By Nita Lelyveld Los Angeles Times.
The shimmery organza gift bags contained samples of face cream, salves and scrubs, a green marijuana-leaf label on each dainty jar.
Pot was the theme of the recent West Hollywood ladies' meet-and-greet, advertised as a monthly "cannabis networking event." It was held under the auspices of Women Grow, a national group created to empower women in the fast-flowering marijuana business.
"I truly believe that cannabis is a plant that heals a multitude of illnesses," hostess Cheryl Shuman said, "and I truly believe that the revenue and the jobs created from this can heal our economy."
Shuman, who runs the private Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, calls herself "the Martha Stewart of marijuana" -- and she looked the part: blond hair falling in gentle waves, dressed in black from her turtleneck to the spike heels of her suede boots.
A bout with cancer, she told the group, had made her a regular cannabis user. On this night, she welcomed those who saw marijuana as a chance to "reinvent themselves," and asked each person to say a few words.
"I'm just open for new adventures and multiple streams of income, right?" said a woman who introduced herself as a health coach and craniosacral healer. Another said she wanted a career change, that she was tired of being "a slave to the grind." Some did not want to be identified, given the precarious legal standing of their plans.
Ophelia Chong, who teaches at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, said she was about to launch a new company -- Stock Pot Images -- that will offer stock photos of cannabis and those who use it, without the cliche Rasta hats and "glow-in-the-dark leaves."
The group gathered in the bungalow offices of lawyer Bruce Margolin -- head of the L.A. chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws -- who for decades has defended people against marijuana charges. A stained-glass version of NORML's logo, topped with a pot leaf, hangs in his front window. On the office lawn, a modified American flag flutters, its stars green pot leaves in the form of a peace sign.
People squeezed into seats around the reception desk and waiting area, where a coffee table was piled with copies of Marijuana magazine and leaflets such as "10 Things Every Parent, Teenager & Teacher Should Know About Marijuana":
Q. How long have people used it?
A. Since biblical times.
In the room were those who said they used pot for health reasons -- to help with back pain, insomnia, leg spasticity from multiple sclerosis, a daughter's spina bifida -- and those who made their living doing pot-related PR, distributing cannabis-laced edibles to dispensaries and marketing pot-industry payment systems.
The featured speaker was a San Luis Obispo woman who put in a grow room after she fell and could no longer run her house-cleaning business. She said she and a group of female relatives decided to form the Seven Sisters Collective and "make a little money doing what we love" after some of them attended Shuman's first Women Grow session a few months ago.
Like a lot of those who spoke, her words were a mix of cannabis capitalism and cannabis crush.
"It's my inner sanctum," she said of the grow room, with its 64 plants. "If I'm awake at 4 a.m. I can go in there and go, 'Hi, girls. How's it going?'"
Shuman, who is good at sound bites -- she likes to speak of "the pot-com boom" -- went from selling eyewear to celebrities, movies and TV shows to making herself a public face of marijuana entrepreneurship. Now she does pot-related PR and marketing, endorses accouterments such as vaporizers and runs a venture to fund marijuana business projects.
The West Hollywood event, she pointed out, was "non-consumption." Most hands went up, however, when the group was asked who had used cannabis that day.
Throughout the event, attendees kept saying that marijuana surely would be legal soon in California -- for recreation as well as medication.
But until then, Margolin reminded, much of what they were doing still could get them arrested.
"It's still illegal, OK? We're talking today like it's legal. I want to caution you that people are still going to jail," he said.
Such talk did little to dampen the enthusiasm of Patrice Mosley, who arrived at Women Grow dressed for success -- hair swept into a high bun, a royal blue Louis Vuitton purse on her arm.
Since January, the 31-year-old from Atlanta has been baking a version of her grandmother's red-velvet cake -- though her grandmother doesn't know about the extra ingredient she adds.
She sees her cupcake company, The CannaCakes ("the taste you can feel"), as the first step in building a cannabis-based empire. With a real-estate license in several states, Mosley hopes one day to specialize in legal grow houses.
For now, she said, her cupcakes are selling so well that she is ready to devote herself full time to the enterprise. She recently gave notice at her day job working for an eye doctor.
She has chosen Monday to launch her new life. That's 4/20, which in certain circles might as well be a national pot holiday.