Lelehnia Du Bois spent her early childhood amid the marijuana fields of California's northern coast. And yet growing pot is the last thing she expected to wind up doing.
"It's pretty scary," says Du Bois, a former fashion model and department store buyer from Southern California who saw her life come full circle. "I'm used to the real business world. And this isn't it."
Du Bois, 40, one of many local residents who shared their stories in Sunday's Sacramento Bee article on challenges for the pot culture of Humboldt County, came to her craft after some compelling life chapters.
Her mother, Carole Du Bois, moved her young daughters to neighboring Trinity County in the 1970s. She immersed them in a lifestyle of growing organic corn, beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.
Soon after their arrival, her mother broke her back and a younger sister died in horrific car accident after a tumbling boulder caused the vehicle to flip into a river. Du Bois remembers escaping the wreckage and crawling up a rocky slope to summon help.
Her family endured after the tragedy. She took to the rustic setting. Du Bois recalls learning to trim plants in a neighbor's garden - a pot field - when she was 9. And she remembers her mom easing her back pain in the tub at night by smoking a joint.
Du Bois later moved on. She finished growing up in San Diego, where her father lived. She became a model and worked in the fashion retail industry before dabbling in restaurant management and a school of dance.
In 1994, with her mother, then a Humboldt resident, in failing health, Du Bois returned to California's north coast. She studied nursing at the College of the Redwoods and went to work in a seniors care facility while completing her registered nursing studies.
In 1999, she caught a falling patient and ruptured her spine. The accident put her on disability and, for an extended time, in a wheelchair. After years of treatment and pharmaceutical remedies, Du Bois returned to the regional art - growing marijuana - to help ease her pain.
Eventually, the medical marijuana patient was providing some of her perfected "Sweet God" and "Afghani Goo" strains to a former Eureka dispensary, the Hummingbird Healing Center.
Now Humboldt County ponders ways to generate tax revenue and preserve its renowned weed economy by licensing medicinal growers to compete in a thriving, competitive California medical marijuana market. Debate centers over whether the push to compete will favor major growing operations and alter the regional character.
Du Bois personally doesn't see a significant personal future as a pot purveyor. But she hopes the county finds a means for small growers such as herself to pass on their product - and even pay their taxes - on income from legal medical pot cultivation.
"It provides for my medicine," she says of her rediscovered craft. "And I know I'm getting some good medicine."
Pictured: Lelehnia Du Bois with fruits of her harvest. Peter Hechtfirstname.lastname@example.org