The international cannabis industry is evolving all the time, thanks to innovators who know exactly what consumers are seeking. Honeysuckle therefore turned to two globetrotters for their expertise on the developing markets. Legendary cultivator Champelli, California’s Bay Area OG known for his Champagne strain that evolved into his eponymous strain, took the mic on our latest podcast. The hip hop GOAT, whose name has been immortalized in rap tracks since the 90s and also produces music (including beats for artists like Wiz Khalifa, Gucci Mane, Berner, and Cypress Hill’s B-Real), came on for an in-depth conversation with Josh Schmidt, now Vice President of Business Development at Natura Life Science.

Josh Schmidt, VP of Business Development at Natura Life Science at the home of Natura founder/CEO Ori Bytton (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Who Is Josh Schmidt And What Is Natura Life Science?

Natura is a world-class platform and distribution service that brings legacy cannabis brands to new markets, while Schmidt himself is a veteran pioneer of West Coast cannabis with over 20 years in the space, taking on various advocacy and entrepreneurial roles and founding a number of companies that have been synonymous with industry growth. An early vendor and dispensary owner under California’s Compassionate Care Act (the state’s medical cannabis law), Schmidt was also involved with the acclaimed brands THC Van Nuys, Pistil Point and more at different times, and has been a friend and colleague of Berner’s, as he says, “before Berner was Berner.” That bond with the founder of the global juggernaut Cookies remains today, as Schmidt most recently launched the Dee Thai cannabis brand, based on his own experiences organizing events in Thailand. Dee’s unique flavors, all inspired by Thai fruit markets, debuted in January 2023 upon the opening of Cookies Thailand’s first brick-and-mortar store in the country, which is only the third in the world to create a federally regulated adult-use market.

New Terp City: New York's July 4th Celebration With Sluggers Hit, Dee Thai, And Friends

Champelli and Schmidt’s discussion was of course littered with inside jokes, but also provided a rare moment for the two industry giants to speak seriously on the volatile nature of the market and where they believe the business of the plant is going. In terms of product innovation – well, let’s just say they’re doing their parts spectacularly. The Honeysuckle studio captured their chat just before the pair traveled to New York for New Terp City, an exclusive VIP event hosted by Sluggers Hit (another in-house Natura brand), Dee Thai, Fidels and Jelly Wizard in Queens on July 4th for the best-of-the-best cannabis insiders to mingle. If you know, you know - click here to get your tickets now before they’re gone!

Honeysuckle is proud to be a media partner for New Terp City, which brings dozens of East and West Coast brands together for a celebration of freedom and community. Among them: Dubz Garden, La Coz, Terphogz, All Kings NY, The Astor Club, Buddy’s Bodega, Talking Terps, Gotti, Surreal Co., Frosty, Golden State Banana, Certz, Plasma, Queens Cannabis Club, First Class, Self Baked, Maine Trees / Bs Trees, Flavor Boyz, DeLisioso, Bobaz, Foreign Clouds, Zizzle, The Smugglers Club, Chef for Higher, New Terp City, Dablife, The Smoker’s Club, Empire Club NYC, Viola, Metro Bud NY, The Humboldt Seed Company, House of Piff NYC, Sweetooth, BTY Caviar Boutique, Kured, Mr. Petrolio, Bread Factory, Northeast Leaf Magazine, and of course Champelli. The event incudes giveaways by leading technology company PuffCo and much more.

Before the party, we invite you to listen into this rare eye-opening exchange between cannabis mavericks who have seen it all and ain’t stopping any time soon.

Ori Bytton, founder/CEO of Natura @byttonor (left), with medicine worker Rene (Dust Walker) (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Josh Schmidt x Champelli: California Cannabis History

CHAMPELLI: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. A lot of people in the cannabis space obviously know you as Josh from Natura, but give us a quick rundown about your earlier cannabis days.

JOSH SCHMIDT: I was actually down in L.A. in the early 2000s. I’m from the Bay Area, but me and a couple of friends that I grew up with [there] from middle school, we decided when we got older and became medical patients and started vending to some of the collectives in the Bay that we wanted to have one of our own [in L.A.]. So we packed up, we grew one year up in the hills of the Chico-Oroville-Butte County area, and harvested everything. Trimmed it and brought it down to L.A. and started a collective with other indoor [growers] in the 2000s.

Before “Josh of Natura,” before I [helped start] the brand Pistil Point, I was “Josh from THC Van Nuys.” THC Van Nuys was one of the early collectives in L.A. One of the first in San Fernando Valley, probably one of the first ten in L.A. County, and then eventually we had one in West Hollywood. So I was in the L.A. area for awhile and then I took a break from cannabis, if you will. It was a very stressful time back in the day. Very cowboyish, if you know what I mean. And I went to Thailand. Hence I have a Thai wife and family now. I lived in Thailand for almost five years and then came back [to the U.S.] to do cannabis again. Yeah, I’ve been around… Smoking Pelli back in ’99 in Santa Barbara.

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

SCHMIDT: I come from a family where my dad and mom had a salad dressing that was on the shelf in the supermarket. They had three of them with a restaurant, and then my uncle made chocolate. [Joseph Schmidt Confections] were available everywhere from Macy’s to Costco to Harrod’s of London to Takashimaya in Tokyo. I grew up going to these stores and places and seeing my family’s products on the shelf, and it brought these really amazing feelings when I was young. I think I got a little high off that too. The whole making CPG-style cannabis products specifically, getting them on the shelves and going into stores and seeing them, it’s kind of a similar high.

CHAMPELLI: Exactly. Yeah, that was a world-famous chocolate brand. So I could see where you got that entrepreneurship and drive.

SCHMIDT: I’m a customer service, hospitality guy. I like to see smiles. Good products and good people.

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

What's New From Sluggers Hit And Dee Thai?

CHAMPELLI: Indeed. That’s amazing right there. So what are some of the newest projects you’re excited about? I know you launched Sluggers and you have Dee Thai’s gummies going full force.

SCHMIDT: Sluggers and Dee Thai are two brands that we built in-house with Natura. Dee Thai is Thai-focused solventless gummies. We’re about to come out with a bunch of other products, from vapes to hemp-wrapped blunts to joints, really expanding the brand. And then Sluggers is one that’s close to our hearts. We built it as a small crew… I grew up, no joke, with Asian candy. I ate Super Lemons, Super Colas, White Rabbits, Botan rice. My friends had Japanese supermarkets. And then I bought cards – Upper Decks, Donruss, Tops. If you look at Sluggers, we started the brand off with a whole nostalgic card vibe, so it’s kind of going back to the 80s. I’m an 80s baby; [that’s] what we had as far as that fun candy.

CHAMPELLI: You’re drawing inspiration from that collectability aspect.

SCHMIDT: Sluggers is going to be more than just the packs of joints. We’re going to come out with singles, vapes, also hemp blunts. But it’s really catching people’s eyes. It’s a great brand, great marketing, amazing team. It’s fun.

CHAMPELLI: A lot of amazing collabs coming out of Sluggers and organic growth. People just gravitate toward the brand. I’m watching it grow from when you first started, and it’s exploding now at this point. It’s super cool to watch you guys make that happen.

SCHMIDT: It’s a good product. It’s meant to be scrutinized, ripped open and analyzed versus other joints… There’s a lot of manufactured products out there, but this one specifically, we created it to be looked at as something that doesn’t include any additives, any distillates or fake [terpenes] or whatnot. It’s all natural flower, hash, live resin, kief.

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

Josh Schmidt x Champelli: What's Happening In Thailand's Cannabis Market?

CHAMPELLI: It’s a product you can actually know for certain as a better alternative. Quality ingredients. You can literally pull open one of the Sluggers and see it’s quality flower and stuff in there. So, turning to Thailand, I know you’ve got big ties in Thailand. (Laughs) And you’ve spent a lot of time traveling there since the nineties – tell us what you see happening there with legalization.

SCHMIDT: Thailand was a dream of mine. I used to grow a couple of plants there and smoke on the down-low. It was very sketchy buying weed from the reggae club. I wasn’t the guy to go ask taxi drivers and get caught up in scams with police, so I would quit sometimes just to go to Thailand and clean out my system. I’d smoke Lao or Cambodian fresh swag. You can go into Laos and Cambodia too and smoke over there.

But watching friends like Tom Kruesopon [founder of Golden Triangle Group and a veteran cannabis business executive who led Thailand’s legalization efforts] and some of these other guys be instrumental in the regulations and opening of Thailand’s medical and what we have today has been impressive. I was lucky to be a part of it from the beginning.

And then with Berner and the team over there, we opened Cookies Thailand, which will expand. They just elected new government officials [in Thailand] who are Harvard-educated and speak amazing English, but there’s a possibility that they’ll kind of slow down the heavy growth. So we’re going to watch as we go into this newly elected government, but I could see a lot of it going more medical and away from recreational. They’re not seeing it yet, but Thailand’s very recreational now. They don’t even have a legitimate medical system; it was not accredited or recognized by the rest of the world. If you think of Colombia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, they have these medical rules that are accepted by the United Nations. They’re given quotas; they’re allowed to grow, export, trade. Thailand doesn’t have that; they had a rogue law going on, so now they’re cleaning it up. I think it’s going to get more regulated and hopefully we’ll get the acceptance so Thailand can become the mega powerhouse it will become anyway. But maybe a little bit quicker because countries like Malaysia and the surrounding neighbors won’t be growing and cultivating. If [those nations] ever get into cannabis, they’ll be importing from Thailand. There are fire [cannabis strains] in Thailand now. New people growing amazing strains, drying and curing them.

CHAMPELLI: There’s a serious precedent in Thailand, just as a model for the rest of Asian countries to see the potential of this business and opening it up. Hopefully there’s more acceptance after so many years of the United States and all these countries suppressing that sort of thing. Eventually there will be Dee Thai gummies and Sluggers in Thailand, I suspect, once it’s time.

SCHMIDT: Exactly. Once there’s time. Obviously all the elements have to be legit. You have to have all the extracts. Thailand right now legitimately can’t sell extracts over a certain percentage of THC. People still are, but it’s not really kosher. So when all that happens, we’re ready. Same with the gummies; we want to make sure there’s good solventless inputs to go into Dee Thai gummies before we do it with distillate. That’s the dream, to have the products made and available to the world.

What Do Industry Experts Predict For American Cannabis?

CHAMPELLI: Right now there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the cannabis industry. People are kind of projecting that. But I feel like there’s also a lot of opportunity and great projects coming out and interesting changes happening. What are your views on what’s going on in the cannabis industry now, in the U.S. and in general?

SCHMIDT: I think there was a lot of passion that went into cannabis in the last five years for the money, for the greed, for the spreadsheet, and that’s only a small fraction of it. The majority is the true passion. Go to any chefs or whiskey makers or perfume makers; the ones who really do it well and have a long legacy are just immersed in it. They wake up and go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up and go to sleep thinking about cannabis, whether it’s traveling to Europe or the Middle East or Africa, it’s in me. You can’t take that away from me.

A lot of people are getting out now. I feel like they didn't even have the passion to start; they got in it just for the money as a new escape from whatever shitty job they had. I think we’re seeing a lot of that. And consumers are volatile. The brands they fell in love with are falling off or aren’t available anymore. They’re stuck in a place where they don’t know which way to go. So now’s a really important time. If you have a great product or brand, push hard, get into people’s hands and bodies, and focus on building. Because the next 12 to 18 months is a really good opportunity for the new guys to come in and take a lot of the market share that the big groups put a lot of money into. Take shelf space – it’s a great time because the shelf space is falling and opening up.

I would just focus on quality and consistency. That’s the most important thing. We’re lucky to be making great brands and products, and I think a lot of buyers and retailers are seeing it. Our doors are opening a lot more.

CHAMPELLI: I know you’ve been living and breathing this plant and life this whole time. You’re really somebody who’s on the pulse of it and you can tell you’re passionate about the plant. It shows with everything that you’re doing with the products, all the attention to detail.

SCHMIDT: You too, buddy.

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

Meeting Cozmo, Traveling Internationally, And Making Friends

CHAMPELLI: We’ve both got some gnarly stories. Do you want to tell the one about [Grammy-winning producer and cannabis community legend] Cozmo?

SCHMIDT: I’ll tell you how I met Cozmo back in the day. Pre-911, you had to worry about having metal on you [in the airport]. There was no body scanning then, you just walked under the metal detector. So we would make sure we had nothing on us. No turkey bag [the term for a cannabis storage bag], because this was pre-turkey bag, circa 1996. I was 16 and wanted weed. We were going on an Israel trip and a couple of us brought a quarter. I snuck it in my nuts. (Laughs)

The connecting flight was in Frankfurt. Whenever you fly to Israel, if it’s not a nonstop, there’s extreme security. In Frankfurt you had a whole other secure room with German army [personnel], police with Uzis, it was crazy. I was sweating bullets. But I got the quarter through to Israel and over that six weeks sparingly smoked little bowls with select people. I was super secretive. You’d get kicked out of the program if you got caught smoking. I met a great kid named Jason who was from Marin County – that was the peninsula: Marin, East Bay, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Jose. I would smoke with Jason a lot.

We came back after that six weeks and I found some great friends on that trip. We would all go hang out at Jason’s house in Ross, California. One of his friends was a guy named Cozmo… We’d get high with the munchies and eat from all these crazy fridges. I was hanging with Coz a long time ago, based off of smoking in Israel with select people. Everything was about who smoked, and I was just the guy that a lot of people smoked with for the first time or felt comfortable with smoking.

CHAMPELLI: Those were the good old days.

SCHMIDT: Also, they’d sell – and probably still have them – a can of shaving cream or something where you’d unscrew the bottom and put the stuff in. Or the book with the whole little area in the middle where you’d put stuff in there. The trip was always better with that. But we were safe.

If you go to Singapore, Indonesia, Dubai, don’t bring anything. I don’t even risk it. I’d rather just suffer and chill. Eat a little bit less. That’s usually what happens to me. Eating gets minimized and then my sleep gets really intense with remembering dreams, more vivid dreams for a five day period, and then it’s usually good. I try not to quit too often.

CHAMPELLI: We actually met through Cozmo, remember?

SCHMIDT: We met our first time through Natura, because Cozmo brought [you] to Natura when we were at Dusty Lot in 2019. But I’d heard about you forever.

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

CHAMPELLI: I’d been hearing about you too. Cozmo and a couple of other people [kept saying], “Yo, my buddy’s up in Sacramento doing this huge project.” And they’re referring to Josh and sending me pictures of this massive project which was to become Natura. It’s come a long way. What other plans do you guys have for expansion? Are you mainly just focused on California now?

SCHMIDT: I’ve been thinking of expanding maybe at the end of the year or next year. We’re really focused on dialing in the product, building the brands, all the marketing sales, building new SKUs and focusing at home.

The New Terp City event takes place at a secret location in New York on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. Click here to book tickets. 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

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Champelli (left) and Josh Schmidt, VP of Business Development at Natura Life Science (right) at the home of Natura founder/CEO Ori Bytton (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture