Blood Wizard skate team pro Jerry Gurney used to pass his time in Yuba City, California, with a not-so-typical routine. "I wake up, take a nice long piss, get real tweaked out on coffee, and then spend the day trimming weed," he says, looking back.
When he wasn't out skating for glory with his Blood Wizard brethren, Gurney earned his keep by spending long hours each day hunched over a table with scissors in one hand and marijuana in the other. His work was tedious, but it paid well. "I'm out there hustling and getting that money," says the charismatic skater, who is known not only for his gnarly tricks but also his passionate heavy-metal proselytizing and spot-on King Diamond shrieks. Weed trimmers can make anywhere between $100 and $500 cash each day, depending on the speed of their handiwork — and Gurney is a self-proclaimed world-class trimmer. But a recent and fortuitous run-in with 707 Holdings, Corp. founder Kyle Walton has brought an end to Gurney's blue-collar days of manicuring ganja. In fact, nearly overnight, Gurney's job title jumped from weed trimmer on a pot farm to CEO of a visionary corporation on the forefront of the legal marijuana business.
While visiting a Northern California cannabis farm to secure several hundred pounds of pot for his company's brands, Walton — a lifelong skateboarder — spotted Gurney among a staff of weed trimmers. "I didn't say anything at first, but I was so hyped to see Jerry there — he's been one of my favorite skaters for a long time," says Walton. In October 2017, once his procurement was handled, Walton approached Gurney to express his admiration and love for skateboarding. Almost instantly, a unique friendship was forged. The conversation ended with Gurney suggesting the two work together and develop the world's first skateboarding weed company. Walton went straight back to his 707 Holdings, Corp. partners — Kris Reeve and Sam McMann — suggesting they start something immediately. In November, a month later, Devils Lettuce was born and quickly become their best-selling brand.
"We're a skateboarding pot team," enthuses Gurney, who recently decided to leave Yuba for Southern California to focus on Devils Lettuce and Blood Wizard. "Basically, we're not promoting skateboards, trucks or grip tape — we're promoting marijuana. It's legal now in California and we are the first pro skateboarding pot team." The Devils Lettuce skate team is made up of some of skateboarding's heaviest hitters — Gurney, Chris Gregson, Jon Dickson, Jeremy Leabres and Forrest Edwards, plus photographer/team manager Tim Aguilar and videographer Jacob Nuñez. Rather than dumping money into traditional marketing efforts to promote the brand, Devils Lettuce pays its team riders a salary and funds their skateboarding tours. "We're looking to buy a team van for skate trips," says Walton.
Blood Wizard pro skater Chris Gregson was the first person Gurney confided in when he started looking to build a team. "It all happened organically," says Gregson. "We did our first team trip recently to San Francisco to make sure everyone gets along — and we all had a good time. We probably smoked 100 joints in two days and skated a bunch of epic spots in San Francisco and Oakland."
Gregson is certain that the team will grow with the brand. In fact, pros all over are hopeful of joining the team when they decide to expand. "There are some pretty crazy pro skaters out there — that I can't really mention — who have hit us up," says Gregson. "The ultimate dream would be to have all of our homies on Devils Lettuce and everyone skates together and smokes for free." After all, having a skateboarding weed company comes with the benefits of in-house research and development. "We are sore all the time from skating tranny [pool-riding transition skateboarding] or jumping down stairs. Personally, I would like to have as much marijuana and CBD [cannabidiol, a cannabis compound that's used to provide medicinal benefits without intoxicating effects] products that are available to minimize my downtime, and be able to skate more. The ultimate goal is to make our skate careers last as long as possible and feel better while we skate," says Gregson.
"We don't ask anything of our team that they wouldn't already be doing — just live their lives, skate, smoke weed and post about it all on Instagram," says Walton, intent on keeping Devils Lettuce organic and authentic. To date, the brand thrives almost exclusively on Instagram posts by the team manager and the riders, all of whom are handpicked by Gurney. "I'm not involved in choosing the team," says Walton. "That's all Jerry, he's our CEO."
Indeed, the vision for the entire brand was built on Gurney's three fundamental requirements: make the weed cheap, make it accessible and put it in a simple, re-sealable bag (rather than a fancy bottle). "It's actually genius," says Walton. "We could have easily overthought the brand, but we followed Jerry's lead and it's already turned out to be a success!" In less than a year, Devils Lettuce has proliferated, racking up a half million in gross sales.
The undertaking has not been without challenges, however. First came the initial launch. "We had to scramble to land on artwork and packaging quickly, because we had an immediate demand for Devils Lettuce as soon as we announced it," Walton recalls. "Usually, we spend a lot of time developing a brand that we think will sell. But in this case, the brand really sells itself, so we had to make sure we got it right."
Then California switched up its marijuana policy. "We had a great start under California's laws for medicinal use," says Walton. "But when Proposition 64 went into effect this January, we had to completely stop business, pull back from around 50 accounts and adhere to new laws that required our brand to be only available through licensed dispensaries." It was a hurdle that Walton says they took on without hesitation. "We always wanted to comply with the law. At the end of the day, all of our pro skaters are promoting our brand and their names are all on the line, so we needed to make sure that Devils Lettuce complied in every way." He reveals that since re-launching in April, Devils Lettuce is available in 20 licensed dispensaries (adding several retailers weekly), with projected gross sales of $6-7 million in its first fiscal year.
While consumers only have to pony up about 60 bucks for a half-ounce of Devils Lettuce, the quality is still high-grade cannabis "smalls" (tiny nuggets), licensed and regulated by the state of California. "Every batch is quarantined, sampled and tested under the state's new laws," explains Walton. "I source our product from a handful of farms in Northern California until I find the perfect batch, and then I purchase around 200 pounds at a time. We have samples tested numerous times before the product is packaged and sent out to dispensaries." Walton says their product is tested for potency, but more importantly, for pesticides and molds at parts per billion.
Currently, Devils Lettuce is available in three strains: indica, sativa and hybrid. The brand also just launched a line of pre-rolled joints with a special "Dipped and Dusted" joint that is brushed with THC oil and rolled in kief, the small, sticky crystals that cover cannabis flowers. Stickers and apparel are also being sold. And every product goes through the company's unique vetting process. "Skateboarders are particular about what they wear," Walton explains. "We run potential designs by the team and only produce stuff they would actually want to wear. Also, skaters are the first to call 'bullshit' if something doesn't work. We have a rare opportunity to try any brand-related products on professional skateboarders, who constantly slam on concrete, break bones and suffer real and chronic pain. So they test all these potential products, such as pain relief ointments, to let us know if the product actually helps them."
Walton knows the cannabis world. He lives in Humboldt and, prior to co-founding 707 Holdings, Corp., spent a decade trimming cannabis from within the Emerald Triangle — Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties — a 10,000 acre region in Northern California that produces about 10 million pounds of cannabis each year. (All of California produces an estimated 15 million pounds of cannabis annually.) The Emerald Triangle is responsible for about 60 percent of the nation's pot, most of which heads out of state on the black market. Every year, Walton spent several months sleeping in a tent on a cannabis farm hillside, trimming weed daily from seven a.m. until 11 p.m. At the end of the harvest season, he would walk away with around $20,000 cash in his pocket. Today, as Chief Operating Officer of 707 Holdings, Corp., Walton mostly deals with sourcing and upper supply chain duties. "Last year, I drove 70,000 miles in the van, buying weed and bringing it down to our old warehouse in Southern California," he says. "Now I'm much more involved with operations, so I fly around a bit more and spend a lot more time on the business side of things."
In preparation for California's Recreational Use laws, pot farms have scrambled to build identifiable brands around their cannabis farms in hopes of creating a demand for their stony products — any adult over the age of 21 can legally possess, process, purchase and transport up to 28.5 grams of flower or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana. Under the proposition's guidelines, there are two ways to obtain recreational cannabis: grow your own or purchase from a legal licensed dispensary. An estimated 2.5 million pounds will be sold in California. "That's what the state can legally sustain at the moment. The other 12.5 million pounds produced in California is obviously not getting burned — it's going somewhere. There is still a huge black market," says Walton.
707 Holdings, Corp. isn't going the legal route alone. After closing up their eight-month hold on a warehouse in Los Angeles — where they distributed under the medical marijuana guidelines — the team partnered with Robert Taft and Ben Knight of CMX Distribution and opened new headquarters in Costa Mesa. Taft and Knight, who also own 420 Central, a large Orange County dispensary, and a manufacturing lab called The Healing Plant, saw the potential in Devils Lettuce and secured the distribution license. "We are the first licensed cannabis distribution facility in Orange County," Walton reports.
"Jerry has a lot of crazy ideas," says Gregson. "So who would have thought that him trimming weed at a farm in Northern California would lead to meeting some random guy who would recognize him — and that chance meeting would turn into this epic Devils Lettuce company that we all get to be a part of, you know? I didn't believe it at first, it sounded far-fetched, but now here we are, taking it to the top."
If you ask Gurney, it was destiny, not chance. The skater explains: "Basically, I build the ultimate dream team, establishing all the top dogs, which I have already done. Then, we control the whole marijuana economy from a financial standpoint. There's an infinite amount of money out there and that's what Devils Lettuce is all about. What is that religion called? Oh, Scientology — we're the same thing. We have a million dollars — just follow us."