An Interview With Bess Byers
The Tacoma Weedly recently had a chance to stop by and take a few dabs with Bess Byers, a DOPE award-winning cannabis photographer who is passionate about the politics of pot. It isn’t very often that we come across a marijuana maven with the drive and determination that Byers has. From working 14-hour garden shifts to slaying edits all day in front of a computer, this woman is a force to be reckoned with.
When Byers isn’t busy working on video and content management for Grassworks Digital, she’s crushing the lazy stoner stereotype by taking fat dabs of Super Lemon Haze before going for a run around Green Lake. Her upbeat personality has garnered the interest of nearly 40,000 followers on her Instagram page, where you can stay updated with her daily adventures and her feisty feline, Miss Kush. Byers’ perfectionism has paved the way for her photography work to be recognized in print and digital ad campaigns for some of the top cannabis producers in Washington, including Northwest Cannabis Solutions.
Oh, and she speaks fluent Chinese.
Where are you from?
How did you get into the cannabis industry?
At the time, I was living in Los Angeles for four years and I was set on leaving L.A. for D.C. to pursue a career in politics there. When my friend Bri, the owner of Western Cultured, found out I was planning to leave, she offered me a job at their facility. I thought to myself, ‘Well, pot is political, and people care about pot more than they care about the economy and national debt,’ so I took the chance and made it happen.
Before you were in cannabis, you said you were in politics. What’s that all about?
When I lived in LA, I started a political advocacy non-profit called “A Generation Empowered” to educate millennials about the national debt, economy, unfunded liabilities like Social Security, and why that matters to us. I guess I became so passionate about that when I was living in China after college. This was around the same time that the U.S. had borrowed a trillion-dollar stimulus from the Chinese government, which had me questioning where all that money was going. A big part of the reason why I got into pot was all the tax revenue that was generated by the state. I wanted to find out where that money was going as well. I’m very interested to see how it will benefit the community over the years.
Do you have hopes for our current administration for the legalization of cannabis?
Not so much legalization, but decriminalization. With legalization comes the different license requirements for people to grow, but what about home brews? If you can brew your own beer at home, why can’t you grow a plant?
Do you feel you have an advantage or a disadvantage being a woman in the cannabis industry?
I see several pros to being a woman in general, but when I look at being a woman in the industry, I think it’s so important to put a responsible image on the face of cannabis. People have a preconceived notion about what someone who smokes weed every day looks like, and I know people who meet me wouldn’t immediately assume I was a cannabis consumer, but that’s what breaking the stereotype is all about. I’m passionate about politics – I volunteer, I’m active, and I’m a productive member of society.
Another important aspect of my image, as a woman, is to not sexualize myself in the industry – especially with my images and the content I create. I do see other companies out there that have built their brand around sexualizing women, and I think there is more to being a woman in the industry than our bodies. I want people to see that we’re leading gardens, marketing companies, retail shops – we’re doing it all! This is the first billion-dollar industry that is anticipated to be run by women.
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to get into the cannabis industry?
Find whatever it is that you like to do, whether it’s growing, selling, or taking photos, and apply at companies where you think you would be a good fit. Don’t message these people saying you need a job. Show them what you can bring to the table and what you can contribute to the business. When you get hired on, listen. Listen and learn. People sometimes want to do things their own way, but don’t realize that it’s already been done and doesn’t work that way, and that we train them a certain way for a reason, especially with all the regulations the state has. If you get hired, keep learning how to sell, grow, and market better. Just remember that we are the faces of a new industry, so it’s up to us to set the bar.