Joe Exotic could be released from jail sooner than expected after a federal court overturned his 22-year sentence on Wednesday for his conviction in a conspiracy of murder for account and multiple violations of federal wildlife laws. But it doesn’t matter if Joe Exotic stays in jail or is released sooner, it seems his goal this summer is to get people screwed up.
Later this month, Joe’s Exotics, the old cannabis brand of a former zookeeper, will launch with Delta-8-THC products, including pre-rolled joints, gummy candies, and seltzer infused with cannabinoids, aptly named “Tiger Piss”, in 37 states. (Delta-8, the hemp industry’s most exciting and psychoactive compound, is legal for sale outside regulated dispensaries thanks to a legal loophole.) Later this summer, its brand will launch THC products: flowers, sprays and seals – in dispensaries in California with a view to expanding to Nevada and Oklahoma in the fall.
Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldanado-Passage, was convicted in January 2020 after being convicted of hiring two people to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin – she is still alive; failed plots and multiple endangered species law violations for killing and selling baby tigers. But this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10e Circuit ruled that Maldanado-Passage’s sentence was miscalculated because the trial court treated the two murder convictions separately. By not combining the two charges, Maldanado-Passage received a longer sentence than it should have.
“The district court erred in not consolidating the two counts of vicarious murder,” the three-judge panel wrote in its opinion.
Maldonado-Passage, better known to millions as Joe Exotic from the Netflix series Tiger King: murder, chaos and madness, said in a phone call recorded by one of his lawyers that the overturning of his sentence was “the best news I have had in a long time.”
His conviction has been upheld, but his case will be sent back to court for a new conviction.
John Phillips, one of the attorneys representing Maldonado-Passage, says he’s filing a dozen motions seeking a new trial. “We’re trying to get him out,” says Phillips.
But to pay for a new legal fight, Joe Exotic needs money. And that’s where his brand of cannabis comes in. Aptly named Joe’s Exotics, the brand is a licensing deal he made with Jason Hervey, who played Wayne Arnold on the beloved late ’80s sitcom. The good years, and cannabis brand entrepreneur Joshua Anderson.
Maldonado-Passage sold his likeness and nickname for a “healthy” lead and a stake in the business venture. Bradley Small, the entertainment lawyer for Maldonado-Passage, declined to reveal the financial data of the deal, but said the money would be placed in a trust and paid into his legal defense fund.
Joe’s Exotics will not be growing its own cannabis; he teamed up with Xotic Flavorz, a small-batch cannabis farm in Honeydew Valley, Humboldt County, California’s weed country.
“People probably thought it would be a fancy brand, but we’re really going to have some of the best cannabis in the state,” Anderson said.
The Joe’s Exotics brand is all about the mockery and taunts of rival and critic Carole Baskin. The company’s flagship cannabis flower strain is an index that contains 30% THC – mind-blowing potency – called “Baskinz”. On the packaging, a tiger is pictured urinating on a gravestone with the name “Carole”.
“The beauty of working with someone as iconic as Joe is that we can do it all,” says Anderson.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Tiger King has trolled Baskin. The feud between Joe Exotic and Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue, an exotic feline sanctuary in Tampa, Florida, has been going on for years. The judges of the court of appeal called the saga between the two of “rivalry made in heaven”.
Years ago, before ending up in jail for the murder conspiracy, Baskin spoke out against the Maldonado-Passage company, which accused visitors of petting and taking pictures with baby tigers. Baskin sent protesters to the events of the Maldonado-Passage road show and he retaliated by naming his show “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment” to mimic the name of Baskin’s shrine. She won a million dollar copyright infringement lawsuit against him, he filed for bankruptcy and then took to Facebook, where he posted a photo of him posing in a coffin with the caption: “I bought a Christmas present for my good friend in Florida. In another trolling post, he uploaded a video of himself shooting a blast doll dressed as Baskin with a gun.
The feud culminated when Maldonado-Passage paid one of his employees to go to Tampa and kill Baskin, court records show. The employee ended up partying and never committed the murder. The Tiger King was then introduced to someone who, unbeknownst to him, was an undercover FBI agent and he was ultimately arrested after he made plans for the man to kill Baskin for $ 10,000, according to the files of the court.
Small, Joe Exotic’s entertainment lawyer, said the wrapper was meant to be a joke and that he was happy the tiger was the one urinating at Baskin’s grave, not his client.
Hervey says the branding and packaging are ironic. “If she wants to be tight I guess the only thing I would suggest is smoke a little and relax,” Hervey says.
When asked if she had an answer to Joe Exotic’s trolling, Baskin replied that she didn’t care about anything other than her cats. “I stay focused on the goal, which is a world where all wild cats live in the wild, so Joe [Maldonado-Passage’s] jail taunts can’t live without rent in my head, ”she says.
Joe Exotic, who owned one of the largest tiger animal zoos in the country, is known for his outrageous stunts, but he takes cannabis seriously. He is a long-time supporter of legalization. In 2016, Maldonado-Passage ran unsuccessfully for President and Governor of Oklahoma two years later as a libertarian who supported the legalization of medical marijuana. (He passed out with the campaign brand rolling papers during a congress in 2018.)
The elephant in the room is that Maldonado-Passage is a guest of the federal government, and marijuana is still illegal under federal law. However, his attorney Phillips says he doesn’t see Joe Exotic licensing his name for a brand of cannabis as a problem. In fact, he sees it as a way to finance his release from prison.
“I totally agree,” says Phillips. “Joe has medical problems and no income, despite his fame outside. Anywhere he can use his name and brand to pay lawyers, get medical treatment and whatever he needs in prison, I support.