the works, the powerful pair is about to spin the industry on its head yet again. But first, a little reminiscing is in order.

Champelli (left) and Josh Schmidt (right) at the home of Natura founder/CEO Or Bytton (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Who Is Cannabis Trailblazer Josh Schmidt? From California Pioneer To Natura's International Business, Sluggers, And Dee Thai

In recent years, Schmidt has helped grow Natura as a world-class platform and distribution service that brings legacy brands to legal markets. Notably, he’s launched in-house successes like Sluggers and Dee Thai, the latter having a history-making debut in January 2023 at the grand opening of Cookies Thailand.

But before he was “Josh from Natura,” Schmidt was a trailblazer: an early vendor and dispensary owner under California’s medical cannabis law; a leader with acclaimed brands THC Van Nuys and Pistil Point; an advocate and founder of entities that made the industry what it is. He knew Cookies’ leader “before Berner was Berner,” and he recalls “smoking Pelli in 1999” when the Champagne-derived strain was at its hip hop height of popularity. 

“I’m a customer service, hospitality guy,” Schmidt says (he grew up in a family that produced internationally renowned food products). “I like to see smiles. Good products and good people.”

Champelli, Josh Schmidt, And Cozmo

It was Cozmo who introduced his old friends Champelli and Schmidt in 2019, but they’d heard about each other forever prior to that meeting. The grower was close with Coz from early in their wild Bay Area days in the 90s, while the CPG guru encountered the musical prodigy more randomly. At age 16, Schmidt recalls, he smuggled a bag of weed in his pants so he could fly to Israel with it, and smoked it over a period of six weeks with young friends from California. One guy, based in Marin, invited Schmidt to visit his home when they returned to the U.S., and among his tight-knight group was Cozmo.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

The Future Of Global Cannabis Culture: What's Happening In Thailand?

Enthusiasm for world cannabis culture fuels the innovators. Champelli notes that Thailand, which became the third nation to federally legalize cannabis in 2022, has set “a serious precedent… as a model for the rest of the Asian countries to see the potential of this business.” 

“I was lucky to be a part of it from the beginning,” affirms Schmidt. "Thailand's very recreational now... There are fire [strains] coming out of there now."

However, this could be dramatically set to change if the Thai government's proposed ban on adult-use cannabis, introduced as a legislative bill on January 10, 2024, actually goes through. Thailand's federal authorities insist that the nation's legalization policies were only meant to be applied to medical use, and its new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin views recreational use of cannabis with the same stigma that persists throughout most governments in Southeast Asia. (In an interview shortly after taking office, Thavisin stated, "On recreational use, I do not agree with that.") The bill would not only roll back the country's legalization of adult-use, but also impose heavy penalties for anyone possessing or consuming recreational cannabis, including up to one-year prison sentences.

Like many cannabis industry experts who believe it's too late for Thailand to "put the genie back in the bottle" on adult-use cannabis, Schmidt seems skeptical about the bill's success on a practical level. He predicts that if Thai cultivators and operators are allowed to continue expanding as they have been, the nation will become "a mega powerhouse" because neighboring countries like Malaysia still have no cannabis program at all and will have to import from Thailand. For the moment, the world waits; the deadline for public feedback on the bill is January 23rd.

Cookies Thailand Celebrates First Anniversary With Cannabis Innovators In Bangkok

Meanwhile, Cookies Thailand celebrated its official first anniversary on January 19th. To honor the milestone, Schmidt and Champelli took a trip out to Bangkok, where they met up with their whole family of cannabis innovators and collaborators. A limited-edition product drop was available for early-bird customers, including items such as a Dee Thai x Fidel's bucket hat and products from Talking Terps (the brand from cult favorite hip hop group Flatbush Zombies). Flatbush Zombies' own Hope Lord was present with Juan Quesada, founder of Backpack Boyz, and David Madilyan of Babushka Farms, as well as members of the Doja, The Artist Tree, La Sagrada Farm, Pressure Labz, iSpire and other noteworthy teams.

Maria del Pilar Vargas, AKA Queen Pee @queenpee, Chief Marketing Consultant for Fashionnova and Sluggers (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

How Can Cannabis Brands Succeed In The Modern Marketplace?

But when Schmidt and Champelli reflect Stateside, there are other emotional seesaws to deal with. “Right now there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the cannabis industry,” Champelli observes. “But I feel like there’s also a lot of opportunity and great projects coming out and interesting changes happening.”

Passion has to be the cannabis space’s key ingredient, Schmidt asserts. He believes the last five years saw too many people getting into the sector for money, and those who weren’t in it for the right reasons are starting to escape. “And consumers are volatile,” he adds. “The brands they fell in love with are falling off or aren’t available. [But] now’s a really important time if you have a great product or brand, to push hard, get it into people’s hands and focus on building. The next 12 to 18 months is a really good opportunity for new guys to come in and take the market share that the big guys put a lot of money into.” Most importantly, he emphasizes “quality and consistency”: “We’re lucky to be making great brands and products, and retailers are seeing it.”

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

New Champelli x Natura Collabs: Sluggers Cassis, Lola Holistics x Champelli, And More

That’s evident in Schmidt and Champelli’s newest projects. Sluggers recently unveiled Cassis, its latest deluxe preroll featuring Champelli flower and liquid diamonds, rolled in solventless hash. Inspired by Mac Dre, a longtime Champelli collaborator, and the Bay Area’s vibrations, Cassis is a bona fide hit. Natura also just powered the Lola Holistics x Champelli drop, a collection that allows consumers to meditate and focus on positivity while elevated. 

Watching these cannabis gods in action, you’ve got to agree - passion is everything. “I wake up and go to sleep thinking about cannabis,” Schmidt emphasizes. “You can’t take that away from me.”

Keep up with Josh Schmidt by following @khunjosh80 on Instagram. For more on Natura Life Science, visit To learn more about Dee Thai, visit Find out more about Sluggers by visiting

To keep up with all things Champelli, check out his website and his social media channels @Champelli and

*A version of this article originally appeared in Honeysuckle's 17th print edition, featuring Havoc of Mobb Deep. Get your copy now at dispensaries nationwide or click here to order!

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Featured image: Champelli (left) and Josh Schmidt (right) at the home of Natura founder/CEO Or Bytton, as seen in Honeysuckle's 17th print edition (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture