Lady Business: Cheri Sicard, Activist and Author of “Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women”
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Not only is Cheri Sicard the author of the newly released book Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women but she is also also an activist of the highest regard. When she is not writing, she is protesting the drug war and constantly working to free those with egregious sentences caught in the crosshairs of the war on cannabis consumers through her advocacy work with reform organizations like CAN-DO Foundation (Clemency for All Non-violent Drug Offenders) and Orange County (CA) NORML. We are proud to feature her in Lady Business because classin’ up the joint means more than just being a fan of cannabis, it means fighting for the greater good and evolving our civil liberties to reflect a more compassionate and sensible future. Please buy her book and support this incredible bad ass who’s actively changing the culture with everything she does.
LADYBUD MAGAZINE: Your new book Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women was just recently released and it is a wonderful book full of cultural history, connoisseur tips, as well as activism and parenting advice. What was the process like for you this time as opposed to all the other books you’ve written?
CHERI SICARD: I am laughing at this question, because it was the first time in my life where I have gone over, way over, what I was supposed to deliver. This is my 7th book, my manuscripts always come in on word/page counts. Sometimes I have a problem with being too concise. With Mary Jane I delivered a book that way over the word count, which would have made it jump up to a higher production cost. I was lucky to have a great editor, Laura Mazer, who did a fabulous job of reining it all in and creating a book that would appeal to a wide audience that includes people not already in the cannabis movement. That to me is what’s most exciting about this book, the fact that it can go a long way to educate the masses of women who have been misinformed about cannabis. The book is even being sold in Urban Outfitters! That is pretty mainstream.
LB: What was your favorite chapter to write in “Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women”?
CHERI: I have to pick just one? I don’t think I can. The entertainment chapter was lots of fun for me to write and research. But my favorite would have to be the “how to win an argument about marijuana” chapter because it allowed me to bust so many popularly held myths about marijuana.
LB: You’ve been working hard at drug policy reform for quite some time — what was the moment you realized the drug war was dangerous and that you had to contribute to undoing it?
CHERI: There was not one moment. This all happened without my planning it. I remember being in class at Oaksterdam way back when and listening to Dale Sky Jones and thinking to myself, what an amazing woman, I could never be that brave and that open about my cannabis use. And then without even realizing it, I became that person. In about 6 months, I went from the typical closeted American marijuana smoker to an outspoken advocate, and I haven’t looked back since. The more I learned about cannabis, the less I could shut up about it. All the government lies and hypocrisy outraged me. My earlier books (The Great American Handbook, US Citizenship for Dummies, Everyday American) were about how government in this country is supposed to work, and as I got more involved in the cannabis movement, it was evident that the war on weed has corrupted and perverted the American ideals beyond any recognition.
LB: Even in the dawn of a new legalization era, many pot POWs still remain incarcerated. You’ve been a prisoner advocate for many of them and this year, Obama granted clemency to a few of those you’ve helped. How did you feel when you heard the news that some of these people will be released?
CHERI: Pure joy! There is no better feeling in the world for an activist like me. When I first learned we have many people in this country serving life sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses, it just haunted me. I couldn’t not do something about it. So I started working with these POWs. And many of them have become close personal friends through the process, including Randy Lanier and Larry Duke, who both were released in the last year. We were in touch nearly every day and I continue to be in constant contact with both of them. They will always be my friends. With Randy I knew it was going to happen months before, but we could not talk about it publicly, so I was bursting with this incredible news that I couldn’t tell anyone about. Larry’s release took everyone by surprise. We knew it was possible but had no idea it was really going to happen or when. When he woke up that morning he had no idea he would be going home that afternoon. Since I have known him, I woke up to an email from Larry every day, but that morning it was a hurried message that said “they are releasing me immediately, will be in touch as soon as I can.” I remember turning on Pharell Williams’ “Happy” and literally dancing around the house with my dogs.
LB: There are many refinements we need to make in light of this deluge of new cannabis laws we see emerging; what do you like that you’re seeing and what do you think we should stay away from that is happening?
CHERI: Many things, but #1 on the list would have to be the insanity that is CBD-Only legislation. It is ill-informed, ill-conceived, and unscientific. The CBD-good THC-bad spin is completely offensive to me. Can we for once make legislation based on the actual science, that clearly shows we need the WHOLE PLANT. CBD-only legislation only extends prohibition and creates a whole new legal nightmare of now you have to have the “right kind” of marijuana. It helps a minute percentage of people while millions of others who desperately need it, including our veterans, go untreated. And to those who say it is an important first step towards legalizing medical marijuana, I would say study your history. Once a law is in place, it is extremely difficult to change it. Marijuana was only supposed to be in Schedule I temporarily until we could study it. Well, studies have come and gone, starting with the Shafer Commission in 1972 that showed cannabis is not dangerous and “did not justify the intrusion by criminal law into private behavior” and yet cannabis remains as Schedule I drug. I see the advent of CBD-Only legislation as one of the biggest steps backward in the cannabis movement. Just say NO to CBD-Only legislation!
LB: Being covered by mainstream media is probably not a new experience for you but what have been favorite articles and shows this year?
CHERI: Besides Ladybud you mean? I think the media coverage for Mary Jane is just warming up, so they probably haven’t been printed yet. But seeing myself on the homepage of The Daily Beast was pretty darn cool. Although I told the reporter I was flattered by her comparison of me as the “Martha Stewart of Weed” (she came up with that on her own) but to please not use it. They did anyway. But Martha Stewart is the Martha Stewart of marijuana, we even included her quote about knowing how to roll a joint in Mary Jane. Also, the feature in the women’s portal She Knows was great as it was a kind of personal full circle for me. I was the creator of and for many years the editor of FabulousFoods.com, until my business partner and I sold the site to SheKnows.com a number of years back. So it was interesting to be featured by them years later for interviews about Mary Jane and cannabis.
LB: You are the culinary editor at Freedom Leaf but you also write for other news sources, where do you find the time?
CHERI: There are never enough hours in the day. I write for Freedom Leaf, I write a POW of the Month column for Toke Signals, and a cooking column for the Austin 420. I am working with Green Flower Media who is running a fabulous “Coming Out Green” campaign to educate the public about cannabis and also producing premium content cannabis cooking classes. I teach live classes for both consumers and those looking to enter the cannabis industry. And my company, Z-Dog Media, consults with companies entering the industry or looking to improve their business practices and products. And I am always a full-time activist. I am on the board of Directors of Orange County (CA) NORML, the vice-president of the CAN-DO Foundation (Clemency for All Non-violent Drug Offenders), and personally run websites and public outreach for 5 marijuana prisoners. I am not married and my dogs are my kids, so that does give me a more time than most people. It’s people like you who do all this and still manage to be good parents who amaze me! Nonetheless, there are never enough hours in the day and it’s hard to see the end of that to-do list.
LB: As a board member of Orange County NORML, what actions does the group participate in and what have they got planned for the next year?
CHERI: OC NORML is an amazing group and I am proud to be part of their family. Leader Kandice Hawes-Lopez is a dynamic force of nature. She personifies thinking globally and acting locally to create change in her community. She is on top of pending legislation and ordinances and really makes sure the group stays informed on threats to safe access in Orange County, then mobilizes them into action to do something about it. Likewise the group is always on hand on city and county council meetings, they do rallies to educate the public, and are always on hand to collaborate with other groups to further the cause. Right now there are a lot of cities banning dispensaries, banning delivery services, and in some cases even working with the DEA. I just got off the phone with Kandice, who said there are raids going on right now in Santa Ana. The group has put a lot of effort into educating this particular city council, and I know they will continue, but the elected officials there appear determined to remain willfully ignorant of the facts about cannabis or the will of the people of the state of California.
LB: You have quite a variety of professional backgrounds, you were once even a circus performer, magician and a performing artist! What similarities do you see between those jobs and what you do now?
CHERI: The cannabis world has a lot in common with the circus. It is a relatively small group (although that changing quickly), so I could go to a cannabis event most anywhere in the country, if not the world, and know people. Same with circus performers. I was struck by other similarities at the recent High Times Cannabis Cup which was surreal for me in a number of ways. When I went to the local Target store to pick up a few forgotten items, you could look around and tell who was “with the show” and who was a local. Also, it was held at the National Orange Show event grounds. One of the first circus shows I ever did as an adult was at that venue, in the speedway. Well, I took my camper van down to the Cannabis Cup for the weekend and they ended up parking us on the speedway track. So there I sat at the table of my RV in the morning putting on my makeup, just like I did 30 years earlier, with the same view of the grandstand out my window, but a whole other circus going on outside, but every bit as much a show. I was honored to be part of the first one, as I am honored to be part of the “cannabis circus” today (and I say that term with love).
LB: We’re proud that you’ll be at the Ladybud Magazine 2nd Anniversary and Relaunch party on April 18 in Denver promoting your book “Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women” with revered local bookseller Tattered Cover. What else will you be doing that weekend to celebrate 420 weekend?
CHERI: Good question. I am not exactly sure. But I am so looking forward to the Ladybud party as I know I will getting to meet a lot of people who have previously only been friends via social media. Former Ladybud editor Vanessa Waltz is one. At the party and while in Colorado, I will also get to spend meet and spend time with Brandie Lanier, daughter of Randy Lanier, one of the marijuana lifers who was released last year after 27 years of incarceration. Randy was the Indy 500 Rookie of the year in 1986, by 1987 he was prison, Brandie was 7 years old at the time. Her dad was the first cannabis lifer I started helping. So I am very much looking forward to spending time with her as we have been through quite an emotional time together.