Grow Girl

An Interview from Identity Theory

Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of Growgirl

By Matt Borondy | Published: April 18, 2013

9781592407040 Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of <em>Growgirl</em>At the age of 34, Heather Donahue meditated for a few days, then burnt the remains of her acting career, which included starring in The Blair Witch Project and the Steven Spielberg miniseries Taken, to begin a more organic life growing medical marijuana with her new boyfriend in Northern California.

Growgirl: The Blossoming of an Unlikely Outlaw is Heather’s very funny memoir of finding her way in the hippie pot-growing community and inventing a more enlightened, post-Hollywood identity out of smoke and ashes.

In her interview with Identity Theory, the writer formerly known as The Girl fromThe Blair Witch Project talks about ideal marijuana legislation, misunderstandings about pot farmers, and the future of her writing career.

Mike Doughty said in our 2006 interview, “I’d like to get weed recognized as a drug that people can become seriously addicted to and wreck their lives with. I don’t judge drugs—I stopped doing ’em, but I love ’em. But this nonsense that weed is some kind of light non-drug is pure fiction; a major problem in our society.” What is your response to that?

Just because something is powerful, doesn’t mean we need to take it away from people. From children, sure, but not from the grownup among us. I don’t think that anybody is suggesting that cannabis isn’t a powerful plant, it clearly is. That’s why there’s all this political and economic hubbub around it. It’s like the Force, Luke. You can use it in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have the opportunity to choose responsibly. Free, right? That’s the best of our national brand. America: Home of the Babysat. Just doesn’t have the same ring.

In the year-plus since Growgirl was released, major transformations occurred in the marijuana policies of several states. Going forward, what does the ideal pot policy look like at the state level?

It doesn’t really matter all that much what happens at the state level until there’s a Federal change. However, I think Colorado is on the right track. Let legalization happen, let there be enough regulation to protect the consumer. Let’s make sure there aren’t pesticides in there that trump the medicinal value of cannabis, but let’s also allow people to grow their own. That’s what legalization means. You can grow your own, freely. That is absolutely not what they’re getting in Washington State. The policy that they’re working on estimates 3 tons of weed produced a year. They will be awarding (and I use that word deliberately) 200 grower permits. That’s like handing a golden ticket to the highest (sorry) political bidder. Ick. It won’t go like that in California. The industry here is too big and folks are finally starting to unite to protect their livelihoods. I think true criminality in the Cannabusiness would be taking it away from the people who built it. Not the cartels–like any big business they can and will and do diversify. I’m talking about the family grower, the single mom, the artist, the musician, the writer, the small town whose economy depends on everyone having their little slice of the pie. Cannabis is the only high-value commodity whose resulting wealth is distributed at the mom-and-pop level. It provided opportunities for entrepreneurship during the crash of ’08 and beyond, especially where I live in Nor Cal. I think the small grower and dispensary entrepreneurs should be considered in any legalization discussion.

What’s the most common misconception people have about pot farming?

I think people don’t see the families who grow. I think they don’t see the grannies whose pensions aren’t cutting it. I think people don’t understand how entire towns that lost industries like logging are have become not ghost towns, but thriving, diverse communities. It’s not all cartels and guns. In my experience, it’s not like that at all.

A character in a novel I just finished reading invents a program that eradicates all online mentions of famous people who want to be anonymous again. Would you have used such a service to start over after leaving Hollywood at 34 if it were possible?

It would be really tempting, but it would also be disingenuous. I am all of these stories, made up of all of these events. The stories I tell myself about those events and how they shape me, even those are fluid. “I am not I” and all of that, because to say “I” is to assume some kind of solidity. Writing Growgirl made me think a lot about that. The rather more diaphanous off-the-page story that I tell myself about myself constantly challenges me to reinterpret my relationship to big, internet-permanent events like Blair Witch, and without that challenge I would be a lesser person. I’m always changing, always growing up and out of what’s come before. Blair Witch repeats on me constantly, like cucumbers or chili, all the better to make peace with it.

Growgirl was your first book, and you’re still quite young. Do you plan to continue to work mostly in personal nonfiction, or are you going to transition to other forms of writing?

I’m working on a novel called Bounds right now. It’s an erotic black comedy about a trio of cancer researchers. The theme is love and other consumptive malignancies. At the same time, I’m launching a business called Prettywell. It’s a mix of herbal and lab-tested ingredients for whole bodies. My first four products, about to fledge the nest, are Lift, Feed, Mojo, Buff, and Hump.

Your dog Vito was one of my favorite characters in Growgirl. How’s he doing now?

He is the planet’s finest creature. Intelligent, mellow, with uncanny comedic timing. He’s five now. He does a lot of this:

heather donahue vito 1 500x375 Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of <em>Growgirl</em>

And also this:

heather donahue vito 2 500x333 Interview: Heather Donahue, Author of <em>Growgirl</em>

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Democracy, Hypocrisy, and Medical Marijuana

This article was originally published here at the Huffington Post.


Last week was a strange week to be an American. I was moved by the president’s inauguration speech, like when he invoked, “We, the people,” in that hypnotic way and said, “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”

Democracy is both one of those ancient values and perhaps our most fundamental enduring ideal. So, imagine my surprise when the day after those words were spoken, a U.S. Circuit Court failed to acknowledge the medical efficacy of marijuana and remove it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

The continued classification of cannabis on Schedule I will make it difficult for the 18 states (and the District of Columbia) that have already approved medical marijuana to securely and legally represent the will of their citizens. It is certainly not encouraging for the 10 additional states with bills pending. With those 10 states on board, we have a clear majority. We, the people, are lifting our voices, we are casting our votes, and we are still not being heard.

This administration has some big decisions to make in the coming months about how it will respond to these votes and voices. We, the people, have achieved critical mass on this issue. It’s time for the administration to spend some of that freed-up second-term political capital on an issue whose depth has been largely obscured by jokes about Cheetos.

Why should you, the person who is not and would never choose to be a medical marijuana patient, care about this? Because it’s a poor reflection on “our most ancient values and enduring ideals.” Because it fills our prisons and keeps the 44 million uninsured Americans from a broad-spectrum medicine they could grow in their own backyard. Because it wastes law enforcement resources and keeps us from the revenue and entrepreneurship opportunities that this plant could provide. This is not about whether you like marijuana or not, this is about democracy and hypocrisy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has, since 2003, held patent number 6630507 on medical cannabis. The abstract states that “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties … This new-found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.” What diseases don’t fall into one of those categories? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really can’t think of one. Now that there is increasing evidence showing cancer and Alzheimer’s can be inflammatory diseases, that list covers pretty much everything that isn’t a birth defect. This is a federally held patent. How, then, can it be anything but hypocrisy for the court to say that marijuana has no medicinal value?

It’s a legal Mobius strip. The court says marijuana stays a Schedule I drug because the studies are “wanting.” But here’s the rub: If the studies are wanting, it’s because marijuana is a Schedule I drug. A researcher who wants to investigate cannabis has to get a special permit from the DEA. This is preventing the depth and breadth of studies we need to develop federally legal medicine from cannabis. Regular citizens see the hypocrisy in this — it’s part of why they’re voting to have access to the whole plant, based on overwhelming anecdotal evidence and the limited research allowed.

Cannabinoids have their own signaling system in our brains, which runs in the opposite direction to all other neurotransmitters. A whole different way of signaling than what was previously known. It’s called Retrograde Signaling. This rather startling discovery wasn’t made until after marijuana was already on Schedule I. Hard science: the cannabinoid system spans all regions of our brains and moves in the reverse of all other known neurotransmitters. This system also extends to our lungs, liver, kidneys, blood stem cells, immune system, and the cells that interface between our blood and lymph. That is huge enough, one might think, to not have research limited by permits from the DEA.

I’m excited by the science to come. I want to understand the complexities of our relationship to this plant that we’ve been dancing and healing with for thousands of years. Go ahead and isolate those cannabinoids, discover new receptors, bring on the remixes and mashups. Make new medicine. But in the meantime, we have the whole plant. It has the capacity to heal without damage. The drug war has done nothing but damage. Also, there are real opportunities for entrepreneurship here. Colorado and California have been home to an innovative marijuana middle class where slices of the pie are distributed with a fairness not seen in other billion dollar businesses. It has been a business of, by, and for the people.

In the inauguration speech, Obama also said, “We have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” We, the people, couldn’t agree more, Mr. President. I hope you count our votes and hear our voices, lifted, loud and clear.

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A Growgirl Bedtime Story Just For You

The inimitable T.E. Wolfe was kind enough to invite me to read from Growgirl on his show A Word in Edgewise on community radio station KVMR. KVMR is a national treasure. The diversity of the programming will alternately tickle, inform, and astound you. Mayberry on Mushrooms, streaming live.

This is the first session of Growgirl on Edgewise. I’ll be back on the show to read from the next section in a few weeks. Since there’s no audiobook, this will have to serve as the abridged memory of what never was. Thanks to FCC regulations, it is abridged in all the right places. Oh decency, pshaw!

Seriously though, this is very nearly fun for the whole family.


Click this:

Growgirl on Edgewise edited

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