We caught up with Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr. to talk about Blunts and Moore, the first equity owned cannabis retail facility.
Courtesy of Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.
“I’m walking the path that I guess was already laid out for me, man,” Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr. said. It’s been quite a path, as the owner of Blunts and Moore tells it. For over 15 years, Tucky tried to set up shop in the city of Oakland with almost every possible challenge thrown his way.
In 2018, after a long journey that’s only getting started, Tucky finally created Blunts and Moore, which is the first equity owned cannabis retail facility. Since opening its doors, the company has prided itself on bolstering the community, as well as providing one of the Bay Area’s largest selection of top shelf cannabis products.
How’s a Wednesday like today at the store?
Man, Wednesday so far is good. I haven’t been into the store today. I had some stuff to do at home, but so far, so good. I haven’t heard no complaints. I’ll be in there tomorrow, though. After I finish class, got to go down there.
What’s the class?
I’m teaching Dispensary Operations for the Harrington Institute.
How’s that going?
It’s actually been dope. I’m in week four of six. I got picked to do another six weeks, and to go from trapping, to Oaksterdam, to owning the store, to now teaching it, is amazing. It’s pretty cool.
When it comes to teaching, are you hoping to help open doors for others? Show others the path you’ve gone down and that it can be done?
Exactly, and to also show the good and the bad. A lot of people only talk about the good that they can see. Everybody thinks everything is cookies, and people don’t understand that behind the scenes, everything’s not cookies, especially in California. It’s just good to be able to help people figure out how they want to move in this space, and to have a voice that people trust is crazy. I’m just taking it all in as it comes.
What’s the bad side?
Just to make sure you’re educated to come in this space, picking your partners. Knowing that you need SOPs. A lot of us get a license in this space and have no business acumen at all. So to jump into a space that’s a billion dollar space and only a dollar worth of knowledge, you can run into some problems. Bad partnerships, predatory lending practices, over taxation in California, so it’s just letting people know what they getting into and what to expect from what I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been on the legal side. So just dealing with the pros and cons. I love being an equity owner. I love having a store, but if I knew, coming in, what I know now, I would’ve done things differently. I’ll put it like that.
What would you have done differently?
For one, found a different partner, but it was good that I met them because I wouldn’t be here. They were put in my path in order for me to get the dispensary, and then they can go about their business, so it worked out. It’s just a lot of us that I talk to, a lot of the inboxes that I get, everybody is all, “I want to sell weed and grow weed,” and it’s like, “Okay, well, do you have $3 to $5 million that you can just waste right now and not get back for three to five years? If you can do that, jump on in.”
But if you can’t really afford that, let’s look at some other options of other things you can do to get in this space, and not have to worry about the taxation. So it’s just exploring all options, and being able to share all options for people to get in this space, because everybody that wants to get into this space, just want to grow and sell. That’s all they want to do, and it’s like, there’s so much more you can do.
So, what about the good side you teach?
Being able to be a store owner, and talk to my team, talk to my customers, and not be up in an office somewhere, being actually on the floor, budtending. I budtend at my store. You know what I’m saying? Being an inspiration to people that you’ve never met before, but are inspired by you, that is something I will take with me to my grave. I’m only used to inspiring my kids or my wife, but I’m inspiring people I’ve never met before, and I’m also putting people in my store in position to do better in the space.
You’re doing something for your community, you’re giving back. I’m hosting expungement clinics at my store. I have a bunch of food trucks that I have at my store every day, that I don’t charge a dime, and let them make as much money as they can. Just being able to do stuff like that and share my space, those are the good things I look forward to doing every day. I like that. It’s a lot. It’s a lot.
There are a lot of people, whatever the industry, that get to where they are without much help, but when they get there, to choose to give the help and give back? That’s a great thing.
Yes, sir. I think that’s what you have to do. I tell people all the time, “I didn’t sign up for this.” I sold weed since ’96, I got arrested for it. Tried to open a store in like, ’03, ’04, didn’t work out, and just kept grinding, but to be in a position now, to be able to help people when, like you said, I didn’t have that type of help, man, and I would be doing disservice if I didn’t do that.
For me to be the first of what I’m doing, to not help other people come along behind me would be stupid. It’d be like a slap in the face. You know what I mean? I have to do that, and I think that’s missing a lot from this space, because a lot of the people, a lot of the newbies, in the space, don’t understand what the plant is supposed to do. The plant is about compassion. It’s supposed to bring people together, and we’re missing that. It’s a lot of separation in the space right now, and it shouldn’t be like that.
Courtesy of Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.
And a lot of people who get into the business are so unfamiliar with cannabis, where they just think, “This is booming. We should get in on this.” It’s often not coming from just a passion for it.
They don’t care. I mean, just be honest. I mean, they’re getting in it because of the money that they see in it, and that’s great. Don’t get me wrong, I like to make money, too, but I’m coming from a place of, cannabis has been in my life forever. I’ve always looked at selling cannabis as a profession. So to actually have that as a profession, I want that to be explored by other people.
So you tried to open a store, back in around ’03, and then 15 years later, you did it. What was going on between those 15 years?
So from the time I initially tried to open the store, until 2017, when I found out about the equity program, I stayed in the environment of the cannabis clubs. I worked at a bunch of different clubs, grew weed for clubs, managed clubs, but never could get to the ownership level, and it kind of bothered me a lot because I felt like, “Why can’t I do this?” But I kept working, I always had a job. I kept hustling, but I wanted to own a store, but I just realized after ’03, ’04, based on what had been going on, it wasn’t going to happen. At least it wasn’t going to happen then. I did kind of get discouraged, because I was at the point of, “I’ve been trapping since ’96, I’m tired of trapping.”
I’ve always approached it as a business. I’m still trapping it like it is a business, but I kind of reached the ceiling. You know what I mean? What else can I do? Kept doing my music, kept doing my promotions, kept doing my parties, kept doing my work, met my wife. It was just a whole lot going in, went to Oaksterdam. Oaksterdam opened my eyes up to a lot. I graduated from there in ’08. I was in their third class, I think, in Oakland. So that was pretty eye opening to see that they had a school that was teaching us how to move correct in the cannabis space. I had never heard of that before.
I just kept doing that, stayed on it, and then, quite honestly, bro, in 2017, by then, I had gave up on opening store. I kind of gave up around 2013 and retired completely. I retired from my job, took my 401k, or whatever, and I put all that money into my auto detail business, and I just went full into my auto detail, stopped selling weed. I would only keep weed around for my friends and family, but I stopped, and everything was going good.
Tesla reached out to me in 2017, and I thought it was a joke. I thought it was spam. They hit me on LinkedIn, and was like, “Yeah, we want to bring you in to come teach people how to detail cars,” and I’m like, “Whatever.” I ignored it. About three months later, they hit me back and was like, “Hello, can you come talk to us?” I’m like, “Sure, what do y’all want from me? Is this like you want me to come detail the cars? I own a detail business; what do you want from me?” They’re like, “No, we want you to teach people how to detail cars, but we don’t even have the position created. Can you create a position for us?” So I created a position. I’m the first Certified Detail Trainer in Tesla history.
Congratulations on that.
Thank you. Created the position, going great. I had a good two months in. Everything was on point, and then the guy who interviewed me and hired me, tried to fight me, because basically, I was doing my job, and it was making his job look bad, and instead of him just approaching me like a business saying, “Hey bro, slow down a little bit. You moving too fast. I appreciate your work, but it’s making me…” We could have talked. He didn’t want to talk. He tried to literally fight me, and in the midst of him charging at me, I just politely stood back, and told him, “If you get any closer, I’m going to beat your ass.”
The witness to this conversation was one of his friends, who just so happened to be another supervisor, and being that I was the lowest on the totem pole, I got fired. It was hard, because I had good benefits, good position. I went from detail on the street, making good money. I was making $5k a month, but I went to a position making $85K a year, gone. Completely gone, and I was at a rough patch. It was like, what do you do? Like, “Okay, I can go back to detailing. I could go back and get a job, but what do you do?”
I get a call from Mike Marshall, who’s the voice of “I Got 5 On It.” The guy that’s actually singing, “I got 5,” that’s him. He called me, and was like, “Hey, Tuck, have you ever caught a weed case in Oakland?” And I was like, “Yeah,” hella random, “Yeah, I’ve caught a weed case, why?” He was like, “Man, they got a program giving people opportunities to own in the cannabis space if you had a case. You got to fit certain criteria.” I’m like, “Well, what is it?” He said, “A social equity program.” I pull up my laptop, the laptop that I got from Tesla, crazy, and I’m searching the equity program, and it pop up. I see it, I see what they’re talking about. I see the requirements.
He was like, “I got two people out of Atlanta. They moved to Denver, and then they moved to Oakland, and they’re looking to partner with somebody that fits the criteria, so they can open a store.” I was like, “What they want from me?” He was like, “Nothing. They just want to sit down with you. If you fit the criteria, y’all can come up with whatever agreement y’all come up with, and y’all go from there.”
I met my previous partner in ’17. We applied for the license in December of ’17. We won the license in January of 2018, and then we opened the store in November of ’18. Literally that fast, just met them, got in bed with them, opened the store, had a good year run, and then all hell broke loose. So that’s kind of, in a nutshell, how it went from me wanting to open a store, and being told I couldn’t, to opening the store 15, 16 years later.
Courtesy of Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.
I’m always interested in expectations versus reality. How’d they compare?
So day one expectations was initially, “I’m going to have a thousand people in the store.” I didn’t know no different. I thought, “That’s a good number, we can do it.” So coming in, we didn’t know we were going to be the first. So when we were doing all this stuff to open, I didn’t anticipate being the first social equity store to open. It just happened that way. I didn’t anticipate that. I anticipated having a good outing. I knew my name was good in the streets of Oakland and the Bay Area. I knew I could bring the crowd. I knew I could bring support, because people always supported me. I knew I had that.
Let’s get back to another expectation. I expected I had a good partner. I expected that they were going to teach me the things I didn’t know in this space, and we were going to build together and build a future. Reality, that wasn’t the case. Reality, we did have a good first year. 2018, we’re not going to count, because we opened in November, so it was only two months, but 2019, we had close to a $3 million year. It was reported that we did a $5 million year, but my previous partner reported it incorrectly, in order to gain some other money to run off and open her dispensary.
The overall expectation versus reality, I had high expectations. The reality is I’m overtaxed. I was underprotected in the sense of the police helping me when robberies happened, but that has, since I yelled at them, has greatly changed. I have a good relationship with OPD now, but reality is, I’m overtaxed, I had a shitty partner, if I can just be frank.
And the obstacles that were in front of me were a lot to overcome, but if we talking a revamp of when we restarted in March of last year, when I reopened, after being closed for the robberies, I got robbed twice. George Floyd murder, I was robbed, and my whole store was cleaned out.
How’s insurance in those cases?
You can file a claim all you want. They’re not going to give you the majority of it, and they’re going to overrate you, and then you won’t be able to get insurance with anyone else. So insurance has become, and this is something I’ve told to New York Times, and whoever wants to listen, insurance really needs to be looked at in cannabis, because they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. So out of the $1 million loss I took in June of 2020, I got $126,000 back total, and that was for loss of business. I never got anything for my product. I got a little bit of loss of business, and it paid for my TVs that was in the store. That’s it. That’s it, nothing else.
Then we got hit in November. Recently, we got hit in November. That was about a $60K loss. We’re not even filing a claim for it, because if we file a claim, we’re going to get kicked off the policy, and then I have to file with someone else. Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s crazy what they’re doing with insurance. Insurance in California is a scam for cannabis businesses, a true scam.
To go through all of that, to go through the bad partner, to go through the learning experience, because I took that as a learning experience. I was mad at her and her mom, initially. That’s the initial action you want to have, but in all honesty, I had to take that on the chin, and realize that was a lesson I had to learn. That was a lesson to me. Read your contracts better, read your operating agreements better, know what these terms mean. Even if it’s the same thing over and over on 15 different pages, make sure you understand what it means on each different page. So I can’t fault them, they got over on me. It happens.
How do you move up from that? You know what I mean? I got a good partner now, who ended up being my landlord, previously, Grizzly Peak Farms. We’re doing good things together. They actually just launched a brand with Soulja Boy, so they’re doing things with him now. They did Cannabis Talk One-on-One, I think yesterday, but I’m just a resilient person.
I’m a solution based person. You give me the problem. Okay, yeah, it was a problem, but how do we fix it? How do we come out on top? I think that’s why I’m still in the position I am, because I have that attitude. When we did get robbed, we put on a concert, me, Berner, Weedmaps, and some others. It was called “I Got 5 On It,” as crazy as it would sound, and we raised money for dispensaries and other cannabis businesses that were affected when the George Floyd murder happened.
Out of all the money we raised, I or Berner never took a dime for our respective brands. We gave it to the others, and I did it, for one, because I felt like that’s what I should do. I feel like Blunts and Moore would be cool, would be able to recover. I didn’t know we didn’t have good insurance, because my previous partner changed the insurance.
My heart was, “Give,” and it worked out. My whole testimony to whatever’s been going on is, my expectations are, “Man, Blunts and Moore should be all over the world. We should be a brand that everybody should know about,” but reality is, “Yeah, they know about it, but now it’s just time to expand on it.”
Courtesy of Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.
That’s something I respect about Oakland, that sense of community. You can give back, not expect anything, and get back so much more.
Yes, bro, we’re planning another “I Got 5 On It” live, too, and then we’re planning on doing it in Oakland, at the Oakland Coliseum next 4/20. We’re working on that now. I believe what cannabis can do for Oakland is mind blowing. Cannabis has the potential to make Oakland really a real life Oaksterdam, and really have people coming into Oakland for cannabis, and I want to be a part of that. I’m really, really, really, really, really from Oakland. You understand what I’m saying?
To be able to have something in Oakland and represent Oakland the right way, I’m all for it. I’ve talked to the people that I need to talk to in Oakland. I’m basically trying to get a seat at the table to talk to who I need to talk to. They’re like, “Dude, you are the table. We need to be talking to you.” I’m like, “Well, I don’t know.”
I’m still trying to be as humble as I can with all the stuff that’s going on, but from what I’m gathered, they’re like, “No dude, you’re the one that we need to be talking to.” So I’m just trying to keep my presence good, and just attack.
Do you want to franchise?
I need to franchise. I believe that that model will work for me, and I’m taking a note out of Berner’s book. I don’t want to own all the stores. I just want to sell the licensing to the Blunts and Moore. Pay me for the licensing; give me my licensing fee, and 5% of the ownership, I’m out your hair. I don’t want to run 38 stores. No, I have kids, a wife, a life. I like traveling, but I can take 5% of 38 stores. If they all making $3 million a piece, you do the math.
What else are you planning for the future?
I definitely want to work on more speaking engagements. I have five kids. My youngest daughter’s in the eighth grade. She came home about a month ago, and they’re doing a debate in her class about cannabis legalization. Eighth grade.
So, for me, it triggered, “I need to start going to schools now. I need to reach out to these schools, and these colleges, and go talk to them.” Not just about weed, but about the business of weed, you know what I mean? So just to know that they’re doing that, for me, I want to get, like I said, more speaking engagements, more teaching.
I want to do whatever I can do to spread the word about this plant, that doesn’t have to be overtaxed. We call it ancillary. I’m trying to build up my ancillary job game. Yes, I’m now a dispensary owner. Yes, I want a franchise. That’s all great, but what else could I do besides opening stores? How could I give back to my community? How can I give back to other people, who may not want to own stores? You know what I’m saying?
I’m also doing some stuff with Redman. He has a cannabis political party, a lot of people don’t realize. It’s been up a year. It’s called the National Cannabis Party. I’m working on being a part of that, and then I’m on the NCIA board, I’m on Minorities for Medical Marijuana. I’m tapping into all the resources. I’m doing all the interviews, I’m promoting, I’m traveling all around the country on my own dime, making sure people know about Blunts and Moore.
I do want to circle back to ’96 when you were starting to sell cannabis.
How did it compare to running the store?
This is legal trapping. Real talk, the cannabis industry right now is legal trapping. There’s no difference. The only difference is, with me and what I was doing back then in ’96, I was in control, and I mean, I’m in control of my store, but I can’t control the taxes, I can’t control the police. When I was in the streets, all I needed was my pistol, you know what I’m saying? I didn’t need nothing else. I have to have insurance. I have to worry about my staff, but the comparisons to the street, as far as just selling weed, selling weed is selling weed.
What I have to worry about, aside from just selling weed, is the key difference. The things that people don’t see. The staff I have to worry about if they’re going to make it home at night, because people are going to want to follow them home. The security, I have to worry about, wondering if they’re secure. My family, I got to worry about. I don’t own a key to my store. I don’t have any of the passwords to the safe, all because I don’t want anyone to jump me, and then take me to the store, thinking they can unlock stuff.
I didn’t have to worry about that on the streets, and for me, that’s a key difference. I was safer on the streets, to be totally honest with you. You only knew I was selling weed if I wanted you to know I was selling weed. Now, you know I’m selling weed, because everyone knows I’m selling weed. It’s a little different. The same, but different.
Anything else you want to say about Blunts and Moore as we wrap up?
Blunts and Moore is a cannabis company, a cannabis brand, that just so happens to be black-owned. We here to stay. I’m not going anywhere. I want people to come. When they come to Oakland, to know that they want to go to Blunts and Moore, to come check out the vibe. Our colors are orange for a reason. Orange makes people happy.