Owning a cannabis shop in a non-cannabis friendly state:The story of cannabis activist Tammy Wood and her journey turning Wood Pipes Smoke Shoppe into Wood Pots Smoke Shoppe.

557750_514796058531606_1473533568_n  Those who fight to end the prohibition of cannabis are as diverse as the individuals who consume cannabis for recreational or medicinal purposes. Among the many well-known activists such as Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Jack Herer, Cheryl Shuman, and Sanjay Gupta, there are thousands of other citizens who also speak out and fight to reform cannabis laws. One of those activists is Tammy Wood, a resident of Madison, Wisconsin. This is her story.

Living in a Prohibition World

Some activists are born into cannabis culture due to their parent’s lifestyle, while others never encountered it in their lives. Many though, like Tammy, partook in their younger years. In high school, Tammy was your stereotypical stoner teenager who “skipped every class except literature.” When she got older and became a mother, as well as a career woman, cannabis faded from her life. It left her not because she no longer enjoyed or benefitted from it, but because many states had draconian cannabis laws that could have caused her to lose her job or children. Tammy’s journey back to the cannabis scene was one full of hardships and magnificent twists.

Hard Times Call for Big Change

The story of how Tammy Wood became an active advocate is one of her favorites to tell. According to Tammy, “It is truly a great version of the American Dream and a testament to the sustainability of the cannabis industry.” After becoming a mother, Tammy began to work from home. Her husband, Brian, was a car salesman. Tammy helped supplement the family income by holding regular yard sales. Following the economic disasters of 2008, many families felt the crash full force; Tammy’s family being one of them. Automotive sales declined consistently for many months, putting a major strain on the family.

  Tammy and Brian looked for other income opportunities. Tammy had given thought to becoming a vendor at carnivals. Initially Tammy believed this adventure would be fun-filled, but it was much more difficult than expected. Vending at carnivals is very weather dependent, and it requires a lot of physical work. Their glow in the dark merchandise was much harder to sell in the light of day than they had anticipated.

This was when things began to change for Tammy and her family. She and her husband knew that the potential for something great was there, they just needed the right merchandise. Noticing metal and glass smoking accessories familiar from their youth, such as bongs, bubblers and hookahs,  on a whim Tammy and Brian purchased a few hundred dollars worth of merchandise in hopes of boosting profits. And… “IT WORKED!”

  Within two hours of opening their carnival booth they sold out! Realizing just how big a market there was for smoking accessories, the idea of a Smoke Shoppe surfaced. In 2010, Wood Pipes Smoke Shoppe and Speakeasy opened its doors on Main Street in Kendall, Wisconsin. The store thrived for 5 years despite a failing economy. Eventually, Wood relocated the store to the slightly bigger town of Reedsburg, Wisconsin, where it still remains a mom and pop shop today.

Within two hours of opening their carnival booth they sold out! Realizing just how big a market there was for smoking accessories, the idea of a Smoke Shoppe surfaced. In 2010, Wood Pipes Smoke Shoppe and Speakeasy opened its doors on Main Street in Kendall, Wisconsin. The store thrived for 5 years despite a failing economy. Eventually, Wood relocated the store to the slightly bigger town of Reedsburg, Wisconsin, where it still remains a mom and pop shop today.

The Start of Activism

After opening Wood Pipes Smoke Shoppe Tammy began to see just how disconnected her customers were from cannabis culture and the truth about the plant. Her tipping point was how many customers didn’t know cannabis and marijuana were the same plant. She knew she had to educate the public. She was familiar with the “common stoner folklore,” such as the Constitution being written on hemp and that cannabis is more useful than for “just getting high.” To be a voice for cannabis, Tammy knew that she had to arm herself with factual and engaging educational information.

 11100156_746467558784757_5884304357241915782_n In her search for information to share with the world, she encountered a renowned voice for cannabis, Russ Bellville, who was NORML National Outreach Coordinator at the time, and is well known for his online radio show. Tammy became a frequent voice on the other end of the call-in line. Russ was able to direct Tammy to several Wisconsin chapters of NORML. Russ urged Tammy to read The Emperor Wears No Clothes by the renowned cannabis activist Jack Herer. The information in this book was enough for Tammy to say, “This has to stop, the war against this plant must end and I will not stop fighting until it is abolished.”

The Passion That Fuels the Fire

Tammy says, “I live in a state where darker-shaded humans live a second class life, where darker-shaded children are arrested at a rate that is higher than any other in our nation, where darker-shaded men are more than twice as likely to have a felony conviction.” She also lives in a state with the 3rd worst roads in the nation yet “tax dollars are flushed away to continue enforcing laws that were pushed through by a bigot who stood within the halls of one of the greatest democracies on earth and convinced our legislators adults had no business deciding what to consume, because he feared the way ‘Negroes would look at white women twice’ and that they would have the audacity ‘to step in white men’s shadows’. Those are the words of  Harry Anslinger, first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Harry is responsible for the Marijuana Tax act of 1937 that ultimately led to the prohibition of cannabis.

  Tammy also lives in a state which once was one of the top producers of hemp in the country, where, instead, over 5,000 family farms have closed their barn doors for good. She lives in a state that arrests an estimated 19,000 individuals each year for this plant, while serious crimes like rape are downplayed. Last but not least, she lives in a state where thousands of individuals suffer horrendous medical ailments because they cannot legally access a plant.

  Prohibition has directly affected Tammy too. She wanted to host an educational cannabis fair, a comfortable place where individuals could ask questions and share knowledge. She clearly stated that the event was for educational purposes and lined up a great roster to bring professional and credible conversation and engagement to the event, including an author, leading members of 3 different NORML chapters, representatives from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), Ed Thompson, a local mayor, a Senate candidate and the first ever recipient of the Ben Masel Defenders of Liberty Award. And the courageous and dedicated Jacki Rickert who traversed 160 miles across Wisconsin roadways in her wheelchair, bringing attention the ridiculous draconian laws Wisconsin has regarding cannabis.

  Despite all her careful preparation, Tammy states that “the reefer madness instilled by decades of prohibition incited such outcry from the village government that they set every hoop in sight on fire just to watch me jump through them.” Despite her uncanny ability to remain calm, enough was enough when “elected officials said out loud and on public record they feared the attendees at the educational cannabis fair I was planning to host may be inclined ‘to drop trow and shit in the park’ if I didn’t provide two additional porta-potties to the existing 8 flush toilets already available caused me to break. Their sheer stupidity and lack of decorum sent me over the edge.”

  After yet another stressful call from the village clerk demanding another special board meeting to discuss her plans, a customer noted that she looked stressed and offered her a cigarette. And so, she again picked up the deadly addiction of cigarette smoking four years after she had quit. The last thing she wanted was a horrible, disgusting cigarette and she stated the following, “What I really wanted was a nice sativa strain that would give me the energy to deal with the never-ending bullshit prohibition kept shoveling my way. But that less addictive, far safer alternative is against Wisconsin state law. The cigarette being held out in front of me was legal. It was legal and it really did calm my nerves that day. Yet here I am, five years later fighting an addiction that will very likely kill me, all because we are presently governed by misguided laws that were based on outright lies and racism. I am here to change that!”

Activist Advice to Others

11188218_759836720781174_2485290290795003186_nTammy says, “The easiest way to be an advocate is to stop voting for people who will lock citizens in a cage for using a plant. It’s noncommittal and it doesn’t require you coming out of the closet.” Contacting your representatives is also an effective way to make change. The more individuals they hear from, the more likely they are to evaluate the situation from different perspectives. Being involved with national organizations such as NORML or the Marijuana Policy Project is a great way to be active in the efforts for legalization. The hardest part of it all, Tammy says, is owning a business such as the Wood Pipes in a state where cannabis is still highly illegal. The ultimate goal of Tammy and Brian Wood is to turn Wood Pipes Smoke Shoppe into the Wood Pots Smoke Shoppe when legalization happens. Tammy wants to be able to offer medical patients the advice they need to find the right strains for their ailments. She dreams of being able to help customers purchase the right flowers, concentrates, edibles or smoking accessories for their medical needs. Tammy states “Additionally, when our customers come in after a long week at work and want to unwind for the weekend we want to send them out the door with the best dank Wisconsin farmers can grow. We want to be able to offer the freedom to choose; we can’t do that right now and that is the hardest part of my business.”



Emerald contributor since September 2015


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