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Women in Weed: A Year Into a Maturing Industry

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mitra“We’re in the epicenter,” declares Mitra Sticklen.

“Everyone is really passionate about the role they fill,” she says, and with a script that could come from a Silicon Valley startup, goes on to explain that they hold quarterly feedback sessions “to make sure everyone has an equal voice in the company.”

For the past 10 years, Sticklen has been working in what she calls the “organic farming movement,” and she believes it is more than a sum of the products they produce—it is truly about adding value to individuals and to communities.

“It lines up with my life goals—for movement building and farming,” she explains.

With the first year of legalized marijuana complete, and with a new year and new opportunities ahead, for this issue of the Messenger, we profile a few of the women involved in the marijuana industry in southern Oregon as an attempt to provide an vantage into the complex and quickly changing universe of legalized marijuana.  

For more information about women in the marijuana industry, check out WomenGrow.com; a new chapter in southern Oregon hosts monthly meetings on the first Thursday of each month.



A passion for growth: Courtney Zehring’s Tokie Farms

By Olivia Doty

courtney2On a recent visit to Tokie Farms to meet with cannabis grower Courtney Zehring (aka Tokie), she was surrounded by her loving dog Dr Grizz, several sheep, the “girls” (the vibrant green cannabis), and millions upon millions of friendly microbes—and, she let us in on one of her secrets: fermented tea extract.

First, Tokie explained as she wandered out into a star-thistle filled field, the weed is gathered with a wheelbarrow. With bare-hands, she pulls out a few of the thistles; only a few thorns pierce her skin. Eventually, she will drop the weeds into a 50 gallon barrel, and along with other weeds from the property (like the high in nitrogen vetch) are submerged with water and about a cup or so of sugar-molasses. Spoiled fruit could be used as well, says Tokie.

Then it just sits there, for a little over a week. She will occasionally stir the ferment with a long stick. “When it’s finished fermenting, I pump it into the big tank, fill it with water, and bubble it for 24 hours. Then,” Zehring breaks it down “you have the best fucking nutrients you’ve ever had, and its free.” 

That’s a big deal; a major game changer. Growing marijuana is not cheap. There are many formulas that have been specifically created for bigger plants, more buds, or higher terpene levels, and each of those special formulas comes with a special price tag, too. 

But Zehring is humble; she knows that she is not going to grow the biggest plants on the block, and she is perfectly okay with that. Because these “girls” will more than make up for it in quality. And more importantly, her garden and practices will start healing the six acres that were only a couple months ago filled with trash and weeds. Only her first year at this property, she will have to supplement her garden with some ingredients from a shop. 

Tokie Farms is part of the regenerative agriculture movement: using organic garden as a means to build soil health and re-generate unhealthy soils. Using the organic waste from her property, including the plant material from her fermented tea extract and manure from her sheep, she is building hugelkultur-raised beds of decaying organic material that required no tilling and provide tons of nutrients. Tokie hopes that these sustainable methods will be picked up by the new large recreational farms popping up everywhere.



A Budding Politician: Brie Malarkey’s Bid for State Representative

By Tyrell Trimble

brieWhat a difference a decade or two makes: When the last Clinton (Bill, that is) campaigned for office, he could not even admit that he inhaled when he smoked pot. But now, marijuana enthusiasts and entrepreneurs are open about their interests, and viable candidates—like Brie Malarkey, who is contesting Oregon’s 55th seat in the House of Representatives.

With a degree in planning and public policy—and a focus on solid waste management—Malarkey has the academic background for the job. Yet, primarily, her professional career has thrived in the private sector.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur almost my whole life,” she told the Messenger. Along with her husband, Malarkey opened some retail wine stores in the Eugene area, but the recent economic downturn was especially hard on them.

“When the great recession happened, we struggled to keep the wine stores open and lost everything,” she explains. But from that failure, they found opportunity: “We were on Craigslist,” Malarkey says, “and saw this 40-acre farm in a town called Shady Cove. We decided to go back to the land. We lived very simply.”

Called Sunna Ra Acres, the farm primarily raised livestock; ironic considering Malarkey will be celebrating 30 years of vegetarianism this year. But her true passion is as a herbalist, and that quickly has become the primary focus at the farm.

“I’m an herbalist, I’ve always had an interest in plant medicine,” says Malarky. “ long with the animal products, we had a full line of herbal teas that we were doing at the farmer’s market. I started to become more interested in herbs as a method of healing, so we stopped cultivating the culinary herbs and started focusing on the medicinal herbs.”

That shift in interest coincided with allowances for medical marijuana dispensaries. “So,” she explains, “I decided to fight to make marijuana a part of what we were offering.”

Malarkey focuses on combining the healing properties of cannabis and traditional herbs to treat a variety of maladies including anxiety, muscle tension, and insomnia. With the successful of the farm and two storefronts under her belt, Malarkey has come full circle and is now running on the Democratic ticket for State Representative, in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats three to one.

Malarkey is one of three legislative candidates in Oregon this year connected to the marijuana industry.

But far from being a one-trick pot pony, Malarkey’s platform is focused on the protection of local business and the promotion of sustainable resources.

“I want to advocate for small businesses and the viability of businesses like mine to make it. There are so many regulations coming down from Salem, and I feel like the more we promote big consolidation of corporations we lose all that ingenuity from the mom and pops out there. We have a great history of being able to use the land to create jobs, but I want to help promote that in a sustainable way.”


melissaA spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down: Melissa Sykin explains how they started their edible business.

By Olivia Doty

The number one argument against edibles is that they might be too appealing to kids. Which seems ironic, as Melissa Sykin and her husband first created their edible products for their company, Dirty Arm Farm, for a child. 

Seven years ago, Melissa and one of her best friends (they grew up together in Williams) were both pregnant with their first children. Some of their shared joy was shadowed when, due to a complication during labor, her friend’s daughter ended up with cerebral palsy and had seizures as a young baby. The medication that their doctor wanted to prescribe listed seizures as a side effect, a risk more than they were willing to accept. Looking for an alternative, the friends asked the Sykins, who had been growing high quality medical cannabis for almost 10 years at that point, to create a high CBD product that could safely be given to a child. Melissa responded by creating an oil drop that goes under the tongue, flavored with mint to increase absorption and send the signal to the brain that relief is on the way. These drops brought immediate relief to the  friend’s child and family: her communication increased by 50 percent and she was able to stop taking four of the medications she was previously on.

These special drops are now available as Adropinol TM in medical and recreational dispensaries around Oregon. They come in high CBD, high THC, and 1:1 balanced CBD/THC drops. 

Other products from Dirty Arm Farm are Adabinol TM; a high CBD syrup, Adistinol TM concentrate, Lean Back Sizzurp TM; a high THC syrup that comes in grape or cherry flavors, Live Resin concentrate, and their newest recreational cannabis cocktail syrup Pistil7 TM. 

“The Sizzurp and the Pistil7 we see as something that can replace the alcohol in cocktails when you are with friends and sharing an experience together,” Sykin explained. They have found that some people use the syrups as an exit for alcohol abuse. 

With a blush, she goes on, “We’ve also found that it magnifies the sensations during…intimate times with your partner.” She adds, “It’s a little marriage councilor in a bottle.” 


Good Medicine: Dr. Judy Emanuel, D.O. Tells It Like It Is

By Tuula Rebhahn

Patients visiting Dr. Judy Emanuel will instantly feel at home.

That’s because her medical office is in her stately two-story Victorian on the north end of Ashland, and Dr. Emanuel is much more a warmhearted aunt than a chilly clinician.

But don’t assume that you’ll soon be on the road with your medical marijuana card, ready to load up on goodies at the dispensary. Not only does Dr. Emanuel take the time to get to know each of her patients, she also advises that they start out slow.

“I’m very conservative,” she explains, “You have to know how it affects your body.”

Dr. E—as many of her patients know her—started her career in social work before going back to school to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. She practiced in Hawaii for 17 years, and when a friend came down with lung cancer, she saw first-hand the remarkable healing power of cannabis oil. She began studying the plant and learned that much of what people of her generation—and subsequent ones—had been taught about “marijuana” was simply not true.

“The word ‘marijuana’ was actually invented to be derogatory. That’s why many people prefer the term ‘cannabis,’” explains Dr. E.

Now established in Ashland for two years, Dr. E keeps busy seeing patients from all walks of life and of all ages—her oldest is 94. Seated in her rocking chair, she exhibits both a calm listening ear and the necessary sense of humor for the seeming incompatibility of medicine as it is normally practice and the desire of patients to find alternative relief from their ailments.  

Legalization, she explains, has both helped and confused the process of getting medical marijuana. Because most doctors don’t know much about it—there aren’t any pharmaceutical reps out there promoting the herb—they usually send patients requesting a green card to a doctor like her, for whom it is a specialty. The patient must pay all fees out of pocket since insurance companies don’t cover the federally banned substance.

If the doctor does sign the necessary paperwork for a patient to get their green card, they don’t do anything to help them understand the various cannabinoids and dosages, not to mention the wide range of available products.

Then there’s Marinol, a synthetic form of THC cooked up by pharmaceutical companies to help cancer patients with nausea. An example, says Dr. E, of how big business cares more about capturing the market than actually helping patients.

“They’ve just pulled out one ingredient,” she adds, her serenity momentarily broken, “You don’t get the full benefit of how the various components [of cannabis] compliment each other.”

It’s just one example of how little the medical field at large knows about this very old—but also very new—form of medicine.

“There are side effects,” emphasizes Dr. E. “Patients should know about them.” But it’s the positives that the medical field has definitely not caught on to yet.

“We know that cannabinoids [the active ingredients in cannabis] are neuro-protective,” she begins. “They protect cells in the nervous system from damage. Cannabis is anti-inflammatory. It has more antioxidant power than Vitamin C.” The list goes on, and that’s why medicinal marijuana is a field unto itself.

Despite the difficulties and continued misinformation out there, Dr. E says she’s glad to be helping patients learn about cannabis and doing her part to make sure the plant gets the respect it deserves.

“Lies can only last so long,” she says with a smile and a slight tilt back in her chair. “The truth has to come out eventually.”


The Youngster: Seraiah Doyle

by Sara Jane Wiltermood


To look at her, one might think that Seraiah Doyle may have just reached her 18th birthday, but to talk with her, she is an articulate expert well beyond her mere 21 years of age—especially on the medical benefits of marijuana.

“I see so many people suffering from cancer,” she says. “I get phone calls with people on the other end who are heartbroken because they were just diagnosed. Marijuana cures cancer all the time. We have cannabinoid bodies; I just love to see people become cured. People’s tumors going away rapidly. There are so many ways that you can take it; you can see what works best for people.”

When it comes to cancer and marijuana, she says that CBCs (cannabidiols) are the preventative part, and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the part that kills the cancer, she adds.

Doyle works for Nature Scripts in Murphy, a medical and recreational marijuana dispensary, and while she never envisioned herself working for a dispensary necessarily, she says that she has always been interested in herbs.

“God put them on the earth for us to use,” she says.

She used to work at an orthodontist’s office, and she had been there for three years when she realized that she wasn’t learning anything new, so she started working for her family at Nature Scripts.

“I wanted to be happy and have joy in my life, and it is amazing to hear people’s testimonials and how their lives have changed,” she smiles.

While her focus is the medical side, she says that the recreational side is interesting too, seeing how people use it. And as far as being a woman in the business, she finds that perspective to be important for women who are new to using marijuana.

“Though it is more targeted to men, I relate to the women who need it for health benefits,” she says. “A lot of them are nervous about using it for the first time. You can talk to them on a personal level—woman to woman—about menstrual cramps and things like that.”

When comparing Nature Scripts to other dispensaries in the Valley, Doyle says that they stand out.

“I feel like we are a little more sympathetic, in a way,” she says. “My dad [the owner] will take time out of his day and do one-on-one consultations. He will be in there for hours with people who are on, like, twelve pharmaceuticals. If they need topicals, if they need tinctures, we get it for them. I feel like that is something that others don’t always get.”

And as far as the future of cannabis in the Rogue Valley, Doyle takes an observational and hopeful stance.

“The greed that goes along with the marijuana business is probably the biggest challenge facing it in the Rogue Valley right now,” she says. “People think of it as a money making business, but I’ve never seen it that way. A lot of people have been moving here just to grow cannabis, and we want to use our land organically. It is hard because a lot of people are moving here just to make money, and it isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t what our community is about. Our community is more medically-minded. I hope that it would go in a positive direction. It will depend on if people will stay here. If we can stay medical and stay positive and work well with people and create a good relationship, I think it can go very well. It is a good product; a lot of things can benefit from it. I would love for it to blossom and do amazing things.”


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