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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Northwest Passages: Author Heather Cabot talks marijuana in the mainstream

Author and journalist Heather Cabot didn’t know what to expect when she took the showroom floor at a national cannabis trade show in Las Vegas in 2017.

“I just went with this fresh set of eyes, trying to understand what it was all about and how we got here, frankly,” said Cabot, a former ABC News anchor and author of the book “The New Chardonnay: The Unlikely Story of How Marijuana Went Mainstream” in a Northwest Passages virtual event Thursday.

One introduction at the trade show, populated by slick investors and well-heeled tech entrepreneurs seeking the next big trend, led to another, Cabot said. Those introductions led her to the main characters in her book, all seeking their fortunes in different areas of a now multibillion-dollar industry.

“I wanted to challenge myself to write it like a true narrative,” Cabot said. “I wanted it to be a page-turner, and I wanted it to be almost like a novel.”

The book begins with the story of Beth Stavola, a female entrepreneur for whom cannabis becomes a post-motherhood business venture spanning several states. Cabot also visits the former home of a Hershey’s chocolate factory in rural Canada that becomes the site of the country’s largest legal cannabis company and tags along with Jeff Danzer, a chef who invents a way to microdose his gourmet dishes with the drug in a way that doesn’t include the usual earthy taste of weed.

Cabot’s book also explores the behind-the-scenes business moves of rapper Snoop Dogg and his business partner, Ted Chun, in crafting a venture capital firm supporting cannabis-adjacent businesses that don’t touch the plant.

“Everbody knows Snoop, and everybody knows that Snoop is synonymous with stoner culture,” Cabot said. “But I didn’t think that people really knew about his team, or sort of him as a businessman.”

The popular rapper’s ties to the cannabis industry in Washington include a visit to a Spokane retailer in December 2016.

Cabot, whose previous book “Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech” profiled the women behind start-ups in the digital realm, said her current book shouldn’t be seen as just about marijuana.

“’The New Chardonnay’ is really a book about entrepreneurship, and it just happens to be about cannabis,” she said.

Despite the subtitle, Cabot acknowledged that there are still barriers to marijuana completely entering the mainstream. People of color, women and formerly incarcerated individuals often don’t have access to the capital needed to establish a business that is selling a federally illegal drug.

Access to banking, included in a bill that was supported by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers but questioned by Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, would go a long way to further propelling marijuana into the mainstream, Cabot said.

“It cuts out a whole group of people, that don’t have millions of dollars at their disposal to start these businesses, and run these businesses,” she said.

Cabot’s book is available through Auntie’s Bookstore. She also publishes a podcast, also called “The New Chardonnay.” The full interview with author Heather Cabot can be seen at