ONE TUESDAY AFTERNOON, I was standing on the bank of the Rogue River in southern Oregon, naked, and in the water below me, also naked, was Jim Belushi. He smacked the water’s surface maybe six feet from the riverbank, showing me where it was deep enough to jump and saying, “Right here.”
I wasn’t dreaming. And although this is a story about drugs—marijuana, specifically, which Belushi grows commercially here in Eagle Point, about 20 minutes outside Medford—neither of us was high.
We’d known each other for about seven minutes. We’d walked across the field that separates the business part of Belushi’s farm from his house and the river that flows behind it—me, Belushi, and Taro, the massive German shepherd who follows Belushi nearly everywhere he goes on the farm.
He walked slowly, unhurriedly, like a frontiersman in a western, an Albanian John Wayne. He’d been working outside all morning as the heat climbed into the low hundreds. As we approached the water’s edge, he said, “I think I’m gonna jump in the river” and invited me to do the same.
I said something about running back to my car to grab some shorts, and Belushi told me, Sure, go ahead. But when I looked over at him, he’d discarded his shirt, his khaki shorts, and his sweat-printed cowboy hat on a picnic table by the water and was in the process of shucking his bright-white Hanes.
I understood that I could do this or not do it, but I couldn’t do it halfway. Belushi leaped from the bank. Taro followed him, entering the water like a thrown knife. Belushi looked at me and said, “One, two, three.”
IF YOU’RE EVEN slightly famous, there are much easier ways to get into the weed business than growing it yourself. Invest a little money, partner up with a grower, sign off on a few package designs, and boom— you’ve got your own line of cannabis products, just like Snoop Dogg, Seth Rogen, Willie Nelson, and countless others.
Belushi also has a cannabis brand. But unlike the other celebs, he’s growing the cannabis himself. For five seasons up here in Oregon, he and a staff that ranges from 12 to 15 people depending on the season have been working to keep the pot plants that fill their greenhouses fed and watered and alive and productive and tasty, too. And when it’s harvest time, Belushi puts the product in big plastic bags, then he and Chris Karakosta—a childhood friend from Belushi’s old neighborhood in Illinois who’s become the GM of Belushi’s Farm and a sidekick-majordomo-personal chef of sorts—pile into Karakosta’s Ford Explorer and drive around Oregon, doing meet and greets at dispensaries and selling their crops for whatever the ever-fluctuating market price of a pound of choice bud happens to be that week.
But Jim Belushi isn’t growing weed just to make a profit, or even simply to help more people get high. He’s self-aware enough to admit that this back-to-the- land adventure has been a crucial part of his own healing process, one that’s helped him deal with both terrible tragedy and deep psychological trauma that for years he never realized existed.
We were air-drying by the water now. I’d retrieved my underwear. Belushi, in briefs and his cowboy hat, toasted the foot of a Cuban cigar with a torch lighter. He’s not quite ripped, but it looks like farm work agrees with him.
“This—all of this—was an accident,” he said. “I wasn’t looking to change my career or looking to get out. I invested in this property, and this energy here led me to where I am today.”
He’d never dreamed of being a farmer, much less a cannabis farmer. He grew up outside Chicago, in Wheaton, Illinois’s tight-knit Albanian community. His mother, Agnes, worked at a pharmacy; his father, Adam, ran short-order diners of the cheeburger, cheeburger variety and then a couple white-tablecloth steakhouses before the mob ran him out of the business.
In 1978, following in the footsteps of his older brother, John, Belushi joined Chicago’s legendary Second City theater company, and he’s been a working actor ever since. More to the point, he’s been working ever since. Sixty films. TV shows from Laverne & Shirley to Twin Peaks: The Return. Broadway. A surprising amount of voice work in cartoons and talking-dog movies. Give him a stage and he’ll dance on it—improv comedy, blues bands, reality TV. Dude is 67 and he’s on TikTok now.
Published: December 02, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News