Ever since an overwhelming majority of California voters approved Proposition 215, which legalized the collective use of medical marijuana by patients with a doctor’s note, Orange County has been on the front lines of the war to protect that right in the face of ongoing harassment by government officials. OC Weekly has been reporting on this struggle since its inception two decades ago, and longtime readers don’t need to be reminded that many of the most prominent activists in the movement have been women.
There’s perhaps no better example than Marla James, the handicapped woman involved in the infamous May 2015 raid of Santa Ana’s Sky High Collective, in which video cameras caught cops insulting James, throwing darts and apparently eating pot edibles. Kandice Hawes-Lopez, the founder and director of the Orange County chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), is a prominent advocate who is dedicated to educating the public about cannabis, patient rights and state regulations. Deborah Tharp is a smart and sassy activist who fought a determined, if unsuccessful, campaign against Proposition 64—the recently passed initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in California—and is currently in law school with intentions of practicing cannabis law.
While the Weekly has dedicated considerable coverage to the political and social activism of the medical-marijuana movement, we haven’t spent nearly as much time examining the role of women on the business end of the trade. Now, in honor of Women’s History Month, we spotlight six influential players at the center of Orange County’s rapidly transforming cannabis industry.