“Sis, it would be so dope if I had my own strain line, like my own, like it’s mine. They create it for me.”
-1st Lady of the West Coast
At the time, maybe just a dream. The history between black/brown people and cannabis has never been good in the United States, especially as it relates to cannabis/marijuana.
From being born 3 months early and weighing 2 pounds to being diagnosed with an invisible disability, this magical woman (who doesn’t use her real name for her cannabis work) grew through the mud—the war on drugs.
I think of her as a lotus flower—roots based in mud, the flower lunges into murky (did you know that murky is also defined as black and/or melanoid?) river water every night. Undeterred by the unfavored environment, it miraculously re-blooms the next morning without residue on its petals.
The 1st Lady of the West Coast was born in Oakland, CA, a city that is still impacted by the war on drugs. From 1998 to 2015, African-Americans were 90% of the arrests compared to the arrests of Caucasians, 3.91%. Of the 452 people arrested for marijuana offenses in 2011 in Oakland, 74.5% were African American, 13% were Latino, 5% were Caucasian. In 2015, African Americans made up 30% of the population but 77% of cannabis arrests, compared to 4% for Caucasians.
But this queen, shining in her purpose, did something amazing in 2016. The birth of Flotwckush, made the 1stLady of The West Coast the first black woman with her own strain and, following that, a full line: Flotwckush, Black Girl Magic OG, December Nights OG, and Shirley Ross OG aka SRG.
After being diagnosed with an invisible disability, doctors prescribed the 1st Lady Prozac and Abilify. Doctors experimented with multiple dosages, and though she reported concerns of lethargy, being unable to function, and cloudy thoughts, they insisted that the prescriptions were working.
Then, in 2004, in a backyard in San Diego, the 1st Lady of The West Coast consumed cannabis for the first time. She says, “I remember feeling ok, not stressed, not worried, not angry or upset but calm and relaxed, like my bipolar symptoms were disappearing. I noticed being more creative with cannabis.”
Her passion developed and grew into mentorships and partnerships with Duke of Erb Seeds, New Life CA, and A’esha Goins. She started Herb of Life Cultivation LLC, promoting the positive effects of cannabis with education and awareness.
bud.com talked with the 1st Lady of the West Coast about her history and projects. We’ve edited the interview for brevity and clarity.
You were born in Oakland, CA, the birthplace of Zendaya, Mahershala Ali, and Mark Curry. Can you tell me about your childhood and if/how the war on drugs affected you?
I had a good childhood, raised by amazing parents who instilled great morals and values in me. I thank God for my amazing parents Velinda and Paul (it’s also nice to see my cousin’s name, Mahershala Ali, and to be mentioned with him.)
The war on drugs made me a stereotype. There were times that I was forced to sit on the curb while my car was being searched for cannabis, and whatever else they were looking for. I would be let go, and then told to sit for 15 min before driving off. This happened as recently as 2011 in Hayward, CA. The war on drugs created this. It’s sad to be stereotyped and judged for the color of my skin.
Can you share some insight into the types of struggles you face with your diagnoses?
I have bipolar depression [and was a] crack baby. I was born prematurely (3 months early) and weighed 2 pounds. Due to my diagnoses, I’ve experienced anxiety, depression, severe fatigue, lack of energy, thoughts of suicide, and high and low mood swings. Basically, feeling like a zombie—just stuck.
That day in 2004, what was the inspiration/push for you to consume cannabis for the first time?
Prescription medication, my kidneys, and overall immune system health. I remember my friend Diego asking if I wanted to smoke a blunt. I was very curious and wanted to try. We ended up going back to my house, my backyard. What a lifesaver. It saved me from being on pharmaceutical drugs.
How does/did cannabis help you with those struggles in comparison to what doctors prescribed?
I feel depression-free and anxiety leaving me. I feel relaxed, calm, and free, like that scene in Waiting to Exhale when Whitney Houston (Savannah in the movie) exhaled. It was a life-changer for me. I’m glad I tried it because today my kidneys and liver are healthy, my immune system is healthy and not destroyed by [anti-]depressant medication.
How did you and Duke of Erb Seeds, New Life CA, and A’esha Goins connect? How did you all find each other?
The amazing power of the internet. I met Duke of Erb on Instagram back in 2015, He is a supporter of my music. We officially met at Harborside in Oakland, CA 2015 when he blessed me with more than an ounce of his new strain lines for me to try.
I’ll never forget Duke asking me why I didn’t have my own strain line. I remember I giggled and said “I was just thinking that, it would be an honor for you to make it,”,and we’ve been working together since. It has been a blessing to work with Duke of Erb. He has a good heart and is a very hard worker.
I saw New Life CA on Instagram and was amazed by their work! I also liked that they are a black-owned business, and in the equity program in Oakland, CA. I remember reaching out and saying, “We need to get BlackGirlMagicOg into New Life CA” and remember Carlton responding saying it would only be right.
From there, we ended up meeting in Oakland, CA and ever since then we have been a team. It is a must for me to give back to my community and very important that I offer something that helps get people of pharmaceutical drugs and opiates.
I met Mrs. A’esha Goins at a cannabis event we both attended in January 2018. I was very amazed by her work and education, and what she has done in the cannabis industry. She is setting the standard in Las Vegas, NV and everywhere she goes. I followed her back to Las Vegas to show my dedication and interest in working with her. I’m so blessed to have her help me enter the Las Vegas market.
In previous interviews, you discuss Joseph Rezene and his guidance, can you tell me more about that?
Back in 2009, I ran into Joseph Rezene, at Harborside in Oakland, CA. He was budtender and grower. I would visit his grow rooms and he would share knowledgeable tips on cannabis growing. He recommended that I read the Marijuana Horticulture, The Indoor/ Outdoor Growers Bible.
When I did, Joseph blessed me with my 1st four clones to grow. I remember my 2nd grow having about 35 plants, one of the biggest I’ve ever grown. Since then, I’ve been growing cannabis with his teachings/mentorship.
You not only work in cannabis, you’re also a musical artist and songstress. How do you balance it all?
My stage name is 1st Lady of the West Coast. I started singing at the tender age of 4 and writing my own music at 8. I’m a part of the iDrink family and have been working with the record label 880 Style Inc., for 18 years. I started my own label, 1st Lady of The West Coast Music Group, in 2017.
It’s not hard to balance because of the passion and love that I have for both music and cannabis. For me, they fit hand and hand.
There is still a lot of work to do in the cannabis industry to right the wrongs, what do you think should be the priorities for fixing those wrongs?
We should be seeing more minorities entering the cannabis industry as business owners and providing more services to help minorities with funding. There are struggles due to the war on drugs against minorities and more help should be provided now that we can operate legit businesses in the industry.
Looking back, what brings tears of joy to your eyes and what fills your heart with gratitude?
I can’t believe that I was 17, looking at the sky, and speaking this into existence. ‘I have my own strain line’—those words are so powerful! I spoke my life into existence. I stayed faithful and determined and didn’t give up. I’m blessed to be a part of the cannabis business. They told me I was stupid to think cannabis would work. Here I am today, to speak my truth about how cannabis saved my life. I’m grateful about making a difference in people’s lives, saving people by sharing my story and providing knowledge about the medicinal benefits of cannabis. This is life.
You manifest your destiny. What can we look forward to next?
New strain lines are coming! Next up is BGMO f2 aka Black Girl Magic OG f2. There are also a few important developments that will be announced soon. Currently, we are working to provide the best education on medicinal cannabis.
All photos courtesy of Herb of Life Cultivation
Veronica Castillo is a writer/journalist, traveling the U.S. to cover all things cannabis. She’s a passionate advocate and enthusiast—on a mission to educate, inform, and empower. You can find her work in Oklahoma Chronic Magazine and Cannasseur Magazine or follow her on Instagram and Medium.