Pebbles Trippet: The Activist With Her Own Legal ‘Standard’

There isn’t much clearer evidence of an activist’s impact than having a legal doctrine that expands civil rights and personal liberty named in your honor.

This is the claim to fame of the woman behind what a California court in 1997 designated as the “Trippet Standard.”

Sudi “Pebbles” Trippet was a lifelong activist even before her name was inscribed in the annals of California case law. As noted in a profile on the Emerald Triangle’s local news site Redheaded Blackbelt, Trippet grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and launched her activist career at the precocious age of 17, when she helped to de-segregate public restaurants and lunch counters with the local chapter of the NAACP. A few years later, she was at the very first national march on Washington D.C. to protest the war in Vietnam, with Students for a Democratic Society in April 1965. After some time in the San Francisco Bay Area, in 1970 she moved to Mendocino County as part of the back-to-the-land wave. In 1972, she joined the campaign for the California Marijuana Initiative — the state’s first legalization initiative, which won about a third of the vote.  

Years later, she would recall to “The Cannabis Trail,” an online oral history of the Emerald Triangle, her long years of “daily activism, against the war in Vietnam, against apartheid, against nuclear proliferation, against marijuana prohibition. Whatever the issue was, I was there to be a part of it.”

But the defining episode of her life began on Oct. 17, 1994, when a traffic stop by a local cop in the unincorporated community of Kensington, in the Berkeley Hills of Contra Costa County, turned up an estimated 2 pounds of cannabis.

Immortalized in Case Law

When Trippet went before the jury, she argued both a medical necessity defense, based on her use of cannabis to treat migraines, as well as a “religious necessity,” claiming protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The court didn’t buy it. She was convicted of possession and transporting of marijuana, and sentenced to six months. 

She of course appealed. And, as fate would have it, her case opened before California’s First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco on Nov. 4, 1996 — just one day before the state’s voters approved Proposition 215, the historic medical marijuana initiative. 

This opened up a new avenue for her medical necessity defense. She now argued, first that Prop 215 applied to her case retroactively; and secondly that the medical defense it codified necessarily implies a right to transportation as well as possession of cannabis —so both charges should be thrown out. 

On Aug. 15, 1997, the appellate court issued a partial ruling in her favor. It agreed that Prop 215 should be applied retroactively, and that it includes an “implicit right” to transport cannabis. Rather than overturning her conviction, however, the First District remanded the case back to the trial court for further consideration in light of its findings. 

The First District decision included the following language: “The test should be whether the quantity transported and the method, timing and distance of the transportation are reasonably related to the patient’s current medical needs… Because there is a possibility (albeit remote) that appellant can establish that the two pounds of marijuana she was admittedly transporting at the time of her arrest (or at least all of it above 28.5 grams) met this test, the trial court should… determine this issue on remand.” (28.5 grams is the decriminalization threshold in California.) 

And thus the Trippet Standard was born. 

Trippet argued that because she typically smokes five “fatties” a day to treat her migraines, and the stash she was busted with was mostly leaf rather than bud, there was a good argument that the two pounds was indeed for her own medical needs. The lower court actually declined to re-hear the case, and the charges were dropped. Although Trippet had already served much of her sentence before the appeal, in the end it was a legal victory. The Trippet Standard has since been applied in several other cases across California. 

‘Trust the American People’

This was but one of many legal battles Trippet has waged over her right to cannabis — a reality she has emphasized in media interviews over the years.

“In the ’90s, I thought, am I going to have to be on trial for the rest of my life?” she recalled to the Ukiah Daily Journal in 2009, noting that she was arrested 10 times between 1990 and 2001. 

In December 2017, NBC aired the documentary “Bay Area Revelations: Cannabis Rush,” in which Trippet was interviewed by actor Peter Coyote. A transcript of the interview is on the website of the medical marijuana journal O’Shaughnessy’s.

“I was busted 10 times in 11 years in five counties,” Trippet told Coyote. “It was usually on the road driving late at night. My Sonoma County bust came in 1990. My Marin County bust in 1992. My Contra Costa bust in 1994, and also the Humboldt County bust and the Palo Alto bust.”

Noting that her most important legal victory came on appeal, Trippet added that, paradoxically, “to lose is a good thing… because if you lose, you have the opportunity to win higher for everybody. That’s where you set precedent.”

Trippet continues to live outside the Mendocino town of Albion, where she remains involved in two local organizations that she co-founded: The Medical Marijuana Patients Union and the Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board. She is currently launching a Cannabis Elders Council, with an aim of keeping alive a community-rooted culture around the plant amid its commercialization by the industry. She’s also involved in the Cannabis Culture Museum, which will soon be opening in Willits, with a similar aim.

In a recent interview with the vlog Grow Sisters, Trippet summed up the democratic ethic behind her many legal fights: “My advice is to take it to trial, to trust the American people.        

TELL US, do you think cannabis is a medical necessity for you?

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5 Busted Myths of Today’s California Cannabis Consumer

decades, growers from Northern California’s Emerald Triangle — the area encompassing Mendocino,
Humboldt and Trinity counties — have been the epicenter of America’s cannabis

The Golden State had the first legal medical marijuana market with the passing of Prop 215 in 1996. Proposition 64, the Adult Use Act, legalized growing, selling and using cannabis recreationally in November 2016.

Thousands of cannabis businesses have emerged since, all trying to establish themselves in an already saturated and highly regulated market. The industry has seen unparalleled innovation and investment across categories like product development and technology, causing a so-called “Green Rush.” It has been predicted that by 2024, the California cannabis market will comprise 25% of the entire market for cannabis in the U.S.

due to the immaturity of the market, little data is available to help support
the industry. In order to help shape product development and strategic
decision-making, companies need to ask fundamental questions, like who buys the
product and what do they use it for?

help fill these knowledge gaps, NorCal Cannabis Company undertook a first-of-its-kind
study of California’s cannabis consumers. Using an online panel, the survey
questioned 1529 people and represents of all California cannabis consumers 21
years and older.

The result is Five Myths of Today’s California Cannabis Consumer.

Graham is the VP of Business Intelligence at NorCal Cannabis Company. He helps
the company make smarter business decisions using data. According to Graham,
they decided to carry out this research because “there were many fundamental
questions about the California cannabis consumer that were unanswered, so we
decided to conduct research on our own.”

to Graham, the most surprising thing he discovered during the research process
was that many of the preconceptions about cannabis aren’t true. So they decided
to group their findings into five myths:

: Recreational users
get high for fun, while medical users are focused on their health.

reality is, most cannabis consumers use cannabis for both recreational and
medical reasons.

: Women are an
emerging market segment of new cannabis consumers.

fact, women already use cannabis as much as men.

: A handful of brands
are dominating the California cannabis market.

truth is that no brand has achieved a significant foothold in the market.

: All Californians
have access to legal cannabis.

in reality, they don’t.

: Consumers are
migrating from dispensaries to delivery.

In reality, consumers want an omnichannel experience to maximize their experiences.

concerns us is the lack of availability that exists for regulated cannabis for
so many people,” says Graham on the finding. “The research shows how cannabis
gives relief for so many people for things like pain, insomnia and depression.
California voters approved the legalization of cannabis, but people still do
not have legal access throughout most of the state.”

believes that the study is important because it shows that cannabis helps with
“a variety of fundamental and important ways” and it isn’t a simple case of
‘recreational’ and ‘medicinal’

would like people to understand that many of the assumptions they have about
cannabis consumers, cannabis usage, and cannabis availability may be wrong,”
says Graham.

To read the NorCal Cannabis Company’s report in full, visit

, do you smoke Californian

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Who’s Still Standing in the Cannabis Industry?

When I look back to the beginning of the 2010s, to where the emerging world of cannabis stood ten years ago, it’s clear that we lived and worked in a whole other scene back then. In 2010, California’s Proposition 19 (also known as the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act) was an initiative on the November ballot, but it was narrowly defeated. Even though Proposition 215 — permitting the use of medical cannabis — was passed years earlier in November 1996, the citizens of the state were still not yet ready to go all the way. It took several more years to further break down the stigmas around cannabis, and we still have a long way to go.

Here in Mendocino County, I began growing cannabis for medical uses in full sun as soon as I could, with my partner Swami Chaitanya. In those days, we’d gather several scripts from various patients and grow a few pounds for each of them. I must admit that often the patient was not the only one to consume our flower, but they always got their fair share in return for the script. We were very much in the grey area of legality. But considering we’d all been complete outlaws before, this was a huge step.

It was in 2014 when the first cannabis political organizations began to form in various California counties. Slowly, farmers were willing to come off their remote mountain ranches and began to speak up, knowing that if we did not help shape the future of legal cannabis in our state, there would be no future for us in it.

It was a bold step when we formed the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council that year. Meetings were held at least once a month, often at the local grange or at AREA 101 in Laytonville (home of The Emerald Cup). None of us were very good at setting up official organizations, so plenty of time was spent figuring out simply how to write a mission statement and create by-laws. We spoke about marketing our county’s fine cannabis, talked about influencing our conservative Board of Supervisors and shared growing and sales techniques. Plus, there was always news and gossip about who got busted recently and the price of weed on the illicit market.

In retrospect, I realize that very few of those farms that were involved back then are still in the business. As the harsh reality of coming into compliance became more evident and people saw the full costs it would entail, many began to back off, either retreating to the “traditional market” as we call it now, or quitting altogether. Growing cannabis has always been a transitional business, but this was different. Many of the original growers, the real “OGs”, were packing up and leaving, while upstarts were entering the scene with glorious dreams of easy fortune.

We welcomed one and all, although at times we felt a twinge of jealousy over the farms that had enough financial backing to make a big impact. Once brands came into being, many of the big guys who drove the giant pick-ups and lived high on the hog pushed their way in, as if to prove they had it all wrapped up. Others showed up from all corners of the globe, ready to take on huge investments and be winners in the cannabis game. Enormous numbers were tossed around with ease, and many thought they’d strike it rich in the Green Rush.

Taking the long view at the close of this tumultuous decade, the picture is coming into focus. Several of those big players, who took in massive investments based on convertible notes, are facing insurmountable debts they cannot repay. They may have built recognized brands, but without enough licensed stores to sell their products and exorbitant taxes that keep many consumers going to their dealer down the street, they are at a loss. Suddenly the pipe dreams of fame and fortune are literally going up in smoke.

So who remains in the game at this point? It is at the big cannabis events where the shift becomes most evident. Sadly, we see very few actual farmers anymore at industry events like the Hall of Flowers or cannabis festivals like the Emerald Cup, and forget about finding a farmer at MJBiz. Mostly the companies present are large corporations who can afford to spend $100,000 for a slick booth and the staff to work it. No longer does a customer get to meet the farmer in person, smoke a joint and hear stories about growing weed. Now it is all about the sales pitch and the glitzy packaging, not much different than if they were selling cosmetics or packaged foods. The personal touch is gone and has been replaced by classic consumerism.

I am happy to report that there remain a few small cannabis brands, such as Om Edibles and our Swami Select, who have survived because we have stuck to old-fashioned farming and production methods and, just as we grow our crop with organic methods, we do the same with our businesses. We continue to live simple lives, truly caring about the quality of our product and getting it into the hands of those who will truly appreciate and benefit from it. We may not be able to afford a fancy booth at an event, but we are there in person to share our authentic stories of the past and our dreams for the future.

We will continue to advocate to change unworkable policies, so that the day of full legalization will come and its benefits will be widely shared. The 2010s was a decade of making a new mold, and for some, breaking the old one. For the brands that carry on with integrity and faith, there remains hope. Not to say that only the small companies are good — there certainly are some large brands which are doing it right. But time is bound to sort out the greedy ones who only saw the money from those of us who truly have a passion for the plant and its magical products.

As we head into this new decade, we pray for peace and understanding to blossom, so that our planet may survive. We have learned a huge lesson over the past 10 years and feel ready to enter 2020 with great hope for advancement on many levels. It won’t be easy, but it’s bound to be interesting and a challenge well worth the effort if it brings pure cannabis to those who need it. That is our mission after all.

TELL US, do you feel pushed out of the cannabis industry?

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