blackbird SESSIONS: Jessica Peters
noun [North American]
force of character, determination, or nerve
It’s a beautiful day and the Blackbirds crew is exploring The Abbey-- the gently preserved homestead of Joaquin Miller in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park. “Back in the day, I would have squatted in this house, for sure,” remarks Jessica Peters, a long-time radical risk-taker with a keenness for getting the most out of every opportunity.
Born in Omaha, brought up in DC and all over the world, Peters exudes energy rich with experience and drive. From squatting in abandoned mansions on Mercer Island to unabashedly reviving the foreclosed Brixton Library in the UK, Peters has been smoking weed for the last 25 years. Her first encounter with good weed didn’t arrive until 1996, when she landed in Seattle as an Environmental Studies grad student with a focus in Chemistry. In Washington, she put her degree to work and embarked with NOAA. Between months at sea, she pursued her own cannabis research in light of her first exposure to variety-- different strains, indicas, sativas.. “more than, you know, just whatever green weed in a bag.” It opened up a whole new world.
She moved to California to take a break and refocus. Her new local community encouraged her to join Market Street Cooperative-- an activist dispensary in San Francisco. “My first five patients changed everything,” she explains. She came face to face with the reality that cannabis is powerful medicine that people rely on for their survival every day. And she was one of them. CBD strains started showing up through the Co op, and Peters realized what it meant to her patients-- subsiding the tics of Tourette’s syndrome, finding solutions for HIV/AIDS patients-- “I had to know more.”
Despite the community organizing and radical efforts of Peters and the Co op, Melinda Haag’s federal tirade shut down Market Street in 2012, along with many other California collectives. In the midst of fighting for patients' rights to medicine, reports about success with pediatric CBD treatments were emerging-- she read that Harborside Health Center was on the forefront of CBD access, but there were chemical limitations with the alcohol and glycerin bases. She knew what to do to stabilize the CBD-- “fucking coconut oil!”
Peters joined Harborside’s team, created and filled a CBD specialist position, spearheaded their patient consultation program, and began the development of Harborside’s CBD medications. Personally, discovering CBD allowed her to regain control of her life, “I was living in fear every day,” she recalls. The development of CBD medications gave her freedom from constant hospitalizations and the mounting medical debt her reproductive disorder, endometriosis, was causing. But cannabis and reproductive health were seldom discussed in her circles, and she wanted to provide a solution designed for women, by women, and used by all.
As the owner of Moxie Meds, steadfast activist for women in cannabis, patients rights, and justice, Jessica Peters is a patient first-- “I’m all about medication, consultation, and education,” she explains-- but she doesn’t have to. Her stories, her insight, her energy-- moxie might be an understatement.