Who Wants a Signed Copy of “Home Baked” by Alia Volz?
A blazingly funny, heartfelt memoir from the daughter of the larger-than-life woman who ran Sticky Fingers Brownies, an underground bakery that distributed thousands of marijuana brownies per month and helped provide medical marijuana to AIDS patients in San Francisco. HOME BAKED by Alia Volz is a new kind of marijuana story—one in which the dealers are neither bad guys nor losers, but trail-blazers at the dawn of a risky new industry. It’s also the tale of a strong woman at the top of her game, a fabled city during an unfettered iteration, and the deadly devastation no one saw coming.
You can buy the book online right here or you can find it at any independent bookstore.
Make sure to read the book excerpt that’s below the entrance form!
Prologue – On the Barge
When I was nine, my public elementary school participated in a program best known by the slogan, “D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs!” It was one of Nancy Reagan’s pet projects, a prong of her Just Say No campaign. One afternoon per week, the entire fourth grade crowded into the cafeteria, where a uniformed policeman lectured us about the perils of narcotics like marijuana. We learned techniques for deflecting peer pressure and identifying and avoiding dealers. And we broke into groups to playact situations. I was careful to follow the program’s script.
I knew how to keep a secret.
At home, there were giant black garbage bags of Mendocino shake crammed into the closet of our spare bedroom, along with pounds of fragrant, manicured buds sealed in gallon Ziplocs. My mom had operated Sticky Fingers Brownies — a massive, profoundly illegal marijuana-edibles business — since before I was born. Throughout my infancy, she and her partners distributed upward of ten thousand brownies per month; it was the first known business of its kind to operate at that scale in California. By the age of nine, I was helping my mom bake and individually wrap brownies on weekends. Sometimes I tagged along on deliveries after school.
We were the people the cop warned my class about.
By 1987, the year of my first D.A.R.E. lessons, AIDS was ravaging my hometown. People I loved as surrogate aunties and uncles were suffering gruesome, agonizing illnesses. Cannabis eased their discomfort and helped curb the deadly wasting syndrome. After-school deliveries had become tours of sickbeds.
I had been my mom’s accomplice since I was in the stroller. Some of my earliest flashes of memory are from brownie runs back when San Francisco had a technicolor glow. I grew up believing that I was made of my hometown, that there was no difference between me and the place I was born.
My family’s secrets sometimes isolated me from other kids, but secrets also act as a bonding agent between those in the know. I was never neglected like some hippie children were; I was fawned over, encouraged, welcomed into the conspiracy. An outcast at school, I was inner-inner circle within the Sticky Fingers world. The coolest of the cool kids.
And wherever we lived, the inner sanctum of the inner circle was my mom’s king-size bed, nicknamed the “barge.” Many customers became trusted friends. She’d invite them aboard, and they’d sprawl sideways or belly down and converse for hours — unpacking relationship troubles, planning career changes, swapping stories. Equal parts therapist’s couch, executive boardroom, and ladies’ lounge, the barge was a place for sharing and intimacy. It was also where my mom counted stacks of hundreds and fifties.
I can still see her enveloped in a miasma of pot smoke, blue-green-amber eyes gleaming with her latest anecdote or an old favorite. And then flopped over on her back, wheezing with laughter and slapping the covers. I remember how the barge trembled with a good punch line, and how steady it felt when you were down and needed reassurance.
There have been countless barges over the years — from mattresses so well-worn they were permanently imprinted with my mom’s shape to hotel beds that carried us for a night or two. Wherever my mom “gets horizontal” for a heart-to-heart talk with someone she loves, that’s the barge. It’s a state of mind as much as a place.
That’s where this book began. Sometime around 2007, I started taping my mom’s best stories on a handheld cassette recorder. At first, I was just archiving for myself. But as she unspooled the yarns of Sticky Fingers, I became curious about how her contribution to cannabis history fit into the broader legalization movement and the story of my hometown, even my country. I wanted to understand the historical moment and social pressures that created the secretive world I grew up in. And to know why she risked her freedom — and my safety — to blaze trails in this illegal industry during the drug war.
Before I could spell my own name, I understood that I came from an outlaw family. If I ever revealed what my parents did for a living, I knew that they could go to prison and I could become a ward of the state. Whenever adults asked, I said my folks were professional artists — a true statement, though incomplete.
As of this writing, California is among eleven states (plus D.C.) to authorize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. Thirty-five states permit varying degrees of medicinal use, and another two states allow controlled preparations of CBD. Only Idaho and Nebraska still practice total prohibition. Marijuana laws are shifting so quickly that the landscape will likely be different by the time this book is printed. This sea change began in my lifetime; it began in my hometown of San Francisco, among my mom’s close friends and associates; it began with a plague and the bravery and determination of those who fought for what their bodies needed.
The statute of limitations expired on my family’s crimes years ago. The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic — more tightly controlled than cocaine or pharmaceutical opioids — but no one is going to do time because of this story. I’m writing with the consent and collaboration of those involved.
I vividly remember my mom dissuading me from taking a “cola” bud the length of my forearm to kindergarten show-and-tell. Now, as I enter my forties, I’m eager to break the silence I grew up with. I can finally bring Mom’s home-baked brownies to