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Elliot Lewis: The Long Beach Bullhorn

“If you get complacent, it’s the kiss of death.”

Photos by Mike Ricker

Every good script needs a villain. But that’s Hollywood, and this is Long Beach. 

Elliot Lewis grew up in this Orange County city where there exists a certain disdain for the association often made with its glitzy neighbor, Los Angeles. That megalopolis is about an hour north, where fictitious narratives are not only tolerated but often celebrated. Down here, in this culture built around one of the world’s largest maritime ports, the OGs are wise to the actors, and credibility is earned.

California is a vast state with varying cultures from one county to the next divided into three regions (northern, central, and southern), which creates a logistical and cultural division that presents numerous challenges for creating a cohesive industry. The size and scope of the state are only part of what causes the mess; a steely government, which Elliot publicly berates for the smoke and mirrors trickery, makes public revenues, like the 20 billion dollars allocated toward the homelessness crisis, magically disappear. 

This is the guy we want in our boxing ring corner – the Cannabis worker’s ally – because he understands implicitly that to win at this game, you’ve got to hustle. And that means working hard and earning the respect of your citizens by following through. He is a man of many words, dangerous ones, but when you back them up by walking the walk with integrity, no adversary can find a chink in the armor, making him a realistic threat to the establishment. 

It’s the rare watchdog approach whose megaphone exemplifies what it means to be American. With unapologetic gravel in his voice, through the medium of social media, he exercises his polarizing right to freedom of opinion that is reinforced by a chip on his shoulder and gassed up with intellect bred by a University of California, Berkeley education and a highly successful attorney dad. All this bombast could be misconstrued by the casual troll as being attention-grabbing rants meant to hoist his company’s exposure, but there’s a tactful humility in his messaging that he knows is necessary to galvanize the frustrated, yet too-trusting stoner that needs a poke in the ass. 

As the CEO of Catalyst, one of the largest Cannabis retail chains in the world’s biggest Cannabis market, he’s just the “loudmouth” we need to lead this community of outcasts into the global discussion. To some, he’s a villain, to others he’s a warrior for the people and the culture of Cannabis – primed for the battle of his life. 

With a long list of lawsuits and disputes, catching up to his string of rants and confessions is easy to do on Instagram. Here is where we get into the head of the man behind the controlled chaos. It’s not a coincidence, after all, that the bellwether company he leads is driven by a word that means impetus for change. 

What do you like getting into when the hat is hung at the end of the day?
Just family or work. I don’t have time for hobbies, so any time I get free, I’m hangin’ with the wife and kids, attending to my most important role of being a father and a husband. 

They say that highly motivated people are satisfied 2% of the time. When is that 2% for you?
Two percent seems high, man. When everything’s going good, and I’m in the backyard playing catch with the boys, I’m satisfied. As a matter of business, you take your victories, but they’re short-lived, and the losses always feel worse than the achievements. I’ve gotten pretty good at coming back from the defeats, but I think that if you just read the press clippings or look at your scorecard and you’re not looking ahead, you’re going about it all wrong. 4/20 was a great day for me because we made it to 19 stores where I got to see the people who work for us, the total number of products sold and the number of people who came in – it felt really cool. But if you get complacent, it’s the kiss of death. Like a shark, if I stop moving, my mind will start going to bad places.

Do you have an ultimate goal with Catalyst, or are you already achieving it?
It would be nice if it lasted past me. It would be nice if we could hold onto it and not sell it one day. With Schedule 3 coming on board, it’s gonna be interesting to see how that shakes out. It’s a good question, we’ll probably expand to other states. Not to get too spiritual about it, but I feel like God will show me the next path, and we’ll step into whatever that next role is. What I’ve learned over the years is you can’t predict it. We just wanted one store in the beginning. Hopefully, now we can survive and keep the workforce fed as we grow. 

Did you accidentally find your calling in life with Cannabis, or are there politics in your future?
I don’t know. I don’t really aspire to politics. This whole public figure thing happened as an accident. We didn’t really have a marketing department when this started; our current marketing guy just told me to flip the phone on, and now I kind of like it. Instagram is a small platform, but the real interesting stuff happens off-camera – how deals get put together and how crises get solved. In 10 years, who knows what it’s gonna look like. ‘Calling’ is a strong word, and I’m trying to find my calling every day. Nobody’s trying to be a saint around here, but if I’m always intending to do the right thing and being a good husband and father, it feels like there’s a power greater than myself moving the pieces in the direction it’s supposed to go.

What is your preferred way to use Cannabis?
Mostly bong rips. I’m ancient as far as some of these new products go. I mostly smoke OG at night – not really a day smoker. I’ve had some stomach flare-ups recently, so I’ve been getting into RSO, which reduces inflammation, and it helps me sleep at night. 

What historical person would you most like to share a bong hit with?
Sun Tzu, Niccolò Machiavelli, or Marcus Aurelius. I’m into the Art of War. You take parts of each; I’d want to pick the brains of the old philosophers. Those men were of a different time. I’ve been known to quote Sun Tzu. The ability to articulate ideas thousands of years ago that are still relevant is beyond impressive. His thing was to stay out of prolonged warfare, being strategic instead of using brute force, and knowledge as a weapon. I’ll bet they smoked some weed or an equivalent. If he were around, I’d like to pick his brain and get the essence of some of his more famous quotes and strategies. Philosophy was my major in school. 

catalyst-cannabis.com | @catalyst_ceo

Photos by @rickerdj

About Mike Ricker

The first time Ricker smoked weed was at a Santana concert at the age of 12. He then followed in his footsteps as an award-winning radio personality who became notorious for offering a stage for bong toking listeners in 9 different markets over 20 years. In 2016, the Cannabis industry came calling and the rest is history.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of All Magazines.

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