Higher Profile: Shannon DeGrooms, Founder, This is Jane Project

As Shannon DeGrooms often shares, it took a gun to her head to try cannabis for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), often referred to as Childhood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But her story really began with a lineage of trauma, with DeGrooms eventually healing herself with the plant, now helping to heal others—as is so often the case.

She came out to her mom and stepdad late in life, at 27 years of age, at a Chinese restaurant.

“It was our tradition to read the fortunes out loud at the end of the meal, and when it came to my turn, instead of reading my fortune, I said, ‘Mom, I’m dating someone and its a woman!” she shared. “I had dated guys, but never really felt safe with them. I was always falling in love with my girlfriends. After I announced, my mom asked, ‘It says that in your fortune cookie?!’”

DeGrooms founded the This is Jane Project to help other women who may be in the same situation as she, trauma survivors—with women across the female spectrum helped emotionally and physically, with emotional support and a compassionate care program that provides access points to cannabis for those in need.

“After I was helped with the plant, I thought to myself, there must be others like me who need to know,” DeGrooms said. “I needed to challenge the stigma of medicating with cannabis for women and non-binary women. Many of the groups already established offering help are well intended, but have extensive applications that can be triggering, and we get that.”

Courtesy of This is Jane Project

Righting the Wrongs

DeGroom’s own CPTSD began due to childhood sexual abuse by a close family member.

“The person who sexually abused me smoked weed everyday,” she said. “I was told my abuser did these things to me because they were on drugs. So, I grew up thinking if you did drugs you would harm people.”

Born in South Carolina, her mom moved her and siblings to New Jersey when she was 14. That same year, she tried smoking cannabis, but didn’t really enjoy it—blaming peer pressure for the experience.

“It made me feel uncomfortable, but at the time, I didn’t understand what anxiety was,” she said. “When I was 17, I began a life of clubbing in New York City. I found solace in underground nightclubs—realizing now I was re-traumatizing myself by being promiscuous and dancing professionally. I was handed a modeling contract after being picked up off the street, but I chose drugs instead.”

Her clubbing life lasted for 10 years, until she was 27 years old—never doing the work to ease her pain or deal with her trauma, with Ketamine and ecstasy her daily doses, merely numbing the pain.

“Everyone from my school counselor to my therapist tried to help me, but I was too smart for them—or so I thought,” she laughed. “I was prone to fighting and depression, and while the drugs didn’t really help, they helped me cover everything up.”

She gives credit to Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in helping her tap into her inner strength and do away with the drugs.

“I got clean in rehab and stayed clean for 10 years,” she said. “I was Miss NA, indoctrinated. I read all the books, sponsored other women. Being clean was my life and my identity.”

And then, in 2016, she was hit by a car while walking down the street where she lived in Oakland, California, and everything changed.

“I had a few surgeries for different reasons,” she explained. “But the reparative surgery on my nose from doing drugs was botched, leaving me with a super bacterial infection of e coli and klebsiella combined, chronic sinus issues, and no septum. I didn’t recognize myself and I couldn’t leave the house for seven months. Then, the day I was finally able to go out, I was car-jacked.”

The assailant held a Glock pistol to the back of her head, while leading her to the middle of the road. She thought she would die right then and there.

“He took my purse and the car,” she said. “The car was found days later, but the immense trauma that followed kicked up everything I hadn’t dealt with from my past, and then some.”

To add to her trauma, the thief, who still had her keys and her address, came back to her home, tried to take a second car, failed, and ended up vandalizing the car instead.

“In 48 hours I moved to Los Angeles,” she said. “I was suffering when a friend suggested I try cannabis for my PTSD from the incident. I said, no way was I doing drugs again! But I tried it and it opened up a whole new world for me.”

In time, she went up to Humboldt County in Northern California—cannabis capitol of the world—and her friend, Dave Stanley, who farmed cannabis, taught her about the plant and being a farmer.

“I’ve been up several times since, helping with the crops,” she added. “The cultivar Sunset Sherbert changed me. I was awoken, felt productive, and it motivated me to create the This is Jane Project.”

Courtesy of This is Jane Project

Cannabis in Recovery

Her doubts, on the other hand, told her the NA people who had supported her all these years would think she was crazy to add cannabis to her recovery program—and they did, accusing her of “using” again. Even though the plant helped her immensely, she lost many NA friends for this reason.

“I needed to destigmatize the plant, not only for the greater good of so many suffering, but to show people in recovery that the plant could be the right choice for them, as well,” she concluded.

The dominant terpenes in Sunset Sherbert are caryophyllene, limonene, and humulene. Rather than go with the myth of uplifting Sativa or calming Indica, it’s important to look at the terpene profile. That’s where the unique and helpful characteristics of cannabis are found.

Caryophllene has the unique ability to bind with CB2 receptors, relieving anxiety. Limonene is also found in citrus and is said to reduce stress and elevate mood. Humulene is also found in hops, which beer is made from, and has a relaxing effect. It’s also said to boost creativity and calm the mind.

Beneficial plants have fragrance. We are drawn to the plants we need to keep us healthy, happy, and to create homeostasis in our bodies, or a place where illness cannot dwell.

DeGrooms
Courtesy of This is Jane Project

The Revolution is Trauma-Informed

The project began as a photo and messaging campaign for social media, documenting women and their stories, poignantly photographed in stunning black and white—denoting no gray area in this conversation.

Home gatherings became a good vehicle to help on an up-close and personal level, hosted in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn, New York, with more cities planned as donations come in. They talk, support each other, share stories, and do art therapy, among other healing modes of therapy.

Women and non-binary people with a lifetime of trauma have come forward, some with intimate partner violence, many with sexual trauma. One woman, who was stabbed 20 times, lifted her shirt during one gathering to show how grateful she was to be alive and for the Janes.

“Survivors seemed to be getting a lot out of the gatherings and the portraits being shared with their stories, but there was little support afterwards, other than the friendships and connections made. We took a hard pause just before the COVID lockdown and decided it clearly needed to be more than a social media campaign.”

After restructuring into a not-for-profit organization, they added compassionate care, with companies donating products to be given in a program named Survivors Without Access.

“We also have free monthly Healing Happy Hours on the fourth Wednesday of each month, with Janes from across the country joining is on Zoom,” she said. “Nurse Heather Manus—who is a trauma survivor herself—also helped with cannabis, spoke to us on Post Traumatic Growth. We’ve had Mindful Movement Yoga seshes, talks on overcoming imposter syndrome, with much more planned.”

“This project has helped many, but it’s also helped me,” she surmised. “I trust myself enough now to stand in my own power to attract the right people into my life. We learn to tell the truth, especially if it makes people uncomfortable—even if your voice is shaking. Our voices and our truth can’t be silenced. In that respect, we are all Janes, and we can all move forward and heal together.”

For more information on This is Jane Project visit https://thisisjaneproject.com/

Follow @thisisjaneproject on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn & Twitter.

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Let’s Talk About Sexism, Baby!

Before I landed in my current vocation of writing about weed, I worked so many different jobs that it’s a joke amongst my friends. I was a deckhand on a salmon tender for four glorious summers in Alaska. I was a tequila shot slinger on the dancefloor of a nightclub in London. I got really good at putting a condom on a banana when I toured high schools to talk to teens about safe sex. I acted in plays—a favorite of mine involved me dancing with my dead husband’s ashes in an urn. I’ve been a production assistant, data entry clerk, server, nanny, dog walker… Basically, since I left home at 16, I’ve done whatever it takes to pay the bills. I landed a job writing about weed at this publication over a decade ago, and since then, I’ve been fortunate to make a living by covering cannabis culture, trends, and news.

I’ve gotta say, of all the industries I’ve worked in, the weed industry has been the most frustrating when it comes to something that is going to make some of you grit your teeth—in my experience, it’s a deeply unpopular topic. I’m gonna go for it anyway.

Ok, so, guys, sexism and misogyny! Ugh, it’s exhausting. Let’s call it S&M to be more fun! Listen though, this is real: no matter how much S&M makes you roll your eyes, it’s something we need to talk about, because it’s getting worse.

We’re living in a tense time in every regard, at every level of society. It can feel relentless. I can trace my perpetual anxiety about things being fucked back to November 8, 2016—the night that California voters legalized cannabis for adult use. I was new to L.A., and I was proud to cover the election results for High Times. And we all know the other major news from that night: ye olde pussy-grabber Donald Trump won the presidency. And a ton of people in the cannabis community celebrated his win! I was gobsmacked, along with millions of women around the country.

For the next four years, we got stories like “Why President Trump Is Positioned To Be Marijuana’s Great Savior.” Well, let the record show that Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions unleashed federal prosecutors by rescinding the Cole Memo, his treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin refused to protect banks doing business with the cannabis industry, and zero federal reform took place on DJT’s watch.

Why is this b*tch whining about Trump in 2022, you may be asking yourself? Because—hit that joint you’re holding before continuing to read—in addition to his being a racist POS, and perpetuating the Big Lie, research shows that Trump made society more sexist.

Let’s focus that lens on the cannabis community. When I started writing about weed, and working at Cannabis Cups around the country, plenty of women were crushing it in the industry. It was a heady, optimistic time. In 2015, Newsweek published a piece titled “How Legal Marijuana Could Be the First Billion-Dollar Industry Not Dominated by Men.” I worked with many of those women, and I include myself when I say that we were buoyed up by the possibility of the Green Rush being a fair and equitable space. We believed that the Brave New World of Weed wasn’t going to be dominated by the usual players, and we wouldn’t have to fight for seats at the table; we were going to build the table together, and pull up any kind of chair/throne/beanbag we wanted (click the link for outdated stoner stereotype LOLs).

But women haven’t gained ground in the cannabis industry; along with minority executives and owners, we’ve lost it. Last year, the percentage of women holding executive positions in weed fell below the average of other U.S. industries. “Industry experts suggest that competitive markets tend to favor businesses with white men in ownership and leadership positions, primarily because of their established access to capital,” MJBiz reported. “More executives from mainstream sectors are opting into the cannabis industry as a new opportunity, accelerating the increase of white men in power positions.”

And wow, some of those guys are big mad at women! Just last week the CEO of an Oklahoma company was so rattled by a sales rep from a cannabis job platform including her pronouns in her email signature that he replied: “I don’t communicate with ignorant c*nts that cannot figure out what a woman is. You’re a she/her/hers? Please die so God can rectify his mistake.”

This is what I mean by things getting worse. Guys like this Hatey McHaterson feel emboldened in post-Trump America. When I started out covering cannabis, there were plenty of things to work on as far as equality and representation went, but I felt hopeful. Fast forward to a few months back, when a dude commented on a story I’d written that he was going to stuff his nuts into my mouth to shut me up. I’m fine, but I think we can do better when it comes to holding guys like this accountable. (Also, threatening to stuff your nuts into my mouth to shut me up is a crazy move that shows you have no concept of teeth.)

Last night, I ended up at an industry party where I chatted with three young women about how they felt about their place in the biz. Each of them had a story of dealing with some absolute fucking sexist nonsense. And each of them said they’re sticking with working in weed because they love it so much. We talked about our hopes for the future of cannabis, and how we should get to decide what it looks like. It shouldn’t be dumb Boys saying “no women allowed in the grow room,” as was alleged in a recent lawsuit. We shouldn’t have to worry about bullying and harassment. Wouldn’t it be fucking awesome if we made the weed industry the most inclusive, forward-thinking, beneficial environment for everyone who wants a seat at the table? Well, we can! But we sure can’t do it without men. And if you men want to know what you can do to make things better, start by supporting companies that support women. You don’t need to buy weed from assholes!

If you’re still reading, and you’re mad about what I’m saying, hit that joint again. Know that I am not mad at men. I am asking men to be mad on the behalf of all of the women who expect and deserve more from this industry and community. It doesn’t hurt you when we all do well; we’re not coming for your stake in the game. We’re saying that we can build something that’s truly new, with you. LFG.

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Clinical Trial in South Africa to Study Efficacy of Psilocybin on Women with HIV and Depression

No matter how effective HIV and AIDS treatment have become in the so-called “first world,” the disease is still devastating in places like South Africa. Indeed, HIV infection represents one of the most serious public health challenges in the country. South Africa has the tragic distinction of being the country with the highest number of people infected with the disease globally and the fourth highest adult HIV prevalence rate according to UN statistics. A whopping 13% of the population is infected.

Further the demographics are different than they have been in Western countries. It is not a disease mostly of gay and bisexual men, but straight, Black women. In fact, women are twice as likely to contract HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Tragically, women between 15-19 years old account for 6 out of 7 new infections and represent 63% of the newly infected. In 2020, 4,200 women between 15 and 24 became infected weekly.

AIDS contributes to about a quarter of all deaths in the country.

Beyond the complications of AIDS, however, are two other large and looming problems.

About one third of all South African HIV patients are also comorbid with tuberculosis. Beyond this, mental illness, specifically major depressive disorder is a widespread and unaddressed problem. According to available data, 40% of South Africans living with HIV also suffer from depression and 60% suffer from PTSD.

Both of these conditions also appear to affect compliance with the retroviral treatments necessary to live rather than die with HIV.

Psilocybin as a Compliance Tool in South Africa?

A new study helmed by Cannsun, Africa’s largest existing commercial medicinal cannabis facility located in the Western Cape and TASK, a research organization focusing on communicable diseases, aims to understand if psilocybin, administered to this population, will treat comorbid mental illness—and as a byproduct also create better drug compliance with retroviral therapy. 

The study will build upon academic work published this year by Roland Griffiths, a pioneer in such research, which examined the efficacy of psilocybin over the course of a year on patients suffering from just MDD. The Griffiths study showed that psilocybin had substantial antidepressant effects which lasted about 12 months.

The South African study is innovative—and for several reasons beyond the treatment. This starts with its focus: Women are routinely underrepresented in mental health studies everywhere.

Each patient will be enlisted for a minimum of three months. The trial will last about eight. Researchers hope to publish the results in spring 2023.

Cannabis and Psilocybin—Psychedelics on the new frontier in medicine?

The trial is also interesting for another reason. Not surprisingly, the cannabis industry has become increasingly interested in other psychedelic drugs, psilocybin being one of them.

The first commonality beyond the modern move towards medical utilization, however, is also the disease at issue. For the last forty years, cannabis has been used by people suffering from the symptoms of AIDS and HIV—starting with nausea. More recent research has determined that there is a link between cannabis use and reduced inflammation caused by HIV.

The second is the new interest in treating major depressive disorder with psilocybin.

Using them together is also increasingly on the cards in modern medical inquiry about the effectiveness of both cannabis and psilocybin.

The reality is that people have combined the two compounds for centuries. In the modern context, a 2006 study found that nearly 60% of the 149 students surveyed used both substances.

Most of what is known about combining these drugs comes from anecdotal reports as there have been no formal trials. It is unclear how these drugs could be taken together to augment therapeutic effects of either.

The good news is that as cannabis reform progresses globally, expect to see more studies on both—individually, and of course, in combination.

MDD associated with major incurable medical conditions, as well as compliance, is an issue that exists far beyond South Africa. 

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Should German Cannabis Legalization Include Social Equity Set-Asides?

There is a great deal of excitement in the air aus Deutschland after the German newspaper Handelsblatt reported last week that the Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, wants to prioritize recreational cannabis reform as early as this summer. This after repeated rumors earlier in the year that legalization was in a legislative slow lane—after COVID, the Ukraine, and whatever other crisis was more compelling politically.

According to Lauterbach, not only has he changed his views about reform in the last year, but beyond this, he believes that the status quo actually does more harm than a properly regulated, legal market.

The question now becomes how this might be achieved—especially in a country where both the initial cultivation allotments as well as the monopoly distribution license for the same were allocated in ways that were highly discriminatory, if not problematic beyond this for other reasons.

Completely Resetting a New Normal

There are a lot of debates, and plenty of ideas, now swirling about the “best” form of reform. This includes how to allow dispensaries to operate and what form they might take. But one that has not been mentioned (so far at least) is the idea of social equity set-asides. And for whom.

In the United States, in part to compensate for decades of Drug War-instigated racial targeting and increased percentages of arrests and prosecutions for people of color, the idea of set-asides for these communities within the cannabis industry has been a part of the debate for most of this decade. It is slowly becoming a reality as more and more states sign up for reform. Here is the basic premise behind such considerations: People and groups who were unfairly and unduly targeted and punished by Prohibition should get a real opportunity to only reset their lives, but further, be given early support within this new legal industry to do that successfully.

In Germany, the dynamics are not quite the same. However there clearly are groups who have been disadvantaged for decades and might benefit from set-asides, affirmative action, special funding pools, and targeted hiring as the new industry becomes legit.

Here are a few of them:

German Jews (and their descendants)

Until 2020, most Jews who managed to escape the country during the Third Reich (and their descendants) were shamefully prevented from re-obtaining German citizenship by a variety of just post-Nazi-era Administrative Court decisions. These legal precedents barred most survivors from returning to the country at all—and discouraged their children from doing so as well. Beyond this, reparations were a pittance compared to what was actually lost. It was also Jews who pioneered early research into the plant in the 1930s as both they and cannabis were being banned from public and scientific life.

After a far-reaching immigration lawsuit decided by the Supreme Court (2BvR 2628/18) and the actions of the Bundestag last year to amend the Citizenship Act accordingly, that path to reclaiming citizenship is now open for the first time since the end of WWII. New cultivation, distribution, research and even set-asides for shop licensing across the country would certainly signal that the German government is finally beginning to accept longer term responsibility for rehoming this population and further giving them an immediate integration opportunity plus financial and other help to get a start in a lucrative new industry in their long-lost Heimat (homeland).

Other Ethnic Minorities

Germany is not the United States, but there is racism of the “other” kind here, and there is certainly a correlation, if even less studied, between arrests for drug crimes and the color of one’s skin as well as ethnic background. Certainly, upon legalization, such individuals should automatically have their records expunged, if not given special consideration for at least basic employment in the industry. This might include set-aside considerations for cultivation, distribution, B2C selling licenses, and even government funding.

Women

While there certainly are a handful of well-paid and senior women in the German and European industry, so far, the German government as well as the cannabiz has ignored the topic of gender equity almost completely despite the legislative mandate now in place for the country’s largest companies to at least create boards that are gender representative. This is especially true for migrant and ethnically diverse women and those older than 40. The vast majority of start-ups that have received funding, as well as all of the largest companies in the industry which have won special distribution and cultivation licenses all belong to white men of either Canadian or German birth. Further, those individuals are drawn from the upper classes and the elite.

The Long Term Unemployed

This is an exciting new industry. As recreational cannabis shops open in towns around the country, set-asides specifically dispersed via the Job Centers (where most foreigners and ethnic minorities also end up) could make sure that the most disadvantaged have a shot at employment, maybe even if “just” self-employment as an employer, and a new kind of training to get them off the dole and back into the workforce.

Cannabis Patients

Many cannabis patients have both drug arrests on their records, and of course, are generally poorer than the rest of the population due to having a disability and being discriminated or left out of employment opportunities as a result. Many patients want to try their hand at legal cultivation, and/or be part of non-profit distribution and sales efforts even if they don’t have dreams of going public with the German cannabis equivalent of Aldi or Lidl (not to mention BMW).

Legalization and Setting Standards in a World of GMP and ISO

This kind of deliberate diversity gets lip service in Europe generally and Germany most certainly. So far, there have been no concrete plans to address it within the legalizing industry. This was true of the public bids for cultivation and distribution. It also appears to be the case in early reports about how recreational dispensaries will be set up.

Here is how it could quickly change: GMP and ISO are quality and procedural standards that already guide the set up of the industry. If both were amended in practice to shoot for diverse workforces (that also included older employees), that would be a good start. After all, is a lab or distributor or dispensary really compliant in best practices if most, if not all of its owners, founders and senior employees are white, male, and under a certain age?

In a country where gender diversity, including on boards, is now the law, it will be intriguing to see how much diversity (and well beyond just gender) will be deliberately created for the industry—and how soon. Otherwise, no matter how exciting the incoming revolution, it will, per the status quo, look extremely male, pale, and elite here too.

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Judge Rules in Favor of Mother for Cannabis Use While Pregnant

An Arizona mother recently won a Court of Appeals case that determined she was not guilty of child neglect because she consumed medical cannabis to treat extreme morning sickness, and her child tested positive for cannabis shortly after being born.

The Arizona Court of Appeals judges ruled that it is not neglect if a mother gives birth to a child that has cannabis in its system, as long as she has permission from a doctor to use it as a medical treatment under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

The case, Lindsay Ridgell v. Arizona Department of Child Safety, involved mother and medical cannabis card holder Lindsay Ridgell, whose child was born in May 2019. Due to the presence of cannabis in her child’s system, the hospital notified the Department of Child Safety and she was placed on the Central Registry. Her child wasn’t taken from her, but her name would remain on the Central Registry for 25 years, which could possibly interfere with getting a job. According to Yahoo! News, there are over 81,000 names on the Central Registry, as of 2018 (the most recent data currently available).

Three judges, Judge Randall M. Howe, Brian Y. Furuya and Michael J. Brown, ruled on March 31. “The Director [of the Department of Child Serves] erred in placing Ridgell on the Central Registry. A person may be placed on the Central Registry if her newborn infant has been exposed to certain drugs, including marijuana, but only if that exposure did not result from medical treatment administered by a health professional,” Judge Howe wrote in his opinion

“The evidence shows that Ridgell was certified under AMMA to use marijuana medically to treat chronic nausea. The doctor who certified Ridgell’s eligibility for using medical marijuana knew that she was pregnant. Because the use of marijuana under AMMA ‘must be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician,’ A.R.S. § 36-2813(C), the exposure of Ridgell’s infant to marijuana resulted from medical treatment and did not constitute neglect under A.R.S. § 8-201(25)(c).”

Ridgell’s legal representation, Julie Gunnigle, worked pro bono on her case. “It basically says Lindsay was right all along,” Gunnigle said.

After numerous years have passed, Ridgell told the Phoenix New Times that she was relieved that the judges ruled in support of her case. “I feel so happy. A weight has lifted from my shoulders and I feel free,” Ridgell said. “This means a lot to myself and my family. I can finally go back into social work and hopefully earn a higher wage than I have been the past couple years, as well as find more fulfillment in work. I miss helping people, especially kids.”

Ridgell received a medical cannabis card 10 years ago to help treat irritable bowel syndrome. In 2018, when she confirmed she was pregnant, she was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, otherwise known as extreme morning sickness. The condition led her to return to the emergency room numerous times in order to seek treatment.

The court’s “facts and procedural history” notes that her child stopped breathing and needed to be resuscitated after birth. After nurses witnessed the baby’s “jitteriness,” he was transferred to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital for further evaluation. “The hospital performed a drug test, which was positive for marijuana, Buspar, caffeine, and Benadryl, and [they] diagnosed him with intrauterine addictive drug exposure,” the case record states.

Ridgell’s case garnered support from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction, and comedian Amy Schumer among many other doctors and advocates. Schumer in particular also suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, the symptoms of which are seen in an HBO Max series called Expecting Amy.

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Politicians Supporting Cannabis and Putting ‘Fools’ in Their Place

Today is April Fool’s Day. While we could tell you some fake story about how weed is falling from the sky, we’d prefer to go in a different direction. The cannabis industry has come such a long way, and rather than discuss the fools who are still pushing against cannabis, we’d rather celebrate those who continue to shine a light on the plant while calling it like it is, unrelenting in their efforts to expand access to cannabis across the board. Here are just a few political advocates who are shooting for change.

Courtesy of Gary Chambers for Louisiana

Gary Chambers, Running for Senate in Louisiana

Although Gary Chambers is not yet a member of the Senate, we’d be hard-pressed not to include him given his advocacy on the subject of cannabis, among other topics. He announced his candidacy in January this year with a video of himself smoking a blunt and talking about the harms caused by the War on Drugs. Most recently, he spoke at the Chamber of Cannabis in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 10 about the long-term imprisonment of Kevin O’Brien Allen for a cannabis conviction and his approach to politics. 

“I didn’t get into politics to be a politician,” he shared. “Most of the people who came into my community with a suit and tie was lying … I don’t talk the way that the average politician talks, and I don’t produce content to tell voters what our message is, in the way that [an] average politician does so. Because I don’t think it’s transformative, and I don’t think it works.” 

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Kathy Hochul, Governor of New York

Many politicians approach their jobs with a no-nonsense approach, and Kathy Hochul has made some waves in favor of New York state’s cannabis program. In August 2021, she was appointed as the state’s first female governor and vowed to launch the cannabis industry that former Governor Andrew Cuomo stalled. 

In a press release on September 1, 2021, Hochul confirmed her intention to make cannabis a priority. “One of my top priorities is to finally get New York’s cannabis industry up and running—this has been long overdue, but we’re going to make up for lost time with the Senate confirmation of Tremaine Wright as Chair of the Cannabis Control Board and Christopher Alexander as Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management,” she stated. Most recently, she also implemented a Seeding Opportunity Initiative on March 10, which sets a goal for cannabis sales to begin by the end of 2022.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

John Fetterman, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor

Former Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania and current state Lieutenant Governor, John Fetterman has long been advocating for cannabis legalization to help those who have been negatively affected by the War on Drugs. In May 2021, he questioned the country’s ban on the plant. 

“This isn’t controversial,” he shared on the topic of legalization. “Canada, the whole country has legalized, and somehow they managed to keep doing pretty darn well … they haven’t descended into anarchy, you know?” In an interview with Forbes in September 2021, he shared that cannabis legalization has “always been the right thing to do.” He’s currently running for Senator of Pennsylvania, the ballot window of which is approaching on May 17, 2022.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader

On the congressional level, Chuck Schumer is a familiar name with those following the many attempts to make cannabis federally legal. He introduced a bill for federal decriminalization in June 2018, and federal legalization in May 2019. In April 2021, he was done waiting for President Joe Biden to take a stance on cannabis and was ready to bring a cannabis bill to the senate floor. 

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.” As of February 4 while attending a press conference, he stated that he will once again focus on introducing another bill to tackle the issue this April. 

“In the coming weeks, we’re ramping up our outreach—and we expect to introduce final legislation. Our goal is to do it in April,” Schumer said at the press event. “Then we begin the nationwide push, spearheaded by New York, to get the federal law done. As majority leader, I can set priorities. This is a priority for me.”

Politicians
Courtesy of Shutterstock

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US House of Representative of New York

The initials “AOC” have been seen in many headlines since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez assumed her office in January 2019. During this time, she has been a vocal advocate on many issues, including cannabis and psychedelic therapies. In July 2021, she advocated for an amendment to allow the further study of substances such as MDMA, psilocybin and ibogaine as a potential medical treatment for certain conditions. 

In December 2021, Ocasio-Cortez and Congressman Dave Joyce introduced the HOPE (Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement) Act with the hopes of encouraging states to support cannabis expungement programs. “As we continue to advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, this bipartisan bill will provide localities the resources they need to expunge drug charges that continue to hold back Americans, disproportionately people of color, from employment, housing and other opportunity,” she said of the bill.

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Higher Profile: Sackville & Co. and Sackville Studios

Designers Hayley Dineen and Lana Van Brunt of Sackville & Co. and Sackville Studios bonded over their shared frustration at the lack of what they referred to as “design-forward cannabis products” to fit their personal styles.

“We were tired of seeing lackluster cannabis products and merchandise with little in the way of design,” Dineen shared. “We wanted to use items we could proudly display, not hide away as if it were wrong. We collectively feel that raising the bar in design within the industry will also help change the negative stigma behind this plant that we love and respect for its positive benefits.”

Dineen’s creative background includes studying fashion design at the highly selective Central Saint Martins, part of the University of the Arts London in the UK. 

Through Central Saint Martins, she worked on a collaboration with Vivienne Westwood and the United Nations’ ethical fashion initiative, going on to design for high-end brands including Yeezy and OVO.

“Crafting offers the biggest employment opportunity for women, globally,” Dineen explained. “Fair trade for luxury items with no middle-man to drain profits is important for their survival. I loved working on this project, because so many designers and manufacturers from the UK stepped up to help.”

Van Brunt’s marketing and branding expertise came from stints as a Director at both VICE and ATTN: media groups.

With years between them in high-end product development, they began ruminating on cannabis branding they’d feel proud to be a part of, with high-profile collaborations at the core of its model.

As noted at the top of its website, “We are a multidisciplinary cannabis design and production studio created by women who like to smoke weed.” The concept is simple enough, but in reality, Sackville Studios is the first female-run studio to build out major brands for companies in the cannabis industry.

Clients include Cresco Labs, with its Sunnyside dispensaries; Curaleaf; Miss Jones Cannabis Outpost(s), a curated site with locations throughout Ontario, Canada; and Miss Grass, a high-end, online headshop pairing curated offerings with designer accessories. 

Past clients include a sensual line for Playboy, working with them as stated on the website, from its dream stage to the launch of its smoking set, “to create products that embody the essence of Playboy,” and all that implies.

Last year Sackville & Co. partnered with rapper GZA from Wu-Tang, with a branded stash kit that includes specialty blunt wraps, a lighter, and a grinder. Sackville pledged to give 100 percent of these profits to the Last Prisoner Project, an organization led by Stephen and Andrew DeAngelo, helping to free and support cannabis prisoners from the failed Drug War.

The lighter quotes GZA, “I won’t hesitate to detonate; I’m short fused.”

“This past year the conversation around cannabis seemed to change, seeping into mainstream media,” Van Brunt said. “With publications like Vogue now giving the plant a mention. We are grateful, as it brings us closer to a more educated understanding of the plant by the masses.”

Barney’s of New York, Van Brunt added, set the stage for the mainstreaming of cannabis, with its ‘High End’ shop located on the fifth floor of its now defunct Beverly Hills location. No matter, the tone’s been set.

Courtesy of Sackville & Co.

Designing Futures

Not knowing what the world will be like in five years regarding cannabis, both women are looking forward to more collaborations, rather than endorsements, with high-end designers for branding, accessories, and fashion, with a few celebrities in the mix.

“There was lots of growth during the COVID lockdown in the cannabis industry, with many feeling comfortable to order online—especially since cannabis was deemed essential,” Dineen said. “International sales have been strong, but at home, Urban Outfitters has been the largest for retail sales, and this really helps to decrease the stigma surrounding the plant.”

Sackville & Co.’s line includes a variety of one gram cones; papers; a smell-proof, zippered stash; and three grinders: Signature, Gilded, and Pillar. All three grinders are golden with a sleek stacked design, all beautiful enough to sit on the coffee table. 

Its descriptor reads, “Remember that grimy-ass grinder your ex had in college? Well, this is not that.”

They’ve also released their own pre-rolls, teaming up with Goldenseed of Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz County, California, a legacy farm with proprietary cultivars, grown outdoors in the sun using sustainable farming practices.

“Our pre-rolls are infused using Goldenseed terpenes and full flower,” Dineen said. “We have two varieties, Beach Daze and Night Haze, one for daytime and a relaxing mix for night. Served up in our own stylish packaging, of course.”

Beach Daze is a sunny, daytime, lime-flavored Sativa hybrid created using Frozen Margy and Frozen Lemon Margarita, loaded with terpenes: caryophyllene, Limonene, Linalool, Humulene, and Myrcene. 

Night Haze is created using Bombshell and Miracle Alien Bombshell, with primary terpenes of Caryophyllene, Bisabolol, and Humulene, with fresh scents of pine and citrus. Its descriptor reads, “flavored glaze of creamy nilla wafers and deep notes of sweetness takes you on the dream side of life.” It notes that this hybrid can be used to relax in the daytime or to induce chill and sleep at night.

Sackville
Courtesy of Sackville & Co.

Walking the Talk

Both women were born and raised in Canada, with Van Brunt now located in New York and Dineen remaining in Toronto. This gives them the unique opportunity of seeing both sides of the coin via legalization in their home country and across the border.

Currently, they are watching and waiting to see if the U.S. Federal Government will follow Canada’s lead (and now Mexico to the south), and legalize the plant nationally. 

First, the U.S. must take cannabis off the Department of Health’s Schedule 1, where it’s sitting alongside heroin, with the misnomer of having no medicinal value. This is frustrating for them to watch for many reasons, firstly due to both women currently using cannabis as medicine themselves for real ailments.

“Like most people, I was first introduced to cannabis for fun,” Dineen said. “Then, in 2017, in my early 20s, I was rushed to the hospital with severe muscle spasms in my intestines. I couldn’t sit up for weeks with my gastrologist stumped as to what was causing the pain.”

Initially prescribed opiates, Dineen said she began experimenting with cannabis, first by smoking, then ingesting cannabis oil.

“This was around the time that Canada legalized as a country, so it was easier to source products,” she added. “My doctor was surprised when I shunned the pharmaceuticals, but said he was happy to hear I was getting better quicker than he expected. He said, ‘I can’t tell you to use cannabis, but I can see it was the right decision for you.’”

She was saddened that the doctor agreed, but still didn’t feel confident or knowledgeable enough to recommend cannabis at the time. Today, due to legalization, doctors in Canada are more aware of the benefits.

Van Brunt was also in her early 20s when she first partook, but by her early 30s she was using the plant purposefully for anxiety and depression.

“I enjoy edibles,” Van Brunt said. “It’s been an individual journey—almost an art form in finding what works with my body—what types of strains, what dose, what time of day. I spent a lot of time discovering, and cannabis has now become a beautiful part of my life in many ways.”

While both believe in cannabis, they also agree that it’s a fool’s errand making long-term plans in the cannabis industry.

“We are still waiting to see what the U.S. does to legalize the plant across the country,” Van Brunt said. “With our home country of Canada on board and New York finally legal, it’s been easier, but the challenges are still there federally in the U.S. We are just grateful to be in the space and to be able to create these beautiful designs to move the conversation along. That’s what good design does; it can start the conversation that can lead to positive change.”

For more information on Sackville & Co., visit: https://www.sackvillestudios.co/#home-section

For more information on the Ethical Fashion Initiative, visit: https://www.intracen.org/itc/projects/ethical-fashion/

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Women in Weed: A Guide to the Power Players (Part 1)

It’s March, and while that certainly isn’t the only month we should be recognizing the contributions of women and femme folks in cannabis, it’s an awesome excuse to recognize some of the best in the biz. Here are a few women who are doing some seriously cool things in the world of weed.

Ru Johnson, Owner, Roux Black

Courtesy of Glenn Ross

Ru Johnson is a consultant, executive producer and branding operations strategist, as well as the founder and owner of Roux Black Consulting. She also has a background working with hip-hop artists, nightlife, Red Bull and The National Cannabis Festival, to name a few. Johnson is dedicated to social justice and serves as a board member at Minority Cannabis Business Association.

“Stigma begets more stigma, so yes, there is a connection between stoner stigma and fat-shaming,” she explained to High Times in a piece on dismantling social stereotypes in 2021. “The idea that one’s body is ‘lazy’ if it’s bigger than the ‘average’—on many levels, that’s ridiculous, because ‘lazy’ is a term that engenders capitalism and is ableist at the root. I think we’re doing a great job of elevating the uses of cannabis beyond the standard ‘stoner’ stigma (lazy, ineffectual, brain-dead or foggy), and movements for body positivity also combat standard fat-shaming.

“Both sentiments take away agency and autonomy. We all deserve to do with our bodies what we will and to take care of them the best way we can with the resources we have. And for many of us, cannabis is a major component to that care.”

Katie Kinne, Vice President of Brand, Good Chemistry Nurseries

women
Courtesy of Good Chemistry

Kinne is Good Chemistry Nurseries’ vice president of brand, and has developed new social media and marketing teams. She works closely with community partners and organizations to magnify the brand’s founding principles of access and compassion. In addition to her work with the branding of Good Chemistry, Kinne is always exploring opportunities to further expand social contributions and community involvement in ways that are meaningful and authentic.  

“A few years ago, I realized that I wanted to work in the cannabis industry, and I wanted to be a part of a company with a great culture and a clear, forward-thinking mission,” she said. “I found Good Chemistry Nurseries and knew immediately it was where I was meant to be. Our senior team is diverse, with 50 percent of us being women.”

Dr. Rebecca Siegel, Clinical Psychiatrist and Author

women
Courtesy of Dr. Rebecca Siegel

Dr. Rebecca Siegel is a clinical psychiatrist and author of the newly published book, THE BRAIN ON CANNABIS: What You Should Know about Recreational and Medical Marijuana, a comprehensive and myth-busting guide on cannabis use and its effects on the brain. More importantly, as a physician who specializes in the assessment and treatment of anxiety, mood disorders, and ADHD with a special focus on issues confronting adolescents and young adult women, the book also addresses how to effectively talk to young people about recreational cannabis use. 

Kip Morrison, Owner, KMA PR

Courtesy of Kip Morrison

Kip Morrison is changing the way the media and in effect, the public, view cannabis. After more than 35 years in lifestyle PR, she pivoted her firm KMA to focus on the burgeoning cannabis industry—making KMA the first national cannabis PR firm in the United States.

She put brands like Lowell, Med Men, Henry’s and Platinum on the map, while navigating tough conversations like Vapegate, taxation and federal legalization. Her clients include testing labs, scientists, dispensaries and other players from all layers of cannabis. 

Sarah Aziz, Founder, Sundazed

Courtesy of Sarah Aziz

If there’s anyone who knows how to dream big, it’s Sarah Aziz. The Egyptian-American, LA-based entrepreneur is a long time cannabis advocate and lover of the plant. Aziz entered the male-dominated cannabis industry in 2021 with her flower brand, Sundazed. The line of pre-rolls delves beyond the surface of cute packaging and focuses on the customer experience.

“It has been an exciting roller coaster ride, especially given that we are launching during a pandemic,” she told High Times. “It comes with incredible difficulties to be a woman in such a male-dominated space. The fact that I will be contributing to a growing number of women executives in cannabis motivates me to continue my mission to create space for and represent our demographic in such a stigmatized industry.”

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‘Lady Buds’ Cannabis Documentary Inspires Two New Projects

Lady Buds is a 2021 film that looks deep into the lives of six diverse women in the cannabis industry, and the victories and challenges they have endured as entrepreneurs and members of the community. On February 23, it was announced on Deadline that Lady Buds’ success has inspired two more film projects.

The first project is being produced by Hellcat as a cannabis-related comedy feature, which has been compared to the 2011 film Bridesmaids. Hellcat was founded in 2020 by Pippa Lambert, whose resume also includes roles at Endeavor Content, WME, ICM Partners, and more.

“Women may not be the face of cannabis, but they’ve always been the backbone of the culture. Before legalization, 36 percent of leadership roles in the industry were held by women, and that number is now 22 percent,” Lambert said of the project. “These growers are as dynamic as they are diverse, and they’re truly inspiring. I’m thrilled to be bringing their story, a true and still unfolding David and Goliath tale for our times, to life on the big screen.”

The second project is a non-scripted cannabis series helmed by Wally Eltawashy for Yoruba Media Labs. This particular project focuses on one of Lady Buds’ featured women, Sue Taylor aka “Mama Sue,” in her daily life as a cannabis business owner, providing cannabis access to seniors and promoting her wellness groups.

Lady Buds was released in select theaters in November 2021, but the film will be available on Starz starting March 1. Director Chris J. Russo, the film’s director, shared her excitement for these new projects on social media. “I couldn’t be happier to know that my film Lady Buds is inspiring adaptations that will allow me to continue to support and tell the stories of these courageous, pioneering women,” said Russo. “Along with the exciting acquisition by Starz, which is the perfect home to showcase this film that explores women empowerment and social justice, it’s all a dream come true.”

The Lady Buds Instagram page also gave a shout out to the Lady Buds film team on February 24 for helping to create something that has inspired more female-centric cannabis content:

“It is a very big news day at Lady Buds HQ! I’m deeply grateful to the entire LADY BUDS TEAM who made this film what it is and who continue to push along its storytelling!!!,” the post states. “Thank you Producing partner Michael J. Katz, Cinematographer/Producer Christian Bruno and Exec Producer Shauna Harden for giving so much of yourself to the film and to the cause. Thank you to the incredible, courageous women in the film who shared their stories and believed in the vision!!! Here’s to all of the future “Lady Buds”-inspired stories we will be creating!”

Lady Buds explored a diverse cast of women in the cannabis industry, including Sue Taylor, Chiah Rodriques, Felicia Carbajal, Karyn Wagner and The Bud Sisters (Pearl Moon and Dr. Joyce Centofanti). Each of their stories challenges the general stoner stigma, as well as their roles as women in a male-dominated industry. According to an exclusive interview with High Times, Russo explained the importance of Lady Buds in the world of cannabis. “This film is kind of nothing like you’ve ever seen before because there hasn’t ever really been a film that’s showed such a wide range of areas that’s just like seeing it through a female lens,” Russo told High Times. “In my film, you explore the challenges of the entire supply chain with the women who are directly engaged in it. I like to make films that I want to see, so I want see more women in the positions of power in roles that are very positive.”

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Brand Spotlight: Moon Made Farms

“I’ve always been somebody who was a minority among minorities, being marginalized and also being attracted to marginalized subcultures. Rock ‘n’ roll is where I found my family, and in cannabis, I found another family.” Inspired by the “female expression of the most powerful plant on Earth,” her words, Tina Gordon of Moon Made Farms carved out a cannabis brand, and a name for herself, in Humboldt County, California. But it hasn’t always been this way.

“I was living in San Francisco for most of my adult life, and during that time, I was living a very underground lifestyle with art, music and playing in bands, releasing records, van touring, that kind of thing, for about 20 years,” Gordon said. “I was in a bunch of different punk and metal bands; I did a mobile soundstage, that kind of thing. And I used to do art shows, photography, video. I really dedicated myself to having a full, creative life, to live lean, and to live life to the fullest.”

However, after two decades living that lifestyle, things began to transition. After going through a band break-up and a career shift, she was looking for where to go next. Suddenly, Gordon found herself spending more and more time in Humboldt County instead of the Bay Area, first filming a documentary, then even dating someone in the area and realizing she wanted to spend all of her time there. She also fell in love with growing the cannabis plant, something she never would have tried in her previous life.

“Moon Made Farms acknowledges the feminine in this plant, the moon being a symbol of femininity. The moon has a regular schedule with subtle changes every, single night. So, sun-grown isn’t just about the sun; it’s about the moon and the night cycle as well.”

“I didn’t even have houseplants in San Francisco,” she admitted. “I was really urban. And then when I went through my first season in Humboldt, and I saw this plant grow from seed to full expression, I was completely captivated, and it shifted my awareness to the natural world and how incredible it is. The sensory experience of growing this plant changed my life.”

As she began listening to the earth and the plants she was growing, she started to realize how sacred the relationship between cannabis and grower truly is. Seeing how cannabis thrives when given rain-caught water, fresh air, full sunlight and all the other natural elements that can be granted through outdoor growing in the Emerald Triangle, Gordon knew she had a new obsession. Now, instead of making music and art, she’s all about growing the juiciest, most gorgeous buds. But she never left the social justice element behind.

Gordon started learning permaculture regenerative techniques and working them into her growing to develop more sustainable practices around producing cannabis. As an advocate for outdoor growing, she is always trying to learn more. And as a social justice advocate, she always tries to pull in queer folks, women and other marginalized people to work on her farm.

Photo Credit: Matthew Brightman

“I’ve always been somebody who was a minority among minorities, being marginalized and also being attracted to marginalized subcultures,” Gordon said. “Rock ‘n’ roll is where I found my family, and in cannabis, I found another family. And when something changes your life as much as cannabis, there is a responsibility to pay it forward, a responsibility to do activism work and social justice work and to help educate people about the true value of this plant.

Through education, she wants to make sure that the focus is on sun-grown and natural cannabis, a personal passion.

“Misconceptions about outdoor-grown flower are based on the industry standard,” she said.

“That started because of prohibition, when all the outdoor farmers were forced inside, so indoor farming became the industry standard. Now that we’re emerging out of prohibition, it just feels like the plant should go back outside. Now, during that time, some incredible advancements have happened. A lot has happened in the way of genetics and techniques around this plant, but I would love to see this plant go back outside, and for there to be extensive research done on the properties and potential of what this plant has to offer.

Photo Credit: Debra Keith

Now, Moon Made Farms is known on the market for producing quality, sungrown, sustainable cannabis that stands out from the rest, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and ethos that Gordon puts into her work. She’s also thrilled that she gets to revisit her musician days and sell merch for her farm, and she loves studying the growth cycle of the plant. As for the moon, to her, it’s a celebration of the feminine within the cannabis plant, the dark within the light.

“Moon Made Farms acknowledges the feminine in this plant, the moon being a symbol of femininity. The moon has a regular schedule with subtle changes every, single night. So, sun-grown isn’t just about the sun; it’s about the moon and the night cycle as well. This is a photosensitive plant. It’s sensitive to light. And that quality of light will affect the plant in every way, so one of the most important things about the plant being grown outside is that exposure to the night sky. And so, Moon Made Farms is acknowledging lunar farming techniques, an ancient way of cultivating all plants, as well as the symbol of the feminine that the moon represents.”

Read this story originally published in High Times July 2021 Issue in our archive.

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