'Cannasations' Podcaster Kris Brown Aims to 'Humanize' Vermont’s Weed Culture | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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'Cannasations' Podcaster Kris Brown Aims to 'Humanize' Vermont’s Weed Culture


Published April 17, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

  • Ken Picard ©️ Seven Days
  • Kris Brown

Kris Brown was in a supermarket last year when he noticed a "tall, skinny white dude" watching him intently as Brown and his family made their way through the aisles. A six-foot-two, muscular, tattooed Black man who's lived in Vermont since 2013, Brown is never surprised when white people eyeball him. He steeled himself for a confrontation.

When the man finally approached Brown, he said, "Kris from 'Cannasations,' right? I listen to your podcast. I heard your voice and knew it had to be you."

For much of his life, people have commented to Brown about his velvety baritone voice. He jokes that it often helped him get the attention of women. A few years ago, with his career on the rocks and his life adrift, he decided to put it to a different use.

While embarking on a new career as a professional voice-over artist, the 39-year-old Virginia native and cannabis enthusiast launched a podcast called "Cannasations w/ Kris." Once a week, for 35 minutes to an hour, Brown sits down in his Jeffersonville studio with members of Vermont's cannabis industry and, as the name suggests, hosts a conversation about weed.

Since dropping his first episode on November 11, 2022, Brown has interviewed dispensary owners, farmers, bakers, a former cop-turned-grower, and even a Vermont Cannabis Control Board commissioner. With 53 episodes under his belt and nearly 4,400 downloads, Brown hears from listeners who turn on his show while they're getting high, chilling out or commuting.

"Someone told me I rumble the walls in their grow facility," he said, laughing as he imagines his voice as the soundtrack of a cannabis harvest. "It's amazing, because it's something I created."

In less than two years, Brown, a combat veteran and convicted felon with no previous experience in journalism, broadcasting or sound engineering, has seeped into the consciousness of Vermont's weed community like an edible kicking in. Though he can't yet claim to be "the voice of Vermont's cannabis community," as he'd like, Brown recently reached a milestone. On February 21, by invitation, he delivered a devotional before lawmakers in the Vermont Statehouse as part of Black History Month.

Brown greeted a reporter at his hillside home in Jeffersonville overlooking Route 15. Dressed in brightly colored pajama bottoms and a Lake Effect Cannabis T-shirt, he led the way to his studio, a converted bedroom whose walls are plastered with stickers from local cannabis companies. Smack-dab in the middle of the cannabis collage is a poster from Reefer Madness, the 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda film — a reminder, he said, of how far cannabis has come.

Brown fired up a fat blunt, as he does with all his guests. This one, he noted, contained an indica from Sunset Lake Cannabis in the Champlain Islands.

But he didn't dwell on what he was smoking any more than he does on his podcast. First-time listeners who tune in expecting a deep-in-the-weeds analysis of terpenes, trichomes and hydroponic growing techniques will be disappointed. A former chef, Brown might discuss his time in the military, or how he smokes meat. "Cannasations w/ Kris" is as much a conversation on cannabis as it is about cannabis.

Brown grew up in Martinsville, Va., a rural town near the state's southern border. "Basically, I could walk into my backyard and be in North Carolina," he said. Raised Baptist and conservative, Brown was smoking weed by age 15. One day, his mother found his pot seeds.

"I got my ass whooped," he said. "She called the preacher and said, 'You better come get him before I kill him, because my son ain't gonna be stealing my TV for no weed.'"

Brown was shocked by the notion that pot might inspire property crimes. "I never stopped smoking," he said. "I just hid it a little better."

After high school, Brown joined the Army and trained as a combat engineer handling explosives, a job that left him deaf in one ear. In 2006 and 2007, he was deployed in Tal Afar and Ramadi, Iraq. Though he couldn't officially get high in the combat zone, he smuggled back from Europe a potent strain of marijuana called AK-47.

"That was the enemy's weapon," he explained. "My mentality was ... if we die by this shit, at least we smoked it first."

Like many vets, Brown came home and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He committed an armed robbery in Watertown, N.Y., and spent four years in prison. After his release in 2011, he met his future wife, and the couple moved to Vermont in June 2013. Brown has three kids, ages 18, 15 and 11.

As a convicted felon, he struggled to find a job. He worked in asbestos removal, a job he'd hated in prison. Then, on his wife's suggestion, he used the GI Bill to attend New England Culinary Institute, where he earned a bachelor's degree in food and beverage business management in 2018.

Brown spent a few years cooking at ArtsRiot in Burlington and the Inn at Essex (now the Essex Resort & Spa), but he struggled with the stress of working in commercial kitchens. One day, he blew up at his colleagues at Two Sons Bakehouse in Johnson and was forced to leave, an incident that still embarrasses him.

A course at Such a Voice, a Vermont-based school for voice-over professionals, helped Brown land a public-television gig and a role in a movie that was never released. More offers were slow to materialize.

Despondent, Brown then had what he called a "supernatural experience." At the 2022 New England Cannabis Convention, he encountered a man who was the spitting image of his friend who'd died by suicide a year earlier. Unprompted, the man told Brown, "You should start a podcast."

Brown spent the rest of the convention discussing the idea with cannabis professionals. Initially, he thought he'd use the podcast merely to get his name and voice out there. But soon he began to enjoy talking about a subject with which he was very familiar.

In the wider world of podcasts, "Cannasations w/ Kris" is less a house ablaze than a smoldering joint; each episode averages 83 downloads. But Vermont's cannabis professionals have taken notice. Brown has interviewed Will Read, founder and CEO of the weed marketing firm CannaPlanners in Burlington; Callie Chapman, president and founding partner of Onward Analytics, a Colchester quality-control testing lab; and CCB commissioner Kyle Harris.

When Brown invited Dusty Kenney, owner of Lamoille County dispensary Cambridge Cannabis, to be a guest on the podcast, Kenney initially balked. He'd done other weed podcasts, he said, and wasn't interested in one that sounded like "a puff piece."

But after listening to a few episodes, Kenney changed his mind and appeared on "Cannasations" last year. Why the change of heart?

"A lot of these other [podcasts] are this cliquey high school stuff," Kenney said. "Kris is no drama. He's completely positive and uplifting ... And you can't get over that voice!"

Brown has since inked an endorsement deal with Cambridge Cannabis, which gives him a small cut of the sales of Cannasations Royal Kush pre-rolls. A QR code on the package label links to his podcast.

Humble as he is, Brown believes he'll eventually become a "humanizing" voice for Vermont's cannabis industry. "My whole goal is to sit around, kick it and talk," he said. "It's just a cannabis conversation, know what I'm saying?"

"Cannasations w/ Kris" is available on most podcast platforms. Learn more about Kris Brown's voice-over work at withakvo.com.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Chewing the Phatty | "Cannasations" podcaster Kris Brown aims to "humanize" Vermont's weed culture"

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