Humboldt attorney Kathleen Bryson was co-moderator of the panel exploring local ordinances and other legal cannabis matters. Photo by Jose Quezada.
Humboldt attorney Kathleen Bryson was co-moderator of the panel exploring local ordinances and other legal cannabis matters. Photo by Jose Quezada.

Sponsored article for Law Offices of Kathleen Bryson by Sharon Letts, a Silver sponsor of the Ganjier Spring Kickoff!

Like many in the industry, working with medicinal cannabis changed my life. I was a “typical covert stoner” prior to writing on cannabis, not a Prop. 215 patient, when asked to cover double-mastectomy survivor Dr. “Mollie” Fry, incarcerated for helping others with the plant in California.

That story turned into many more, and the knowledge gained helped to put my own breast cancer into remission. My work now takes me across state lines, putting me into some precarious legal situations. For the occasional question and possible panic situation, it’s good to have a lawyer. Mine is Kathleen Bryson, cannabis attorney to Humboldt County for the past eight years as well as my friend — it takes strong bonds to wade the muddy waters of prohibition.

When Kathleen offered a ride to San Jose’s Hempcon, I didn’t have to think about it. Who would pass up five plus hours of non-billable legal chatter on cannabis? And anyone who knows Bryson knows that there’s never a dull moment: she plays as hard as she works.

From California and Back Again

Born and raised by liberal attorney parents in Palo Alto, Bryson attended UC Santa Cruz and graduated from Tulane Law in 1992. Her first job afterward was in London as the first in-house solicitor to Tesco PLC, the world’s third largest retailer. Roots brought her back to California, but family brought her to Humboldt – a move she’s never regretted.

“Farming is in my soul. My years in Humboldt have taught me that whatever I am and whatever I hope to be is all down to cannabis farmers. I would not have a pot to piss in without my dear clients, who are now friends.”

After working as deputy district attorney for longtime Humboldt DA Paul Gallegos, she worked as a defense attorney for Manny Daskal’s firm and learned the ins and outs of Humboldt County’s cash crop. In 2010, she ran against incumbent Gallegos, stating, “You can complain or you can try to do something to change things.” Though he prevailed, Bryson regrouped, helping colleague Maggie Fleming win in 2014.

“Maggie campaigned on the promise that violence against farmers is violence, period,” she said. “I have heard judges in Humboldt – judges I deeply respect – blaming victims of home invasions because they were growing cannabis. If the person were in a jewelry business – also considered high risk – would we blame the victim? Does jewelry put cancer into remission? Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend, cannabis is – breast cancer be gone!”

Humboldt Farmers Deserve Recognition, Protection

With legalization on the horizon for California, Bryson says the future looks bright. “For Humboldt, this means we can finally come out of the closet and share the skills we have honed for decades, growing the best medicine in the world. No longer will people have to hide their heads and pretend that they are not a part of an industry that puts food into the mouths of, not just their own children, but every child in the county.”

Bryson doesn’t believe Humboldt farmers belong in the court room, and she has added business law attorney, Lori Varaich to that end. “We are going to see business needs explode. With Lori’s knowledge we’ll be able to help with every possible agreement and regulatory advice, corporate governance for non-profits, commercial operating agreements, LLCs, trademark, copyrights – you name it. We’ll be teaming with experts helping farmers with permits, and working with government officials to help open safe access points – something Humboldt has been lacking, ironically.”

A large part of Humboldt’s population is tribal, and Bryson is no stranger to its own regulations and different approaches to land stewardship. Add the newly announced right for tribes to grow recreational cannabis, and a new set of skills must be added to the mix. “The main thing is, we must work with farmers, for farmers, and make it happen for them,” she said.

With Colorado’s landslide profit margin making headlines, Bryson sees promise in the Golden State’s future. “The business possibilities are endless. Marketing, public relations, branding, retail, logistics, real estate, science and research, tourism, film, and artwork – all have a place in the industry.”

Understanding Cannabis as a Medicine

The medicinal aspect is not lost on Bryson as she tears up, thinking of a dear friend losing a battle with cancer. “She came to California and put her cancer into remission by juicing and ingesting cannabis leaf,” Bryson explained. “But, then she had to go home to Utah and is now dying for lack of access. When I think of the medicinal applications of this plant, that’s when I need the box of tissue nearby. I have friends who are alive today because of cannabis. Without it they would be gone – cancer would have taken them. Others are not so lucky, and we need to change that.”

Bryson said she looks forward to a world without cancer, illness, or home invasions. She also looks forward to a day when farmers will be able to conduct business with proper security in broad daylight, without fear of persecution. But mostly, she’d just like the negative stigma of the plant to go away for good.

“From what I’ve heard, legalization in Colorado and Washington has brought about education on medicine, not more people getting wasted,” she added. “Let us not forget that alcohol and cigarettes are the real killers – not just in health issues. Alcohol does more to wreck a family, a car, a pedestrian, passenger, or a marriage than any other substance I know of. If you don’t believe me, talk to law enforcement – we share the same clients.”

Understanding plant-based medicines, attending workshops, conferences, and networking with like-minded people keeps her informed and able to help others. “While events like Hempcon can seem like a big party and networking is fun, learning from the scientists and medicine makers about the wonders of this plant is really what it’s all about. Witnessing the energy of young people excited about having a business that can bring so much joy – and financial rewards for their hard work – just makes me want to be a part of it.”


For more information on Bryson & Varaich, LLP, visit, or call (707) 268-8600.

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