By Shirley Ju
If you’re lucky, you’ve probably had the opportunity to smoke Presidential’s blunts. 10 years deep in the game, the company has since established themselves as one of the most popular pre-rolls in the market, even being deemed “the world’s strongest prerolls.” Their mission values stand on excellence, reliability and customer service, and their infused Moon Rock pre-rolls speak for themselves.
Who is Presidential Co-Founder and CEO Everett Smith?
Insert Everett Smith, the co-founder and CEO of Presidential RX. For the last decade, the former pro basketball player turned entrepreneur has consulted in the cannabis industry, focusing on brand development, strategic marketing, market-specific brand analysis, media and packaging design, regulatory compliance, vendor procurement, and quality to scale with the introduction of a brand — which is exactly why Presidential is where it is today.
Presidential stands are one of the biggest flower companies in California, available in over 400 retail stores across the state. In fact, they currently offer the #1 selling infused blunt on the market, with endless flavors and varieties for any cannabis consumer.
Presidential and Ball Family Farms Launch Moon Rock Blunts
On Sunday, February 19th, Presidential and Ball Family Farms, a leading social equity cultivator founded by former pro football player Chris Ball, teamed up to launch their new Moon Rock Blunts at the 2nd Annual Presidential Day. The event took place inside the speakeasy lounge at Esco’s Pizza on La Brea in Los Angeles. Upon arrival, guests made their way to the back through an NYC subway car, welcomed with drinks, New York-inspired pizza, and of course, gas.
Everett Smith on Presidential Cannabis, Social Equity, and Black Ownership
SHIRLEY JU: For those who don't know, who is Everett Smith?
EVERETT SMITH: I'm an ex-hooper, turned entrepreneur. Came at the right time, got lucky. Right time, right place for our time. Hard work, creativity. Having the right partners. My partner John [Zapp], he taught me a lot about business and mentorship.
How did you get your start in cannabis?
Man, by chance. I was in Vegas at a convention. I met this cat, he started talking to me about cannabis in California. This was 2012, I had just got done playing ball overseas. I didn't really love my job so he started talking to me about it, and it piqued my interest. I hit him up every day for the next three months. I was living in Vegas at the time and we finally connected. I moved to California, and we started. We started Presidential: knocking on doors, getting labels, the whole 9.
How would you say cannabis improves your life?
How hasn’t it? I mean, in every way possible. It gave me something I can own, ownership. A brand that people love. Changed my life financially, everything about cannabis. Helps me with my ADD, everything. Everything I have in my life that’s positive is pretty much from either my wife or from cannabis.
Were you using cannabis while you were hooping?
How was that as an athlete, and the stigma that comes with that?
I mean, everybody did it. [Laughs] We all did it. I remember playing ball over in Europe, going on journeys trying to find weed.
What is your hoop history?
I played professionally over in Europe, Germany, Holland, Switzerland. Mostly Germany. Played for three seasons, kept getting hurt. Came home and fell into the cannabis industry.
Wow. I'm sure cannabis helped with that?
Oh, a million percent. I had [broken] my foot, dislocated my ankles. Dislocated my shoulder, broken fingers. Cannabis has helped me the whole time.
When did you first get the idea for Presidential?
I met my man in Vegas. He had the products, so we had to come up with a brand. That was 2012, we created the brand and started selling the medical shots.
Just like that?
Literally just like that. I remember going to FedEx, printing out our first labels. [Laughs] Going in and trying to sell the product. Once they bought it: going to the car, labeling them in the parking lot and bringing them back to them.
Did you have a mentor in the space?
Just my partner, John. He's 30 years older than me. Old white guy from Oklahoma, that's my guy. He taught me a lot about business, a lot about being a man. I worked hard for him, and now we're partners. It's a good mix of old fundamentals and newer concepts. He knows his lane, I know my lane, and it works for us.
How’d you guys meet?
Really my partner, when I was telling you the story about how I met a guy in Vegas. We actually had to get rid of him, he was doing some things that weren't beneficial for the company. But he had brought him on as an investor. Me and him just connected, best dude I’ve ever met.
Presidential has such strong branding, you see you guys everywhere. Has it been a journey?
People have to understand, this is our 10th year in business. We’ve been grinding since 2013. RIP my man Nipsey [Hussle], like he said it's a marathon for sure. Or Big Boy on the radio, he always said: “If it was an overnight success, it was a long ass overnight.” 10 years, and we finally getting to being a household name.
What are the brand's core values?
Organic, quality, raw goods, innovation. Taking quality, organic raw goods and using modern science and technology in making innovative products.
Presidential is already one of the largest preroll brands in the California market. What makes the new Moon Rock Blunts special, and what else is in the near future for the brand?
We’re collabing with different cultivators that have their own following, for the high quality their products are. We're reaching out to different cultivators that we even either mess with personally, or we love their products. Tonight, we're launching the Ball Family Farms collab. We've got the Dragonfly Jones, we got the Nino Brown, we've got the Laura Charles, we got the Daniel Larusso, the Ricky Baker, and The Phonzie. We made Moon Rocks out of all of them and turned them into blunts. They’re our craft grower. They don’t grow as much because they really focus on quality. So we had to limit it to just blunts, and we're doing limited drops throughout the state.
What's your favorite?
Right now, Daniel Larusso is my favorite. For one, I love that strain from Ball Family. Once we elevated it by making it Moon Rocks, it came out crazy.
You've gone from being a pro athlete to a cannabis entrepreneur, both areas in which our culture celebrates Black excellence. How have you found your skill sets translating from one to the other?
Man, just the fundamentals. Hard work, showing up every day. Really it’s funny, because people are just now knowing I'm one of the owners and I'm Black. Because I'm real low-key, I stay behind the scenes. Moving, styling, but it's been a beautiful thing man. I’ve sold weed, play basketball. Can’t complain at all.
Do you think Americans are starting to understand the potential that the plant medicine industries have for transforming the economic power of the communities that have been harmed by the War on Drugs?
Absolutely, all you gotta do is look around. Go to Colorado, look within California, you see the schools are being built. You go up to Washington, absolutely. And it's natural, right? It’s not a man-made medicine. It’s not creating an epidemic like some of these other man-made drugs, so absolutely.
What has been your experience with other Black social equity cannabis brands like Ball Family Farms? How do you want to support other Black owned and social equity companies?
I want to collab with them, right? I want to bring their brand if they got quality product. You can't just be Black, you gotta have a quality product as well. If you have a quality product, let's collab. I’ll help you out with the platform. We sell to over 400 dispensaries throughout the state. For blunts, we're #1 in America. According to BDSA, we're #1 in terms of the country. We’re #4 in terms of pre-rolls in the country. I want to help by giving my platform to them, to showcase their products.
How is California faring as far as encouraging more diverse ownership in the space? What else would you like to see in the state to do for BIPOC communities?
I think they’re doing terrible, to be honest with you. [Laughs] I don't think there's enough of Black or brown, especially minority women. People of LGBTQ. It should be the best man, best woman wins. Whoever has the best idea, it shouldn’t matter any of the other stuff.
The social equity program started off as good, but ended up being… I don't want to say a joke, but it hasn't been as effective as we would have liked. Some of those brands that are Black-owned are becoming larger. By us coming together, we can have a good force to bring some more people along the journey with us.
What do you see as the current reality of diversity, equity, inclusion efforts in the industry?
Half ass. A lot of it sounds good, but when you really get down to the nitty gritty of it, it's not really helping a lot of the social equity brands. The Black-owned brands. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where some of this social equity stuff I turned down, because I don't want to take somebody else's spot. Because we are such a large brand. Looking over some of these contracts with some of these dispensaries for that, they're doing them a solid, but it's not nearly what it should be. There's a lot of work we could do, but we gotta do the work.
Anything else you want the people to know?
Look out for Presidential all across the country. We launched in Nevada, we launched in Oklahoma. We will be launched in Arizona and Michigan by 4/20. Look out for new collabs, and our minis. We got mini-blunts and mini pre-rolls out on the market.
Restaurateur Esco of Esco's Pizza on Presidential, Everett Smith, and California's Cannabis Industry
We also spoke with Esco (restaurateur and artist Esteban Plutarco Gutierrez) from Esco’s Pizza, who had nothing but positive words for Everett. The venue's Presidential Suite, a lounge area for private events, is a nod to their friendship and Everett and John Zapp's support of the pizzeria.
SHIRLEY JU: What does it mean to have this going on in your backyard?
ESCO: The overwhelming feeling about this entire project is that I'm extremely moved and humbled by it. I'm a pleaser, I love to feed people, so I get my day made all day long. It's amazing.
How did you and Everett come together?
I came to LA to work for somebody else. I had to work through that process. That whole thing fell apart, then Everett stepped in and saved the day. He saw me making pizza, he believed in me and backed me all the way. It’s a long story…
I’ll give you the 30 second version. I came here to work for Jam Master Jay's daughter. She hollered at me, offered me a lot of money. I came here, they couldn't deliver. The whole project fell apart in three months, they stiffed me on $10,000 and walked away from this project. When she walked away, I was hoping she was gonna pop up with the money one day. While I was waiting, Everett stepped in and said “Yo, I built that lounge. I don't know the first thing about a pizzeria, but you do. So you want it, you got it.” He gave it to me.
That's the short story. There's so much other stuff he’s done for me. He shipped my car from New York over here so I wouldn't have the rent anymore, because that was one of my biggest fences while I was going through all that trauma with them.
Do you have any connection to cannabis?
Aside from smoking my entire life, in New York where it's so taboo, to come to the mecca here… this project is crazy because all of my loves are under one roof. I'm a graffiti artist. I've been making pizza for 20 years, been smoking my entire life. I'm obsessed with it. I like people. I'm a social worker when I’m doing this, so I get to practice over the counter.
For more about Presidential and Moon Rock Blunts, visit presidentialmoonrocks.com. To learn more about Ball Family Farms, visit ballfamilyfarms.com. For more on Esco's Pizza, visit escos.co.
Shirley Ju is a journalist, media host, and seasoned music industry professional. She is the founder of Shirley's Temple, a podcast series with a focus on mental health, where her guests include Trippie Redd, Chanel West Coast, Ricky Williams, Blac Chyna, and more. Shirley's work has been featured in publications such as Variety, Complex, Nylon, Flaunt, and REVOLT; she can also be seen doing exclusive interviews for leading urban news source VLADTV, featuring a platform with 5 million subscribers. Find out more about Shirley at @shirju on Instagram and Twitter, and on LinkedIn.
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Featured image: Everett Smith, co-founder and CEO of Presidential RX, speaks to Shirley Ju at the Moon Rocks Blunts launch in Los Angeles (C) Vinny Nolan @mpvinny300