Brandee Hewlett | Los Angeles, California | 13.11.2020

Brandee Hewlett worked in bartending for 14 years, starting at an Irish pub. She then worked at a gay nightclub for 8 years, before moving on to fine dining and bartending competitions. It was at this point in life she began to feel a ‘massive pull’ to shift away from ‘serving poison’. Nowadays, she teaches Zen Yin yoga and incorporates sound healing therapy into her classes. She advocates strongly for cannabis, something she thinks of as plant medicine. Instagram: @108hopedealer

When did you first become interested in weed, and why personally do you use it? When I was about thirteen is when I started getting interested and it was more the mischievous side of me. I found a bong in the park, so – You found a bong? Richard giggles I did, and it was only a cardboard tube, so… in hindsight now maybe, someone was trying to hide it there. Brandee giggles But it was like a pot of gold, so I grabbed that. And my friend’s mom didn’t care, so we went over there and we tried to smoke out of the bong.. I mean we did, ‘cause we got super high. Right. But that was my first experience getting high. Cannabis and my relationship with it has evolved exponentially since then. It’s changed into medicine and being able to dose myself appropriately. And what influenced you to take up yoga? So, I worked at a nightclub for eight years and it had just closed. And I had just turned thirty and I had a really hard time with hitting thirty. It was this point in my life where I was just lost. And I was at a few different jobs that I wasn’t enjoying, different bars, different restaurants.

And I was really just seeking something, something maybe outside of myself to get me out of this misery. So I was getting my hair done at this salon and next door was this yoga studio. And I walked in and she invited me in that night and I came back for class and that was it. No looking back. Yeah. How does cannabis improve yoga for you? I think because cannabis and yoga have sort of the same side effects. It’s helping you to get deeper in your body, a little bit more out of your mind. And for me, when I’m consuming cannabis and I’m moving, I’m so much more able to be out of the head. Thinking further into the body, rather than just staying above the shoulders. I just think that it’s this symbiotic relationship that feeds off of each other. It’s relaxing or it’s invigorating depending on what strain you use, so it’s pretty versatile and amazing. How did you become involved with Dee Dussault‘s 1Ganja Yoga collective? How did I? On Instagram I found Dee, because that’s how the algorithm works. I like yoga, I like weed and it just like, magically appeared. Ta-da!

In one or two weeks she was having yoga teacher training and I was like: “Oh, this is so cool, I wanna do this!” I hit her up and the price was a little bit more than I could afford at the time. So I let it go, I was like: ”Whatever, it’s not gonna work for me”. And a week before the training started, she messaged me and she goes: “I wanna give you a discount on the training if you’re still interested.” And I was like: “Great!”, so I did that. And she’s just super supportive as a mentor. She’s great. Have you got any interesting stories from your involvement with Ganja Yoga? Let me think. So there’s a couple things. Interesting people that I’ve met, I don’t know, I wonder if she’d get upset with me if I… Oh, okay, I have a really good one. She got invited to a cannabis party, so it’s this house that got rented out by Airbnb, totally illegal to do something like this. They threw a massive party and Dee was invited and I was her plus one, so we went! And it was crazy, to go up the canyon. It sat up (at) the top of the mountain.

The traffic was insane because everybody was getting dropped off in cars at this party and so the neighbours were pissed. So we go to the party and we’re like: “Oh my gosh!” And everybody’s an Instagram influencer. So, everybody’s all done up and they’re so LA. And they’ve got their cameras and their Instagram pulled up, or Tik Tok, whatever they’re doing. And people would talk to us like: “Are you two influencers?” So her and I were like: “Wait, where are we? This is so weird!” So we smoked as much weed as we could and then we took off that night and.. It was like a nice adventure, but it was not our vibe at all. It was cool though, because we were on the same level at least! So she was like, “Are you ready?”, and I’m like: “I’m ready”. Laughter Sounds like it was a little bit intense with all the influencers everywhere! It was. It’s a different world, to be around them. Have you ever been stigmatised for using cannabis? Yeah, for sure. Yep.

I come from the middle of America. St. Louis, Missouri is my home town and I think there was a lot of stigma there. When I moved here… It was in the ballot the November after I moved here to become legal. And so I think there was really no stigma with it out here. People would smoke wherever they wanted to and it was just a free-for-all and I was like, “This is amazing!” So then, I start doing Ganja Yoga and I take this Ganja Yoga retreat and I start promoting it at the yoga studio that I worked at. And yoga people at that studio specifically (I don’t know about all of them).. They were not feeling it and I felt pretty ostracised. The experience really changed for me after that, because I didn’t realise how much of a stigma it still held with some people and especially in the yoga community. Would you say now that there’s a lot more yogis out there who have embraced it, that they would use it pretty often as well as practicing yoga? Yeah, I think a lot more people do it and I think that a lot more people don’t say that they do it. Right.

Because there’s a lot of us that will meet at these Ganja Yoga events and realise that we’re that one lone toker outside of the yoga studio before class and we’re trying not to smell like it when we go in, you know? So then when you make a space for all these people to come together, they’re like: “Yeah, I’ve had that same experience”. So I think that there’s a big group of people, it’s just a subset or a little niche of the yoga community that are stoners. Brandee giggles Do you think legalised cannabis has been a success overall in California, to you personally? Oh, to me personally? Hmm.. I don’t think that I’ve been affected by it personally. I don’t go to dispensaries. Yeah, not to me personally. But I do know that it’s done good things for some people, it’s more accessible for some. But it’s also really hurt a lot of small farmers and stuff, so there’s some good and there’s some bad that’s come from it for sure. 2Sienna Moodie would’ve mentioned that a lot of people who would’ve been making a living from it for a long time were then shut out, once it became legal. How would you suggest improving weed laws there?

Number one, every cannabis conviction, everyone that’s in jail for cannabis needs to get out today, yesterday, four years ago. So that needs to happen right now. And I would say social equity programmes for the people who do have past felonies for cannabis.. Let them get licences. They already know this business, let them have a licence to do this legally. Those are two of the main things that I’m passionate about that I think should happen immediately. Do you think the MORE [Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement] Act to federally decriminalise marijuana in the U.S has a good chance of being voted through the House of Representatives 3next month? Yeah, I do. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, time will tell. I know that our Vice President elect (Kamala Harris) has sponsored the bill. I think it has a good chance, yeah. And how do you feel cannabis and drug policy reform will fare nationally, under Joe Biden and Kamala Harris? How will reform do? Hmm… I think politicians say a lot of things and we hope that they’re gonna follow through with that, but both have been opposed to cannabis being legal in the past.

So I tread very lightly with believing in politicians before I really see what they’re gonna do… I’m hopeful! Laughter Well fingers crossed! When did you and Sienna Moodie first meet and how did Spaced Out become a reality? Sienna and I met through a mutual friend, who made a support group for yoga teachers. She just made this little chat on Instagram at first and added a bunch of yoga teachers she knows, all across the country. I think she was another one of the cannabis yoga teachers, that’s what it was. We were kinda like, “Oh hey!” And so, we took each other’s classes, and I think that we both teach very similar styles, so we like each other’s classes a lot. Our technique, or the things that we say are very similar. We like a really strong vinyasa practice, but we also like a really mellow, chill yen practice. So it’s cool to practice together and teach each other. And then we started talking about doing events. We met up in the desert.

There’s this cannabis-enhanced mineral springs spa and so we hung out there and really got inspired by that place. What’s that place called? Oh, I don’t wanna tell ‘cause then everybody’s gonna go to it! Oh it’s a secret, okay. No, it’s called The O Spa and it’s in desert hot springs. Wow, I didn’t know such a place existed. It’s amazing. It’s so great, it’s so cool. So then Spaced Out was just born because we kept having ideas step by step, one by one. We would reach out to people and be like, “Hey do you wanna sponsor this?” So we have two sponsors for the event. Stone Road Farms? That was one, right? Yep, and they supply us with their amazing pre-rolls. They’re sort of like this small farm. They don’t have a massive grow. The dad and the son put their heart into the business. And then Kikoko teas, which is a women-owned company that sources their cannabis from women when they can and they make these really beautiful teas. We have these 4Spaced Out socially-distanced cannabis yoga sound bath things. And it’s grown into having merch and it’s been really awesome to collab with someone. Like I said, we have a really similar style of teaching so we just flow together really well.

The sound bath concept, how would you describe it? So it’s me, someone in the middle of the group. And I have a 5rainstick, I have different shells that make noises, I have these Japanese chimes… Sienna told me about your crystal singing bowls, they sound really cool. Yeah, and each one is tuned to the different 6chakras, so I basically start with a big massive bowl, the root chakra, and it helps to ground everyone in and it helps to get them settled down. So there’s definitely a way the class flows. So sometimes where she’s teaching a pose, where it’s a heart opener, like a back bend or something supportive where the heart is lifted, I’ll play the heart bowl. And it just emits this frequency where it’s healing, it’s calming, it can reduce pain in people. There’s so many benefits and it just sounds so trippy, it sounds like you’re in another dimension. And where did you find out about sound therapy, was it through a yoga contact or something you stumbled across? When I first moved to LA, I was super broke and I was looking for free events to go to.

And they had a free sound bath one night at the yoga studio up the way, and so I went to it and it was my first experience (of this kind) with sound. And it was one of those experiences where I was trying not to open my eyes, because I wanted to stay immersed in it, but I wanted to see what was making the different sounds ‘cause it was so trippy. Brandee giggles You were working in the bar and restaurant industry for 14 years. You said that you felt as though something pulled you from that lifestyle, you’d had enough and you were tired of serving people poison. What made you gravitate away from that into new territory? I don’t necessarily know why, but it just started becoming this feeling that I wanted to do more in this world. I wanted to help people instead of just serving people booze. And it wasn’t always the case in fine dining, because it was cool to serve great food too, but there was still something that was just feeling really empty about that. So for me it was just a need to feel like I was fulfilling a purpose in this life. Okay.

Ireland has got a big drinking culture, bars everywhere, and the authorities have got no problem with people getting together and getting drunk and all the craziness that comes from that. But they’re very reluctant to move ahead with introducing some meaningful legislation for cannabis, even medicinally. So we are years behind ye in California. We’re hoping with the trend towards legalisation recently in America and globally that they’ll be nudged into starting something. But for whatever reason, they buy into the Reefer Madness stuff and the old fashioned thoughts about how cannabis can lead you to other terrible things. It’s like Topsy Turvy World over here, you know? It’s crazy. Terrible things like munchies and getting sleepy. Brandee laughs Have you any last words you’d like to leave with people in Ireland about cannabis or yoga? Yeah, I for sure do. With cannabis, the stigma that’s around it is such an old thought pattern. It’s such an outdated way of thinking and science is now backing this up.

If you see some of the videos that have gone viral about cannabis, about how much it’s helped people that needed it… In some of these instances, you can see physical symptoms of someone. I don’t know if the guy had Parkinsons, he was just shaking and he could barely light the bowl, have you seen 7that? Yeah. It goes to show how powerful this medicine can be and I just don’t understand why the stigma is still around, because there’s so much proof that it is medicine. If everybody could just take a step back and see that it’s helped so many people, I think that some minds would change. If people were just more open to seeing another side of the story. And with yoga, it’s super powerful. Just like any sort of medicine, yoga is the same where you use your breath to cleanse your body of stress, of emotions, of any kind of bullshit and it’s for everyone. Every shape, every gender (if you still live under that construct). Every size. It just stands for anyone.

There’s chair yoga, there’s veteran yoga, there’s cannabis yoga, there’s any kind of yoga that you could think of. And so I just would encourage anybody that’s thinking about it to even get online and find something. If you’re older, if you don’t have great mobility, or maybe you’re in a wheelchair then get on Youtube and look up chair yoga. See what you can do. Because it’s so powerful and it’s really changed my life. I used to be so anxious and I used to be so unsure about myself and through yoga I’ve really found this inner strength and it’s just an ease to any kind of anxiety that I’m feeling. So I would just encourage everyone to try it. Thank you so much for your time, we really appreciate it. It was nice talking to you and getting to know you a little bit! Thanks for having me, take care!

References:

1 For more information on Ganja Yoga: https://www.ganjayoga.com/about

2 Check out our interview with Sienna Moodie at this link:

https://greenlensblog.com/2020/10/04/sienna-moodie-palm-springs/

3 The MORE Act has since been voted through the House of Representatives:

https://hightimes.com/news/house-representatives-votes-decriminalize-marijuana/ 

4 For updates on Spaced Out yoga, follow the official Instagram account:

https://www.instragram.com/spacedoutsfla/ 

5 Wikipedia info on rainsticks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainstick 

6 Wikipedia info on chakras: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra 

7 The viral video in question, from the documentary Ride with Larry:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNT8Zo_sfwo 

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