Articles Interviews

5 Questions with Leo Stone Aficionado Humboldt
Leo Stone; Aficionado Humboldt Photo from LinkedIn

1. Please tell me about yourself, where are you from? Where are you living now? What was your path to the plant?

I originally grew up in Yokohama, Japan till I was 20 and moved to the Emerald Triangle several years later after completing my service in the Intelligence Community while enlisted in the Army.  For me, cannabis was used as a means-to-an-end to wean myself off of anti-depressants and the heavy alcohol use that often plagues most combat veterans who suffer from PTSD.  I discovered cannabis at a time where if I never found it at that exact moment, I would’ve continued down an already reckless path of severe alcohol & drug abuse.  Shortly after my tour in Iraq, I was stationed in Germany and found that I often didn’t get along with other service members so I mostly hung out with German locals, and became close with two biology graduate students from the Guttenburg University of Mainz who happened to grow weed and sell hash on the side.  It was shortly after connecting with these guys where my travels and partying escapades eventually led to my first intimate experiences within the illicit hash trade and the underground cannabis grow culture in Europe.

The ultimate blessing during this period was learning that cannabis was able to alter my consciousness and lower my anxiety far better than alcohol or antidepressants could ever dream of.  I noticed that the more I smoked, the less I drank.  The less I drank, the less anger I had. The less anger I had the more control I wielded over my PTSD. This first, deep, much needed connection with cannabis allowed me, for the first time, to look deep within and address my issues at their root rather than settling for the sedated haze that awaits most vets swimming in pool prescription drugs.  This sold me.  I was a true believer and there was no stopping it. This plant taught me I didn’t have to end up with the same fate as other vets addicted to or dependent on pharmaceuticals.  As my passion grew so did my hunger for knowledge and my forays into the cannabis world deepened quickly.  My cannabis use ultimately led to the end of my Army Intelligence career, so after receiving my honorable discharge I headed to California to go all in.  It was sink or swim.  I dedicated my life to cannabis the minute it changed mine for the better. There was no looking back and no regrets.

I now reside in Humboldt County, California. Humboldt County is my Mecca.  My true north. My Jerusalem of Cannabis.  This is where the true believers go.  This is where the best of the best make their pilgrimage to grow the best cannabis in the world. There’s a deep romance and connection I have with Humboldt.  It’s name is ubiquitous within the cannabis industry for having arguably and consistently THE BEST cannabis in the world. There’s an acceptance and tolerance of pot-grower culture found here that is nonexistent elsewhere in the world. There’s a certain mystique surrounding this county and many will argue that the emerald triangle is home is the world’s largest homogenous community of career outlaws.  It’s this outlaw culture of freedom and free expression that is the beating heart and magic of Humboldt.  To me, Humboldt means FREEDOM. It’s this free-wheeling outlaw spirit that lies at the core of decades of hard earned cannabis grow-knowledge that makes Humboldt a phenomena in the world of ultra-fine cannabis.

Who was your inspiration for what you do today? 

The man responsible for what I do today is known as OG Mendocino Mike.  OG Mike took me under his wing right after getting out of the Army. I owe it to my brother who got me into the industry by introducing me to Mike who, at the time, hired me as the head of his security.  OG Mike is the embodiment of the Emerald Triangle Dream. A true original grower and outlaw, he hitch hiked out to California in 1974 and gorilla-grew in Mendocino and Humboldt County where he would eventually buy his property and make the first of many fortunes.  Hailing from an Ashkenazi Jewish background and standing at 5 foot 7″ tall with a long silver beard and tatted from head to toe, he was deeply spiritual and connected with plants on an entirely different level.  He spoke about the vibrations the plants give and talked of the parallels between growing cannabis and teachings of the Kabbalah and giving off the right vibrations while in the garden. The most important lesson was he taught me early on that there’s two types of “growers” in the triangle: 1. Those strictly out for money and 2. Those out to grow the best possible cannabis.  He drilled into my head: “If you want to grow big scenes my place isn’t the place or you, quite honestly if that’s your goal you can fuck off. But if you want to grow the BEST POSSIBLE cannabis by giving your BEST POSSIBLE effort then you can stick around” he left it at that and I stuck around ever since. Mike is and always will be my biggest inspiration. 

2. What are your six-and twelve month goals? What obstacles do you face? How do you anticipate removing those obstacles? 

As cannabis goes global we’ve opened an office in Barcelona, Spain to meet growing demands and engage in the legal EU market.  Currently, we’ve been posturing to distribute our genetics to GMP Licensed cannabis farmers in federally legal countries around the globe. The largest obstacle to being a California based genetics company with huge demand is the large barriers to entry on the international market to engage with GMP-Licensed cannabis operators.  We anticipate overcoming these obstacles by choosing the best grower and investment partners in the EU area. 

3.Tell me about your company? What do you do that’s better than your competition?

Aficionado specializes in breeding and curating elite and heirloom genetics.  We’re credited as being the world’s first ultra-premium cannabis brand. Up until legalization our bread and butter was measuring our genetics through competing in many of the cannabis competitions found throughout the country. We’re the first company to demand ultra-premium prices for our genetics and our releases have consistently sold-out since our first release in 2011. I won my first Emerald Cup in 2012 and since then we have stacked up 21 awards in a total of 3 countries, and in 2017 was inducted into the Seed Bank Hall of Fame.  We’re known for crafting full-sun outdoor organic cannabis and seeds that demands the highest prices on the market. OG Mikes goal was always to grow indoor-quality cannabis outdoors, and that’s what we embody. 

What we mainly do differently is our approach.  We approach cannabis a lot like how a top-tier chef approaches fine cuisine.  It boils down to the 3 Pillars of Quality.  1. Selection.  2. Technique 3. Timing.  What separates a AAA top-shelf flower from low-end mids is akin to comparing the differences between a flat iron steak at Denny’s and a dry-aged cut of Wagyu from Nobu in Malibu.  The 3 Pillars of Quality is our roadmap to success. The ‘Selection’ and provenance of your ingredients. The ‘Techniques’ used to express and execute your vision. And finally, the Timing of each function within your process and the timing of your final presentation. These are the basics of what separates greatness from mediocrity.  Hard work, passion, and ruthless discipline is all you need to be successful in cannabis.

4. What is your favorite food memory from childhood? Do you cook? Who taught you? Favorite meal now?  

Japanese street food.  Growing up as a kid in Japan nearly everything food-wise had some sort of novel appeal to it.  But my favorite dish BY FAR then and currently has to be Japanese Beef Curry.  Unlike a Thai Curry which is a coconut milk and chili base, or an Indian Curry that employs the use of Turmeric and Garam Marsala with usually a tomato and cream base Japanese curry is made by creating first creating a roux of flour and butter and adding your Tumeric and Garam Marsala spices to your roux as it’s being whisked in the pot and you eventually end of with a curry-spiced beef gravy with chunks of ribeye, potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms served over white rice.  You can stick me on a deserted island and tell me all I have to eat for the rest of my life is Japanese Curry and I’d be perfectly fine with that- hopefully I brought weed and seeds to said deserted island then I’d be set.

5. What is your passion? 

Ultimately my passion is breeding cannabis.  It is something that I’m not obsessed with, but something I’m possessed by.  It’s a lot like love, there’s an invisible and unstoppable force that hurls you through the motions and destroys any fears.  This passion has been the greatest gift of my life, and it’s a great passion of mine to share it with the world.