California’s Chicano Cannabis Kingpins
Berner, Sherbinski and the Brown Roots of the Golden State’s Green
By Ed Murrieta
Cannabis culture and cannabis commerce is dominated by black and white — the former being the many entertainers and athletes who openly promote their love of cannabis and highly influence consumers of all colors, the latter being many of the people investing the most money and owning the most valuable companies in the lucrative start-up industry.
In the powerful center lies brown.
Two of the biggest brand names in California cannabis — Berner and Sherbinski — are Latino, and like the legacy of Mexicans in California, Gilbert Milam Jr. and Mario Guzman are ingrained in the state’s cannabis industry’s past, present and future.
Milam, aka Berner, is a budtender-turned-rapper who parlayed his native San Francisco street cred into the potent Cookies cannabis strain, clothing brand and cannabis stores that stretch from Los Angeles to Seattle, including a new store on San Francisco’s drug-fabled Haight Street, where he’ll roll up in his custom Cookies bus at next month’s grand opening after finishing his latest rap tour promoting his new album, “El Chivo.”
Guzman, aka Sherbinski, a Sacramento native, made his bones breeding Sunset Sherbert and Gelato, two of California’s most sought-after strains, the latter receiving shout-outs and name-checks by rappers on more than 200 recordings. As both a cannabis brand and lifestyles clothing brand, Sherbinski has hit the highest strata of American retailing — Barneys of New York — and recently opened his own Sherbinski-branded store selling cannabis, clothing and accessories in Los Angeles. Sherbinski regularly appears on influential music industry conference panels.
I will profile both Berner and Sherbinski, spending a day with each man as they go about their lives and businesses. I’ll talk with them about being powerful Latinos in an industry that fails to recognize Latinos’ rich cultural history, influence and legacy in cannabis.