Ginny Saville

 

Ginny Saville

The Botany Bay

The Botany Bay celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary in June, and its success is attributed to three P’s — passion, personality and perseverance (maybe a fourth being pot) inherent to its owner, Ginny Saville. 

“To say that this has exceeded my expectations times of million is an understatement,” says Ginny, who traveled the festival circuit after college, selling backpacks, hats, wallets and other hemp-made goods out of her Ford Taurus station wagon. “Some people start their business on a shoestring; I started on a broken shoestring. I put everything we made back into the business in an organic, old fashioned, mom and pop, build it up way.”

The Botany Bay has grown to three Kentucky location; two in Lexington with the original still going strong in Richmond. That’s not to say it hasn’t been challenging at times. Kentucky, as Ginny points out, is a holdout where legalized marijuana is concerned. “We have hemp, and we have to fight tooth the nail to keep them from banning it,” she says.

The Botany Bay got its name from the infamous Australian penal colony where criminals from the British empire were exiled during the 1800s. Explorer Captain James Cook had dropped anchor there years earlier, and his naturalist discovered a rich abundance of unique plant life, giving the inlet its name.

Exotic plants and lawbreakers — Ginny remarks that it fit perfectly with the image of a smoke shop.

“Back then, I didn’t know there was a smoke shop industry. I didn’t start thinking of it as an industry until the early 2000s; before then it was just something that I did for a living,” Ginny says. 

One of Ginny’s first jobs out of college was as a personal assistant to a man who would later on be elected mayor of Richmond. You’d think that association would’ve given Ginny the golden key to operate a smoke shop, but ironically it was during his term in office that her shop was were raided for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana.

Kentucky was one of the early states to ban JWH-018, a chemical used as an active ingredient of synthetic marijuana products, and Ginny points out that there was tremendous confusion among authorities when “spice” as the derivative was call, made headlines. The employees at The Botany Bay had felony wraps put on them. Ginny wasn’t onsite when the store was raided, but prosecution refused to negotiate her employee’s charges to misdemeanors unless she fell on the sword and pled guilty to misdemeanor trafficking of synthetics — the first marks to her spotless record. 

The worst part of the “witch hunt” was that authorities gutted The Botany Bay of its inventory; not just the offending products, but also pipes, papers, scales, and anything else they considered drug paraphernalia. Fortunately, vendors and friends stepped up to help get The Botany Bay back up and running. 

Being strong-willed Ginny, there was no way she was going to let a little setback keep her doors closed for

long. Truth be told, after winning her case to have the wrongfully confiscated merchandise returned, she used the opportunity to expand the store.

“I’ve always got the biggest balls in the room,” Ginny says. “I think people respect me for my confidence.”

Being a senior member of the smoke shop community, there have been times, though, when Ginny, 53, has felt discrimination from some of the younger people in the industry. 

“Honestly I don’t know why because I’ve been smoking pot longer than they’ve been breathing air,” she says. “But then you have the whole other swing to that pendulum, and you have people who are like, ‘Oh my God, you’ve been around forever,” and give you an extra degree of respect from being an O. G.”

Ginny has literally become the face of The Botany Bay. A cartooned version of her, dressed in a tie dye T-shirt and her arms crossed in defiance (or maybe contentment) graces stickers, rolling papers, and advertisements in the local area.

“I’m pretty notorious around town, but I’ve maintained a positive image and have never shied away from being linked to cannabis,” Ginny says. “We might still be battling the government, but in the court of public opinion, I got it, and that’s where it matters.”

Theresa Dvorak/Elev8 Veterans

Theresa Dvorak had plans to be a “bad ass” in the military. Straight out of high school, she joined the Army and was assigned to 82nd Airborne Division, 82nd Signal Battalion, where she was one of 800 women among 16,000 soldiers in the unit.

Dvorak’s very first deployment was Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. She was issued an M-60 machine gun and top-secret security clearance, but luckily, even though she was excited to make her first official jump as a paratrooper, the mission was diverted before reaching its target. When the crisis cleared, Dvorak was situated in the battalion security office where her training, dedication and lightning-fast typing skills earned her special recognition. She moved quickly up the ranks, working with the Department of Defense and an International Weapons Inspection agency.

Dvorak was discharged in 2003 after the Initial Insertion into Iraq. Like many military veterans, Dvorak suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To add to her ills, she was diagnosed with three types of cancer and needed immediate surgery to live. Doctors at the VA prescribed her four pages of medications, including daily doses of Klonopin, a tranquilizer used to treat anxiety attacks. By the time Dvorak was forty, her liver was failing, and she was given only a few years to live without a transplant. She immediately began seeking out alternative treatments such as cannabis. The VA said, absolutely not!

“If you try to come off your prescribed medications and treat yourself, you’re seen as a harm to yourself,” Dvorak says. “I’m still not able to discuss it with my doctors for fear of losing my medical benefits.”

“The sad situation is there are patients that still need their prescribed medications plus cannabis, which helps with some things, but not all,” she adds.

Sicker than ever, and fighting an opioid addiction, Dvorak moved from Fayetteville, North Carolina to 420-friendly Colorado. It was there that she befriended Steve Kelnhofer, inventor of the Silver Surfer stationary vaporizer. The benefit, to people like Dvorak, who is allergic to metal, is this is that the Silver Surfer features a full ceramic heating element and glass on glass airflow which eliminates the possibility of harmful toxins and metals often emitted by inexpensive vape cartridges.

Dvorak went on to become the lead salesperson for Kelnhofer’s company, Elev8 Distribution, and launched a new mission as the founder of Elev8 Veterans (elev8veterans.com), a non-profit focused on educating veterans and their families about cannabis consumption and bringing an end to opioid addiction.

“My goal is to help others recognize they can heal without harmful treatments and prescriptions,” Dvorak says. “We fought to live during our time in the service, so we need to continue to fight after our release.”

The objective at Elev8 Veterans goes beyond simply being an advocate for the medicinal use of cannabis. They also provide free glass blowing classes, which not only teach vets a skill, but gives them a therapeutic hobby that some have turned into money making ventures. Dvorak also partners with local veteran organizations, such as Twenty22many, ​that encourage safe reliable access to medical cannabis. She also travels the country, sharing her story and helping to destigmatize the use of cannabis that military and VA have deemed off limits.

To help fund the efforts of Elev8 Veterans, Dvorak collabs with independent glass artists, who donate pipes to be sold at auction, and works directly with smoke shops and dispensaries stage fundraisers and educate local veterans on alternative therapies.

Elev8 Veterans also offers branded products, including CBD bath bombs and patriotic-themed vaporizers, through Elev8 Distribution. Qualified veterans are eligible to receive a Silver Surfer free of charge.

“I’ve fallen in love with the cannabis culture,” says Dvorak, now cancer-free and on just one med to help keep her diseases in remission. “Everybody is an advocate in their own way. Smoke shop owners, distributors, and growers that have been fighting all these years so that I could come home to have cannabis as a veteran, deserve my service for making sure that I was able to heal.”

And Dvorak’s reward for her continued service to her brothers and sisters in arms?

“I’m a world changer,” she says proudly, “I get to see people choose life — that’s what it’s all about.”