As the world of legal cannabis expands at a breakneck pace, some of the names we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts predate the legal industry. They are survivors from the California medical cannabis era that most of the time faced a ton of persecution just trying to exist in the 20 years between medical and adult-use getting legalized. And for many in the world’s largest cannabis market in Los Angeles, the name closest to their heart is Jungle Boys.
Be it the vibes, the heat or beyond fair prices as the cost of eighths across the market continue to creep up despite the whole weed not being illegal anymore thing, there are plenty of reasons to like Jungle Boys.
High Times caught up with Jungle Boys’ founder Iván Vanorwick, for a call in the heart of Croptober. They were a few months removed from their inaugural drops in Northern California after finally being able to grow enough pot to meet their own shop’s demand after 15 years of hype and two more dispensaries coming online over that period.
Like most of those catchup conversations post lockdown, the chat started with how things went during the pandemic. As with the rest of the industry, Jungle Boys’ home base Toluca Lake Collective (TLC) saw its busiest week ever in the lead-up to the world closing.
But even ahead of that run-on product, Jungle Boys has been in the midst of consolidating their cultivation efforts. The nature of the industry forced longtime operators to scoop up viable warehouse space as it became available in the years prior to legalization. The Jungle Boys were no exception. One of their big post-legalization goals was consolidating their satellite grows into a few larger locations.
“Yeah, so it’s actually been great so we kind of got here out of necessity right?” Vanorwick told High Times, “A lot of these buildings we ended up with because it was the only building you can get, and they made us be in these random locations. And now that we’ve kind of grown and we’ve outgrown some of these buildings and we’ve shut them down, kind of our smaller operations that didn’t necessarily get 100 percent attention from us.”
Now with just a few larger operations, essentially the whole team is onsite all the time.
“Everyone’s there and it’s all hands on deck and all eyes there every single day,” Vanorwick said, “At the end of the day quality control is first and foremost for us, you know? The flower we grow is the most important to us. We started out as growers, we weren’t cannabis store operators. We’ve always been growers.”
Vanorwick believes a major contribution to the quality factor is the fact Jungle Boys are completely vertically integrated. That means as an entity they can hold separate permits that allow them to grow, sell, distribute and manufacture cannabis into a variety of other products as they see fit, but most famous is the hash of course.
“We really do everything in house 100 percent. It never leaves our sight. So I think having the ability to do that and then close the small operations and focus on few of our larger locations helped us with our quality control unit,” Vanorwick said, “We can always get better and we’re always striving to do better, but I think it’s helping our industry that everyone is expanding quickly.”
One of the Vanorwick’s biggest marks of pride during Jungle Boys’ expansion is that they’ve never been forced to put anyone else’s weed in their bags. All of the cannabis that has ever made it into one of their bags was cultivated entirely by them.
In the months before coronavirus and well into it, many of the most popular offerings at TLC came from their work with Triangle Kush. Some of the favorites of the pack included spectacular pairings with SFV OG and the famous cut White Fire OG they hunted down from OG Rascal seeds over a decade ago before things went south at their old 20-lighter in 2012.
The work to find their next new heat, that will stand apart from the marketplace as always, never stops.
“We just did a big hunt on our Mike Larry line, which was originally bred by Skunkmasterflex,” Ivan said, “The Larry line, I think it’s like F9 right now which he’s worked for like 15 plus years. So this is an old line that’s been worked and then we took that and the cool thing about it is we’re taking our selected Mike Larry’s and then we’re getting into all of our keepers and then keepers that have been with us that we’ve selected through all the different strains that we’ve done over the last 15 years, all of our stables.”
Essentially their 15 years of work is crashing into the time Skunkmasterflex has spent on the line for a spectacular result. “It’s probably some of the best work we’ve done to date, and all that stuff will be coming out pretty soon,” Vanorwick said. “We did the MIKE-Tai. We did Mike sunset. We did Strawberry Shortcake. Mike Larry with all that stuff, it’s just some of the best we’ve grown in a long time, and we’re super excited.” The Mike and Larry crosses are on their third round now, by the time you’re reading this you should be able to find them all over California.
High Times asked Vanorwick what it’s been like to watch the hype strains come and go over the years while a lot of the Jungle Boys’ work was off to the side and equally exciting. Hell, sometimes they even helped start the hype waves. For example just look at how many people grew Purple Punch or Mimosa after the Chalice wins, or how many people wanted a cut of WiFi in the early 2010s.
“I think a lot of these hype genetics end up being a lot of this shit that we all have it’s just renamed or rebranded,” Vanorwick said, “It’s definitely too bad the company that was doing all the DNA shit, ended up being, you know, kind of a bunch of scam artists but I think once we get back to a lot of this DNA work and seeing where a lot of these genetics come from a lot of people are just smoking a lot of rebrands.”
These days Jungle Boys have roughly 100 new crosses coming in every couple of months. Most of the pack are whittled down quickly as they search for the most epic genetic outliers that stand out from the rest of the propagation effort. But as you look at the companies that invest deeply into fresh genetics, it’s easy to see why their names constantly top the list of cultivators people are most excited about.
Even if they don’t have that new Gelato or Runtz cross because the consumer knows the amount of effort that went into finding what they do have.
As for the 50 new strains that Jungle Boys see every month, you might only end up seeing three finalists chosen. “Once you select them and there’s a whole process of rerunning them and then rerunning them again so they get ran three times before they get released to the public,” Ivan said. “So it’s definitely a labor of love and something that takes a lot of time and effort and money.”
Read this story originally published in High Times December 2021 Issue in our archive.