Compassionate Care

L-R: DIESAL, AARON DOLSON, TAYLOR PECK

Wulfpak’s Aaron Dolson on the cannabis industry, gender identity and bringing the power back to the Radical Faeries.

BY BRENDEN SHUCART  |  PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

BEGINNINGS 

Aaron Dolson got into cannabis when he met the legendary Dennis Peron at Rainbow Gathering in 1998. “Dennis encouraged me to come out to California to the medical cannabis community which I did.” 

While Aaron (“Practice” to his friends) was running pot farms and trim operations, another student of Peron’s was learning the art of the beverage business. At Peron’s invitation Taylor Peck founded his chai tea company, Nug Chai, at Peron’s own Phoenix Club—one of the first medical cannabis clubs. 

Practice and Taylor met in ‘05 at the California Rainbow Gathering. It was not love at first site. “We didn’t like each other when we first met, but it gave us time over the next three years to get to know each other.” The two became romantically involved in 2008, and decided to consummate their new relationship with a joint business venture. Together they founded Taylor’s Tonics, a chai cola company.


“Cannabis is queer people’s legacy. We are the ones who made this medicine legal and accessible. A lot of our people had to die for that to happen. And a lot of great supporters had to step up: a lot of women, a lot of trans women, POC individuals had to step up to make this all possible. We just need to be inclusive and remember that legacy.”


“It was just kinda natural since we both had these relationships within the cannabis Industry and through Dennis, we should have a cannabis beverage company together.”

Three and a half years ago Practice and Taylor were approached by some potential investors. “They said, ‘If you throw cannabis in this soda we will get behind you and invest in you.’ We’ve been very lucky that we’ve been able to pick and choose people who are socially liberal and social justice oriented values to invest in our company.”

That’s how they created Manzanita Naturals, a cannabis beverage company currently specializing in two products: “The Fizz,” a 10mg craft beverage which comes in three flavors (lemon-lime, ginger root, and natural cola) and 100mg strain-specific shots called “KwikEase.”

Taylor and Practice met their third, fittingly enough, at an event which had already played host to so many significant events in their lives—the California Rainbow Gathering. “When we met Diesel helping to set up the Faerie Camp at Rainbow Gathering, we felt instantly like he was one of us. To have a third partner who works so well with both of us, and who just clicked in the relationship. It was magical.”

“It’s a beautiful relationship. We’re all best friends and brothers. We have our troubles but we work through them and work well together. Trying to be hopeful and show a different way of having relationships within our Faerie and Radical Queer community in San Francisco. Just trying to give people a little hope that they don’t have to be alone and if they choose to work together maybe they can get a lot of magical things done—like running a cannabis company.”

In the day to day operation of the company, Diesel is the head of production, Taylor is the formulator, and Practice runs sales. “And the people who are behind us fully believe in our three-way relationship. They see the love and regardless of their orientation they accept us as a family unit. It’s great to have support when you are doing business like this because its very labor intensive for all of us.»

LEGACY AND COMMUNITY

Community is central to the Wulfpak. The 2016 Rainbow Gathering was Diesel’s first experience with the Radical Faeries,  but Taylor and Practice have been going to Faerie gatherings for the past 20 years. “We feel fully invested in that community.”

The Radical Faeries of the ‘90s were a community decimated, and still reeling from the Plague Years. “A lot of our people had died. And at the time the Faeries were such a small group of people because of all the loss that happened.” But when Gen-Xers like Practice and Taylor came in they were seen by the elders as new blood who could breath new life into the community. “And we got it into our system that we had to be witches. To bring the power back to the Radical Faeries.”

“Over the years the radical faerie community has grown from maybe 2000 of us in the ‘90s to probably 20-60 thousand of us now all over the world.” And where the community was once fairly centralized, just a few Sanctuaries in the states and a presence at festival like Rainbow Gathering, “Now there are conclaves all over the world, City Faerie conclaves, Europe and Israel, it’s really great for people who are gender non-conforming and needed a place to be themselves.”

Practice sees the growing number of people forging personalized relationships with their gender identity—as well as the influence of intentional communities like Burning Man have played a big role in the resurgence of the Radical Faeries. “The Faeries have always been a safe space—regardless of the time when they were male exclusionary—for men to explore their gender, and play with what they think of as male and female. And the Faeries are on their way to becoming a very safe space for gender non-conforming people, and for POC people who feel maybe they don’t have a voice.”

“We’re a needs-based community. If someone is asking for help their going to find it. If not with one group of Faeries, then another. There is a real safety. Even though the community is growing rapidly I feel that we’re very communicative about our legacy, we keep doing the Heart Circles, we keep doing the co-counseling, we keep doing the reflective listening. The sort of things that make human beings better. That’s really attractive, especially to younger people who don’t feel like they’ve got a lot of hope. They see a community with a legacy, they see a community that has ethics and morals, and believes is social justice and that’s very attractive to the next generation.”

“We have to use our privileges in this world to help each other get a leg up. When someone falls down they don’t need to climb back on their two feet alone. We can help each other up. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the cannabis industry here, especially for young Queer kids and trans folk.”

Those are the people the Wulfpak wants to help along the way with jobs and opportunities. Especially as the Faeries are becoming more diverse ethnically and gender-wise. “It’s really attractive to us to want to keep supporting that community. It’s definitely saved my life. It’s given me opportunities to get into cannabis.”

INTO THE FUTURE

According to Practice, when California switched from Prop 215 (the referendum that Dennis set up which created the compassionate care program) to Prop 67 (the ballot measure which legalized recreational cannabis) the state didn’t really handle the transition well. It’s caused problems for many low income people trying to access life-saving medication. First by making it illegal to give away cannabis. It also raised the prices of product. “So if you’re a low income person who needs 100mg of product to get through the day thank goodness my company makes a $15 100mg shot, but most 100mg products are going for $30 or more. And that’s the standard. And that’s because of the new laws, and the taxes, and tax brackets. It’s almost at 25%. Some people with cancer need more than 100mg per day.”

The Wulfpak sees themselves as coming “from” Prop 215, and they want to perpetuate the compassion program. “One of the major reasons cannabis is legal is because so many of our brothers and sisters in the ‘80s and ‘90s had to die from HIV/AIDS related complications and we need to remember our history. Cannabis is queer people’s legacy. We are the ones who made this medicine legal and accessible. A lot of our people had to die for that to happen. And a lot of great supporters had to step up: a lot of women, a lot of trans women, POC individuals had to step up to make this all possible. We just need to be inclusive and remember that legacy.”

To honor that legacy the Wulfpak is in the process of setting up a compassionate care program called the “Dennis Peron/Brownie Mary Memorial,” after two of the great Queer pioneers of cannabis legalization. “There’s a lot of laws that keep us from giving away cannabis, so what we’re asking the clubs to do is do a pay it forward program which would basically be if you have a few extra bucks to by the next person a joint who is low income or has a medical issue like HIV or cancer that we make sure they get their medicine. So what we’re doing as the Wulfpak, is we’re going to set up a program that’s like a propaganda campaign ‘pay it forward/give back’ I’ve already been promoting it at the clubs.”

“And as we move forward with our business of course we have to go with the laws of the land as far as employment is concerned but we do put it out their for our friends and family first. And of course once the fall rolls around we work to help get trusted young queers work on the pot farms. Which is something that was provided to me by the Radical Faeries in my youth. I wanna do what Dennis and other queer elders did for me—help young queers get a leg up by providing job opportunities.”

“We’d love to be in a situation where we could set up farms and other business that are completely Queer and Trans owned. And we are working very hard to be supportive of the ones that already exist. One of my visions is to set up cooperative farms and businesses. We have a vision for the future—to keep perpetuating a kind cannabis movement.”