Just yesterday, I blogged about the progress the cannabis community had made, thanks to two cannabis law reform pioneers that were no longer with us, Dennis Peron and Jack Herer. Each new generation of advocates stands upon the shoulders of giants and those two, along with Eugene, Oregon’s Elvy Musikka, and many others, have formed the foundation of our fight for freedom. Two recent influential members of the cannabis community, Colorado’s Steve Fox and Oregon’s Sara Batterby, left their own important marks on our movement. Like many, I was floored by the unexpected death of two folks impacted many, and were taken way too young.
With a long political career, Steve was a leader of the cannabis legalization movement in Colorado, helping write and pass Amendment 64, which ended prohibition in the Centennial State in 2012, undoubtedly one of the most important events in drug policy reform history. The Denver Post reported of his passing, noting that he took them to task when their editorial board lamented the reported rise in Colorado’s cannabis use:
“The more important question is why the editorial board considers an increase in marijuana use ‘disturbing,’” Fox wrote at the time. “This survey only showed a statistically significant increase in consumption by adults. Is this disturbing for moral reasons or is it based on societal costs? Did the survey cite any specific negative public health outcomes from increased adult use? (Answer: No.)”
“Steve Fox was a trailblazer in the legalization of cannabis here in Colorado and helped lay the groundwork for today’s legal industry. His innovative spirit has left a lasting impact that won’t soon fade. My heart goes out to his wife and daughters,” Gov. Jared Polis said.
Fox is survived by his wife and two daughters. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support his family. Raised in the Jewish faith, Fox believed and practiced “Tikkun olam,” to “repair or heal the world,” according to the release. “That is what drove Steve to take on the cause of cannabis policy reform. And it was what drove Steve to be the person he was. Tikkun olam. Mission accomplished, dear friend.”
I first met Sara Batterby when she helped co-founded HiFi Farms and the the Portland Women Grow chapter following the passage of Measure 91. Her Silicon Valley background was unique to the Oregon movement and she quickly became extremely influential and I was fortunate to speak alongside her on several panels and hearing committees. She was a force to be reckoned with and went on to dedicate her work to helping startups, especially women-led ventures, secure capital for their business efforts. Further, she became an advocate for raising up people of color and the LGBT community in the industry as well. In addition to her capital funding efforts, she moved onto a farm, cultivating hemp and raising cattle. Ran into Sara by chance in Southern Oregon last Halloween and she introduced me to a song that she loved that became an instant addition to my playlist. The Cannabis Business Times reported on her passing:
“Sara’s heart beat harder for purpose and justice and at the heart of that was an anger at injustice. Injustice would always fuel her. The injustice of capital unevenly distributed,” Batterby’s family wrote in a statement. “The injustice of a legal system that criminalized cannabis. She used her brain to figure out ways to beat the system or change the system. She used her charisma to convince people to join her. And she made it happen through pure perseverance, determination and stubbornness.”
Additionally, Batterby worked with over 50 founders across industries such as food, apparel and cannabis, and was also recognized as a “Woman of Influence” in 2019 by the Portland Business Journal. In Cannabis Business Times, Batterby was interviewed for a 2017 article, where she shared the challenges she faced as a cultivator to start her business and the steps she took to overcome those challenges. She was later interviewed for a 2018 article—discussing resources to help women advance in the cannabis industry.
To read more about Batterby, visit her memorial page.
While I had the pleasure of knowing both Steve and Sara, many others in the movement knew them better, and my heart goes out to them, their friends, and family who are mourning and grieving. Life is too fragile and fleeting. Death eventually comes for all of us and one of the most important things that we can do is live our lives in ways that improve the world and those around us, so when we pass, our good memories and good work live on. Steve Fox and Sara Batterby definitely lived their lives in profound ways in that they both live on. May the both rest in peace and power.