9 Questions With George Martorano - A Cannabis Legend
In conversation with our Editor in Chief is George Martorano, cannabis legend, and owner of Hip Hemp Cafe.
With the legalization of cannabis, and the immense expansion of the industry, cannabis enthusiasts and professionals are delving into the art of cannabis lounges and cafes. Amongst a plethora of these is George Martorano’s Hip Hemp Cafe, namely the first cannabis cafe in Philadelphia.
Martorano sat down with Editor in Chief of Cannabis Food Show, where he shared his journey in the industry - which, trust us, is truly a mesmerizing one. He also spoke about Hip Hemp Cafe, the future of his work in the industry, and where he sees the cannabis industry in the next 10 years.
Tell us a little about yourself, and your journey in the cannabis industry. How did you get started in the cannabis industry?
My name is George Martorano. I’m 69 years old, and I’m a native of Philadelphia. While doing 32+ years in prison for cannabis possession, I had a lot of time to read. Before being released, I had spent a lot of time reading about the legalities that followed cannabis, such as THC and CBD. CBD wasn’t something that was well heard of when I went to prison. When I had come home, I started researching how CBD was able to help children and adults alike, and here we are. I had started traveling the country speaking, learning more with each passing day and event.
What inspired the opening of Hip Hemp Café?
Our main objective is to help people, the young and elderly alike. So many people need it, whether for mental, emotional, or physical ailments.
Tell us a little about your vision for yourself. Where do you see Hip Hemp Café in let’s say 5 years?
Five years from now? We hope to open more café’s like this. My vision is to create more jobs for the younger generation and to help thousands if not millions of people in need of the products and services we have to offer.
These kids today, they go to school, college.. they finish school and they’re left with all of these school loans and bills with no jobs available! So hopefully by establishing ourselves around the country, we’ll have a few hundred younger adults working in the CBD industry by then.
The cannabis and food sector are coming together on a very large scale. What are your thoughts on this?
Oh definitely! I believe in cannabis/ CBD wholeheartedly for consumption! As a matter of fact, one of our next stores is going to be an actual restaurant. Real food, real drinks, we want to change the industry with some of the menu items we have cooked up and ready to go. We want to bring it to another level here in the city.
Being a huge cannabis advocate for years, what are some of the things you’ve seen change in the world of cannabis over the years?
Well, what I’ve seen in the last 30 some years has been that today, you have recreational adult use, medical, the option for children to have their parents and guardians as licensed caregivers, so much has changed.
There’s still skepticism, witch hunts, things like that aimed at people like us in the industry, or those trying to break the mold themselves, but people’s minds are changing, for the better I’d like to think but we need more (change). We’re heading in the right direction but there’s still people in prison for cannabis, for things that have been legalized on the outside, so things are changing, but we aren’t there yet.
What are some of the challenges you faced while opening Hip Hemp Café? And how did you overcome them?
Well, you know a guy like me who spent the last thirty-two years in prison came out with no money, no funds, nothing what-so-ever. I had to do a lot of events. I engaged in a lot of public speaking, TED talks etc..
People are interested by my story, so I keyed in on that by becoming a public speaker, and that’s how we got the funds to get Hip Hemp Café up and running.
What would be one advice you would give to someone who is looking to open their own cannabis lounge/restaurant?
If you’re just in it for the money, this is the wrong industry for you, it’s the wrong reason. You need to want to help people, that’s why we do it. You need quality products. I believe that 7/10 products aren’t worth using. Know your source, know your lab tests, learn about the ingredients listed in those products, most people don’t care, but we do.
We’re actually coming out with our own products under the G. Martorano brand because it’s difficult to find quality. Every store you’ll find will have different products, because there isn’t one specific brand known out there, and we’re looking to be that brand.
Where do you see the Cannabis Industry in let’s say 10 years?
Oh, it’s gonna be huge, all of the large players are going to be coming in. You’re gonna have your sports players branding products, home-makers like Martha Stewart with lines of their own.
Big tobacco and large pharmaceutical companies are going to try and find ways to make money in this business, and the people don’t want that. They want to be left to a holistic, more natural alternative to the previous traditional medicines and aides offered by those companies.
I don’t think they’ve figured out all of the ways this plant is capable of helping people yet, so I think there’s a lot more to come. There are so many benefits that have been discovered, but a lot are still undiscovered, so bigger things are coming.
Ten years from now, we think cannabis is going to be as normalized as alcohol. Imagine this younger generation telling their kids one day about how when they were young, they were afraid of getting locked up over a plant.
What’s your favourite way of consuming cannabis?
Oh, my favorite way of consumption? Smoking it, absolutely. I’m a smoker, I love smoking the flower.
I think eating and drinking it are up there, but it really depends on the company making the food or beverage. Dosing is a large issue for some people, and if it’s mislabeled or incorrectly dosed, that hurts the industry more than it helps.
Click here to hear from Cannabis Chef - Miguel Trinidad