We strive to represent, keep alive and empower the history and culture of the plant by supporting individuals, organizations and policies that aim to legitimize the existing marketplace, ensuring it continues to be inclusive of small, independent and locally controlled brands. We also believe that no one should be in prison for this plant. The reasons for this perspective run deeply through us, as owners and operators. When you choose Grow Gear, you are working with a family whose lives have been impacted, and shaped by the plant. A plant that has humbled us in many ways, many times in our decades of involvement. As states decriminalize, and legalize markets, barriers are broken down, social stigma is reduced, tax revenue is generated, and a scramble to organize, lobby and create new rules to an old game ensue. With that, we find it important and relevant to share our personal experiences with our customers.
Dylan and I both grew up in Santa Cruz, California, a small, liberal beach community, raised by parents who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s. We were both exposed early and often to the plant. My Father, a Vietnam veteran who spent 10 years of his life in the military, always grew his own and used it to treat PTSD. Given this upbringing, it was easy and natural to reject the messaging DARE taught at school, that the plant was dangerous and criminal.
In 1996, California passed Proposition 215 and became the first state in the country to legalize the plant for medical use. Wow. The possibilities, and gray areas this created paved the way for an entire industry and economy to form, that remained taboo and in the shadows for decades. If you were serious about growing in the early 2000’s, Northern California’s Emerald Triangle was where you were, so that’s where Dylan and I went.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that out of the many legally questionable outdoor and indoor operations we were involved in during the early years, it wasn’t until July 2012, on our privately owned 50 acres that a rogue sheriff, who had been called out to the area for something (and someone) completely unrelated, illegally entered our property. Our garden was compliant with local law, covered by medical recommendations or “scripts” but this sheriff said he didn’t follow local law and ordered us to cut down our garden. This took hours. At the end of the encounter, he shook our hands before he left and wished us good luck making our case in court.
I remember wondering whether the court summons would really show up in the mail, and the pit in my stomach when it did, and as we moved through the proceedings. I will never forget the disgust and anger I felt when the District Attorney looked Dylan in the face and told him with no hesitation that while he seemed like a nice guy with a beautiful family, this case wasn’t about him, or the plant. He said the case was strictly about his record as a prosecutor. He had a reputation to maintain and that was what was at stake here. In the end, the D.A. won his case, as they usually do. A Felony Cultivation conviction resulted in 1.5 years of prison time for Dylan. My husband, the father of our son, was headed to San Quentin state penitentiary for growing a plant.
As a young mother, I felt I had no choice but to distance myself from the only community I had known in my adult life. I moved back home to Santa Cruz, mentioned to very few that my husband was in prison and focused on finishing my college degree and building a traditional career.
Once Dylan transferred to a lower security facility, our 1-year-old and I spent most weekends driving out to visit him. As a family, we were determined to ensure that Dylan would not continue to be a statistic. We knew the numbers. We knew America had the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. We hadn’t been able to escape that one. We also knew the majority of people who are released from prison, return there. We knew that children of parents who have been incarcerated are significantly more likely to suffer behavioral, social and emotional problems and to become incarcerated themselves. We couldn’t let that be us. We are not a statistic.
Prison culture, particularly in California, has an entire set of rules that put men who are trying to stay safe and come home on time into impossible situations. People are segregated by race, set-up to compete for resources, must submit to a certain hierarchy and be willing to violently defend themselves against threats against any of those things. It is not an environment of rehabilitation, it’s traumatic.
When Dylan came home, he was on parole for 1 year. I barely let him out of my sight. He stayed in, watched our son, worked at an auto repair shop and didn’t take even one puff of the plant until he was completely released. Navigating our next moves in life wasn’t easy. Is creating an entirely new identity possible? Is that what we really wanted? It was now 2016, and the plant was only becoming more mainstream. We watched from the sidelines with pride as our oldest friends, the greatest talents in the industry, crossed over out of the shadows, built legitimate companies and were embraced by society.
Could we come back? Was it safe? After a lifetime of taking risks, I felt we couldn’t anymore.
We moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 2018 hoping to start fresh in a state that offered a quality of life that felt out of reach in California. Not long after arriving, Amendment 2 legalizing medical passed with 66% support. We agreed this could be an opportunity to return to a plant, industry and community that we love from a new side of things through opening Grow Gear, so here we are. We are family owned and operated and thrilled to be able to support Missourians on their growing journey, we know that we are well suited to do so.
We’re here for you and thank you for being there for us. - Lila