I have always loved travel. My very first travel experience was, in the 6th grade, when my parents sent me, on a school trip, to Washington DC. I remember the smell of the subway entrances (old wine and body odor), the look of the buildings and massive size of the Smithsonian Complex. I fell in love with travel on that trip and will love it forevermore. Since that trip I have been to 33 states, Mexico, several European countries, Egypt and India. I have slept on benches, you wouldn’t let your dog sleep on, and the finest linens. I have walked the beaches of Goa and been to the pyramids at Giza and, for me, the best part has always been learning about new cultures and doing what the locals like to do. I enjoy the traditional tourist activities but I love the unique and out of the box ones more. I wished, many times, I had pursued a career in travel but it never worked out.
In 1998, after a series of chemo treatments for her very aggressive form of breast cancer, my mom began using medical cannabis at the encouragement of her doctors. After review of the California medical cannabis laws, by my attorney father, my family began to grow the necessary cannabis strains to treat the nausea, and various other symptoms, associated with the chemo treatments. Shortly thereafter, we were visited by our local county law enforcement who left without incident but during the visit encouraged my parents to open a medical/legal clinic for the purpose of recommending cannabis to the seriously ill patients of California.
In 1999 my parents held their first official clinic and thus began our journey into the very wild world of medical cannabis. By 2001 my parent’s had one of the most successful clinics in California with a patient base of more than 5,000 and the anecdotal information necessary to begin publishing in medical journals about the illnesses most benefited by cannabis as well as the number of employed, and tax paying, americans who were treating their aches and pains with cannabis. Additionally, my dad decided to run for county district attorney to further bridge the gap between fearful patients and law enforcement. Unfortunately, this all seemed to be a little too much for the federal government and in September of 2001 my family’s home and office were raided by the DEA.
It was not until 2005 that the federal government decided to pursue charges, against my parents, for cultivation and conspiracy to distribute cannabis to sick people. With no viable defense, in federal court, both were convicted and sentenced to 5 years in federal prison. After much time, energy and money spent they both entered federal prison in May of 2011 and were not released until just 11 months ago. As hard as we tried, the family’s 28-acre home, retirement and college funds and my mom’s medical license were all lost in this battle. However, as much as we had lost that battle we had not lost the war.
When my parents were released I immediately began looking for ways to break into the emerging cannabis industry and felt drawn back to travel and tourism. I quickly discovered that cannabis tourism, as much as it is evolving, has been pretty boxed into touring dispensaries, growers and manufacturing facilities. Since I have seen my fair share of dispensaries and cannabis grows, as well as manufacturing facilities, I was looking for alternatives to these types of tours but did not find them. So today I am starting my own journey to learn about not only the travel industry but also the emerging cannabis industry, the regulations of the cannabis industry and how it all will shape the future of cannabis travel.
I am Heather Schafer and these are my stories, thoughts, questions and concerns.