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Shackled in Misinformation: The Sisters of the Valley Question California Dispensary-Owners


The Question

Feeling like I’m screaming to a deaf universe, I decided to take up quill and pen, or rather, keyboard and display, and vent it publicly.  Perhaps, putting the question out there will gain us some clarity.

Here’s the question and it is posed directly at California dispensary owners – where is that law you keep quoting, where is it, exactly?

Where is the law that says you can’t sell hemp products that are not in
the track and trace system?

They can’t point to it because it doesn’t exist.  Yet, this non-existent law is interfering massively with our existence.  This imaginary rule is blocking our commerce.

The California Food & Drug Administration

It might be worth starting with the fact that we pay over $10K a year to renew our state licenses.  Three of them:

  1. human food (oil and tincture drops, mushroom coffee)
  2. pet food (oil drops)
  3. cosmetics (our fabulous and famous topical salve). 

And yet, no one at the agency will talk to me on this subject.  In fairness, though, they won’t talk to anyone.  We once paid our lawyers a lot of money to try, but this agency answers no calls or queries that they didn’t initiate.

The agency did send me an email response with a link to the Sherman Act, which I read.  It makes no mention of such a ruling against licensed hemp manufacturers. 

What I believe happened is that there was a four-year period between 2018 and 2022 when that statement was true, but it had nothing to do with ‘track and trace’ at all.  The rule has always been the same, it has just been twisted around.  The dispensaries can’t sell things that are not licensed by the state.  And for four years, there was no allowance for state-licensed CBD products to be sold anywhere, because there were no licenses issued. 

So, the only way to offer them during that four-year period was to treat those plants like THC plants and put them in the track and trace system, which folks did.  That’s how CBD products went on the shelves and stayed on the shelves of dispensaries before hemp licensing came along in 2022.  So here comes hemp licensing and what do the Dispensaries do?  Yawn.  And continue as usual?  Maybe. 

The History


In 2016, I was invited to a panel discussion on the steps of the capital to sit on the side of those who were proponents for legalization and governance of profit-making enterprises to serve the cannabis industry.  Basically, proponents for creating a safe path for commerce, a legal path to the birth of dispensaries.

The old-timers in the industry, those who devoted their lives to total plant freedom and were uncompromising in regard to how it should be done, gave me a lot of shit about my advocacy for Prop 64. 

I knew the regulations weren’t perfect.  I also knew that if we waited for ‘perfect’, no regulations would ever come, as had been proven by failure after failure of propositions that came before.  We didn’t want to be stuck in a  no-man’s land of collectives and non-profits, without the ability to give birth to  privately owned small businesses.

Back on the steps of the capital building in Sacramento in 2016, I told the people assembled this:

At this very moment in time, it is illegal for me to give a THC joint to an adult.  It is illegal for me to pass a joint to, say, the visiting media.  So I have to say to a grown-ass men and women, I can’t give you this joint, but you can take it and no one will protest.  Because I could go to jail for doing that!  This law stops the ridiculousness of that, at least.  This law takes cannabis from being a trapped slave, chained in the basement, to a trapped slave chained to chair out in the backyard where there is water and sunshine.  It is a step.

So yes, I advocated for the very agency that we now pay over $10K a year for licenses, but who won’t return my calls or queries.  An agency who will not put out a statement to the dispensaries telling them ‘Don’t be stupid, of course you can carry California licensed hemp products’.

In that period between licensing dispensaries and licensing hemp operators, it WAS illegal to sell hemp products that were not in the track and trace system.  Using the track-and-trace system for hemp was a temporary measure taken voluntarily by growers to maintain lawfulness, while the state figured out how to license hemp farming.

Being Blocked is Bad for Business and Doesn’t Make for a Fair or Safe Market

Being blocked from selling our products in dispensaries is not good for the industry, keeps any new small businesses from sprouting and is definitely not good for us – no matter that we have our licenses, no matter that we have our Better Business Bureau accreditation. 

Recently, we won first place in our topical salves and tinctures by the Women Canna Awards.  We had to package hundreds of samples for the competition, pay an admission fee, pay shipping, and answer too many emails.  But we won first place for two products and the prize was a list of 30 women-friendly dispensaries who would take a meeting and seriously consider selling our products in their stores.

We felt that prize to be invaluable and started contacting the dispensary ‘allies’ of the Women’s Cannabis businesses, and only got about a half dozen emails out the door when the responses started coming back, very definitive, that they cannot sell our licensed hemp products in their dispensaries because our plants weren’t grown in the track and trace system. 

Some want us to believe they can’t sell our chai tea / mushroom coffee blend, either.  We know this isn’t true.  They sell lighters and soda, for crying out loud.  Those aren’t grown in the track and trace system.

It isn’t just dispensary owners who are singing this untruth, agents and consultants and lawyers will confirm it, but when asked to point to the law, they can’t.  There were no hemp-licensed companies for a four-year period – apparently, their formative years.  So it stuck. 

Sister Nia did the research for us, as she carries multiple post-graduate degrees in library science and works for one of America’s largest libraries.  After reviewing the laws, she presented us with a AB45, signed into law in October of 2021, which was meant to settle the issue on CBD being regulated in and outside of dispensaries. 

Said Sister Nia on the subject, “The governor introduced California’s AB45 to put this whole issue to bed.  It won overwhelming support in the California senate (passed 64 to 3) and went into immediate effect.  It is clear to us that AB45 made it no longer an issue in regard to selling state licensed hemp products inside or outside of dispensaries.”

Where is the Will to Advocate for Women-Owned Businesses?

Perhaps the dispensaries just took their lead from the state.  Afterall, it took the state only two years to license the stony stuff, starting from scratch, with no organization.  And then after that was done, they began the four-year process of licensing hemp companies.  The two-year project of licensing THC was done with no experience, no agency history.  The four-year project of licensing hemp was done with an established agency and years of experience.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that the California dispensaries incorporated that belief into their operations and use it TO THIS DAY to make CBD companies go away, even the very women-owned companies they signed up to help.

Dispensary Owners are Not Merely Serving

Dispensary owners might pretend that they are just witnesses to the culture, servants of the culture, but we believe they influence the culture.  Are they prioritizing getting high?  Do they prioritize escape over medicine?  Perhaps they prioritize a great buzz over healing and this contributes to the barriers blocking us from dispensary access. 

In the first quarter of our first year of making medicine, we took our products to dispensaries.  That was 2015.  They existed, then, without the regulatory bodies, as non-profits and co-ops.  No one was interested in non-psychoactive products.  It’s nearly ten years later, and from our perspective, not much has changed.

The Sisters of the Valley

People go to dispensaries looking for our products.  They stop us in the streets when they see us to ask why they can’t get them there.  People from foreign countries who visited California have tried to ‘stock up’ on our products through dispensaries, and later expressed, through emails, their disappointment in not finding them there. 

It hasn’t escaped our notice that Papa Barkley’s has become a sixty-million-dollar-a-year company while we are struggling to stay afloat.  The difference isn’t in product quality, but in their ability to sell through dispensaries and I don’t believe that Papa Barkley is putting their hemp plants, needlessly, into the track and trace system.

It would be quite clever of Papa Barkley to reinforce that rumor with dispensaries to keep the competition away.  But I don’t really think they would do that as I believe in the old adage, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”  It is obviously not the stupidity of Papa Barkley’s to which I refer, but of the dispensaries.  To be fair, it’s probably more related to laziness.

Masculine & Feminine Balance

There’s no law on the books that supports the discrimination against licensed hemp products in dispensaries.  So is it because healing is not a priority?  Is it because the focus is on extreme sports drinks and the stoniest weed?  If that is the case, then dispensaries are still playing the role of teenagers in an adult medicine game.  They’ve become the ‘go to’ place for plant-based medicine, but are they measuring up to that responsibility?

This is really a fight for equality of shelf space.  I always quip to the media that the CBD is the feminine side of the medicine because it heals and the THC is the masculine side of the medicine, because it messes with your head.  I think that’s a perfect allegory for what is happening here.  The masculine won’t make room for the feminine and that’s not a new story.


Meanwhile, the Sisters products are beginning to show up without such imaginary restrictions in dispensaries in other states, including Minnesota, Texas, and New York. 

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