Jim Belushi can’t sleep without the help of cannabis.
“Well, my training is in theatre,” he explains on a Zoom call, puffing on a cigar on the porch of his scenic riverside ranch in Eagle Point, Oregon. “You spend all day prepping to go on stage. You go on stage at eight o'clock at night. Now your adrenals are fucked and you are peaking at 10 o'clock. It takes a long time to bring those adrenals down. And I think that's why most actors drink.”
Even though the pandemic put a stop to his live, on-stage appearances playing music with friends like Dan Aykroyd in the Blues Brothers, the 67-year-old actor, singer and cannabis farmer says his body is still stuck in its nightlife rhythms. So he turns to cannabis before he goes to bed each night, opting for about 2.5 mg of THC in his favourite Bhang chocolate.
And despite the pandemic’s near-complete eradication of live entertainment, Belushi’s had plenty of other projects on the go. For one, his journey on Belushi’s Farm, which he bought in 2015, is documented in detail in Discovery’s Growing Belushi TV show, which was just renewed for a second season that’s scheduled to air late fall or early winter.
“The title came out of growing cannabis,” he says, “but also out of me growing as a man, as a person, as a member of our community.”
Since relocating from Los Angeles to southern Oregon, the Farm’s team has launched three brands now available in four states (Oregon, Colorado, Oklahoma and Illinois).
Belushi’s Secret Stash is a premium line of flower strains that include his personal favourite, Cherry Pie. Captain Jack’s features products built around an old-school Afghan strain sourced and grown by a long-time friend of the cast of SNL, where Belushi wrote and performed for 33 episodes between 1983 and 1985. And then there is Blues Brothers, the “working man’s brand” designed in tribute to the musically comedic characters developed by Aykroyd and his older, beloved brother John, who died tragically of an overdose from heroin and cocaine in 1982.
John’s memory casts a long shadow over Jim, who agrees with friend Aykroyd who said that if John had just stayed “a pothead” and not tried other drugs, he would still be alive today. He’s also wondered if his brother, who was an “all-state, all-conference, middle linebacker, tough as shit” football player growing up in Chicago, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and was self-medicating his brain trauma.
“It's my personal opinion. I don't have any evidence,” he qualifies before elaborating. “I witnessed John having a seizure senior year in our laundry room. I thought he was joking. He started shaking and he fell to the ground. I fucking saved this life. They did spinal taps. They did x-rays. They could never figure out why that happened.”
Like a lot of advocates in cannabis and sports, Belushi is a strong believer in the healing power of cannabinoids and their ability to not just aid sleep, but help heal brain trauma, increase appetite for those with chronic illness or help people with anxiety and depression. He gets particularly fired up about veterans, who he says tell him how helpful his products can be for those suffering from PTSD or other health challenges from combat or service.
One veteran, a former medic in Iraq, told him he was coping with severe PTSD and was having trouble sleeping and communicating with his family. In a parking lot at a dispensary where Belushi was making an appearance, he told him he was able to ditch the opioids he was prescribed entirely because of Belushi’s Black Diamond strain.
“He said, ‘it’s the only strain I've found where I can speak to my wife and speak to my children,” recounts Belushi, voice ever-so-slightly trembling. “‘And I can sleep, Jim.’ And his eyes teared up. And he hugged me.”
And he gets equally fired up when I ask about the potential health risks of over-indulging — does it worry him to hear fellow celebrities like Seth Rogen talk about how much high-potency weed they smoke all day, every day?
“Seth is a hero,” he says, adding that it’s really up to budtenders to help guide consumers. “He is a cannabis user and a wonderful, funny man — a very, very beautiful spirit about him. But he is a consumer and his brand is all about the strain and the potency.”
For Belushi, celebrities do perform an important public service educating, de-stigmatizing and normalizing growing and consumption after decades of a failed war on drugs. He also credits celebs like Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson and Tommy Chong — who he says “laid on the barbed wire so the rest of us could walk through” — for being brave enough to advocate for cannabis before legalization was on the table in any state.
And despite being firmly entrenched in the celebrity cannabis and advocacy world, he’s not a heavy consumer like his peers. Belushi sticks to his nightly 2.5 mg of THC edibles and the occasional puff of Cherry Pie or Captain Jack’s, two strains he calls “manageable.”
In addition to his nightly cannabis routine, he uses the Headspace app to meditate and ease his mind before sleep (“I like his little accent,” he says, referring to the British voice actor on the app). And doesn’t eat meat or poultry, he limits his pasta and bread intake, but he does eat fish.
And unlike Peter O’Toole or Richard Burton — the “classic actors” as he calls them who loved to have a stiff drink or two (or three) before bed to calm that nighttime performance adrenaline — he doesn’t need to drink or use anything else before bed.
But he’s up, lightly dosing with cannabis to chill out after a long day at the farm.
“Ever since the Second City days, I'd be up at two in the morning watching bad TV,” he says. “Now at least there's good TV.”