Mary Jane Girl

The life and high times of Phoenix cannabis crusader Christie Bohling

Thanks to her efforts in helping to organize the world's first hemp commerce convention, held at the Hermosa Inn in the 1990s, Bohling was subsequently named by High Times magazine as one of the "25 Living Legends of Pot," an honor she shared with such outspoken pot proponents as Woody Harrelson, Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson.

While others began to fight to use the marijuana plant in medicinal pain management, Christie Bohling was busy fighting to exploit its industrial use. A THC-free version of the plant used in rope manufacturing, hemp had almost been a cash crop for Thomas Jefferson and was the material used in the first pair of Levi's.

Pioneering head shop owner Christie Bohling is hassled by the fuzz, 1967.
courtesy of Patrick Lange
Pioneering head shop owner Christie Bohling is hassled by the fuzz, 1967.
Christie Bohling as budding hemp entrepreneur, 1990s.
Malcolm MacKinnon
Christie Bohling as budding hemp entrepreneur, 1990s.

In what may be viewed as an effort to recapture her glory days, Bohling and Lange opened CHA! (Coalition of Hemp Activists), an all-hemp boutique on Scottsdale's Fifth Avenue in the mid-'90s. Despite Bohling's enthusiasm for better living through pot, non-smokable hemp was a tough sell -- and infighting within the ranks of largely inexperienced suppliers didn't make things any easier. After floundering for two years, the shop closed.

"The hempsters pissed Christie off," says Patrick Lange. "We dumped so much money into the cause, and then to have to listen to all that whining and complaining, it just wasn't worth it. But Christie had set out to make hemp a household word and she accomplished that."

Hemp behind her, Bohling tackled her last frontier: the untamed world of on-line auctions.

"E-bay used to be a lot more fun before they started passing all these rules about what you could or couldn't sell," says Lange, explaining that, for the past several years, he and Bohling had made ends meet by buying items at yard sales that they'd resell over the Internet.

"In the beginning, they'd let you sell switchblades, guns, whatever. Not any more. Like selling pot or hemp or anything else, the early boomtown days are always the best."

This spring, Christie Bohling would make what would prove to be her last trip to Mexico. Diagnosed with lung cancer just six months earlier (she'd been plagued with respiratory problems for 10 years but preferred to ignore them), she traveled to a Tijuana doctor who specialized in controversial treatments -- chelation drip and live-cell injections among others -- either unavailable or unaffordable in the United States. (Like others now battling for legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, Bohling found the herb useful in battling the side-effects of the disease, a use she could not possibly have imagined decades ago while merrily toking up under a black light.)

While Bohling initially responded favorably to the Mexican therapy, the natural stimulants in the medicine made it impossible for her to sleep. Desperately needing rest, Bohling reluctantly gave up on the treatments and returned with Lange to the rural Chandler Heights home where they had lived for the past 15 years.

"Christie loved this place the minute she set eyes on it," says Lange of their home, a 1920s-era hacienda on an acre of land near the San Tan Mountains. "She always said that this was the place where she was going to die."

Although that wish did not come true (she died at Mesa's Valley Lutheran Hospital), Christie Bohling couldn't have hoped for a better ending than the surprise going-away party Patrick Lange had planned for her: After her cremated remains were returned to him, Lange parceled out her ashes in little envelopes. Globe-trotting friends, he explained, agreed to "smuggle" Christie all over the globe, sprinkling her ashes everywhere from Castle Hot Springs in Arizona to Nashville, Chicago and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

"I thought a very appropriate place for some of her ashes would be in the Irish Republican Army cemetery," says Shami Maxwell, a friend who handled the Ireland leg of Christie's final journey. "Christie was always a good rebel."

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