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This interview first appeared in Nuggets, the Star Tribune's weekly email newsletter chronicling legal cannabis in Minnesota. You can subscribe to Nuggets at

As the 38th governor of Minnesota, former mayor of Brooklyn Park, actor, author and ex-professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura is undoubtedly the most well-known cannabis advocate and enthusiast in Minnesota. He recently announced his new cannabis brand — Jesse Ventura Farms, a partnership with Brooklyn Center-based, hemp-derived THC edible maker Retro Bakery — which will offer a variety of THC-infused chocolates and gummies. The brand will officially launch Saturday with a 4/20 event at Hook & Ladder Theater and Zen Arcade in Minneapolis.

Nuggets spoke with Ventura earlier this week as he traveled by car with his son, Tyrel, who serves as head of branding for Jesse Ventura Farms; his wife, Terry; and the brand's chief creative officer, Tabetha Wallace. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You've told the story many times, but for our readers will you please briefly talk about how you came to be a cannabis advocate?

Jesse Ventura: What really and truly caused me to focus a great deal of my life on cannabis is because of the fact that it gave me my life back, because the first lady, Terry Ventura, she started suffering epileptic seizure disorder and pharma couldn't do a thing. We went to the doctors and they put her on four different medicines — anti-seizure medicines. None of them worked. In desperation, we drove to Colorado where they had lifted prohibition, and we got drops under the tongue illegally. At that point, she took the drops and has never had a seizure since. Then it finally became legal in Minnesota, so she qualified to get it here. And she's been using cannabis ever since and staying seizure-free. I don't want any family to go through what we went through. It should be readily available to people. In fact, I've made the statement that the people who outlawed cannabis, they should put them in jail.

Can you tell me about Jesse Ventura Farms? What is this new venture of yours?

JV: What it is, is we're going into the cannabis industry here in Minnesota, now that it is no longer against the law. I'm doing, I guess you could say, the same thing Willie Nelson, the singer, is doing. Years ago, I was a Miller Lite all-star, where I pushed light beer from Miller — "light beer, less filling, tastes great." All that stuff. I was a spokesman for Minnesota Brewing, Pig's Eye and Grain Belt and all that, as well. Now I've shifted over, I believe cannabis is far safer and much better than alcohol, so I'm going to promote cannabis using a Minnesota company — all Minnesota-grown, everything done Minnesotan, promoting Minnesota. We're real excited about all that.

How did you get connected with Retro Bakery?

JV: When the laws changed and we realized that the possibilities were now here for the cannabis business to grow and expand and become normal in Minnesota, we — my son and his three partners, it really wasn't me, they took care of it. They're truly Ventura Farms. I'm the figurehead. I'm the name but they're the brains behind the brawn. So they went ahead and founded —

Tyrel Ventura: I can tell that part of the story. When Jesse announced that he wanted to put his name on a Minnesota company back when it was legalized [in August 2023], we started meeting with all the companies that were already set up here and Retro Bakery really rose to the top. They really wanted Jesse. They're based in Brooklyn Center, so it's right next to the town he was mayor in. It's an amazing, multicultural, diverse company. They have a great product and we really just gelled. There was a great synergy between the two groups and that's why we chose them.

Governor, do you have a role in creating these products? Are you involved in choosing the types of product or flavors?

JV: Well, I certainly taste them all. If my name is going on it, I'm going to try the different flavors. I think we have six or eight flavors of gummies. My wife, personally, doesn't care for gummies. Not even cannabis, any kind of gummy. They're kind of like eating Dots, you know? Things you used to get at the movie theater.

What does your wife prefer?

JV: I can't answer that right now, I'd have to ask her.

Terry Ventura: I like chocolate.

JV: She likes the chocolate. She yelled from the backseat that she likes the chocolate.

Thank you. Do you have a favorite flavor or product in this line?

JV: No, not really. Unfortunately, because of health reasons, I can't eat chocolate today. I'm limited; I have to deprive myself of some of the best-tasting chocolate cannabis you're ever going to taste. That's the tough part about it. Having to not be able to eat it.

Tyrel Ventura: You did like the Maui Wowie [gummies].

JV: I did like the Maui Wowie.

Do you see your brand expanding into the flower or concentrate market when cannabis licenses become available?

JV: Absolutely. We're going to expand into every aspect of the cannabis market. I'm a great believer. My friend is Tommy Chong, from Cheech and Chong. Tommy is a very bright man, believe it or not, don't go by what he does in the movies. Tommy told me unequivocally that they're making a mistake when they categorize cannabis into medical and recreational. He tells me the entire plant is medical. Those that smoke it for the euphoric feeling are doing it for mental health. Like your post-traumatic stress guys, and things of that nature. They're doing it for mental health. So the entire plant is a medical plant.

Your launch party for Jesse Ventura Farms is coming up on 4/20 at the Hook & Ladder in Minneapolis. I understand you're going to be there. What is going to be happening there?

JV: I'm going to take pictures and meet people and we're going to launch the party. We've got an invite to a few celebrities who are going to be in town for another thing. We've told them if they want to, stop by. It's a fun thing to launch our business and to let Minnesota know that cannabis in Minnesota is alive and well — that there are companies here that are Minnesota grown, Minnesota produced and Minnesota promoted. That's the big thing I want to do, as 38th governor of Minnesota, I'm promoting a Minnesota company here. Keep the money in Minnesota.

Are there any legislative changes you'd like to see made to the cannabis law in Minnesota, during this session or in the future?

JV: I would just like to see cannabis treated identically to alcohol. What I mean by that is they don't put a limitation on you if you go in the liquor store, do they? You can walk in there with your American Express card and clean the store out and fill up a semi, if you want to. But my point being is, treat cannabis the same way. Don't put stipulations on it just because it's cannabis that makes alcohol somehow more acceptable.

If you can't eat gummies or chocolates, what is your preferred method of consuming cannabis?

JV: I can eat gummies, I just can't eat chocolate. I can't eat ketchup or chocolate anymore. I can eat ketchup as long as it's got salt out of it. Heinz makes salt-free ketchup. You're getting an education in nutrition.

Tyrel Ventura: But you vape.

JV: I usually take most of my cannabis by vape.

Do you recall the first time you tried marijuana?

JV: Yeah, it was right at the end of my senior year of high school. 1969.

Can you tell us about that experience?

JV: My buddy's parents left town and left the house for us for the weekend. His brother was at the University of Minnesota, and bad things come when you've got brothers over at the U. He just happened to bring home some marijuana. He rolled it into a joint and we smoked it. I remember the first time I smoked it, we were like all the typical kids drinking beer and booze and whatever we could get our hands on. I took my first puff of marijuana and I remember turning to my friends and going, "The hell with drinking, this is way better." But then I went into the United States Navy, and of course there you can't exactly do marijuana on a regular basis. Although, they didn't drug test back then.

Did you still consume while you were in the Navy?

JV: Once or twice. I did it when I went and saw Jimi Hendrix.

Where did you see Jimi Hendrix?

JV: San Diego, July 28, 1970. I even know the date. That's how important Jimi Hendrix is. [Ed. note: The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed in San Diego on July 25, 1970, according to]

No doubt.

JV: I also did some, too, when I saw Led Zeppelin in '72.

Oh yeah, where was that?

JV: San Diego.

Were you based in San Diego?

JV: Yeah, and what was good about Zeppelin is our pot was so good that when we were down on the ground floor and it was time to leave, we looked at the arena and the steps looked like a stairway to heaven.


JV: [Laughing.] You can tell I'm having some fun with you.

I appreciate it. Is there anything else that you'd like our readers to know?

JV: Just to let them know that cannabis, that the genie's out of the bottle now, and to start educating yourself about it legitimately — not to be believing all these tales you've heard from the quote "war on drugs" and all the things that go on with that. This is a medical product. This is a product that millions of people can benefit from and we've spent years destroying it. Now finally, in the year, here we are, 2024. Come on. It took us this long. So my message to people is educate yourself, then make a decision on things.