Dabbing Granny's parabolic rise to fame lifts her from home on the military base
A gray, grandmotherly woman named Gail stands in her house in Colorado Springs on a Thursday afternoon. She feels sad.
Even though she has so much in life — two German Shepherds, Nyah and Nugget, a husband, Kevin, and a daughter, Sarah — she feels down because her doctor told her not to smoke cannabis.
See, Gail has a cough. Her Army doctor (her husband is a vet, and she has spent most of her adult life running a thrift store on an Army base) prescribed antibiotics. “You need to do edibles while you’re on the Prednisone,” said her doctor.
For most older ladies, this isn’t a crisis. And the irony here is, if this was a decade ago, a military doctor would have said, “Pot’s federally illegal; don’t do it all; act your age.”
But Gail is not a typical older lady, and this isn’t ten years ago. Gail is Dabbing Granny — an Instagram sensation and an unlikely cannabis product spokesperson who can reach out to millions with just one click.
A concentrated form of marijuana, dabs are strong medicine. Dabs are what would happen if a pot plant were vegged under the red sun of Krypton but flowered under the yellow sun of the Earth. If Buddha passed Jesus a dab rig, they would both forget the Meaning of Life and have to go lie down.
Dabs — the thinking goes — are for thick-necked 20-somethings with leather lungs, not sweet little grannies. But Gail chain-rips dabs like they’re oxygen. Dabs as thick and juicy as honey poured on a stack of pancakes. She’s become strangely famous for it.
In November 2015, without thinking about it, with no plans in mind, she made a video of her smoking a dab and posted it to her personal Facebook page. She looked so wholesome; wore her granny glasses and a Support the Troops sweatshirt.
To the Internet, seeing an old lady dab was like seeing a horse play the piano. The video went viral, garnering over a half-million views in a week.
The company whose rig she was using, Dabado, contacted her and said: “You could be a social media star.” They suggested the name Dabbing Granny. (Gail isn’t actually a granny. Her daughter, now in her 30s, isn’t a mother. But Dabado thought it was catchy.)
Within six months, Dabbing Granny’s Instagram had 150,000 followers. Today, she has over 600,000, and adds 5,000 more each week. A video post gets 30,000 to 100,000 views. She’s more popular than a lot of singers and actors. In many ways, she’s more relatable, more deeply loved. Comments come from repressive places like Qatar and China, from people who live vicariously through her. “I wish you were my grandma!” — “When I grow up I’ll be like you!” — “You’re my spirit human!”
“She’s real and she’s optimistic,” says her friend Michael “Kolpeezy” Kolpack. “That’s what makes people levitate toward her.”
Which leads us to Thursday, and a short while after the Army doctor told her not to smoke for a few days. She’s holding a dab rig in one hand and a butane lighter in the other, standing near the 250 pipes, bongs and rigs she owns, still feeling sad. To her, an un-lit bong is a bird without a song.
Others have urged her to Just Say No. And not because she’s sick. But because they think she’s setting a bad example.
“Despicable.” That’s how Jo McGuire of the National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association describes her.
“She’s got a little logo, an icon, she’s selling grinders and vape pens,” McGuire says. “What a sad legacy, to be the person who models and glorifies drug use to young people, with no responsible messaging. Young people will say, she’s lived to a ripe old age doing dabs, so I can do it, too.”
Dabbing Granny has heard the haters. But she has a long history of not listening to people who told her not to smoke pot.
Gail was born in 1955 in Dubuque, Iowa. Her mom was a homemaker and her dad worked in a meatpacking plant. They liked alcohol, but Gail started smoking pot at 15. Her parents hated it. They’d tell her, “If you don’t follow our rules, you can leave the house.” So she left.
When Gail was 28, a car carrying her parents and both sisters was hit by a train. Only one of her sisters survived the crash. She says her dad had been drinking.
She loved her parents — despite their conflicts — and was devastated. But she notes the irony. “In Iowa, it’s okay to get so drunk you fall face first into the campfire,” Gail says. “But because I smoke weed I’m an outcast.”
With her life so unsteady, her husband Kevin chose stability, and joined the Army. It was a good move. Amazingly, even living and working on Army Bases in America and Germany and Korea, from the mid 1980s to 2016, Gail says she could always sniff out a connect, and continued to smoke.
For 24 years she ran a nonprofit thrift store on the Fort Carson Army Base in Colorado Springs. “I was everybody’s grandma over there,” she says. She’d go to Party City and come in wearing some silly costume, and the kids would race into the store looking for Gail. She’d hug soldiers on their way to the war zones and think about them every day until they came back. Then she’d hug 'em again if she could.
This life of hers ended in early 2016, two months after her first social media post as Dabbing Granny. She got so famous, word started to spread. When officials found out she was the stoniest nana this side of Amsterdam, officials asked Gail to clear out her desk, and barred her from the base.
“Old soldiers,” Dabbing Granny sighs, “kind of freak out about weed.”
She was mad about getting fired, and she misses the people. But she makes more money as Dabbing Granny than she did running the thrift store, and all she has to do is stay home and interact with fans, smoking along the way.
She has her own product line: a vape pen ($200), a grinder ($20), a water bong ($110) — all engraved with her logo. Her likeness is even on billboards, beaming down on Colfax Ave. advertising Ooze vape pens with the words: “Dabbing Granny approved.”
She gets recognized at her local grocery store. She’s been in a rap video by Chris Webby. Tommy Chong called her an “inspiration.” Action Bronson is a friend. She gets so many calls, she has a trap phone — a burner — for the stalker fans.
“It makes me very happy in my soul that people find me so entertaining,” she says.
“When people tell me, ‘I was sad and I watched your post and it made me happy,’” Dabbing Granny says, “it’s almost the same kind of feeling in my core that I used to get on base, that I did something great for a human being.”
During the dark days of marijuana prohibition, the general public assumed potheads were all losers using dented Natural Light cans to smoke weed from back-alley drug deals between high school dropouts (some were, most weren't).
And since people always want their media figures to reinforce what they already believe, famous potheads had to be shmendrickses, too. Cheech and Chong could hotbox the lowrider, but they had to be buffoons. Snoop Dogg could smoke indo, but only if he was a gang-repping murderer. Countercultural stoners got a vicarious thrill, since they viewed themselves as underappreciated outsiders, too. Yet outside of a normalized culture, they were ignored.
Now things are different. Pot is a medicine, millions of adults legitimately use cannabis — 55 million Americans by last estimate. Those who don’t, at least approve of it — 61 percent favor legalization in the U.S. including most Republicans. Pot is apple pie — organically farmed in small batches, sold in dispensaries as chic as the Apple Store. Whoopi Goldberg and Martha Stewart are pot emissaries too, pleasing to the daytime TV, pleated khaki crowd.
Dabbing, though, despite being insanely popular (concentrate sales have roughly doubled every year since legalization) is still stuck in the back-alley stage of cultural acceptance, right there with UFO believers and gangbang porn stars.
“Dabs—marijuana’s explosive secret,” CNBC said.
“Thanks to “Dabbing,” It Is Possible to Overdose on Marijuana,” wrote SF Weekly.
Out on the edge of society, dabbers have been searching for their Snoop, their Cheech. And now Dabbing Granny walks that same fine line between respectable and outlaw those guys did.
In some ways, she has an edgy side, partying like a frat boy on spring break. Take her party trick, for instance, which would make any Delta Sig pledge whimper: dab, hold the smoke, suck down a shot of liquor, chug a huge mug of beer, and take another hit from a bong before exhaling all the smoke.
And she smokes so much, even when the camera isn’t on her, she consumes about four grams of concentrate and an eighth of flower every day. I watched her pull four huge tubes in an hour, and her eyes didn’t even get red.
In other ways, she’s very granny-ish. The thin glasses. The fuzzy sweaters. The old morals. And like grandmothers do, she doesn’t approve of the young cannabis girls on Instagram showing off their boons and onions. “You have to respect your body,” she says. Granny doesn’t like teens smoking weed, either. If she finds out one of her followers is under 18, she blocks ‘em. “You have to let your lungs develop.”
So Gail straddles the same line dabbing does: half accepted, half outlawed — half edgy, half All-American.
Which brings us back to: what to do about this military doc’s recommendation, to lay off the dabs for a few days? (Not to mention the anti-drug crusader who says to stay off the pipe. Or the Army that wanted her to stay straight.) If she stopped dabbing, even for a few days, would she let people down? What happens to the endorsement deals? The billboards? The events? The friendships? The fun?
“I have had a lot of shit happen in my life, but it will not deter me from living my happy life,” she says. “I wake up every morning and thank the powers that be.”
Dabbing Granny fires that butane torch right the fuck up.