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 

Sienna Moodie | Palm Springs, California | 18.09.2020

Sienna Moodie is an Oakland native who (under normal circumstances) works as a yoga instructor in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She incorporates cannabis into her yoga sessions and uses it personally on a daily basis. Since this interview took place, she launched her online five-week Live Your Yoga course, where one can “learn to deepen your practice, effectively set intentions and speak about the philosophy and spirituality of yoga”.

Instagram: @yogawsienna / Website: https://www.yogawithsienna.com/

Hello Sienna! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in yoga. 

Well, I was a dancer for a really long time and kind of over-did it dancing and hurt my body a lot. So, when I started practicing yoga it was like a way for me to still feel like I could move my body and achieve the same feeling that I got from dancing. Dancing was always my thing. It just brought me lots of happiness and joy. But it was really a bummer when my body hurt me and I just couldn’t really dance any more. So, yoga was there for me when I was going through all my feelings from that. I was feeling like I was old and broken, which is hilarious because I’m not even old now and that was a long time ago! You had a few years left in you I think! Right, exactly. So I turned to yoga, not even for that reason originally. A friend of mine was just like: “Oh, why don’t you take this yoga class? ‘cause we need to get in shape.” So I was like, “Okay, let’s do it” and I thought: “Wow, this is so awesome”. It felt like a dance class to me and it just ended up being way more than I thought it was and it helped me to get really clear in my mind, not like, about any one particular thing.

But just to clear some of the clutter that was preventing me from being my real self, you know? And I feel like you were there when I first started doing my teacher training, weren’t you? Yeah. So, yeah, I was working my ass off. Working like, way too many shifts a week, just trying to save up the money so I could pay. Because I just got to the point where I was like, “I can’t work at a bar forever. There’s no way. My body already hurts from dancing and now I’m just gonna be a server for the rest of my life? I don’t think so.” So I just kind of.. Yoga was like, “This is what you’ve gotta do instead.” Sienna laughs So, you have #SitwithSienna on Tuesdays. You’ve got short guided meditation on Thursdays, with 33rd and Rising. I’m getting all your promo stuff out of the way. Laughter On Sundays, you do Cannabis enhanced vinyasa flow with 33rd and Rising. And you’re launching a new course, called Live Your Yoga. Yes! I suppose the course is probably what you’re most excited about right now, that’s starting soon. Yeah, we’re gonna start on October third. Excellent! I also saw something about a pop-up event, sponsored by Stone Road Farms, called Yin Yoga and Soundbath. Tell me a little about that.

Yeah, that’s actually… It’s like this little side-business that my friend 1Brandee and I started, we’re calling it Spaced Out. So yeah, socially-distanced yoga. It’s yin yoga, so it’s really gentle. You’re not going to break a sweat or really do anything too challenging. But more so just so that you can relax, catch a breath. And then my friend Brandee does sound healing, so she uses these really big quartz crystal singing bowls. Quartz crystal singing bowls. Yeah, they’re so cool and she has like seven of them. And she has this cool circle around herself and she just plays them all at different times while I’m teaching the yoga class so it’s awesome. I didn’t even know they had quartz crystal singing bowls. You learn something new every day. Me neither, until she told me. Stone Road is one of our sponsors, they’re a cannabis farm. And so they donated a bunch of pre-rolls for us, and matches and like, hemp wick. You know about hemp wick? People use it to light their joints with, instead of using a lighter, because of the chemicals. 

We have this other sponsor who’s called Kikoko, and they make weed-infused tea. So we made a weed ice tea for everyone and it was cardamom and rose. That sounds really good. It’s so good, I love it. What made you incorporate weed into yoga classes to begin with? Is it just certain classes where you tell people “Come and have a smoke”? How does it work? Well, right now I’m really only teaching the classes that you mentioned. So those are blatantly outlined “cannabis friendly”. To answer your first question, I started teaching it like “cannabis and yoga”, just because that’s how I practiced and it makes more sense for me to just be honest and be myself. And also to let other stoners know, “Look, this can actually help you with your yoga. You don’t have to stop smoking to be able to practice yoga.” I think there’s a stigma around yoga people that you have to be so healthy, or you have to be vegetarian, or you can’t smoke, but that’s not really the case. It’s more individual. Of course, it’s like anything.

Yeah. So I just feel like, since I am a stoner and yogi, it’s just like, I kind of carved out that niche for myself. Yeah. So, the way it works in the class is that I would invite everyone to bring their own. Since we’re not in person, it’s online now. So everyone brings their own weed, or like, if you have a weed tea like I mentioned, or some people use lotions or oils for their muscles that hurt. And then we’ll sit together for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of class and I’ll just give you suggestions of how to use it. If people have to step outside to smoke, ‘cause some people won’t smoke indoors, you know.. I give everyone the chance to do what they need to do and we’ll sit and talk. And then we’ll kind of start moving into the movement part of the class. And that’s pretty much it. I just show people how to incorporate the plant medicine into their practice in different ways. Have you had experiences with many people who were new to it, who started trying it out during yoga, or who maybe didn’t know how they felt about cannabis beforehand, who gradually came to like it?

Yeah, definitely. Sometimes people come to class and they’re like, “I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t really smoke that much, is it okay?” Or they’re like, “Can I still come if I don’t smoke?” And I’m like: “Yeah, absolutely.” Some people opt to not smoke, or there’s also ways that you can balance out your high. So like, you know how THC and CBD balance each other out? Yeah. There are certain essential oils in other plants that you can use that act as CBD does. If you’re feeling too much of the psychoactive effect, you can bring yourself down. So, what I do when I teach in-person weed classes is I’ll bring, like… Black pepper essential oil is my go-to. And I’ll just put a little bit on my hands. Actually (at) an event I taught recently, someone was feeling too high after class and she was like, “I can’t leave yet ‘cause I feel like ‘Aaagh’”, so I put some black pepper oil on my hands and I just rubbed them together and kind of put my hands in front of her face so she could smell it. And then she levelled herself back out within a few minutes. So, I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve. Sienna Laughs

So, when did you first start using cannabis? I presume you started by smoking? Yeah, the first time I started smoking, I smoked out of an apple pipe. Sienna Laughs I was in college, you know, typical. With friends hanging out, doing nothing. And then I just sort of kept doing it. At first I just wanted to get high for fun, like teenagers do, and then eventually it just turned into something I incorporate into my daily life, my health. Like helping me manage my stress, manage my pain or whatever, like I used it for everything. Do you have any favourite strains you use recreationally, and for yoga? And do you have strains that you recommend to people in your class, for their yoga meditation? Good question. It depends on what my mood is and what I’m trying to do. During the day, right now, I’m hitting this oil pen. And it’s a sativa strain called Tangy, which just tastes citrus-y. I really like this one ‘cause it helps me stay focused if I’m working all day.

Plus, the CBD that’s in it just helps with pain management too, so like if I’m sitting… This is my work chair. Sienna points her camera at her wooden chair It’s not very comfortable. So I use this to help me stay focused and also to help me not be too physically uncomfortable on my seat all day, you know? But then when I’m ready to do yoga practice or to mellow myself out, I’ll use an indica. Which is a little bit heavier and more sleepy. And I like Purple Kush. That’s always my go-to. When people get weed in Ireland, there’s no choice of strains. They don’t know what they’re getting. The guy selling it is gonna say “I don’t know what I have, just take it”, so it’s in the Stone Age compared to California. If it’s a bad dealer, he could be mixing all kinds of stuff in with it. I remember that it was like that when I first started smoking weed ten years ago. It was highly illegal and in the State that I was in, it was a felony. And if you got caught for possession, you would be in jail for twenty-five years. So people had to be very, very sneaky about it.

And it’s like you said, you don’t know. The person you’re getting it from is probably hella sketchy, and you don’t know what kind of shit you’re getting. But yeah, we’ve come a long way. What’s your verdict on legalisation in California so far, do you think its worked well overall in the almost four years since 2Prop 64? I mean, it’s tough, it’s definitely controversial because.. sigh.. of so many reasons, but they’re making it so hard for people who have already been making a business out of it to continue to do so. So it’s all new people flooding the industry who already have money. And the other people who actually, are probably even better at harvesting their plants, and care more actually in their soul and love it more, are being pushed out. So that’s really awful. And then the fact that so many people are still in jail for possession of weed, that they’re giving no kind of effort towards getting them out, while all these other people who obviously were already rich if you can afford to just jump into this expensive-ass industry all of a sudden… You’re just getting now more rich, and it’s just creating this bigger and bigger divide between the rich and the poor, and the middle class is being obliterated.

There’s a big rich and poor divide in America, isn’t there? Not just in that industry. Not saying that we’re free of it in Ireland, but… No, it’s a lot.. And, on the other hand, I do enjoy going to a dispensary drive-through and getting CBD gummy bears and fuckin’.. a pre-rolled blunt, and riding off into the sunset. I enjoy that a lot, soooThat’s the best quote of the interview. I mean, that’s literally what I’d be doing so, am I complaining about that? That’s something some people in Ireland could only dream of! But, at what cost, you know? I care a lot about social injustice. And it’s tough, especially because statistically it skews towards fucking over people of colour and myself among them. And I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to be personally pretty unaffected. Like, I can buy weed. I’ve never gotten in trouble with the police for having weed on me or anything. But I know that it’s not like that for everybody else and it’s not cool. I feel like legalisation just exasperated that issue that was already there. Yeah, because the legal market’s not accessible for minorities. Right.

Some people had the idea that “Well, if we’re making it legal, then we’re decriminalising it, then less people of colour will be sent to jail”, and it’s like: “Okay, but what about all the people that are already in jail?” And now that the law has changed, we need to get them out! And nothing’s happening to get them out. I know there’s people out there like Bernie Sanders [independent U.S Senator and two-time Presidential candidate] and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [U.S Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, with the Democratic Party] talking about erasing previous convictions of people who were criminalised for possession of small amounts of weed and locked up.. Yeah, and then, you’re locked up for so long and there’s no way you’re going to get a job after that, or raise some kids. It ruins lives. Right. And now, the industry has changed. If you went to jail let’s say, in the ‘80s, for possession of weed. And got out now and tried to jump into the industry… First of all, you wouldn’t even fucking know where to start, its changed so much.

It’s so competitive, you’re not gonna have the money to get started. No-one’s gonna loan you any money, you just got out of fucking jail. 3Mikey Steinmetz, who runs a cannabis processing facility in 4The Emerald Triangle [a cannabis-growing region in Northern California], was saying that the industry has so much more cultivated and ready to sell than what they’re selling. Because it’s significantly more expensive than the black market and the black market is more popular. Up to 580% of cannabis sold in California is still through the black market. Yeah, because people can’t fucking afford the shit! Not to mention, many people that smoke weed, buy their weed from somebody who makes their living off of people buying it from them. What, did you think they were just gonna go get some minimum wage job at a dispensary now, just because the law changed? No. It was black market then, it’s still black market now. Nothing has changed for them, they still have loyal customers.

Are there any negative experiences you’ve had from cannabis? Is there a stand out time where it made you feel bad? One time comes to mind actually, now that I think about it. My brother [Indigo] had some fucking edibles. Some chocolate chip cookies that our dad made. And I was like, “What the fuck, he makes these?” And he was like, “Oh yeah, I was just visiting with him and apparently he makes weed butter now, and he made these cookies”. I was like, “What the fuck?”, and he was like: “Do you want one?” I said, “Well you know, weed cookies, really… I don’t know, they could go either way, I could get way too high, I don’t know if I should risk it.” And then he was like, “Come on” and I said: “Okay, well I’ll eat half of one and then see where I’m at, and if I want more, I can have more.” That’s the start of all of these stories… Yeah, and he said “Well I’m gonna have two. I’ve eaten them already. I’m gonna eat two and that’s fine for me. So you can handle a whole one. You don’t need to just take a bite. Come on, boss up, you got this.” So I was like, Sigh “..Alright.” So I ate a whole cookie. Mind you, I needed to borrow his truck to go run an errand.

And he said, “Okay, well I need you to give me a ride to school [college] then. Give me a ride to school and then pick me up after class if you have my fucking truck.” And so I was like, “Perfect, he’s gonna be in class for a couple of hours. That’s enough time for me to get my errands run.” Sienna giggles So I drop him off at school, we eat the cookies. I’m like, “Okay, this is the spot. I’ll see you back here at eight.” I was like, “I’m fucking so high.” So I went to my mom’s house and I just lay down and I did not feel good. My stomach hurt, I was like: “I don’t know if I’m gonna throw up, or if I’m gonna shit.” I just didn’t feel good. And I was texting my brother and I was like: “There is no way I can come and pick you up, I’m sorry. There’s no way I can get in your car and drive it to you right now. I’m fuckin’… I’m toast, I can’t.” Sienna giggles He was pissed texting me from school. He was like, “I fucking told you you could only borrow my truck if you come get me. What the fuck?”

He was like, “Just drink some water, you’re fine, relax! You’re being such a wimp about this.” And I was like, “No, you do not understand, I do not feel good. And then my mom came home, and I was like: “Oh my God, I don’t want her to see me like this.” So I hid in the bathroom, and I was pretending like I got food poisoning, which, I pretty much did! Sienna laughs In a way. No no, it wasn’t that much of a lie, it was close enough. I was like: “I got food poisoning. I ate something and it did not agree with me. I really don’t feel good, but I borrowed Indigo’s truck, can you please go pick him up from school?” My brother was like “Oh, horrible… What the fuck? I don’t want her to pick me up, because I don’t want her to see me all high either!” Laughter And I was like, “Okay well.. I don’t know what to tell you! I can’t safely come pick you up, so you have to figure something else out.” I was like “Next time just let me eat half a cookie, what the fuck?Sienna giggles

You and I once worked together in a bar in San Francisco. A lot of people used to smoke before, during and after a work shift. And that was alongside some shots here and there, a few beers at the end of the night… “Some shots here and there?” Laughter That’s putting it.. politely. Yeah, depending on the manager. Very free-flowing bars there. Do you think most people had a healthy relationship with weed and booze, that they kept it in check okay? Do you think it affected people at work much, or that people really screwed up their shifts now and again? I don’t think the weed was ever an issue. I think the people that smoked weed were different to the people that drank during a work shift, for the most part. There were some people that smoked, but the people who were stoners weren’t usually the ones that were getting drunk. Or they might do one cheeky [a small shot], or taste the market cocktail at line up [the special cocktail that night, during the pre-shift meeting] and maybe have a beer after the shift, just to be social.

But for the most part, I think the smokers were separate than the drinkers and I think the drinkers certainly had shifts that got messed up from that and certainly didn’t have their habits in check and didn’t take care of themselves. Sienna laughs Without naming names. Right, and certainly some smokers too can fall into that, but I think with that particular group of people, less so. Obviously it depends on the mentality of each person and the stuff going on in their lives. Right. And you know, the security guards were the ones who would smoke a blunt in their car on their break ‘cause they’re just fucking standing there all night. Like, of course you’re going to smoke a blunt, makes sense. But the people who are running around, or making drinks or serving drinks, or hosting. Those are the people that would get drunk and it’s more like, “We’re moving fast, we’re doing stuff.” Like, you don’t want to be stoned for that. But, especially when I started doing yoga, I would smoke before my shift.

Actually, I always did, but I would smoke more on my break too, ‘cause I didn’t wanna feel so “going, going, gone” and just ground myself. And it was nice making that transition. Would you say a lot of people in California smoke on the job? Or do you reckon that was more of a unique trend where we worked, within the bar industry? It’s definitely an industry thing. In bars, you’re definitely gonna smoke and get drunk and do drugs and do all that. I think where we worked definitely over-did it, they definitely did it the most. And particularly when it comes to alcohol. But, across other industries, I think lots of people smoke before and during their shifts. I think in most industries, outside of bars and restaurants, it’s completely unacceptable to be drinking on the job. But I feel like it’s totally acceptable to smoke, even to go smoke on your break. Has cannabis changed your outlook on yoga? That’s a great question. I don’t think cannabis changed my outlook on yoga, because I always was a stoner before I even came to yoga.

Has it helped develop your skills as a yogi and a teacher? I feel like it has certainly helped me develop my practice for sure. And it helps me more quickly come into the frame of mind I need to be in to do more deeply spiritual work, as opposed to just a physical exercise. The physical movements can get you to the mind state but it takes far longer. So if you smoke first and also do the physical it’s like “Phew, I’m there already” and you can get a lot more out of it. You can go deeper, faster. I would imagine it helping a lot to get your mind in the right flow state for deeper meditation. Mm-hmm. For meditation sometimes it’s a little difficult if you’re doing a seated, holding still type meditation. But if I’m doing a moving meditation like I do while I’m practising yoga, it feels good. It’s hard to sit still after you smoke, you know? ‘Cause you can kind of go either way. All the thoughts can come to you, or all the thoughts can leave. And it depends on what you do with your body. And I just find, when you smoke weed and then move, all the thoughts leave you, and that’s how you’re able to level up your consciousness.

As opposed to, if you smoke and then sit still, you’re left with nothing but your thoughts. And so then you’re having to do all this work to fight just being high and paranoid and thinking about everything, you know? Are there many other yoga practitioners in San Francisco and California who incorporate it into their meditation? I don’t know if there’s a lot of teachers per say that incorporate it. I personally have become connected with a few of them this year, over social media and stuff. But I feel like that’s just natural networking, of course we’re gonna find each other you know? But that group is really small, and I think people are still learning that it can be really beneficial to practice yoga with cannabis. But I do know that a lot of my friends incorporate their cannabis into their regular, daily lives, just like I do. Like, I might wake up, have a cup of weed tea, then do my yoga flow. Then make breakfast. And then I’ll be working all day, using my weed pen. And then when I’m ready to chill, I’ll smoke a blunt. Sienna laughs And it all has to do with how I wanna feel.

And I know a lot of people use weed the same way. My friend is here and is looking for an apartment and she’s been calling a bunch of places, trying to find out if she can go check out my yoga classes and so we’re gonna trade, I can’t wait. When you say you’re gonna trade, what do you mean? She’s gonna past life regress-me and I’m gonna do a private yoga session for her. She does past life regressions at 33rd and Rising. Is that a more recently established studio space? It’s been a couple of years now. I’ve been there for a year and a half, almost two years. And before that I think her studio was open for a year or so before I got there, so it must be three years old. Am I right in thinking that it’s a black or minority-owned business? It’s one woman who owns it. Her name is Chanel and she’s half-black and half-Filipino. She’s from the Bay Area. She’s awesome. She’s also a business coach. She’s a yoga teacher. She doesn’t teach you yoga, but she’s certified and she’s running the whole studio. 

There’s all these different types of services that they offer and everything is donation-based. So she’s running all of that, trying to get donations from other companies. And then, we also take care of the homeless people. I don’t know if she’s done it much lately. But, in Oakland there’s a whole bunch of people who just live on the streets, it’s intense. There’ll be a whole street of block after block with just tent after tent after tent and people just living outside. So, even worse than the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Yeah. And San Francisco’s gotten a lot worse too. Because a lot of people are losing their homes. So it’s just crazy. There was a street like that really close to our studio when we did have an in-person studio. And so we would go out there and we would bring food, we would bring feminine products, water, band-aids, first aid kit type things. Toothbrushes. Stuff like that. So, it’s really like a community-based centre where she’s just trying to get everybody to come together, heal each other and help out the community.

It’s important to have places like that. Yeah, and specifically she tries to hire as many people of colour as possible. And like.. not just black people, but all different ethnicities. Just so that everybody can feel seen and know that they have a space where they can come and heal and not feel like they’re the token black person. Or, you know, “I came to this thing for people of colour, but I’m the only latina in here.” So we try and get a really diverse group. And also, everybody that works there is all people that can see the vision as well, and like we’re not making any money doing this. Yeah, but it’s very important though, nonetheless. Exactly. And so, it takes a certain type of person to pour your heart and soul into this for very little financial return, you know? So, all the people that make the place what it is are just really awesome and special and we care about each other a lot. Christmas time last year, the owner took us all out for dinner. We all got Chinese food and it was so good.

And she gave all of us a personal, hand-written card and went around the table and told everyone what she loved about each of us as individuals and so we were like, all crying. It was just like, so sweet. Laughter So, she gave us all a gift certificate to either go and get a massage at the spa nearby, or you could go and have a session at the hot tub and so I was like, “This is the fucking best.” Wow, quite a lady. Right? It’s just great. Everyone just cares about each other so much. That’s the way it should be. Right? How have the Wildfires affected people around the Bay Area? Has it been a real threat to many people in San Francisco, is it very close to the city? It’s honestly really hard to keep up, ‘cause there’s fires in the North and fires in the South and there’s just fires everywhere. It’s really bad and I was in San Francisco last weekend and when I was there it was getting better, but the smoke was really bad. Me and my friend were hanging out. We were trying to sit outside to enjoy a meal, but the smoke hanging in the air is so thick, you get a headache if you’re outside for even a little while.

First of all, you can’t go outside without wearing a mask anyway, because of Covid 19. But then the air is just not breathable, so it’s giving a lot of people heightened anxiety. it’s wreaking a lot of havoc on people’s mental health more than anything, I’d say. Of course, ‘cause it was already bad enough with the pandemic. Right. And people are losing their jobs, people are sick, people are dying. People are losing their homes, and then now the fire is physically taking people’s homes away and then the smoke just looming over in the neighbouring areas is making it so hard to breathe that you’re having a headache. Our friend Jess had to leave work early ‘cause she was getting nauseous because of the smoke and she had to go home and drink a bunch of water. Poor Jess! Tell her I said “Hi” if you see her. I will! I told her that you’re doing this project too and she’s so excited. [Hi, Jess!] And my grandma, she was saying it was hard for her to breathe. Her chest was hurting and her eyes were burning ‘cause of the smoke. She lives in Berkeley, so that’s a little bit closer, ‘cause the fires are more East.

I had some friends up in Fairfield, in the North-East, and they had to evacuate their homes ‘cause the fires were coming towards them so fast. Oh my God. Everyone that I know has been able to go back home and be safe, but it’s very scary. We’re actually donating some of the money that we make next week at our event, towards helping people that are displaced from their homes because of the fires, because it’s just so crazy. That’s great. And it’s not much, but at least people can… We’re gonna call around and see how best we can help. We’ll be like, “Okay, we raised $400. Is it more helpful if we go and buy some supplies for you, or is it more helpful if we just give you the money?” Yeah. That’s fantastic that you’re doing that. Is that that same place, 33rd and Rising? No, this is me and my friend Brandee’s project, Spaced Out. And is that in San Francisco, or in L.A? That is both. So, we just do pop-up events ‘cause I’m down here in Palm Springs, so I’m only two hours away from L.A. And I’ve just been down here for most of this year, so it’s easy for me to do that. 

I didn’t know you’d moved out of San Francisco… Well, we still have our apartment there, so that’s why I was there this weekend. ‘Cause we went home to check our mail and… make sure our house didn’t burn down. Sienna laughs Yeah, yeah… It didn’t. Good. So you’ve been living in Palm Springs for some months now, okay. Would you say that many people we both worked with and knew through work back in the day moved out of San Francisco, or even out of California, since then? Yeah, there’s like a mass exodus going on. Everyone’s leaving. It’s so bizarre to be in San Francisco, there’s no-one there. I would hate to see the centre of San Francisco empty. There’s no people. Because, first of all, most people that were in San Francisco every day don’t live there. So, all the people that commute in are just working from home, wherever the fuck their homes are. Far away, not in San Francisco. We don’t have any tourism anymore, so that’s thousands of people that are just not there. We don’t need all those Uber drivers anymore, that also all came from elsewhere. We have like, you know, less than half the fleet of Uber drivers that we normally would need.

So, it’s just the techies and homeless people now basically, is what you’re saying. No, because all the techies are actually from like, the fucking Mid-West, and so they all moved back home with their families. The fucking Mid-West. Richard laughs Yeah. All the fucking techies went back to their goddamn Mid-West, where they belong. Laughter So all the locals finally have some space to fucking breathe, and now we’re covered in smoke. So, it’s an awful issue. Sienna giggles I saw some of those photos online. The orange and red skies first thing in the morning. That was only one day, but people were losing it. It was crazy, because we weren’t there. We were in Palm Springs. We drove up the very next day and it was over. I mean, it was very smokey and grey, but it didn’t look orange at all. So we were kinda like, “Aw, we missed it.” Laughter How weird to have missed it, that’s such a historical.. Everybody was so affected by that. I feel like a traitor almost, that I wasn’t there, you know?

My grandma was cracking up, she was like: “No, it was terrifying, don’t worry.” Laughter So they could see it in Berkeley as well… Yeah, I guess so. Actually, that’s the first I found out about it, was from her. ‘Cause I woke up and I’m in like a group email from my grandma, my mom and my brother, and I’m like: “Oh shit, what’s happening? Why is grandma emailing at 8 a.m?” And she’s like, “The fuckin’ sky is red outside, it’s so alarming, I can’t breathe. My eyes are burning me.” She lives by herself. And she was like “I’m fucking scared”. She was like, “People are calling it the apocalypse.” I was like, “Oh my God. Don’t call it the apocalypse, you’re gonna scare the shit out of my Grandma, she’s after losing it!” So we drove up there the very next day to make sure she was alright. One last question and then I’m gonna say “Goodbye”, ‘cause you’ve got things to do. You’ve got a life outside, you know? I was like, “I’ve got plenty of time, but I actually totally have things to do.” Sienna laughs

Would you say a lot of older people around California, New York, etc. still attach stigma to cannabis, when they think about it? Or do you think a lot more of them nowadays are embracing it? I think a lot of people are embracing it, but also I think a lot of people, especially my grandma’s generation and where she’s from, are the people that are driving the legalisation fight in the first place. My grandma has been smoking weed my entire life. She’s only in her 60s. So, her generation is Bernie [Sanders]… she’s Bernie’s number one fan. Richard laughs When I think about people in my grandma’s generation, that’s who I think of. So, the idea of them having to be “warmed up” to it is just so foreign to me, personally. Sienna laughs There’s definitely the older people in the middle of the country in particular that are more close-minded about it. But, I do feel like a lot of people just don’t wanna break the law and they don’t wanna get in trouble. So, once the laws change, they’re like: “Okay now I feel I’m free to explore, but, at my age, do I give a fuck?”

And then, there’s the people that are like: “I actually am having this chronic pain. My home girl said she tried weed and it’s legal now, and it’s helping her. Fuck it, I’m gonna try it.” Because we have a health crisis in America. And people are in chronic pain all the time. So it’s more and more enticing. All the Doctors are doing is feeding us drugs, and they’re like: “Okay well there’s this new drug. Let me try it.” And it’s actually not a new drug, people have been using it for centuries. For thousands of years, in some cases. Exactly! But now it’s legal, so they’re like: “Okay, I’ma try this.” So definitely, I feel the trend is more towards people that are warming up. But, you know of course there’s always gonna be the people that are like, “You are never gonna change my mind”… and fuck them. Sienna stifles a laugh

Alright I guess that’s everything, I’ll let ya go! It’s been really nice to talk to you again! Likewise, have a great night. You too, see you Sienna! Bye!

References:

1 Brandee Hewlett‘s interview can be found here – https://greenlensblog.com/2020/12/08/brandee-hewlett-13-11-2020/

2 Proposition 64, AKA ‘Prop 64’ or the ‘Adult Use of Marijuana Act’, is the title of the legislation voted in by 57.13% of Californians in 2016 to legalise the recreational use of cannabis.

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_64,_Marijuana_Legalization_(2016)

3 CBS article, featuring Mikey Steinmetz.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/marijuana-in-california-black-market-weed-buzzkills-for-california-legal-weed-industry-60-minutes-2020-08-02/

4 The Emerald Triangle is the nickname for the Northern Californian cannabis-producing region comprising three counties – Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino. https://weedmaps.com/learn/the-plant/emerald-triangle

5 As per this LA Times article from 2019, a study by New Frontier Data found that up to 80% of cannabis sold in California is sold through the black market.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-gavin-newsom-crackdown-pot-black-market-20190219-story.html

* Check out Sienna‘s website, https://www.yogawithsienna.com/