Hot Docs 2021: ‘Lady Buds’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Feature documentary, ‘Lady Buds’ follows the widely praised 2016 decision to legalize cannabis in California. And because women are so amazing, there are six women who emerge from the shadows to enter this new commercial industry. These women become farmers and entrepreneurs as they navigate the new legislation put in place. The women who have shaped the foundations of this industry for decades, find themselves struggling for a piece of this industry in a market that they helped create. The documentary does address many issues in regards to the cannabis industry. Highlighting advocates for the war on drugs and the racial injustice that marginalized communities still face today.

Lady Buds features second-generation cannabis farmer Chiah Rodriques, 72-year old African-American retired Catholic school principal turned dispensary owner Sue Taylor, Latinx queer activist Felicia Carbajal, serial entrepreneur Karyn Wagner, and Humboldt elders ‘The Bud Sisters’. We see every single perspective on the cannabis industry and how each business owner faced hardships in this field. It was such an interesting watch because there was a great balance of light and funny moments, while still addressing serious issues.

It had a 70s vibe, as the women give a brief history of the journey they have gone on with cannabis. Each story speaks to the many opportunities and issues facing commercial cannabis today. It is very educational and there are clear explanations of the use of medical marijuana for elders. There is an entire process and fight that goes into this industry. Director Chris J. Russo really dives into the lives of these women who are the backbone of the cannabis community in California. The documentary shows an appreciation of those who broke barriers while still moving the fight forward.

Lady Buds takes the viewer on a journey through the cannabis industry and it explores different perspectives. The fact that there are women from different backgrounds who have had different experiences is inspiring. There is so much to uncover about this subject and Russo did a beautiful job in having their stories heard. The documentary is all about community and what it can do for you. There are important moments that really highlight the meaning of being there for one another. This community gives people a sense of comfort and understanding.

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