Women of Nevada County Cannabis
Patricia Smith- Leading the charge
Patricia Smith is a woman who has lived her life on her own terms. Growing up in a conservative household in Orange County back when it was still filled with actual orange groves, Smith believed in the Reefer Madness mentality about cannabis, and feared even being near the stuff. “I was convinced that if I took just one hit of a joint I would be running down the street crazed and naked,” she remembered.
In her teens, Smith started seeing her friends smoke pot and quickly realized that they were not having the bad reactions that she had expected. At the time, she was drinking cough syrup to “get high” and thought it was safer because it was “medicine.” She became curious about trying marijuana, although the first time someone offered her a joint she was embarrassed because she didn’t know how to smoke it and threw it in the bushes when no one was looking. Wanting to learn how to inhale, she started smoking cigarettes so that the next time she was offered a joint she would know what to do.
“I finally tried it for myself and my world changed because I realized that they had been lying to me my whole life, and because of that I suddenly thought that all drugs were safe,” Smith recalls. “That’s why it’s so dangerous to lie to kids about drugs. Instead of drinking cough syrup these days they’re doing oxycontin because it’s in the medicine cabinet so it must be safe.”
With her new found knowledge and distrust of authority, Smith ran away from home in 1966 at age 17 to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, where she quickly found a job at The Family Dog. She was a secretary for the music production company, and fondly remembers watching the iconic acts of the day, such as Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead, rehearsing before shows. She married a musician at age 24 and did the band’s publicity and made their costumes. While the marriage did not last, the passion for costume design did. Smith moved to Hollywood and became a costume designer for films, commercials, and TV productions in the 80s, where her work won Emmys for a few of those designs including North and South and Homefront. During her time in Hollywood, Smith worked with and befriended many gay men. It was the time when AIDS had just come out, before the medical community had figured out what it was. “The guys I worked with were dropping like flies,” Smith recalled sadly. “I was going to funerals every week.”
Wanting to help in some way, Smith started working with Project Angel Food, which was a service that brought food to AIDS patients before there was even a word for the disease, and continued to volunteer for that organization for several years. During that time was when Smith started to learn about the studies on medical cannabis, and would bake marijuana brownies for her friends who were suffering from the disease. “They probably tasted terrible, since I didn’t know how to do it properly and just mixed the buds into the batter, but it did seem to help them,” Smith said.
At age 50, Smith mentioned to a friend that she had never been to Mexico, and that friend took her to Estero Beach. She fell in love with the place and bought a house there for $3,000. She made her living in Mexico as a mural artist and a house flipper; she fixed up that $3,000 house and sold it for a profit, and kept doing that for ten years until some friends from L.A. brought a man down to meet her. The two hit it off, and Smith promptly moved back to the U.S.
As it turned out, the man was a pot farmer with a ranch in Placer County, and Smith went to live there with him and helped with the farming. It was there that she learned to grow and to make medicine from cannabis. “I had never even seen a live marijuana plant until I met him at 58 years old!” Smith said.
The relationship didn’t last, but once again the lessons that it taught her set the course for the next phase of Smith’s life. When she left the relationship in 2008, she decided to stay with some friends in Grass Valley and fell in love with the area. She rented a house and put her new skills to work. She started small with 36 plants, which she points out was completely within the legal limit at the time, but had to shrink the grow every year as the ordinance changed.
Ironically, it was the suggestion of staunchly anti-cannabis Sheriff Royal who told her, “If you guys are so concerned about people getting medicine, why don’t you just grow it for them,” that was the catalyst for Smith’s creation of the nonprofit Grassroots Solutions, which used shake donated from growers to create high quality cannabis medicine that has been given to thousands of people over the years regardless of their financial situation. “If they need it, we give it,” Smith said. “But the demand has outpaced the supply, and with the new grows ordinances we just can’t provide as much as we used to. Farmers risk going to jail to help heal people. It’s a real Sophie’s Choice.”
Not satisfied to just help the patients that she was able to provide medicine for, Smith led the charge to educate the community about the medicinal benefits of cannabis by being a well-spoken and informed leader, attending board of supervisor meetings, getting to know local law enforcement and representatives, holding community meetings, and hosting the Cannabis Crusades radio show, which still airs with new host Forrest Hurd from noon-1 p.m. on the second Friday of every month on 89.5 KVMR. Due to her dedication, Smith has become the voice of reason and authority as Nevada County is working to figure out how to deal with the marijuana issue as state laws are changing.
Last year, Smith moved to Yuba County to take a position with a cannabis group there, but that did not work out for a number of reasons, and so she is launching a new venture that uses her knowledge and expertise. CannaCompounds will formulate a full line of personalized cannabis-based tinctures, salves, suppositories, roll-ons, and more to address each patient’s specific health need. Because cannabis regulations are currently in flux, Smith as a dedicated law abiding citizen will only use hemp CBD, which she says is not as good but still effective. “I want to make sure that patients have access to the best quality medicine for the best price possible, and even better if it can be for free.”
One message that Smith wants to impart as Nevada County continues to debate regulations and ordinances is that perseverance is key and that sometimes no matter how much time, energy, and passion you put into your projects, they don’t work out the way you hoped. But no matter what, keep fighting the good fight and don’t give up. “Cherish your failures,” Smith advised. “I’ve learned more by my “failures” than I have from my successes.”
To learn more about CannaCompounds, call 530-270-9273.
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