The Cannabis Now Interview with Dr. Dina
Dr. Dina has been written about, profiled in a VICE documentary, hailed as the Queen of Medical Marijuana in L.A. and has even been referred to as the “Real Nancy Botwin” from the hit show “Weeds.”
When we spoke with Dr. Dina, she was fresh off the heels of her bachelorette party with the Instagram evidence to prove it (‘cause pics or it didn’t happen, right?) and more than willing to chat openly about her fast-paced, fun-filled life with humor and candor.
Although it may be hard to imagine, there was once a time when Dina Browner lived in complete anonymity. That is, until she was approached with tragic news that would change the trajectory of her life in the shadows forever. After finding out that one of her close friends was diagnosed with stage-four cancer and having difficulty keeping his prescription pills down, she searched high and low for a way to help keep him alive. Diligent research pointed her towards medical cannabis and led her to the Bay Area, where she was not only able to get a medical marijuana prescription for her friend, but was also able to persuade the physician to open his practice in Southern California. Thus began her journey down the rabbit hole.
After opening multiple offices and helping countless patients, Dina opened the West Hollywood Center for Compassionate Healing in 2003 and remained out of the spotlight, despite establishing close ties with mega hip-hop star Snoop Dogg, until being “outed” by him in an interview with a popular magazine in 2013.
Now, the advocate, activist and avid smoker with A-list cronies and clientele has set her sights on continuing to stand for patient rights and legitimizing the use of medical cannabis for whoever needs it – just like any good doctor should.
For those who may be confused, are you a real doctor?
It’s really just a nickname. I’m no more of a doctor than Dr. Pepper or Dr. Dre. I have to tell men to stop asking me about their prostates and that I cannot get them Viagra all the time. I got the nickname from Snoop Dogg after hooking him up with a doctor and making him legal. He was so excited and for the first year he had his note, he had his 7-foot tall security guard named Tiny carry it around in a briefcase he was handcuffed to. I would explain to him all the uses for weed – from migraines to cancer – and after that, he just started calling me Dr. Dina. And before you know it, everyone started calling me that.
So, what exactly do you do? Do you consider yourself a consultant?
I think there’s a huge misconception when it comes to the term “consulting” in the cannabis industry because many people have used that title. In my mind, a consultant is someone who works with businesses to create better business strategies to fix problems, to streamline a business. It’s difficult for me to put what I do in a box. I have about five different jobs. I refer patients to a doctor I know and trust in L.A., I do marketing and represent brands, I started the P.O.W. Challenge. I have my hands in a lot of different things.
It seems like when you first started, it wasn’t really your intention to become such a well-known figure for cannabis. What’s it like to be so popular after almost a decade of anonymity?
There was a time when I used to really pride myself on the fact that I couldn’t be Googled. I even had a shirt that said, “Google me, bitch. You won’t find shit.” But, after Snoop outed me in that “GQ” interview and then that show “Weeds” came out in HBO, I couldn’t hide anymore and everything exploded. I’m a very private person, so it was difficult for me at first.
When you initially tried to get into the cannabis industry, it was predominantly male but the dynamic is slowly changing with more women entering the market.
I hope I inspire women to rethink how they were raised and know that anything a guy can do, a woman can do just as well – if not better. But, we also have a lot of challenges. In order to play in this male industry, you have to be strong. I’m so over the old mentality. It used to be that the women stayed at home while the men were out growing weed. It doesn’t have to be that way. Women have a good chance to be powerful in the industry.
What advice would you give to others looking to do the sort of work that you do?
My one piece of advice is: do things correctly. Don’t cut corners. What I would tell people in the past before traditional licensing is that if they’ve got anything going for them – anything at all – don’t get in the business because the DEA is going to come take it. Really. They are the only agency that can seize your money and your property and keep 100 percent of it. Now, though, it’s about making sure you’re doing things correctly and not relying on other people. The biggest mistake is making a collaboration or partnership that should never happen. If, for whatever reason, you partner with someone, you need to have a planned out exit strategy because sooner or later, something is going to go down.
Lastly, everyone is into taking money from investors and investment groups. Stay away from them. The reality is that you can start a business even with a relatively small amount of money. Bringing in these outside investment firms that want to try to make you into a public company and create penny stocks? Most of it is bullshit. People don’t realize that most of these firms are using them and are going to chew them up and spit them out when they’re finished. I’ve just heard too many nightmare stories.
Your Instagram is like a who’s who of celebrity smokers with cameos from rappers and musicians like Snoop Dogg and B Real to actors from the series “Sons of Anarchy.” How do you establish these sorts of friendships beyond the business?
Well, they’re just my friends. Interestingly, about 13 years ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my friend and I looked across the room and met eyes with this beautiful man. I was so distracted that my friend turned around to see what I was looking at and it ended up being his homie Charlie Hunnam. My friend introduced us and we just ended up becoming really good friends. Over the years, I would introduce him to my friends or he would invite me to parties with other cast members from his various projects. When you’re in those circles, you end up meeting a lot of people. The “Sons of Anarchy” cast is going to be at my wedding. In fact, they have their own table.
Can you tell me more about the “Adopt a P.O.W. Challenge”? You were spotted raising money for the cause by offering donation-based smoke sessions with a former police officer turned actor in a patrol car.
It was so awesome. We pulled off our first stunt at the Chalice Festival. We hired a Hollywood set Los Angeles Police Department car that was actually used for patrols before, hired an actor who was actually a former police officer and brought in a slushie machine. We charged $20 and let people smoke in the car, we would stage arrests for them, take pictures of them with the cop – whatever they wanted. All of the money we raised went directly to 27 prisoners who are serving sentences for nonviolent, victimless crimes. It made a big difference for them.
Do you think California will legalize adult use in 2016?
I think if you look at what the industry wants versus what the public wants, it’s two different things. It’s the first time the industry does not want legalization while the rest of the state does. The rest of the state sees major revenue, they see it as a way to regulate how things are going but the industry doesn’t like regulations and has been regulating themselves for going on two decades now. I do think it will go legal but I think the industry will go kicking and screaming.
How about cannabis for pets? You have a dog, does he ever indulge?
Interestingly, the dog I had before this one had epilepsy and he would have about 8 to 10 grand mal seizures a day while on prescription medication. So, without that he probably would have had about 30 or 40. He was such a zombie that I couldn’t handle it, so I started buying him peanut butter cannabis cookies and medicated granola from a collective and he started having only one seizure every four or five days. As long as I gave him granola and cookies, he was okay. I later found out that he had a brain tumor and had to put him down, but it did work for him and I am a strong believer of cannabis for pets.
What’s your preferred way to consume cannabis? Do you dab or eat edibles?
Yes, I dab but I’m not a big edibles person. I accidentally ate 25 medicated mini donuts on the first day at Chalice. I thought they were just regular donuts. I really didn’t know what was wrong with me until the next day and when I went back and saw a huge sign. No wonder!
Will you be doing more challenges this year like the one you did at Chalice?
I’m definitely going to continue raising awareness about these prisoners who don’t deserve to be serving life sentences. It’s important for them to know that there are people out here who care about what they’re going through and are fighting for them.
What are some of your other plans for the future?
I’m half free-flowing and half really, really, really busy. I’m working on a book and some other interesting projects on the horizon. I’m also looking at possibly starting some television/film projects as well. I’m excited to see what pans out!
Originally published in issue 17 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE.