Episode 26 - From Outlaw to Model Citizen
For years Dennis Hunter ran from the DEA. Today, he runs one of the biggest cannabis companies. The only thing that's changed? The laws.
When Dennis Hunter was growing up in northern Mendocino, the timber industry that had once fueled the economy of this remote California county was in steep decline. Unemployment was rampant and the locals, who were used to working with their hands, needed something to do. Long known for its inaccessibility and low population of hippies and loggers, the area, along with neighboring Humboldt and Trinity counties became the sinsemilla capital of North America (it was and still is California’s largest cash crop). It wasn’t long before Hunter joined this vast underground economy.
The 1990s were scary times in NorCal. DEA helicopters routinely buzzed the skies, looking for suspicious patches of green. By age 25, Hunter had been busted twice. His second arrest in 1998 sent him to medium-security federal prison for 6.5 years, a period he now refers to as “the lost years.”
Hunter’s tales of growing illegally during this time are full of drama which you’ll hear in this podcast, but there’s more. Once released, he went from growing plants to growing other cannabis businesses. At first he sold nutrients, hydroponic equipment, and other tools of the trade to cultivators. In 2014 he co-founded Cannacraft to manufacture cannabis tinctures, and other smoke free products, among them, the delicious Satori chocolates, one of my favorite edible products on the market. Today, Cannacraft is one of the largest cannabis companies in CA, with 140 employees and revenues topping $50 million.
It’s important to underscore that this is not a redemption story. His “criminal behavior” hasn’t changed; rather the California laws have. And his post prison success remains the anomaly. Most Drug War “criminals” have an impossible time getting loans or mortgages let alone a job once out of prison. California is attempting to right this wrong by expunging the records of Drug War victims. As other states legalize it’s up to us to ensure that expungement provisions are built into new laws. Especially if you believe, as I do, that Drug Wars are far more criminal than the “crimes” of growing this amazing plant.