Former-child star Chauncey Leopardi sat down with L.A. Weekly to talk about growing cannabis for half his life and the warm reception his Squintz flower line has received in the legal era.
Many big names have entered the legal market in recent years, but with the exception of Jim Belushi, it’s hard to think of any that have been as hands-on with the product as Leopardi. Even then, Leopardi’s time in the game goes back so much further than most in the game period, regardless of their IMBD or Grammy nomination count.
Eight years after playing Michael “Squints” Palledorous in The Sandlot, he would get his hands on his first doctor’s recommendation. Now 20 years later, Leopardi has spent half his life cultivating cannabis or generally involved in the game. Even before getting his larger-scale cultivation efforts going a decade ago, he’d already helped run a few pre-ICO shops across L.A.
“I’d always been big into it and then around 18, 19 obviously I found a real passion for the plant and started to break it down and read Jorge Cervantes and Ed Rosenthal’s books. I want to learn how to grow plants,” Leopardi said of getting his toes wet in cannabis cultivation.
It only added gas to the fire when a buddy that worked for DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill told him about medical recommendations allowing him to grow. But before he’d get set up, he’d visit the only two dispensaries in town. They were a pinch sketch.
“And then I built a little room and that was kind of the first time I hung lights or started to grow plants, which was a disaster,” Leopardi laughed.
But he would keep on trucking, and now at the age of 40 he can legit say he’s been growing weed 20 years of his life and a decade of that commercially.
“It’s wild bro. You’re the first person to bring that up to me. But that’s 100% true to think that,” Leopardi replied about the years he’s spent cultivating. “I won’t give myself credit for it. Obviously, I had plants in the ground back then, but I’ll give myself like a good 10 years of solid actual seeing rooms through and having a decent quality product to put out there for the consumer.”
What was the first thing he grew all those years ago?
“I think I got a hold of what might have been Bullrider from San Diego,” Leopardi replied. “That was running around in like the Kottonmouth Kings’ circles back then.”
A link through the Kottonmouth Kings community would also help Leopardi build out his first six-light grow back in the day. But eventually, he’d get his hands on a legit OG Kush cut and run it for years before being tempted by the more exotic terps that started to take off in the 2010s.
“I didn’t start to delve into the up north strains until five or six years ago,” Leopardi noted. “Even six years ago, that was a pretty early adoption for L.A. guys. I mean, they didn’t really get on to the exotic wave until I guess in the last couple of years. It seems like it kind of took over.”
Leopardi explained he first fell in love with cookies. First, the platinum and eventually the Forum cut he scored while working at Green Dragon. From there, he’d head out on his own eventually starting his own shop and cultivation efforts. Squints Cookies would do well at his shop and a few more, but it really sent him down the rabbit hole of the Bay Area and Mendocino County flavors.
Eventually, he would link up with Foreign Genetics for the legal era. While separate, both brands work in constant collaboration, even sharing a cultivation facility.
Leopardi spoke on the move to the legal market.
“There’s obviously been some like logistical hurdles, knowing that none of us really come from a business background, building and safety, and dealing with code and all of these things. But I’m just ever inspired and just shocked bro,” Leopardi exclaimed. “Just shocked that I’m walking fire departments through buildings and facilities. I’m shocked sitting in city planning meetings and with attorneys and talking about things at scale. And now to take brands elsewhere throughout the country.”
While Leopardi has had a lot of famous cuts under his lights at some point, at the moment the start of the pack is Wendy, named for the most iconic crush of Summer 1993 Wendy Perffercorn. As with many these days, Leopardi is staying mum on the genetics but was willing to give some details.
He got a pack of 10 seeds from Exotic Genetics, eventually narrowing it down to his winning pheno. He would run 8 or 9 testers and found himself continuing to come back to the flower. Once he knew he loved it, it was time to put it into full production.
These days you can find the Wendy at Cookies stores all over SoCal and a few other spots.
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