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PHOTO CREDIT: Christie Lunsford for Ladybud Magazine
Lady Business is a way for people both in the cannabis movement and industry to learn about the women who are making change happen as we enter a new paradigm of legalization. Ladybud Magazine is setting out to also educate those not yet in legal states — either for medical or adult use — about what kind of jobs are becoming available and who is blazing a trail by which more people may be inspired to continue the trend of new industry and possibilities.
LADYBUD: You work at the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) — what is it that you do there?
BETHANY: My primary role at NCIA is focused on membership development. I foster deeper relationships with our existing members, as well as seek out relationships with cannabis companies that are not yet a part of NCIA. I travel quite a bit for the events we do all around the country, and I enjoy that opportunity to feel the connection of this growing community from one end of the country to the other. I obviously recruit new members, but also do fun stuff like work with members to write blog posts, match members with event sponsorship opportunities, and otherwise assist in development for the organization. The future is bright and I’m honored to be in this role at this time, after years of being a volunteer activist for drug policy reform issues, when honestly, I didn’t see this whole legalization thing coming as soon as it did. I’m pleasantly surprised about the forward progress of the movement recently and look forward to helping the industry and movement progress forward responsibly and ethically.
LB: You moved to Colorado from D.C. late January of this year — what do you notice here with regard to the geography, cultural attitudes and the industry?
BETHANY: I never did get used to the hot, humid summers of DC, and I hid indoors in the air-conditioning as much as I could. But I did love the city, the nightlife, the history, and the feeling that history was continually being made on a daily basis. It wasn’t without its downsides, where much like NYC, people walk forcefully down the streets, straight ahead, and don’t want to be bothered along the way to whatever important place they’re going. And much like LA, there’s a lot of name dropping, but politicians and foundation directors instead of celebrities. I enjoyed it, though, in my own way. I did good work there. It was hard, and it wore me down after a few years, but it was a worthwhile life experience.
Coming to Denver, what I appreciate most are the sight of the mountains as I drive up and down the highways to work and home and back. I am an earth sign, Virgo, and appreciate the magnificence of the giant structures of earth that surround us here. They are awe-inspiring, humbling, and so very grounding for me. The people are certainly more down to earth but still very business-focused and forward-thinking. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Denver area and look forward to making some trips around other parts of Colorado this year as well. I hear there’s a Tesla museum in Colorado Springs. ;) The only thing I really miss? Fireflies. Oh, and there’s too much damn sunshine here. Do you see how pale my skin is?
LB: What about the cannabis culture itself? What do you see out here that you did not see back home?
BETHANY: I am truly grateful for the legal cannabis environment I’ve found here. I feel safe and respected and informed when I make my purchases at one of the shops. I can research strains to find out what works best for my personal needs and seek that out in a safe way. I can find a store that can provide a strain that helps with my muscle tension and spasm issues, as well as another for my anxiety and depression issues. I find here in Colorado, in the legal market, I can be informed and seek out exactly what I need.
Back “home” in Maryland… gosh, that’s another story altogether. I got whatever I could find from a small social network, and it often wasn’t through the most trusted sources. I barely knew anything about the varying effects of different strains for a long time, so wasn’t aware that some could be more helpful than others. I just was grateful for whatever quality herb I could find, not knowing the source, strain, potency, or anything, and I paid high cost for it as well. I knew marijuana was overall a helpful medicine for me, but I had no control over what I was getting. Here in Colorado, I have the ability to research what strains would work best through websites or even just having a conversation with a knowledgeable bud-tender at a cannabis shop. This is truly an amazing world of difference to me. It’s normalizing here in Colorado, becoming as common as a glass of wine and also being treated like the medicine it truly is.
LB: You come from a civil liberties background that is not exclusive to cannabis. Can you tell us about your work and some of the victories to which you were witness at Americans United for Separation of Church and State?
BETHANY: I was honored to be present and working at Americans United for Separation of Church and State from 2006-2008, around the time they took on the lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs for discriminating against Wiccans and Pagans. I was hired as the campaign manager for the First Freedom First project, and I was seriously in the right place at the right time, and was blessed to be witness to it and write articles, give speeches, and otherwise support the idea that Wiccans and Pagans deserve equal recognition, especially when they die for our country in political wars. The Pentacle Quest lawsuit gave our defendant Roberta Stewart some solace for the loss of her patriotic husband when he lost his life in Afghanistan but was denied the five-pointed star in a circle, the pentacle, on his gravestone marker, simply because the US government has not “approved” that symbol.
The experience was amazing… President George Bush called Mrs. Stewart and gave her his support for her husband’s service and his apologies for discriminating against Wiccans in the US military. Pagans now can choose that symbol, the pentacle, for their gravestone marker if they so choose, for their service in the US military. It makes good common sense to give religious freedom to the people who are fighting for our religious freedom back home. So often though, Wiccans and Pagans have a bigger struggle at hand, and that is being acknowledged or recognized as a real spiritual path at all. This is how that discrimination lawsuit was won: the legal team proved that the messaging within government was that “Wicca isn’t a real religion; Wiccans aren’t charitable people”. Witnessing that lawsuit play out and celebrating the ultimate victory for religious freedom and tolerance for minority religions was a high point in my early career , and I’m grateful I was a part of it.
LB: You are also an artist in addition to being a civil liberties advocate. You sing? Where have you performed?
BETHANY: Yep, I’m a poet and singer at heart, and always have been. Could be a curse, the jury is still out. I’ve written and performed spoken word poetry for many years, and also sang in two bands back in the DC area. The first band I joined, Dead Violets, was noise/experimental, and very inaccessible to most ears. The second band I joined was more like an album project I did with a producer friend of mine who goes by Burnt Systems. We completed the album, called ‘Witchrock’, over the course of about a year, and we also performed at the DC Hard Rock Cafe a couple of times. It took about a year of work, but the album Witchrock came out beautifully and is available on iTunes.
In addition to poetry and writing music, I’ve also done some event hosting and DJing for events. My DJ name is Beatnik Betty, and you’ll hear my beatnik style reflected in song choices that include jazz, swing, and bebop, like Glenn Miller, Nancy Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone and as well as some darker, more goth/emo sounds like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds or Tom Waits. I’m very much in love with, obsessed with, Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey.
LB: What do you do on your spare time when you aren’t fighting for people’s rights or singing?
BETHANY: Sometimes I stay in my pajamas all day and just bumble around the apartment. Other times, I have a routine or ritual with myself of going out to a bar or coffee shop all alone, with just my journal and pen, and sitting there for a long while, writing about my thoughts, talking to myself on paper, sorting out my feelings.
When I’m not feeling like an introverted hermit, I enjoy light cooking or going out to dinner with friends. I’m a breakfast food freak – I could eat bacon, eggs, and cheese every day for the rest of my life, at any time of day. I’ve also been known to head out to a gothic/industrial nightclub once in awhile for dancing in the dark.
I’ve also been active in small women’s circles in the past for ritual work and spiritual journeying, but haven’t had the opportunity to seek out such groups since I’ve moved here to Colorado. Hopefully that comes with time.
LB: What are your favorite sources of media?
BETHANY: I have Hulu and Netflix, so I am into TV shows like Witches of East End and New Girl, The Mindy Project, and old Star Trek episodes never fail to comfort. Also, I just this week discovered a new TV show on IFC with two hilarious ladies, called Garfunkel and Oates. Those are some damn funny girls!
There are quite a few women’s websites I like to read, including The Grindstone, HuffPost Women, The Frisky, Your Tango, The Elephant Journal and the women/sex sections of Slate and The Atlantic and so on. And of course, Ladybud!