By Chelsea Young
The FaceTime blurs before coming to life, revealing Dani Billings–her red hair glowing under the Colorado sun. She relaxes on her patio, taking in the beautiful weather as her dogs play in the background.
Dani is a leading female entrepreneur in the cannabis industry and the founder of Tastee Yummies. She entered the industry in 2008 with her mother, pioneering the all-organic edible company that would ultimately sell to Cheeba Chews in 2012.
I question her decision to leave the field and she explains, “The industry, in my opinion, was not [embodying] the way people should be taken care of. There was a lot of greed, and people were out to one-up themselves and not help anyone in the process.”
Aspiring to continue her work of helping people, she began studying esthetics and massage therapy and, in 2013, she and her father co-founded the Colorado Hemp Project, the first American company to receive legal licensing to grow industrial hemp under Amendment 64. Later, the duo founded Nature’s Root, a company that sells hemp and CBD-based products for skin, body, and therapeutic care.
“We started with two and a half acres,” Dani recalls, “and we were fortunate enough to get the seed in that year because a lot of imported seeds [were] withheld by the government.”
Since hemp had long been banned, Dani endeavored to educate others about the plant and its multi-purpose quality.
“Cannabis is a feminine plant,” she explains, eyes gleaming. “It’s a male-female plant, but it expresses feminine. It expresses love, it expresses compassion, and it expresses need and want.” She elucidates the parallel between the historical role of women and that of cannabis as both have worked to help, house, clothe, and heal.
As an advocate for its many healing capacities, Dani specializes in hemp treatment for a variety of ailments, including insomnia, depression, weight gain/loss, autoimmune diseases, cancer, epilepsy, psychotic issues, etc.
“You would be amazed at what this plant can do,” she insists.
Dani explains how physical ailments are often hereditary and often cause internal imbalance. She furthers, “The endocannabinoid system is what processes our emotions, our food, our ways of feeling. That’s the makeup of who we are. Not the function of our organs, but how we think, eat, talk, and communicate with each other… I know because I’ve [witnessed] thousands of people go through this process and get better, just by taking [CBD] that is supposed to balance the inside of their body.”
As an expert in the field, Dani is often contacted by medical professionals and PhD holders wishing to participate in case studies. She will create a concoction, and for a span of ninety days, she and her team will monitor groups of forty participants to determine their bodies’ reactions to the medicine.
“The doctors are amazed with the process,” she reports. These same doctors often refer patients to her, many of which travel great distances to receive her treatment.
“I’ll take [into account] their medicine, weight, height, blood type, and make special concoctions based off that,” she explains. These treatments are more potent than those sold through her company and must be taken in a controlled manner. They also come in various forms: smokable, suppository, or ingestible.
“I would [not] consider myself a doctor,” she maintains. “I just know cannabis, and I know quite a few other plants. When I put those together, it’s everything.”
In addition to its physical and psychological benefits, Dani explains that the waste produced by cannabis can also be recycled and repurposed into sustainable products, thus reducing industry emissions.
“We don’t need everything to be 100% hemp,” she explains. “The goal is to take out the unnecessary products that are killing our planet and replace them with hemp. People don’t understand how easy it is to help our planet.”
Dani has also embarked to help others obtain their own hemp license, a relatively simple process conducted through the Department of Agriculture that usually only requires an application and fee. In addition to Colorado, California, Oregon, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina are some of the biggest contemporary hemp producers. Texas recently legalized the plant, and Dani predicts that it will quickly surpass all other states upon opening licensing in 2020.
“In 2013,” Dani notes, “my dad and I were the only hemp farmers in the U.S., and we had two and a half acres. Six years later, there’s already 250,000 acres.”
Perhaps her most significant accomplishment was her facilitation of the first legal hemp trade between the U.S. and Jamaica.
“I chose Jamaica because back in 2013, I didn’t know if the hemp industry in America was going to thrive [or] if the laws were going to trap me here. So, I set up abroad.”
“Every time I’m there, I see the [class struggle]. Government people at the top, and then your workers, and then the impoverished. They have no advantages; I just wanted to see them in power.”
Dani’s message remains consistent: not only can the plant be grown and smoked, but it can also be used industrially for textiles and merchandise.
While the Jamaican government supported the trade, civilians objected. Ganja is a staple of the culture, and commercialization would threaten its viability.
“It’s a very rooted culture, and I respect it. But it’s good for their economy to be able to switch up these genetics and then themselves explore, but I have gotten a lot of pushback.”
Dani and her team decided to build a house from the hemp waste and donate it in an effort to sway the public. They intend to build thousands more to further demonstrate hemp’s economic potential.
Prompted about U.S. legalization, Dani explains that she plays only a small role in a nationwide issue, adding that she tends to avoid the politicization of cannabis.
“Everybody plays a role, and I think politicians should go after it. I have worked with politicians, even backed a couple of them, but […] [politicians] have an agenda. You’re playing with their agenda, on top of your agenda, and the plant’s agenda. The plant’s agenda is that this [medicine] is for every single person on the planet, and the government is trying to control that. My focus is to continue to create fun, creative outlets for people. I’ve always thought that politics and legalities are great and needed, but I also feel like they play their role and I play mine, and it’s not my job to be a politician.”
Chelsea Young is a staff writer at HoneySuckle Magazine and alumna of Pace University NYC where she studied Communications, Journalism, and African American Studies.