The scope of Lady Buds is deceptively simple — it is the story of six women entering the legal cannabis market. This thoughtful and beautifully-shot documentary uses that scope to reveal sweeping insights into the challenges, triumphs, and players within the cannabis industry. In her feature debut, director Chris J. Russo offers a compelling film that is part crash-course and part masterclass in some of the intricacies and frustrations women face in the cannabis industry. Lady Buds should be on everyone’s must-watch list in the cannabis industry, as it offers a thoughtful examination of how legalization has impacted small farmers in California, it will resonate with anyone who has worked within the cannabis space. Not only does Lady Buds have something for everyone impacted by cannabis in the United States, but it also has important things to say about the industry as a whole.
One of the stars of Lady Buds is Sue Taylor, a retired Catholic school principal turned hopeful dispensary owner. Sue’s dream dispensary includes space to educate seniors on the importance and power of cannabis. Sue’s dream compels the 72-year-old African-American woman to navigate an industry largely populated by white men as well as an ever-changing landscape of regulations that cause seeming unending financial strains.
The Bud Sisters, Pearl Moon and Dr. Joyce Centofanti, are judges of the Emerald Cup. Through the film, we watch their efforts to legalize the salve they make. Their humor about the unique struggles faced by small farms in Humboldt county brings some light moments to a film filled with heavy emotional power.
Karyn Wagner first moved to Humboldt to be with her high-school sweetheart, who happened to be a master cannabis grower. Lady Buds gives us the chance to watch as she applies her business skills to Humboldt-grown weed.
Chiah Rodriques, a second-generation Mendocino cannabis farmer, shares her memories of growing cannabis under the constant threat of helicopters while the film explores the challenges she faces as a small farmer juggling jobs, family, and the financial stresses of a barely-legal industry. We get to see her passion as she acts as a co-founder of a Mendocino County farm collective.
Felicia Carbajal’s story is one of activism and community — and the film echoes with their observation that cannabis is at the intersection of social, racial, gender, and economic justice. Felicia’s story gives insight into the challenges the cannabis industry faces when it comes to equity and justice.
The stories of these powerful voices encompass many different experiences and sections of the cannabis industry. All of them are focused on the hard realities of trying to make it as a small business in a vicious, barely-legal industry.
Lady Buds is more than just insight into an industry that is both state-sanctioned and federally legal. It’s also an important document of the incredible support systems created by these women, and what happens when they collide with the cruel mechanations of a capitalistic bureaucracy that favors the interests of the far more deep-pocketed and traditionally powerful.
Director Chris Russo said, “The films I make have always been informed by my experience living as an outsider, as a woman, as a lesbian who’s had to fight for her own rights and visibility in our society. I felt a personal connection and imperative to tell the story of “Lady Buds,” and it made sense to frame it from a woman’s point of view to provide a contrast to the male-dominated and stoner stereotypes perpetuated by the media. I wanted to paint a picture of powerful, courageous, and passionate women like we’ve never seen before, as the superheroes they seemed to be, to inspire others to take risks and reach for their dreams. It all felt inherently organic to the fact that, at the heart of it all, cannabis — as we cultivate it — is a female plant.”
Lady Buds is going to be my go-to recommendation for anyone in the cannabis industry. With its perfect soundtrack and score, lush cinematography, and intimate storytelling, it should be no surprise that it is emotionally powerful as well. More than once I found myself moved to tears by laughter, frustration, sadness, or shock.
Not only does Lady Buds give insight into the stories of women in a male-dominated industry, but also gives space to the emotional strength and resolve it takes for these incredible women to keep going despite an increasingly harsh landscape. Unflinching and reverent, Lady Buds brings into focus the difficult path to cannabis legalization and the women who walk it.
To learn more about Lady Buds, please go to the website for the movie for more information on screenings, cast, crew, and other exciting information! Lady Buds will be released November 26th via Gravitas Ventures. You can pre-order Lady Buds via ITunes!