Women and Cannabis at the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference


Thirteen years ago when I was aspiring to do something about this crazy mixed up world, I endeavored to earn the title marijuana activist. I didn’t know much about cannabis, except I liked it and knew it shouldn’t be criminalized. I didn’t know anything about medical marijuana, and was pleasantly shocked when someone told me medical marijuana was legal in a few states.

Thanks to the University of Missouri NORML Chapter, I was able to get involved and soon enough I was honored to be elected president of the chapter. Some friends and I also founded the first University of Missouri chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). We were working on a local initiative in my hometown of Columbia, Missouri, so we wanted to soak up any knowledge we could since our Political Science majors didn’t teach us how to run an initiative drive and campaign. The University of Missouri-Columbia (affectionately known as Mizzou), offered a grants program to send the officers of student organizations to their national conferences.

The first two conferences we attended were in California, where I was blown away at the freedom and sheer number of movers and shakers there. It would be a real understatement to say that I had never witnessed anything like it before. If someone told me then that I would be working at conferences like that in the future, I wouldn’t have believed them. They are so fun and you get to meet and hob nob with the best and brightest in the cannabis industry and law reform movement. Learning from the best advocates across the country motivated us Mizzou activists and I am still very proud that we were able to decriminalize marijuana in Columbia in 2004, an effort that included several prominent women, such as Amber Langston, a longtime freedom fighter and current Deputy Director of Show-Me Cannabis.

My Nerdy Excitement to Pick Up Dale Sky Jones and Debby Goldsberry at PDX

Today, I’m nerdy excited to help out the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference (OMMBC) by picking up two amazing women in our industry and movement at the airport. I even remember being excited when I met someone that personally knew Debby Goldsberry. But then one day, I had the pleasure of meeting her. She’s among the nicest people I have ever met. Then at the next conference I felt it was a personal victory and honor that she remembered my name. Every time I see her I reintroduce myself assuming she may not remember me.

While Debby is often mentioned as one of the all-time women cannabis activists, you can remove any qualifiers as she is one of the time all-time activists period and her accomplishments stack up against virtually anyone. Mentored by the late, great Jack Herer, Debby co-founded Berkley Patients Group, one of the most successful dispensaries in history and her longtime advocacy was ultimately recognized when she was named High Times Freedom Fighter of the Year in 2011.

In 2010 when we were working toward legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon we kept a close eye on California and the Prop. 19 campaign. I loved watching the national news because they were finally talking about cannabis prohibition. If I was lucky, I was able to catch a Dale Sky Jones interview. She killed it on Fox news, and every channel, every time. Dale, as Executive Chancellor of Oaksterdam University, combines industry and activism skills with the best of the best.

I was psyched to learn she would grace us with her presence at this year’s OMMBC. Excitement doesn’t begin to describe what I’m feeling now knowing I get to welcome her to Oregon. I so look forward to Dale and Debby joining my friends Ashley Preece Sackett and Chelsea Hopkins on the “Women & Cannabis” panel. Dale and Debby put in many years of hard work to pave the way for women in the cannabis industry today. I am fortunate that I have managed to start my own ancillary cannabis business and I am so thankful for the activists that have laid the foundation for all of us today.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go find the best legal cannabis in Portland because I can’t show up to such an occasion empty-pocketed. Or maybe I don’t want to be empty-pursed.

Sarah Duff is a longtime cannabis law reform advocate that has helped successful measures qualify for the ballot in both Oregon and Missouri. Mixing activism with a socially conscious entrepreneurial spirit, Sarah co-owns Duff Johnson Consulting, a company that helps assists patients, cultivators, clinics, dispensaries and other businesses comply with Oregon cannabis laws. Sarah also produces medical marijuana products, including tinctures and lotions, through her Freedom Fighter Farms line that donates a portion of proceeds to charity and those in need.