Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

June 28, 2010
Pot humorist finds profitable punch line as magazine publisher

IMG_0372.JPGSacramento resident Ngaio Bealum says he loves to cut up on stage about "weed and sex." But this stand-up comic-activist-journalist-entrepreneur says he also aims to change "the stoner paradigm."

"It's not about sitting around and doing nothing," says the editor and publisher of West Coast Cannabis, a monthly pot lifestyles publication that bills itself as the Sunset magazine of weed. "My thing is I like to smoke a joint and go do something."

And so Bealum, 42, a San Francisco native born in 1968 to Black Panther Party members, plays a multifaceted role in the California marijuana movement.

He is an activist who has worked with Americans for Safe Access and the Greater Los Angeles Caregivers Alliance, groups advocating for medical marijuana users and lobbying cities to permit regulated pot dispensaries.

He is a former anchor for Cannabis Planet TV and a comedian whose pot humor - a less-dazed antidote to Cheech and Chong - lights up California comedy club circuits. He is among comedians due to appear Tuesday night at the Comedy Spot in Sacramento in a benefit for the family of a young man recently killed in Sacramento's Midtown.

In 2008, with start-up funds from Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur and legalization advocate Richard Lee, he launched West Coast Cannabis.

The free magazine, distributed at marijuana businesses in California, Washington, Colorado and other states, ballooned in size and circulation from 20,000 copies and 40 pages to 50,000 copies and 92 pages.

Featuring cultivation tips, weed reviews and pot culture and activism news, it was a money-maker by its second year - jammed with advertisements for dispensaries, hydroponic growing suppliers, pot doctors, lawyers and advocates.

"It's aimed at the West Coast lifestyle and at people who enjoy cannabis - from connoisseurs to growers to those who use it medicinally, recreationally or spiritually," he says.

Recently, the magazine has taken a hit of the downer kind. A strict new Los Angeles dispensary ordinance, forcing the closure of hundreds of dispensaries, cost the mag dearly in advertising. He expects to drop to 70 pages for his July issue.

"We've lost 25 percent of our Los Angeles ads - a fairly huge chunk," said Bealum, whose magazine deployed two of its three ad sales people in Southern California to tap into L.A.'s burgeoning dispensary market. "It's been a pinch for sure."

Bealum, an advocate for the November ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use for California adults over 21, figures his mag's fortunes may rise anew.

Meanwhile, the veteran stand-up maintains his sense of humor and stoner-on-a-mission vibe. He says he rocks with "an urban mind expansion band." And his comic bits light up YouTube with clips including recent comedy club appearances in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento and at the 2009 Seattle Hempfest.

There is also this early-career stand-up video from Comedy Central, in which he muses over the hazy origins of his name and makes light of growing up as "the Lord of the Geeks."

See it below.

Ngaio Bealum - Dork
Futurama New EpisodesUgly AmericansFunny TV Comedy Blog

Photo (top): Bealum with editions of West Coast Cannabis. Peter Hecht/phecht@sacbee.com

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.