Local rapper Berner has become the Pied Piper of marijuana, with his Cookies brand now boasting 70 dispensaries globally, and he celebrated his recent New York Times profile by posting “I smoked a 10 gram joint in the @nytimes lol!”

Back in the early and relatively lawless days of legal medical marijuana in California, we all had a good laugh when a local Girl Scout started selling Girl Scout Cookies outside of a pot dispensary (she sold out in 45 minutes). This was an era where one of the most popular cannabis strains on the market was called “Girl Scout Cookies,” which led to an angry cease-and-desist letter from the Girl Scouts of America, and the strain is now generally referred to as just “GSC.”

And there is a local angle to that saga. The original Girl Scout Cookies strain was developed in the late 2000s under a grower for then-illegal SF pot sales impresario Gilbert Milam, who's better known by his rapper stage name Berner. And a lengthy New York Times profile traces Berner’s journey from illegal SF street dealer to the mogul behind the national dispensary chain Cookies, which now has a reported 70 locations in legal states across the world.

As seen above, Berner celebrated the largely positive NYT writeup by posting to Instagram, “I smoked a 10 gram joint in the @nytimes lol!”

We do have one of these Cookies dispensaries in San Francisco, but it’s not called “Cookies.” It’s called Berner's on Haight, and it opened in December 2019. But the SF Office of Cannabis would not let them use the name “Cookies” because the name might appeal to children, in violation of local cannabis laws. The apparel store down a few blocks on Haight Street called Cookies still operates under the name Cookies, and uses the ubiquitous cursive-script text that’s become a huge clothing brand among stoners.

One of the dirty little secrets of the cannabis industry is that nobody's really making any money, and the sky-high profits many had hoped for never materialized. But somehow, Berner is making money. A lot of money.

For humble beginnings in the early 2000s as a medical marijuana dispensary budtender in the Richmond District, and a career as a local rapper whose tracks marketed his marijuana supply, Berner now has an estimated net worth of $410 million, according to a 2022 Rolling Stone analysis. A Forbes article that same year tabbed the value of Cookies at $150 million.

As the Times profile points out, “Any of these figures would make him one of the wealthiest rappers in the world, without him having ever released a hit record or even one that most rap fans have heard of.”

How is Berner doing so much better than anyone in the legal cannabis racket? Part of that is that his wildly popular apparel brand is in a far less-regulated industry than cannabis, and in turn, people wearing that apparel promote the brand’s name recognition.

But more importantly, Berner does not actually own the Cookies dispensaries. He licenses out the name to dispensary owners, not unlike with a Burger King franchise, and the branding and color scheme are still used in each dispensary, even though they have different owners.

This arrangement has resulted in probably far too many lawsuits to count. Berner seems to get sued every few months, generally by angry investors who think Berner has been inappropriately enriching himself and his friends at the investors’ expense. Many of these suits have been dropped or settled, but these lawsuits do keep coming.

The Times does not mention this in their writeup, but Berner is also co-producing a movie being shot in SF right now called Splash City. According to KTVU, the film will be about San Francisco’s culture of "bippers" and car break-ins, and its trailer is seen above. This may further burnish Berners reputation as a man who has his hand in many “pots,” so to speak. But from the looks of the trailer, the film is unlikely to help San Francisco’s reputation.

Related: Watch: Hippie Hill Blazes Up in Smoke as Nearly 20,000 Stoners Celebrate First 4/20 With Legal Weed Sales in Park [SFist]

Image: @berner415 via Twitter