By: Jennifer Walker Few performance duos have had such an impact on modern-day culture in film, music, media and comedy as The Blues Brothers. In a frantic search, Elwood Blues found the long-lost brother of dearly departed Jake Blues, Brother Zee Blues, to reignite the Blues Brothers Show Revue 25 years ago. Jim Belushi […]
By: Jennifer Walker
Few performance duos have had such an impact on modern-day culture in film, music, media and comedy as The Blues Brothers. In a frantic search, Elwood Blues found the long-lost brother of dearly departed Jake Blues, Brother Zee Blues, to reignite the Blues Brothers Show Revue 25 years ago. Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd have continued to carry out their lifelong “Mission From God” in the form of a live concert in conjunction with MJ Unpacked benefiting the Last Prisoner Project as well as lending the Blues Brothers brand name to a stunning line of beneficial cannabis products. In this exclusive interview, Aykroyd and Belushi discuss all facets of cannabis and society from the revolution and the war on drugs, the dangers of opioid addiction, the healing powers of music and cannabis and how Last Prisoner Project is helping to free prisoners and reunite families.
Jennifer Walker: What an honor to speak with you both today! How wonderful that you two are teaming up to promote Last Prisoner Project and also bringing awareness to the launch of The Blues Brothers cannabis brand…
Dan Aykroyd: The Blues Brothers was very strong in movies, radio, television, records, films, documentaries; all kinds of triple-A projects in entertainment. We cannot come to the cannabis market with this Blues Brothers license offering anything other than a superior experience for the consumer. Jimmy and I are taking all of our pooled experience from our branding over the years and from our time in show business to make this happen. We’re always thinking about the customer, the price and the quality of our products.
JW: Especially with The Blues Brothers name attached to the products, there is an expectation for excellence! We are also so excited about the The Blues Brothers concert coming up here in October…
Jim Belushi: It’s going to be at The House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and in conjunction with MJ Unpacked. Our friend Jerry Lopez is corralling a few big name surprise musicians as special guests to join the jam.
JW: I think that will be outstanding!
DA: Yes, a fantastic revue, we’re looking very much forward to it.
JW: This is an interesting collaboration with the two of you considering The Blues Brothers history that we’re all familiar with. Mr. Aykroyd, pulling you into the cannabis space…what has that been like?
DA: The cannabis space is no stranger to myself or to my Countrymen here in Canada. I grew up in Ottawa where they had an experimental farm growing cannabis to research medicinal applications. I remember smoking some of this beautiful bud that a friend of mine stole out of the experimental farm and distributed it to friends in town. It was working man’s weed- I was driving a mail truck at the time and I got two or three runs done and was suddenly, very efficient from the effects. From driving a truck, the neck and back can suffer, and this cannabis just alleviated so many things and it brought a feeling of wellbeing. Whatever euphoria was there did not interfere with my functioning all the way through my government career, as I went on to work for the Canadian penitentiary service and the Department of Public Works. I was smoking recreationally throughout all of that, as were many people in Ottawa because it was readily available from grows and from importers (hashish from Lebanon, Nepal, Buton, Afghanistan)…big, black bricks with the Royal seal stamped on them and the big, red bricks of kief. For all of us, consuming was a way we got through a work week! And you know, Canada didn’t fall. The government functioned, so much so that today, you have a reasonable view of it where even police in some towns, if they don’t smoke for 12-24 hours, they can come back on duty. There’s a very tolerant view of cannabis here in Canada. I embrace this and hope that Americans will be able to benefit in the same way that Canadians have with this sensible legalization.
JW: We are definitely benefiting from legalization here in Nevada. Of course, Las Vegas (specifically) has that “come to town and party” stigma associated with it related to tourism. For Nevada locals, we have embraced legalization for all of the benefits of plant medicine and many of the issues that you’ve mentioned.
DA: I think that partying is fun. If you can moderate alcohol use and completely eliminate Fentanyl, opioids and pharmaceuticals, powders and pills which are killing so many people as they try to “party” or alleviate their suffering in life and substitute that for cannabis, the world would be a much more healed place! So go ahead and party, smoke one and have an edible! That’s the smartest way to party, even my daughters are advocates of moderate consumption (of the best products, of course)…
JW: Of course- only the best of the best! Segueing into discussing the Last Prisoner Project, so many have been imprisoned for these minor offenses when we now have the freedom to legally purchase and consume cannabis in many states. Some of these minor infractions are decades old and it’s heartbreakingly unjust!
DA: It’s third world viewing of cannabis and these terms of punishment don’t apply here in North America (especially recently).
JB: The war on drugs has always been based on a race war. The use of cannabis in the United States began when the Caribbean/Jamaican sailors visited New Orleans for seaport trading and brought it with them. It quickly spread throughout the jazz music scene and the authorities soon began to target all minorities for its use. Even the word “marijuana” is a controversial term right now in the cannabis industry (and beyond) as the term was initiated and used to target Mexican immigrants post-Mexican Revolution, who brought their medicine with them across the Texas border as they fled turmoil in Mexico. The “war on drugs” has done so much damage to families, overcrowding jails for inoffensive and nonviolent crimes. The Last Prisoner Project is the next wave of cannabis legalization And we’re having some great success, by the way!
DA: The New York Times said we have to rethink our use of drugs and how we police it. Look at the movie about Billie Holiday and how Harry J. Anslinger went after her because he was a racist…
JB: A rabid racist!
DA: …the use of these substances which were palliatives in the harder sense with pharmaceuticals, to persecute the Black musicians and artists of the time. Thank God we’re mostly past that. Cannabis is a healing story, I believe. It’s helping so many people. It helps you sleep, relieves anxiety, it can be a very beneficial thing for our minds and bodies.
JB: Getting back to these prisoners, there’s 40,000 incarcerated people and the Last Prisoner Project, with Steve DeAngelo and Mary Bailey at the lead, are getting all kinds of support. Not only financially with donations, but also with letters that are written to state’s attorneys in each state. Louisiana just turned over some laws to start letting people out. By the way, Louisiana is kind of where all of this started. So many families have been broken. The number one fear in life is death, the number two fear in life is the collapse of family. This war on drugs has collapsed the families of those incarcerated.
DA: It’s absolute hysteria driven by extremists.
JB: Politicians use the stats of arrests to help them campaign when they’re running for office. So the first thing they used to do for a campaign is go out and bust medical dispensaries, bust people on the street just to say, “look what I am doing to bust crime!”-and it was just to prove a point, meanwhile, harming people and families.
JW: What I love about The Blues Brothers tagline is that the “on a mission from God” sentiment really does apply here in so many ways. Lending your brand name to help facilitate the freeing of these prisoners who have been incarcerated and bringing awareness to that is huge. Tying music in with all of this along with CBD, cannabis, getting away from opioid addiction- it’s such a great package and a positive message. All of it is a spiritual experience. We’re moving into a different consciousness in society and how we perceive cannabis.
JB: You nailed it, Jennifer. On a mission from God…it’s a spiritual mission. This is a global community family mission.
DA: One of Christ’s favorite ministries was to prisoners. Among the downtrodden he ministered to, prisoners were high up there. Those who had sinned were in prison, incarcerated and he would visit them and talk with them. Of course we’re on a mission from God and the Godhead needs us as much as we need it.
JB: It’s a two way street…
DA: We have to work together. A higher consciousness about everything should occur now as it pertains to the way we treat each other, the way we talk about each other, how we love each other, eliminating hate speech…it’s a very big task to elevate the planet to a more spiritual level that we cannabis-supporters have. We have that spiritual level, we need to spread it around.
JW: Especially during times like these and navigating through this pandemic. We can use all of the brotherhood/sisterhood we can get!
DA: Yes, and however we can get it. We love to be a congregant society. I’m hoping that the concert comes off well and there’s not some ridiculous spike (Covid) that prevents us from doing it, God forbid. But we’re going to put on a show! The people who go to these shows, they never forget it for the rest of their lives. From the first show that Belushi (John) and I did at the Universal Amphitheater to the last show that Jimmy and I did at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Michigan… At that show, one of the tribal chiefs walked up to me, he was 7-feet-tall and looked like the size of a freezer! He was a beautiful man and he said with a tear in his eye, “That music just washed over me…it washed everything out of me. I needed that music to clean me out”. That’s what we do- we do a good ear and mind cleansing with our show.
JW: I can’t wait to experience it in person! Anything new and exciting going on with The Blues Brothers products?
JB: We have the Working Man’s Brand as Danny’s story about Ottawa, Canada, is all about the “working man”. We also have the 6-pack of 0.25 gram prerolls, our Baby Blues…a little burner for your break at 2 o’clock in the morning when you’re working at the plant and you need a little help to get you through the rest of the night. They’re also great for social distancing, since they’re compact enough for everyone to have their own joint and not have to share.
DA: There’s a big female purchasing demographic for these. It’s like, one, two, three hits…you got what you need. You can go to the opera, go shopping, walk the dog, go stargazing, and it’s the perfect amount. It’s not like you’re hauling on a blunt. You get a great taste and a nice euphoric feeling- an effective way to microdose if you’re smoking.
JB: Also, Danny and I have partnered up with Bhang Chocolate to make a Blues Brothers premium chocolate edible. I believe edibles really are the start for the new cannabis-curious consumer to dabble. The chocolates are inspired by Jake and Elwood. When they go to the diner to get Matt Guitar Murphy, we see the famous Aretha Franklin scene when she belts out “Think.” Jake orders a whole fried chicken and a Coke and Elwood orders dry white toast, so we collaborated on two candy bars that would taste like toast and fried chicken: Fried Chicken and Cola Dark Chocolate is made with a unique blend of crispy corn flakes covered in bittersweet dark chocolate. White Toast White Chocolate is made with white chocolate with caramelized croquant flakes. They’re delicious! I microdose 2.5mg a day of the chocolate. I’m a microdoser, kind of a lightweight, but I use it as a medicine.
DA: Oh these chocolate edibles are just fantastic, high quality products…
JW: I can relate to what you’re saying about microdosing as I, too, am a bit of a lightweight…
JB: Some of the strains that I have on my farm I haven’t even smoked because they’re so powerful. But I also have a few statins that are great for people like us, like Cherry Pie has only a 19% THC value, but also the terpenes that provide a great entourage effect that just chills you out like a couple glasses of wine. We used to call it “The Marriage Counselor” because it helps you get along well with your partner. We’re also partnering up with a great chocolate manufacturer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Glazed Edibles which will produce my own edible line called “Chasing Magic.” We’ll be launching that in October, also. We have a new k-9nine CBD product for pets that I’ve used on my wonderful German Shepherd, Taro. Wow has it made a difference in his run, his sleep, and his anxiety when I leave. We’re also releasing Captain Jack’s strain in Oregon, “The Smell of SNL,” and our value brand, Good Ugly Weed.
JW: I know that Bhang chocolate is here in Nevada in dispensaries. Do you have plans to release any of the other Blues Brothers products here in Nevada?
JB: It’s a state by state thing, as you know. So far we’re in Colorado, Oregon, Oklahoma, and we are in discussions with 10 other states. With regs and packaging things can take time but we will be in Nevada shortly, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan…we’re expanding quite rapidly.
DA: We source the best in each state and we work with them to do the licensing, packaging and marketing. We’re not going to go out there and source flower that’s anything less than what we love.
JB: I’m also a grower- I know my strains, I know my clones and I know how to grow so when I go to these other states I really comb their cultivation and form a collaboration on how to grow the Blues Brothers strains the best way.
DA: We’re benefiting from Jimmy’s knowledge as a real farmer…he’s not just slapping his name on it, he’s a real farmer!
JW: Not to forget all the great work that Belushi’s Farm has done with veterans and those suffering with PTSD, that’s a beautiful thing…
JB: And that’s what it’s all about- it really is about healing our community and healing families with Last Prisoner Project, and using cannabis to help heal traumas that people have experienced whether it’s divorce, job loss, severe illness, or PTSD. The Mission From God is a path to healing for all of these things.
JW: Can you comment on the correlation between music, cannabis and the state of the world right now and how it’s all tied together?
JB: The truth is cannabis is a pathway to healing whether it’s Alzheimer’s, back pain, cancer, PTSD… Cannabis can also enhance the taste of food, the sound of music. Cannabis enhances the touch of your lover’s skin…
DA: Oh Jimmy, you’re making me tingle!
JB: But it does! It makes you feel good, it gives you euphoria and there’s nothing wrong with feeling good. All of this is what’s involved in the wellness promoted by cannabis and music. For hundreds of years, the rhythm of music, cannabis and ritual have been used to heal psychological wounds of battle, enhance spirituality and promote enlightenment. And don’t forget, The Blues Brothers…we have all of this in our show!
“’The Blues Brothers at The House of Blues in Las Vegas…To raise money for the Last Prisoner Project. Come on!’” said Jim Belushi, who was bestowed his role in the Blues Brothers in honor of his late brother John Belushi. “’It’s our combined efforts that will lead to the release of all non-violent cannabis prisoners.’”