GRCC 2016 Conference Organizer

Introducing Karen Byars

Karen Byars
Karen Byars
In the last few years, when it comes to compassionate care and the business of cannabis, Karen Byars seen it all. Or maybe it just feels that way! At conference after conference, during event after event, Karen has been patiently gathering information about the current state of medical cannabis. Karen will tell you straight: the rules and regs are maddening. The red tape is thick. The way ahead is anything but clear and transparent. And when someone does find their way through the bureaucratic maze, they're face to face with the prospect of running a business. But in Karen's view, there is hope.

Driven By a Passion to Share Her Extraordinary Networking Skills

Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
All her work has given her the opportunity to meet a formidable list of professionals with expertise in every area, from cultivating to investing in cannabusinesses. That's the reason Karen organized the two-day Mendocino Cannabis Resource Conference. She wanted to share this information with others similarly committed to patient centric access to medical cannabis.

At the Center of the Movement, Taking the Lead

Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
Time and again, Karen has been at the center of the movement, participating and often leading efforts that marked a significant pivot. You'd be hard pressed to find a critical moment when Karen was not present – and actively instigating change! Her commitment began with the non-violent direct action “Redwood Summer,” August 1990, where she saw firsthand the infamous marijuana eradication campaign called “Operation Greensweep.”

Pioneering the Rights of Women's Access to Medical Marijuana

Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
That dedication has led her down many interesting paths, including an arrest in 1993, which ended up with a precedent setting case establishing women’s rights to use medical marijuana for hormone-related conditions. Meeting Theodora Kerry and the ‘Holy Hemp Sisters’ resulted in her involvement with Santa Cruz's Measure A, the first Medical Marijuana initiative to pass by citizen vote. The following year she worked with Jack Herer, the "Emperor of Hemp." She was at the first US Medical Cannabis Cup when Dennis Peron presided over the evolution of the Church Street Dispensary into the Market Street San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club.

Organizing on Local and International Campaigns

Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
She took an active role in the campaign for Prop 215 - The Compassionate Use Act 1996, and later that year helped Chris Conrad, Mikki Norris and the late Virginia Resner on the Human Rights 95 Campaign - the first ever campaign presented to the United Nations highlighting the atrocities of the War on Drugs. In 1996, while in Denver CO overseeing production of Earth Goods, first women’s high end clothing line made from hemp fabric, she worked with Senator Lloyd Casey to introduce the first ever Hemp legislation. By 1999, she'd returned to California where she was hired by Debby Goldsberry to work at the Berkeley Patients Group, one of the very first of a handful of dispensaries in CA.

Founding the Mendocino Women's Collective

Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
Photo Courtesy of the Southern Humboldt Seeds
It was during this period that Karen founded the Mendocino Women’s Collective on her farm in Round Valley in Mendocino County. She managed the Collective, building it into an effective way for female patients and providers to share tasks, skills and resources in order to make sure that medical cannabis reached those who needed it. Drawing on that experience she became the first farmer to be found with CBD Rich cannabis, earning the title “Grower #1” as documented by Fred Gardner in O’Shaughnessy’s journal. This feat lead, in turn, to her to co-founding CBD-Rich to provide some of the first known CBD rich medicine available to medical cannabis patients and to educate the outdoor growing community of the important cannabinoids that still existed in our strains. The list of achievements goes on and on. She jokingly asserts, “As for stories, so with my retirement plan: “A dollar a story and I have a million of them”!

Committed to Empowering Others

Karen Byars is proud of what she's accomplished. It's through the efforts of Karen, and many others that the concept of “compassion” changed the narrative from “zero tolerance.” While the work is far from done, Karen remains prepared to do what she can to empower others to continue the work of making medical cannabis more accessible. logo web version