Once upon a time…
In a city by the sea,
Two people met,
Because it was meant to be.
Farmer Tom Laurerman is known far and wide within the cannabis industry. From his farm in Vancouver, Washington, he advocates for the plant – traveling the festival and conference circuit, speaking out about the importance of organic farming and clean medicine, with the intent of ending prohibition, or at least in hopes of strengthening sometimes poorly crafted ordinances.
And while he’s out there on the road, his better half, Paula, is back home on the farm, tending the family business.
It’s a mutual relationship of understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but their bond of understanding really began in the early days of cannabis as medicine in California in 1999, on the heels of a raid.
Punk Rock Surfer, turned Farmer, turned Dowser
In 1989 Tom’s father, who was living in San Diego, California, suffered a heart attack, and he was called to service as his caregiver.
“I had been spending summers in Baja California, surfing, and winters in Hollywood, caring for my dad,” Tom explained. “About this time I met my first wife in a punk rock bar and that’s when I was introduced to farming cannabis.”
The cannabis was a bonus, as Tom realized his skill as a Dowser on the family’s ranch in Benson, Arizona.
“I was walking with her dad on the property, looking for a possible well water site, and he gave me a fork stick,” he shared. “At one point, it ripped out of my hands – and sure, enough, there was water.”
According to Geology.com, Dowsing is still a viable practice for finding well-water and anything else needful of being located underground, with thousands of success stories stated on its site.
Dowsing is somewhat of a lost art, and Tom said, it’s an intuitive practice.
“You get in touch with your higher-self” he said, knowingly. “If you’ve heard of muscle testing, Dowsing is similar, allowing left-brain conscious awareness to access energies that are naturally inherent within the body. Then using dowsing rods or a forked stick you set the intention of your quest before you begin – to find water, or locating underground utility lines, and such.”
Activist roots in California
The energy of the dosing rod was nothing compared to the energy felt by the future Mrs. Farmer Tom, but I digress.
Tom’s activism began as an advocate for Medical Cannabis with The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, California’s Proposition 215, which ultimately became the ground breaking Health and Safety Code section 11362.5.
By 1999 his cannabis use ended his marriage, and led to another change, as it often does, and Tom found himself in Southern California involved with a legal medical dispensary in the (still) predominately gay neighborhood of Hillcrest, San Diego.
“It was a true, old-school collective – when you came in to sign-up you brought your own grow light, and we’d hang it up, and after harvest we provided the medicine,” he explained. “Because of the neighborhood we were in, we serviced the gay community - many with AIDS, but also rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma, cancer, and patient’s mobility issues.”
During this time, Paula was in nursing school as a holistic practitioner. She was the in-house massage therapist who serviced the outreach portion of the collective. Today these outreach programs still exists and are a blessing to many within the cannabis community.
Since California adopted cannabis as a legal option, raids have been common, the state did not put ordinances into place for its cannabis industry until just this year, 2016, leaving those in compliance without a safety net for a very long time.
“Everyone thought it was safe to come out of the closet, but we were wrong, and were raided,” Paula added. “We were actually installing wheel chair ramps when the thing went down.”
As is typical when raiding legal medical dispensaries or collective in California, it’s political, and Paula and Tom were not targeted, nor charged.
Paula and Tom develop their relationship
In the midst of all the legal proceedings and pain that followed, Tom decided he needed a massage to relieve stress from the in-house therapist, Paula, who he had only met briefly prior. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“The minute I laid hands on him, I had this energy feeling that I’ve never felt before or since – only with him. We got through it,” Paula laughed. “He booked another massage a week later.”
Paula said she had only been a massage therapist for a short time, and the feeling of full body chills, and an this feeling she had never felt before while working on Tom, actually scared her.
“Literally 15 minutes into the second massage, I knew in that moment I was going to change everything in my life to find out who this guys was,” she shared.
At the time, after the raid, Paula said she was 40 years old, her daughter was grown and gone, and she had two gigs waiting for her in Los Angeles.
“I was literally on my way out of the industry,” she continued. “I was close to graduating and had a nursing job waiting for me in Los Angeles – and massage therapy work at Elysian Fields, a nudist colony in Topanga Canyon.”
One month after what Paula calls, “my epiphany about Tom,” the collective received a Notice of Eviction form the landlord. That’s the all-too-common tale of a failed raid on a legal establishment in a legal state, if you aren’t persecuted by the powers that be, you still lose everything. Game over.
With just two months to graduating, Paula was faced with nowhere to go.
“I’m not a kid, yes this guy’s unusual, but I’m taking this slow – then I’m forced to move in with him,” she laughed. “The downside was his family had no idea who I was and were thinking I may be taking advantage. There was a modest inheritance coming and this was a whirlwind relationship.”
Tom was already the pot-smoking, black sheep of the family, and Paula had to prove to them she was sincere. She never went into nursing, and soon the two began doing high-end landscape construction, outside the cannabis space.
“Doors kept slamming in our faces in Southern California,” Paula continued. “Then they announced they were going to add fluoride to the water, and I already suffered from chemical sensitivity, so we looked to the north.”
Meanwhile, back on the farm
The couple’s first stop is what Paula refers to as “hippy-dippy” Grants Pass, Oregon, and when that didn’t work out, they ended up in Williams – in a tent.
“We were on 40 acres in a tent with solar energy, then we built the first, free-standing straw bale house in the U.S. – made with bamboo,” Tom added. “That’s when I got into solar and moved to Portland for a real job.”
City life didn’t prove to be easy, and shortly thereafter, Tom’s father passed away, leaving the couple with a modest inheritance, but enough to buy the farm.
“This was the first place we looked at, and we signed the papers in the afternoon. It sure didn’t look like this!” she laughed. “We have transformed the place over time, as we are also transformed by being here.”
When Washington State adopted legalization ordinances, limiting the amount of cannabis one can farm, while simultaneously doing away with the highly successful collective model, many farmers in the state had to pull up roots, so to speak – or go back into the black market, as many have.
Tom has stayed out in the open, is following the rules and continues to advocate. In fact, he stepped up, putting the farmer on the road, getting in front of cameras, and speaking out for the greater good.
Today, the future looks green due to his popularity and notoriety. Tom’s face is soon to be marketed and distributed throughout the state, in what’s referred to as a white label agreement, wherein product is packaged by a maker, using a celebrity’s image to market.
Paula and Tom both agree, their little five acre farm is everything; it’s the reason they are who they are.
“Living an organic lifestyle is important for everyone, and Tom keeps this realization at the forefront,” Paula concluded. “Modern-day technologies with synthetic compounds create sickness and disease. The main reason we bought our farm was to have some control over what we put in our bodies.”
The couple have been forced to differentiate and focus on what's really important, and Paula said, that has been the foundation of hanging in there through the “for better or worse” portion of their relationship.
“We were opposites in every way possible, but we have come to value those qualities – realizing that a successful tractor operator requires numerous and various skills to run,” Paula surmised, wisely. “Our combined life experiences, before we were together and after, covers most everything necessary for us to keep moving forward. Yes, we are best friends, partners in what needs to be done, and indeed are stronger now more than ever.”
Banner image: Tom and Paula Laurerman (Sharon Letts)