“In 2003, I grew three small 12” plants. I used cannabis medicinally at the time, but didn’t think I qualified for an OMMP card because my issues were about severe chronic pain. I didn’t know it was a qualifying condition and I didn’t have health insurance, so I made a choice to try to make my own.

I was caught with the plants, which were sitting next to a 40-watt shop light, so if you know anything about growing cannabis, you know that I knew nothing about it at that time. I awaited trial for 11 months for one count of felony manufacturing of a controlled substance, one count of intent to distribute (because three baby plants next to a shop light are a sign of a big time dealer!) and one count of possession of over an ounce because they left the roots and stalks on the plant matter when they weighed it.

I was found not guilty by a jury of my peers.

When the jury came back with the verdict, I was so relieved. And then came my anger. With the threat of prosecution off the table, I was outraged, because the next day, on the front page of the local section of the newspaper, there was an article about my acquittal. I was not interviewed for it. It listed my name, age, and neighborhood.

I was “outed” as a cannabis user and someone who had been arrested on felony charges. The entire experience had forever changed my life. From then on, I now had to explain myself on every job application, volunteer application, housing/rental application, even though I was acquitted. I now wore a “Scarlet M” for all to see.

After I was acquitted, I became empowered and used my outrage to speak publicly on the issue, lobby my state and federal representatives, work on a campaign for the legalization of dispensaries in Oregon and join national protests, I even got arrested (on purpose) in Washington D.C. with Americans for Safe Access alongside Steph Sherer and 13 other inspiring activists.

During that trip to D.C. and the six hour jail stay for blocking the stairs into Health and Human Services by sitting down, I, along with another woman who had protested that day, talked about starting a marijuana legalization advocacy group by and for women. At that time, it was well known that women were the primary voting block against the legalization of marijuana. If we could show other women the safety, utility and power of this wonderful plant, perhaps we could start changing the future of the legality of cannabis. Women ended alcohol prohibition and gained the right to vote, why not end cannabis prohibition?

Neither of us had any experience or money to start such an organization at that time, so nothing came of it. The name “EMPOWER” was originally a mouthful of an acronym: Ending Marijuana Prohibition by Organizing Women to Enact Reform. The name stuck with me all along. We are fortunate to have the Women’s Alliance at NORML, women’s cannabis magazines like Ladybud and others, it wasn't always like that. We have professionals who have come out of the cannabis closet to speak up and make a difference. It’s beautiful to see!

Now I work with women of all ages and backgrounds, teaching them about the uses of Empower Oil and cannabis as a health remedy and this craft I am so passionate about. I get to wake up every day and live my dream, while empowering others. It’s the best feeling ever.”