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Meet Ganja Skoden, a THC Drink That’s All About Friendship

How three buds came together to make Minnesota's first 100% Indigenous-, Jamaican-, and Samoan-owned brand.

Provided|

L-F: Kelly Sander, Richard Nicholson, and Leiataua Dr. Robert Jon Peterson.

Not to go all My Little Pony on everyone right out of the gate, but friendship is magic, and it should never be underestimated. Friendship is a community, it’s a vibe, and it’s a pure kind of love. And for Leiataua Dr. Robert Jon Peterson, Kelly Sander, and Richard Nicholson, the three buds behind the THC drink Ganja Skoden, it’s about creating something that brings people together in love. 

“We’re rooted in strictly positive vibes,” Peterson says. “One love. Not two loves or three loves. Not ‘I love you unless you're transgender’ or ‘I love you unless you're Black’ or ‘I love you unless you’re a lesbian.’ No. One love. It don't matter. Just one love.” 

But first came friendship. Sander and Peterson met at college 30-something years ago while Nicolson and Peterson met over a decade ago. When the three came together a few years back, the friends decided to team up on a creative venture.

“We come from all different backgrounds,” Sander says. “And it just really meshed on how we felt for one another as new friends, old friends—we just bonded. We knew we had something special.”

Hell yeah, friendship!

One product of that friendship is Ganja Skoden, a labor of love celebrating the trio’s cultural backgrounds: Anishinaabe (Sander), Jamaican (Nicholson), and Somoan (Peterson). The name is also a mashup of two worlds. “Ganja” is Rasta’s preferred word for weed while “skoden” may be familiar to Indigenous folks.

“I say ‘skoden’ on the rez,” says Sander, who grew up in northern Wisconsin. “When someone says, you know, ‘Let's go grab a beer, let's go grab whatever,’ we will say ‘Let's go then.’ Skoden. We talk a little quicker.”

The label itself is also a love letter to the three friends’ cultures. The turtle is a reference to the Indigenous origin story, where a turtle emerges from the water to gather soil and form the Earth as we know it. The colors, of course, are very Rasta. 

Ganja Skoden on FB

“The red is for the blood of the ancestors. The yellow is for the sunlight, the green is for the vegetation, and the black is for the Black and Brown people,” Nicholson says.

But before the label came the drink itself, and the group says it was very much a family venture, with their kids and partners trying THC-free prototypes until they found a flavor they all loved. Their sparkling lime margarita, featuring 5 mg of THC, launched about two-and-a-half months ago.

These days you can find Ganja Skoden in a variety of places, including liquor stores (Zipp’s, the Dabbler Depot), fancy bottle shops (Marigold), bookstores and head shops (the Electric Fetus, Milkweed), and, most recently, at venues like Owamni and Hook and Ladder, where they are the THC bevvy of choice for the Under the Canopy summer series. The gang reports that Ganja Skoden has been flying off the shelves.  

“On 4/20, we were the number two seller [at Zipps Liquors]–including liquor and everything,” Nicholson says. “They were like, ‘Congratulations.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

As for what comes next, the trio says they'll stick with their margarita flavor, which seems to be a universal hit, but they do plan to level up on the THC, with a 10 mg can in the works. Otherwise, they say they want to keep spreading the love and love for their cultures. 

“I feel we have an obligation to our ancestors. Kelly's ancestors, my ancestors, and Richard's ancestors have been promoting the herb for a long, long time,” Peterson says. “[Ganja Skoden] is a vessel for us to teach and speak to our culture and to share our stories, our backgrounds, and that positive vibe.”

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