The Beginning of the Jungle Boys
The founder of jungle boys Iván Vanorwick explains how we started
Ivan says he started like any other cannabis enthusiast in his youth. He wasn’t incredibly dedicated yet, but he enjoyed smoking good cannabis and would occasionally read through High Times. At that point in life, he viewed cannabis consumption as more of a hobby than anything.
“You know I had a plant or two in my backyard,” Ivan told Cannabis Now. “My mom was actually the green thumb. She always had a cannabis plant in the backyard when I was younger and I didn’t really know what it was.”
The Beginning of the Jungle Boys, When he got a bit older, Ivan said his mother started to help nurture his hobby a bit more. She was the one who taught him how to top plants to prevent any unwanted attention.
“It was the funniest thing. I had this big tall Sativa in the yard. She was like, ‘Oh, it’s getting over the fence you got to cut the top of it.’ I said that sounds crazy, you’re not supposed to cut it,” Ivan said. “Looking back now, I was young then. I was a teenager and I’m 40 now.”
Ivan said he was really becoming interested in cultivating as he got a bit older, but life was taking him on a different path. He was working on large-scale industrial buildouts, including for big-name companies such as FedEx when it expanded its SoCal operations.
During this time, Ivan’s dad was diagnosed with cancer.
“He had stage IV cancer,” Ivan said. “They caught it late and one of the doctors was like ‘Hey listen, you have stage IV cancer, it just becomes about living good.’ We had tried the radiation and the chemo and it just wasn’t working. The doctor said give cannabis a try.”
The doctor wasn’t even offering to write the recommendation himself, but just telling the family to look into it. Ivan recalled the limited options for his dad in those days, at that point in history when very few dispensaries had actually opened up shop.
At the Beginning of the Jungle Boys,Ivan looked into the situation. He got his own doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana and, to get the ball rolling, he got his first batch of medication for his dad from the Toluca Lake Collective, otherwise known as the TLC Collective. The edibles and flowers really helped his father, Ivan says. Ultimately, Ivan’s dad did pass away, but Ivan says the process of helping his father live the best life possible on his way out had helped reignite his enthusiasm for cannabis.
This new excitement came in the early 2000s, during the days when sketchy hydroponic stores and web forums were the premium source of information for anyone cultivating their own cannabis. Back then, a trip to the hydro store might mean switching cars, and of course, you couldn’t even mention anything to do with cannabis.
“You had to tell them you were growing tomatoes or they would kick you out,” Ivan said
It was at this point that Ivan also got exposed to the concept of vending at dispensaries for the first time. He fired up a couple of lights in the garage and began to dip his toes into what would become the cannabis industry, but back then it was still just a movement since you were a lot more likely to end up in handcuffs. Nevertheless, Ivan says, his first run of some now-mystery Bubba Kush cross came out exceptional.
Ivan continued to work full time outside of the cannabis industry while he fell deeper in love with growing pot. He was regularly putting in 14 to 16-hour workdays and he says he was getting a bit burnt out while his passion project flowered in the garage. But there were bills to pay as he was supporting his growing family. Soon, two lights turned to four, and then eight.
“I looked around and realized this was becoming something and every time I would take people my product they would buy it right up,” he says.
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The cultivation forums Ivan had visited online agreed with his presumptions of the changes coming to the game. Back then, online cultivation forums were the only place one could actually explore the thoughts of other cultivators on various issues. Ivan says that many of those cultivators are still his friends.
“That was the only way you could communicate with people,” Ivan says. “Still to this day, guys I know and met on there like OG Raskal and Capulator are still my friends. We came up through the ranks together and started in our garages. I remember getting my first warehouse and you couldn’t really post it online.”
In those days for Ivan and friends, the fear of having their IP address tracked was a big deal. The earliest online anonymity tools and tactics like the TOR network quickly became mainstays of people collaborating online in attempts to individually try and produce some of the best cannabis of the day. Ivan acquired above-average IT skills while learning he simply couldn’t put himself out there.