Cal Marshall, aka Calcaliente, hails from Orange County in Southern California. He now makes his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he’s been focused on branding, social media exposure, and storytelling within the cannabis industry.
But his road to weed had a few bumps. At age 15, he made the unwise decision to burn an eighth of flower before school, inducing a full-blown panic attack.
“Yeah, I was one of those kids,” he laughed. “Ended up in the emergency room. I had literal tunnel vision, everything was distorted. My heart rate went through the roof and I thought people could hear my thoughts. The whole school found out—super embarrassing!”
A series of recent studies details some potential negative effects from the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The amount of the compound used in each study or trial is typically in question, as many lean too strong, administering just the THC, leaving other beneficial compounds behind.
That said, the most concerning negative effects from cannabis can be consuming too high a dose of THC for your alchemy; meaning, you consumed too much of the compound before your body/mind could became used to it, suffering enhanced negative effects, rather than the euphoria that comes with a micro-dose—whether smoked or ingested.
With no relevance to the weed, at 16 he found himself homeless, and by the time he was 19, in 2009, he enlisted in the Coast Guard.
“I love my country and I wanted to help people,” he shared. “The Coast Guard’s primary mission is saving lives, and that aligned with my values. I’d been working multiple jobs, trying to survive life on the streets. Being able to have a steady paycheck in the force – being able to have health insurance, and establish a credit card – instead of just surviving day to day, was one of the single best experiences in my life.”
Slomocup into Hip-Hop
Honorably discharged in 2013, Calcaliente said he immediately took his acquired professionalism with his newfound ability to save money and built his first brand targeted to the hip-hop community with a product called the Slomocup.
The Slomocup was designed for sipping Lean, a prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and Promethazine – an antihistamine. The cocktail is mixed with sodapop, like Sprite, often with a few Jolly Ranchers thrown in for flavoring. This recreational drink was first made popular in the 1960s by Blues musicians—specifically in Houston, Texas, where they’d mix Robitussin and beer.
It’s drunk out of a double Styrofoam cup, with ice below to keep it cold. Calcaliente’s cup mimics the concept in a permanent, non-disposable, surgical-grade, environmentally-friendly cup.
“Celebs from Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, to Future, embraced Slomocup, helping it get widespread media coverage,” he shared. “That success inspired me to create my own branding agency, Burger Media. I’m all about helping companies stay ahead of the content and social media trends, so they can be connected and culturally relevant.”
His company, Burger Media, found its niche in aesthetic medicine, with Calcaliente’s first client, Christopher Khorsandi, a plastic surgeon he made infamous as “Docvegas” on Instagram.
“I noticed how plastic surgeons had little to no online presence, so I set about creating custom content strategies to help them modernize,” he explained. “I created viral social and video content that turned Doc Vegas into a plastic surgery rock star. I knew I had something viable after I grew his Instagram following from 30,000 to 180,000.”
Music, Culture & Cannabis Education
What he did for Doc Vegas he’s now doing for companies in the cannabis industry.
“Marketing in the cannabis industry has been juvenile, with cartoonish branding that seems to appeal to children,” he said. “Or, they go in the extreme opposite direction and have an Instagram page full of half-naked women holding a cannabis product. Both of these miss an opportunity to reach the demographics of cannabis users across ages, races, and backgrounds.”
Using scantily clad women is a cheap and lazy way to market cannabis, and he feels it’s a trend that will become obsolete as the market continues to legitimize.
“In reality, the consumers of these products are so diverse and wide-ranging, that this sort of messaging can alienate potential customers—especially women, who still hold the buying power in any market,” he added. “It’s also really confusing. Like, are you a soft-porn company or are you selling cannabis?”
Making that distinction is key in building a serious cannabis brand, and Calcaliente said he understands and connects organically with cannabis entrepreneurs in identifying their needs.
“With my experience in the hip-hop community, combined with my success in building brand identities, I know how to marry music, culture, and education,” he explained. “My plan is to elevate—no pun intended—the industry and help portray it in a more refined light.”
Building a brand’s story through visuals is his next endeavor, and Calcaliente is working on creating a series of mini-documentaries for his clients in order to tell the stories of the cannabis community—the driving force behind the industry.
“I’m telling a brand’s story in a way that helps consumers feel like they are part of the company’s experience in the space, developing a relationship that can ultimately lead to more revenue,” he said. “But, I don’t want my filmmaking to focus entirely on the sellers. I’m depicting how people from all walks of life use cannabis for various reasons—from veterans with PTSD, to soccer moms who have switched from wine to weed, and former opioid users who have successfully transitioned to cannabis.”
The first episode in his developing docuseries, Nights Out, takes place in Drai’s Nightclub, a venue staging popular acts in Hip-Hop today. The star of the first episode is Wiz Khalifa, a rapper whose brand is built on being a cannabis connoisseur.
“Most brands have a ‘video guy,’ which in reality is just a guy with a cheap, handheld camera making montage videos with a bunch of effects and some music” he said. “My team is culled from professionals in the media industry. Our writers have written for major publications and our cinematographers have shot major films.”
Brand Makers Stash
Calcaliente’s Puffy stash box was made by his friend Billy Dare, head of operations in Nevada. Puffy is a cannabis delivery service based in California and Nevada, known as the “Amazon of Weed.”
“My stash usually consists of a mix of different concentrates and edibles—with my favorite go-to, the Puffy pen,” he said. “I have a VVS pen filled with King Louis XIII, and a Puffy pen filled with Passion. The pens make it easy to dose, and they are discreet.”
Puffy is a favorite brand, and Calcaliente stocks up on its Strawberry Gummies and Watermelon Strips. He also enjoys LOL Edibles, Doob Cube, and Sour Belts. LOL is known for its high-THC edibles.
“I really like the Happy Cannabis infused Krispies and its infused syrup shots,” he said. “Sweet Greens is a THC power mix. It’s easy to stir into drinks or smoothies. I also like VVS Diamonds, cannabis infused gummies shaped like diamonds. I prefer the gummies to smoking flower, because I can always know what dose I’m getting and there are no surprises!”
When he does smoke, he said he prefers concentrates to flower, as he feels it gives him a more euphoric vibe, with the intensity dissipating quickly with smaller doses.
“I’m not a heavy smoker, so I like the fact that I feel I can control the dose a lot easier with the oils and concentrates, rather than guessing with the flower,” he said. “When I do smoke, it’s usually at the end of the day. It makes me feel more human, especially after a long day of negotiating contracts – I can really turn into a robot.”
He also said using cannabis also helps him appreciate art, music, and movies.
“I also feel a lot more generous and patient when dealing with people when I’m medicated,” he surmised. “It helps me be more human and creative. Cannabis also helps me to relax at the end of the day.”
Calcaliente concluded that in today’s landscape, marketing has impact when it doesn’t feel so business-like and transactional.
“My gift is seeing opportunity in unconventional or underdeveloped industries,” he concluded. “Authentic visual storytelling is the successful way to do that.”