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Joe Exotic is Releasing His Own Cannabis Brand Out of Prison

Bethan Rose

by Bethan Rose

July 2, 2021 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Joe Exotic is Releasing His Own Cannabis Brand Out of Prison

He burst onto television screens last year with a documentary about his life as a zookeeper, before getting banged up for hiring a hitman to wipe his competitor off the scene. Now, he’s making a comeback with a diverse line of cannabis products. Of course, we are talking about the star of Tiger King, Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Better known as “Joe Exotic”, the reality TV star recently broadcast his new business venture via Twitter. 

“I am pleased to announce that my Entertainment Attorney Brad Small, from Beverly Hills, has signed an exclusive licensing deal with THC Group and Cannabis. We will be bringing a variety of cannabis products under the Joe Exotic brand to Colorado, California, and Joe’s home state…” read the Tweet, which quickly went viral after being published.

An assortment of “top-shelf exotic strains” and CBD edibles are expected to be featured in the Netflix star’s range, which will be sold in dispensaries across California, Colorado, and Oklahoma.  

Joe Exotic’s Cannabis Deal was Struck in June 

During the first week of June, American actor Jason Hervey crossed paths with his buddy and renowned entertainment lawyer, Brad Small. The meeting took place at Beverly Hills dining hotspot, The Palms. 

Hervey, whose face is recognizable from his role as Wayne Arnold on “The Wonder Years,” had already been considering entering the cannabis space. His temptation turned to confirmation when Small divulged plans to hash out a cannabis industry deal for his client Exotic. 

As if his stint on Netflix wasn’t controversial enough, Exotic is currently facing a 22-year stint behind bars for trying to organize the assassination of his well-documented rival and founder of Big Cat Rescue, Carole Baskin; the Kansas native is being charged with attempted murder and multiple violations of the Endangered Species Act.

Upon being made aware of Small’s plans, a satisfied grin spread across 49-year-old Hervey’s face.

“Well, that’s funny, my friend and I are discussing the cannabis business right now,” responded Hervey, who told reporters that “the timing was good; the chemistry was even better—away we go.”

He Was Previously Owner of One of the Largest Tiger Petting Zoos in the U.S. 

The former police officer’s interest in the legal cannabis space isn’t new, claims Small, who says that Exotic is “a big believer in using it for medical purposes.” During a recent interview with TMZ, Small said that the company launch will take place within the next few weeks. Once the zoo is in operation, a portion of the profits will be funneled into tiger care programs.

Before his foray into the world of legal cannabis, Joe Exotic was the owner and operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (a.k.a. G. W. Zoo). Located in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, the park gained plenty of public attention after being spotlighted on the 2020 Netflix series, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness.”

Despite being portrayed as a safe haven for big cats, G. W. Zoo previously fell under fire from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which, back in 2006, alleged that animals were not being given food and were “routinely hit, punched, kicked, sprayed with cold water, and struck with rakes and shovels.”

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that approximately 5,000 tigers are held in captivity across the United States; this is more than the 3,900 that are believed to still be living in the wild. Many captive tigers are owned privately by people who keep them in their backyards, private breeding facilities, or as roadside attractions.

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“The United States has a responsibility to manage the staggering 5,000 estimated captive tigers within its own borders,” said the WWF’s director of wildlife policy, Leigh Henry, during an interview with CNN. His group says that just 6% of captive tigers are living at accredited zoos. 

However, Exotic’s arch-enemy and the founder of Big Cat Rescue, Carole Baskin, says that the actual number of captive tigers in the U.S. is significantly higher; mainly due to the fact that hundreds of big cats are being bred on an annual basis as props for wild animal shows.

Joe’s Life Has Been Drama-filled in Recent Years 

In addition to the 17 animal abuse charges under his belt, Exotic was convicted in 2019 for his role in trying to hire a hitman for the planned assassination of his tiger-loving opponent, Carole Baskin. She also features on the 2020 Netflix series.

Then, in May of this year, he announced that he had received a diagnosis for prostate cancer.

“John Phillips has received my medical records from FMC Fort Worth and my PSA count came back very high for prostate cancer,” read the Twitter thread, which highlighted how he doesn’t seek pity.

Rather, in the hopes of having his prison sentence pardoned, Exotic wants John Phillips to encourage “President Biden, VP Harris and the Attorney General to listen to the evidence and see that it’s not just city cops out of control with corruption, but his very own Department of Justice.”

Joe Exotic Previously Ran for President

If Exotic’s attempts to crack the cannabis market are anything like his previous attempts to run for U.S. president, it’s likely that he will fail. Back in 2016, the 58-year-old unsuccessfully ran for president, before trying his chances at becoming Oklahoma governor just two years later. 

His preference for cannabis was made clear during a convention in 2018 when he handed out branded rolling papers. The convict’s passion for big cats was also highlighted in one of his Oklahoma governor campaign videos, which showed a tiger loitering in the background.

“All rights for all the people, all the time. That’s how I’m going to run this state,” he declared in the video footage. “I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, a pot smoker, or meth head. We’re going to take care of each and every one of you.… Let’s fix this s*!#!”

Exotic’s chances of succeeding with legal cannabis will surely be given a boost if he manages to gain a presidential pardon from President Biden; something that former U.S. President Donald Trump did not feel obliged to do.

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