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Life & Work with Sasha Forests

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sasha Forests.

Hi Sasha, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I got to LA from Atlanta where I grew up during the first week of August 2006. It was a time when a lot of things were happening quicker than I could process. My father passed away just a few weeks prior. I was just gathering the pieces of my life as I found myself entering a whole new world, entirely.

It was my first time ever being in Southern California (minus once, allegedly, at one year old) and I was getting ready to start school in Santa Clarita. I really didn’t know the lay of the land, but my dear friend at the time just started her first year at USC so I found a place to stay downtown.

There was a lot in that moment and in the four years to follow. In 2010, I finished school with a BFA in acting and started living that LA actor life. Meanwhile, I was the second shop-girl hired to the original House Of Intuition in Echo Park. While I worked there, I learned a lot about magic, philosophy, the mystical arts, I Ching, and Tarot. Suddenly, I was an acolyte and everything was about study.

That journey took a lot of interesting turns, but it was working for a medical delivery-only cannabis dispensary that I was really struck by the healing power and deep need for cannabis as a medicine. I honestly did not foresee the people who truly benefitted from our flower and products I would deliver to mostly homebound people. Delivery was unique in cannabis back then, and our patients required cannabis to function at bare minimum. I was humbled, and that memory sticks out to me to this day as the breadcrumb which led me into working in cannabis.

Back then, to be LGBTQ+ in Hollywood was not nearly as open as it is today. The “don’t ask don’t tell” policy was still very much in place. I ended up in and out of a queer relationship with someone who wasn’t able to live openly, and that ending helped me get closer to myself. Tracing the steps back to me, I realized and decided I wouldn’t sacrifice my everything to Hollywood. I took an extremely ill-looked upon move by some, a power move by others, and left LA to live near family in Colorado. I had trained in Tai Chi and yoga the seven years I’d lived in LA and found myself in Boulder, teaching and learning from some of the very specialized teachers who flock there.

It was a restless moment. I rejected LA completely. While I’d been in school, I’d made deep connections with some artists from India and the subcontinent. For years they beckoned me to come visit. While I was living in Colorado, it somehow came to be that I would finally do just that and I got a one way ticket for later that year. It was 2013, and right before I was set to leave, Boulder had its “Great Flood.” The road leading from my car and the rest of the roads quite literally washed away. We were all ok but trapped for three days. At the end of those days, I packed my friend’s backpack with what I could grab from my car, gave her my keys, and moved to India.

That story, like most I touched on already, is long. But, a year later, I was back in Boulder. I picked up some jobs working the restaurant circuit, including the restaurant project of an all too famous billionaire. Luckily, I phased out of that into brand ambassadorship and sales for organic food, wellness, and eventually herb and supplement sales. By then, I made my way back to Atlanta where I worked more in Film and Television – as well as a couple of bands and finally took up a seat reading astrological charts, tarot cards, and the I Ching, though not for long.

Slowly, over a period of a few years there, the walls I had unfortunately built around myself were bulldozed into nothing. It was abysmal. In that isolation, I could finally see and acknowledge myself for the woman I am and allow myself to transition.

Along with that, everything I’d been working on for years somehow wove together. On the heels of that freedom, something just ~clicked~. I was still auditioning in Atlanta, still making music, still writing, but… after years of feeling like I wanted to leave my hometown, I had a lot of ideas, and I just outgrew that city.

One day, as I sat in a park in Midtown Atlanta, stood up for a date, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to see a cannabis business making all of the products I wish I could see?” And “wouldn’t it be amazing to do that while auditioning?” …The decision was clear. And it was perfect. I moved home to LA on January 1st, 2020. Of course, the pandemic arrived not too long after, but I was still happy to be here while that all happened, rather than back in Georgia. Cannabis was declared essential and my cannabis company, Forests Medicinals was finally born.

At Forests Medicinals, our values are Repair, Restoration, and R&D. Repair means we devote real resources to BIPOC communities and organizations within the cannabis space, including by hiring people into our own company in positions from entry-level to C-Suite. Restoration means working to see that folks incarcerated for cannabis have a pathway from release to complete restitution within the eyes of the law and, most importantly access to the cannabis industry – either through hiring or utilizing our R&D in unique, creator focused applications.

I’m still an actress, a musician, and a writer. I live with my 85 lb pitbull-mastiff, I love what I do and I love my trans film community, the LA Music community, and the insanity that is the life of an artist-entrepreneur-et cetera in 2022 in LA. It’s a lot, it’s incredible, it’s tough, and it’s worth it. LA will humble you. My attitude has always been “I dare you” and I think it takes that to make a life and thrive here.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Returning after almost seven years in 2020, I knew LA, but LA didn’t know me. Personally, professionally, and in almost every way, my move back to LA was a full life reset. I’ve been rebuilding my network and world here and found some incredible folks to work with. Currently, my cannabis startup, Forests Medicinals is in pre-seed but we are ready to receive funding.

Forests Medicinals’ research is impeccable, our formulations are next level and inimitable. Spread the word about who we are, tell people and then tell those people to tell people that Forests Medicinals needs your help to get off of the ground, get going, and start weaving stewardship and equity into the fabric of the cannabis industry. Currently, we’re participating in the first inaugural cohort of businesses with the People’s Ecosystem Accelerator with Christine De La Rosa and her incredible team of teachers, investors, and entrepreneurs. We’re ready to take investment and grow this seed. I want to hear from you.

At the same time as I take on the venture of branching into cannabis, I’m working as an artist. That world also has needed a lot of care and time to rebuild. In all areas, I’m still building. It’s almost like I didn’t exist for the 15 years before moving back to LA. I’m proud that I’ve accomplished a lot behind the scenes. It’s vulnerable to talk about this kind of stuff because being out here as a trans person is a hot button reality in this moment. On the flip side, I have really enjoyed reclaiming the parts of myself anew. There’s something beyond magical about transition that is as ineffable and unpredictable as the challenges we all face in the community.

In the same light, there’s been a lot of beauty in taking on as much I have. By beauty, I mean it’s been a challenging balancing act. But, at the same time, I feel like it’s a huge privilege to work in the worlds I do. It really is an honor to make medicine for people, to work in the arts, to live and have a life like this is only possible here. Meanwhile, I’m going to release an EP later this year under my musical name SAMIRA SAMARA. I’m shopping a script to a couple of producers and hoping to bring all these elements of what I do into fruition over the next 12 months.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m an actress, cannabis CEO, voiceover artist, musician, writer, and, as Octavia Butler put it about herself, “an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.”

My company, Forests Medicinals is a start up based here in Los Angeles and we’re so ready to become a part of the lives of our California family. Come with us and remember, ‘Don’t Miss The Forests For The Trees.’

We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
Firstly, a lot of people don’t know me at all yet, so I’d like to thank the editors and readers of Voyage LA for this introduction! I think all of it may surprise folks. I’ve been working quietly in the background to accomplish a lot of things which take time to develop and bring to fruition – My company, films, musical projects, not to mention my development as a trans woman in this world. While I obviously existed in my life prior to this, I am undoubtedly re-introducing myself to everyone in the world. So. Hello! I am Southern, so I’d like to think if this moment my own debut.

Herbal medicine was a gift I encountered because I needed it. I am a familiar product of my own generation (Millennial) who lived most of my adult life sans insurance. That meant I had to figure out a way to kick colds, recover from exhaustion, and generally survive without the support of a functional medical system. I developed my brand, Forests Medicinals, from the herbal concoctions I made for myself and my friends to do just that. In every way it was an effort of community to grow these products and this brand into what it is today.

That said, it was truly my training in the arts which led me to herbs and cannabis as medicine. Not only has regulated cannabis been a good job for me while working to make a living as an artist, but it was my artistic studies which led me to herbs as medicine. I trained deeply in Asana practice and Tai Chi Chuan. Those physical embodiment sources became the roots of my own investigation into the healing power of the body and the relationship we have with this Earth at every level. The endo-cannabanoid system being just one microcosmic reflection of that intrinsic relationship our bodies have to the planet.

At the end of the day, I am a quintessentially Millennial Angeleno, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I work in film, TV, Music, and cannabis. I love what I do and LA is the only place where I can do it like this. We have a lot going for us in this city amidst a lot of struggles and disparity. I hope I can do my small part to impact this world with a just transition through cannabis and offer what gifts I believe I have in the arts to my fullest ability through my work and life.

Thanks for spending some time with me and what I do.

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Image Credits:

Photos – Chelsea Hughes, cantiqLA Jasmine Pierre Linforth (purple live playing shot)

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