The Conscious Farmer: CBN Cannabis

Jonathan Wentzel, 39, is the owner of Beija Flor Farms, a Mendocino-based cannabis farm. With a spiritual and environmentalist bent, Wentzel believes that cannabis not only helps to awaken consciousness in the human mind, but that farming cannabis consciously and sustainably can have a similar effect on the physical and spiritual health of the planet. In Northern California—where Wentzel was born and raised—the frequent forest fires press the urgency of these issues. When I asked him if he thinks humans are capable of turning things around at this point he said, “I’d like to think that we could be.”

 How did you get started farming cannabis?

Growing up in the Napa Valley, I was surrounded by agriculture. I come from a farming background. My family started growing small scale, a few acres of grapes, when I was in about the 3rd grade. We had chickens and grew some of our own food, too. I’ve always had an innate interest in the physiology of plants, what their functions are on a cellular level.

I just gravitated toward cannabis. Initially it was just the love of the plant and being around it. I started farming cannabis when I was in 7th grade. I didn’t smoke it, I just really liked the plant. I experienced a kind of mystical intimacy with it. It wasn’t really the smoking so much as the direct experience of being with this plant, the intimacy of sitting with a living thing and the vibrancy it gives off drew me into it. At that time in Northern California there was a mysticism associated with the plant, and there was a culture that went around it. I gravitated toward that culture, and found that it was conducive to spiritual seeking and the exploration of experience.

In what ways does your spiritual connection to cannabis—the “mystical intimacy” you described—affect the way you operate as a farmer in the now-legal California market?

We’re in a time period that’s an early stage of what I call “corporate cannabis.” We’re seeing the same sort of basic economic analysis that we see with other commodities. We’re all looking for the investor aspect, and some of these bigger companies are looming in the background.

Cannabis itself is fairly sensitive thing and it deserves a platform of respect, in my opinion. Cannabis has the potential to be an adjunct tool of working with consciousness. I’m using that term loosely, but [I mean] a coming together to deal with large scale ecological collapse. To deal with things that other generations maybe have not had to deal with. It seems that the generations above us have had a different experience, with resources and other things. In my position as a farmer, there’s an observation of natural systems and sensitivity to the earth. Within that context, it’s very hard to see catastrophic ecosystem collapse that we’re on the threshold of potentially experiencing.

I’m interested in farming cannabis naturally and sustainably. But, moreover, I’m interested to see the potential of sequestering carbon to grow it in a way that is conducive to spiritual growth and higher consciousness in a culture—so that it’s not just sort of a random variable that goes into large scale production that a whole lot of people put on their Wall Street portfolio. In my opinion that’s kinda the lowest potential of cultivation for cannabis, and not a complete respect toward the consciousness, culture, and natural evolution of the plant.

What kind of action are you taking on your farm to combat climate change and help heal the environment?

I’m developing plans for our farm and ranch in relation to carbon sequestration. It’s bringing the carbon molecule back into the substrate of the soil to enhance the microbiological life, and help foster we call a “living food web,” the indigenous food web of the soil, so to speak.

How would you describe the personality of the cannabis plant? If you were to anthropomorphize it.

It’s a really…Wow. Fascinating. It’s a really—wow. That’s a hard one to delve into.


The direct experience of something—the human experience—is an abstraction. It’s an intellectual abstraction and a beautiful personification of what that thing is. However, it’s to be treaded upon lightly, as it is only a human personification.

So, the direct experience is what we’re after. I think of the common phrase, “let the mystery be.”

However, we’re doing our work with this plant. It’s gonna be very individual for different people, but nonetheless it’s all truth. Truth is relative, in a way.

I heard you make blends that support spiritual journeying. What kind of thought and consideration goes into the blends you make?

With the cannabis I farm, one of the things I do is work to boost the terpene profile of any given cultivar. I’ll take a lower yield with a higher terpene content any day. In farming, I’m looking for the most complex cannabinoid profile that I can pull out of any sample or substrate or soil structure. That relates particularly to the entourage effect of the terpenes. They’ll have different balancing effects for people, and I think that’s really beneficial.

The other thing I’m big on is incorporating CBN into the mixture of your cannabis profile. For certain people, they’re over stimulated. They have a complex degree of psychological things they’re working out, or stresses. Maybe they don’t want to get completely blitzed. I find in a modern-day culture, not everyone needs a stimulant. We’re surrounded by stimulants: caffeine, florescent lights, the power structure grid. Some of these “degraded” cannabinoid blends are beneficial to people’s stress management. CBN is one compound I find to be really more conducive to relaxation. As with meditation practice or mindfulness practice, the first goal is to just be gentle with yourself. First, you get rid of the stress. Then you can go other places with it. But trying to go to level ten psychedelic voyaging when you’ve got six bills to pay and appointments to get to and the stresses of modern day life is not realistic for everyone.

Oakland Cannabis Spotlight

“Sis, it would be so dope if I had my own strain line, like my own, like it’s mine. They create it for me.”
-1st Lady of the West Coast

At the time, maybe just a dream. The history between black/brown people and cannabis has never been good in the United States, especially as it relates to cannabis/marijuana.

From being born 3 months early and weighing 2 pounds to being diagnosed with an invisible disability, this magical woman (who doesn’t use her real name for her cannabis work) grew through the mud—the war on drugs.

I think of her as a lotus flower—roots based in mud, the flower lunges into murky (did you know that murky is also defined as black and/or melanoid?) river water every night. Undeterred by the unfavored environment, it miraculously re-blooms the next morning without residue on its petals.

The 1st Lady of the West Coast was born in Oakland, CA, a city that is still impacted by the war on drugs. From 1998 to 2015, African-Americans were 90% of the arrests compared to the arrests of Caucasians, 3.91%. Of the 452 people arrested for marijuana offenses in 2011 in Oakland, 74.5% were African American, 13% were Latino, 5% were Caucasian. In 2015, African Americans made up 30% of the population but 77% of cannabis arrests, compared to 4% for Caucasians.

But this queen, shining in her purpose, did something amazing in 2016. The birth of Flotwckush, made the 1stLady of The West Coast the first black woman with her own strain and, following that, a full line: Flotwckush, Black Girl Magic OG, December Nights OG, and Shirley Ross OG aka SRG.

After being diagnosed with an invisible disability, doctors prescribed the 1st Lady Prozac and Abilify. Doctors experimented with multiple dosages, and though she reported concerns of lethargy, being unable to function, and cloudy thoughts, they insisted that the prescriptions were working.

Then, in 2004, in a backyard in San Diego, the 1st Lady of The West Coast consumed cannabis for the first time. She says, “I remember feeling ok, not stressed, not worried, not angry or upset but calm and relaxed, like my bipolar symptoms were disappearing. I noticed being more creative with cannabis.”

Her passion developed and grew into mentorships and partnerships with Duke of Erb Seeds, New Life CA, and A’esha Goins. She started Herb of Life Cultivation LLC, promoting the positive effects of cannabis with education and awareness. talked with the 1st Lady of the West Coast about her history and projects. We’ve edited the interview for brevity and clarity.

You were born in Oakland, CA, the birthplace of Zendaya, Mahershala Ali, and Mark Curry. Can you tell me about your childhood and if/how the war on drugs affected you?

I had a good childhood, raised by amazing parents who instilled great morals and values in me. I thank God for my amazing parents Velinda and Paul (it’s also nice to see my cousin's name, Mahershala Ali, and to be mentioned with him.)

The war on drugs made me a stereotype. There were times that I was forced to sit on the curb while my car was being searched for cannabis, and whatever else they were looking for. I would be let go, and then told to sit for 15 min before driving off.  This happened as recently as 2011 in Hayward, CA. The war on drugs created this. It’s sad to be stereotyped and judged for the color of my skin.

Can you share some insight into the types of struggles you face with your diagnoses?

I have bipolar depression [and was a] crack baby. I was born prematurely (3 months early) and weighed 2 pounds. Due to my diagnoses, I've experienced anxiety, depression, severe fatigue, lack of energy, thoughts of suicide, and high and low mood swings. Basically, feeling like a zombie—just stuck.

That day in 2004, what was the inspiration/push for you to consume cannabis for the first time?

Prescription medication, my kidneys, and overall immune system health. I remember my friend Diego asking if I wanted to smoke a blunt. I was very curious and wanted to try. We ended up going back to my house, my backyard.  What a lifesaver. It saved me from being on pharmaceutical drugs.

How does/did cannabis help you with those struggles in comparison to what doctors prescribed?

I feel depression-free and anxiety leaving me. I feel relaxed, calm, and free, like that scene in Waiting to Exhale when Whitney Houston (Savannah in the movie) exhaled. It was a life-changer for me. I’m glad I tried it because today my kidneys and liver are healthy, my immune system is healthy and not destroyed by [anti-]depressant medication.

How did you and Duke of Erb Seeds, New Life CA, and A’esha Goins connect? How did you all find each other?

The amazing power of the internet. I met Duke of Erb on Instagram back in 2015, He is a supporter of my music.  We officially met at Harborside in Oakland, CA 2015 when he blessed me with more than an ounce of his new strain lines for me to try.

I’ll never forget Duke asking me why I didn't have my own strain line. I remember I giggled and said “I was just thinking that, it would be an honor for you to make it,”,and we’ve been working together since.  It has been a blessing to work with Duke of Erb. He has a good heart and is a very hard worker.

I saw New Life CA on Instagram and was amazed by their work! I also liked that they are a black-owned business, and in the equity program in Oakland, CA. I remember reaching out and saying, “We need to get BlackGirlMagicOg into New Life CA” and remember Carlton responding saying it would only be right.

From there, we ended up meeting in Oakland, CA and ever since then we have been a team. It is a must for me to give back to my community and very important that I offer something that helps get people of pharmaceutical drugs and opiates.

I met Mrs. A'esha Goins at a cannabis event we both attended in January 2018. I was very amazed by her work and education, and what she has done in the cannabis industry. She is setting the standard in Las Vegas, NV and everywhere she goes. I followed her back to Las Vegas to show my dedication and interest in working with her. I'm so blessed to have her help me enter the Las Vegas market.

In previous interviews, you discuss Joseph Rezene and his guidance, can you tell me more about that?

Back in 2009, I ran into Joseph Rezene, at Harborside in Oakland, CA. He was budtender and grower. I would visit his grow rooms and he would share knowledgeable tips on cannabis growing. He recommended that I read the Marijuana Horticulture, The Indoor/ Outdoor Growers Bible.

When I did, Joseph blessed me with my 1st four clones to grow.  I remember my 2nd grow having about 35 plants, one of the biggest I’ve ever grown. Since then, I’ve been growing cannabis with his teachings/mentorship.

You not only work in cannabis, you’re also a musical artist and songstress. How do you balance it all?

My stage name is 1st Lady of the West Coast. I started singing at the tender age of 4 and writing my own music at 8. I’m a part of the iDrink family and have been working with the record label 880 Style Inc., for 18 years. I started my own label, 1st Lady of The West Coast Music Group, in 2017.

It’s not hard to balance because of the passion and love that I have for both music and cannabis. For me, they fit hand and hand.

There is still a lot of work to do in the cannabis industry to right the wrongs, what do you think should be the priorities for fixing those wrongs?

We should be seeing more minorities entering the cannabis industry as business owners and providing more services to help minorities with funding. There are struggles due to the war on drugs against minorities and more help should be provided now that we can operate legit businesses in the industry.

Looking back, what brings tears of joy to your eyes and what fills your heart with gratitude?

I can’t believe that I was 17, looking at the sky, and speaking this into existence. ‘I have my own strain line’—those words are so powerful! I spoke my life into existence. I stayed faithful and determined and didn’t give up. I’m blessed to be a part of the cannabis business. They told me I was stupid to think cannabis would work. Here I am today, to speak my truth about how cannabis saved my life. I’m grateful about making a difference in people's lives, saving people by sharing my story and providing knowledge about the medicinal benefits of cannabis. This is life.

You manifest your destiny. What can we look forward to next?

New strain lines are coming! Next up is BGMO f2 aka Black Girl Magic OG f2. There are also a few important developments that will be announced soon. Currently, we are working to provide the best education on medicinal cannabis.

All photos courtesy of Herb of Life Cultivation


Veronica Castillo is a writer/journalist, traveling the U.S. to cover all things cannabis. She's a passionate advocate and enthusiast—on a mission to educate, inform, and empower. You can find her work in Oklahoma Chronic Magazine and Cannasseur Magazine or follow her on Instagram and Medium




the feminist weed farmer

The [cannabis] industry is completely market-driven and overwhelmingly dominated by capitalist, straight, white, cis men. I love my straight white brothers, but I do not think it is fair that they have come to control this industry, especially because of the disproportionate incarceration of black and brown people for cultivating and selling pot throughout the span of the war on drugs.

–Madrone Stewart, in the introduction to The Feminist Weed Farmer

Whether you've personally felt it or not, many women, people of color, differently-abled, queer, and non-binary folks, and folks with other disenfranchised identities face more stigma and negative consequences in the cannabis world. Madrone Stewart has an idea that might help: more feminist weed farmers. In her book, The Feminist Weed Farmer, Madrone shares hard-earned knowledge gained from years of growing cannabis.

"After three years of working for nearly a dozen cannabis farms and doing everything from cooking for the crew to managing,” Madrone explained by email, “I was able to buy my own land and start my own farm. It all happened relatively quickly and I credit this to the strong and persistent encouragement of a friend of mine who owned his own cannabis farm. He knew how financially and psychologically empowering it would for me to have my own place and he believed that I could be successful. So by year four, I was putting everything I had learned into practice. In the subsequent few years I not only developed confidence in my cultivation skills, I was also able to evolve my intentions."

The Feminist Weed Farmer is a full-length adaptation of a cultivation guide the Humbolt grower first wrote for "friends who were going to help my farm but had never done it before," published by Microcosm in 2018. "I encouraged them to read Jorge Cervantes and Ed Rosenthal,”  she says, "but the vibe of those books feels like a mismatch for what we were trying to cultivate. So I wrote something for them which is heavily infused with my principles and my style of growing." What style would that be? Diversity. Inclusion. Empowerment. Support. "My friends are queer guys,” she says, “and I am a biracial cis woman. For the book I needed to make it more explicit that this guide was written to encourage all people to grow, especially those of us who might not have considered growing because people who we identify with don't grow."

In the introduction, Madrone explains, "I believe that in order to consume cannabis with integrity, we must derive our plant medicine from ethically responsible sources. The current cannabis market, which is a blend of black market dealers and corporate-controlled dispensaries, is completely market-driven and is not in line with feminist, environmentalist, or social justice values."

In the process of breaking down how to grow your own "mindful medicine”—including details on picking seeds, planting, and dealing with the soil, pests, and weather—Madrone emphasizes the importance of rebuilding confidence in marginalized growers and communities. Not to mention the joy and healing that cannabis can bring.

While in graduate school studying to become a psychedelic-assisted clinical psychologist, Madrone wants to destigmatize the use of cannabis and psychoactives as tools for personal health and wellness. "The [Feminist Weed Farmer] explicitly normalizes walking to the beat of your own drum," she says. "Even where growing is legal, there is a residual stigma against it, so it requires an inner-strength that empowers you to do this thing that some people around you might resist. I hope this book empowers all people to grow a few plants for their personal enjoyment. I also hope that this book contributes to the diversification of cultivators."

And if you can't grow your own, how do you support your local cannabis community? Madrone has a very simple place to start: "Say encouraging things!" she suggests. "Think encouraging thoughts! I would never have bought my farm if it were not for the constant nudging by a straight, white, cis male pot-growing friend of mine. Without his constant expression of his faith that I could run a pot farm, I would have continued to strictly inhabit traditionally-female roles within the industry, which are the lowest paid and most insecure."

She's not wrong. As of 2017, less than 20% of cannabis business across the country were owned or run by people of color and less than 30% by women. In an industry that has long left out marginalized groups, it's more important than ever for women and people of color to grow their own cannabis when possible.

"It is about showing love for the canna-women in your life," Madrone says, "by telling them that you believe in them and that you will support them if they ever need it."


Cyn Marts is an east-coast Boricua living on the west coast, searching for her own path through life’s bullshit. She spends her time practicing self-care, devouring pop culture, and working as a publicist and editor in Portland, Oregon. She writes a cannabis lifestyle zine series called Ganja Bruja and posts about it on her Instagram.

Aundre Speciale by Shalom Ormsby in Spring 2019

Aundre Specialé: love is the best business model

Aundre Speciale has surfed the wave of cannabis legalization from guerilla activism to recreational branding. Today she’s Director of a number of California dispensaries, including delivery partners CBCB - the Cannabis Buyers Club Berkeley, Abatin in Sacramento, and LAPCG in West Hollywood. And she’s collaborated with some serious plant scientists to launch her own eponymous brand of top-shelf flower.

It was a long struggle for Speciale to arrive at this moment, including time spent as a single mom in poverty, and repeat confrontations with state and federal law enforcement. sits down to interview her on a brown chaise in the back of an apartment near the CBCB dispensary in Berkeley. On a stool next to her sits a short, clear, glass water pipe she periodically refills with fragrant, citrus-smelling cannabis: Lemon Crush. “It's what our amazing friends at Molecular Farm won the Emerald Cup with in 2017,” she says.

Like hundreds of thousands of children in the United States, Speciale ended up in foster care from a young age. When we ask her how she got her start in cannabis, she explains: “I had been in group homes and was just pretty pissed off at the system, and met my neighbor, Jack Herer, and I felt like I got struck by lightning, literally.”

Jack Herer (1939-2010) was an energetic evangelist for legal hemp and cannabis. His thoroughly-researched book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, shared critical source material to, as Speciale says, “show what a racist, bullshit scam illegalization of cannabis was.” Falling in with Jack Herer in 1990 meant living on the road, traveling from town to town with petitions, tabling with cannabis books and literature around the country, and “educating people about hemp for food, fuel, fiber, fun and medicine.”

Speciale recalls when they were traveling together, Herer would go to Kinko’s late at night because he said everyone that works there at that hour is a stoner. “And so we'd roll in with a petition and a joint, or half a joint or whatever we had. And this big bus that said ‘Hemp Tour’ on it, and dancing bears and pot leaves, and they'd print us a bunch of copies of the petition.“

Working with Herer, Speciale developed a passion for street theater tactics to draw people in. She ended up in Sacramento where she volunteered with Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Founded in 2002, ASA took to the streets, battled in courtrooms, and lobbied in statehouses to bring legal cannabis to civil society.

Speciale says for one of her protest actions, she donned a grey wig and blocked an intersection in a wheelchair in front of the Federal Building.

My son would always be with me 'cause we didn't have any money for babysitters or anything. And so he'd be sitting on my lap and I'd have a gray wig on and somebody dressed like a police officer would [mime hitting me] with a baton. And I'd have this sign saying “I'm a medical marijuana patient!”

Besides activism, ASA also worked with early medical cannabis dispensaries to promote sound business and ethics. California voters had legalized medical cannabis with proposition 215 in 1996, but as Speciale explains, “There [were] no guidelines for us and so we would try to figure out: what's the best way to pay our taxes? What's the best way to ensure people are registered medical marijuana patients?"

Aundre Speciale by Shalom Ormsby in Spring 2019
Aundre Speciale by Shalom Ormsby in Spring 2019

This activism and outreach lead Speciale to open her own legal cannabis dispensaries. “We always told our people that every day you open the door, you're participating in civil disobedience. And it's the ultimate protest against the government: opening the door and serving the patients.” To Speciale, this kind of activism could ultimately lead to positive community relations. “Part of the activism was to open and operate well and pay your taxes, and be a good neighbor and be a good business.”

After an initial experience working with Health and Wellness Alternatives in San Francisco in 2004, Speciale set about opening Capitol Wellness Collective in Sacramento in 2005. Finding a building was a major challenge, since few landlords wanted to host tenants that could be readily raided by law enforcement. Capitol Wellness ended up across the street from the freeway next door to a vacant lot filled with trash, and first thing they did was to clean up the block.

In 2003, the California state senate passed SB420 to clarify medical cannabis rules. The law declared that medical cannabis “collectives” serving patients must be nonprofit, but didn’t specify many other operating strictures. So, Speciale and her team identified a building next door that could serve as a community center. “The rule I wrote is that we're a private membership collective and the fee to join was that you had to volunteer… or to even take a class.” They found retired people to teach life skills to young folks. They found people to mow the lawns of elderly neighbors. They planted flowers in the area. As stated in an article from 2010 in the Sacramento News Review, Capitol Wellness offered yoga (daily), tai chi, massage, cooking classes, fitness, spiritual, and life counseling. They had a chess club, book exchange, art therapy, veterans group, gardening, HIV/AIDS support group, guitar lessons, and “the ever-popular 420 bingo.” They had an apartment there and hosted people coming into Sacramento for cancer treatments. Aundre says, “It was a place of comfort, and cannabis was just part of it.”

Speciale ran her dispensaries her way, at a time when there weren’t a lot of women in the business. “It was a very masculine feel and so I really wanted to have a really female feel, like a motherly feel where everybody is welcome.“ Speciale says she filled her office with pillows. “People that wanted to come and do business with me would have to take off their shoes and come and sit on my silk pillows and talk business. A lot of times people would come in a little heavy or with an attitude: ‘Yeah, I got the goods’ and you'd get them to take their shoes off and the next thing you know, sitting on the silk pillows, these big, mountain men, sipping tea with their pinkies up.”

During our interview, Speciale repeats the phrase “Love is the best business model.” She remembers appreciative customers coming in to Capitol Wellness and saying to her "Man, the place down the street costs exactly the same and they don't do shit for anybody." Speciale cold-called the Sacramento Police Department and invited them to come in for a tour. They were able to show how the dispensary had helped to clean up the neighborhood. “It really started an amazing relationship with the government that we fostered.” Speciale reports this helped her continue her work around the state, replicating the model to help open and operate numerous dispensaries: Health and Wellness Alternatives (San Francisco) 2004, Capitol Wellness (Sacramento) 2004, Venice Beach Wellness Collective (Los Angeles) 2006, Abatin (Sacramento) 2007, Tahoe Wellness Collective (South Lake Tahoe) 2009, Cannabis Buyers Club Berkeley “CBCB” 2007, Phytologie (Oakland) 2012.

Speciale was eager to expand, but the threat of federal and local law enforcement made for challenging work. She lived in Berkeley and commuted to Sacramento to protect her child. “[At that time], Sacramento Child Protective Services had a rule that if you are even a medical marijuana patient, that was grounds to lose your kids.” In the Bay area, Child Protective Services didn’t have the same rules.

Now her two kids are grown and the cannabis business has evolved. With a spark in her eye and a lift in her voice, Speciale explains that she’s taken up branding, leveraging her decades of experience and connections to bring together top growers and manufacturers. Her first big brand is called Specialé. “Everything from the packaging on the outside, to the flowers on the inside: everything is special.” Her team sells product that won the Emerald Cup best in show, plus they have pioneered a number of remarkably high CBD strains, offering what Speciale refers to as “functional flower”—so you can smoke, find relief and still focus.

Aundre Speciale by Shalom Ormsby in Spring 2019
Aundre Speciale by Shalom Ormsby in Spring 2019

Aundre remembers debates from Jack Herer’s bus:

People would say, ‘Well, what if you legalize it and RJ Reynolds [the tobacco giant] takes over or something,’ or kind of what's happening now, all the big companies, and we'd think, ‘God, it'd be horrible, but probably the most important thing is let's just get cannabis. As long as it's clean, pure, good cannabis, let's get that in everybody's bodies and minds and then we can all talk about social policy.’ And I see it now, and it's just so wonderful to see everybody everywhere, embracing this natural plant.

Today recreational legalization in California means that it’s actually harder to be a non-profit, community-oriented cannabis business. The dispensaries Speciale has run have changed: “CBCB was familiar & friendly, it was small enough, we had classes, you could smoke there, it was a true community center.” What’s changed? She says, “[We] got busier, but also the city outlawed smoking [on premises] and that really takes away that community aspect.”

While full state-level legalization has brought on a new set of challenges, it has expanded the consumer base: Speciale says when she first opened her dispensary, only about 10% of the customers were women. “I think a big part is because there was a lot more shame for mothers and people were afraid to get their kids taken away, and now it's really close to 50/50, which is a wonderful thing.”

For all the regulation, commercialization and challenges of operating in this new commercialized environment, Aundre is ultimately awed by this moment: “When I was on the bus with Jack, this literally was a dream: that someday it'll be normalized and it'll be in stores, and it'll be available everywhere and grandmas will be using it and you know, and here we are. It's really cool.”


Justin Hall is a retired rogue tech reporter, perhaps the first blogger, an Editor of this blog, and the Chief Technology Officer of

empowering cannabis communities through design

Empowering local communities through cannabis graphic design and media, Savina Monet works out of Portland, Oregon, making magic with digital collages that feature bold, vibrant imagery of women, cannabis, and positive icons, heavy with flower patterns—from carnations and daisies to thick buds of cannabis kolas and broad sugar leaves. Over the last few years, Monet says, she has "carved out a creative niche in the cannabis industry as an artist and graphic designer."

"This started back in 2017," she explains, "when I was working at an agriculture software company and I was so limited design-wise. I had to have an outlet and I sucked at drawing so I started cutting out images on my computer and pasting them together."

Astral Works, inspired by the strain from pruf cultivar farms.

After discovering digital design as an outlet for her creative mind, cannabis naturally blended into her process and work. "Integrating cannabis was a no-brainer for me. I've been smoking since I was 16 and adding a marijuana plant in the middle of an art piece felt like a huge middle-finger to the governing authorities who couldn't understand cannabis was a medicine."

But the industry isn't exactly easy, and getting off the ground took a lot of networking and reaching out. "When I first started working the cannabis industry as a designer, I heavily relied on Tokeativity and The Oregon Cannabis Industry Meetup (OCIM) as networking events."

Monet's groovy portfolio headshot.

Then there was the added challenge of gender bias in the field. "Tokeativity was women-only, so I was able to meet a lot of great growers, distributors, processors, and more that were very supportive and understanding. OCIM is for anyone in the cannabis industry and has also been a great source of leads, but adding dudes into the mix just screwed everything up. I would get hit on constantly; I've had leads turn cold once they find out I was married; I've been told I'd never be able to accomplish a freelance career. After my second white male client I got the point, I'm going to work only with women- or diverse-owned businesses.”

In My Skin, inspired by the song I Like My Body.

Monet has done branding work and art commissions for canna-companies such as Sweet Cannabis, Tree Femme Collective, and GreenForce Staffing. Currently, she is working as the creative director for Mercatus Magazine, a business directory and storytelling archive dedicated to highlighting and empowering cannabis entrepreneurs of color. This summer they’ll be putting out their first publication.

"Mercatus first started as a collective for entrepreneurs of color in Portland,” Monet says, “put together by Prosper Portland. It has evolved into a network, a community, and a collection of stories from the diverse entrepreneurs of Portland. I'm most excited about the 20-page directory that will be at the end of the magazine, that lists all of the businesses featured in the Mercatus collective."

Why does it matter? Because cannabis has long been used as a weapon against communities of color, which has left some bogged down by excess stigma and risk. Interested communities without the resources or access to the industry that more privileged identities might have are basically starting with a cultural, financial, or social handicap. Others are afraid to even get involved in the industry at all because of that history of suppression, even now (just look up cannabis arrest statistics in states post-legalization). Programs and publications like Mercatus are so critical because small, diverse-owned businesses and leaders are often left behind or ignored in mainstream media, and it’s easy to feel intimidated in the industry.

The Future of This World is Female, inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"My hopes for this project," Monet explains, "is that it will encourage transplants of color that are still searching for their community to stay in Portland. Portland's whiteness can be intimidating for those with more melanin and when you don't find your people in the city, most transplants end up leaving and taking that culture Portland so desperately needs with them."

No matter who you are or how you identify, there are little things you can do as a consumer to help bring balance to the culture over time and support marginalized communities in cannabis. A big one Monet believes in? Listening and believing.

"Listen and value black and brown women," Monet says. "Culturally, white America has learned to silence and dismiss people of color when it comes to speaking on issues happening in and out of their own community. Stop trying to be their home girl and instead listen to our messages, our feelings, our thoughts."


Cyn Marts is an east-coast Boricua living on the west coast, searching for her own path through life’s bullshit. She spends her time practicing self-care, devouring pop culture, and working as a publicist and editor in Portland, Oregon. She writes a cannabis lifestyle zine series called Ganja Bruja and posts about it under her Instagram.

the poetic bruja and her weed

It is 2019, and culturally, we demand change. We crave diversity and new ideas. Boundaries of gender, sexuality, ethics, and power are being redrawn. And, within this redefining moment, there is a new vitality of women’s voices pushing forward with unstoppable force…

Anna Suarez is a debut visionary poet of empowerment. And for this poetic bruja, cannabis is her herb of choice—an essential step in her creative and spiritual processes.

Papi Doesn’t Love Me No More,” is a meditation of feminist spirituality and confessionalism. In her new full-length volume from Clash Books, Suarez writes as both witness and warrior. On the surface-level, her work addresses sexuality, loss, sex work, and abuse. Suarez identifies with the pain of women—all women. Yet, these poems contain lifetimes of knowledge culled from far beyond the “multitudes,” and even beyond the current zeitgeist...

In “Papi Doesn’t Love Me No More,” WOMAN is elevated beyond just being a gender, trope, or a symbol. WOMAN is a history, a being, a place, a landscape. These are beautiful poems, but they address violence, too. Suarez stares-down evil and refuses to back away. There is softness within the harshness.

In “Salome,” Suarez recognizes the women, demoralized by patriarchy and capitalism.

“...I see myself in young women. Lonely, tired eyes… dejected./They wear the tight black dresses. Pray they are paid./I need to make the electric bill this month, fuck….”

Later, in the poem, she envisions a place where scarcity, poverty, and dejection does not exist. In this re-vision, abundance replaces pain, and there is rest.

“...I want to come home. Perform a ritual while the moon’s/bloody harvest rains all over me, sleeping on the altar you/built. I will be sleeping under the willow tree, the lilacs./Then burn the money that belongs to my darkest self./I want to come home…”

By the end of “Salome,” the speaker owns her inner-darkness, her experiences, and locates repose within her own “home”— a place of safety within her body and soul. Money does not provide her peace. Peace is found within her own boundaries and desires as she accepts all the facets of herself.

From beyond her twenty-five years, here is the story of women. Of joy. Survival. And, of love and damage. In her poem, “Magnolias,” Suarez writes “...they should have told you/the body weakens over time,/we blossom before the/rest of the tree &/those brought to/life in pieces/must break.Suarez address pain like no other female poet.

I met Anna several years ago in a college women’s spirituality class— we were both searching. For love, inspiration, and the perfect shade of red lipstick.

As I learned about the history of the goddess alongside her quick mind and bright dark eyes, I felt her strength. Suarez’s sensitive intellectualism struck me intensely, but so did her down-to-earth Jersey-Girl ways. I was instantly won-over.

Anna Suarez is the hardest-working young woman I know, never one to deflect from her goals. It comes as no surprise to me that her first book will be released in June while she is at the precociously ripe age of twenty-five.


How do you identify?

Capricorn sun, Cancer rising, Virgo moon.

What communities are you a part of?

I’m a bit of a loner, but I have a wonderful community in Portland. We are all artists, witches, queers, stoners, and the kind of people who need to know your astrological sign before they can fuck with you. It’s diverse. I like having a lot of different cultural/social perspectives in my community.

How did this work find you?

I fell in love with fantasy: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and those weird dragon books you find at the Scholastic Book Fair in elementary school. I loved fairies and magical creatures. I began writing about that and often inserting myself in a fantastical narrative. I was an outcast, like the kids at Hogwarts. I felt at home in these stories. Kids in my class called me a spic, a weirdo, a satanist, a lesbian, ugly, poor… You name it. I was deeply depressed starting around age nine, and I found myself in my writing. Creating my own magical world was my safe space. I kept writing and it turned into a career goal, but even though my writing is deeply personal, there is still that little nerdy fantasy girl.

Your manuscript is confessional. Who are the writers that speak to you? Are you speaking back to them—or is your audience someone else?

I am speaking back to my favorite writers, but I speak to a lot of different people in my work. Anne Sexton and Anais Nin are my major influences. I speak to my spiritual guides, the artists who inspire me, my grandmother who showed me poetry, the outcasts, the weirdos, Latinas, sluts, stoner babes, witches, survivors.

Which writers/artists/musicians/creatives impact your worldview? Who influences you?

I started seriously writing poetry when I was sixteen. My grandma showed me Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. She told me they are her favorite poets. I felt a deep connection to Anne Sexton. My Grandma read me her poem, “Just Once” and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.

I found Anais Nin when I was 20 years old and I was never the same after reading Delta of Venus. I finally read Henry and June, which felt like I was reading my own thoughts. Anais taught me a lot about my erotic self and how to empower my sexuality.

How is cannabis part of your life?

Cannabis is one of the most important parts of my life. It's how I wind down at the end of the day. When I practice my magic, cannabis inspires my spiritual practices and opens my chakras. My aura is smooth like honey. I love cannabis before and after sex. I feel connected to my body as well as my partner’s body. Sensations are maximized.

How do you use cannabis to access your spirituality?

I am a practicing witch/bruja. I like to smoke a little weed before my rituals because I feel opened to the spiritual realm. Sometimes I experience anxiety doing rituals because you never know what you’ll open up, cannabis helps with anxiety and calms me down.

What strain(s) help you and why?

I only use indicas or indica-dominant hybrids. My favorite strains are: Obama Kush and Purple Hindu Kush. I find that they are the most creative indicas. I can fall asleep and have beautiful dreams or I can mix them with my green tea and write.

What are your preferred methods of cannabis use?

I am East Coast, so I love my blunts. Other than that, I love cannabis edibles, vapes, and bong rips. Though, I recently tried cannabis personal lubricant and it was… incredible.

How does cannabis use affect your mindset?

Cannabis is so multifaceted. I can be giggly, goofy, sexy, erotic, playful, creative, confident, and chill.

How do you use cannabis to access your poetry?

I find creative strains and take pleasure in smoking while I write. I develop a stronger imagination and connection to imagery.

Academically, you have a philosophy-based background. How does this interplay within your writing? What is this space like for you? What did you learn from this path?

My existentialism teacher gave a disclaimer that a lot of the texts we will read may trigger depression. He was very sweet about it and opened a space to confide in him about how the texts affected us. I had the opposite experience. I was empowered by the idea that “existence precedes essence.” I fell in love with semiotics and deconstructing language, specifically, how language is merely symbols. I wanted to decolonize and develop language in my work.  I continued with philosophy, which had a lot of bumps in the road as far as studying in a department so devoted to analytical thinkers. I guess you could say that analytical thinkers are sexist, racist white men, trying to justify human experience with logic. What did I learn from studying philosophy? That human experience is much more than logic and deductive reasoning.

If your life was a T-shirt slogan / bumper sticker what would it say?

“I can’t wait to go home, smoke weed, and eat pasta.”

You’re a “Jersey Girl.” What’s your favorite Bruce Springsteen song?

“I’m on Fire.” Hands down. That’s my go-to karaoke song.

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? Tomorrow?

I’m only 25, so I’m trying to figure that out. All I can see in my future are lots of flowers, cats, books, love, and of course….cannabis.


Follow Anna Suarez  on Instagram.

Anna Suarez’s “Papi Doesn't Love Me No More” is available for preorder from Clash Books. The book’s official release date is June 18th, 2019, though through preorder, the book ships-out in May.


Julia Laxer lives for the stories and writes in the afternoons from a messy desk in a rose-lit room in Portland, Oregon. She is obsessed with rose and oud perfumes, Lana Del Rey, and wants to eat all the peaches. She uses performance art and spiritual practice to explore archetype and ritual, and writes poems, essays, erotica, and memoir.






the stoner makeup queen

The first time I saw Shenekah Telles, I was in a captive, stoned audience at a variety show in Portland, Oregon. We all held our breath in a building of many faces. The July sun set, hot, streaming through the huge windows of walls built in 1915. Originally, the building had been a library funded on a Carnegie grant. In later years, the library was repurposed. It then functioned as an office for an anti-poverty agency concerned with juvenile justice. At one point, for two short weeks, the building was even a temporary “baby-clinic.” And, later on, it became a music studio. And tonight? A performance. Music and poetry from earlier still echoed. The Hallowed Halls had huge windows, placed high, to cull light from grey skies; to let light fall on pages. Those gone books left, but their energy of learning was alive, electric. I watched Telles—a makeup and performance artist and designer—onstage, in front of a mirror, as she discussed beauty and ritual.

Portrait of Telles by Katerin Johnson Photography.

Now, the building belongs to a historic registry. A library, with windows. The audience— we held our breath as she transformed. It feels like a church in there, and Shenekah Telles was doing it justice. I felt like I was at a giant sleepover— and now, the makeover!

Telles applied canary-yellow eyeshadow to her lids, explaining the motive for her aesthetic. She laughed, brushing-on pigment. She painted her face. Performing a “look.” Colors and palettes.

Almost done... Then, she shaved her eyebrows off. It was intimate, sweet, and shocking. Beauty rituals enchant me, and I saw her eyes. I don’t know her sign— should have asked— but, she’s a natural... Wide windows. Some people don’t need restraint; frames, or arches. It suited her. I loved the drama. Behind-the-scenes Telles works creatively as a stylist/photographer with Neverland Images and Kate Johnson. She dreams of art collectives and has logged long hours of theatrical design and costuming at Milagro Theatre/Teatro Milagro, Theatre Vertigo, Clackamas Repertory Theatre, and Oregon Adventure Theatre. Yet, what invigorates and piqued my curiosity is the way she sees her world— the world. She’s self-described “extra”— real. It’s not just theatrics, though. In real-life, she’s tender and spirited.

Instantly lovable, extra-lovable. She’s the type of stoner that you know has brilliant ideas when she lights-up. Telles is a master of image, in a way that feels natural and earthy, even though she often creates “otherworldly” looks. Portraying Cindy-Sherman-esque multitudes, in Kryolan and Ben Nye pigments, she shares drag-life personna experiments: makeup and hair styles (and even dances!) on Instagram at @shenwen. Her account is journal-like: open and sweetly raw. Perfect and beautiful, in that “truth is beauty” mode, with extra love to vulnerability. Pretty/ugly, and all that’s between-and-beyond. Beauty and strength. The world: her apt oyster; a captive breath... While, we are the audience; awaiting the razor-edge.

And yellow eyeshadow.

Is the world ready for Shenekah Telles?

It better be!


At Rose City Variety Show, I witnessed you shave-off your eyebrows in front of a crowd. What was it like to perform such a daring beauty ritual in public? What did you learn from this experience?

I had been really nervous before doing it, and I shared that with the audience. Everyone was so with me in that moment it felt like I had thirty friends right there with me supporting me. The experience helped reinforce that I grow every time I do something I'm scared of. I grow stronger and stronger every time I do... It was such an invigorating experience!

The ritual of makeup application fulfills many roles, and Instagram is the epitome of the intersection of public and private selves. Viewing your work— your many selves— your myriad of looks— it’s startling. You have a true ability to transform. What is it like to be a femme who creates private looks which are displayed publicly like this? How has this practice defined how you see yourself?

I am someone who really adapts to my surroundings and the people around me. I used to hate how changeable I am, but I've found how to embrace that and make it work for me. I always thought, ‘Okay, but which one am I? Who am I?,’ and it's taken me a long time to realize I am all of them. I am the bubblegum looks and dark necromancer looks. I am multifaceted and vast, and I don't need to be one thing... Posting these selves or characters for people to see, though, can definitely take its toll sometimes. Like everyone else, I can get too caught-up in algorithms and likes. I start to edit myself and that's when I try to take a break and step away. I worry too about my personal life getting misinterpreted. Like, if people make judgments based-off this fraction of my life I reveal. I go back and forth all the time between showing the truth of bad days or personal matters or whether people deserve or need to see that side of me. Will it serve me in the end?

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

As long as I can remember! I knew I wanted to go to college for theater by my freshman year of high school. I was reflecting on my past fairly recently thinking I was much more reserved and less expressive, but looking back, I've always been an artist. My bedrooms had shoes walking up my walls and paint cans dripping paint down them. I even had a hamburger bed!

What’s your connection to cannabis?

My connection to weed is complicated. It's taken me a while to find the strains and balance that works for me for my day-to-day.

What strains inspire your fierce makeup looks?

Sativas all day baby! Maui Wowie is a favorite for some bright, colorful, floral vibes. Durban Poison is my shit for spooky, dark lewks. Both get my feeling-in-that-right vibe.

What are your favorite things to do while stoned?

I love smoking and then just kinda letting my mind wander while I work. That’s usually how I end up coming up my next project. Getting stoned is pretty personal for me. I love getting high and taking a bath. And, if you want a double whammy, smoke while in a bath with some cannabis bath salts. Then get in bed and prepare to melt.

Your art has a message. What is it?

I feel like my art is about not taking yourself too seriously. I want it to be fun and just a little off. I want it to be absurd.

Your Instagram account is spectacular— it’s curated, yet genuine. How do you achieve this balance?

Wow, thank you! I think I am able to achieve that balance because it is genuinely who I am and how I live. I choose to live my life this way and I do it for me. I wear the silk nightgown to bed because it is what I’m happiest... regardless of if anyone sees me in it, or not. I have crafted my life into what I want it to be. My room is my installation, and I am my own art piece. I present to the world every day I go out. I run into trouble with this, though, because I start to question who I am and if I am crafting this life. Is it truly mine or something I just want to be? I’m gonna keep curating in the meantime, though.

If you could give advice to a young person who wanted to explore makeup artistry, what would you tell them?

There are no rules when it comes to makeup, so if you decide you want to draw some squiggles on your face then go for it! Society can be very homogenous so please bring your own unique style to it. Also, good makeup can be really expensive, especially when you’re starting from square one, so don’t worry if you don’t have the nicest stuff right away. As you build-up product, you’ll start to cycle some of the older stuff out.

How does cannabis use affect and inspire your makeup application?

Smoking before creating a look helps me turn off the rest of the noise in my head and focus. I get more in the moment and just apply the makeup without overthinking it and ruining it.

What are your favorite makeup products? What are some products you wish existed?

I love CoverFx Illuminating drops! Best highlighter I've ever used, and a full face requires a tiny dot. I swear by theater makeup lines like Ben Nye, Kryolan, and Mehron. They're great for more intense looks because the makeup is meant to hold-up under hot stage lights. I really wish there was mood-changing makeup! Like, I can just imagine how cool it'd be to have my full body painted blue and then I get angry or something and I suddenly turn red. Damn, now I really want that!

Describe your dream lipstick shade?

My dream lipstick would be a black lipstick with Vantablack so I could have the blackest black on my lips!

If a nail polish was named after you, what would it be called?

If I had a nail polish named after me, it would be the cutest, hottest pink and it'd be called BigClit Shenergy.

Your style is brave and bold, and it’s completely unique. You are cutting-edge. Portland is known for being a city defined by athletic wear and lumberjack-looks. How do you find the courage to express yourself in such a defiantly different way? How did you learn to summon this power within yourself?

I struggle a lot with wanting to be seen or not in my day-to-day life. I want to wear the things I like just like everybody else. My style just happens to be less common. I have a love/hate relationship with the looks I get because my anxiety can get the best of me sometimes. So, when I go out dressed-up, it's a rebellious act for me. It is me loving myself and saying “No, you have a right to be here and be yourself. You don't need to dim your light for anybody.” This music group Blood Orange has a great quote in one of their songs that inspires me constantly: “People try to put us down by saying ‘She's doing the most,’ or ‘He's way too much.’ But, like, why would we want to do the least?”


Julia Laxer lives for the stories and writes in the afternoons from a messy desk in a rose-lit room in Portland, Oregon. She is obsessed with rose and oud perfumes, Lana Del Rey, and wants to eat all the peaches. She uses performance art and spiritual practice to explore archetype and ritual, and writes poems, essays, erotica, and memoir.

the weed-trimming graphic novel

One Tray at a Time, a new graphic novel by the artist writing as Charlotte Burnam recounts the misadventures of a young woman who spent ten years as a weed trimmer and harvest coordinator on black market farms in Northern California. Drawn with clean lines and peppered with characters such as the hippy couple, “Mandusa” and “Sprinkle Galaxy” who promise to work poorly for a high wage, the graphic novel paints a humorous picture of life on the farms from the perspective of Burnam herself—a Chicago-born, hardworking child of Italian immigrants, whose background in no way prepared her for what she experienced in the Emerald Triangle.

Photo by Xochitl Segura of Charlotte Burnham's One Tray at a Time.

Charlotte Burnam is the pen name of the artist, who includes photos from the grow industry, hand-written grocery lists, journal entries, and other mixed media to flesh out the narrative. Though massive cultural gaps existed between her and the hippies she met on the farms, she ultimately left the industry with a certain affection for the lifestyle, and for the people in it. Burnam spoke with about her graphic novel and about her insider-outsider perspective on the cannabis industry.

How’s the launch of your graphic novel?

I’ve been having loads of fun with the novel, showing it to people and hearing them laugh. I invited a lot of farmers that I’ve worked with to the book launch.

Everyone has been saying, “That’s so true, that’s hilarious.” I thought some of the people (portrayed) in the book would be upset about it, but they weren’t. They were like, “You nailed it.”

What was the process of writing this graphic novel?

I’ve always been artistic, where I tape things into my journal—bus tickets, articles, doodles, all kinds of stuff like that. I brought new journals to fill up when I moved from Chicago to California in 2008 to work as a trimmer.

It was culture shock for me on the farms—everything was so different—and at that time in northern California there wasn’t good cell phone reception and I didn’t have social media or even a computer. No way to talk to my friends back in Chicago about what I was witnessing. So, this was how I got it down—all the crazy things I was seeing and living.

Photo of Charlotte Burnham by Xochitl Segura.

After working in the industry for about ten years, I realized that my job was becoming obsolete, and my owner was selling the property, so I had to make a plan. I started writing the book and finished it in about five months. It was fast, yes, but I had all the characters and stories in my journal already.

I drew my character specifically for the book, and so I had to face my own issues, like, “What do I look like? How am I representing myself?” I had never drawn myself before because I had always been in my journal doodling about what was going on around me.

Were the über-hippy characters in your book exaggerated?

Everything in the book happened. Like we would hire a caretaker and after a few days he would say, “Oh, I don’t have a driver’s license.” And I was like, “What?! That’s an essential part of the job!”

In Chicago, I worked at a bank for six years. You could be whoever you wanted to be at home, but at work—people came in, and maybe they had the sniffles and you’d be like, “Hey are you OK?” And they’d say, “Sure.”

But in California, if someone had the sniffles and you’d ask if they were OK, they would respond with, “Mercury’s in a really bad place right now, but I feel an overwhelming sense of belonging.”

How do you talk to someone you’re working with about their celestial place in this world? I just wasn’t used to how personal it was.

In the book, you show some of the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Can you talk more about that?

Women in the industry have to prove themselves so much more than men. I had to work harder, know more, show up earlier, be the last one to leave the site. If you’re a girl, people will think you’re just sleeping with someone, or you’re just good looking, and that’s why you have this opportunity. And I had to say, “No, I’ve been doing this a long time. I know what I’m doing.”

Once the industry started becoming more mainstream, men were like, “You can work my booth at the conventions.” When I had more experience than them, more knowledge than them, more money than them,they reduced me to the role of being a model because they just needed a pretty face to sell product. I was like, “Are you kidding me? I taught you how to make hash.”

What were the conditions like for you and other workers in the black market?

Work conditions are farm conditions. You’re working in the rain. The roads aren’t regulated, stuff like that. Farms can also be a dangerous place for women because if there is a sexual assault or rape, you can’t report it.

A lot of farms had outdoor showers, so if you were uncomfortable being nude in public—like let’s say that you were some Italian, Catholic immigrant child coming from Chicago to California—and you wanted to take a shower, you would know that seven dudes were about to see you naked. Also, men get up and pee right in front of you.

I was always in fear of being groped, touched, spoken to inappropriately. It happened a lot and there’s no one to talk to about it, no HR department to complain to.

Can you talk more about the theme of not belonging that pops up often in the book?

My parents are Italian immigrants, and they taught me to work really hard. It was important to them that I get a job and a mortgage and a car payment and a marriage and a child. And my friends started having children early, and I always—for some reason—didn’t want to have children. And I think that, right off the bat, for any woman to feel that way is radical.

With immigrant parents who didn’t speak English at home, I didn’t fit in with my friends growing up, either. I was eating different foods, doing different things. When I was with my friends, getting high or getting drunk, or whatever, I would also be in my journals drawing.

In 2008, when my boyfriend at the time asked me if I wanted to move to California, I said, “Yes! Let’s go!” But when I got there, I was like oh my god, what have I done? Go back!

In northern California, I didn’t look like anyone, I didn’t dress like anyone. I felt totally out of my element.

I was also inspired. I saw women who didn’t have children, who ran their own stores, owned art galleries. And I thought, wow.

But right off the bat, no one liked me. I didn’t like Burning Man. I was definitely an outsider in the hippy, weed-growing world.

I think it was my Chicago attitude, mixed with the artsy and creative side, mixed with my fiery female side. It scared a lot of people away from me. I would have a lot of women, especially in northern California, tell me to calm down, to be quiet.

But, not fitting in all those years has also inspired me. In the face of being alone, it made me say to myself, “You can do this, you got this.”

When did you realize that things were changing in the cannabis industry? 

In ‘09 or ’10, I started getting concerned about how fast the laws were changing. I witnessed dispensaries opening, being raided, closing, opening again.

I knew right then that it was going to be like alcohol. Weed wasn’t going away, and people were willing to spend money on it. The government was going to sniff that out, find a way to regulate it, control it in a way that was more beneficial to them.

And I knew that when California went recreational, that would be the end of the road. I knew I couldn’t compete with big business. Just like with alcohol (at the end of prohibition), the bootleggers’ work dissipated. And that was going to happen to me.

Photo of Charlotte Burnham by Xochitl Segura.

What do you think about the state of the industry today?

A lot of my friends are dwindling out of farming because of the price of permitting. The price of weed is also dropping dramatically. You can’t compete with the big dogs, because now it’s about quantity—just producing as much weed as possible.

I am proud that social media is bringing women together more. Organizations like Women Grow, Tokeativity, Grow Sisters, and safe spaces for women to get high.

I’m hoping that the safe spaces for women moves across the country, because it shouldn’t just be about fixing our dreadlocks and doing yoga and getting high. Where’s the stuff for my girls working 60 hours a week in Chicago? There are moms working their asses off just to get food on the table and they need to be able to relax and medicate in a safe space, too.

All photos by Xochitl Segura.



Danielle Simone Brand is a writer and a yoga teacher. Her articles and essays about cannabis, parenting, or spirituality (and sometimes all three) appear across the web. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children.



mc flow, the weed rapper

Wearing a crown and a cape, MC Flow took the stage at the Backdrop in San Diego on November 17th. The weed rapper, known also as Her Highness, Queen of Westonia, was hosting High Court—a recurring variety show that brings in local musicians and comedians alongside her own performances. Gifts of pre-rolls and tinctures were bestowed on Her Highness by members of the court, aka audience, in a comedic ceremony that brought tons of weed to the princess trope.

In her music, MC Flow blends intelligent rhymes about weed with a beat that makes you want to bob your head and light up a joint. The evening was a lot of fun—so much so that I can’t remember exactly how MC Flow ended up in a nun’s costume on stage by the end. But it was the kind of night that made you just want to go with the flow—pun intended.

I caught up with MC Flow to chat about her music, her passions, and—of course—weed.

Does cannabis help you creatively?

MC Flow: For some reason, lots of ideas have come to me when I smoke and get in the shower. That combination is magical. It’s about getting into a space that’s open to receive—whatever it is, whether it’s lyrics, or a concept, or an idea for a show.

I’ve heard people say smoking weed can freeze them, that they get too critical of what’s coming out, but for me, it’s definitely a creativity tool.

I’m curious to learn about some of your musical influences.

MC Flow: Growing up just outside of Manhattan, my parents took me to a lot of musicals—and I loved them. My brother got me into classic rock. Then I went to Jewish sleepaway camp and certain folk songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s were part of camp culture. We sang them every year, and those songs were a formative part of me falling in love with music. Ani DiFranco is a big influence—and has crossed the line into rapping sometimes.

Going to high school near New York City—that’s where hip hop came in. A Tribe Called Quest. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Redman, the Beastie Boys. The classic stuff.

I’ve always been a person obsessed with lyrics. I remember as a kid coming home and reading all the lyrics—either on the cassette or the album cover. It was with me from the get-go.

You rap mostly about cannabis. Has it always been this way in your musical career?

MC Flow: I did a song about marriage equality, Created Equal in 2008. Obama had just been elected, but Prop 8 went through. [The measure that declared same sex marriages unconstitutional but was later overturned in the courts]. I was involved in the “No on 8” campaign and went out to polling places on the day. So, when it passed, it was just crushing. Writing is just the way I processed it. There was so much coming out of me.

I write and rap about weed these days, but I’m not going to rule out writing on other topics in the future. Rap is all sorts of things. It’s a social justice movement, and a way to tell stories. Those things go hand in hand.

In addition to coffee shops around San Diego, you’ve performed at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Jason Mraz, the Women of Cannabis Conference in Las Vegas to kick off MJ Biz Con, and the Ganja Goddess Getaway. How do people react to your performances and your songs?

MC Flow: I’ve had some incredible reactions to my songs. Pot in the Latkes is the fan favorite, but the biggest emotional response has been to the Oh, Charlotte song. It’s about a 12-year old girl with severe epilepsy—Charlotte Figi. Medical cannabis oil has changed her life, made it possible for her to grow and enjoy being with her family. And the outpouring of love and appreciation from people who hear the song is amazing.

Everywhere I go, people talk to me about weed now. If that’s a side effect of my music, then great!

Like you said, Pot in the Latkes is the song that people know you for. Do Judaism and rapping about cannabis come together for you?

MC Flow: Well, they definitely came together for me in that song!

There are a lot of Jewish rappers, comedians—entertainers. Even though I’m not observant, being Jewish is still important to me and I think one of the ways I can connect with it is through humor.

It all came about because I participated in a holiday show called Feeding the Soul for four or five years straight. I was one of the only Jewish people on the cast, so I felt like I was responsible for writing the Hanukkah songs so that Hanukkah would be represented. So, it put me on this trip of writing Jewish songs.

Do you have a favorite weed for writing—or life?

MC Flow: I had to stay away from sativas for a while because I felt that they would give me so much energy—it almost bound me up. So, I was smoking mostly indicas for a while. But after meeting friends locally who grow the most beautiful weed, I’m smoking sativas again, too.

Really, I don’t know if the indica-sativa difference is actually legit. It seems to be more about finding the strain that helps you feel good.

Does anything surprise you about the new business of cannabis?

MC Flow: It seems like a natural meeting of retail and weed! But I feel mixed about it… I want to support dispensaries and small businesses doing good things. Some dispensaries mix education in, and I’m into any place that’s gonna do something like that.

But I also know people growing and making products who have been shut out of dispensaries due to the huge cost of getting fully licensed.

I’m the first one to say that it’s super fun to go to a swanky boutique. But it’s just as important, if not more important, to educate people on products that can improve their health and change their lives—not just on the prettiest, fanciest packaging.

What are you noticing about the changing landscape of cannabis since full legalization in California?

MC Flow: I’m feeling attitudes change. More people are talking to me about it—talking about it in general. There’s lots of interest in CBD. Pretty soon we’re gonna see CBD in Whole Foods, I think, and it’ll be really mainstream. The other thing I’ve noticed is seniors—baby boomers—coming back to cannabis. A lot is changing, and fast. It’s an interesting time.

Photo credits: Sharisse Coulter


Danielle Simone Brand is a mother of two, a die-hard idealist, and a breaker of conventions. She holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MA from American University and has worked as a staff writer, an academic editor, and a researcher on issues of international conflict resolution.

the cannabis potcast

Tiara Darnell may be a self-described late cannabis bloomer, but she’s made her mark quickly. She first tried cannabis at 21, and after moving to Portland and working in the industry for only a year, became 2017’s budtender of the year. She’s a videographer, podcaster, and writer, and she sees what’s missing in the cannabis media landscape: perspectives of people of color. Darnell is addressing this need with a new podcast (or “pot-cast”), “High, Good People,” about cannabis in the new age of legalization from the perspective of people of color. You can check out the pilot episode on Medium or Soundcloud and follow her on Instagram.

I talked with Darnell in a studio inside an antique airstream trailer in Portland—Stream PDX, which supports independent podcasters. I’ve edited the interview for brevity and clarity.

Can you talk a little bit about the title?

I was just looking for something catchy, something sticky and the “high”, the play on words there made sense. And then, good people, just because I think that that is a phrase that seems to be very common in POC [people of color] circles, like ‘Hey, this is good people,’ or ‘Hey, you’re my good people.’ Anyway, it just kind of fit.

You talked about in the podcast about how, anecdotally, talking to some people of color, that their cannabis coming out stories were a little more complicated because of their identities.

Yeah. The initial question I went in with was, ‘Do people of color have a more difficult time telling their parents that they work in the industry—or, even if they don’t work in the industry, that they consume weed—than their white counterparts?’ Because at least here in Oregon, most of the people that I’ve met, or I work with, [in the dispensary]- My white coworkers basically said like, ‘Oh, yeah, my parents know what I do.’ It was kind of like telling your parents that you, I don’t know, joined a kickball meetup or something like that. It seemed like no big deal, but then some of my other friends who worked there who were people of color, they were like, ‘No, I haven’t told my parents yet. Like, they don’t know.’ And there’s just different reasons for that.

But I realize that it’s not necessarily about race in this case, but maybe race and class together, class being a main driver. Because there are so many people of color whose parents and their parents before them, have had personal experiences with the war on drugs and its effect on the communities, their families. In the case of Isaac [interviewed in the podcast], his whole family fled Mexico and moved to the United States because of the war on drugs and how it was affecting their life in Mexico. So, there are a lot of stories that are out there that are just starting to emerge because people are beginning to feel more comfortable being able to talk about this publicly. And this is just my one small step in trying to add to the conversation that isn’t happening.

I know you have a couple episodes under your belt that you haven’t released yet. Can you give us a little sneak peek of what’s coming up?

Yeah, one that I’m really excited about—and I don’t know what order I’m going to release them in yet—but the topic of marijuana versus cannabis, what words should you say or not say? There’s a lot of, if you google ‘Is “marijuana” racist?’ there’s going to be a list of ten plus articles that come up that are arguing that it is and it has all this racial baggage and we need to move beyond it and just say ‘cannabis.’ And when I first started in the industry, I learned pretty quickly that marijuana does have some racial baggage attached to it and I told myself that I wasn’t going to use that word.

Can you explain for people who don’t know the racist history? The word ‘marijuana’ emerged from when Mexican people were being demonized for smoking cannabis.

Yeah, it’s kind of similar to like now, actually. I mean this is in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, and there were a lot of negative attitudes toward marijuana that had already originated in Mexico. Those ideas got transplanted here in the United States when the country’s first drug czar—his name was Harry Anslinger—wanted to basically pass a set of laws that would prohibit marijuana among other drugs. He needed somebody to pin that to, and it was typically poor blacks and poor Mexicans living in the south and southwest United States. And that’s sort of how we got the first laws passed in this country that were related to the prohibition of weed. And his easy ability to scapegoat black and brown people for using it.

But I realized that in talking to my friends who are Mexican or Mexican American, that [marijuana] is just how you say ‘weed’ in Spanish. It’s just a word, and they did not attach the racial baggage to it, so why should that word be used over cannabis? Like, who gets to determine if it’s better or not? And at what culture’s expense are we erasing their contributions to weed culture by choosing to use one word over the other? Cannabis is the scientific term. It comes from Greek and Latin but if that person who coined that term had been from Mexico, would that be the word that- we don’t know. I think that people have the option to choose which word they want to use. I’m just laying out the reasons why some people feel like it should be ok to use the word marijuana, and why #dontshamethename is a thing, and then why other people choose to use cannabis instead. I think it’s been a very one-sided conversation in terms of, again, the media landscape. I just want to shed some light on the word marijuana, who is choosing to use it, and why.

Anything else you’re excited about subject-wise that’s coming up in your episodes?

This is one episode that I want to do, I haven’t gotten material for yet because I’ve been having a hard time finding someone to talk to. I do not know ASL or any sign language version, but I’m really curious about how deaf people experience cannabis social events and cannabis spaces like dispensaries. Because there’s an issue of accessibility in a lot of things in this country because we’re all privileged in that we’re able to hear or to see or whatever it is that we have or don’t have. I don’t know if I have a story yet but I’m just curious about the deaf experience or hard-of-hearing community and how they navigate cannabis spaces and what the culture looks like for them. So that’s something I want to explore a little bit more.

Another thing I’m interested in: there’s all these dispensaries here in Portland but I still know people that buy their weed from dealers. So, like, what’s the deal? No pun intended. But what’s the deal with like not wanting to go into a dispensary? Why would you rather do something that is illegal when you could do it legally now? So that’s a question that I’m interested in answering too.

“High, Good People,” the full season, will be released in Spring 2019.



Rachel Cassandra is a freelance writer and audio producer. She has the great pleasure of being the managing editor of You can find her work at