SHOWTIME’S ‘WEEDS’ IS NOW OFF THE AIR
AFTER EIGHT SEASONS, BUT DR. DINA – WHO INSPIRED
THE SHOW’S ICONIC ‘NANCY BOTWIN’ – IS NOW
GOING PUBLIC FOR THE FIRST TIME
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Prominently Written About in the January 2013 Issue of GQ Magazine in Connection with Snoop Lion, Dr. Dina – One of the Earliest Pioneers of the Medical Marijuana Movement, Inspiration for the Show “Weeds” and Legendary Medical Marijuana Consultant to the Stars – Now for the First Time Steps Out of the Shadows with the Hope of Becoming a Transformative Figure who will Forever Reshape the Public’s Understanding of this Important Issue
Once Snoop Lion (a.k.a Snoop Dogg) lays a nickname on you, it sticks for life – just ask “Dr. Dina,” his longtime friend, confidante and business associate. Dr. Dina is not a board-certified M.D., nor did she go to medical school. Rather, Dr. Dina received her nickname from Snoop for being one of the pioneers of the movement in Southern California to provide safe access to medical cannabis in accordance with Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, passed by the People of California in 1996.
A powerful advocate for mainstreaming medical marijuana and beloved by hundreds of Hollywood celebs and dignitaries for over a decade, all-the-while maintaining her secrecy due the relatively conservative social circles in which she lives, Dr. Dina has now decided to come forward for the first time and step into the spotlight following the prominent mention she received (an inadvertent “outing”) in the article on Snoop in the January 2013 issue of GQ entitled “The Lion Smokes Tonight.”
In the piece, Snoop takes journalist Drew Magary to visit Dr. Dina at Alternative Herbal Health Services. Dr. Dina’s relationship with Snoop is a special one – in addition to her being his close friend for over 20 years, they shared a very special moment. In 2005, Dr. Dina helped Snoop acquire his first letter of recommendation for the use of medical marijuana – and has done so every year since (the first letter being so special that Snoop kept it in a silver Jordan briefcase handcuffed to his chief security guard for a year).
Magary identifies Dr. Dina as “a thin brunette who has the whole Nancy Botwin look down cold,” a reference to the pot-selling mom played by Mary-Louise Parker on the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning comedy-drama “Weeds,” which recently concluded its run on Showtime after eight seasons. That’s not even the half of it – the character Nancy Botwin and the very premise for the show was inspired by Dr. Dina, who launched her consultancy in 2003, two years before the show debuted and at a time when she had direct contact with creative personnel on the show and when there were very few, if any, other women in the business – especially in L.A.
The similarities between Dr. Dina and her fictional counterpart Nancy Botwin go far beyond looks and attitude – but those similarities are striking nonetheless. Not only do both women look alike, favor blue jeans over skirts and share numerous other personality traits, both are from conservative communities that strongly object to the notion of medical marijuana. Upon instantly meeting Dr. Dina, as Magary did in the GQ Article, these similarities are impossible to ignore. But there is much more to it than that.
In Weeds, Nancy Botwin had an abrupt change in her personal life – her husband died – and she starting selling marijuana in 2005 to maintain her affluent lifestyle. In Dr. Dina’s life, she had an abrupt change as well – her engagement to the heir of Life Alert was surprisingly called off – and only then did she enter (albeit accidentally) the world of medical marijuana in 2003. Botwin lived with her husband in the fictional town Agrestic. Dr. Dina lived with her fiancé in a gated community in Calabasas – a virtual carbon-copy of Agrestic, with similar layouts, including almost identical grand entry fountains. The list of similarities goes on. Essentially, the very core of her personality, looks and life-situation were used as the starting point for the show.
Dr. Dina, now in her mid-thirties, explains “Ever since the pilot aired and even more so today, I’m constantly being stopped and asked if I’m “the real” Nancy Botwin. Yes, the pilot was based on me. But Weeds is certainly not my life story. Nancy was a criminal drug dealer. Everything I do is 100 percent legal in accordance with state law. I am not so much driven by money but by the desire to help people in need. In fact, when they initially aired the ‘Weeds’ episode when she killed a grandmother, I was the live-in caregiver for my 92-year-old grandfather. I cared for him until he passed away a few days short of 95. So, yes, one could say that the connection with Nancy cast me in a defamatory light.”
As for the show violating her rights, Dr. Dina consulted with several attorneys when the show initially aired only to discover she might have strong legal claims. Due to the lack of social acceptance of medical marijuana at the time, her desire to keep her life private, and that she is not a litigious person, she never pursued them. Back in 2005, the world was still very uneasy about the idea of medical marijuana. Much has changed since 2005 when Weeds first aired. Although the Federal Government still lists marijuana as an illegal Schedule 1 substance – claiming it has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment” – credible medical research now shows otherwise. Moreover, public opinion on the subject has radically changed.
In a report dated July 9, 2012, leading U.S. Medical Marijuana Researcher Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California San Diego, claims that marijuana’s current Federal classification is “not tenable.” The study concluded “it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.” The study urges additional research, and states that its federal classification and controversial status are nothing more than “obstacles to medical progress in this area.” Additionally, a CBS News Poll from October 2011 showed 77 percent of Americans support the idea of doctors prescribing marijuana for serious medical conditions. As Dr. Dina points out, “it’s simply amazing this is such a volatile political issue when 77 percent of Americans agree. Where else do 77 percent of Americans agree on anything?” Despite still being a volatile issue, social acceptance and voting trends strongly suggest that medical marijuana is here to stay. In the 2012 election, voters in Washington and Colorado went so far as legalizing marijuana for “recreational use”, adding to the list of 18 states and Washington, D.C. where marijuana is already legal for medicinal purposes.
Due to the changing social climate, with the GQ article on the stands, and with Weeds finally over, Dr. Dina is finally ready to tell the true story behind “the real” Nancy Botwin – which is in many ways far more complex and intriguing that the make-believe version. In doing so, she hopes to correct many of the misconceptions created from the show, while at the same time, showing (maybe for the first time) the softer side of the medical marijuana business. Like Nancy Botwin, Dr. Dina is probably one of the most unlikely people you would expect to be at the heart the medical marijuana business. Raised in a conservative Jewish family in the hills of Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley, her mom, a Ph.D., still bristles when people call her daughter “Dr. Dina.” Ironically, her parents refused to let her go away for college because they didn’t want her to “get into trouble.” She enrolled in CSUN and transferred to FIDM after the Northridge earthquake leveled her campus.
While working as a pieced goods buyer downtown after college, Dr. Dina was inadvertently thrust into the world of medical marijuana in 2003. A close friend approached her, knowing Dr. Dina is always one to help. He had bad news, having been recently diagnosed with stage three cancer. Now, he was having serious trouble holding down the chemo pills. Dr. Dina did some research, and learned that medical marijuana might be the only way for him to hold down the pills. Despite great efforts, she was unable to find a physician in Southern California who would even discuss medical marijuana as an option. And, even if she found such a doctor, there was no access to safe medicine in the area.
Eventually, Dr. Dina heard of a physician in the Bay Area who was amenable to the subject. They drove up to meet him. Not only were her friend’s medical needs addressed, but Dr. Dina was able to convince the physician to open up his practice in L.A. one day per week. But there was a catch – Dr. Dina would have to run the place, and handle all of the business and administrative matters. She agreed, and the first medical marijuana physician’s office in Southern California was born. The demand was so huge that within three months she had helped open six different offices.
Medical marijuana patients need medicine – and even today marijuana can’t be found at local pharmacies – only “dispensaries.” Back in 2003, the only L.A. dispensary in Los Angeles had a dangerous “crack den” atmosphere. Dr. Dina was committed to changing this and quickly began working with many dispensary owners to establish safe, clean, state-law compliant and welcoming environments. The ensuing days and the stories that unfolded would put the best episode of Weeds to shame – whether it be dealing with federal raids, turf wars, conservative parents or just about anything else one could imagine, and more. It was very much a man’s world, and a dangerous one at that, but Dina – weighing in at barely 90 pounds – somehow managed to handle it. She even inspired several hit songs along the way, including Snoop’s 2008 song with Everlast, “My Medicine”: “Yeah, she kinda skinny but she gets my money, get my money, buy my medicine…”
Since 2003, in addition to consulting with countless Hollywood celebrities, politicians, entertainment executives and other VIPS, she has consulted with over three dozen non-profit Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in California, three in Colorado, and one in Oregon. Moreover, she has and continues to consult with the City of West Hollywood and Los Angeles to help safely regulate the business. Among her many professional accomplishments, she helped launch a “compassion” program that provides free medical marijuana to the city’s sick and needy.
The current experience of walking into many dispensaries today is radically different from what many may think. Dr. Dina breaks down the experience at Alternative Herbal Heath Service (AHHS), the oldest legally operating dispensary in Southern California: “You walk in and provide your ID and letter of recommendation from your doctor. Once verified, you enter the main room where you can select your medicine, which include flowers, concentrates, and a wide variety of edibles such as peanut butter, honey, agave nectar, juices, granola bars, baklava, lozenges, and even gummy bears. Each item contains one or more of the top components in cannabis – THC, CBD and CBN. CBDs provide the most pain relief. There are many different kinds of cannabis, each with different ratios of the compounds, broken into three main categories: indica, sativa and hybrid. Like choosing any kind of pain medication, there are lots of factors to consider. The AHHS “bud-tenders” – who are easy to share your troubles with – provide expert assistance.”
She continues “unfortunately, like doctors, we have many chronically sick patients suffering from HIV, AIDS, cancer and MS. But, like doctors, we also treat people suffering from less serious but nevertheless debilitating conditions – everything from eating disorders, severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD to major physical injuries and phantom-limb syndrome as suffered by military veterans. Medical marijuana is often their only chance of relief – with prescription pills, to the extent they have any beneficial effect, often bringing about horrible side effects, or are prohibitively expensive, or both.”
“Over the past decade, I have seen the industry explode for both the good and bad,” Dr. Dina says. “I hope that the work I have done, and continue to do, will help legitimize the use of medical marijuana for those who truly need it. It is gratifying when those people thank me for what I have done. Sometimes, I feel like I’m giving them a second chance at life.” After a decade of experiences and inspiring a hit television show, Dr. Dina is finally ready to share her story with the world.