As cannabis came out of the dark ages, brothers Daniel and Bryan Eatmon, aka Old E and Bleezy, of Mendo Dope gave the world one of its first insider glimpses into the Emerald Triangle. Sure we had Weed Wars, a limited reality show series that debuted in 2011, but not long after, Mendo Dope started giving us an authentic look at the hill in between the tunes and very reputable cannabis they were growing.
Old E and Bleezy popped their first cannabis seeds in the valleys of Mendocino County, California in 2006. That was still very much the dark ages of the Bush administration era, but compared to what was going on in the neighborhood they didn’t have a lot to worry about with their single plant.
“It was in our mom’s backyard. From there, we gradually got to grow a couple more plants the next year, and a couple more plants for the next year, until we really got our own spot and were able to do our first patch,” Old E told High Times. “It was like 12 or like maybe 15 plants.”
As they continued to get more dialed in, the plant size jumped before the plant count did. Many people considered that the safer course of action back in the day. They would start growing the monsters that they have become famous for over the last 11 years, starting in 2012.
During all this development on the cannabis side, things were also pumping along on the music side as they shared the culture they were raised in through their tunes.
“The tunes and the cannabis have been side by side from the beginning,” Old E said. “Back before we grew our first seed I was into freestyling with some friends back in high school, working on a little bit of music and such. But our first actual underground album, NOYB Boys, came out in 2007.”
Their debut album featured photos of their first grow. The duo still remembers the seeds for those first plants well.
“It was out of a bud that we got from somebody that was kinda unknown,” Old E said. “We didn’t even know what the strain was. When we harvested it, it was a really dark purple strain. It was beautiful. It’s one of those strains where you’re like, man, I wish we knew what we were doing back then. We could have saved the clone because we didn’t even have any idea what we were dealing with. But it was some really killer stuff. We just called it Backyard Purp.”
But pretty soon they were far removed from that one plant. By 2012 they weren’t just growing monsters in huge pots but had also maxed out their plant count to 25. At the time, that was the medical limit in Mendocino County and considered “the number” if you were going to play it safer than some of the bigger gardens or properties with multiple gardens spread across them.
They crushed it in 2012. But they were already at the 25-plant limit. They went into 2013 with the same plan, continuing to cultivate in their new spot in Mendo. The count remained the same, but the plants got even bigger.
“So the next season 2013, we lose our biggest garden up to that date. It was killing it. We’re having so much fun. It was when we first got to start hanging out with Subcool and filmed for The Weed Nerd. And that was the year that we got raided,” Old E said. “You know it took all this time to build up to finally have this epic garden. That was the biggest one we had. And they chopped it all and took it away from us.”
That 25-plant garden was supposed to be a legal medical grow. All the paperwork was in order as far as Senate Bill 420 was concerned and the Attorney General guidelines that were released in 2008. The bill and guidelines provided growers with the best roadmap to being compliant at the tail end of California’s medical era.
“The house that it was at, it was definitely not out in the hills. It was really close to the freeway. It was in a residential area. So we had a couple of houses that borderline right on our fence line,” Old E said while noting that the neighbors weren’t the issue. “And so it wasn’t an ideal spot to have a whole backyard full of greenery, but we were operating under the laws and under guidelines as well. We are under the impression we were operating in compliance with everything.”
Thankfully the duo had already started making a name for themselves in the wider cannabis community at that point and the community was there to support them. Old E couldn’t emphasize enough how awesome it was watching people help them get back on their feet because they knew they shared the love of the plant with them. Subcool would play a big role in helping get word out about the situation.
“We had weed nerds reaching out from all over the place. I mean, out of the country, people all over the states and they just wrote us and say, ‘Hey, man, you guys need anything? I can send you guys some seeds if you guys need some herbs,’” Old E said. “People were sending us care packages left and right. And it was like such a boost of energy and just positive vibes and that made us like survive through the struggle because we had put everything into the garden. And we lost everything.”
The raid happened at the end of the season on Oct. 10. Commonly referred to as Croptober in the Emerald Triangle, the state agencies that came were looking for the biggest plants possible. They make for the best photo ops.
An Organic Education
In the process of the raid drama and then starting over with a small personal patch at the family home to get things going again, the duo realized they wanted to spend more time helping people understand that they were growing these monster trees organically. The pair thought if they can grow six plants without law enforcement messing with them that they should. But they wanted to grow absolutely massive plants, film it all, and show other people exactly how they did it.
“So that’s what kind of started off the whole How to Grow Mendo Dope series that we did on YouTube, which led to actually filming a couple of How to Grow DVDs. And it just started just coming back into growing very small gardens but doing big plants,” Old E said.
Looking Towards Legality
As this was all going down, they were starting to see the writing on the wall that legalization was right around the corner. The pair’s first impression was that it looked pretty scary. They knew it was only a matter of time before big corporate entities with plenty of resources and money were coming.
“Small farmers like us that have been up in the mountains, not a lot of us are just like sitting on a lot of money,” Old E said. “We love this plant so much and we helped so many people with it. And it’s our job. We’re farmers, you know, so this is a circle of things that we put back into the community, living off the land and supporting ourselves with farming. So we knew that this was about to be a very tough transition.”
They knew plenty of people that didn’t want the cannabis industry to go legal. And they knew when it did get legalized, it wasn’t likely to be in a way that worked for everyone. They understood that cannabis wasn’t being legalized so farmers could make more medicine, it was so people could make money.
Old E and Bleezy didn’t plan on being caught off guard or missing out on the moment. They prepped for it by trying to build out their brand to show people what they were all about.
“We wanted to stay true to what we were doing and who we were and we wanted to let people know that we’re going to always be doing it this style,” Old E said. “This is why we’re in this game. Because we have a love for the plant. We have a passion for this and this true natural medicine. So we just started to take people into our life, into the culture that we represented, that we live. We’re submerged in it out here. So we just started kind of building our Mendo Dope brand and showing people who we were and what we’re all about.”
During all those trials and tribulations, Mendo Dope music continued to pick up. They found themselves back on a firm footing by 2015. They would release their Live in the Garden album, which was recorded in the garden, that year.
Mendo Dope kept picking things up between 2016 and 2017 as the implementation of Prop. 64 edged closer and eventually, they got the garden back up to about 20 plants.
While their property was dope, the particular residential zoning they found themselves in wouldn’t fly for a legal farm. They weren’t looking for a mountainside or an acre, they just really wanted to be able to grow at home. The news was brutal.
Back then when people received that kind of news they had three options. The first was to pick up and move. There are certainly folks that changed their lives a lot to get a property they could grow at. The second is just to keep pumping it on the underground market. Most of the small- to medium-size growers still in the underground haven’t had a lot of problems post-legalization haven’t had a lot of problems. The third and final option was to just give up.
Mendo Dope was not going to give up. They decided to work in collaboration with Greenshock Farms for a few years. During all this they also started their breeding program in 2017 after Subcool bred their own strain for them. During a conversation with Subcool in 2016 they mentioned that they had found a Locomotion pheno that they believed was the right lady to get things going. But they weren’t sure what direction they wanted to head in with the male, and Subcool recommended using his Querkle male.
“We were intrigued right away and were like ‘Let’s get it going,’” Old E said. “We created the Mendo Dope with Subcool. That was our very first intro into breeding, our first strain, and it really opened up our minds. It was so fun and it was so exciting breaking down these buds and hearing all these seeds hit the table and then growing them out and finding phenos.”
This was their creation and they felt like it was taking their personal experience to a whole new level. Sadly, much of the stockpile of seeds was lost when Subcool’s home was destroyed during the wildfires of 2017 that devastated Northern California, but Mendo Dope wasn’t going to let the fire stop their breeding goals.
“We knew we had to get back on it,” Old E said. “We got some Querkle seeds, we popped them, we found a new male and we did it again. And this time we created them at our house in our indoor room and we had the first batch of Mendo Dope seeds that we did all at our own spot actually. I believe that it had to be 2018.”
These days Mendo Dope is still growing on the same hill they moved to after first leaving the valleys of Mendocino for its higher elevations. We asked what the differences were between cultivating in Mendocino’s different microclimates.
“Well, the valley is a lot hotter. I mean, it was definitely a big change in the temperature. And down in the valley we get no coastal breeze at all, you know that shit burns off before it comes down that final hill to us,” Old E said. “So up here it’s really cool. Like, just the climate is definitely different. Certain strains that we’ve actually grown down the valley and ended up here. It’s really cool to see how different they perform only being 40 minutes away from each other. There are so many differences in strains when you grow [them] in different locations. It brings out different characteristics and different terpene profiles with the soil that it’s in, [and] with the root system that it’s intertwined.”
Expect Mendo Dope to have a massive year in 2023. Their 2022 phenohunt will serve as the building blocks of their attempt to get Mendo Dope flowers into the hands of more people, coming off a terpene award in association with a concentrate made from their flowers at 2023 Emerald Cup where science dictated they had the best terps in the world’s premier cannabis contest. They also plan on dropping their next album Planters of The Trees 2 on Oct. 10, the 10-year anniversary of the raid.
This story was originally published in the October 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.