From smoking her first joint with Snoop Dogg to becoming a renowned cannabis consultant to the stars, Dr. Dina is the ultimate cannabis connoisseur.
Not everyone can say they smoked their first joint with Snoop Dogg. What was that experience like?
I was in High School and went to my friend’s house after school. His Father is a prominent criminal lawyer and represented some interesting characters. One of his clients was Death Row Records. My friend’s Father was working out of his home office that day and he had a few of his clients over – Shug Knight and Snoop Dogg. This was very early on in Dogg’s career and he wasn’t the big star back then that he is today. He was there to discuss strategy during his murder trial and clearly was under a ton of stress. They took a break and Snoop and a few other guys stepped outside. They walked up to my friend and me and asked: “Where can we smoke?” We took them behind the tennis court where nobody would see us and they lit up immediately. I was young and naive and at first and assumed it was a cigar. But after a few puffs, they started passing it around to each other. I remember thinking, you don’t pass a cigar, this must be pot! I started to get more nervous as the blunt was being passed in my direction. Snoop says I looked nervous like I was about to tell on him, but really I was envisioning the old egg in the frying pan commercial, this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs. Snoop decided that he needed to “put her in the mix” by forcing me to smoke with him. I took a puff, and I remember being scared that I wouldn’t be able to pass the SAT’s. That was the very first time I tried marijuana; who knew that I would be scratching off a box on the bucket list that I didn’t even know I had. We filmed a documentary on VICE a few years back, called “The Real Life Nancy Botwin” and Snoop is in it and we tell this story together. He likes to take credit for introducing me to this incredible plant, and I am happy to give him all the credit!
Is that when your friendship first started?
Absolutely, although we didn’t see each other again for a few years. I ran into him when I was in college and we hung out a bit, but It wasn’t until I started my doctor’s office and dispensary that we become really close friends. 2020 will be our 30th anniversary of the first time we met!
Snoop Dogg is the one who gave me the nickname Dr. Dina. I didn’t go to medical school, but I opened the first Medical Cannabis Doctor’s office in Southern California in 2002. I helped Snoop acquire his very first letter of recommendation from a licensed physician making him a legal, medical cannabis patient. He immediately renamed me and would only refer to me as Dr. Dina from that day forward.
How did you get started in this industry?
I first got into the industry after a friend of mine was diagnosed with stage four Cancer. He wanted to give up and one day in 2001 he called me up and asked me to help him find a gun to end his life. He was so sick from the chemo. He had lost his medical insurance and was paying out of pocket for his treatments, and he couldn’t hold the meds down. He came up with an idea, he would kill himself and leave what was left in his bank account to his wife so she could bury him and start her life over. This wasn’t an acceptable option for me and when he told me his plan I immediately drove to his house with a joint. He didn’t want to try it, but after a few minutes of me arguing the facts with him, he conceded. He took three puffs and immediately stopped dry heaving. Colour returned to his face and his stomach started to growl. He hadn’t been able to eat or keep any food down. That night he ate his first meal in almost two weeks, took his pills and kept them down. “It’s a miracle” he said. That moment changed the course of my history. I spent the next few weeks looking for a doctor or dispensary to help him, but there were none in Southern California. This was pre- Google and it wasn’t easy to search online. I finally found a “Cannabis Doctor” in San Francisco. I drove my friend to Northern California to acquire a doctor’s recommendation for Cannabis and ended up partnering with his doctor and opening a clinic in West Hollywood a week later; three months after that I opened my first dispensary. I have been able to help so many people find safe access to Cannabis in the 17 years since. My friend was able to tolerate his treatment and has been in remission for 15 years.
What was your perception of marijuana growing up?
When I was a kid, I learned about marijuana from a DARE officer. I assumed that marijuana was just as bad as the other drugs they spoke about, so I avoided it! When I started High School, I noticed that several kids in my class were using it on the weekends. It seemed harmless, but I was still unsure about it. This leads me to your next question.
You were the real-life inspiration behind Nancy Botwin in Weeds. How did you first find out about this?
It’s a bit of a touchy subject for me. I wasn’t consulted, paid or asked to have a show based on me. I first heard about the show when a patient of mine walked into my dispensary and congratulated me on my new show. I had no clue as to what they were talking about. After asking some questions, I realized there was a new billboard down the street that said weeds on it. I was freaking out, since this was the early 2000’s and being in the spotlight for Cannabis could bring unwanted DEA attention. I thought it was a prank, and I called Snoop Dogg to yell at him for buying a billboard for me as a joke. When he had no idea as to what I was talking about I realized this wasn’t a joke and it was a real TV show. Once the show came out, I wrote down all the names in the credits at the end and searched them in my dispensary database. There they were, all patients of mine. Patients that spent a lot of time in the store asking questions and I naively answered. There are so many striking similarities between myself and the Nancy Botwin character, but there are many parts to the character that are not similar. I don’t sleep with every person I meet, I don’t kill grandmothers, and I don’t sell Cannabis to kids (unless that child is a medical patient and with the parent’s permission). Also, I don’t drink iced coffee, but I always have a hot green tea in my hand. Although the character wasn’t exactly like me, the show gave me a voice in the community.
I did open one of the first dispensaries in Southern California in 2003 and many of my staff members are represented in the show as characters. My right-hand man and best friend Byrd is the inspiration for Conrad and my old partner Andrew ( who inspired Andy) is currently in jail for being an idiot, just like in the show.
What is it like for women in this industry?
When I first started in the industry, it was male-dominated. The only women I met were budtenders and a couple of growers. That was because the laws were terrible and most families in the illegal market couldn’t risk having both parents put in jail; who would watch the kids? So the men worked and the women stayed at home with the children. But you know the saying, behind every great man is a great woman.
In the beginning it was hard. I had to be twice as tough as the guys to be taken seriously. Then the laws changed. It’s much easier for women to join the industry these days and there are many women in high powered positions. I think it’s natural for women to get involved. After all, the cannabis plant is female. We have collectively changed the way Cannabis is seen in the public, a softer side of healing.
What advice would you have for females wanting to get into this space?
Do it! The cannabis industry is so rewarding because you are helping people’s quality of life. Make sure you do your research first so you can be as knowledgeable as possible about the plant. The industry is growing rapidly and we have gone from the underground to the light of day. These new businesses need smart, strong women to join their team. Most of the jobs available these days are corporate jobs, marketing, PR, compliance, retail management…etc.
What is Freedom Grow all about? How can people get involved?
Freedom Grow is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit that I started out of love and necessity with Stephanie Landa. I first met Stephanie when she walked into my dispensary to sell me Cannabis in 2002, soon after she began providing me with most of the cannabis products I sold at my shop. She ended up moving to San Francisco to a larger grow space and was busted by the police. They turned her case over to the DEA and she ended up serving five years in federal prison for growing medical Cannabis. When Stephanie got out, she informed me of all the atrocities in prison and how badly prisoners rely on having commissary funds. Together we created FreedomGrow.org and we raise funds to put on the books of non-violent cannabis prisoners; we also help with clemency efforts, holiday drives for the prisoners and their children who suffer along with their incarcerated parent. We advocate for hundreds of people, many serving life in prison for marijuana. We started with a very grassroots effort. We find volunteers to sell hot chocolate or slushies at cannabis events with all the funds going directly to the prisoners since neither one of us takes a salary. Thanks to wonderful companies like Organa Brands, we have been able to help so many people. Our dream is for all Cannabis prisoners to be given clemency and sent home to be with their families. You can make a one time or a recurring donation directly on our website or you can sign up to volunteer. It takes teamwork to make our dream work! www.freedomgrow.org
What are some of the most common misconceptions you hear about marijuana?
I think some people are still holding on to the old Cheech & Chong stoner vibe. I think that’s the biggest misconception people still have is that cannabis users aren’t smart, successful or good people. This is clearly not true. I have made the most incredible friends through this industry and no one person is the same. They don’t fit into a box. I tried to change this when I worked on the Netflix show ‘Disjointed.’
What do you think are some of the trends we’ll be seeing in the industry in the next couple of years?
People love cannabis flowers, always have, always will, but now that extraction techniques have progressed, I think you will start to see more “Dosed” options – vape pens like Dosist that vibrate when you get the right hit. Next will be dosed sublinguals and edibles. Vaping and dabbing have become huge.
If you could spread one message about Cannabis what would it be?
“All Use is Medical Use.” The late, great Dennis Peron always said this and I truly believe it.
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All Images provided by Dr. Dina.