How this Millennial Launched His Own, Otherworldly Cannabis Concentrate Brand

At the third annual Hall of Flowers (HOF), a business-to-business cannabis industry trade show, concentrate company Pluto soft-launched its first (and limited) edition vaporizer, the Hanu Stone, in collaboration with the design and tech driven hardware company, Hanu Labs

Pluto emerges from the same minds who launched the mental health and wellness-oriented CBD brand Hilani. But Pluto aspires to move beyond the terrestrial realm of wellness, and transport consumers to a world unhindered by time constraints and abounding in a diversity of characters peacefully coexisting. Boiled down, their mantra is love...and cannabis. 

The collaboration between Pluto and Hanu is intended to create a vaporizing experience that inspires existential reflection, so at Pluto’s HOF booth, the brand featured original art and an augmented reality activation encouraging consumers to immerse themselves in the Pluto aesthetic and lifestyle. 

Just after the soft launch, Civilized spoke with one of the two driving forces behind Pluto, Lincoln Barnett III (Michael Garganese Jr.is the other). Barnett is the co-chief brand officer at gen!us products, a Venice, California-based cannabis brand. 

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Civilized: I heard you have an interesting cannabis origin story. 

Lincoln Barnett III (LB): My journey with cannabis began at a pretty early age. I grew up in south Orange County, and growing up near the beach, surfing and cannabis were a part of growing up. When I was about 16, my family went bankrupt. I was a high school class president but also the class stoner, and getting my hands wet with Prop 215 [California's medical marijuana measure]. 

I convinced my dad to allow me to build a hydro grow in our garage, and together, my dad and I got really good at cultivating, and eventually got an indoor grow facility in greater LA. I was leading a double life, cultivating cannabis!

Then I went to LMU (Loyola Marymount University) while I was still working with cannabis. But during my junior year, I decided I wanted more, and didn’t want to be involved with cannabis anymore. So, I decided to take a position as a business development manager in a tech start up. 

I thought, "This is everything! I got my package, my benefits, I got this business degree in a year!" But the start-up failed, so I decided to take my passion, my home within cannabis, and my newfound knowledge in startups to the conceptual brands I wanted to try out. 

Pluto’s marketing looks so cosmic and science fiction-esque. Tell me more about that.

We’re focused on experiences. I hate using that word because it’s so bland, but it’s allowing people to come into a space that feels other-worldly, and they can experience that through the phone [app] with the content we continue to create. It’s a surreal environment. You’re not your race, your age. And through brand experience, it’s supposed to allow people to feel safe to explore the universe outside, and the universe within themselves. 

Say I’m not looking for something experiential. How does Pluto fit in?

We’ll be collaborating with other brands, and developing storylines and narratives with cultivators and other extraction artists. So, right now I’m working on packaging with cues that can put things in perspective, and find points of reference to make the entire experience interactive. 

Are you hesitant at all about Pluto’s launch given the vape cart crisis? 

We had been working on this long before that, so this is kind of bad timing really. But regardless of the vape controversy, Pluto is a quality product with no added botanicals. We’re focused on high terpene extract that allows you to experience chosen strains. And right now, we’re focused on the Hanu Stone being our chosen vaporizer.

Who’s your target audience?

At first, I was targeting my generation, digital generation millennials, and that’s been spot on. I also got some older folks at the show [HOF] really relating to the art work. I was enthralled to see it was going well with older generations, and bringing fun back to cannabis. 

Speaking of older generations, what does your dad think of Pluto’s launch?

He’s ecstatic for me. He saw the booth and the line...and I gave him a look, and he started shedding a tear. It’s been really beautiful. 

That’s so great, especially considering it sounds like he’s had a bit of a rough go.

Yeah, for sure. As a small cultivator who’s older, he’s been pushed out of the industry. No one wants to hire an older cultivator, and there’s no room for a small cultivator nowadays. We’re at such a different level now, and the attention and energy to manage the space is so different.

How do you think the cannabis industry could step up for folks like your dad?

It’s up to the decision makers to make room for the right people. Everyone is so focused on a quick win, they’re forgetting what a blessing it is to carve this space. Thinking about hiring, and how we can use these resources to contribute to the overall goodness for mankind. So I think we’ve got to put the right people in power and work with integrity. 

How do you envision Pluto interacting with the local community? 

I don’t have any partnerships locked in with nonprofits yet, but I’m really big on using cannabis as a platform to tap into a bigger conversation. Our homelessness crisis is insane, and I would love to do my work to give back and be a part of change there. That’s definitely on the map, and I want to be held accountable to that. 

Where can people get Pluto?

You can get Pluto at our Gen!us store on Melrose that opens up mid-October. And now we’re working through distribution of select shops we’ll be working with, and very soon, you will be able to purchase it online. 

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