Dennis Hunter, ‘the Felon’ is a name to be reckoned with in the cannabis industry. Hunter and his partner, Ned Fussel, ‘the Farmer’, are the co-founders of CannaCraft and its “Farmer and the Felon” brand. Together, they have created numerous award-winning flowers and concentrates and, most recently, have partnered with one of the most successful retailers in California, March and Ash.. In Episode 121 of Cannabis Enlightened, Dr. Leroy interviews Hunter, and we hear Hunter’s incredible Cinderella story of ‘Felon’.
Hunter started his cannabis career at age 16. The cannabis entrepreneur successfully grew cannabis in the thick woods of Mendocino County through riparian capture and clever engineering - as was done by a lot of cannabis farmers at the time. While still in his teens, Hunter was able to buy property from his earnings. Even after a stint in jail, he continued his illegal cannabis business.
Dr. Leroy: “So jail didn't deter you?”
Dennis Hunter: “No, no, no. It's just a place to meet other growers. And, you know…I basically got out, I moved to Humboldt County and I had this whole plan. I'm like, man, I know I'm going to get caught again. So I decided to build an underground indoor grow.”
Hunter built an elaborate cannabis grow in the middle of the forest. Unfortunately for Hunter, the DEA got wind of this underground grow. Only this time, Hunter had a wife and children to worry about as well. His instincts took him into flight or fight - or in this case both - Hunter fought (and fled) to keep his family out of harm's way.
Dennis Hunter: “And I'm just like, oh, man, I'm in so much trouble. Like, what am I going to do? And I went and talked to an attorney I know. He [read] the indictment and he's like, ‘Man…You're in trouble. If I were you, I'd just take your wife and your kid and go to Canada and, you know, you should get out of here. These feds don't play.”
The cannabis grower, taking some questionably unethical legal advice, bought himself and his family fake passports and attempted to flee to Canada. He was denied at the border for lack of documentation for his children. For years, he lived a more low-key life under a fake name, but he couldn’t stay out of the growing game for long. Eventually, it all spiraled to an end, including his marriage. The feds found him and gave him seven years in prison. Hunter hit rock bottom in his cannabis career.
He served his time and started to be more careful with his industry decisions. He used his inside knowledge to leverage relationships with hydroponics stores to sell ancillary cannabis products instead of the real thing, finding a cannabis nutrients brand in the process. Even though he had a legal play, he couldn’t stay out of the game for long. It was at this time that he solidified his relationship with Ned Fussel.
California’s Proposition 215, which is still law today, allows cannabis farmers to grow cannabis, without a profit, in order to provide cannabis as a relief for a number of ailments and as a doctor sees fit. The law was later amended through Senate Bill 420 (now revoked and replaced with Proposition 64) which allowed for the cannabis nonprofit corporations to form collectives in order to more orderly administer and distribute cannabis to alternative patients.
In the midst of the quasi-legal Prop215/SB420 era, Hunter and Fussel began the award-winning cannabis flower and concentrate brand, Care by Design, and eventually CannaCraft, which are known and trusted today. Though this particular cannabis cultivator has a happy ending, not many share Hunter’s fate.
Over 40,000 people are still behind bars for nonviolent cannabis offenses. Hunter has not forgotten his humble beginnings. He serves on the board of advisors of the cannabis nonprofit The Last Prisoner’s Project aimed to help get those folks out of the prison system. He leads letter-writing projects for incarcerated people and recounts the pains of loneliness while in prison.
Dennis Hunter: “One thing that everybody looks forward to in jail is that mail call and getting those letters from the outside, knowing that people still remember you, care about you…
I just couldn't even imagine being in jail right now with a developed industry like this. We [have] brands, and billboards all over the place! Can you imagine being locked up for cannabis?!”
If you’re looking to buy weed with a purpose, consider going to your local March and Ash location to buy Care by Design, Farmer and the Felon, and CannaCraft products. If you’re interested in writing letters, donating to, or getting more involved with the Last Prisoner Project please visit: https://www.lastprisonerproject.org.