Taken from SF Weekly (May 02, 2018)
A Song You Can Smoke
How Thievery Corporation’s “Lebanese Blonde” PAX Era pods may shape the future.
by Zack Ruskin
Have you ever smoked a song?
That may sound like the idle musings of someone who has ingested a bit too much THC, but thanks to a three-way collaboration between the band Thievery Corporation, vaporizer titans PAX, and Oakland’s Blue River Extracts, the opportunity to take a puff of “Lebanese Blonde” is very much a reality.
Inspired by Thievery Corporation’s 1997 hit song, Tony Verzura of Blue River Extracts has created a pod for the PAX Era that recognizes the hash for which the track is named.
“They went hard,” Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza enthuses. “Tony is a big fan of the band. He loves the music, and he really wanted to do something that honors the song.”
Speaking with PAX, it’s clear their goal is to start telling more stories with the products they sell.
The timing was also ideal for the highly touted San Francisco vaporizer company that recently welcomed new CEO Bharat Vasan. After years of refusing to acknowledge the popularity of PAX as a cannabis consumption product publicly, with California’s legalization of marijuana, the brand is now at last starting to embrace its role in the industry. Thus it was a welcomed call when Thievery Corporation’s team reached out to PAX with the idea to turn “Lebanese Blonde” into a cannabis oil pod for the company’s popular Era vaporizer pen.
For Garza, partnering with the cannabis industry to design something special made a ton of sense.
“Our audience is very diverse,” explains Garza, “both in terms of age and culture. Our fans have an affinity for Jamaican music and a lot of the different global sounds that we use, so I think it was really a great match.”
Of course, having an idea and bringing it to life is no simple feat.In the case of the “Lebanese Blonde” pods, PAX turned to Verzura and Blue River Extracts to forge the path. Known for his solventless terpene extraction — a process for removing terpenes without the use of gases like carbon dioxide or combustible materials like ethanol or butane — Verzura worked to replicate centuries-old Lebanese techniques of making hash while also relying on the cutting-edge extraction technology that has made his Oakland company famous.
“He was able to use sifting mechanisms that were still used back then to create the pod,” adds PAX’s VP J.J. O’Brien.
To further embrace the history of Lebanese Blonde hash, Verzura targeted cannabis strains and terpene profiles associated with the product as it expanded from the Middle East to Amsterdam over several millennia.
Given PAX has often been referred to as “the Apple of vaporizers,” it’s not surprising that Vasan is still looking to one of technology’s most successful juggernauts for inspiration. He says he sees a parallel between PAX’s collaboration with Thievery Corporation and Apple’s partnership with artists like Feist in marketing the iPod and iTunes.
“We’re following in Apple’s footsteps,” Vasan confirms.
It speaks to a rising trend in the cannabis industry — the appeal of aligning with artists as a way of reaching new customers. It may all feel a bit corporatized, but it’s hard to deny the reality that some marijuana skeptics may be more inclined to join the party if a musician they admire is offering their stamp of approval. The onslaught of celebrity-branded marijuana products featuring everyone from reggae artist Stick Figure to actress Whoopi Goldberg speaks to the potential the industry sees in uniting with familiar faces.
Conversely, it’s hard to believe that there are fans of a Thievery Corporation song named for a type of hash who are still isolated from the cannabis community — but it’s still a step forward at a time when the industry continues to court new customers to sustain the ever-growing expansion of the market.
The release of the “Lebanese Blonde” pod also represents a vital pivot for PAX. Now fully split from e-cigarette brand Juul — the two companies now enjoy separate management teams, separate boards, and separate investors — PAX’s realization that there’s no downside to celebrating their status as a major player in the cannabis industry will hopefully inspire others to follow suit.
Vasan is also open to further collaborations following their successful alliance with Thievery Corporation and local artists like Jayde Fish. It’s a means to an end, and one guided by dollars all the way through, but if the result is that customers now have a chance to literally inhale one of their favorite songs, it’s hard to argue that isn’t pretty dope.