Second Act

Why Actor Jim Belushi Traded Hollywood for a Pot Farm in Southern Oregon

The guy from K9 and Red Heat now sells the strain smoked on Saturday Night Live back in the 1970s in Portland.

By Hannah Wallace March 26, 2019 Published in the April 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

The first time Jim Belushi smoked cannabis, he was a teenager in Wheaton, Illinois.

“It must’ve been really good pot because I don’t remember,” he says. He does remember being busted twice for marijuana by Wheaton cops. “One time, it was marijuana. One time it was what we called Indiana ragweed. It wasn’t even weed. It was weeds!”

What a difference 45 years makes. Belushi—who went on to become an actor (K9, Red Heat), comedian, and musician (like his legendary older brother, John)—can now use cannabis whenever he wants. (Usually a mere 2.5 mg of THC before bed.) He’s also a cannabis farmer who cultivates six strains on a 93-acre property along Southern Oregon’s Rogue River. 

Unlike other celebrity cannabis CEOs, Belushi still nurtures his first careers. His Blues Brothers Band often performs at Harrah’s in Vegas, while his improv group, the Board of Comedy, does nationwide benefit concerts.  But he’s trying to spend more time in Oregon. “I’ve been getting totally sucked into this,” Belushi says.

Belushi fell in love with the Beaver State more than a decade ago; some LA friends had invited his family to vacation with them on their Southern Oregon ranch. “I went naked into the cold-ass [Rogue] river! When I came out, I thought ‘I belong here.’” He snapped up a 13-acre property in Eagle Point, Oregon (12 miles north of Medford), adding an additional 80 acres a few years later when a dear friend and neighbor passed away. He’s now a pillar of the community. After he toured Medford’s run-down 1930 Holly Theatre a few years ago, his rhythm and blues band, the Sacred Hearts, headlined a benefit concert to raise almost $200,000 for its restoration. He’s also fundraising to restore the Butte Creek Mill, a working flour mill in Eagle Point that burned down in 2015.

Belushi bought the land not knowing what he’d grow. “I was like, well, I’ll let J.D. [another neighbor] keep his cattle there. Maybe we should grow hay. Or I dunno, I’m from Illinois—corn or soy.” But that same year, Oregon legalized recreational cannabis; Belushi figured he’d give the crop a go. Belushi’s favorite strain is Cherry Pie, which he dubs “the marriage counselor” for its de-stressing effects. But the one that gets him talking is Captain Jack—known as “the smell of SNL.”

“Danny, my brother, all those guys—they were smoking that strain. That’s where all that crazy shit came from!”

Danny is, of course, Dan Aykroyd. Back in the ’70s, when Dan and John Belushi were both writers at Saturday Night Live, they smoked an Afghan strain grown by a man known only as Captain Jack. Dan, still a close friend of Jim’s (they sing in the Blues Brothers Band together) recently introduced him to the man himself; soon, a working relationship took root.

“Captain Jack has been growing that strain for 40 years. And now he’s growing it right now on my property!”

Belushi is on a mission to spread the gospel of marijuana-as-medicine. He believes in keeping his flower affordable—right now Cherry Pie sells for $9 a gram at Chalice in Portland—and has plans to open up a pop-up dispensary in Portland that would offer homeless and low-income people access cannabis for free.

It makes him sad that his brother, who famously died of a drug overdose in 1982 at the age of 33, didn’t live to see the legalization of cannabis in Oregon and elsewhere. John was an avid football player—a linebacker—and Jim now guesses that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

“I saw him have a seizure senior year. They couldn’t figure out what it was,” he says. John’s issues with harder drugs—cocaine and heroin—may have been an attempt to self-medicate. Aykroyd, Belushi says, summed it up best: “If Johnny was a pot-head, he’d be alive today.”

Filed under
Show Comments