Q&A with Cloud9 Founder Degi Simmons

Diana Gonimah
Feb 19, 2021
Who are you, where are you from, and what’s your connection to the cannabis industry?
My name is Degi Simmons. I am the founder of Special Branch, DBA, Cloud9 and VAYA. I am a lifelong Yoruba priest and was born into the tradition as the son of Obalade and Omo Alafia. My entire life i have been surrounded by music and ritual. I am a producer, musician and audio engineer. My connection to cannabis has always been through these things and has been the common denominator between them.
How did you originally get involved in the cannabis space? I have always been around cannabis in nature and during ritual. The plant played a prominent role in the 70s growing up in the Bay Area. The community was exclusive because of the War on Drugs and led to a subculture of artists, musicians, writers and the like who shared ideas and talents. I learned how to cultivate and care for land and used the herb to enhance my creativity and curiosity.
Who or what inspired you to start your brand? I had the good fortune to grow in a space where cannabis was put to good use in the community as an engine for opportunity. Koncepts Cultural Gallery was the first fully vertically integrated cannabis operation i had the chance to observe. It was a type z collective that also funded many events, classes and seminars. It ran a community center. They also employed local people and gave them a chance to follow their creative passion. Cloud9 is modeled after that.
What do you think is the soul or essence of your company? The people. Cloud9 is based on the relationships that make up the cannabis community. For so long it was a crime and a taboo to be involved in the cannabis space. The trust that you had in your people made all the difference. In the new industry, trust can be translated into consistency and integrity. That trust is shared with our community.
What challenges have you faced in the cannabis industry? At first it was jail. Then it was debt. The powers that be have been suppressing the cannabis industry since the beginning. The war on drugs was organized so that certain demographic groups were less likely to be affected by its attacks. So goes the legalization of cannabis. The financial barriers to entry are so high because of the regulatory constrictions that the new jail is debt. 
Many of the traditional cannabis producers have been unable to invest the kind of money needed to achieve compliance. Special Branch has one of only 281 microbusiness permits in the state. The high cost of space is the first hurdle. Then the list goes on with insurance, construction costs, licensing fees, permits from multiple agencies. It gets very expensive before any cannabis is sold. This has left a vacuum quickly being filled by big cooperations and investment firms.
What does cannabis mean to you? Independence. Cannabis has always been a part of the narrative. A tool for meditation and higher consciousness. A cottage industry in the hood. Underrepresented and marginalized communities have managed to eke out a living by using the herb as a commodity and a healing tool. It could calm you down after a long day, and it could help you pay the rent. Cannabis has allowed many to reach places that were out of reach in many ways.
What’s unique about your product? Our products are produced by legacy farmers. The strains are original creations from landrace seeds and exclusive to the species. Years of growing and sharing and learning produce some of the tastiest and most pleasureful experiences that can be had with cannabis. Many times the industry drives consumer attention to numbers or marketing trends. We just grow really good weed. The product sells itself because it stands out in a crowd. Indoor, no chemical pesticides, and always timed to be within the farm to table window. Cloud9 cannabis stands up for itself.
What song, movie, and/or show should people enjoy while using your products? As a long time musician and producer, I have amassed a gallery of content that I enjoy sharing with my community through the BigHerbnSound.com portal. It can be reached by simply scanning the code on some of our products. Bigherbnsound is a website where we post exclusive content compiled over our many years in the industry. Our community is made up of artists from all walks of life and the content is curated to be dynamic and unique.
Other Media to Pair with Cloud9 products:
Music

Seal: best paired with Cloud9 Ice Cream Flower

Movies

Ghost in the Shell (the original) paired with Vaya Luna Roca and some Cloud9 Sugar Shake

TV

Floor is Lava on Netflix paired with a nice Cloud9 Sherbert 

Other compatible activities include:
  1. Playing your favorite instrument.
  2. Reading a good book
  3. A long talk by the ocean
  4. Singing a song (record it on your cell phone and post it!!)
If you could smoke one with any historical figure alive or dead who would it be?
I’ve never thought about such a thing. I would probably be happy just to fire one up with my Dad may he rest in peace.
As for the living, I think the best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see who it is. As far as this thing goes, we’re making history every day.
Licenses: No. C12-0000084-LIC

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