Paul Kapral is the owner and operator of Fog City Collective, a non-profit, 21 and up, members-only medical marijuana collective based in San Francisco. Having formerly been homeless, Paul’s story is the quintessential embodiment of the American Dream.
Kapral has been growing cannabis for more than a decade and was one of the first people in California to receive his medical marijuana card. Ever an entrepreneur, Kapral is involved in a number of industry projects. With a recent property acquisition, he plans on opening the 4140 Gallery, an art gallery/lounge where patients and art aficionados can come together to appreciate the fine art of glass blown pipes.
His brand of cannabis-infused wine, Mary Jane Wines, is one of the first of its kind and has been positively received in San Francisco. While popular, Kapral’s wine is currently only available to members of his collective, but he hopes that with the right investor that will change in the future.
Currently Kapral simply gives his wine to collective members, but in the coming months he plans on rolling out a monthly subscription service. For a flat monthly rate, collective members will get a box containing a 375ml bottle of Mary Jane Wines, a bag of Mary Jane Wines’ marinated jerky, a gram of “It’s It” (the cannabis strain used in Mary Jane Wines) and a 30-day supply of CBD pills.
This approach is very similar to that of the company Birch Box; only instead of grooming and beauty supplies, subscribers will receive cannabis wine. The price for the Fog City Collective Box has not been set, but Kapral said it should be available to those that make a $100 donation to the collective.
Now if you’re wondering why Kapral has not tried expanding into a different state or offered his wine to the wider medical market, the reason has to do with legality. The issue at hand has less to do with the fact that cannabis is federally illegal and more to do with the legal ambiguity of selling cannabis-infused wine.
“It’s a matter of who is [going to] make the ruling to let cannabis-infused wine onto the market and then what and where is that market going to take place,” Kapral said. “Where can you sell it? Do you have to have multiple applications? Do you have to have a liquor license? Do you have to have your cannabis permit? Do you have to have both? It’s such a gray area.”
While it may be tempting to enter into the market, Kapral contends it is much better to be cautious, especially when the federal government can still take away everything you’ve built. Until the time comes when this legal gray area becomes a little more black and white, Mary Jane Wines will remain an exclusive treat for the fortunate few.
Although legal issues have prevented Mary Jane Wines from reaching a wider audience, this hasn’t stopped it from developing its own cult following and attracting high-profile attention. Every day Kapral receives calls from people around the world asking how they can get his wine.
“I have all kind of crazy calls … people trying to connect me to different groups, [like the] Taylor Gang on the east coast,” Kapral said. “I’ve had the VP of Privateer Holdings fly out to San Francisco to meet me. Who am I, you know? Obviously someone sees me.”
Despite recent headlines about big names like Melissa Etheridge entering into the consumable marijuana market, Kapral said he is not worried. “As long as marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic, I can’t see anyone being able to do that. I’m waiting see … . I’ll put my wine up against her stuff any day.”
While there is currently a movement in California to legalize recreational marijuana, Kapral said he doesn’t think it will change his overall business too much.
“Honestly, a dream of mine would be to turn Fog City Collective into the first patient owned and operated collective,” Kapral said. “Right now I’m super excited about the new glass gallery I’m opening in the Berkley area, 4140 Gallery. I’m hoping to add that to part of the business and I don’t see how recreational marijuana would really change that.”
In the business world, branding is everything; right now, Kapral has a strong brand. Though poor regulatory framework may stymie some of his growth potential, he has still been able to carve out a nice niche with an impressive following.
As the layers of prohibition slowly begin to peel back, it will be interesting to see what Paul Kapral and Mary Jane Wines will be able to do in a free and unfettered market.