If you’re familiar with legendary cannabis growers, then maybe you’ve heard of Kyle Kushman.
Over a span of 30 years, he’s gone from underground cannabis dealer to closet grower and ultimately, a world-renowned cannabis cultivator and plant nutrient expert with his company Vegamatrix.
As the legal cannabis industry continues to find itself, Kushman’s skills and knowledge around this plant are in ever-increasing demand.
And for good reason.
Kushman knows how to grow some of the best cannabis around.
“The first plants I ever grew, the buds were the size of 12-ounce soda cans, and I was literally thinking to myself: ‘Your life is never going to be the same.’ And that was the beginning,” he says.
Reaching for the Top of the Cannabis World
It was 1987 when Kushman planted his first cannabis plant, and certainly enough his life did change.
He soon graduated from closet grows to bedroom grows, then spare bedrooms. After moving into his first house, he would organize his summertime grows in the basement and wintertime grows in the attic, following wherever the cool atmosphere was.
“Back in the day, I wasn’t doing any modifications. Sometimes I couldn’t even hang air-conditioners because if you have an air-conditioner running out of season in the neighborhood, you’re very obvious,” he says, explaining that he had to move eight times in 16 years to avoid detection.
Sure enough, those black-market cannabis grow years were not easy due to the constant necessity for secrecy and fear of being busted by the police. But Kushman kept at it, building up his skills as a master cannabis cultivator.
His knowledge and appreciation of cannabis eventually turned into his first journalism gig with High Times Magazine, where he also started supplying the magazine’s staff with his personal cannabis, which he considers one of the highlights of his career.
“I figured if you’re selling pot to High Times, it’s kind of like selling music to Rolling Stone,” he says. “You’re at the upper echelon, and that was really just a kind of great sliding door for me. Just in the right place at the right time.”
Another big highlight early on in Kushman’s career was winning his first Cannabis Cup with his Strawberry Cough strain.
“A lot of people gave me shit for that for a lot of years because of my association with High Times [which sponsors the competition], and I would point out very proudly that it was almost three years before I won my first Cannabis Cup. Three years of entries,” he says. “I told people, if High Times was going to give me a Cannabis Cup, I don’t think they would’ve made me wait three years!”
The Party is Just Now Beginning
Kushman would go on to be a part of 13 more medical cannabis cup awards and while recognition like that is great, there are other rewarding aspects to cannabis cultivation.
For Kushman, part of the reward has been all the positive relationships cannabis cultivation has brought into his life.
“Back in the day, I was friends with a lot of people who did harder drugs, specifically coke,” he explains, emphasizing that cannabis helped him get away from all that. “It was the opposite of a gateway drug. Cannabis gave us our step out of the hard drug world.”
Always having good cannabis on-hand has led to a lot of great friends in Kushman’s life. “The majority of really good relationships that I have nowadays come from my association with cannabis,” he says.
For Kushman, it’s been the ride of his life, and even though he never dreamed of being a ‘weed-lebrity’, he also marvels at how things are really just getting started.
“The party is just now beginning because we’re getting legitimization from pretty much every corner of society,” he says.
One of Kushman’s greatest beliefs about cannabis, after so many years of experimenting with it, is that it’s truly a plant that brings the human race closer to world peace.
“I believe that deep in the core of my heart. Look at how many deals throughout history have been negotiated over the clink of a glass of alcohol. I know that there will be a day in the future where two world leaders will be at an impasse, and one of them will suggest taking a toke – and empathy will ensue. I really believe that. I don’t know why or how, but if it hasn’t happened already, it is bound to happen.”
Forging the Cannabis Industry of Tomorrow
The fast-growing cannabis industry continues to face plenty of challenges, striving to find itself in this new era of legalization. Kushman is one of many people bringing years of cannabis culture and experience to the front lines of the industry today.
For people who want to get involved in cannabis cultivation at the entry level, the important thing is to manage expectations, he says, emphasizing that not everybody can be a manager or grow master.
You’ve got to be willing to put yourself in a position to succeed and work your way up. There are plenty of other opportunities in cannabis for people who are qualified or prepared, such as having gone through training programs like the online Cannabis Cultivation Certificate Program Kushman worked on with a few other legendary growers as part of Green Flower Academy.
And even though cannabis cultivation may not be as easy or lucrative as what some people might expect, there are plenty of other benefits.
“In cannabis you get to be around like-minded people, and I know from my experience, that I would never let anybody go who does a good job – so you’ve got job security if you want it. It’s all just so different.”
What about cannabis newcomers who want to get involved in cultivation?
“The cannabis culture, not necessarily the industry, is full of what I really think are some of the best human beings on earth,” Kushman explains, adding that many of them are building companies that you’d want to work for your entire life – somewhat of a rarity in today’s world.
“We have these ideals of profit sharing, equity sharing, family healthcare – and all the wonderful ideals that used to be built into the jobs of old are getting built into a lot of these cannabis companies,” he says.
“We can’t say that for all of them, but for a lot of these companies, I can just see people retiring in 20 years with these big companies because they are building them to be a place where people can have a respectful job and good benefits. I just know that we the cannabis community are this type of people, and I think that’s rare.”