Jef Tek has a long list of different careers and trades prior to getting into the cannabis industry, but weed has always been part of his life. Originally from Chicago, he spent years in San Diego as a grower before moving to B.C. over a decade ago.
“I’ve always believed in the plant and been enamored with it,” he says. “And I never had any problems with it, or got in trouble with the cops or my parents. I was in the army for two years and never stopped smoking pot.”
The first time Jef discovered “homegrown” weed was in the early eighties in Kentucky, while serving in the army. He was fascinated with the idea of growing and cultivating on his own. “All my friends were into drinking and later got into cocaine, but I was just always into weed,” he says. That passion led him to experimenting with cross-breeding strains and learning new growing tactics. He eventually perfected the Afghani Bullrider, now an award-winning strain that’s widely known and commonly referenced across pop culture.
Since Jef started growing in the nineties, he really has seen it all in the weed world. “I smoked some Afghani Bullrider with David Crosby,” he boasts. “He was the go-to legend in Hollywood and I smoked with him in a hotel in Vancouver, with a towel stuffed under the door and blowing smoke out the vent… It felt like I was in high school again [laughs].”
“I couldn’t get over smoking weed—my weed—with David Crosby!”
— Jef Tek
Jef met his late wife, Michelle Rainey, a cannabis advocate and icon of the industry, while he was living in California developing strains. “She called herself the CEO of Cannabis culture,” he says. “She was really political. She wanted to be an MP, and Prime Minister one day. She fell in love with me and with one of my strains: the Afghani Bullrider.”
Seventeen years ago, Jef gave away everything he had and moved up to Canada to be with Michelle. She was an icon in the cannabis industry at the time and a medicinal marijuana advocate. She also suffered from Crohn’s disease and was fighting cancer. Cannabis had a profound effect on Michelle’s health, providing relief and allowing her to function on a daily basis.
Afghani Bullrider was the particular strain that would prove to help the most with her symptoms. Jef had grown out several different clones along with the AB. After harvesting the plants, they were drying on the line when Michelle walked in and singled the AB out. “She absolutely fell in love with it,” Jef recalls. “Michelle was so proud of it. She loved the strain and it really helped with her Crohn's disease.”
Michelle passed away from cancer in 2010. “I became a Canadian citizen and received my citizenship in the mail the same day she died,” Jef says.
Jef’s attention to soil mixture, organization of his grow room, and the harvesting and curing processes are core to his small, focused, and time-consuming operation. It’s a long and limited production, which is why buying some AB can be tough to find when you need it.
“Even today, people think that weed is all the same.”
— Jef Tek
“Even medical users think it’s all the same,” says Jef. “Maybe they know about indica or sativa and think they’re onto something, but they don’t know about strains.”
Jek suffers from chronic arthritis and Afghani Bullrider is the only strain on the market that has helped him. His partner at BLLRDR, Noah Shebib (of OVO fame), uses it to treat the symptoms he experiences from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Together with their team, they’re upholding Michelle’s dying wish of making cannabis more accessible to people like her who’d benefited and found relief through it.
With such a deep life history in the cannabis industry, Jef understands the challenges and opportunities of navigating today’s legal market. “It’s competitive, but people are competitive by nature,” he says. “It’s also really hard to bring a new strain to market and share it with people. It was the government’s job to make this difficult—it’s our job to make it easy and fun [laughs].”
“Michelle always wanted to get weed legalized. I never thought it would happen, and I definitely didn’t think my strain would be legal.”
Looking ahead, Jef will continue to lead the production of Afghani Bullrider and grow the BLLRDR brand in the legal market. Michelle’s legacy is a daily driver of everything he does to make cannabis more accessible and more widely accepted. “I’m really happy that we’ve got this far and I love to share what I’ve learned,” he says.
From now through June 7th, BLLRDR is donating 5% of their cannabis sales to Cannabis Amnesty, and Superette will match their contributions.