As TICAL sets to launch in Missouri, the team behind the budding cannabis brand with authenticity etched in its core, unfolded the brand’s story from grassroots to green leaves with Greenway.
Founded by Brandon “Z” Zabinski, Nathaniel “Nutta” Vereen, Joshua “Raz” Rassin, and Clifford Smith, better known as rapper and actor Method Man, TICAL has become one of the most recognizable and celebrated brands in cannabis, but the journey is much different than that of most celebrity cannabis brands.
TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION ALL LIVES
The TICAL name, symbolic of Taking Into Consideration All Lives, has been synonymous with Method Man and cannabis culture for more than 30 years. That level of deeply rooted connection to community and culture is one of the things that makes TICAL, and its leadership, truly unique in the cannabis space.
A shared vision and an unwavering dedication to authenticity are the bedrock of the brand and the common ground between the company’s founders.
The narrative of TICAL is one of entrepreneurial spirit, camaraderie, and a relentless pursuit of excellence, even in the face of adversity.
“I’m going to take you back a little,” Vereen begins. “So when Raz worked for Under Armour, he used to come to shows and he had his t-shirt business going. He used to see me and say, ‘Hey, man, yo, can you can you get Meth to wear this shirt? The shirt was hot. So I said, all right, let me see if Meth is going to wear it. He’s like, wow, this shit is hot. He wore it. And so me and Raz always had a relationship like that. It’s been like 13, 14 years now.”
“Yeah, we just kind of built a bond. And I’m a graphic designer and have creative background, so I was able to help assist with some areas that they needed help with and just kept building a brotherhood,” Rassin explains. “We manifested this project. We always just had an idea of getting into business together. It led us to talk about multiple ideas. At the time, I was working with Under Armour, and we were going to potentially work on an Under Armour shoe for Meth.”
Vereen says, “When Raz was working at Under Armour I was like, man, we got to try to do something. Let’s try to do something. I said, let’s try to get a sneaker or something. So I went back to Meth and I said, I’m trying to do something. I’m trying to get you a sneaker deal. He just said, ‘I don’t like those sneakers,” Vereen laughed.
“Then the ideas just kept expanding,” Rassin said. “So, Brandon, Z, being my college friend since the first day I stepped into Albany, I kind of connected us all together. I thought Z would be a really good fit for TICAL.”
“His energy and vibe was so humble,” Vereen says of meeting Zabinski. “And he’s a big dude, so I was like, ‘Damn, okay. This dude is a giant.’ But his heart, he’s got a good heart. Me and him connected, I called Raz, and I was like, I fucks with him.”
“Raz and I met, he forgot this part,” Zabinski interjects, “It’s critical. Our first meeting was pretty much like, ‘Hey, do you smoke?’ Yes, ‘I smoke, too!’ We had a giant Bob Marley joint. It was like the scene from Step Brothers. Did we just become best friends? And that first day that we met, we smoked the biggest shittiest mids, sticks to the stems, I remember. And that was the first day we met,” Zabinski explained. “Then, fast forward and Raz comes to me and is like I’m working on this thing with my boy Nutta. I think we could do Meth’s cannabis brand. I just remember going to him like, ‘I don’t believe it. There’s no way Meth doesn’t already have a brand.”
“Once Meth said yes, we basically all quit our jobs, We said, this is it. I dropped all the acts I was working with and called them all up and said, ‘Hey, sorry, I have to go do this project.’ I told my job, my three restaurants, ‘I’m done.’ Raz quit his job at Under Armour. I remember we sold our cars and we bootstrapped it from day one,” Zabinski explained.
“It was like, here we go,” Vereen adds. “He sold his car. I sold mine. I told Meth at the beginning, ‘I don’t want no money, let me go get the money.’ I was like, let us go get the money.”
“You know, it was really something, Nutta told Meth at the end of that first meeting, ‘We just want you to be supportive of us and what we’re doing. And we need an opportunity to prove this to you ourselves.’ We wanted to start this business and keep it authentic and close to the culture. And Meth at that meeting, sat back, he put his feet on the desk. I’ll never forget, he goes, ‘How are we going to do this when people are sitting in jail for cannabis?’ And leads into one of the focuses of TICAL,” Zabinski continued. “The brand stands for Taking Into Consideration All Lives, we decided to lead this brand with a mission of awareness to start. Because it takes money, a lot of money, to fight systematic racism and fight injustices that have been done for hundreds of years. So we have this focus on where we’re going to lead and who we look to work with and partner with. What we say is we’re an inclusive brand that prioritizes partnerships with black-owned, minority-owned, or female-owned and operated businesses in the cannabis space.”
That focus was evident at the launch of TICAL, as the brand came to market for the first time, the team made the choice to focus on debuting at locally owned and operated Black dispensaries. While a celebrity brand with the backing of Method Man could have debuted with a multi-state operator or a conglomerate dispensary partner, that idea goes against the brand’s ethos.
“Meth always said he wants people that don’t have a shot, to have the moms and pop spots, get the love first,” Vereen told us. “He says first and foremost, give them the love. And then the love will come back to you in the end. With that idea, you can’t do no wrong with that because we’re going to show you love, and support your store no matter what.”
Zabinski echoed the sentiment, ‘We really try to lead by example and try to, in our vision, do the right thing. We are inclusive. We work with all sorts of groups, but if we can at least create awareness when we launch in a market and drive traffic to stores that maybe are struggling or could use the bump and the support, that’s usually the way that we try to move.”
“It doesn’t always work out that way. We prioritize. We try to make that happen,” Zabinski continued. “And that’s just kind of a testament to the reality of how much disparity is in the space, and the fact that there are some markets where there’s not black-owned, minority-owned, or female-owned or operated businesses.”
The fact that TICAL launched not only at small-scale businesses, but in the midst of a pandemic and amid a nationwide sense of unrest and disassociation was not an accident, Zabinksi recalled, “It was like, let’s give people a feeling of normalcy during these crazy times.”
Vereen added, “Going through what we went through with COVID, it was scary. Seeing other people in California with them shutting down dispensaries, Today, I just feel like it’s a blessing to be where we are now and we’re still moving, doing what we have to do for the brand and for the people.”
But as the majority of Missouri licensees understand, the impact of the pandemic had a ripple effect through the business.
“Our evolution was super affected by COVID,” Rassin told Greenway. “We had a plan going into this, I’m sure like every other business out there in this world, that we’re going to wrap all these events around shows or and that’s kind of how we’re going to promote it. That’s how the brand is going to get out there. We knew marketing in cannabis isn’t as easy as is in other spaces.”
“It took two years of trying to figure out how to develop a brand through COVID. Not being allowed to go to some stores to even promote our brand, not being allowed to even touch the flower, not being allowed to see the flower, not allowed to smell the flower. So it’s like all these obstacles have just made us stronger and has developed the brand nicely. We now have that perspective,” Rassin said.
While TICAL is viewed as a celebrity brand, and certainly garners attention because of Method Man’s role in and connection to the company, the heart of TICAL is the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the brand and its partnerships.
“While this is TICAL and it’s Method Man’s brand and he’s an owner of this brand, it’s still very important to continue to support the communities that Meth brings with him, but the TICAL brand needs to stand on its own and live by itself,” Zabinski continued. “For us to be able to do that, the people need to be supportive of it. If we’re only leaading with Method Man and hoping that a Method Man appearance will get us sales, it’s not a recipe for success, as so many celebrity brands have learned in the past. So often people will put mids in premium packaging and call it premium and sell for premium. You’ll get your first look, and people won’t buy it or support the brand anymore because of it. So a challenge for us is to make sure that we have high standards with our partners and we are making sure that when we partner with somebody, we’re doing it because we know that they’re going to put out a great product. And the price point needs to be considered when you’re putting a product out. And all those fat like everything else needs, all the boxes need to be checked for the brand to be successful and for this not to be a stereotype celebrity brand. Because I think a lot of people came into this and it’s like, oh, this is going to be easy, and we’re just going to slap their name and their face on it. It’s going to sell a ton of units. It doesn’t work like that. The product needs to speak for itself. The brand needs to speak for itself. We need to come up with these alternative methods of marketing and promoting the brand that are compliant.”
“We’ve been the ones making boxes in a hotel. Like millions and millions of fucking boxes in there, just putting boxes together,” Vereen laments. “Putting stickers on the boxes. We’ve been doing that and we still do it right now. Today, we still do that stuff because we don’t have a problem with doing it because we know where we came from. And when people see that the brand is real, they’re going to fuck with real. They’re going to know TICAL, this brand here is real.”
“We’re just going to continue just to keep it all real. It’s like if it’s not real, it’s not authentic. If it’s not authentic, people see right through the bullshit. That’s the facts,” Zabinski said.
“If you don’t take some L’s, you’re not doing it right,” Zabinski said. “Taking lumps and learning what’s important, staying true to our mission and our plan of being independently owned and rolling this thing out in ten different markets, with ten different partners, and then you start tacking on all the dispensary owners that we become friends with. It’s a lot of inbound communication. I think that taking some lumps along the way has made us stronger and has made our foundation stronger, and we’ve realized what we need to do to continue to evolve and get better.”
In Missouri, TICAL has partnered with one of the state’s most active brands in CLOVR. One of the longest-tenured marijuana companies in the state, CLOVR has built a house of national brands and partnerships anchored by community engagement and unique offerings. CLOVR is home to Keef, Wana, RobHots, Funny Bone, and Mountain High in Missouri. In CLOVR, Zabinski and the team at TICAL found a reliable partner whose mission aligned.
“CLOVR was a group that we jumped on a call with them and it was like immediate synergies. There were so many alignments that it felt like this thing needed to happen. We went out, we met with them. They’re very well positioned. They’re about inclusion. They’re about helping in the community and a lot of what we wanted to make sure our partners are involved with. It felt like a no brainer, “ Zabinski explained.
As TICAL rolls out to Missouri dispensaries this week, the focus on maintaining that same ethos and spirit of community shines through.
TICAL will debut this Saturday, October 28 at Viola, one of only a handful of Black owned dispensaries in the state.
For more information about TICAL visit www.ticalofficial.com