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Info: thegardensociety.com

Find more in-depth cannabis news, culture and politics at EmeraldReport.com, authoritative marijuana coverage from the PD.

Siri has led me a mile down a lonely dirt road that’s got more holes than a wheel of Swiss cheese. We’ve already blown past several angry looking “No Trespassing” signs and a squirrel clearly irritated by the intrusion.

As we pull up to a rusty building surrounded by dangerous-looking farm implements, Siri chirps: “You have arrived at your destination!” I’ve already established that it’s doubtful we’re at the cannabis-focused garden party I’m looking for. No sane woman is climbing over a broken tiller in heels. Even for marijuana-infused chocolate.

Seeking out an invite-only gathering hosted by Garden Society CEO Erin Gore takes a bit of perseverance for a first-timer. Held at a private home (Siri finally found it after some backtracking) the cannabis-focused gal-gathering is somewhere between a Tupperware party and a speakeasy — a convivial show-and-tell with a wink-wink covertness.

Aimed at women who are seeking relief from both everyday stresses and deeper discomfort associated with chronic pain via microdoses of cannabis, Gore’s Santa Rosa-based marijuana edibles company uses social gatherings like this to both inform and engage.

According to a recent study by Eaze.com, women are one of the fastest growing demographic groups of cannabis users, and their numbers include large numbers of parents and seniors. “The data shows women are turning to cannabis to reduce or replace their consumption of alcohol, prescription opiates, and antidepressants,” said the study.

“Women are looking for an alternative to pharmaceuticals,” said Gore, who first used cannabis to manage pain after several hip surgeries. She was reintroduced after years of international travel and jet lag left her feeling exhausted and sick, but found that many of the high-THC products in dispensaries were too strong. Instead, she threw parties for girlfriends where they baked homemade cannabis edibles made with much smaller amounts.

The results were so favorable, she decided to pursue other recipes and Garden Society’s confections were born.

From sleeplessness and anxiety to arthritis and back pain, Garden Society’s low-dose organic confections are aimed at functional relief rather than epic inebriation. Their Bliss Blossoms are handmade organic chocolates infused with cannabis oil containing 10 milligrams of THC per piece and are recommended for relaxation. Bright Blooms are organic fruit and herb gelees that contain 5 milligrams of THC per piece that utilize a more uplifting cannabis strain.

As mothers, grandmothers, and caregivers, however, many of the women at the event say they’re looking for some trustworthy information about the potential benefits.

“We are connecting with women at an intimate level, with small parties where they can ask questions,” said Gore. “By starting conversations, women can ask questions and it makes them feel more confident. They want a place that’s safe because all of us have something we’re trying to manage.”

Wandering among the 40-plus guests, guests are reticent to give too much personal information, but are eager to talk about why they’re interested in Gore’s products. Not all guests imbibed in the product, and many were just canna-curious.

“I don’t use regularly,” said Leslie, a guest at the party who preferred not to use her last name. ”My friend brought me, and I’m curious,” she said.

Legal recreational marijuana use began in California on Jan. 1.

Summer Horse Camps

Kilham Farm

In their own words: “At camp, young riders learn to groom, horsemanship, tack up and ride with English saddles on their ponies.” Small groups focus on hands-on attention. Campers bring their own snack and lunch daily. The weeklong camp culminates with a pony show, “with lots of fun horsey prizes to be won.”

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 19-22 and July 10-13.

Cost: $450

Where: 3431 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio. 415-662-2232. Kilhamfarm.com.


Mark West Stables

In their own words: Camp includes daily riding lessons, detailed instruction on grooming, horse & equipment care, playing games both on and off the horses. All-day camps include “arts and crafts, cooking, nature walks and creek time.”

When: Nine sessions from June through August. Full day is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Half day is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cost: $450 full day, $350 half day.

Where: 5241 St. Helena Rd. Santa Rosa. 538-2000. markweststables.com.


Crystal Clear Ranch

In their own words: “Younger riders enjoy equine related arts and crafts, while older and more advanced riders spend the afternoon learning more advanced riding and training techniques such as lunging, young horse training, working through training issues, and course design.”

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 18-22, June 25-29 and July 2-6

Cost: $500

Where: Private farm in Petaluma, call 753-0902 or go to petapony.com to register or schedule an appointment.


Strides Riding Academy

In their own words: “Designed to get new riders ready to start lessons,” the annual camp teaches kids about “horse care and handling, play fun games around the barn, do horsey crafts and more!”

When: Seven weekly sessions from June through August. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cost: $375.

Where: 100 Lynch Rd., Petaluma. 799-5054. stridesridingacademy.com.


Note: After 160-acre Cloverleaf Farms on Old Redwood Highway was ravaged by last October’s fires, owner Shawna DeGrange is busy with rebuilding efforts and determined to hold horse camp again this summer. Details are in the works — check out cloverleafranch.com to donate and see the latest camp schedules.

“We all have kids,” she said, nodding to other women standing nearby. “Sleeping is an issue. We all have stress, but want to try something natural,” she added, echoing a common concern of party-goers who didn’t want to smoke or inhale cannabis.

“I was never into pot,” said Cindy, who also asked not to use her last name. “But marijuana has so many medicinal properties. I’m open to the alternatives,” she said. “I like the idea of such beautiful packaging, or the low dosing for relaxation and insomnia,” she said.

As the evening progresses, Gore addresses the rapt audience as they sip chardonnay.

“There are some really bold statements about cannabis right now because it’s not regulated (yet). So you really want to educate yourself,” she says. “In dispensaries, you may find a lot of higher-dosage products, but our edibles are designed for a new or casual user — a low-dose consumer,” she said. “It’s not the cookie you eat and stay high for three days.”

While there is no smoking, vaping or tell-tale pot haze at the Garden Society event, women in attendance admit that marijuana still carries a stigma that’s very real. Still categorized by the federal government as a Schedule 1 drug – likening it to cocaine and LSD – cannabis remains in a societal grey zone even though medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1992. And though some attendees have experience with cannabis (and medical cards), others are still new to it, curious about how it will affect them.

“When you put it in context of wine, people understand it,” Gore said. She correlates 5mg of THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana and the amount in her lowest-dose product) to approximately the effect of about two glasses of wine for new users, adding the caveat that the effect can be significantly different depending on body chemistry, weight and other factors. Gore advises going slow and low to be safe. One of the biggest mistakes new users often make with edibles is not waiting the one to two hours for the full effect, eating too much and regretting it later, she said. “You can always have more,” she told the audience.

Products in local dispensaries can range from 5 milligrams to a whopping 500 milligrams, though anything over 100 milligrams is only available to medical patients.

“We’re just really excited to share our products with women interested in cannabis, but afraid or nervous about medical card or stigma in the past. With adult use, this next step opens things up further to the general public to continue or begin exploring cannabis,” said Karli Warner, marketing director for Garden Society which promotes its products on thegardensociety.com.

The company is planning to launch two new products this year: A high-CBD edible, containing the chemical compound cannabidiol that does not have psychoactive effects but may have some medical benefits, and mini-sized marijuana pre-rolls, aimed at women looking for lower dose products.

“We know CBD is on the uptick and think that’s a great entrance into those afraid of psychoactive products,” said Warner. With the success of her summer events, Gore has plans to offer more Garden Society parties this winter.

We’re all trying to manage triggers,” she says. “This is about finding peace. This is just another tool in our arsenal for the best life we can live,” says Gore. “Who needs this more than women?”

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