By Greg Aragon
If the activist spirit of California’s medical-cannabis community had an official poster girl, it would be Sarah Diesel. Last summer, she co-hosted Season 1 of the cable-television show, Cannabis Planet. In between facilitating seminars and teaching classes at Oaksterdam University in Los Angeles, Diesel works as a committed patient advocate, political activist, collective manager and bud tender.
Just recently, she finished producing the 2010 Pin Ups for Patients Calendar as a fundraiser for the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (where she volunteers as the group’s secretary), Americans for Safe Access, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast-cancer research foundation. More information on the calendar can be found at www.SarahDiesel.com.
How did you come by the name “Sarah Diesel”?
I took the name while working at a collective called Westside Compassionate Caregivers. We had glass jars with little chalk boards on them with strain names, and a wonderful Sour Diesel came into the store—that is my favorite strain. One of the guys working there wrote “Sarah Diesel” on the jar as a joke for me, and when I saw this I thought, “Wow, that’s really funny.” And then a light bulb went off in my head and I thought I could use this as my name, and from then on I became Sarah Diesel. It is on my DBA and on my checkbooks.
You were well known in the L.A. medical-cannabis community before Cannabis Planet, but what’s it been like for you since co-hosting the first season of the show?
It was a wonderful experience to be part of that—I was really blessed to be a part of the show. I’ve gotten more recognition from that show than anything I’ve done so far. People will recognize me off the street—I’ll be in conversations and someone will say, “Thank you so much for what you’re doing.” I was just at L.A. City Hall and someone asked me for autograph, so that was cool. There’s so much more to be done—this was a wonderful stepping stone for me, and there’s definitely more possibilities out there.
What is your preferred method of cannabis ingestion?
I use quite a bit of different methods. I love my bong when it’s nice and clean. A joint is wonderful, but I make sure I use hemp paper or rice paper only. I like vaporizing. I use edibles in the form of a strip that you put under your tongue. It is made with hashish oil and it’s wonderful when I get a real bad stomach ache. It takes about 20 minutes for it to kick in. I also use topicals on my body when I get a joint ache or muscle pain. I have semi-arthritis in my hand, so by rubbing cannabis oil and cream on my hands, it helps out.
What do you think about L.A.’s proposed dispensary ordinance?
If we go to the collective model, where the patients have to grow it themselves, we’re not going to have enough cannabis to sustain the number of patients in Los Angeles. We will be forced to go back to the black market. That would be a very unfortunate thing because a lot of my patients were in their 80s and 90s, medicating on cannabis to have a better quality of life. So how can the city tell an 80-year-old woman that she has to grow her own medicine? They don’t make us grow our own Vicodin, or make our own pills.
A lot of my friends own and run collectives and they are not making millions of dollars; they make enough for a living. Yes, there are a few bad seeds and those are the ones that should be shut down, but not the legal, tax-paying, licensed collectives that signed up with the city two years ago. I would love to keep the original 186 collectives.
Your mother passed away in 2008 from ovarian cancer. You mention her a lot. Would you tell us a little about her?
My mom got ovarian cancer, survived the first bout and then it came back with force, where one month she was fine and the next month she was in bed and the doctor said, “We are sorry, there is nothing we can do.” It took less than a week and she was gone. This was in August of 2008. She was only 50, and I think if she tried cannabis she would have had a better quality of life in her last days.
Before she died, she was going to get a fairy tattooed on her back. I needed something to remember her, so one day it dawned on me: Why not get the tattoo that she was going to get and put it on my back so she’ll always be with me? Across the top of the tattoo is a banner that says “Believe”—I remember she would put little notes in my school lunch boxes that said, “I believe in you.” “Believe” is a big word and I believed in myself and she believed in me.
Tell us about your 2010 Pinups for Patients Calendar?
It’s something I did to raise money and awareness for breast and ovarian cancer, which my mom and my grandmother had. My grandmother recently finished radiation for breast cancer, and her husband—my grandfather—had prostate cancer and colon cancer. Both of them survived.
Everybody that worked on the calendar—the photographer, all the models and the designer—are all patients. We wanted the image of the calendar to be “classy and cannabis” and not “sex and weed.” A lot of the cannabis things coming out are slutty, with sex and naked girls taking bong hits, and for me that didn’t seem very classy. I didn’t want one bong or pipe in the calendar. I wanted it to be basically plants and joints and women that are strong, beautiful, powerful and real women.
What are your hopes for the New Year?
I hope to see the Tax, Regulate and Control Act get on the ballot. I hope the city keeps dispensaries alive. I hope to do another calendar and I hope to be happy, healthy and safe.