A sense of fairness and equity is what drove Dennis Hunter and Ned Fussell to launch Farmer and the Felon, a cannabis cultivator and advocacy brand dedicated to social justice. The duo knows all too well how prohibition can drastically alter a life.
“When you’re incarcerated, and even when you’re waiting for sentencing, it seems like an eternity before you’re going to be released—it can feel very, very dark; as if there’s no way out,” Hunter said. The Emerald Triangle native spent more than six years in prison after a federal raid on his illegal cannabis farm in the late 1990s. Upon his release, he connected with fellow cultivator Fussell and the pair went on to launch the influential CannaCraft family of brands, which includes the popular Care By Design and AbsoluteXtracts. The company became a poster child for compliance and saw skyrocketing sales. It was a Cinderella story, almost unfathomable to the vast majority of cannabis offenders.
But despite the incredible turnaround, Hunter and Fussell never forgot where they came from. They knew they wanted to support restorative justice efforts and raise awareness of the plight of those still suffering because of prohibition. But the lightbulb didn’t go off until a fateful dinner meeting with mentor Terry Wheatley, CannaCraft Chairwoman of the Board.
“She said, ‘there’s my farmer and my felon’ as we sat down, and I was just like ‘that’s our new brand!’”Hunter says, laughing at the memory. The name stuck, and thus Farmer and the Felon was born. As CannaCraft’s first flower line, Farmer and the Felon took the company back to its roots while simultaneously staying true to Hunter and Fussell’s desire to educate the cannabis community at large.
“We wanted to be able to tell the story of the company and the founders coming up in cannabis and the injustice that happened,” Hunter said. “And the name truly lent itself to do that. But we’re really seeing the opportunity to use the brand to share information and get the message out—to interject change in the industry and how people look at cannabis.”
With a clear vision, the team got to work. In another stroke of serendipitous fortune, cannabis activist and Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo approached Hunter with a new project that aligned almost too well.
“We were probably a month out from launching when he reached out to me with the idea for the Last Prisoner Project,” Hunter said. “I just thought, ‘Wow, this is a great fit—I’m about to launch a brand called Farmer and the Felon.’”
Last Prisoner Project (LPP) is a nonprofit dedicated to freeing individuals incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis crimes and supporting those who have recently been released from custody. The mission was a perfect match. As such, Farmer and the felon agreed to include LPP’s messaging on every one of their products, with a portion of sales benefiting the nonprofit.
As soon as they launched in March 2020, Farmer and the felon resonated with consumers, many of whom loved the opportunity to do a little good every time they re-upped. It also helps that the sun-grown flower is a fantastic bang for your buck.
“We have more than 40 years combined cultivation experience, and we want that to come through in every bag,” Hunter said. “We want to keep this brand as close to the plant as possible.”
The product catalog includes eighths (the company’s best-sellers), quarters, ounces and pre-rolls with cultivars such as Orange Creamsicle, Legend OG, Blue Dream and Strawnana. The brand is also planning a line of solventless rosin cartridges for the near future.
Bringing premium flower at budget-friendly prices to market is the goal of many cannabis brands, but it’s the message behindFarmer and the Felon that matters most to the team.“No matter how dark it seems, there are a lot of beautiful things on the other side,” Hunter says when asked if he had any advice for people still making their way through the criminal justice system.
“I missed out on so much, but now I get to look back at all that I accomplished once I got out. Hang on and get through it—then cherish the opportunities you’re given.”
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.