Yes, he did that.
Actor Jaleel White, famous for his cultural touchstone role as Steve Urkel in Family Matters, is entering the cannabis industry. Through a partnership with 710 Labs, White’s new cannabis line called ItsPurpl features variants of the popular cannabis strain Purple Urkle. It is set to launch on April 20, 2021. The brand will be on dispensary shelves in California, to start, potentially growing to more marketplaces in the future.
“The thing that always stood out to me was there no clear brand leader for fire purple weed,” says Jaleel White. “It made no sense to me, that no company of significance had claimed this lane, so why not me?”
How did this celebrity collaboration come about? Through friendship. 710 Labs founder Brad Melshenker met White on a flight, and the duo connected over their passion for cannabis. “710 has never been a brand that pursued celebrity deals or endorsements as our agenda has always been quality above all else,” Melshenker says. “We tend to let the product speak for itself. But over the years Jaleel and I became friends and organically our conversations developed into a project. He was on a journey to find the real Purple Urkel from back in the early 2000’s. Not only that, he wanted to find the most flavorful purple cultivars and had been collecting seeds with his friend Sean over the years just for this purpose.”
The series of Purple Urkle strains will be sold as eighths, vape pens with 710 Labs’ proprietary live resin pods, as well as Noodle Doinks, a fat, hand rolled joint that uses a fusilli noodle as the crutch.
“To smoke the end result from such a quality pod has been surreal,” says White. “I feel a little bit like Willy Wonka, the flavor came out so similar to grape candy.” The ItsPurple branding shows an ombre-purple Steve Urkel character on sleek black packaging. A limited-edition series of merchandise that includes a waffle maker, will also be available. People can sign up for product alerts through the ItsPurple website.
“Jaleel is a big fan of the Noodle Doinks and the Live Resin Pods,” says Melshenker. “The Noodle Doinks will come in 3 pheno’s of Purple Urkle and of Stefan, and the Live Resin Pods will come in Mendo Purps x Zkittlez to start, which by the way, is probably my favorite pod flavor to date. It’s a straight candy flavor with a grape Big League Chew vibe on the exhale.”
“We only do collaborations that come from the heart, so this one made sense and we were determined to help Jaleel make it happen,” says Melshenker. “It took a year for us to find winners like Stefan (The White x Purple Urkle) and one pheno of the Purple Urkel that was up to our ‘keeper’ standards. Hunting for certain traits and genetics is time-consuming and challenging but it was worth it when it all came together in the end and the vision was realized.”
I spoke with White to learn more about how it felt seeing his legendary character immortalized as a cannabis strain, how long he’s wanted to enter the industry, and what cannabis does to inspire his creativity.
How long have you wanted to enter the cannabis space?
Jaleel White: It’s been years really. More than five at least. Friends and family always thought it was funny to send me bootlegged pics of myself featured on cannabis products in dispensaries across the country. A childhood friend from the second grade is the person I credit with making sure I went about things the right way. Every few months since at least 2016, a new businessman would come along with ideas that felt very exploitative of the Urkel character legacy and money-minded. My pal Sean would shut them down like a protective big brother. Only one other thing has taught me more patience than this process of getting to market, and that’s parenting my daughter, Samaya.
Has it been surreal over the years, especially in the last decade, to see Purple Urkle cannabis strains flooding into weed marketplaces across the country?
At first it was flattering but then it became frustrating seeing and hearing about Purple Urkle in the cannabis marketplace. The thing that always stood out to me was there no clear brand leader for fire purple weed. It made no sense to me no company of significance had claimed this lane, so why not me?
How long has this idea been in the works?
It’s tough to say really just how long I’ve been kicking around the idea of itsPurpl, years really. I’m just glad I didn’t jump at any of the earlier opportunities because this process with 710 Labs has felt fun and organic from the moment we really got started last Spring, 2020. And this entire undertaking really helped me feel productive during pandemic.
Tell me about this strain, the growing process: Have you been in the grow?
I’ve got a strain called Stefan which is Purple Urkle x The White. Then there’s the classic Purple Urkle. Purple Urkle is actually not an easy plant to grow nor is it a big yielder. I visited the Oakland facility throughout the pheno hunt process and learned to use my nose in the same way a winemaker relies on his/her sense of taste.
Cannabis testing: how many joints/bowls did you smoke for product testing in R&D?
When the Mendo Purps x Zkittlez sample pods were ready to be smoked, I took home like a whole box of forty or so filled pods. I got five pods in and I had to call my boy, Sean, I was fading. He smoked every single one in my garage that night and I took notes, which numbered plants were our faves. I can’t keep up with his tolerance. But needless to say that was one funny ass night in my garage.
Creativity and cannabis — have you consumed for creative endeavors, acting or writing, otherwise?
I actually prefer not smoke when I act. A lot of acting is about timing and you don’t want anything disrupting that. But when it comes to writing, that’s a whole different story. A good smoke sesh with some naturally funny cats can be just the creative spark you didn’t know you all needed. Beyond that, a good noodle doink before an amazing meal just makes everything taste that much better. Music for me is also greatly enhanced by cannabis consumption. Songs just slow all the way down and you hear every nuance.
It’s for sale in California to start, correct? Do you foresee a future where Purple Urkle enters other marketplaces? Where do you have your eyes set on next: Colorado, New York somewhere down the line?
Yes, California first. New York has always shown me a lot of love so hopefully it won’t take too too long to get ItsPurpl products to the Big Apple. I want every state in the union, to keep it all the way real. I envision product releases in Canada and Europe one day in the future. “One day” has a funny way of happening a lot faster than we imagine.
What products can consumers expect in the Purple Urkle line? Vape pen pod, cannabis, noodle joints?
Eighth jars of the real deal Purple Urkle was a must, right out-the-gate. Noodle doinks are my personal fave. Everyone I share them with in my inner circle freaks out over the rotini pasta filter. It’s so unusual, they’ve seen such a hand rolled joint before, the noodle filter never fails to spark conversation. The Live Resin Pods are still so underrated. My boy Sean and I got our hands on some Mendo Purps x Zkittlez seeds almost a year ago. We treated those seeds like gold nuggets in Sean’s home freezer until 710 put ‘em in the ground. To smoke the end result from such a quality pod has been surreal. I feel a little bit like Willy Wonka, the flavor came out so grape candy. Edibles are definitely an aspiration. But we gotta crawl before we can walk.