Michael Domecq of Calihash
Photo Courtesy: Calihash
Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me where you are from? Where are you now? What did you want to be when you (grew) up? Do you have a mentor? Who is that?
Michael Domecq=MD: I was born in New York City and grew up in New England. My mother passed away when I was a 9 and my father raised me thereafter. In my early teens I moved to Spain and lived in Mallorca and Madrid.
Once I graduated from high school in Madrid I moved to London to pursue an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. Shortly after graduation, I began working in finance and documentary film making where I soon realized my passion lay elsewhere. In 2008, I moved to Northern California to pursue my true passion in the Cannabis space. I landed in Grass Valley laboring on Marijuana farms and learning the trade from the bottom up. At the time, it was interesting because the state was at the cusp of immense growth and I was lucky to be able to get in early on. Shortly after, my wife and I at the time, moved into a property on Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg CA, and spent 5 years owning and managing various farms and extraction facilities. After the divorce and liquidation of the farms, I made the decision that farming wasn’t the part of the industry I wanted to be in and I moved to LA to start fresh.
Photo Courtesy: CALIHASH
About 5 years ago, with recreational use looming in the distance, I knew my opportunity to create a brand in the newly regulated recreational marijuana space was approaching. I also knew that competition would be ferocious, so in light of those facts I decided to specialize in something I knew well from growing up in Spain, cold water extraction or hash. Around that time, I conceived the CALIHASH brand name and built out the business plan and financial projections. Instead of using outside investors, which I had, I opted to partner with like-minded industry peers from the medical marijuana space, people I had known for years and had done business with. Ultimately, myself and Richard Levinsohn made up the majority of the ownership and management team. Currently, we are manufacturing out of the San Fernando Valley and have been in the market for just under two years. As a child I wanted to be an “educated bum” that is a direct quote but I think what it really meant was that I would only do something I was extremely passionate about. At a young age I was obsessed with Henry David Thorough (lived with my mother near Walden pond) and specifically, it’s the idea that he wanted to separate himself from society in order to figure out what was truly important for him, that always resonated with me. The act of placing one’s ideals above one’s own comfort, societal norms, life, and that message is reflected in our plight as an industry. All of us who started in this industry before it was legal have paid a price and carry on our shoulders the lives that were ruined by the extreme prohibition of these now “essential” medicines. I have been relatively lucky during the last 12 years in CA working in the “traditional market” but there are many who were not. My mentors are all those people who came before me in this industry and paid the ultimate price and paved the path we are on today.
WB: Please tell me about your business? What is your six and twelve-month goal? What obstacles stand in your way? How do you anticipate removing them?
MD: CALIHASH is a boutique cold water extraction company. We create craft cannabis extractions using solely water and ice. We have been operating in the recreational space since late 2018 and offer a complete line of pressed or raw ice water hash and a complete line of hash-infused marijuana pre-rolls that we just brought to market in April. Our six-month goal, other than pandemic related challenges, is to continue to educate more mainstream American consumers around hash, the history of the product and how to consume it both medically and recreationally. In addition to this, we are set to launch our sister brand “The Hashlab” which will offer a complete line of tinctures, capsules, sublingual, and topical care. Fundamentally The Hashlab will focus on the therapeutic and medicinal aspects of the cannabis plant – nothing combustible. We will be teaming up with Doctors to better understand the crucially important medicinal side of the plant. The first product we’ll be bringing to market will be a full line of Hash Tinctures, slated to be available to consumers in early July.
In 12 months, this time next year, we should have a both brands fully established with all categories and SKUS available at all Californian retailers. The biggest challenges for us is expanding in a controlled manner with the correct distribution partners. We are able to manage that risk by not over extending and by maintaining crucial consistency of products across the board.
Photo Courtesy: CALIHASH
WB: What about stigmas? Do you run into them with traditional business channels? How do you choose your clients? Do you enjoy cannabis? CBD? Entourage Effect?
MD: Having worked 12 years stateside in the industry I’m almost oblivious to stigmas here in California as most of the public is pretty accepting overall. The only “stigma”, which is more of a bias I currently face is the perception of hash in the US as many people don’t fully know how to consume it or how the benefits do differ from traditional flower which is one of goals at CALIHASH is to help broaden that bias.
However, when abroad back home in Spain, the stigmas are all too obvious again given the fact that society there is much more conservative and perceptions around the cannabis culture are still years behind. In California, we are extremely progressive about Marijuana culture and enjoy a large amount of freedom as such.
At CALIHASH, our clients choose us. I enjoy cannabis daily and am an absolute advocate for entourage effect, all cannabinoids or nothing.
WB: Do you cook? What is your favorite thing to prepare? Do you have a food memory from childhood that you’d like to share? Favorite restaurant? Where?
MD: I love to cook. My favorite, go-to dinner is roast chicken with all the fixings. My childhood food memory would definitely be eating thanksgiving dinners with my mother. Even after moving to Europe, we always tried to keep the Thanksgiving tradition alive in the family in some way, shape or form. My favorite restaurant is Gjelina on Abbott Kinney in Venice CA. Outside of LA, I’d have to say I do miss some of the traditional Spanish tapas you can get on the corner of any street for a five euros.
WB: What is your passion?
MD: My passion is to create sustainable companies in the marijuana industry allowing safe access for all. My mother passing away from cancer in 1993 should have had access to the relief and benefits that marijuana offers. I am passionate and excited to uncover the other therapeutic uses for cannabinoids and I want to unlock the secrets of this plant and improve the quality of lives of people in need – that can be both medicinal and recreational use.
We look the world over for compounds and molecules in nature that can help us in medicine. For a century, one of the most promising candidates has been denied proper study because of ignorance and profit, that needs to come to an end. It is negligent to ignore the benefits of this plant and we have only begun to understand her secrets. We are only at the beginning of this revolution and I am extremely excited to see where my brands and the overall industry will go in the coming years and the impact it will have on people’s lives.