California Cannabis, Summer 2021: Lindsay Davey, OGs and the Gang at CannaCraft

Lindsay Davey. Photo: CannaCraft.

Sooner or later, Lindsay Davey, 31, was bound to find creative work in the cannabis industry. College educated and savvy about both business and science, she belongs to a generation of young women that’s remaking the wide-open, rapidly expanding territory of marijuana, now legal in some form, whether recreational or medicinal, in all but five states of the U.S. The prohibition states are: Alabama. Idaho, Indiana, South Dakota and Wyoming. At the moment, there is only one place in South Dakota where one can buy cannabis, legally: the dispensary owned and operated by the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe. The dispensary is located in a building that once housed the police station. The prohibitionist federal government still categorizes cannabis as a “Schedule 1 Drug” because there is “a high potential for abuse” and because it has “no currently accepted medical use.”

Millions of Americans, many of them aging boomers, professional athletes and people formerly addicted to Oxycodone, disagree with the federal government, as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) points out. No surprise there. NORML, which has been in existence for more than 50 years, only reports good news about cannabis. The latest good news comes from NORML’s executive director, Erik Altieri, who says, “The days of federal prohibition are numbered.” Maybe so, but I’ve heard those same sentiments expressed for more than 50 years.

In June, the disqualification of the 21-year-old sensational Black sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson, was one of the best things that could happen to cannabis, though it was bad news for the U.S. team. “This is the last time the Olympics don’t see Sha’Carri Richardson,” she said. “This is the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with the gold in the 100 meters.”

Why is it that Blacks and people of color suffer more often and are arrested more often than whites for violating the cannabis laws? In a word: racism! Marques Cameron, who works at a dispensary in Oakland, tells me, “Arresting Blacks for possession feeds the prison system. It’s the closest thing we have to slavery.” He adds, “I went through 304 companies before I was hired at one. My first job was security, checking IDs. I had to fight for respect. If I was white, it would have been easier.”

Whether they’re athletes or not, religious or atheists, middle class or working class, Americans are consuming more cannabis than ever before, and increasingly in the form, not of a joint, but an edible. Joints were for heads and hippies. They are challenging to roll properly and smoke isn’t good for the lungs

Call Lindsay Davey a cannabis aficionado. Born and raised in Ukiah, near the heart of the “Emerald Triangle”— the premier marijuana growing region in the U.S.—Davey once had her sights set on a career as a dentist. She took classes that moved her along her chosen path. But she changed her mind, decided she wanted to be in the cannabis field and be a part of CannaCraft, which was founded in 2014, and that calls itself “the pioneers of legal cannabis.” There are many pioneers, including the idealistic 1960s back-to-the-landers who made cannabis their cash crop and survived in the woods, though some were lost to greed and meth.

Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara are also major cannabis cultivation areas in California. Millions of pounds are grown there in vast greenhouses and transported to Los Angeles, a city with a population of about four million. It’s one of the most ravenous cannabis markets in the U.S. CannaCraft products are sold in dispensaries in the city of angels where Blacks, Latinos, whites, and Asians smoke weed, work in Hollywood, and in bars, restaurants, factories and the hospitality industry that caters to tourists who smoke weed while on vacation. Marijuana makes L.A. go around. CannaCraft, which is one of the largest and best-known vertically integrated cannabis companies in California, drives much of the marijuana industry there and elsewhere.

CannaCraft cannabis is cultivated at its “Kindness Farms” in Lake County, also part of the “Emerald Triangle.” At its 36,000-square-foot facility in Santa Rosa—a city increasingly friendly to cannabis because of the tax dollars—workers extract the oils which contain THC and CBD and make a variety of cannabis products. Recently, Forbes magazine noted that the tour of the facility was “the coolest you’ll take.” Indeed, as I learned, it’s an introduction to the state-of-the art-cannabis technology that hippies never dreamed of when they smoked pot. To Davey, that technology is an everyday reality.

When she decided against dentistry, Davey changed her major to humanities, and, after receiving a B.A. from San Francisco State University she earned a degree in business administration from Sonoma State University. Bill Silver, a professor of economics at SSU who was also working for CannaCraft, helped to bring her into the cannabis fold.

Still, by the time Davey met Silver, she was already knee deep in weed. “Growing up in Mendocino County, cannabis was all around me,” she says. “It was part of my roots. But if you told me five years ago that I would graduate with an MBA and use those skills to support California’s pioneering wellness brand, I would not have believed you.”

At CannaCraft, she’s the assistant brand manager for the “Care By Design” line of wellness products. “I use the products myself,” she tells me. “When I’m looking to unwind after a long day, or need some relief after an intense workout.”

CannaCraft founders, Dennis Hunter and Ned Fussell, are both

legendary in the industry. OG meets science: a perfect pairing, Davey says. Dennis grew large crops, first in Mendocino and later in Humboldt. He was found guilty of cultivation in Mendocino and served 200 days in the Ukiah County jail. After an arrest for cultivation in Humboldt, he served six-and-a half years in federal prison. “I had to do it the wrong way before I found the right way,” Dennis tells me. He adds, “Still, I wouldn’t take back anything that I’ve done.” He’s one of the Emerald Triangle’s quintessential outlaws turned CEOs. He never became a drug addict and never ended up living on the street, a story often told by foes of marijuana to discredit it.

Sonoma County law enforcement didn’t like the idea of an OG going legit. In June 2016, the police raided CannaCraft, arrested Hunter, charged him with running an illegal drug manufacturing operation and set bail at $5 million. Hundreds of people protested outside the courthouse. Charges were dropped and he was released. The cops had made a mistake. No illegal manufacturing had taken place at CannaCraft.

As Dennis knows there are two kinds of people in the cannabis industry today. Those like himself who are veterans of the outlaw days, and those like his 23-year-old daughter, Cede, who owns and operates a dispensary in Santa Rosa. Her earliest memories include one of law enforcement officers arresting her father and taking him to prison.

Like Cede, Davey doesn’t have memories of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, or Edwin Meese, the U.S. Attorney General from 1985 to 1988, who insisted that marijuana was “the gateway drug” that led to heroin and methamphetamine. But she witnessed raids in Mendocino by law enforcement and the arrest of farmers. She also knows about the many court cases that jammed the criminal justice system.

Davey tells me, “Contributing to the movement that is changing the narrative around plant medicine is definitely challenging, but so very rewarding.”

Scientific evidence to the contrary, those who ought to know better still insist that marijuana is the gateway drug and refuse to believe it has medical benefits. The normalization, decriminalization and regulation of marijuana remains an uphill battle all over the country, including California, where more marijuana is grown than in any other state in the U.S., and where most of the crop, which is black market, is shipped out of the state.

If activists, farmers, growers and consumers succeed in making weed legal by federal law, it will be in part because of the efforts of Davey, and other young women, including Cede Hunter, Erin Gore, Alicia Rose, Annie Holman, Ashley Nelson, Cheriene Griffith and others who have flocked to the industry over the last decade or so and have emphasized science, medicine and moderate use. Young women like them have helped to adjust the long-standing gender imbalance in the macho cannabis world. They have begun to alter the all-too prevalent, albeit beloved stereotype of the Cheech and Chong stoner.

Unlike many of the stoners in the Nancy Reagan era, Davey is out of the cannabis closet and open about her use. “When you talk about your consumption of cannabis all kinds of things happen,” she says. “My own family members who have never smoked a joint are now interested in trying some of the products in the Care By Design line that help you relax, focus, sleep and for relief of pain.”

Davey urges newbies to start with low doses, notice what happens in their bodies and decide whether to take more or not. She’s proud of the fact that the company emphasizes innovation, education and participates in studies such as “Validcare,” which showed that, contrary to rumor, CBD does not harm the liver.

The products from Care by Design are available in drops, gummies, soft gels and a cream for pain. There’s also a new line called “Effects” that help you relax, rest, and focus on relief. The idea behind them is that there’s something for everyone and a product for nearly every occasion, from business meetings to sports, camping, hiking and hanging with friends. The other day, I received a care package I thought of as Pandora’s Box. I felt cursed to try the two dozens items it contained. Finally, I settled on a pen with a cartridge that worked all too well.

“Most consumers who go into a dispensary don’t know what product or products they’ll buy and take home,” Davey says. “With so many cannabis brands on the market today, making the right decision can be difficult. We help educate consumers about cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpens and ‘the entourage effect,’ the term used to describe how the different molecules extracted from the cannabis plant work together synergistically.”

While Davey is educating consumers, she’s also educating herself with help from Matt Elmes, the Director of Scientific Affairs at CannaCraft who has a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology. Many of the 200 or so employees at the company volunteer to participate in studies and try new products.

Davey has no regrets that she decided against dentistry and plunged into the world of cannabis. “It’s a good time to be in the industry,” she says. “We’re creating new products, shaping a new vocabulary and learning what cannabis does and can do in the human body.”

Dennis Hunter has not forgotten his outlaw past or the fact that Americans are still in prison for nonviolent marijuana offenses. Indeed, he’s proud of CannaCraft’s “Farmer and the Felon” program which aims to “preserve the countercultural history of the prohibition era while advocating for social justice for the cannabis prisoners in the here-and-now.”

Dennis remembers the time he first went into the hills of northern California and “met people who were cannabis friendly, led creative, interesting lives and seemed to enjoy almost everything they did.” The narrative he has written with others—including Dennis Peron, Jack Herer, Lindsay Davey and CannaCraft’s 200 employees—runs counter to the national and local lies, untruths and misrepresentations about weed, aka, grass, dope, marijuana, pot, ganja, da kine and more. Dennis still uses cannabis. “It opens me up,” he tells me. “When I hike, it takes me into the heart of nature. During sex, it allows me to be in touch with my partner.” What’s not to like?

Jonah Raskin is the author of Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955.