“Margie’s Magic” An interview with Melissa Burgstahler & Kellie Carlton of Dear Cannabis, Rose Moberly of Huckleberry Hill Farms, and Jayne Fiscus of Select by Curaleaf
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and what role you each play in cannabis.
Melissa Burgstahler: I’m Melissa Burgstahler, the co-founder of Dear Cannabis. I started in the cannabis industry in sales and distribution. I learned about SB34 and started Dear Cannabis to honor my mama so I sell weed by day and by night and on my weekends, I give it away.
Kellie Carlton: Hi, I’m Kellie Carlton, partner and CMO at Dear Cannabis. It’s been a wild ride and I’m so grateful to be here.
Jayne Fiscus: My name is Jayne Fiscus. I’m the lab director at Curaleaf for Select in California and that is both my day and night job. I have the unique ability to get to use mine and my team’s skills to take really fantastic flower and turn it into extracts and concentrate products. I found Dear Cannabis because…well, she found me. Mel has a similar tattoo to me honoring her mother in the same location on her body. That got us talking about our stories and allowed me into this project.
Rose Moberly: And I’m Rose Moberly, newest farmer in Humboldt. Three years in I’m still going to be new forever, but I love it out here. Started in policy work in cannabis, so I guess you could say farmer by day, crazy policy person by night. I’ve tried to form this protection ring around the legacy farmers.
It’s really hard to introduce myself because I have a bit of imposter syndrome when I’m up here with all these amazing farmers that have done it since before all of us were born. But they are passing the torch and I am more than happy to take it and run with it.
Jayne Fiscus: I think that’s what’s fun about where we are. These women here on this call are the future of our industry and the future of our plant. We have a big job to do which is honoring where we came from, while continuing to drive into the future. Remember that those farmers are passing everything they know to you so that you can continue to be one of them, because you are one.
Give us a high-level overview of what this project is and how it links the entire supply chain?
Melissa Burgstahler: Dear Cannabis is an open-source network platform where licensed companies have an opportunity to contribute their expertise, labor or materials to a project. Instead of shouldering the whole project, we spread the project out across the supply chain. Rose approached me with this flower that was very important to her called Margie’s Magic, which I’ll let her tell you more about.
Once we had the flower, I was talking to Jayne and I was like ‘We have this important project that’s close to my heart and close to Rose’s heart’ and Jayne was like ‘I’m in. Done. Let’s do it. I can blast it and pack it.’
Then we spoke to Eaze. They were able to cover the packaging cost. Jayne got Sonoma Lab Works to cover the necessary testing. We spoke to HERBL and they didn’t even hesitate to contribute by doing the last mile distribution.
Jayne Fiscus: And I had the joy of running into Rose very organically. I didn’t put the pieces together at first. I was walking a trade show floor and ended up just chatting with Rose. Then when Mel connected us she was like ‘Oh, you guys have met!’. It was a beautiful kind of organic start to it. Cannabis brings people together and we were all brought together by it and Rose had this incredibly special cannabis.
Tell us about it, Rose.
Rose Moberly: I feel like White Thorn Rose is really what pulled you into our booth, Jayne. What’s cool about White Thorn Rose is it has the same mother plant, Paradise Punch, as Margie’s Magic so everything on the farm is made from a descendant of Johnny’s mom’s plant, Paradise Punch. It’s a very unique strain.
Rose Moberly: Johnny is my partner. He grew up on this very property. Started growing cannabis at 10 years old with his mom along with all the other plants…tomatoes, potatoes, everything. It was all the same to him. It was just another plant in the garden until he was older. He was 15 when his mom let him grow his own plants and really instilled in him a respect for them. She taught him that TLC is really what grows the plants best and you can’t find that in a jug. That’s one of his favorite quotes…’can’t find TLC in a jug’.
It’s really cool because we grew up in a similar fashion with moms who supported us, no matter what. Sadly, he got busted in his early 20s and went away for eight years. He had 4 years of court, 8 years of federal prison and then 5 years of probation. 17 years of his life for this plant that his mom taught him how to grow. Then he became the fourth existing license in Humboldt. He’s my number one role model and cheerleader.
I met Johnny the year my mom was passing away. I came out here to teach compliance to small farmers and met Johnny and never wanted to leave. At the same time, my mom was in the hospital, you know we were figuring that out. The terrible part is I was really the only one who wasn’t in denial about what was really happening. Her oncologist had to pull me aside multiple times and say ‘Hey, your family is just not getting it.’ So, I had Johnny in those moments; someone who had lost his mom. He lost his mom while he was in prison. A year to the day that he got put in prison, she was coming to visit him and was loading up an ice chest with fish and goodies that she would always stash in the field for him to go get and she had a heart attack.
In those moments when I was really lost, I had Johnny. Now we get to honor our moms together.
And then how did you get to Dear Cannabis?
Rose Moberly: We all know Ramon Garcia. He’s a big person in compassion and he had nothing but good things to say about Dear Cannabis. It was a no-brainer that the first large crop that we had named Margie’s Magic in my mom’s honor, should be donated to patients. When she was passing away, she wanted cannabis, but she had such bad anxiety. We all have different bodies and we’re all going to react to stuff differently and we ran out of time to really experiment with that stuff. So, I’m just grateful and hopeful that this can have a positive effect. It helps fill some regret.
Jayne Fiscus: Same for me, as well. My mom passed when I was younger. I grew up in Texas where there is no access to this medicine. I watched my mom deteriorate over years. I watched the impact on my family and on my father, who is my best friend in the whole world. It broke everything and we didn’t have access to any sort of thing that might help her in any way that is natural. I look at it the same way, Rose; that this is not only a privilege for me to get to do but it’s also my responsibility. It’s our responsibility to take care of the community because I didn’t get to with my mom and if she had had this, then I bet those last couple of years would have been much different.
Melissa Burgstahler: It’s interesting because I lost my mom really young as well. I was six when she passed. She was a musician. She’d go to chemo in full makeup, heels, like she was dressed to go to a gig. My God Mom used to pick her up and she’d always have a joint rolled for her to help with her nausea. She left a journal for me and one of my favorite parts is where she talks about the relief that she found in being able to smoke a little bit of weed.She went through a bone marrow transplant. She went through chemo twice. It’s so destructive to the body.
I feel the same sense of responsibility; especially with the network that I have and all the medicine that’s out there and my understanding of how to work through SB 34. I want to help people like my mama. This is probably the coolest project we’ve ever done. To be able to honor technically four different Mamas at the same time, I couldn’t think of a better project.
Jayne Fiscus: And to be able to release on Mother’s Day.
Wow, It sounds like there is definitely some organic, universe-aligning-itself beauty to this.
Jayne Fiscus: All day on 4/20 my team sat down and packed this out together and that was community care and self-care because what better way to spend our holiday than making sure that our Community is cared for and making sure that the product we get to use and grow as our livelihood is helpful. It’s a political statement in and of itself and it’s part of our jobs, to continue to push that forward.
I’m proud because each piece of this came from a top-quality source. Everyone pulled together. Donation, as Mel was saying, happens through SB 34 which is Senate Bill 34 which rights compassionate care for medical cannabis. The Department of Cannabis Control and Metrc are different though and they don’t all talk to each other and so it’s an ongoing battle with compliance and regulations to even be able to do this at all.
So, you’re exactly right it’s perfect cosmic timing in a lot of ways, even starting from the fact that I just happened to talk to Rose separately from this project. The pieces all aligned in a way that tells me that this absolutely has a bigger purpose than just for us here.
Tell us a little about what exactly it is that you’re donating.
Jayne Fiscus: Rose and Johnny grew some beautiful Margie’ Magic and I had my team drive up there and they still, to this day, talk about it and are wearing Huckleberry Hills Farms stickers on everything. We were able to pick up about 300 pounds from Rose and then my team and I were able to extract that into a full spectrum extract. In the same vein as Rick Simpson Oil, it has the living essence of the plant captured with its cannabinoids and its plant matter. It goes into a syringe that’s used for topical application or oral ingestion. It’s highly concentrated and allows for that plant magic, the same thing that happened within the plant itself, to be put in an extract form. For medical patients who may not be able to smoke or consume via standard methods because they’re in a hospital or because they have lung cancer or because their medical situation prohibits it, this is a product that is easy, discreet compact and very helpful.
And who are these donations going out to?
Kellie Cartlon: Thanks to HERBL, we’re lucky enough to be getting this medicine throughout the state. We have over 100 retail partners and around 30 of them will be receiving some of this Margie’s Magic. When it comes down to the patients, it’s really up to the retail group. We find that it’s important for them to see who’s in most need. It’s not just limited to cancer patients. We want to make sure veterans are getting access, people who are going through mental health problems are getting access. I think we all know that cannabis has a myriad of uses and we just want to make sure that anybody who needs it, can get access to it.
We’re overwhelmed by how much love went into this project. We have 8200 grams that will be going out throughout the state which is just insane when we think about that many people getting access to a product that they may not have had money for or may not have been able to get access to.
Thank you to all the wonderful women on this panel. We just can’t tell you enough. We were here to facilitate but we couldn’t do it without all of you stepping up and making sure that the work gets done. All the love Rose put into the flower and knowing that the first round is going directly over to Jayne who made it into this wonderful oil that we know is so beneficial to patients. I’ve got goosebumps and Mel and I talk about it constantly; how lucky we are to be a part of this project and a part of this movement and seeing women like this come together to make it happen. It’s humbling and we’re just so excited to be a part of it.
Jayne Fiscus: And it won’t just help the people that receive this medicine, which is a huge number. Over 8000 products, 8000 people. That’s a lot. I don’t know anyone who produces batches that large. The back side of it is that we are able to take care of each other as well. So, it’s 8200 units, 8200 people in addition to the 4 of us and the 13 in my lab and the 60 on our production floor because this is community care for us, as well. We are not just helping the people who need it the most, we are helping ourselves because we need to take care of each other as a Community, and this is a way to do it. Each person involved in this project is stoked. Just, full stop. Proud to be a part of it. Everyone who touches it comes away feeling better and that’s the point of the project; to provide calm and pain relief. It’s to provide help; not just to our patients, but to ourselves.
Melissa Burgstahler: As Jayne mentioned, on 4/20 we spent the first half of our day filling, packaging, stickering. I got to join her team on the production floor and almost every single person came up to me and shared their own personal connection to the plant; how the plant has helped their family or how they wish that their family had access to education and how their personal stories empower them in this moment to be a part of something so beautiful. It was all the feels. Meeting strangers, and them opening up their hearts. That’s probably my favorite thing about starting Dear Cannabis; learning why cannabis is important to people and giving them a platform to share their stories.
Kellie Carlton: That’d be our answer to why we’re called Dear Cannabis. Not only is it our love letter to the industry, but we want to hear everybody’s love letter. It’s terribly tragic to me that these three women have similar stories about losing their mothers to a disease. What we can do here is we can all come together and recognize that as a species, we have these common stories that run through all of us. We’re not alone. We’re a community and maybe we can be those champions of change that ensure our community is taken care of. That’s, again, why it’s just so humbling to sit with a group of women who really get that and who want to do the work to make that happen, and not only that, but turn this story that is so tragic into something beautiful for the rest of the Community. It’s so powerful to know that these women everyday go through their own struggles, but they come back to the table to make sure that their community is taken care of.
Rose Moberly: Learned it from my mom; how to be a mom to the Community.
Jayne Fiscus: That’s what I like about this, too. We all get to honor our moms; not only through the project itself, but because we are all the results of our parents and the results of what we came from and what we’ve been through.
Are there any other unique challenges that each of you have experienced in trying to make a project like this happen?
Jayne Fiscus: I’ve been privileged to work for a large company and I’ve been with our brand for many years and have been able to develop it and build it and be part of it as it grows and these are the moments that it’s for. You know we all have our stresses of working in a billion dollar startup industry. We can’t even do a P&L sheet properly for five years because it hasn’t been around for five years yet. We’ve been building this skillset and really, this is what it’s for; to be able to do this efficiently and quickly and functionally and in a way that everyone is proud to be a part of.
Even today, I had one of my guys come up to me like ‘Hey, can you give me Mel and Kellie’s contact information?’ and I was like ‘Why?’.
‘Because, you know, I don’t do a whole lot on Sundays. I could pick up some packaging and sit down and sticker it for them.’
When the thing that’s looming at the end of the tunnel is help, is an impact, is for a change that you can see, it makes it easy to go for it. We are extraordinarily thankful, my brand and myself and my people, to be a part of this at all. Every person who touches this project, from extractor to production line person to distributor, feels a way about it. Once they hear about it, it kind of rings all the bells. It shows that this is what happens when we collaborate rather than compete. If the whole supply chain comes together the way that we’ve proven it can, think about what we could do. Think about when it’s 80,000 units.
Melissa Burgstahler: Absolutely, and to see Dear Cannabis today and this project compared to when we first started… I started this company with a good friend, sitting in his living room with a big whiteboard like ‘We have SB 34. We can give away free medicine. You know a distributor, you know a farmer…’ We started making calls and our first project was so word-of-mouth like ‘Hey, you got any trim around? Hey, you guys mind blasting this?’
To see what it is two years later, it’s so freaking cool. Everyone I talk to; there’s never hesitation. Everyone’s just like ‘Yeah, we’re in. How do we help?’ So, I think getting this project out and getting the story out and seeing what is possible when you’re able to tap into large companies, imagine what we can do. I absolutely believe that we’ll have 80,000 gram batches. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
When we first started, most of our projects were with equity partners, donating their time and their resources and they really stepped up and supported us and now seeing Select come in and Eaze come in and HERBL come in; it’s so exciting what this can be next year, or even in the next two months. I’m incredibly humbled and grateful.
Kellie Carlton: Our industry is being built by a bunch of people who have an understanding that this is a magical plant and that we’re all lucky to have our own unique interaction with it. With Prop 65, the industry got really fragmented and burdened with taxation and regulation. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to step up and give back to compassion, it’s just that they didn’t really have the capacity that they once had when the laws were different.
That’s why it’s so beautiful to see in Jayne’s words, collaboration over competition. We have all these different pieces of the puzzle that people can offer and want to offer. It’s just that when it comes to making it all happen, it’s a little bit harder for us right now. In the face of that, to see our community come together is a constant justification that the kind of healing and identity behind our culture never really left. We’re standing up and taking back this industry. It’s not about competition, it’s about the magic that we can create when we come together and take little steps forward towards turning an idea into a reality. Those little steps turned into 8200 grams for people who need it.
Now, I sit back and think ‘Look at all these players we have on our side’. We have a wealth of people that we can reach out to and be like ‘Hey do you have this?’ and they will say yes, because they care. At the end of the day, there are a lot of people in this industry with big hearts who just want to see everybody be better.
Rose Moberly: Yeah and part of Margie’s Magic too is she taught me the power of manifestation; the power of believing in yourself and continuing to just do what feels right in your body, you know, being embodied. And how much cannabis really helps us, especially as women, come into our body and live in our body and listen to our body. There’s nothing about this project that I didn’t feel amazing in my body about. That’s something she always stressed to me and I came up with a saying actually about it: If it feels light, it’s right.
Jayne Fiscus: That’s probably why honestly so many of us, me included, immediately say yes to Dear Cannabis. It feels light and it feels right. It’s exactly that it’s a way to embody our plant in a fantastic and powerful way.
Cannabis is so incredibly complex as a plant at its heart. I say cannabis has a heart of uncertainty, because it’s always different and I find that we win when we work together and when we take simple approaches, because the plant is complex enough; just like ourselves, just like our moms. All we need to do is honor what’s already there.
I’m not a cultivator. I don’t grow good weed but I know what good weed is so I’m able to reflect that in a concentrated form. People like Rose and Johnny are out there, doing the real frontline work of cultivating and Mel and Kellie have the job of dealing with the difficulties of the regulations behind it, and so this is a way to do it simply. People just come together. You have a grower. You have an extractor. You have some packaging. You’ve got a testing lab. You’ve got a distributor.
It shouldn’t be as hard to do the things that we need to do, and this is an example that shows me that it doesn’t have to be. We can just do it, we can let the plant be her beautiful complicated self and keep everything really easy on the back end and that’s good news. There isn’t enough good news in our industry, and this is a big piece of very good news.
Rose, before we go, can you tell us a little more about the strain Margie’s Magic?
Rose Moberly: Of course. Margie’s Magic came to fruition because we have Johnny’s original Paradise Punch from his mom and then we have a strain that we got from a friend that we called Wishful Thinking. I was trying to figure out how to honor my mom. We did some things like build a garden for her. I was still feeling, as I’m sure you guys can understand, the hole that is created and you can fill it with whatever you want, it’s never going to be filled, but one thing that we did do is we took those two, Paradise Punch and Wishful Thinking, and made Margie’s Magic.
What’s great is it has that pungent, dirty OG, almost gassy flavor from the Wishful Thinking and then it has classic Paradise Punch hill’s fruit. Putting them together, it’s hard to describe. What’s funny is my mom was really big on gardening and playing in the dirt and she loved fruit so it’s kind of perfect. She taught me how to garden, too, just like Johnny’s moms. The strain itself; I’m still learning about her. We’re still messing around with the phenos but the strain is one-of-a-kind and that’s one thing that makes our farm unique is everything that’s grown here is from here, only grown on this farm and we’re such a small farm that I cannot believe we are getting the outreach that we are getting through this project.
Along that line, I’d like to share my petition to end cultivation tax. This needs to happen, and I know that it’s being talked about. There’s a few bills right now, but this petition is being used at the state level by Origins Council.
If there’s no small farms, what are we doing?
Jayne Fiscus: That’s the balance between companies like mine and companies like yours. My job is to make sure in a lot of ways that I can bear a lot of it, because we have the ability to do that so you guys get to stay open. Cultivation tax is insane. For understanding of the severity of it, with the rise in taxes and the fallout of the California market, $6,000 worth of marijuana will sell for $28,000 worth of taxes.
We need people to sign this petition so we can continue to make sure that Margie’s Magic is able to exist in the world.
The Dear Cannabis; network unifies the cannabis supply chain, utilizing their partner’s unique licenses and expertise to collaborate on and gift products (Full Spectrum Concentrated Cannabis Oil, Tinctures, Pre-rolls, etc.) to medical marijuana card holders within the State. They do this by coordinating the procurement and distribution of gift-in-kind product donations from cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and to organizations providing free products to people in need.