The side hustle. In the new economy, just about everyone needs one. Whether it’s a day job if you’re playing in a band or driving for Uber in your free hours to supplement your income, it’s become increasingly common for people to have more than just one job. The Flotsam and Jetsam rhythm section of Jason Bittner (drums) and Michael Spencer (bass) have just started a pretty unique one – they’ve teamed up with some experts in the cannabis industry as well as some other musicians to launch Revolution Emporium (R.E.), a medical cannabis dispensary, in Ukiah, CA.
Bittner, perhaps best known as the longtime drummer of Shadows Fall, said he’d been discussing the idea of a dispensary with good friend Anton Hefele (an expert in the field since 1998) over the past few years. ” We have a few friends who are in the cannabis industry already out in California who’ve already been involved with dispensaries and they’re professionals out there, so we joined heads with everybody and said, “Alright, let’s open a co-op, let’s open a collective,” he tells Metal Insider. Their goal is to be as musician-friendly as possible and advocate medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription drugs.
The reasoning behind opening R.E. is the aforementioned side hustle. While Bittner teaches drum lessons, he’s says he’s noticed a decline in students due to a lack of interest in kids wanting to learn instruments. And he’s not going to jump in a van and tour for 50 weeks out of the year, either. “There comes a point in time in your life when you’re between 40 and 50 years old and you have a mortgage and families to support,” he tells us. “You can’t go out on a tour that makes $500 a week. When you’re a kid, of course you can do it, but you can’t do it as an adult. It puts a lot of musicians in a terrible dilemma.” So Bittner and his partners decided to get involved with people in the marijuana industry to start the dispensary. In addition to being financial investors in the dispensary, they’re also utilizing their music industry connections to raise awareness.
And some of those music industry connections are actually providing the co-op’s inventory. “We want to provide musicians an outlet,” Bittner says. “If you’re a legal caretaker in California, you have a garden, and you’re looking for somewhere to get rid of your garden, come to us. We’re willing to work with that. We’re willing to work with any other musicians that have anything edible, oils, all that stuff.” So far, they’ve gotten edibles and some gardening from musicians in Los Angeles who prefer to remain nameless for now. Flotsam and Jetsam are off the road more often than they’re on it, and Bittner says he hopes that once R.E. is established, they’ll be able to hire musicians that are in between tours to temporarily work at the co-op as well.
Aside from providing musicians with work, another of R.E.’s platforms is advocating the use of medical marijuana as an alternative to other drugs. “There are people who are getting highly addicted to pain medicines and it’s on the rise,” Bittner says. “I think a lot of those people are taking pills to combat the things in their lives that they feel that they need to medicate for. Medical cannabis is a total natural way of trying to alleviate some of the same ailments of prescription drugs. I don’t have to list the people even you and I know personally who’ve died from that kind of stuff. Not to mention the bigger artists in the last couple years, especially one that just left us not too long ago.” Prince aside, Bittner says that sleep deprivation, anxiety and boredom on the road are some of the reasons musicians might get addicted to pills, and legally-prescribed marijuana can be safer.
Bittner points that you’ll need proper documentation and a medical marijuana verification card for the state of California to buy from R.E. You don’t need to be a resident of California to obtain a card though. Of course, once you get one, it doesn’t mean anything outside of the state. Bittner qualified as a medical marijuana recipient in 2012, when he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. He recently got his card. ” As a dispensary owner in California, we felt it would be a good idea if I was also licensed as a card holder as well,” he says. “Most musicians, probably 98% of us are constantly touring musicians. That means you have back pain of some sort or muscle pain, and you will qualify for a card. If you’re an out of state resident you can go to a doctor, a medical marijuana cannabis doctor collective, that’s a different kind of collective. You go in, you go to your appointment, you bring your medical documentation and they issue you the card. Then, you’re able to go to a dispensary like Revolution Emporium and procure anything that you’d like. As long as you show your medical marijuana card in California and your proper identification from whatever state you reside in, as long as we see proper identification, you’re 21 and older, you’re welcome to come in and procure anything that you would like.” The Dispensery doesn’t issue cards just yet, but they will have another building up and running within the next month that will be able to access one of the area’s top doctor’s online and provide card issuance on the spot.
Even before Bittner was diagnosed with pancreatitis, he was a casual marijuana user, and says that he’s noticed less of a stigma with the drug in recent years. “It’s been almost four years now that I haven’t had a drink because of pancreatitis,” he says. “I don’t miss it. I don’t smoke any more marijuana than I’ve smoked before since I stopped drinking. The point is, I’m a much better person without alcohol in my life. I feel way better. I’m in better shape. If I want something to make me feel better from time to time, I feel that cannabis is a way better thing for my self conscience and my body than alcohol.”
While Revolution Emporium is a non-profit, they do stand to make some money from the venture. “We never heard like, ‘Oh, you’re opening what? That’s a bad idea.’ It was more like, ‘Oh, get ready to make money. You’re going to be rich soon,’” Bittner says. “Things like that. But, once again we’re not banking on any of that. We are a non-profit. If there’s profit to be made we’re going to be giving back in some way, shape or form. We’d like to see something come out of this, but the point is, under Prop 215 we have a cost recovery transaction, which means that for what we put in we’re allowed to reimburse ourselves for our time and our effort and for our product procurement and whatever is involved with that. Everything’s going to be legit. The last thing two people in a known band need is some kind of tax evasion scandal.” R.E. already has charities picked out to donate to, and are hoping to get artwork and memorabilia from musicians to have on sale as well. They’re even hoping to eventually have secret shows at the dispensary.
As far as his other job, after several setbacks, Flotsam and Jetsam are going to play a few shows in the States in August, as well as some festivals in Europe before heading back to Europe in September with Destruction. In October, they’ll be back on the road in the States, possibly as direct support for a bigger tour. Revolution Emporium is open for business now, and if you’re in Ukiah, you’ll be able to see Bittner in the shop from July 11th through the 15th. They’ll have a grand opening in September. You can visit their website, call them at 707-484-0248, or email them at [email protected]