Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and usually the answers are like doctor, fire fighter, astronaut and etc. As they get older some of these dreams change into more obtainable positions. But for Speakeasy 710’s founder and CEO Josh Hartsel, Snoop Dogg said it best, “When I grow up, I wanna be a mother fuckin’ hustler.”
Every step Hartsel has made in his education and career since high school have been in our direction. When I say our direction, I mean to California and its glorious weed. “I always wanted to be in this industry, I was always pushing to be here,” he says. “I wanted to be on the west coast in California in the cannabis scene. I was always trying to get here, this has been a lifelong goal.”
Hartsel was born in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he attended Virginia Tech for synthetic medical chemistry and in 2011, obtained his PhD. Mentored by Paul Carlier, he developed a safe insecticide for bed net applications in sub-Saharan Africa for malaria working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He was then accepted for a position at UC Irvine in the public health department. While at UCI he started Delta-9 Technologies, a cannabis testing company in Santa Ana. The company tests weed for CBD and THC levels, pesticides, microbial contamination, terpenes, and other chemicals and components of the plant. CannaVest, a large company in San Diego started using him to test their products as well and he quickly became Director of Research and Development with them and left UCI. Shortly after that he won his first High Times Cannabis Cup and then won five more in a row.
“No one was making high CBD at the time,” Hartsel explains. “And we were the first person to get to crystal. No one was really selling CBD and we were already refining it into a crystal. So when we would submit it to the Cannabis Cups, there was really not any completion at the time.”
As Hartsel continued to succeed, Privateer Holdings, the largest private equity firm in the legal cannabis industry, offered him a position as their director of research and development. He taught them large scale production procedures and created all their testing methods, all before the age of 35. “When I went to UCI I really honed in on my analytical skills and then the other companies funded me to do it on cannabis,” Hartsel says. “They really helped me get the machines I needed to learn all these techniques.”
He met a previous dispensary owner named “Aloha Mike” Kelly, who is now his partner and President of Orange County-based Speakeasy 710, a discreet and classy company that makes THC and CBD tonics, a dab dispenser, terpenes, CBD Crystal, THC vape pens and cartridges. According to Hartsel cannabinoids have been known to have great therapeutic benefits for dry and itchy skin, so recently lip balm and lotion were added to the product list.
A sense of pride and satisfaction that spreads across Hartsel’s face as he describes the name and theme of his product. When he came up with the name, he felt the links to prohibition–and the discreet nature of a speakeasy establishment–were perfect. He also incorporated 710 because it’s the international smoking oil time (I didn’t know either) and when looked at upside down it spells “OIL.”
Density and a rich, golden color are clear indicators of oil’s high quality; stay away from anything dark and runny. Unlike many other vape pens Speakeasy’s will actually give you a nice high. And the pens are sturdy: when mine fell on a hardwood floor, the stainless steel covering the cartridge prevented it from shattering. That’s another reason to love Speakeasy: they always have the patient in mind.
In addition to creating effective medications, Hartsel is a patient himself and feels it’s unethical to get in the industry otherwise. “I always wanted to make a product that I wanted,” he says. It’s likely that will never change.