Mario Guzman is among the few who can effortlessly meld stoner culture and fashion in the brave new world of weed.
As weed continues its invasion into the mainstream and luxury consumerism, the old stoner culture seems to reject the new trends. In the middle of both of these worlds is Mario Guzman, AKA Mr. Sherbinski. Guzman is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area cannabis breeder and the man behind Sherbinskis, a California cannabis brand. Guzman is renowned for being one of the originators of Gelato, one of the most popular weed strains in the U.S.
His mythic status carries a lot of clout. Guzman spoke about “The Cannabis Economy” in 2018 at The Business of Fashion in London; his hemp preroll packs swept the floor at ComplexCon 2019. He was dubbed ”the Supreme of Marijuana” by the New York Times, Sherbinskis stands out among the crowd of modern cannabis competition. The culture seems to love Guzman's brand of weed, from being interviewed by B-Real, posing in Los Angeles fashion week photos with Alexander Wang, working in collaboration with Birdman — even an ode to Gelato in a song lyric by Offset in Calvin Harris' “Slide.” When Sherbinskis' limited-edition bespoke Nike Air Force F1 shoe collab dropped at Complex Con in 2018, it cost $130 a pair. Now, there is a pair on sale on EBay for $1,000.
Sherbinskis is founded on deeply rooted, historic lineage of cannabis plant breeders due to founder Guzman, who has spent two solid decades in the industry. Guzman started his seed-breeding career in Northern California at the age of 20, growing out of a garage in San Francisco's Sunset District, learning from and selling weed out of his backpack to the first dispensaries in the United States including The Vapor Room, a well-known San Francisco dispensary.
On top of breeding Gelato, thank Guzman for his variants in the Gelato family: Bacio Gelato, Mochi Gelato, Acai Berry Gelato, and Gello Gelato. Other strains the Sherbinskis team cultivates include Pink Panties and Sunset Sherbert. Its line has expanded in offerings to include cartridges of cannabis oil for the Double Barrel vape. Double Barrel is a proprietary vape technology that is said to be the first patented dual cartridge on the market, and it looks quite chic. In addition, Sherbinskis has its prerolls, flower, 510 oil cartridge, and its line of clothing.
Old culture and new consumerism clash not just in weed, but on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. It's on this iconic block, up the street from Canter's, a Jewish-style delicatessen, and the Supreme store, one of the most coveted skate and hip-hop apparel brands. Guzman is bringing the old school weed culture to the mainstream; evolving it without sacrificing it; enlisting a new type of stoner using art, hip-hop, fashion, and hemp.
Sherbinskis flagship dispensary plans to open in fall 2019 at 345 N. Fairfax Ave. It's a “dope get” location, Guzman said. Anticipate orange leather stools, and a massive plant-filled awning that the Sherbinskis logo adorns atop on the storefront.
Guzman is curating everything in the space. The store will sell 21-and-older Sherbinskis cannabis products, alongside merch, and unique early-1900s-vintage Japanese smoking accessories.
Sherbinskis is working in partnership with Post Malone for his Shaboink hemp preroll brand and Birdman's Stunna hemp prerolls. Plus, 50 Cent just stamped his approval of the forthcoming Bubba Kush pack of Stunna. Sherbinskis recently announced a partnership with the veterans group No Vet Alone to shed light on the role cannabis has played in providing relief to military veterans and first responders.
How does the OG clout transfer to the new age of weed? Guzman lays it out.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Do you consider yourself an OG?
A: I don't really consider myself an OG because I feel like I haven't even gotten started yet. What's funny is, I have been doing this for almost 20 years, involved in the cannabis industry as well as an advocate, but there's always something new. I'm always turning over stones. I am a very curious human being, I'm always looking for the next challenge. I think that's what leads me to a lot of these opportunities.
Q: What is your advice when it comes to partnerships in both business, and just cannabis culture relationships in general?
A: I develop relationships with people who aren't always the easiest people, sometimes they got a little ego, they're a little weird, they're a little bipolar, and there are a ton of them out there in this industry and other industries. A lot of CEOs share some of these qualities.
I get to know people, I really let people in. For the most part, it's been good for me. I develop a deeper partnership and relationship with the people I work with. In the end, I feel like through all the bullshit in the industry, all the people trying to make a quick buck, the people that recognize the truth behind what I do, I think it helps me find those people as well.
Through the regulations, through all the headaches we are going through in the industry, the cream rises to the top, if you will.
Q: What is your intention, or what is the Sherbinskis' intention, in cannabis?
A: I'm starting to find people who are here not to just make money, but to truly help people. I believe in intentions. What's the true intention? My intention has always been to help people. Making money has always been an after-effect of that. I am finding people who have those traits, that want to truly help people and make a difference. That's what I'm most excited about.
Q: Is that intention and excitement reflected in your projects? What has been the biggest challenge?
A: Now with my dispensary, getting through all these regulations that have been such a crippling thing for people, I am finding getting to a place in the industry where we can regroup from all the licks we've taken over the last 10 years.
Q: Why make Gelato hemp preroll packs?
A: When you look at Big Tobacco, you're talking generations of farmers proving tobacco. Third generation farmers, they're losing their farms, they're losing everything that their entire family, three generations worked for. Large companies are lowering and driving down the price of tobacco, so it's just not profitable for them anymore. We're able to come in and help and to literally change the face of the farming industry, it's something I'm really proud of and something that I'll hopefully tell my grandkids about, that I was part of this American history.
It's disruptive, that's the spirit of this, that's what excites me about being part of this. That's what America is all about — having the opportunity and the ability to innovate, the ability to use the resources we have, to pull them together.
Q: What has the reaction to the hemp prerolls been so far?
A: You know what I noticed is, when we dropped the product, this is what I found. People who smoke cigarettes liked it because they still got the feeling like they're smoking and inhaling but they didn't have the smell, the chemical smell or nicotine, which they're trying to get off of. A lot of people who smoked them really love the experience for that aspect of it. Also, people who stopped smoking cigs but started smoking the Juul who want to get off the Juul, people are finding this as a nice alternative for not going back to cigs and getting off the Juul.
Keep in mind this is a brand-new product. We've released it in small batch, hand-trimmed, dried with hemp. Still, this is more of a scalable product. It's a brand new product, it's very disruptive. Because I know that the people who make Juuls aren't going to like it, and the tobacco industry isn't going to like it, that's just a fact. It's a new product it's something that is here to stay, it's not going away.
Again I just really feel like it's disruptive. People are asking all the questions to me, “What? When? How?” They're so intrigued because they haven't seen it before. I think, from the high-end connoisseur level, the reality is a lot of people have heard of Gelato, they just don't have access to it. We've talked to people from around the world who have heard of Gelato strain, but it is nowhere near where they live. To get the strain to those people, giving the opportunity to those people to at least connect with the brand on some level, people are so excited.
People are more excited about it than I was when we brought them to Complex Con, my partner G Putt [G. Singh], I sent him out to Com Con, literally it was the biggest hit. It's about bringing new and innovative products, dope stuff that no one is doing. Everyone has done a sneaker or piece of art. That has been done, but this hasn't been done. The cameras were all over this.
Q: So what is the future of the Sherbinskis brand?
A: Pushing the boundaries, pushing the envelope, advocating through every possible tool and way that I can. With Sherbinskis, the whole thing is, we want to help people, we want to do it with style, you want to make money and those three things are aligned with what we're doing now. Hemp is just another way that it's going to be a valuable tool for me to push the benefits of cannabis and hemp in general.
The Sherbinskis cannabis storefront is opening in fall 2019 at 345 N. Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles. (Lindsey Bartlett/Weedmaps)