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Jewel Mathieson, poet and cannabis advocate, dies at 62

Jewel Mathieson was a force, say those who knew her. She was an outspoken cannabis advocate, poet, performer, international educator, author, leader, mentor, champion of health and the arts, and cancer survivor. She was 62 when she lost her last fight with cancer on Aug. 5 surrounded by family at her bedside.

“I think of her as the former first lady of the town of Sonoma,” said Sarah Shrader, chapter chair of the Sonoma chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a cannabis advocacy organization, referring to Mathieson’s role as wife to Ken Brown, a former four-time mayor and longtime city councilmember.

“She was very politically active, very much engaged in her community,” she said.

When Mathieson was undergoing chemotherapy during her first bout with breast cancer she discovered the healing qualities of cannabis and became an outspoken advocate of its use and was co-founder and co-owner of Sonoma Patient Group in Santa Rosa, the longest running dispensary in the county.

Mathieson and Brown were instrumental in the City of Sonoma in 2019 approving cannabis businesses in the city limits, something Mathieson got to see come to fruition before her death.

Dispensary proprietor Jewel Mathieson picks up a business license from City Hall, which allows Sonoma Patient Group to deliver medical cannabis products into the City of Sonoma, on Dec. 20, 2018. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
Dispensary proprietor Jewel Mathieson picks up a business license from City Hall, which allows Sonoma Patient Group to deliver medical cannabis products into the City of Sonoma, on Dec. 20, 2018. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Shrader called the approval a win for everyone.

It was “one of her lifelong goals, and a reward for the community,” Shrader said.

Mathieson also paved the way for money-making cannabis events such as the Emerald Cup, Shrader said.

“She was the first person” to pursue a cannabis-related event and “opened these conversations” with “old-school” decision makers who wouldn’t have been open to the idea if they had not first worked with Mathieson.

In a 2018 report generated by organizers of the Emerald Cup, they reported generating more than $17 million over the previous six years that the cannabis event was held in Santa Rosa.

Mathieson has lobbied in cities and counties and at the state level in Sacramento to make medical marijuana a household concept and an alternative health treatment.

“I consider her an industry pioneer in the county,” Shrader said. “Jewel was quite a light for us.”

Cannabis was one of “her saviors” during her battle with cancer. “She was very outspoken and proud that she was a cancer survivor.” She wanted to share those resources, and she did it through outreach and education, Shrader said.

Ken Brown and Jewel Mathieson at the City Party on the Plaza in 2018. The two have been the local faces for Justice Grown, which has a proposal for a dispensary in Sonoma. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
Ken Brown and Jewel Mathieson at the City Party on the Plaza in 2018. The two have been the local faces for Justice Grown, which has a proposal for a dispensary in Sonoma. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

As part of the advisory board for Justice Grown, a cannabis group vying for a commercial cannabis license in Sonoma, Mathieson was devoted to medicinal marijuana because of her previous bout with breast cancer, said longtime friend Lin-Marie deVincent. “It really gave her that realization of how important medical cannabis is,” she said.

Co-founder and co-owner of Sonoma Patient Group, John Sugg, considered Mathieson a partner and good friend. Before the dispensary had a delivery service, Mathieson would personally deliver products to their clients because she had so much “compassion” for people.

In the beginning they “did every job in the dispensary,” Sugg said. “In recent years, she was the education director and put together lots of events at retirement communities such as Oakmont, in eastern Santa Rosa.”

Sugg and Mathieson shared a “love for going to music festivals and cannabis festivals.”

“She had tremendous enthusiasm for getting out and meeting the public,” he said. “Jewel’s just a very strong person. She was just enthusiastic and a joy to know.”

The dispensary took Mathieson “in a different direction” from what she was first known for in Sonoma Valley, deVincent said, which was poetry and dance.

Mathieson taught a healing dance class at the Sonoma Community Center -- which Brown ran and where the couple lived for some time -- for about 15 years.

DeVincent was at the very first class, she said.

Known as “5Rhythms” or “Sweat Your Prayers,” it is a meditative movement practice with music that draws on indigenous and world traditions. Developed by Gabrielle Roth in the late 1970s, Mathieson was selected by Roth to teach the practice internationally.

“Jewel always had live music. It was just an extraordinary time,” deVincent said. “She was highly regarded as one of the top teachers.”

Steve Shain, who played bass for Mathieson during the classes, said “Jewel had worldwide notoriety” for her work in the practice. Not all teachers had live musicians in their classes, he said, but Mathieson did.

Shain, who was a cub scout as a boy, likened Mathieson to the den mothers he knew. “She nurtured the flock.”

Back then Mathieson and Brown held an open mic night called Center of the Universe Café at the Community Center where Mathieson would read her poetry and perform. Love of poetry was one of the things deVincent and Mathieson shared.

The other was being born creative children to career military fathers who lived and worked in a “rigid structure.”

“She was like a sister to me,” deVincent said. “I just loved her so much.”

DeVincent said Mathieson’s poetry and performance was “ahead of its time.”

Howard Sapper -- an entertainment entrepreneur and now eco-transportation entrepreneur -- said he spotted her talent immediately when he saw her dance.

She was an “amazing” woman full of passion, spirit and talent, he said.

“I know authenticity when I see it,” Sapper said.

Sapper knew Mathieson not only as a performer, but also an educator. He credits Mathieson for the “amazing success” his 27-year-old special needs daughter has enjoyed. Mathieson was his daughter’s Montessori preschool teacher whose “early work” with his daughter “was an asset,” Sapper said.

Mathieson recently revealed to Sapper that the cancer she fought off years ago was back, and “was very aggressive,” he said.

“She was in a place of not wanting to diminish the last part of her life,” Sapper said. Instead, she opted for other modalities over traditional medical treatments wanting to live her life to the “fullest,” he said.

Mathieson did it with “grace” and vigor, Shrader said.

But cancer is not what defined Mathieson, nor is there one thing that can define her, friends said.

“She brought herself to the community and shared herself. She touched a lot of hearts, including mine,” Shain said.

Contact Anne at anne.ernst@sonomanews.com.

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