By Trista Okel & Melanie Davis, PQ Monthly
Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in our region, my publications have been bombarded with questions regarding the laws, consumer rights/privacy/protections, and all of the new products on the market. I am Melanie Davis, publisher of El Hispanic News, PQ Monthly, and Tankside Magazine, and I am coming out of the “Cannabis Closet” to share my story with you. I quit drinking alcohol on July 7th, 2007, but because of my sobriety and the stigma associated with cannabis, I have been uncomfortable sharing that I use of cannabis to treat chronic pain. Because I choose to use cannabis to treat my chronic pain, I have been able to avoid the possibility of addiction to opiates and other prescription drugs offered in the Western Medicine Model. But until cannabis was legal in Oregon, I did not feel safe disclosing my support of and use of medical marijuana. So, to become better informed on all things cannabis, I sought the advice of a cannabis professional. The search was short, and I am delighted to announce that I have teamed up with cannabis expert, Trista Okel, to explore all things cannabis and share what I learn with you.
Trista Okel is the Founder/Owner of Empower BodyCare, a Portland-based company specializing in topical cannabis-infused products. Okel’s passion lies in the research and development of products and maximizing the synergistic properties of high-quality essential oils by combining them with cannabis extracts and other botanicals. I have personally used Empower products and, along with scores of other people who have written testimonials praising the benefits they have experienced while using these products, I found great pain relief. Okel is also a well-known advocate and industry pioneer in the cannabis world. She has been featured in numerous blogs and national publications and Okel’s products have received and continue to receive rave reviews and Top Ten rankings from legacy magazines like High Times. Most recently, Okel’s product, Empower4PLAY was enthusiastically reviewed by Snoop Dogg’s cannabis and culture site, Merry Jane. Empower was also listed in the Top 11 cannabis-infused topicals in the nation by Merry Jane.
The 2016 “Green Rush” is here and with it comes to the fast progression of an emerging regulated (legal) cannabis market. While 23 states and Washington, D.C. have allowed for the medicinal use of marijuana, the taxed and regulated adult-use model is changing the landscape of the industry. It was once a movement of courageous, innovative, medical marijuana patients who met regularly to trade plant cuttings and medicated cookies to an industry of mostly newcomer entrepreneurs launching new, sophisticated products with stylish branding for the adult-use regulated market.
In 1996, California’s Proposition 215 legalized the medical use of marijuana. The law may be 20 years old, but the medical marijuana movement began long before. Dennis Peron, a longtime gay rights and marijuana activist and entrepreneur, started the first public, an unregulated dispensary in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood in 1995. Brands were not much more than homemade stickers from dot-matrix printers with grower aliases, odd-sounding strain names and crude renditions of pot leaves on them.
The first “branded” cannabis treat I had came from Mary “Brownie Mary” Rathbun. Brownie Mary was a hospital volunteer who was famous in San Francisco for both getting arrested and for delivering her brownies to hundreds of men suffering from AIDS and HIV-related illnesses. She was also known for selling her brownies at festivals like Gay Pride in San Francisco to fund the making of the brownies that she delivered. That was the extent of branding at the beginning of this industry when cannabis was still a movement, a cause, something that most were afraid to admit to using, let alone growing or creating products. Consumers were lucky to get the name of the strain written in Sharpie, across the baggie, from their favorite cannabis purveyors.
Thus, the marijuana industry is not new, but the fledgling, state-legal, adult-use (recreational) cannabis industry certainly is. While Colorado and Washington’s voters were first to allow the state to tax and regulate the pungent herb for adults 21 and over in 2012, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia followed suit in 2014. For the states that legalized in 2014, 2016 marks the year for rolling out rules and regulations and for entrepreneurs to launch the multitude of new and innovative products, without fear of prosecution from local law enforcement. In the Pacific Northwest, we have seen the business landscape since the law passed. Oregon dispensaries reportedly raked in an estimated $11 million during its first week of legal recreational sales. Portland streets are now buzzing with neon green crosses – the hallmark of the cannabis dispensary, and too many, a beacon of hope to end federal prohibition.
Do you have questions about the industry? Have comments or concerns? Are there products/dispensaries/growers that you would like us to review?