LADY BUDS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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I was never a person who enjoyed smoking pot. First, it made me dizzy. Second, it gave me the munchies. Third, it made me fall asleep. But after watching the new documentary Lady Buds, I have a renewed appreciation for what cannabis can do for those who suffer from pain (full disclosure: I take CBD gummies daily for my own aches these days) and also for longtime farmers who benefited financially by harvesting crops over the years in Northern California despite illegalities.

But in 2016, the state decriminalized the use of recreational marijuana and the cannabis marketplace became a legit business. At first growers were glad to ditch their outlaw status when Proposition 64 was passed. But complicated regulations, licenses and bureaucracy stood in their way. Another glitch? Large corporations with big pockets were eager to take advantage of investing in big-time greenhouses.

First-time director Chris J. Russo has chosen to focus on six female cannabis entrepreneurs who must traverse a new commercial landscape when it comes to selling their wares. Most of these women aren’t exactly hippie-dippy throwbacks. Most living up to a stoner image are two senior farmers who call themselves the Bud Sisters, purple-haired Pearl Moon and Dr. Joyce Centofanti. On the other side is Black businesswoman Sue Taylor, who is intent to open a luxe dispensary, no matter what legal red-tape greets her. Then there is Karyn Wagner, who back in the day would jam high-end designer shopping bags with product around New York City.

Then there is wife, mother of two boys and second-generation cannabis grower Chiah Rodriques, who works alongside her husband. She has started a collective of farmers in Mendocino in order to get the word out for their artisanal wares. Then there is highly invested gay activist Felicia Carbajal, who takes a more political stand while standing up for Black and Latinx growers. During a meeting with those who decides the rules, a rude blonde woman does an eye roll when Carbajal states her case.

Between forest fires threatening their crops, barriers to legally sell their products and big business the stressful lifestyles of these women does not lead to a contact high that emanates from the screen. All must compromise themselves in some way in order to have ties to cannabis industry. While the doc can be somewhat choppy at times and repetitive, we do end up rooting for these ladies.

One note: Congrats to Russo for somehow squeezing in a highly appropriate cameo of rapper Snoop Dogg shown hugging Taylor onscreen as she crusades for her right to open her business.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.