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.

Jokes.com
Ngaio Bealum - Dork
comedians.comedycentral.com
Futurama New EpisodesUgly AmericansFunny TV Comedy Blog


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

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About Weed Wars

Peter Hecht

From its pot fields to politics, California is the epicenter for America's marijuana discussion. This blog covers news, trends and people of the California marijuana story.

Contact reporter Peter Hecht at phecht@sacbee.com

» See the sacbee.com marijuana topics page

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