I would have never expected that I’d end up living in Oregon. For a girl who was born in Kentucky, spent a majority of her childhood in Puerto Rico, and has been on a continuous mission to visit every country on Earth, I can honestly say that I hadn’t put too much thought into the state of Oregon. Shocking, I think now, but I was living in Houston where the only thing I could tell you about Oregon was that they had a really good college football team.
When my boyfriend Jimmy first told me about a business opportunity out here in 2015, I was immediately intrigued. Growing up an Army brat, I was constantly looking forward to a new adventure, and low-key tired of the humid Houston weather. I was a year out of college(Go Coogs!) and a year in to my new business, Ladies of Paradise, where I bought and sold jewelry and other accessories from my travels around the world. We had just locked in a short-term rental for me in Los Angeles so that I could promote my brand and collaborate with more people in the fashion industry, so heading out west was already on the agenda.
In LA, I created a make-shift showroom in our house where stylists, bloggers, make-up artists, photographers, etc. would come by and shoot, pull product for clients, or shop all my goods. When I wasn’t busy styling shoots, I would drive up North and meet Jimmy to scope out what a future looked like in Southern Oregon.
After my 5-month stint in LA, I packed up my car and made my final drive up the 5. I can vividly remember the ear-to-ear smile on my face as I drove through Northern California, just past Redding where I caught my first glimpses of Mt. Shasta. I finally made it over the Oregon state line, and I swear I could already smell the scent of weed in the air. Oregon, my new home. I turned the music up and drove a little faster.
October 1, 2015. The day recreational marijuana sales went legal in Oregon is a day that I’ll never forget. We had only just came up with a name for our dispensary, Rogue Valley Cannabis, and we were understaffed, unprepared and overall uncertain of what to expect. But we opened our doors that day regardless and rolled with the punches. People were absolutely thrilled that we were there, just for the sole fact that you could walk into a store and buy legal cannabis.
In the next couple months as the OLCC continued to push out new rules and procedures, we hired more staff, learned more about the budding industry, and grew bigger as a company. We went from writing orders on restaurant order pads to learning a new marijuana-friendly POS system, MJ Freeway. I researched everything I could on marijuana strains, how they make you feel, the difference between indica and sativa, how concentrates work, etc. and made training manuals for all our employees. Since the industry was brand new, people often walked in and didn’t know what to expect for their first visit, so we encouraged our team to take their time with customers and explain how everything worked. New customers soon became regulars, our team became more efficient and knowledgeable, and business was booming. Naturally, it was time to expand.
Now, during this time, I was so consumed with our new cannabis venture that I became uncertain with the future of Ladies of Paradise. The Houston Chronicle and just run on article on me and my company, which inspired me to keep it moving, but I had just moved to Jacksonville, Oregon where the population is less than my high school’s graduating class. I didn’t even have one friend, let alone someone to style shoots with and play dress up with weekly. But guys, we must never forget the power of Instagram!
I started searching under #Ashland and came across a bunch of funky vintage fashion shoots by a girl named Harlee Case. I sent her an email and it turned out she lived a mile away from me in tiny Jacksonville. We met at a sushi restaurant in town and instantly vibed. Harlee owned her own online vintage store and was a singer too,(a really good one!) and we happened to be needing a performer for the opening party of our second RVC dispensary, coincidentally in the place I found her, Ashland.
We opened our second dispensary location in November of 2016. The Ashland location is super rad, in a historic building on the main street in town. Harlee sang that night, along with other local musicians, and all of our friends from the industry came out to support us for the ultimate stoner house party.
Meeting Harlee kept my creativity with Ladies of Paradise flowing and we ended up hanging out regularly for shoots and road trips. This past January we got a house in Portland together, where Harlee took care of my online orders, found stores to carry our products, and helped me keep up with the social media. In doing so, I found that Harlee was taking over most of my roles for the company and I was perhaps losing motivation to continue with what I was doing within my own company. For months I had been contemplating how to rebrand and switch my focus to the things that I do on a day-to-day basis, which now highly revolve around cannabis and the industry.
So as I was on our weed farm a few weeks ago, taking a break from stripping and watering plants, I scrolled through my Instagram feed and admired the latest Gucci campaign which featured super eerie, well thought-out sets that resembled old sci-fi scenes from movies. I liked how they were taking a risk with a really obscure aesthetic that they’ve never really done before. I thought about shooting on our farm and how I could infuse my style with Ladies of Paradise into the cannabis industry. Since I’ve moved to Oregon, so many people from Texas have been sending me messages and commenting on how interested they are all in all the cannabis stuff we’ve been doing; everything from people wanting to invest, wanting a job, or just overall intrigued in the industry and how it works.
I had been thinking for months about switching the Ladies of Paradise Instagram to be more weed friendly, but was too scared to take a risk and lose a lot of people who started following me in the first place. But being careful and cautious only gets you so far, and after all, I created this thing, so why not let LOP evolve with me?!
Women in cannabis take up a lot of roles and this new blog can be a place where women in weed can come together, collaborate, and help lose the stigma that marijuana-users sometimes get. It’s also for all the people who live in states that aren’t legal yet, especially my friends back in Texas who enjoy following our journey. So for my friends back home, our friends in Oregon, and people around the world, I hope you enjoy the new Ladies of Paradise.