Much of the cannabis community knows Jason Gann as the star of the hit TV show Wilfred. The show, which had successful productions in Gann’s native Australia and later in the U.S., is lauded by its fanbase for its dark comedy and surrealist storylines. Many episodes often focused on mental health and cannabis, creating one of the more original programs in recent memory. The U.S. iteration, which starred Elijah Wood alongside Gann, did not receive awards like in Australia. However, the series did run four years on the FX network, garnering throngs of fans, many of whom say the show helped them through their dark moments.
The conclusion of the U.S. show in 2014 saw Gann wind down his performing career to focus on writing projects for film and TV. Four or five pitches resulted in mostly frustration. A metaphorical prisoner to the Australian and American entertainment industries, Gann felt trapped in a city he might not otherwise choose to live in.
He wanted a change but hadn’t found his calling just yet. He would soon find out that a natural next step was right under his nose.
Finding Opportunity In Pot And Past Success
An opportunity to pivot came thanks to a social media post. Portraying the Wilfred character, Gann announced a Wilfred pot delivery service. The joke caught fire among his followers. He was overwhelmed by the response, providing him an opportunity he hadn’t considered previously. Rather than putting Wilfred behind him, it was time to take the beloved character beyond TV.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” Gann told High Times of his decision to enter the cannabis market.
The long-time cannabis consumer and advocate’s support for cannabis, particularly CBD, only grew in recent years. Further appreciation came after two experiences. The first moment came about after accidentally consuming an excess of THC and the offsetting effects CBD had on him. The second, and more profound, came after his then-three-year-old son experienced several life-threatening seizures. Gann would then research CBD, discovering its potential for helping individuals like his son.
Over time, Gann wound down his production commitments, opting not to take on any additional work. He’d fill the void by working exclusively on his new cannabis venture.
“I haven’t looked back from there, and I don’t regret it,” he said of his decision.
No Easy Road To Success In Entertainment Or Pot
Rather than pursuing the delivery game, Gann first focused on THC pre-rolls, offering up Wilfred brand smokes. Sold in California, Gann said plans to expand into Oregon should come to fruition in December 2020. The brand recently expanded to carry Wilfred brand CBD smokes as well. Gann stated that numerous fans pushed for Wilfred to grow into CBD products for pets as well. While in the works, he said that the plan is to produce top-quality products before expanding further.
Developing such a brand came with hurdles. Unlike many celebrity-backed cannabis ventures, Gann doesn’t shy away from the hardships that come with creating a brand.
Over 20 years in the entertainment business left Gann knowing he didn’t want to sign any contracts that resembled his past deals. “I was really wary to make sure I didn’t make those same mistakes,” Gann said.
Sourcing quality flower was an early challenge. He wanted to find partners that fit the company’s goals. However, he found himself unable to find a cultivation partner that aligned with the brand’s vision and budget at the same time. He reported that some potential pre-roll partners were quoting him around $2,100 per pound, leaving the Wilfred brand unable to turn a profit.
Gann said that he found support from trusted operators who provided him guidance. Advisors pointed him in the direction of outdoor growers, an avenue many in the space dismiss. Gann learned of quality outdoor growers and the more affordable rates that came with it. He’d eventually settle on a cultivation partner just outside of Sacramento in Yolo County for his marijuana, with CBD flower produced in Tennessee.
Getting the word out on a cannabis brand in a crowded market like California can be difficult. Even with a notable name behind a product, consumers often pass over items due to the sea of options. He was aware of this fact, finding a solution in his brand’s namesake. Gann took to the road. Before the pandemic, he’d criss-cross California, spending hours at shops. First, he’d spend several hours as Jason, a brand spokesman like any other. He’d then cap the day off back in the dog suit as Wilfred for meet and greets for employees and customers alike.
“The customers and stores really appreciate that,” Gann said of his in-person efforts.
Establishing A Trusted Brand Out Of A TV Show
Forging bonds have been integral for the Wilfred brand. Unlike his past industry, Gann sees trust in the cannabis industry. “There is a strong kind of camaraderie and loyalty, and it works both ways,” he said.
With fans of the show, Gann gets to use the in-store appearances and social media interactions to stay connected with a loyal base of viewers. Not only do they see the show as another hilarious representation of cannabis, they also find relief from their own struggles, with Gann reporting a few fans telling him the show saved their lives.
The rapport formed with businesses proves immense as well. At times, the company has faced setbacks. Such hurdles included not receiving payments from partners, losing 24 pounds of product and another time when two-thirds of pre-rolled products failed heavy metal testing during the post-cultivation production phase.
Wilfred took another hit due to the pandemic. Gann said he had deals in Washington State, Pennsylvania and Michigan before the virus, which failed to move forward.
“We took a couple of big hits, maybe went into partnership with the wrong people,” said Gann, who is now working with his third California-based partner. Despite the setbacks, he said dispensary partners have been patient, always ready to work with him when the issues were resolved.
Gann remains confident as the Wilfred brand continues to recover from its setbacks. He feels that the company’s recent expansion into CBD should help bring additional fans and sales to help support the bottom line.
Feeling more in control of the brand, Gann appears optimistic over his and Wilfred’s shared future. “There’s a lot of obstacles that we have to overcome, but it does feel like destiny is in our own hands.” He added, “We’ve become smarter and better at what we’re doing, and we just take it on the chin.”