Underground entrepreneurs Daniel and Ashley Kessel are eager to take their business Bud hub from the gray market to the legitimate market.
Like others, he uses a legal loophole whereby you can buy a Bud hub sticker, hoodie, or hat and then be gifted the cannabis of your choice. Daniel said a cop has yet to question the legality of the operation.
“There’s no rule saying you can’t sell stickers for whatever price or a T-shirt,” he said. “But my goal is to be legal.”
Kessel is a great admirer of Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion, whom he called a “trailblazer.” Forchion has a theory it would be hard for a prosecutor to get a jury of 12 to convict someone on cannabis crimes. He said he is running a similar operation without the distinct storefront and decor.
“Can they get a jury like to get 12 people to find you guilty on a marijuana charge?” he asked rhetorically.
Kessel has a pending legal matter of manufacturing and trafficking charges. Nonetheless, he is confident that he will win the case, given how popular cannabis is.
“No grand jury is going to find someone guilty on it,” Kessel said. He calculated that if 67 percent of the state voted for legalization, seven of the jurors will have voted for it and would be less likely to convict him.
The Bud hub Business
Based in Tom’s River in Ocean County, they named business Bud hub after Porn hub and imitated the logo. Kessel acknowledged the audacity of their brand.
“They will remember it, yeah. You can’t deny that somebody knows that. You know that they will do a double-take when they see the hat or something. It’s like it catches right. People remember that,” he said.
Bud hub was launched in 2019 and started small.
“Then COVID happened, and that was a game-changer, and it just skyrocketed from there,” Kessel said.
Bud hub sells a great variety of products, including flower strains (or cultivars), chocolate, gummy, hard candy edibles, oil tinctures, cannagars, a large range of cartridges (carts) for vape pens, distillates, and live rosin, among other products. The products are quite sophisticated. Some of his prerolls are dipped in Hash oil and rolled in Kief.
The candy edibles are popular with nearby seniors, he said.
Kessel explained he makes deliveries once he has multiple customers in a given area.
“I wait for that way for a few to get up in that area. I want to warm up in that area, but I mean, it’s coming at a time where it’s time to hire people,” he said.
Getting a License
He noted that since he is co-owner of Bud hub with his sister Ashely, they can apply for a special permit reserved for a woman-owned business.
“Basically, if you have a storefront, she’d be running the store,” he said regarding their current operation.
He is interested in getting multiple licenses.
“My lawyers are waiting for them to put the application process up,” Kessel said.
Kessel is already ambitious to expand.
“They talk about these micro licenses, but ten people to up to 2500 square feet is not that much space,” he said.
The conditional license whereby a micro business could convert into a larger operation after being open for some time.
He pointed out the limit of 37 large-scale cultivators since 36 are already accounted for between the existing 12 license holders and 24 holders that will be announced soon, even if it is for only two years.
“The goal is to get the permits. As soon as the application process is put out, they will be filled out,” he said.
Securing a Cannabiz Location
Kessel is especially interested in getting a dispensary in Tom’s River in Ocean County near Pt. Pleasant and Seaside Heights. He believes this would be a good place to snag a great deal of the beach traffic that makes its way to the Jersey Shore in the summer.
However, local politicians do not seem receptive to adult-use cannabis thus far.
“They don’t understand that it’s helping you medically. They understand when you speak to their wallet,” he noted.
“Last time I checked, you drive down Route 9; every other store is empty. I didn’t know they were in a position to say no to these companies. You know they should be begging these companies to come in because once you start having people there, other businesses are going to come in, and then it will start to flourish, and then we’ll see the town change,” Kessel explained.
Kessel noted towns cannot stop cannabis delivery drivers from making their customer stops within their boundaries.
Fighting for the Little Guy
Kessel is acutely aware large Multi-State Operators (MSOS) are interested in the new adult-use market being developed in New Jersey. Many expect this will be bad for consumers and patients who are tired of the medical cannabis that is mediocre at best and causes health problems at worst currently available in New Jersey. It is especially bad for the underground entrepreneurs who want the money that comes with legitimacy.
“If we don’t come together as a community, these corporations … they’re going to take us out. It’s just what they do. They’re trying to do it in every other state,” he said.
Kessel argued that a group of underground entrepreneurs, growers, MSO workers, and the cannabis community could be effective in curbing the MSOs’ influence.
Cannabis policy experts have said that in California, the adult-use cannabis regulatory regime is overly burdensome for small business people to cope with, which caused some to close or leave the state.
People expect the Cannabis Regulatory (CRC) and its Chair Dianna Houenou to address these concerns, one way or another. Unfortunately, everything connected to the CRC has moved at the pace of an old turtle thus far.
It will be interesting to see if the CRC accepts the view that the Kessels and other underground entrepreneurs operate in the vein of Saul the lovable dealer played by James Franco in Pineapple Express. Many think all dealers are like Esteban Reyes, a Mexican Cartel kingpin smuggling cocaine, heroin, and guns along with weed in Season 4 of Weeds. People likely want to see more Sauls become legitimate versus those like Esteban Reyes.