vive ut vivas – A Tribute to My Friend & Mentor Joe Gilpin

vive ut vivas – A Tribute to My Friend & Mentor Joe Gilpin

Live so that you may live.  The phrase suggests that one should live life to the fullest and without fear of the possible consequences. My teacher, mentor and friend, Joseph Gilpin helped to instill this into my soul.  Joe was an amazing soul, a Bostonian priest who ended up teaching Latin in Bradenton, FL.  Joe passed away unexpectedly in September 2021.  It has taken me a while to process what exactly Joe meant to me.  This is my tribute to my teacher, mentor, and friend. 

Joe Gilpin circa ~1983

I’m not sure how or why I signed up for freshman Latin at Bayshore High School in the Fall of 1980, but nonetheless, I ended up in Joe’s class.  I think I decided that learning the root of all romance languages would be a good base for any other language and for college. The first thing I learned was that Joe was not like any of the other teachers I had ever met. Joe cared first about us.  Each of his students mattered a lot more than the topic he was teaching.  We spent much of our time together in class discussing life, family, politics, and philosophy.  

Smoke in toga at a Latin Club event

Yes, we did learn Latin, and I would end up spending four years in his class, in leadership in the FL Junior Classical League, doing well on the SAT and learning a tremendous amount about the Roman Empire and the root of our language.  It most certainly contributed to me being the only student at Bayshore to be admitted to and attend an Ivy League University (Cornell). That said, I learned a lot about life, philosophy and perspective that simply could not be taught in a book.  I also was a less than stellar student of Kathy Gilpins for Freshman English.  Sorry Kathy (I mean it!)

Joe challenged us to think.  Something I fear has mistakenly been lost in much of our education system today. He would never accept your first answer.  Instead, he challenged his students to think and explain. For this, I put Joe into 5+ most influential people in my life. 

He was a champion and leader in the teaching of the Classics.  He and his wife Kathy and later his son Christopher, would trek all over the country to attend the National Junior Classics League events https://www.njcl.org/Teachers/Latin-Honor-Society  .   I was fortunate to attend the Florida JCL and win an award for the clay model of a Roman leader (LOL).  

The Latin Club (Kathy is far right next to Smoke and Joe is far left)

Student Council leadership….(before)
Story on the incident in Tampa Tribune

Not everything was roses in our relationship.  Joe was the faculty sponsor for the Student Counsel, and we attended the Palm Beach Gardens, FL meeting for all the High School Student counsels together.   Youthful indiscretion led a couple of us “Leaders” to bring some bottles of liquor to the convention.  We actually successfully “partied” during the event without incident, but the next morning Joe stopped by our room, and we had an empty bottle of Jack Daniels sitting by the TV.  He saw it, looked at me and teared up.  He had no choice but to report our indiscretion. This led to an embarrassing and public suspension of the guilty officers (not all) of the Bayshore HS student counsel. One of the other students had a family with money and they ended up suing the school because it wrecked his 4.0 grade point average.  I don’t know what ever happened with that, but I do know I had to explain my suspension on all my college applications.  Despite the situation that we experienced together; Joe wrote me recommendations to all my college choices. This included Cornell, MIT, Princeton, USC among others.    I ended up getting a full ride to USC but chose Cornell.  Princeton didn’t get it.  

A not very happy Joe on the way back from our student council convention!

The Gilpins at our Wedding

I always stayed in touch with Joe, albeit sporadically.  When I remarried I invited Joe and Kathy.  They unexpectedly accepted and joined us for our blessed event in the desert of Las Vegas in the Spring of 2008 along with about 100 of our family and friends. It was an amazing experience for us to reconnect and to share that magical time together.  On the funny side of things, my wife Anitra and I had a limo and everyone else was sent out to the Red Rocks Park on buses. As we were about to leave Vegas in our Limo, Joe and Kathy ended up missing the buses.  Of course, we had them join us for Veuve Clicquot in our wedding limo. Needless to say, certain things were not possible with Joe and Kathy in our limo (LOL) but it was as special moment together.  

We were blessed to have them join our family at this magical event.  I only wish we had another time to hang and reminisce.  I learned of Joe’s untimely passing through his son Christopher on Facebook back in September.  I knew I wanted to write a tribute to him and his influence on me and so many others, but it took me a while to put my thoughts together and express my gratitude.

Joe and Smoke at Red Rock State Park in Nevada

The Roman poet Horace wrote, “Seize the day; put no trust in the morrow.” or as you might recognize Carpe diem, in Latin form. In the spirit of what Joe imparted on me and so many others, vive ut vivas; Live so that you may live.  I don’t think any of us living through the past couple of years during the Pandemic think about life quite like we did before.  Never has it been more important to live your life fully.  I try to do so each and every day and wish that upon each and every one of you.

Joe’s official obituary can be found here.

Vertical Wellness is Established

Vertical Wellness is Established

Catching up here, after the farm bill passed legalizing hemp Federally in the US, Vertical Companies created Vertical Wellness and named me as CEO. Effective April 1, Vertical Wellness will be spun off to the shareholders and be a completely stand alone company. We expect to attract institutional capital to this entity and pave the way for a public offering. Below are some of the media coverage of our move.

New Cannabis Ventures-Jan 24, 2019Exclusive Interview with Vertical’s Wellness CEO Smoke Wallin. Vertical is all about brands in both the cannabis and hemp spaces, and, right now, the …

Here is the recorded interview below:

And more at the NYSE on Cheddar: Cannabis is ‘Greatest Growth Opportunity in Our Lifetime,’ Vertical Wellness CEO Says

Smoke Wallin at the NYSE on Cheddar

Farm Bill Poised To Pass: Legalizing Hemp Across the Land

The Farm Bill of 2018 just passed the House and Senate and sits on the President’s Desk.  Here are some thoughts on its impact on the Hemp and CBD industries as well as information on our activities in the space, I have shared in a number of interviews.


Here is our Vertical Wellness operation getting started in KY in October

WHV: Vertical Hemp Company Cuts Ribbon To Cadiz Factory

Bloomberg: Hemp Companies Poised to List in U.S. as Farm Bill Goes to Vote

 

QUARTZ: Proposed hemp regulations continue the racist legacy of the US war on drugs

CSP: Instant CBD Strips Arrive in C-Stores Nationwide

WKMS: Hemp Company Vertical Celebrates Opening Of CBD Facility In West Kentucky

 

Smoke’s First Fire: Welcome to California

Smoke’s First Fire: Welcome to California

Well, it’s been an eventful 72 hours and the #WoolseyFire is still burning.  First, I want to acknowledge we are extremely fortunate.  My family has suffered no injuries or property damage to date.  Our experience with the fires has been more of an adventure, while I have seen friends, associates and strangers suffer greatly.  We’ve had a ton of people checking in on us so I thought I’d give a quick recap of my first California fire experience since moving to Los Angeles from Indianapolis earlier this year.  For the record, we have tornados and really crazy thunderstorms in Indy, but nothing like this fire.

It’s 7:48pm PT, I’m sitting here at home in Westlake Village under mandatory evacuation and prepared to leave again at a moments notice.  We are monitoring the Ventura County Fire alerts & radio chatter, Twitter has been our best source of information, albeit requiring tremendous filtering of nonsense posts. The TV news has been recycling video for days in creative yet misleading ways, making it hard to tell new events from prior ones.  We are surrounded by fire zones.

#WoolseyFire – from Simi Valley to Malibu . Blue Dot is our house in Westlake Village

#WoolseyFire – Blue Dot is our house in Westlake Village. Red lines are mandatory evacuation areas. Purple is fire areas.

Another map showing the fire zones and Westlake Village

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The losses to the Southern California community are staggering, yet amazingly thus far mostly relegated to property and hardship. For the scale of this disaster, the limited loss of life has been a blessing and a testament to the Fire and Safety professionals getting ahead of it.
That said, this does not diminish the emotional hardship I’m seeing everywhere for personal losses.

 

We began this journey Thursday when upon returning from meetings in downtown L.A., we encountered highway closures just beyond our exit and the resulting logjam of everyone trying to get off at our exit, Westlake Boulevard.  Joining friends at Tuscany Restaurant, we enjoyed discussion with fellow patrons, but it increasingly turned to what people were hearing re the fires to the East of us. We offered our home to colleagues who were being evacuated.   I discussed exits plans that evening with Anitra and we agreed to leave if mandated. After a couple of hours of sleep, I awoke with a start at 2:30am and decided to turn on the news. By 3am, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for our Westlake Village. Go Time!

Even though I’m one who plans for emergency situations, knowing a fire may be imminent created a little bit of a scramble out the door.  As you should expect from an Eagle Scout, my go bag is always ready, with ample supplies of first aid, water treatment, weapons for self defense and other survival gear. I always think about how to survive for a week or more without civilization (hotels, stores, water, power) if on the road and for a month if bunkered in at home. [NOTE: If you do not have such a plan I suggest you consider it. It does not take long without power, food or water for the situation to cause people (especially crowds) to behave badly.]

On the other items front, we didn’t do quite as well.  E.g.,we later discovered that I had 9 pairs of underwear and one shirt (the one I was wearing), while Anitra had 14 shirts and one pair of pants (the ones she was wearing).  LOL Funny moment.

At 3:30am on Friday morning, we evacuated.  At that time there were fires to the East, North and West. I expected the 101 to be jammed up and fires were threatening to jump it by then.  Thus, I chose to head out via Westlake Blvd over the curving roads to Malibu and then down to Santa Monica. I figured this would be the least traveled most accessible escape route.

4am evacuating… no not happy

The 101 was closed in both directions from Westlake Village at the time of our evacuation

Over the hill in Malibu and headed to Santa Monica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turned out to be true and we made it to the Santa Monica JW Marriott by 4:45am.  The hotel was sold out that night but I was fortunate to book a room for Friday night and after huddling around the fire pit for a few hours, we were checked in by 10am Friday morning.

Luckily, we left Malibu on the same route ahead of this now famous scene:

Photo of masses of people evacuating Malibu later on Friday after we had made the trek. Photo credit unknown.

 

Evacuee at the JW Marriott – yes lucky and blessed. In the words of one of my favorites, Tom Petty “You don’t have to live like a refugee”

This became our home for the next 36 hours.  It was eerily perfect, sunny, warm and no sign of the massive disruption happening nearby other than our fellow fire refugees we met.

On Saturday, the winds shifted and Santa Monica became smoky and unpleasant.  Anitra’s history of asthma was on our mind as we exited and headed toward Sherman Oaks where friends offered their home.  On that front, we had nearly a dozen offers of places to stay with our wonderful community of friends and family. It was amazing and heartfelt from many friends giving us another reason to give thanks.  As we came over the hill towards the Valley, it became clear that the air was anything but clear. The shifting winds had brought heavy smoke.  At this point, we had heard from several friends who had remained in Thousand Oaks & Westlake Village who told us the area was clear, even though the evacuation order was (and is) still in effect.  We decided to go home to at least grab other supplies (clothing) and at best stay put (we did).

 

 

 

My friend and colleague who stayed behind in Westlake Village sent me these shots of the fires burning in our neighborhood on Friday:

 

Today we rode bikes to survey some of the damage and view the situation live.

 

Smoke reporting from Westlake Village during the #WoolseyFire from J. Smoke Wallin on Vimeo.

I learned from my neighbor, a veteran of the 101st Airborne (thanked him) who has lived here since 1985, that where we are in Westlake Village is uniquely sheltered and the fires historically have gone around us. The winds also made the air here much clearer than I expected.  We had a blue sky sunny CA day today.

We remain vigilant and ready to leave at a moment’s notice.  I have great respect for the heroes of this tragedy. The fire and rescue and police have done a remarkable job of fighting an unstoppable force of nature.  I grabbed this shot from a twitter post (source unknown) of some of these guys taking a rest after 48 hours of constant fire fighting.  Amazing dedication and perseverance.  We plan to find ways to support them in significant ways going forward.

From KTLA – photo of firefighters sleeping in place after 48 hours of nonstop firefighting. Heroes, every one of them.

I will update this with the next chapter when it unfolds, but wanted to share in the moment while its fresh.  Thanks for sharing with me, your stories, as well.  As Anitra would say, we are blessed and lucky.

WASHINGTON’S TOP PRE-ROLL BRAND SAINTS PARTNERS WITH VERTICAL TO BRING  ARTISAN CANNABIS TO CALIFORNIA

WASHINGTON’S TOP PRE-ROLL BRAND SAINTS PARTNERS WITH VERTICAL TO BRING ARTISAN CANNABIS TO CALIFORNIA

Excited to share our newest Vertical brand partner for California… Saint’s from Washington State – check it out

Saint’s Will Curate It’s California Only Collection From The Best Craft Cannabis Producers Throughout The State

From Washington to California

Sept. 19, 2018

Award-winning Saints Joints has forged a strategic alliance with Vertical Companies to bring its innovative pre-rolls to the rapidly growing legal California cannabis market.

Based out of the city of Seattle, Saints Joints has collaborated with artists ranging in styles from Street Graffiti to Rock Poster art. They have released over 30 different box designs and will be focused on capturing the emerging artisanal market. Sold as singles or five-packs, hand-selected pre-rolls come in a variety of indicas, sativas and hybrids, including the Artist’s Series Pack, a five joint multi-strain sampler collection. Like the Saints namesake, Saints have been active in the arts community and believes in supporting these communities and giving back. Saints supports the arts by sponsoring concerts and with the support of Gold Leaf gardens and our retail partners have raised money for Equal Rights Washington. Saints will look for similar giveback opportunities in the California market.

Saints artists have included Jeremy Fish (famous for his work with Upper Playground), David D’ Andrea, AO Hamer, Jimbo Phillips (Santa Cruz Skateboards) and Skinner. Vertical uses a combination of creativity and consumer insights, to make their brands stand out from the crowd with marketing campaigns to match. Each box has become collector’s items and are traded amongst Saints and design fans. Together, the two companies will focus on quality cannabis and artistic packaging to not only create the perfect joint but create an all-encompassing and iconic experience for the legal market.

Saints owner Lawrence Perrigo is from Northern California, and excited to bring the gritty street brand home to where it was created in his experiences growing up Skateboarding the streets of Sacramento and San Francisco.

“I’m truly excited to bring Saints back to my home state of California!” enthuses Perrigo. “I know California consumers will love the artisanal boxes and the attention to detail and the quality we guarantee.”

Saints chose to collaborate with Vertical because of their business model, which is patterned after the large-scale wine, spirits, and beer distribution businesses that Vertical’s team has created.

“Saint’s has built a hip iconic brand by bringing out the best artisan expressions in Washington state. This is exactly the kind partner we look for to bring to our markets.  I couldn’t be more excited to bring Saints to the people of California!” said J. Smoke Wallin, President of Vertical.

About Saints Joints

Saints Joints was founded in the Seattle area by members of the Seattle Medical Cannabis community in 2015. Saints are dedicated to making the highest quality cannabis products using only natural organic ingredients and practices. Saints have released 30 different box designs and variants, and have been included in Entrepreneur’s Cannabis Top 100.

https://www.saintsjoints.com

About Vertical

Vertical is among the first and largest vertically integrated companies in the legal cannabis industry. It has operations in AZ, KY, and CA, combined with strategic partnerships in OH and additional markets, position it well to take advantage of the legalization and normalization of cannabis globally. Vertical’s brands cover all aspects of form factor and demographic.  Vertical is led by an executive team of entrepreneurs and business leaders from the alcohol beverage, agriculture, CPG, distribution, entertainment, food, healthcare, and medical industries.

Media Contacts

Vertical:

Jon Lindsay Phillips

RLMpr

646-828-8566

vertical@RLMPR.com

 

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CNBC’s Fast Money with Smoke Wallin re Branding Cannabis, Wine & Spirits and Market Observations

CNBC’s Fast Money with Smoke Wallin re Branding Cannabis, Wine & Spirits and Market Observations

Thanks to CNBC and the Fast Money crew for a fun interview on the state of the cannabis industry.

Cannabis industry exploding with growth here, says top pot exec

The cannabis business is growing like a weed, even as pot stocks see wild swings. With Smoke Wallin, Vertical Companies, CNBC’s Scott Wapner and the Fast Money traders, Pete Najarian, Tim Seymour, Karen Finerman and Guy Adami…

Smoke Wallin on CNBC’s Fast Money

A few shots from the day at CNBC:
 

 

 

 

PORTLAND-BASED FORM FACTORY INC. FOODS PARTNERS WITH VERTICAL COMPANIES TO BRING INFUSED PRODUCTS TO VAST CALIFORNIA CANNABIS MARKET

PORTLAND-BASED FORM FACTORY INC. FOODS PARTNERS WITH VERTICAL COMPANIES TO BRING INFUSED PRODUCTS TO VAST CALIFORNIA CANNABIS MARKET

Pleased to share our new partnership with Form Factory Inc. Foods!  Exciting times!

PORTLAND-BASED FORM FACTORY INC. FOODS PARTNERS WITH VERTICAL COMPANIES TO BRING INFUSED PRODUCTS TO VAST CALIFORNIA CANNABIS MARKET 

Form Factory Inc. to Build Full Production Facility at Vertical’s Needles Campus To Produce a Wide Range of Edibles

Portland, OR – August 6, 2018 – Portland-based cannabis products co-packer Gruner Apfel, now known as “Form Factory Inc.,” and Vertical Companies of Agoura Hills, CA, today announced a joint partnership where Form Factory Inc. is scheduled to build a full production facility at Vertical Companies’ licensed Needles, CA, campus to co-pack an array of new infused products for the California medical and adult recreational cannabis market.

The facility is the first California Form Factory Inc. co-packing facility to open under its Form Factory Inc. partnership with MacArthur Capital.

“I met the Vertical principals through YPO, and their experience from food and beverage is very strong,” said Todd Boren, MacArthur Capital Managing Partner. “It’s a tremendous partnership that will enable us to expand throughout California.”

Form Factory will manufacture the branded cannabis edibles for the California market. Vertical cultivation and extraction will provide raw cannabis ingredients, and Vertical distribution will bring these products to licensed retailers throughout the state.

“Form Factory brings deep expertise in the manufacture of edible products—a strong management team, a focus on quality, and a relentless pursuit of delivering a safe and predictable consumer experience,” explained Vertical President J. Smoke Wallin. “These qualities are what we look for to bring a broad array of the highest quality cannabis products to our markets. It’s the perfect addition to our rapidly expanding BCAA-licensed Needles, CA, operations.”

Led by food and beverage industry veteran Tony Bash, former VP of Sales for innovative food, beverage, and spirits giant LiDestri, Form Factory Inc. Foods is the first food and beverage packing company licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC)’s Recreational Cannabis Division. The company is currently packing products for a rapidly expanding list of edibles, beverage, and topical brands.

 

About Form Factory Inc. Foods

Form Factory Inc. Foods is the first Oregon-based company licensed by the OLCC’s Recreational Marijuana Program to pack and bottle cannabis-based food and beverages. The company covers all aspects of production, from concept to final execution, using modern equipment, professional packaging, and decades of experience in the industry. It is Form Factory Inc. Foods’ mission to package and bottle the healthiest, freshest products for the cannabis food and beverage industry.

 

About Verticalâ„¢

Vertical is among the first and largest vertically integrated companies in the legal medical cannabis industry. It has operations in AZ, KY, and CA, combined with strategic partnerships in OH and additional markets which position it well to take advantage of the legalization and normalization of cannabis globally. Vertical is led by an executive team of entrepreneurs and business leaders from the alcohol beverage, agriculture, CPG, distribution, entertainment, food, healthcare, and medical industries.

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