The Cannabiz: Marijuana advocate Debby Goldsberry uses expertise to write book for budding businesses

Debby Goldsberry poses with a trophy
Debbie Goldsberg/Courtesy

Editor’s note: This piece has been edited for length and clarity.

Debby Goldsberry is a Bay Area activist who has been participating in cannabis policy movements for many years. Goldsberry currently works at Magnolia Wellness in Oakland, CA, and is also involved with the new dispensary that is set open on Telegraph Avenue. She spoke to The Daily Californian about her new book, “Idiot’s Guides: Starting & Running a Marijuana Business.”

Goldsberry poses with her new book

Daily Cal: Why did you write the book, “Idiot’s Guides: Starting & Running a Marijuana Business?”

Debby Goldsberry: Well, I wrote the book because I’ve been an advocate for marijuana reform for 30 years, and we’ve been on a mission to end the war on drugs, to end cannabis prohibition. We want people to have access to medical marijuana. People seem to have forgotten the mission. … Instead, they think medical marijuana is America’s next billion-dollar crop. … We need to end prohibition at the federal level. So I wrote the book to show how to do good business for new entrepreneurs and for the cause, and for the livelihood of ourselves. …

“People seem to have forgotten the mission. … Instead, they think medical marijuana is America’s next billion-dollar crop.”

— Debby Goldsberry

DC: Your background in activism is extensive; are there mentions of advocacy within the chapters?

DG: I put activism and philosophy throughout the book. You know, 10 thousand years ago, across the globe, cannabis was being used as medicine. The first part of the book dives into prohibition and how we ended up where we are now. But also, (it deals with) how to get back to the place where we once were …

DC: What else is included in the book?

DG: … You need to know the history, history of prohibition and tools to fight it — how to talk to your family (and) the government under the changing federal law. Even in the chapters, it’s teaching people how to be advocates for change.

DC: Why are you interested in studying and advocating for medicinal use?

DG: I got involved when I was in college, a student at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). I tried marijuana at the height of mid-‘80s prohibition. And the first time I tried it, I thought it was relaxing; (it was) helpful to me. I felt normal and became a medical user from the start, which improved my life exponentially.

DC: Do you ever believe that marijuana will become a subject in school curriculum, maybe in higher education?

DG: I know that college campuses, different professors do segments on the emerging industry, (which treats) cannabis as medicine. As for a full curriculum — not in an official university, but there are trade schools to fill that gap. Nonprofit groups are also doing classes. Magnolia Wellness has a training class on how to run a “cannabusiness.” Every Sunday, it’s a different topic.

DC: Is the book specific to California?

DG: A lot of the rules are still being established in California. There is no established limit for chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. … California will be very stringent. There are other problems, but the big problem I don’t address in my book is the drift from farm to farm. For example, the farm next door is growing blueberries, and it’s drifting onto cannabis plants. …

There are a couple of chapters on cannabis cultivation, which are very broad, as well as (chapters on) permits, facilities and several basic techniques. This book aims to give enough info — for people to get started, to make decisions whether or not to go into the industry and to collect means to do so. If you go into cultivation, you need to hire the right staff: Quality control and compliance are the two most important things.

DC: How does living and working in the Bay Area affect your advocacy, your interests and business operations?

DG: In Oakland and Berkeley, the medical marijuana industry in those two towns (has) the most progressive regulations. In the end, there are incredible cannabis industries in both cities, where we use our funds and our time for social good. We help people get involved and provide people who work in those cities to become the model, a model that can be replicated across the state. At Magnolia, we are teaching people how to run dispensaries and have social responsibility. …

DC: What’s your opinion on the federal administration’s (actions) against California (regarding the cannabis industry)?

DG: (Jeff) Sessions is gunning for California, but there are protections and states’ rights advocates such as Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher …

DC: In Berkeley, there are laboratories that analyze marijuana, seeing all the components, such as THC, or even the level of cleanliness, in terms of pesticide use and the amount of chemicals present. How do you feel about the increase of regulations and laws about clean marijuana? Do you think the cannabis industry will turn into a widely consumed, mass-manufactured industry in which the art of craft is diminished?

“The book is a step-by-step manual for people who I know and care about, and (I give them) a fighting chance to figure out how to do this right.”

— Goldsberry

DG: I wasn’t expecting these heavy regulations. We didn’t see it like this — we thought less regulation and more freedom.

It’s incredibly hard to run a cannabusiness. We are gonna have a hard time because of complications. The book is a step-by-step manual for people who I know and care about, and (I give them) a fighting chance to figure out how to do this right.

DC: In light of the war on drugs and America’s opioid crisis, do you believe marijuana has had any effect on the national problem?

DG: When people can get a steady supply of medical marijuana, they use — instead of opioids — prescription medical marijuana. In more people’s hands, in a steady safe supply, (marijuana can) drastically improve the opioid crisis. … The thing about medical marijuana is that humans have an endocannabinoid system with receptors all over the body. … And when these endocannabinoids are not satisfied, you crave alcohol and hard drugs. If people can have an external source of THC, you won’t crave it.

Amanda Reiman, a (former lecturer) at UC Berkeley, studied people who were using medical marijuana and (found that) they suffered from addiction (to other drugs) at far lower rates.

DC: The marijuana industry is budding, and there’s more coverage of it — more people are now interested, and looking for employment opportunities. Is there discrimination in the cannabis industry, (in terms of) race or gender?

DG: I think — just like any other industry — yes. But the people in the industry are determined and making an effort to correct that problem. (The office of the city administrator for Oakland) ensures half of given permits are for candidates in neighborhoods that are heavily affected by the war on drugs. We want that equity balance, and it’s caught on in the cannabis industry. …

Contact Robert Tooke at [email protected].

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