Directed by Chris J. Russo, Lady Buds follows the burgeoning (and potentially lucrative) cannabis industry in California. Opening with the decriminalization of marijuana, Buds follows six women, both new and legacy players, as they attempt to build their canna-business legally under the new government guidelines. As they line-up permits and request licenses, they soon discover that this new green frontier has created a new social inequality as they find themselves up against the power of corporate mega-grows.
In Buds, Russo captures not only the importance of the landmark decision to legalize the marijuana industry but, more importantly, tells the stories of those who are leading the way. Though many people believe the weed industry is male-dominated, there is a lot more diversity than they would expect. With a growing representation of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+, the leadership of the marijuana industry has become a broad spectrum and an inclusive community. With an eye on equality and helping others, these budding entrepreneurs are doing what they can to break down cultural stereotypes that most people associate with the cannibis industry.
Although the world of weed has been decriminalized legally, there are many who remain wary of it. As a result, Buds takes the opportunity to explore the many health benefits that the general public may not understand about medicinal marijuana. This may be best exemplified through the work of Sue Taylor. A retired Catholic school principal, Taylor had no interest in the marijuana industry until she began to see the positive effects it was having on the elderly. As she gained knowledge and experience, she began to see how the effects changed the lives of those in her care and her views began to shift. For her, marijuana use isn’t about getting a ‘buzz’ but instead offering healing those who haven’t found help from other prescription drugs.
Even so, the greatest battle within Lady Buds is the struggle of independent farms as they attempt to maintain relevance in the face of fast-approaching major corporations. Built on the backs of family farmers, the marijuana industry has always been a part of California culture and legalization was believed to be their moment in the sun. However, as big business garners increasing interest in the cannabis industry, smaller grow-ops in the California area find it increasingly difficult to distribute their goods. As they slowly take control by working around government regulations, the corporate world begins to flex their muscles and force these family-owned businesses to the margins. By focusing on the stories of these independent growers, Russo gives them a voice at a time when they are being increasingly silenced by corporate greed. While the business world merely sees this as another way to pad their profit margins, these farmers view the world of legalized marijuana as a means to feed their families and build a life.
In this way, Lady Buds offers a great deal of love and grace to those who battle both big business and cultural stigma. As she delves into the stories of her subjects, Russo reveals the hearts that drive their businesses as ones of openness and equality. At the same time, she reveals the constant threat that independent growers lives under as corporate greed continues to force its way into the community.
To hear our conversation with director Chris J. Russo, legacy grower Chiah Rodrigues and marijuana advocate Sue Taylor, click here.
Lady Buds is now playing at HotDocs ‘21.