Don Morris and Aaron Yarkoni formed DNA Genetics in 2003, and the cannabis breeding endeavor quickly became a global platform for the duo’s vision—with roots in California and Amsterdam. This was well before cannabis legalization came to the U.S., but the fundamental goals were already intact. And friendship was a pillar in this new business they were creating.
Dave Crockett was a part of that, too. His third-generation family-run farm (Crockett Family Farms) was given the spotlight by his friends at DNA, and he helped develop cannabis cultivars that would change the California landscape forever. Now, fast-forwarding the narrative to 2019, the businesses are consolidating; DNA is acquiring Crockett Family Farms and expanding the reach of these cannabis breeders’ original intent.
“We became friends over the mutual love of the plant,” Morris tells Cannabis Business Times. “Out of just the simple fact of real recognizing real, so to speak, it was never really competition between us at all. … If Aaron, Dave and I could just sit in a lab somewhere and just crack seeds and make crosses and geek out on the whole ‘mad scientist’ part of it, that’s what we would all love to do more than anything.”
Early on in working together, the trio discovered a cultivar that had been grown when they were younger. It was Tangie, one of Crockett’s strains. He was just getting started, but Tangie proved to be a powerful cross of California Orange and a Skunk hybrid—a sativa-dominant strain that brought out the fruity flavors that hadn’t yet swept across the marketplace. “We released Tangie and Strawberry Banana under DNA for the first few years just to give it a bump and give it the nod, if you will,” Morris says. “It gave [Crockett] a global platform.” The friendship—and business partnership—deepened.
DNA continued to grow: building out greenhouses, consulting on business licenses, producing more cannabis under the California medical program and cutting licensing deals on Don and Aaron’s enticing genetics lineup.
Meanwhile, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the Tangie effect was in full bloom.
Crockett had been growing cultivars like Tangie and Strawberry Banana (a Banana Kush x Bubble Gum cross) and steering his perspectives on the market away from the OGs and the Kush strains that had been dominating California’s scene at the time. “It was crazy how it just took over,” Morris says. “The whole flavor vibration changed in the cannabis world, from this kush-dominant gas to this fruity, tangerine, orange-y, old-school flavor. It’s nice to be part of that pop culture shift.”
Morris and his friends find themselves at the nexus of another pop culture shift in cannabis now—with more U.S. states legalizing and a more mainstream consumer base finding its way to the plant that they grew up loving.
“With [other cannabis brands] kind of simplifying it down for the industry, it’s not helping anything,” Morris says. “It’s actually kind of taking something out of it, in our opinion. What we want to do is show that it is about brands, it is about authenticity. It’s not as simple as ‘calm’ and ‘relaxation’ and ‘excitement’ or whatever word you want to connect to dumb it down to the simplest form. … It comes down to terpene profiles and strain-specific situations.”
He references the power of sensory details, like how the fruity taste of Tangie came to define a certain era in the cannabis space—and, no doubt, came to define moments and memories in individuals’ lives. It’s that unmeasurable cause-and-effect relationship that he hopes to see DNA continue to hone, even as the maturing industry sprouts its consumer-packaged-goods ambitions. By bringing Crockett’s business into the fold, he sees strength in unity. (Crockett will now serve as vice president of cannabis operations for DNA.)
“We’re consolidating with the best brands and the best companies—and the best licensing deals outside of California,” Morris says. “As far as we’re concerned, with the static that is in the industry right now, it seems really strong for us to unify with other brands that are legit and completely real and authentic.”