Only in Las Vegas could a parody Donald Trump Twitter account turn into a prime marketing tool for a cannabis entrepreneur. But the handle, with more than 300,000 followers, was one of many ways out-of-the-box thinking made Joe Vargas known as the “Don of CBD.”
The mid-40s, suit-clad businessman, who wears a close-cropped beard to go with his slick-back hair, looks more like a mafioso crime boss than a legal CBD innovator. And it isn’t by coincidence that Vargas is now serving over 2 million customers across the globe as the world’s largest CBD dealer.
Vargas, who says he spends 20 hours a day on his business, started BuyLegalMeds six years ago — just months after the U.S. Agricultural Act of 2014 opened the door for Americans to grow and sell hemp.
The company has now grown to offer over 80 different products on BuyLegalMeds.com and his hundreds of other websites — including the recently acquired CBDoil.com. He’s opened a slew of brick-and-mortar stores, too, including one on the famous Las Vegas Strip.
His newest invention, set to hit the streets in the coming days, could outdo them all.
A 14-foot faux blunt sits on top of “The CBD Truck,” turning red at the tip and blowing smoke when activated by the vehicle’s driver. The inside of the converted ice cream truck is tricked out to look like a mini-dance floor—similar to Sin City’s infamous nightclubs—and a glass display case lets people on the outside get a full view of the CBD products for sale on the inside.
When Vargas debuts the vehicle, the CBD Truck will be the first mobile cannabis store to hit public streets. Appropriately, it’ll also sell infused ice cream.
“If you would have told me I’d be doing this a few years ago, I’d have thought you were crazy,” Vargas said. “But there’s so much room for innovation in CBD and people who will lead the way.”
Just that Vargas has made it this far is a feat in itself.
Born in Southern California, he enlisted in the military after high school. He spent eight years serving in the U.S. Navy, but fell on hard times that left him living week-to-week in an extended stay motel.
A single dad who was broke and suffering from depression, he’d make instant noodles to keep himself and his two children from going hungry.
In the early 2010s, he caught a break in the nightlife industry and worked his way up from a low-level promoter to the CEO of his own VIP-hosting company. The money was good, but something was still missing.
His life changed during January 2015 trip to his home state, where an industry colleague introduced him to the growing business of hemp and CBD. Vargas had found his new calling.
“I saw it as my third life,” he said. “I wanted to help people and CBD gave me that chance.
He changed his phone number, dumped his nightclub clients and began acquiring catchy social media handles, like @weed, @drugs, @CBDoil along with the faux Donald Trump account. After months of research on CBD, he set up BuyLegalMeds.com and officially bid the nightclub industry farewell.
Vargas didn’t have to look far to get some of his earliest and most influential employees.
Nahtaly Vargas was just 16 when her father started his CBD business. A junior in high school at the time, she was commissioned along with her 11-year-old brother to help pack and ship the CBD goodies.
Vargas has since brought dozens of new workers, including a certified herbalist to help make his products “stronger and cleaner.”
Nahtaly, now 22, oversees the company’s factory as an executive. She deferred her dreams of being a police officer or veterinarian to help manage BuyLegalMeds and hopes to one day run the company herself.
“We were taking a chance at something we didn’t know too much about,” she said. “But it got easier over time.”
From his upbringing in Southern California to his days in the U.S. Navy and then working in the saturated nightclub industry, the Don of CBD said he’s always looked for ways to be different.
In hemp, Vargas says, he’s finally found that opportunity — and his calling. Besides being more lucrative than he could have ever imagined, CBD has allowed him to put his own personal spin on his products and serve millions of patients in the process. It’s connected him with celebrities and regular people alike from across the world, who regularly offer feedback and suggest different CBD concoctions to come up with.
Vargas says he’s happy to take them up on their word, having created more syrup flavors and new Delta-8 gummies among other items as a direct result of customers requesting them.
Recently married and having become a father to another child this year, Vargas could easily call it quits and retire—or at least cut back on the long hours. But he says his work’s just getting started.
“CBD is my legacy,” he said, “and I’m going to do this as long as I can.”
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