If you're like me, you may have certain assumptions about celebrities entering the cannabis industry. I assume the flower they sell will be overpriced and subpar, because a name like Willie Nelson, Marley Natural and Snoop Dogg will move product regardless of quality. I also assume Bob Marley's grandkids are not picking up scissors during harvest season.
For Jim Belushi, though, pot isn't just a vanity cash grab.
The 64-year-old actor owns a cannabis farm in Southern Oregon, which he went through the stress of converting from a 50-plant medical operation into a 40,000-square-foot recreationally licensed canopy. He keeps his flower, sold under the name Belushi's Private Vault, cheap, because, in his opinion, this is a "working man's" plant, and a gram shouldn't cost more than a domestic beer. He lives in the state full time during harvest season, and he's got a farmer neck tan to show for it.
Yes, he's still an actor, who does standup and tours with the Blues Brothers Band. But after purchasing those 93 acres near Eagle Point, north of Medford, Belushi says he's experienced a sort of personal reincarnation, crediting weed and his view of the Rogue River for instilling him with a healthier, happier and more rustic state of mind. Now, his schedule as an entertainer is determined by a field of needy cannabis plants.
Belushi sat down with WW at the Commune in Old Town, where we split some of his own Cherry Pie flower and talked business, small-time crime in rural Oregon and his plans for using weed to help curb the opioid crisis.
Listen to short interview highlights in podcast form here:
WW: How's the recreational game?
Jim Belushi: The first year  was brutal. This year was definitely the best yield we've had, with that Indian summer. I consider this whole three-year period my master's program. I had to learn what it's like to cut a plant down and transfer it, to keep it dry, clean everything just right. But now I have to worry about turning into Elmer Fudd.
I'm about this close to Bill Murray with the gopher in Caddyshack. I'm dealing with digger squirrels, aphids, rustic mites—I'm going out of my mind protecting these girls. But you can't get angry at Mother Nature, you just adapt.
I worked on a medical farm and remember the paranoia of maintaining a clean environment outdoors. More than nature interfered with us—a couple of punks burned down our trim shed one weekend.
You know, when I was growing up in Chicago, every year in my neighborhood, a kid's bike got stolen at some point. And then when I had kids, his bike got stolen. I told him to let it go, because, in order to survive in this society, you have to make a donation to the criminal element. This society creates that element, and whoever took it needed it more than you.
We had someone cut a few plants down last year. I considered it our donation, and I let it go. They didn't hurt anybody. No one was bleeding. They are part of the cycle of it all—just like the gophers and the aphids.
How do you negotiate growing in sunlight versus more scientific approaches in controlled environments?
Well, you can't get all Christian Scientist about it. There's a way to combine the two. I have a greenhouse to provide extra protection. We use loam soil from the land, but we augment it with nutrients. Someone gave me a great example: the outdoor grows of Southern California, Humboldt, Mendocino—that cannabis is like a 1968 GTO convertible. Now they have those BMWs that have brilliant technology creating speed, not cylinders. You put those cars next to each other and say, "Go!" and that BMW is going to knock the GTO out, no question. But I still want to drive the GTO.
Where do you stand on the trend of Canadian investment firms buying up Oregon companies?
Did you ever see that documentary Marjoe? He was a young evangelist preacher who took notes from Mick Jagger, Billy Graham, Ray Charles, and he'd go into these Baptist revival tents in the South, and people would eat it up. He totally did it for the money. But someone pointed out to me that, sure, he was a false prophet, but everywhere he spoke, people still got to connect with Jesus. So all these big companies are still spreading the overall message of the plant. With more money for lobbyists, the big guys could really help open up regulations and new laws. I'm concerned for the mom-and-pop farmers, yes. But there are some positives.
I honestly didn't expect you to know much about weed.
I love the agriculture of it. I love the medicine and the possibility of what it could do for our community. I may not be a proliferate smoker who is constantly high, but I'll have a 2.5-gram bite of chocolate when I can't sleep. I do CBD every day, to regulate my endocannabinoid system, because I know something is always out of balance. I'm an actor—of course I'm out of balance.
You refer to your Cherry Pie strain as "the marriage counselor." What's the story there?
At night, when my wife says, "Are you hungry? What do you want to eat?" I say, "I'd like a cheeseburger." She goes, "Eh, that sounds heavy to me." "Well, how about sushi?" "I ate sushi with my mom last night." I'm like, "Why the hell are you asking me what I want to eat when you know damn well we're going to go where you want to go?" So now, I take a little hit of my Cherry Pie. Then when she asks, "Where do you want to eat?" I say, "Baby, I'll go to Taco Bell, as long as you're sitting across from me." So I call it the marriage counselor.
I heard about the makings of a pop-up dispensary that would offer alternatives to people addicted to opiates. What would that look like?
Well, it's not final. But Danny Aykroyd and I are very interested in stopping the opioid epidemic. I want to figure out an opioid trade program, where you bring your opiates in and trade them for marijuana. That poses a lot of problems. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, pharmacists, doctors, budtenders holding opiates? No way. But the first step to making a difference is getting people off what they're on. If they have weed instead, and stay off drugs long enough, they just might gain enough clarity to start making different choices. We've been working with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and I'm hoping to meet with the city to keep talks going.
When you have to tend to your other careers, in California and on tour, what do you miss most about Oregon?
I spend all the time I can here. There's something about the people here, in the cannabis community and in Oregon—they lean in. They're welcoming. It's easy to open up. They aren't all from here, of course, but I think the people who come here take on that nature, too. I suppose I miss my kitchen. There's a big window that looks out over the river. I miss when the sun hits Table Rock across the way and lights up the house with a golden light that's just glorious.
MORE: Belushi's Private Vault is available at multiple Portland dispensaries. Go to belushisfarm.com for more information.