Lynnette Shaw – Hollywood’s Original “Weed Girl” and Cannabis Activist
These days, no one sings the blues like Lynnette Shaw. In her twenties, Lynnette Shaw was Hollywood’s original “Weed Girl,” hooking up celebrities with cannabis and singing back up for the Blues Brothers. It seemed her dreams were just starting to come true until the night John Belushi died from a drug overdose. Even though Lynnette was getting Belushi to use cannabis to replace the harder drugs he was struggling with, she was still accused of being an accomplice in his death. Her dream quickly became a nightmare, and she was forced into the underground. Luckily for Lynnette, the Hell’s Angels hid her and took care of her until the real accomplice, Catherine Evelyn Smith, took responsibility for Belushi’s death.
Lynnette slowly began to integrate back into society. In 1990 she met Jack Herer, who helped guide her to her next path with his book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Herer’s book confirmed Lynnette’s belief that cannabis is a medicine, and her fight had never felt more important. Soon after that, alongside the legendary Pebbles Trippet, Lynnette began working for the first ever dispensary, Dennis Peron’s Cannabis Buyers Club in San Francisco. AIDS was devastating the gay community, and cannabis helped ease the pain in every way imaginable. It was her work with Peron, Trippet and activists throughout California that made the passing of Proposition 215 possible.
Tax Day, April 15, 1994. The employees and volunteers working in Dennis’ club got a tip they were all going to be arrested, and Dennis wanted everyone to be at the store. So Lynnette joined Dennis and others on a bus headed to the dispensary in the Castro neighborhood to await their fate. As she got off the bus, however, Lynnette saw patients filling the streets, linking arms to protect the staff and the one place where they received the life-saving medicine they so desperately needed. Cheers of support from hundreds of patients rang out. Because of the patient support that day, no one was arrested. Those who Lynnette had helped save were now saving her. It was at that moment Lynnette knew, deep in her heart, that one day they would win the battle for legalization.
Unfortunately, the battle had just begun. Dennis trained Lynnette how to lobby, and she headed out to Sacramento to go door-to-door, visiting Senator after Senator, patients by her side describing how cannabis helped them get through the day. With each new tear from a politician, they would inch closer to their goal. This was the very start of The Compassionate Care Act, which would later become Prop 215.
On November 5, 1996, Proposition 215 passed with 55 percent of the vote.
With mentors like Jack Herer, Pebbles Trippet and Dennis Peron, Lynnette had the passion, drive and guidance to make her dreams a reality. In 1997, working with the Fairfax police chief and the city council, Lynnette created regulations for the very first legal licensed dispensary in the Nation: The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax. At the time, Fairfax had the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS patients in the nation, and to this day remains number one for breast cancer sufferers. Lynnette now had her own place to work from, and no shortage of patients who needed her. She knew she was risking everything. But she also knew it was the right thing to do.
Then, in 2011, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag forced the Marin Alliance to shut down. Haag was ruthless, threatening not only Lynnette but her landlord, as well; since they couldn’t come after Public Pot Enemy #1, the Godmother of Cannabis, Haag went after her landlord’s plaza. The Marin Alliance had to pack up shop immediately. Lynnette was also barred for life from working in the industry she helped create. Constantly followed and harassed by the Feds, Lynnette was once again homeless, considered a danger to those in the industry, and needed to go into hiding to protect herself and her friends. This time it was the Wu-Tang Clan that took her in.
Hiding with the Wu-Tang Clan…
Living in the underground is lonely, no matter who is hiding you out. While hiding with the Wu-Tang Clan in Los Angeles, depression began to sink in. That is, until the day she got a call from Fairfax. They wanted her back. With the passing of the 2014 Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, there was no longer a budget to prosecute cannabis-related cases, and the town of Fairfax sent letters to the Feds telling them they wanted Lynnette back. For fifteen years she ran a professional, by the book, problem-free dispensary, and they wanted her to return home to continue her mission. Lynnette now has a Federal Judge order stating that she can legally sell and distribute cannabis. The DOJ finally relented and dismissed the appeal, making the Shaw Decision set in stone in April 2016, not just for Lynnette, but for everyone.
Almost twenty years later, Lynnette is now back in her original Fairfax location. And as it says on the door, “Open from 9am till 9pm, FOREVER.” What we’re able to do today in the cannabis industry is all thanks to Lynnette’s advocacy. She invented the licensed dispensary model as we know it, and the Shaw Decision has become one of the most important cases thus far in cannabis history. Lynnette has worked with thousands of patients, can match strains with various illnesses and is considered one of the longest-running cannabis healers. We all need her. We need healing, and Lynnette is just the Godmother to do it.
Lynnette Shaw can now focus on what she loves most: bringing cannabis to those in need, and playing piano and singing the blues with her band, the Blues Champions. If you’re in Northern California, swing by Marin Alliance to pick up some cannabis products and, more importantly, pay your respects to this cannabis pioneer.
When the movement began in the early nineties, I was in college and worked as a petitioner. It was Lynnette’s passion, drive and commitment that motivated me to get active and stand up for what I believe is right. Now, twenty years later, I not only get to thank Lynnette in person each time I see her, but I’ve also been able to become her friend. For she is truly my Godmother, as well as yours.
Editor’s note: Due to the wild nature of this story, certain facts are unverifiable. Stories like Lynnette’s are legendary and we wanted to share this story with DOPE readers in the interest of profiling an important and admirable figure in the cannabis movement.