When we look back at that paths that our lives have taken, rarely have we ended up exactly where we had envisioned. For better or worse, life is full of uncertainties that have a way of creating new chapters so vastly different than the last that we can look back and not recognize the person we once were. Jessica VerSteeg’s move into the cannabis industry is one such story.
Jessica grew up in a small town, eventually became Miss Iowa, and finally met the man she thought she could be with forever, New York Giants safety, Tyler Sash. Then everything changed. “I ended up in the hospital. I asked myself “How did this happen?” “How did the person I love, I was Miss Iowa, he was a super bowl champ. How did we end up in this position and why am I here?” VerSteeg explains, with a shaking voice that reveals the sorrow that is still palpable. Sash’s aggressive outbursts (that after his death were attributed to the extraordinarily high level of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and ever changing emotions lead to VerSteeg’s hospital stay and the end of their relationship. In a bit of a depression VerSteeg removed herself from the situation stating that, “I kind of ran away to San Francisco.”
I was Miss Iowa. I was meant to have a voice and right now my voice is to raise awareness so I decided to move forward.
During VerSteeg’s stay at the hospital she researched ways in which she could help Sash get off of the painkillers that she attributed his outbursts to and marijuana came up as a medicinal replacement option. It wasn’t until her move to San Francisco that things really began to come to fruition. VerSteeg though to herself, “Wow, these women are so responsible. One girl is a lawyer and she’s working every day and she’s able to medicate this way,” VerSteeg says explaining her excitement at how conventional cannabis use was not only normalized and accepted but something that she could relate to.
San Fran is a hub for cannabis connoisseurs and has an encompassing atmosphere of acceptance on many fronts so it’s no surprise that she was exposed to many responsible, hard-working, healthy women who also dabbled in cannabis as both consumers and producers. “I started thinking about producing edibles because I couldn’t just build a vape pen or grow. Little by little friends would come over and say ‘OMG I love this cupcake.’ Always I kept with the gold theme. People started to recognize that and that’s how the Au Box brand was formed,” VerSteeg explains. Once her income began to grow from what started out as a distraction from her breakup she started working with an attorney. Staying with the gold theme she created a simple gold box from a container store, adding products for each person’s order and allowing them to make all the edibles etc, “I did a few boxes like that and realized it was working. That’s how the company got started.”
During this time VerSteeg still was not open about her cannabis use and advocacy, “I was still scared to come out because I didn’t want to be judged and I didn’t want my family to pay the price,” and then she got the shocking news of Sash’s death. “I signed up for the Amazing Race because I needed somewhere to go. You know, after a breakup you just kinda need that extra push. Right before the Amazing Race, right before we left, I think it was that week, I found out my ex had passed away to an overdose of these pain killers that caused our breakup. The painkillers that altered his personality. The painkillers that he became addicted to during his time in the NFL. I lost myself,” she revealed. “I thought, ‘Now, why am I even learning about marijuana. I’ll never be able to help him. He’s gone.’” continuing, “I witnessed first-hand, the NFL gives these boys painkillers all day. Some to wake up in the morning so that they can get their joints moving, some to get through practice, stronger ones to get through games, some sleeping medication to fall asleep because of their pain, they are all day every day on pain killers.”
Even though she was so depressed she says she “blacked out” and doesn’t really remember a lot of her time spent filming the show. She was lucky to have a solid friend by her side that knew Sash as well and helped her pull through. “When I came back to SF I had a new mind. I realized fuck what everyone thinks. I can’t help him anymore; he’s gone but maybe I can help someone else. I was Miss Iowa. I was meant to have a voice and right now my voice is to raise awareness so I decided to move forward.”
I witnessed first-hand, the NFL gives these boys painkillers all day. Some to wake up in the morning so that they can get their joints moving, some to get through practice, stronger ones to get through games, some sleeping medication to fall asleep because of their pain, they are all day every day on pain killers.
When asked about the NFL and its archaic regulations on cannabis use VerSteeg explains that she thinks that the NFL wants to do something and that the players should have the choice, “The players should decide if they want to medicate this way or not and I don’t think that a player should be punished for deciding to medicate with a plant.”
Although it was heavy with heartache VerSteeg has found herself moving away from modeling and into the world of cannabis in hopes of helping to normalize a flower that she believes could have helped someone she loved in his time of need. VerSteeg’s startup, AuBox, a chic option for cannabis connoisseurs is only available in San Francisco. “It’s not like I grew up coding and now I’m starting a coding company. I just learned about this and on top of that it was really emotional,” she explains when talking about expanding to other areas eventually.
VerSteeg has a vision of beauty and acceptance for the growing industry. When explaining how she wanted people to feel when purchasing AuBox she explained, “I want people to get this box, find what they love and feel confident going into the dispensaries. You get your groceries to your door, why not get this? Clean, simple, beautiful.” Each of us may not end up quite where we had imagined but in the end it seems to be where we are needed most.