A Day In The Life Of Mr. Sherbinski
Feature by Ben Karris
Mar 27, 2019 · 9 min read

We spent a couple days with Mario Guzman, the man and mastermind behind Gelato.

“I call it tapping in,” Mr. Sherbinski declared as he lit a joint. “It’s the recognition of the universal energy that connects each and every living thing. The realization you’ve arrived at the place where cannabis takes us all.”

Mario Guzman, AKA Mr. Sherbinski, AKA the master cultivator behind some of the most revered cannabis genetics on the planet—that’s the person I wanted to know more about. Which is why I drove up from Los Angeles to San Francisco to spend a couple days with the legend himself. Sherbinski is known for his impeccable ability to pheno-hunt, that is, identify and isolate the most desirable traits of cannabis strains to make something altogether unique. That much is evidenced by his Acaiberry Gelato Blunt, which earned a near perfect score from the Proper Cannabis Committee. This ability to craft truly memorable highs is also why he’s gained a sort of luminary status among growers. Put simply, Sherbinski has major pull within the cannabis community, and with his latest brand launch, he’s about to have major pull in the community at large.

It was a mild and grey morning when I met the charismatic cultivator on a nondescript street corner in San Francisco’s famous Haight-Ashbury district. We were here “tapping in” because the Sherbinskis team invited Proper to document the days leading up to the brand’s statewide launch. We wanted to get a sense of the excitement and anxiety one might feel when launching a brand and learn about the obstacles the team has had to overcome bringing this vision to life.

Crossbreeding strains is like having a baby with someone. You better be cool or it’s a massive headache.

This particular vision begins with high-quality cannabis. Through Sherbinskis’ diverse line of product offerings, ranging from high-end flower and concentrates to one of the most inspired vape pens I’ve ever come across, the team has always hoped to capture the magic of a truly organic culture and convey this sense of authenticity to an increasingly mainstream consumer base. With plans to drop capsule collections of original clothing designs and other soft goods inspired by the herb, the brand is serving as a conduit between the cannabis community and creative culture.

Sunset Sherbert. Pink Panties. Gelato. If you haven’t tried these strains, you’ve probably heard of them referenced in pop culture. And for good reason. Gelato and Sunset Sherbert have become some of the most talked about, in-demand strains on the California market. The unmatched genetics of these strains are part and parcel to the Bay Area’s long-standing reputation as a global hub for high-end herb.

“Crossbreeding strains is like having a baby with someone,” Sherbinski jokes as we share one of his sauce pens, the brand’s reimagined take on the now ubiquitous portable vape pen. “You better be cool or it’s a massive headache.”

The morning fog had just begun to dissipate and make way for the sun as we stood in front of an old Victorian house—formerly the Vapor Room. After initially opening in 2004 as one of the city’s first medical marijuana dispensaries, the collective had to shut down in 2012 after a federal crackdown on all things weed and retail. It has since reopened in a light and airy Mission district venue, but Martin Olive, the Vapor Room’s founder and former owner, says the original location was more than a simple pot shop. Around the time of its closing in 2012, an East Bay writer described it as “weedy, urbane, and cool, like an Amsterdam club, drained of seediness.”

“This was Jack Herer’s favorite club in San Francisco,” Olive said.

“It all started in San Francisco, right here on this street,” Sherbinski confirmed as we looked up at the grand old building.

When California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, which legalized medical marijuana in the Golden State, the Lower Haight district became an early hotbed for the wider legalization movement. To do that and set a positive tone, Olive led efforts to clean up the neighborhood, which had previously been a seedier part of town written off by much of the city. The collective became an anchor within the Haight. Where before there were drug serves on every corner, the Vapor Room became a gathering place for local members. On a wall next to the front stoop of the building (which now provides office space for the city’s Homeless Youth Administration), there’s a photo-mosaic mural containing the portraits of many of the characters, patients, and personalities who frequented the Vapor Room in its heyday.

“We weren’t advertising back then,” Olive said. “That just wasn’t something you did. Everything was still very wild west. Some of us front-runners and early adopters—we all took a lot of hits. I’ve been audited by the IRS. I’ve been shut down by the feds.”

Today, the soft-spoken Olive, who remains an ardent activist and a highly influential force within the NorCal cannabis community, rocks a beard and a beanie. He told us how the Vapor Room was actually Sherbinski’s first customer.

“Mario came in and it was an instant friendship,” Olive explained. “We shared the same values, and from the get-go, we have had a very synchronistic relationship.”

“I had a really good cut of some Afgoo, and I sold three pounds of it to Martin,” Sherbinski added. “This was my first time selling weed ever. I made back my initial investment, which validated my decision to do this full-time.”

This was also about the time Mario Guzman adopted the Sherbinski alias and left a successful career in real estate to focus on cannabis. His first grow was a modest setup he built in the garage of his home in the Sunset district of San Francisco.

“After SB 420 was introduced, everybody began growing weed,” Sherbinski said. “If there were 10 houses on the block, two or three of them would be growing.”

The house—which we visited after swinging by the Vapor Room—sits on a steep hill above the city’s most densely populated neighborhood. Standing in the driveway looking out across the picturesque view of San Francisco, I could feel the energy of this historic setting.

“I grew up in Sacramento. And as a teenager, I’d come into SF, and every time I’d cross over the bridge, I just felt drawn to the city. It has a very special energy,” Sherbinski said. “I knew I wanted to be here.”

Next, we visited the Green Door and Barbary Coast, two of the city’s most canonized weed collectives and some of the first shops in the state to carry Sherbinskis products. At Barbary Coast, the manager who oversees the premier retailer’s inventory told us that competition for shelf space has never been so intense. As such, the quality of branded products must be consistently high whether or not that product ends up on the dispensary’s top shelf or the bottom one. And where cannabis retail was previously a strain game, the future belongs to the brands now that new state laws mandate that all products must come in branded packaging. For producers like Sherbinski, a product’s packaging must be just as dialed in as its genetics.

Barbary Coast added some Sherbinskis flower products to its menu in advance of the brand’s statewide launch, a move that was well received by customers.

“I've never seen anything move so fast,” the manager told us.

Just ask Wiz Khalifa, John Mayer, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, Ty Dolla Sign, or Famous Dex.

Then again, standing out from the crowd has never been difficult for Sherbinski. Between the bold orange aesthetic and the “Dessert First” hallmark of their strain offerings, once you’ve tried a Sherbinskis pre-roll or flower, you’re unlikely to forget it. Just ask Wiz Khalifa, John Mayer, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, Ty Dolla Sign, or Famous Dex, all of whom seek out Sherbinskis products time and time again.

But perhaps more important than a superior smoke is where the herb comes from and the people who work together to make it happen. After all, your vibe usually determines your tribe. G Putt Singh, who previously worked with streetwear and skate culture giant Diamond Supply Co., now oversees much of the marketing, celebrity and influencer outreach, and collaborations for Sherbinskis. More than just a coworker, G and Mario have been friends for years.

“Sherb is my big bro,” Singh said. “Money can’t buy what we have.”

Singh’s words resonated as we arrived at a Sherbinskis farm in Mendocino County. Here, under the sun and across more than 10 sprawling acres of fertile land, Sherbinski’s genetics thrive. If the purpose of our trip was to dig deeper and learn about the people behind the brand, nowhere was Mr. Sherbinski’s passion for the plant more evident than here.

I was finally getting what he meant. It’s about more than just feeling a euphoric high.

The farm is located in a part of the state known as the Emerald Triangle. This region of northern California where Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino counties converge in a geographic triangle is said to have the world’s best conditions for growing cannabis. The local ecology, terroir, and Mediterranean-like microclimates make for entirely unique conditions, oftentimes yielding plants that can grow up to 15 feet tall.

We walked among rows and rows of organically raised cannabis plants, a variety of strains marked by different colored tags. As I took in my surroundings, I closed my eyes in an attempt to burn the images into the insides of my eyelids and commit them to memory forever.

Forests and fields turned into strip malls and city lights. We crossed the Golden Gate bridge and disappeared momentarily into a cloud of fog before San Francisco emerged. From the backseat of Mario’s truck, I took a hit of the pleasantly potent sauce pen and reflected on everything I experienced over our brief visit. I thought back to our previous conversation about “tapping in” and realized I was finally getting what he meant. It’s about more than just feeling a euphoric high. It’s about taking a moment to reflect through cannabis, effectively connecting with those around you on a deeper level. It’s about reminding yourself there’s something greater out there, something much bigger than ourselves. We’re just lucky to be a part of it. 

Photos by Anthony Tripoli.

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