Crosby Aims for a Joint Venture

Among a few other things, David Crosby knows cannabis. And he knows everyone. And everyone knows, and remembers, his name. He knew what time it was, back when 420 was still just a triad of digits, and before “4 + 20” was the eighth track on Déjà Vu. Soon, he hopes, the man who inspired Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider character will again let his freak flag fly—in a fertile new field that seems to be going mainstream. In the new year, the multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter, who is familiar to tens of millions as the “C” in “CSN(Y),” will try his hand at shifting a different sort of goods.

Croz, you see, is bullish on grass.

He has entertained for decades, sometimes by the half million or so. Lately, Croz and his friend and business partner—another Steven (with a v) S.—have been entertaining offers from cannabis purveyors to license his name and likeness and create a signature brand, tentatively to be known as Mighty Croz.

This is an evolving renaissance man. He has been a sailor and a biker and a pilot and a horseman, and now he is a member of NORML’s advisory board. The figure who has been a Byrd and a third (sometimes a quarter) of a ground-shifting ensemble whose second gig was Woodstock, which is about to have a 50th anniversary, has worn many hats, and sometimes no helmet. These days, he tends to sport a red knit cap that his wife, who also has a green thumb, made for him. Sooner or later, you might see him sporting a baseball lid with a business logo. Watch him throw it in the ring as a budding canna-preneur.

Over the years, Croz has gotten high with the best of them—hell, he may well be the best of them! He has probably partaken of more (and better) stuff than you have, maybe even since before you were born. His happy face appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone the week after this writer arrived in a naval maternity ward in July of 1970, when there was a war going on, Congress was soon to pass the Controlled Substances Act, “Teach Your Children” had just been on the charts and his ethereal first solo album was in the pipeline. (Little did I know.…)

Almost a half century later, I spoke by phone with Croz, who had just wrapped up a splendid six-week (22-date) tour with the Lighthouse Band, in support of their very smooth and calm new album, Here If You Listen, recorded and released in 2018. We discussed his legacy, his values, his enduring creative vision and his entrepreneurial ambitions in the new green age that’s been a long time coming.

Photo by Anna Webber / AnnaWebber.com

Right from the opening bars, our conversation resonated with Croz’s enthusiasm, optimism and passion. “Here’s how it works, man: I’ve been a pot smoker for about fifty years, and so I’ve had time to figure out what I like and how I like it and how I want to live with it. I really do enjoy it.” He knows what he wants to do in the industry, and why, and he is itching to roll up his sleeves and perform it. Meanwhile, he will be on the other side of the interview desk as he and compadre Steven Sponder conduct auditions and select the right producer. As Croz put it, “We are slowly but surely talking to anybody who wants to talk to us.”  

Croz is not eying some casual retirement hobby—he’s still working, sustaining his musical journey, not skipping a lot of beats. He proudly told me that he’s already written some new lyrics and chord changes since he came off the road in early December.

This is a man who appreciates. Croz savors moments, and he has a rich repertoire of conveying radiant vignettes made out of sound. It’s not only in the music. Just from his cheerful voice, I could clearly imagine the scene he described sitting in (speaking to me as “the happiest guy” who was taking in “a perfect California day” as we spoke), which included a tree with no leaves and a couple of horses in a pasture. Just a little hit of that depiction, and I felt like I was right there with him.

Please look beyond anything you may have heard or read about his separation from his first famous band—people live and learn. David Crosby has repeatedly proven himself as a master collaborator, and his harmonies are not limited to vocals. The man has an uncanny knack for partnerships, and he does some of his best work with the right others. His bud, Sponder, a decades-long friend and confidant and a seasoned restaurateur, brings plenty to the table, reviewing proposals and potential business plans from canna-dates large and small, helping to separate the wheat from the chaff.

We discussed his potential role in Mighty Croz products’ creation and quality control. “I’m a pretty knowledgeable pot smoker, and if my name’s going to go on it, then I would insist on going for the highest-quality product that you could get.” Does that mean that he foresees the special privilege of tasting and testing everybody’s wares? “Yes, my work is stacking up ahead of me! All this research!” What are his priorities? He emphasized the premium he places on aroma. “I certainly can tell if something is quality in taste and smell, which are very important to me. That’s why I love sativa so much. I love the smell and the taste.”

Considering that spirits and tobacco companies have shown an interest in the rising cannabis tide, I asked Croz whether he would consider partnering with one of them. For ethical reasons, he told me, “I couldn’t work with a tobacco company . . . but I think there are many new companies starting right now that I absolutely could work with. They’re a different generation of people, and they’ve got a different ethic. I could work with them easily.”

Croz has a broad product line in mind. “I would like to work with a company that has a lot of different growers and a lot of different kinds.” Sativa and indica? “A lot of different kinds of sativa and indica and a lot of different combinations. And a lot of different kinds of edibles and creams and oils. I like it all. I like all the different kinds of ways of selling it to people—I just think it has to be done at a very good quality level.”

The brand’s main target audience is a demographic who have carried on with Coz’s and his bands’ music since the 1960s, likely share his vision and values and in droves are getting back to the garden, rediscovering cannabis as they approach or settle into retirement. (Seventy percent of discretionary income in the United States is in that generation’s hands, incidentally.) “I have millions of fans,” Crosby happily observed. “That’s the biggest bump in the population curve, man. That’s a whole shitload of people. And that’s who bought our millions of records. So, that’s what I hope to drag into the picture for a pot company.”

Croz recognized, “I’m sort of a specialist in marketing to a particular group of people—that bunch of boomers. I’ve been marketing to them for fifty years, and I do have some idea of how to do that.” He wishes he could someday sell his brand at his gigs’ merch tables, but, alas, the crazy quilt of inconsistent state laws complicates that for now. However, he does foresee his music and cannabis businesses cross-pollinating quite well. “I could advertise my pot brand at my concerts, and I could advertise my concerts with my pot brand. That I could do easily, and I would, naturally, of course. ‘Smoke one of these, and come to this concert.’ It will work!”

He feels adamant that the domino effect of policy reform will wind up the way it’s supposed to be. “I think it should be legal, because I don’t want people going to jail for smoking a joint. It’s just ridiculous, man.” How idealistic is he about the reasons for the retreat from prohibition? “Doesn’t matter to me why. I will be glad of it, and I am grateful for the opportunity. I’m going to try my level best and take advantage of it and also to help change the law, because that’s kind of a cause célèbre to me.”

When I asked Croz what he would think if Donald Trump, of all people, were actually to sign a federal cannabis-reform bill, he seemed as though he could handle it. “Well, if he did, it would be only because of the money—y’know, they do things for the wrong reasons—but if that gets it done, that’s fine with me. I think it’s inevitable, man….”

Is there some irony in David Crosby wanting to enter a regulated business? He guffawed at the suggestion. “I’m sure there is, y’know, but it’s OK! I think the regulations are changing drastically, and the business is changing and evolving drastically, and it will continue to.” But he’s optimistic and comfortable. “I can fully jump in right now and feel very confident that it’s going to go the way I think it’s going to go, and it will be good.”

I asked him how cannabis has played into his creative life. For example, does it help him dull the frustrations of writer’s block? “I haven’t had writer’s block.” (No, of course not. Witness and hear the four albums he’s released since 2014.) “I do write all the time, and I do write stoned. I smoke at night, and then I pick up the guitar, and I think up new music and new words. So, y’know, it’s definitely a part of my creative process and has been for years.” But he doesn’t perform under that enhancement these days. “I work straight, and then I smoke afterwards.” He clarified that he now prefers to vape.

He also knows how to cultivate things, having grown up tending the legal crops of lemons (like Nixon’s father, I observed) and avocados. Nowadays, along with some dogs, the Crosbys raise a few serrated-leafed items of their own at home. “We have a lot of fun with it. We go out in the mornings when the plants are flowering and talk to them and prune and weed. It’s really fun, man. They’re really fun to grow.” You can just imagine the good vibes they fertilize with.

Croz and his wife enjoy making edibles at home, too. I asked him whether they have any specialties. “What we make is ginger snaps and chocolate chip cookies…. We make pot butter, and then we make cookies with it, and they’re really good.”

You wouldn’t be out of tune to call Croz a high-standard bearer. Maybe it’s just folklore, but he is said to have wielded such expertise that he could identify a random cannabis sample (and its origins) with uncanny accuracy. He knows what’s good, and he knows where it’s at, and he hopes you’ll get out and get some—from him—after he and his mate make the deal and set sales.

We at the Emerald Magazine wish Messrs. Crosby and Sponder and their families a positive and prosperous new year, and we look forward to checking back in with them, some time in 2019, to see how things are growing.

Emerald contributor since March 2012

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