Nowadays, the cannabis industry has taken a turn for the best. With marijuana legalization and the acceptance of the flower as a medicinal plant growing exponentially, it seems there’s a new brand emerging every other day. But to be the best, you have to grow the best… and that’s exactly why Wonderbrett is here to stay.
Tracing back to 1997, the legendary West Coast cannabis lifestyle brand was founded by now-elite California cultivators Brett Feldman and Cameron Damwijk, boasting a cannabis genetics library that stands high on the totem pole as one of the most sought after in the world. Cementing their name in the late 90’s with their famous cut of OG Kush strain, Wonderbrett poised themselves at the epicenter of music and cannabis, fostering a deep history between weed as plant medicine and creatives in its truest form.
Fast forward to 2021, and my how things have changed. Having built one of the largest cultivation and extraction facilities in North America, without the aid of VC’s, Wonderbrett now grows all of its weed, legally, from Long Beach, California. There, Feldman and Damwijk saw their dream to fruition: designing a custom irrigation system that integrates advanced technology with traditional cultivation techniques proprietary to their epic legacy weed brand. So what’s next? Already best known for undeniably high quality nugs, legendary genetics, dope packaging, sweet flavors and terpenes, Wonderbrett is as excited as ever to be unveiling their flagship dispensary next month on North La Brea Avenue in sunny Los Angeles. This store arrives as a result of the Co-Founder Brett Feldman receiving a social equity retail license, retribution for time served, in 2018 from L.A. County’s cannabis commission. The funding duo fought tooth and nail for the license, yet still—count themselves lucky.
Flaunt caught up with Brett and Cameron at Blackstar Studios in Studio City, where we found them rolling up their newly released Pineapple OZK, a brand new strain developed with B-REAL from Cypress Hill, and laying down tracks. Read below as we discuss their roots in Los Angeles, their love for cannabis, the evolution of Wonderbrett, the mythical OG Kush strain, collaboration with Poo Bear, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, opening their new cannabis store and more!
Talk about your roots in Los Angeles and what it was like coming up in the city.
Brett: I was raised in Granada Hills, San Fernando Valley, right next to Northridge Park, which were my stomping grounds. It was a great neighborhood, dollar theater was right across the street from the park. Granada Hills is this place where all these really great growers originated from. Josh D, Sean G, Cam, myself, our friend Matt from Redline Reserve, too. It’s an epicenter of good genetics and growers.
Cameron: I grew up in the Valley too. We crossed paths about 20 years ago in Granada Hills when I’d finally moved there. I was in the far end in Sylmar. At a mutual friend’s house, we got really stoned together and became friends. Brett probably got me the highest I’d ever been to date then, with the weed contraction he made. This vapor smoking box that heated up the weed, it didn’t burn it.
Brett: [laughs] Yea, I’d made this vaporizer with B-Real, patented and everything. Tommy Chong had gotten arrested for selling a bong to some kid in Virginia. I’m like, “Well that’s over, we’re not selling this.” I messed up, too. All we had to do was patent it in Canada and we could ship it worldwide. Since I’d patented it in California first, there was no going back. Lesson learned, man!
What is your love for marijuana?
Brett: When I was 14 or 15, they had me on Ritalin for ADD, these pills to keep me focused. I smoked weed and had this epiphany of clarity from the high and what it did to me. I stopped taking those pills and weed became my go-to medicine. At that point, it wasn’t thought of as medicine. It was so stigmatized, especially being in the 9th grade, when you had to hide it and sneak it from place to place. It was a totally different world. The days of the film container with the gray top. That’s where your weed was hidden and where you could hide the smell.
Cameron: Kodak film canister. [laughs]
Brett: You buy a really great gram for $20 or $25 from somebody, sticky wet. My original Skunk and Hawaiian Northern Lights. those strains all came in little film black containers. That was the day. When you saw that, you knew someone had good weed. It wasn’t this sandwich bag with $100 ounce.
Cameron: I got thrown into it with my father. He started growing with my uncle after his electrical company went under and needed to make money for the family. It was a hard time, you know? So my uncle came down from Oregon, and Dad had an electrical shop with all these tools and parts. He’d go get parts before work and take off. One day he was there for a lot longer. I went in and he finally said, “Come here, I have to show you something.” I was already smoking weed with him at this point. He pulled back a hinged shelf and behind it was a door that opened up into the whole grow. I was 13 years-old. Every day I watched a beautiful sun circle shine down and grow weed. I haven’t turned back since.
How did Wonderbrett come into fruition?
Brett: It took time. We are not an overnight success, but we are a result of weed history in California and of the people around us. Back in the 90’s, Cam and I were working harder than most to make the best weed in L.A., priding ourselves on the circle of people we grew up with. They were all-star growers back then, still leading the game right now with great genetics. They helped us get our weed to the most elite celebrities in music and film. So that hit first. But as the years went by it became more than just what’s in the bag: that “Brett”. I could hardly wait for the day we could sell weed in nice packaging and jars. Against all odds, it finally started to happen. The world finally started to come our way. We were on our own frequency and the world aligned with us. First, we saw Colorado. So I went there and immediately people were trying to get me to grow for them. I came back and called Cam, “We have to start building this brand now! Because by the time we figure it out these guys will come with all of this money from Colorado and dominate the area.” We started building the brand for the Prop 215 era right there and then, and got ready for the rec market as best we could.
Cameron: I shot off to Texas to do some work the year Brett went out to Colorado. He came back and said, “Dude I saw what’s going on in Colorado. California’s going to legalize next. Let’s put this together and do it!” I was planning on working in Texas for a year or so, until my wife became pregnant with our first baby. We were going to be coming back to Los Angeles anyway so I figured let’s go now. It was still a couple of years before legalization, the beginning where the medical market had enough protections that it made you feel safe enough to start doing something. My family and I were willing to go for it. We believed it was safe to put ourselves out there.
What’s the reality of starting a weed business?
Brett: It was crazy. Cam and I did everything together with a few other friends. That’s the original Wonderbrett team: shout out to Daron, Jonas, Brian, Chris, and Curt. They put in many years with us with no paychecks. We were trying to make it a profitable business and at that point it wasn’t.
Cameron: We came from a bunch of friends already growing. Me and Brett put ourselves out there to promote the brand. We had all the support from the guys in our circle to do it. They’re doing their own thing, making their own money. Any extra time, energy, or help that was needed, they’d give it to us to push the brand forward. The biggest hurdle starting was when we decided to package our products and engage with delivery services. We took on the order and invested money into packaging for them, then they didn’t come through with their order. That’s one of those stories you could hear a smaller company going under for! They couldn’t catch back up. We unpackaged all the weed, put it back in turkey bags, bulked it out real quick, recouped some money and went onto the next order. Very few growers could do that.
Brett: We started building on from there. We realized it’s a really uphill battle. People reuse these tiny plastic pill bottles. Crap medical containers. We wanted to build the Wonderbrett brand with a nice box and a glass jar. Really present it like a brand consistent with Coca-Cola. So we made that packaging and the first time bringing it to shops people said, “I can’t even see the weed, how do I know there’s weed in these boxes?” I told them, “Well, that’s the faith of building a brand. You have to trust that we’ll deliver a great product. We’re going to be here year after year. If I deliver an empty jar, my brand gets the black eye more than your store.” See, Cam and I were always about building a reputable, consistent brand. A promise of quality, consistency, and unique flavor. Fast forward, almost twenty years later, and that’s exactly what we did.
What was the significance of the OG Kush strain in the late ‘90s? You were gifted this clone at a time when people were fighting to find it.
Brett: One guy gave us seeds early on before we got the clone, it happened at the same time. It’s weird how when you want something, the universe can give it to you in more than one way.
Did you manifest it?
Brett: For some reason, I was at the right place at the right time when it came to the cannabis gods, and all the people who were there in the same time spectrum. Josh D found the original Kush and brought it from Florida with his friends out here. Only four or five people in California had the strain at that point and their group of friends gifted me. This was game-changing. That strain completely altered the landscape of cannabis from that day forward. Everything before that was just average product. Then all of a sudden a strain called OG Kush really stood above and beyond everything, like a Michael Jordan. It didn’t even make sense! This strain is so much better than everything else, and so was our grow of it.
Cameron: Today, it doesn’t stand out as much. The growing technique has gotten a lot better. But back then OG Kush was a finicky strain to grow. You had to up your growing game to grow that strain. That brought a lot more strains around, too. Think about it. You can go back in the vault like, “Oh man, I started growing Kush so good. Let me go try and grow this strain again, see how that comes out.” Stuff started coming out better.
Brett: Something about the Kush strain. The smell was definitely unique and eye-popping; a Coca-Cola type unique flavor. The high was very potent to where it’s hard to build a tolerance to it. The best part is you could smoke it for years, which is exactly what happened. People smoked OG Kush for 10 or 15 years before the new flavors started coming on the market. You couldn’t sell anything else but Kush during that time period. It was a really crazy time and our OG Kush was the best. The demand after B-Real rapped about it in the “Dr. Greenthumb” song was through the roof. He made that strain pop mainstream for all the celebrities. There we were, only a few growers with the cut, and now everyone in the world wanted it. You can imagine the demand. All the doors opened up. That’s how we ended up in studios with Dr. Dre, Xzibit, and all these people who were at the top of the charts.
How did it cross over into the music world?
Brett: I was in Tower Records standing behind Xzibit. I’d never met him before. He’s buying CD’s and there was a limo out front. You hear this super rough voice and it’s so undeniable that it’s him. I said, “Yo, I’m a big fan and I grow amazing fire Kush. I’d love to come smoke with you guys.” He’s hesitant, of course. Getting hit up by someone random, but he said, “Okay, give me your number.” X calls me an hour later when they’re doing the video shoot for “2001.” He’s doing this presidential scene and says, “Come down.” I brought our weed and they bought it for $500 an ounce. The quality was incredible, so we kept bringing nothing but the best glass jars. That was our signature.
Cameron: Look, OG’s got blown up and beat up in recent years, because so many people grew it and didn’t treat it right. They grew it for the price, because they have the strain, and the street name had a value. But they didn’t treasure it like we did back in the day.
Brett: The strain was so good that even a mediocre grower still had the best weed out of anybody else. The strain made up for it. Even Michael Jordan on his off day was still better than everyone else. OG Kush dominated for so many years. It changed my life along with a lot of other people’s lives for the better. I’m so thankful to be one of those people who are part of that seed’s founding circles.
You mention glass jars. When did you guys pivot to this colorful amazing branding you have now?
Brett: The first boxes made were all-white for the original OG Kush and the Cookie strain. We started with the white boxes, then started rolling out our fruit flavors once the market opened up: It was very intuitive for Cam and I to go, “Okay, let’s hone in on these fruit flavors because the fruit flavors are more interesting. Our weed flavors really tasted like lemon, blueberry, and strawberry. That evolved into color matching fruit with flavor, matching music, lifestyle, clothing: Pink Picasso, Orange Banana, Melon OG, and on and on. The weed flavor, packaging color and brand aesthetic represent what we do on a daily basis. We’re creating constantly, whether it’s breeding new strains, producing music, making art, designing a brand collection that presents the flower in a cohesive, cool way.
We look at our flavors and strains as art capsules with logos, clothing, and now short videos with rich digital graphics. Translating all of this with a beautiful color wheel just made sense to me and Cam, and sharing that with people has been the greatest experience of our lives.
How do you guys pick who to collab with? I know you have a collab with Poo Bear.
Brett: Yea, we’re here at Blackstar Studio! Poo Bear is amazingly gifted. He’s one of the best people, has a huge heart, and makes you feel really comfortable. Poo Bear and I became good friends when we met. He started being interested in the brand and we’ve always worked together in the background. Before I knew it, I was hanging out here and he’s writing a song about Wonderbrett. He made this whole video. It was amazing. Poo Bear and I have a partnership together now and are working on a few projects. He’s a huge believer in Wonderbrett and the team.
Cameron: Huge supporter from the start.
Brett: He’s always seen the vision of what we’re doing. When we do music stuff, we always try to come here. One of the most talented people you’ve ever come across, manifest greatness all day long in our life.
Cameron: You can’t have Poo Bear without mentioning Ali Darwish, he’s a big part of that support system for us. He always had an open door, good things to say about us. Poo Bear appreciates good weed, that’s how we all met. We’re hanging out with Ali, then Ali put us in the room with Poo Bear. Poo Bear’s a connoisseur of the finest things in the world too. If you ever hung out with Poo Bear, he takes you to the best restaurants. Poo Bear will bring you to a place you’ve never been before, out of this world. He has the best taste, it’s always great to be with Poo Bear. You never know where or who you’ll end up with by the end of the night, the guy’s an adventure all of the time.
When’s the retail store/dispensary opening and what can fans expect to get there?
Brett: We’re opening our store in the spring! Just a few more weeks to go. Fans can expect a stunning floor-to-ceiling interior design that plays off our signature colors and flavors. Our store will also be home to our limited edition genetics that we’ll drop without notice, and it won’t be available at other stores. Wonderbrett is actually one of the 100 social equity applicants that LA County awarded a social equity license to in 2018 when the industry was just booming with corporate cannabis. It’s incredible to see that finally coming to fruition three years later. We qualified because I was arrested for weed in my legacy days, a charge that was a nightmare for my family and I at the time. Fifteen years later and that charge turned out to be the thing that gave my team a shot at winning a lottery ticket. When the list came out, we were either #17 or #18 on the list. We felt very, very lucky.
Cameron: 2018 was a pivotal time for legacy operators to get into legal cannabis. Our brand hadn’t quite solidified our Long Beach facility deal and we also had to shut down our grow in 2018 to stay compliant. In North Hollywood, we had a medical grow that was from the Prop 215 era, but when LA County shifted to requiring all marijuana coming from a licensed facility, we were left with nothing for eight or nine months until we partnered up with a group who had a Prop D licensed facility. Industrywide, there was huge transition that year where all the medical shops had to reapply for their licensing. Some got it, some didn’t. Cities shut down a bunch of shops. There was a massive restructuring in the cannabis retail space. We were finally able to restart our brand at the end of 2018 and it launched at the Cookies Melrose store. That was our first relaunch back into the marketplace.
How did COVID-19 affect your business?
Brett: It was scary at first. You see all these reports of the virus spreading through California, you saw the shutdowns coming. We didn’t really have guidance going into work. You’re talking about a facility with over 100 employees, 30,000 plants that need daily maintenance. If you miss one day it curtains. All the plants are dead and we’re out of business. My stress level and anxiety was through the roof.
Cameron: Yea, it was a good couple of weeks before the state decided cannabis was essential.
Brett: Once we were deemed essential it was a huge relief. Whew!
Cameron: Once we passed that card and could operate, it got interesting. We experienced a huge surge in consumption in the market. It went from really scary to, “Oh my gosh, let’s grow as much weed as we can because it’s flying off the shelves.” That really became the next hurdle for scaling. With COVID, we also had the challenge of fewer employees coming to work, social distancing, rearranging our floor plans and standard operations. But at the same time we were selling more weed than ever before. It was a really strange, interesting time to have a business grow, juxtaposed with people suffering around the world. It was a trying year to say the least.
Brett: Really bittersweet, because you’re seeing the world have incredible trauma, everyone around you is scared from what they’re seeing on the news. All these things going on in Italy, China, a lot of unknown going on. It was an odd feeling to be selling more weed than ever, while living through the hardest year of our lives. How could I feel good about anything? But we had obligations to ourselves, our friends, our employees, our customers, and our investors.
What are you guys most excited for?
Brett: We’re really excited about the store opening up and really excited about our Santa Barbara farm. Santa Barbara is just beautiful. We acquired a 5-acre outdoor farm that will allow us to grow our brand of weed in ways we never could before in terms of scale. For the first time, it feels like the leash has been taken off.
Cameron: There’s so much. We completed our business plan for California with the store and now our own distribution center where we self-distribute to all Wonderbrett retail partners. We finally have an outdoor crop on the way. For the first time ever, I feel like we have a really well-built company that we can expand on. The farm especially will bring us a great extract line on multiple levels, focusing first on vape pens. We’ll have edibles coming out in the next few months as well.
Brett: We have these edibles that are hash-resin fruit chews made with 100% real fruit. We’re really excited about that.
Cameron: Yea, we waited a long time for that. I’m sick of eating other people‘s gummies. [laughs]
Brett: It helps complete our capsule for all of this stuff, too. We have a big announcement going into next year, too. You’ll have to stay tuned for that!