Humboldt Medicine is a series of stories profiling medicine makers from Humboldt County - the historic capitol of cannabis in California, and where cannabis has been used as serious medicine for decades.

The series initially ran monthly in The Emerald Magazine, Humboldt's first and premier cannabis magazine. It then ran in Weed World UK, distributed throughout Great Britain and the U.S.; then in Hydrolife in Canada, also distributed throughout Great Britain and the U.S.

Profiles continue to be added and published, with Sharon currently working on a book of the history of medicine making in Humboldt County.

If you would like to be profiled and included in the series, please send Sharon a message.

 Humboldt soil, humboldt plants.

Humboldt soil, humboldt plants.

Sunboldt Grown Cooperative, Inc.

Sunshine Johnston: Owner, Farmer, Medicine Maker

Sunshine Johnston came to Southern Humboldt County when she was just seven years old. She graduated from Humboldt State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Geology with her senior thesis on the “Structural Geology South of Punta Gorda, Mendocino Triple Junction Region.” The degree led her to work on road inventories for Humboldt Redwoods State Parks, and a gig with Pacific Watershed Associates, but today her day job (for the time being) is brokering wine for local vineyards.

A supposed recreational user of cannabis prior, Johnston discovered her medicine after a wrist injury.

“I had made a topical salve for my wrist, the 215 card came later when I realized I was medicating for chronic pain,” she shared.

 Sunshine johnston in her garden. photo: sharon letts

Sunshine johnston in her garden. photo: sharon letts

Since making that first jar of salve Johnston has expanded her apothecary cupboard, adding infusions with many bases, including raw hemp milk, nettles, hydrosol, and other healing herbs from the garden.

“I grow flowers mostly for the connoisseur,” she explained. “My Loopy Fruit is being reviewed by Emily Hobelmann in this issue.”

Looking forward to Emily’s review, as this writer partook of the strain at the end of our interview and the photo-shoot became somewhat of an odyssey with an interesting mix of photos, to say the least. Reminding me of the quip, “Cannabis forces us to be more creative than we really are.”

“My extracts are all made from fresh bud infusions,” she continued. “I use many different bases. The salve is used primarily on acupoints; the infused honey I love because it tastes good; the infused coconut oil is used for baking.  I also make a probiotic nettle brew used in the garden.”

 infused Honey made from strain "shrek" by sunboldt grown co-op. photo: sharon letts

infused Honey made from strain "shrek" by sunboldt grown co-op. photo: sharon letts

Aside from the salve quelling the pain in her wrist, Johnston said she juices fresh bud and leaf, preventing against illness and giving a general sense of well-being.

Her garden is tucked away in a Southern Humboldt backwoods kind of way, surrounded by redwoods. Her home is colorful, warm and filled with friendly faces busily working on projects surrounding the plant. The garden is a mix of flowers, vegetables, herbs, and places to hang.

 butterflies and Flowers with vegetables and good medicine are all part of this happy humboldt garden at the sunboldt grown co-op.

butterflies and Flowers with vegetables and good medicine are all part of this happy humboldt garden at the sunboldt grown co-op.

Today, Johnston is a farmer, joining the ranks of others within the Emerald Triangle of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, helping to make a difference with legalization looming in the state.

“With regulations, I will expand from an experimental research based garden and go into production,” she informed. “I’ll be competing for top shelf placement in a high-end market, and have a farm-to-table-like model.”

Being a part of the cannabis community in Northern California is important to Johnston, and she’s planning outreach to help others in the mix.

“Education is important in this industry, as the stigma was created based on misinformation,” she said. “I’ll be building community by offering workshops and other services as needed.”

A former board member of the progressive group, California Cannabis Voice Humboldt, Johnston has attended both stockholder meetings that took place in the fall of 2014. She’s now looking forward to positive changes within the cannabis community.

“I’m looking forward to public participation and working on the best management practices and watershed stewardship,” she added. “California has taken a lead role in regulation by making licensing attainable and allowing for local control. We have yet to see the how the governing agencies will work out the details, such as the possibility of limited distribution licenses in the hands of big corporations that could potentially dilute the Humboldt brand. Lack of direct sales will hurt the small farmer and culture, with unnecessary lab testing and associated fees and taxes passed onto the consumer.”

Watershed stewardship is a big deal in California and cannabis farmers are garnering more criticism in recent months than Almond farmers, who are purported to use nearly one gallon of water to produce one almond.

As farmers in Humboldtinstall rain catchment systems, invite inspectors onto their properties, and get permitted in an historically covert region, change is coming for good medicine and the healing that follows.

“During our recent series of town hall meetings we brought in experts on water conservation, and were told that even in a drought we could gather enough water to care for our crops,” she said. “Cannabis farmers will take the lead in responsible water use for agriculture in the state.”

Johnston waxes poetic on Humboldt’s role in the development of cannabis strains and improved efficacy of the plant in general. A plethora of cannabis strains, including cannabinoid (CBD) only strains, were developed in Southern Humboldt, freely shared and sold across state lines for years.

 sunboldt grown co-op also farms food. photo: sharon letts

sunboldt grown co-op also farms food. photo: sharon letts

“One of the reasons the Emerald Triangle is a leader in producing and growing quality cannabis, and has the highest concentration of farmers is that we have always willing shared information,” she advised. “It’s not like that in places like Colorado and Washington. As we enter a competitive marketplace it’s important not to lose this part of our cultural heritage that sets us apart from other places.”

For more information on Sunboldt Grown, visit