A Commitment to the Culture

Farmer and the Felon prioritizes the preservation of legacy cannabis cultivators and helps support people imprisoned for cannabis.
Farmer and the Felon
Photos by Phil Novak

Legal cannabis businesses exist today only because longtime advocates and cultivators have paved the way for progress. Co-founded by longtime cultivators Dennis Hunter and Ned Fussell under the CannaCraft company umbrella, Farmer and the Felon has two primary missions: First, to preserve cannabis history and collaborate with legacy cultivators who have spent decades growing the plant long before legalization became a reality in California, and second, to work with Last Prisoner Project (LPP) to offer support to individuals who are still suffering in prison for nonviolent cannabis convictions. With these goals in mind, Farmer and the Felon sets out to keep the stories and sacrifices of people in the cannabis industry alive.

Hunter’s personal history as a grower and cannabis prisoner stems from spending his youth living in the Emerald Triangle. The underground cannabis community and lifestyle inspired him, and he began to build upon that passion for cultivation. His passion also led to increased attention from law enforcement. He recalls the early 1990s when the police would use aerial surveillance helicopters to spot hidden cannabis grows from above.

“Helicopters [were] looking for your plants out in the woods, and you’re trying to camouflage them,” Hunter said. “And so back then, we were growing, you know, hiding all of our plants before Prop. 215, where people started to be allowed to grow a certain amount of plants in their backyards.”

Even after Prop. 215 was passed in California in 1996, Hunter’s operation continued to grow, and its prominence eventually attracted the attention of the DEA. In 1998, his operation was raided, which forced him and his family to hide for four and a half years—complete with alternate identities. However, the DEA finally caught up with him, and he went to prison.

After spending six and a half years away from his family, Hunter left prison on federal probation. 

He wasn’t permitted to grow cannabis and instead created an ancillary company to serve other growers by supplying products such as hydroponics equipment, fabric pots, and nutrients. That’s when Hunter met Fussell, who was one of his customers.

“We became fast friends, and pretty soon we got to a point where I was about to get off probation and I’m like, ‘Well, hey, I want to dive back in, but I want to do it right this time,’” Hunter said.

Hunter and Fussell created CannaCraft in 2014 and began to build a family of brands, starting with AbsoluteXtracts (ABX) and Care By Design that same year. This was followed by Lagunitas Hi-Fi Sessions in 2017, Farmer and the Felon in 2020, Loud + Clear (a sister company of ABX) and Humboldt Terp Council in 2021.

Having personally experienced the tumultuous landscape for cannabis business owners, Hunter and Fussell created Farmer and the Felon to help preserve the industry’s history.

“As things legalized, you started seeing more suits and people from all industries come in and start getting involved in the industry,” Hunter said. “You can see that you start to lose some of the culture and stuff, and we thought it was really important to save that culture of being that outlaw, and the stories and the kind of feelings and how it affected people’s lives.”

Farmer and the Felon’s flower is cultivated in Lake County, California, near Kelseyville, but the brand also collaborates with other legacy farmers or growers who transitioned into California’s legal industry with the passage of Prop. 215.

“We really like to collaborate with other small farms in our area in Northern California. And so we still do collaborations and purchase product from a lot of these farms,” Hunter said. “A lot of times, we’re able to share their stories. A lot of them are second/third-generation growers. Families have been growing up on these hills for many years and have similar stories to my own.”

Growers in the Emerald Triangle industry have always been a part of a tight-knit community. Hunter explains that they have connected with other cultivators through word-of-mouth, friend-based connections, and various trade shows or industry events. This has led to legacy collaborations with Rebel Grown, Hogwash Pharms, Soma Rosa Farms, and many more. Around the time of our interview in the fall of 2023, Farmer and the Felon had just rolled out a collaboration with Canna Country Farms, Sour Skunk OG.

Farmer and the Felon also offers a variety of its own flowers, pre-rolls (both a regular pre-roll and a hash extract-infused pre-roll collaboration with Kalya Extracts), and cold cure rosin. The brand has amassed a lengthy list of awards from The Emerald Cup in 2022 and 2023 and the 2023 California State Fair, many of which included these legacy farm collaborations.

farmer and the felon

Meanwhile, thousands of people are still in prison for nonviolent cannabis offenses, and Farmer and the Felon refuses to ignore those who need help and support.

“There’s still like 40,000 people in prison for nonviolent cannabis offenses,” Hunter said. “As much as we think it’s completely legal, there are still people away from their families for growing cannabis, and really to remind people of that. Because there’s still work to be done.”

Farmer and the Felon works with the LPP to keep cannabis prisoners in the spotlight by offering a percentage of Farmer and the Felon’s revenue to help fund ongoing cannabis prisoner support efforts. The brand has also previously hosted writing campaigns that allow people to write letters to cannabis prisoners and help them remain hopeful while they wait to be freed.

The brand serves as a reminder that “there are still people left out there that got sentenced long before it was legal and are still serving time,” Hunter said.

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of High Times Magazine.

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