Yes, We Cann !
Four decades have gone by since Richard Nixon declared his famous "war on drugs”, a war which is now globally, and by any standard, considered one of the biggest human and political failures of modern society. Over 1 trillion U.S. dollars has been spent to eradicate drugs from our societies, with no positive results. In many parts of the world, such as Mexico, drug violence has become endemic. Gangs are doing roaring deals and are driving unimaginable profits for organized crime worldwide, while nations' joint efforts at reducing the demand have been completely fruitless.
It is no wonder that countries around the world are rethinking their approach to drugs, with former ministers and politicians admitting the mistakes of the past and pushing for change, starting from cannabis. The legalization of cannabis has been asked by people all over the globe for at least 20 years now, but the undergoing, slow process of social acceptance is only the result of a recent recognition of its medical properties. As politicians around the globe begin to understand that this might be the entry point that enables them to change the figures in which they have failed, major shifts are already occurring in the United States, where five states have recently voted to tax and regulate cannabis consumption.
Underneath these shifts however, lies an even greater revolution: a tenaciously united and like-minded group of women are leading the way in transforming a market which was once governed solely by criminals and dominated by illegality and corruption, into one of the greatest opportunities of change, medical progress, and economical growth of the coming century.
Being nurturing mothers and household caregivers before they are entrepreneurs, these businesswomen have foreseen the historic opportunity to forge the upcoming cannabis market into an industry in which reasons of profit are better balanced with compassion, moral responsibility and a general desire of good doing for the society they live in, and these are their stories...
Krystal Kitahara is one of the youngest and most promising female entrepreneurs of the cannabis industry. After graduating with a business degree, she started several small businesses, interned for a marketing agency and dabbled in the corporate media world as an account executive. Realizing there was an opportunity to make an impact in the cannabis industry, Krystal left her 9 to 5 job, and sought to create a company that brought a fresh approach to canna-business. And that’s how Yummi Karma was born. Focusing on products that are unique to the market, such as the first american cannabis infused ketchup, salad dressings, and potato chips, as well as building a brand that is appealing to women has been the key to her company's success. Today she has five full-time employees and manufactures three different lines of edible and topical cannabis for a total of 24 different products. Krystal is also passionate about playing a role in the political debate surrounding legalization of cannabis and supports organizations that empower women, like Women Grow.
Julie Berliner dreamt of being a teacher since she was in school, when Marijuana was illegal. She could have never imagined, therefore, to be involved in the cannabis industry. Upon graduating during the recession in 2008, she found herself jobless. "A good friend asked me if I would infuse my famous chocolate chip cookies with cannabis from his dispensary in downtown Boulder. I figured, “why not?” and soon was able to witness the popularity of my recipe and how helpful it was to those in need. I knew that if I continued down this path, my teaching days would be over: who would want to hire an elementary school teacher that spent her post-graduate days making weed cookies ?!?! But I was inspired by the movement, and in April of 2010, Sweet Grass Kitchen was born. I spent everything I had ($1,250) to purchase a Marijuana Infused Products license and start my business." The business quickly shaped into a small batch bakery that produces and distributes fresh, cannabis-infused edibles throughout Colorado. "We grow most of the cannabis that is infused into our products in house to ensure a consistent and reliable crop-to-confection experience. Instead of using hash or harmful extracts, all products are made using our own slow-simmered, triple-strained cannabutter. The butter is made from the entire marijuana flower, not just the plant trimmings." Today, Sweet Grass Kitchen, which started as a small-batch bakery, employees 24 people and bakes over 45.000 cannabis-infused cookies every week, delivered to the Denver area. The company's turnover is expected to grow over 300% in 2016.
Amy Poinsett and Jessica Billingsley founded MJ Freeway in 2010. MJ Freeway provides business software platforms to cannabis enterprises – both nonprofit and for profit -- currently in 23 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Europe, South America, and Australia. The company has perfected what today is referred to as "seed-to-sale" cannabis tracking. GrowTracker®, MixTracker™ and GramTracker®, MJ Freeway’s tracking and reporting software systems, were developed specifically to provide the cannabis industry with accurate, real-time data for cannabis cultivators, infused products producers, dispensaries, and collectives, ensuring they can account for every gram and every dollar throughout the entire product chain of custody. Together with Leaf Data Systems, the company's regulatory solution software, which aggregates compliance data from all licensed cannabis businesses in a state or municipality, providing regulators visibility into the operations, the company's software solutions have projected MJ Freeway among the 5000 fastest growing companies in the United States, and Amy and Jessica among the twenty most promising women entrepreneurs of America, according to Fortune. "Seed-to-sale compliance tracking makes it possible for governments to regulate cannabis and ensure public, patient, and product safety, by allowing them to ensure that cannabis in the legal market is subject to regular testing. We are proud to be contributing to the future of a legal cannabis market in which patients will be able to find much better quality cannabis products than what’s available on the black market. This will also have a positive impact on both quality and proper application of cannabis in the management of medical conditions. The very rapid growth of the legal cannabis market, which is growing faster than the mature beer market, with retail sales projected to exceed $36.8 billion if cannabis will have full legalization, has also resulted in an incremental explosion of job growth. In addition, the legalization has further positive impacts on the national economy in that cannabis decriminalization reduces the financial burden on law enforcement, U.S. court systems, and overcrowded prisons. The cannabis industry is currently growing faster than the mature beer market, and with full U.S. legalization, cannabis retail sales are projected to exceed $46.8 billion, making the cannabis industry larger than the U.S. organic foods market.”
Taylor West came to Denver after four years in Washington, D.C., where she worked first as a strategist for a variety of policy and regulatory reform efforts, and then as communications director for National Journal, a highly respected national media organization. She is also a veteran of several high-profile political campaigns and has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNBC. Taylor first became involved in drug policy reform 15 years ago, with an internship at "DRCNet", now known as StoptheDrugWar.org, and has spent more than a decade in communications and leadership positions in the political, policy, nonprofit, and business arenas. Today she is acts as deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, which is the only national trade association advancing the interests of the legitimate and responsible cannabis industry. NCIA supports today tens of thousands of jobs, tens of millions in tax revenue, and billions in economic activity throughout the United States.
Admired by all of her peers, Kristi Kelly has gained her reputation as one of the most important female executives in the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Her mix of infectious energy and graciousness can change the opinions of those most conservative. You can tell, from her straightforward, transparent and honest approach to all matters related to the cannabis market, that she did not have an easy way in this industry. When she shows her company's last purchase, an advanced oil extractor, her eyes illuminate like the ones of a child, yet she assumes a very humble approach when it comes to discussing the problems that the entrepreneurs have when they operate in such a rapidly growing yet highly unregulated market. Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2001, and recreational marijuana use became legal in December 2012. But marijuana businesses never had access to banking services. The federal government considers marijuana illegal, and so traditional banks, fearing prosecution for aiding and abetting illegal drug dealers by unconsciously laundering their money, have shut down pot-business accounts and declined to give loans. All pot businesses still today deal only in cash. Cash is used to pay employees, to pay taxes and to pay suppliers. If a business grows enough to buy the real estate they operate in, for example, banks still would not grant them any loan. "When my first account was closed I felt indignant," she said, "like I was being discriminated against." It reminded Kelly of her grandmother, who had moved from China to Washington and stuffed her mattress with money because no one would give her a bank account. "So these Chinese immigrants got together and opened their own credit union," she said. With over twenty bank accounts cancelled, Kelly decided to stand as one of the founding members of the Fourth Corner Credit Union. The Credit Union was started to fill this huge gap in the american banking and investment sector, as well as being a business opportunity tailored to serve the cannabis industry. The Union filed for a Master Account with the regional Federal Reserve Bank in November 2014, yet is still waiting for it's authorisation. "I think there are some interesting parallels here. History has shown we can get through this, that we can remedy historical inequities."
Shawn Hauser is senior associate lawyer at Vicente Sederberg, one of the most important marijuana-law firms in the country, and the first to give themself this appellative. The firm, that has a national presence, is the first american law firm that operates exclusively in cannabis related judicial issues. The firm's partners co-directed the Colorado campaign for the legalization of cannabis and were among the main authors behind the drawing up of Amendment 64, as well as leading the implementation task force after the law was approved. Shawn has been working in marijuana law and policy for over seven years now, starting with an internship in marijuana law while she was studying at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. While in college, she also chaired the school's chapter of NORML, the most influential nonprofit lobbying organization working to legalize marijuana in the United States. Today, as an associate of the firm, she provides legal representation for businesses in transaction, regulatory and corporate matters. She also covers the role of Director of the Local Implementation Project, for which she works together with local governments across the state to pass other marijuana-related laws that can foster responsible businesses. "My great-grandfather was a real role model for me. When he entered the field of psychiatry in 1935, no one else was doing it at the time. He was the first trained and certified psychiatrist in the State of Texas. His sons were all psychiatrists, and a consistent number of his nephews grew up to be psychiatrists themselves, including my father. Not only he was a pioneer in his field, but he truly believed in the power of psychiatry to help people. I was really inspired by him and my father, by their will of helping people, so I followed their steps and signed to study psychiatry. As I was going through pre-med program I started getting interested in medical marijuana - what were it's benefits and how it could help people - but also got passionate about what was going on, in various states, from a law perspective. I became impassioned by these issues, and really felt empowered to be part of the change, to be able to positively affect public health and policy, end the drug war and the discrimination, so I dropped off of medical school and went on to study law. I felt this was the area where I could do something that could really help others and truly follow my great grandfather and my father's footsteps - not by being a psychiatrist but by still being a pioneer in an industry where I could make a difference for the people."
Nicole Smith is a purely inventive and very dedicated entrepreneur. Her company, Mary's Medicinals, is inspired by the apothecary forefathers and generations of healers who found medicinal solutions in nature, and develops products that maximize the benefits of cannabinoids, terpenes and other plant nutrients, while maintaining clinically tested, clean and accurate delivery methods, positioning itself at the intersection of technology and horticulture. Bringing a turn-of-the-century elegance to the modern day resurgence of natural therapies, Nicole's visionary entrepreneurship has made her best known for her award winning Transdermal Cannabis Patch, a pain relief patch which offers quick onset, unsurpassed duration and accurate dosing, making it one of the highest technology pain relied patches available on the market. Building on this success, Nicole proceeded in creating two other brands, Mary's Nutritionals and Mary's Pets, that focus on nutrition and pet health, with different product lines. Today she employees 35 people, makes 15 different products and her company has just been valued in excess of $100 Mn. "Cannabis is not a conventional medication. It does not fit neatly into the take-one-pill-twice-a-day model that we are used to. That’s why Mary's Medicinals has meticulously crafted a variety of options for her patients – from patches to gels, compounds and even high bioavailability capsules designed for precise dosing and maximum effectiveness. I founded this company with the goal of extracting the natural medicinal benefits of cannabis for patients that were seeking relief from pain and other ailments, but did not want to smoke joints or eat medicated brownies, and saw the opportunity to enter the nascent cannabis marketplace with a completely different approach than those entrepreneurs hawking irresponsibly large and inaccurate doses of cannabis, marketed with flames and naked women. We are a very responsible organization and, without a doubt, the calls and emails we get from our customers every day are a sign of this, as well as being the most beautiful, touching and motivating thing for us. When a parent calls to thank you for giving their child a seizure-free day and a chance at a normal life, or someone tells us that their doctor gave them a month to live, but they're still here… Nothing beats that feeling of knowing that we truly impacted a life."
"When a parent calls to thank you for giving their child a seizure-free day and a chance at a normal life, or someone tells us that their doctor gave them a month to live, but they're still here… Nothing beats that feeling of knowing that we truly impacted a life."
Since New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd made waves with her column about getting too high on pot chocolate, edibles producers have taken the market by storm. While smoking just has a stigma attached to it, with edibles, there’s no smell, no ashtray and no standing outside. Producers have understood that sleek packaging and lower dosages can appeal to the mainstream consumer. Some of them are even conducting scientific research to deliver different types of highs and are investing in their own research to better understand the chemical compounds in marijuana and their specific effects on the body. The hope is that once the compounds are better understood, they can tweak their recipes to target different consumers, not unlike Nivea creating various face cream formulas for different skin types. "Another important factor is that with edibles, you can create a brand story, trademark a name and have secret formulations that can be intellectual property." And one entrepreneur that has certainly understood all this potential is, without doubts, Kristi Knoblich. Her California based not-for-profit collective, Kiva Confections, creates cannabis infused chocolate products and is one of the most recognized medical cannabis companies in the U.S. In early 2010, after a brief research Kristi realized that the market was desperately underserved; there was a need for an edible product that was potent, consistent, and enjoyable to consume as all products available were untested, unlabeled, and inconsistent in potency. Since then the company has grown to encompass over a dozen varieties of chocolate edibles with a loyal customer base throughout hundreds of dispensaries in CA and growing. It’s artisan confections have garnered multiple awards and recognition in the market including Best Edible at both the San Francisco and LA High Times Cannabis Cups in 2013. With over forty employees dedicated to quality, food safety and compassionate care, KIVA continues to redefine the edible cannabis category and lead the way in developing premium quality, great tasting products that deliver certified amounts of medicinal cannabis within a delicious, artisan-inspired chocolate recipe.
Cheryl Shuman is, without doubts, the most spoken-about woman in the cannabis industry. Over the past 20 years, the 54-year-old businesswoman has worked tirelessly to promote pot products and advance legalization efforts, intertwining personal connections within Hollywood and speaking about the health benefits of marijuana on numerous national TV shows including ABC News, CNN and Fox News. In articles she has been attributed several superlatives, such as "the Martha Stewart of Marijuana", or "First Lady of cannabis", but these titles seem to better serve the magazines that publish them then Shuman herself, who is a too prolific person to peg in just one, neat line. What is certain, however, is that Shuman's years of work in the industry led to a growing movement - one that has pushed marijuana increasingly into the mainstream. As well as running Cheryl Shuman Inc., her own Business Development, Public Relations and Marketing firm, she is the founder and president of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, and covers the role of Executive Director of Mom's for Marijuana, which is oldest women's marijuana activism organisation, as well as the largest in the country for number of members. Among her other appointments she also advises many private "cannabis based" investment funds, such as canadian Jacob Capital Management. Lately, she is in talks for advising for the Casaverde Capital, a californian venture capital firm that lists world reknown musician and producer Snoop Dog as one of its investors. Thanks to her position within the cannabis industry and her huge network Shuman's company is at the forefront of entertainment marketing, celebrity endorsements, product placement integration and sponsorship. Shuman likes to see herself as a modern Pauline Sabin, the wealthy socialite who founded the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform and led the 1930s movement to end the prohibition of alcohol. "I'm proud to follow in her footsteps to lead the end of the prohibition of cannabis."
"The industry has been estimated at $ 47 billion per year revenues, much more than all other crops combined: it is certain that cannabis can not only heal illnesses, it can heal the american deficit."
When the state of Colorado legalized marijuana in 2014, Meg Sanders left her dead end corporate job to open a chain of marijuana stores. Her cannabis company, Mindful, sells medicinal and recreational pot. In 2015, the 47-year-old news program called 60 Minutes, arguably one of the most trusted news shows in the U.S., featured the legal marijuana industry in Colorado, and, as special guest, Megan Sanders: a clear sign that cannabis was rapidly gaining cultural traction. According to Bill Whitaker of 60 Minutes, Sanders is driven to push marijuana into the mainstream.
Mindful harvests plants year round in a 44,000 sq. ft. factory right across the street from a police department. There, 60 employees--including Sanders’ 23-year-old son Alijah--trim and package up to 500 lbs. of marijuana every month. If you are lucky enough to be granted a tour of the facilities, you would be surprised by the cutting edge technology used in the factory. Certainly not somebody’s backyard or basement, Sander's company looks more like a Swiss chemical industry. The security is impressive and so are the health and safety measures. Mindful employees also a full time botanist, as the profit of the company relies entirely on both the plants' health, and their productivity. In fact, Megan Sanders likes to refer to her activity as “Industrial agriculture”. Sanders, who is a mother of two and was previously employed in a private equity firm, speaks with clear passion and intelligence: a marked departure from the traditional media depiction of those involved in the production of cannabis.
Ophelia Chong is the founder and owner of Stock Pot Images, the first, and only, cannabis imagery agency in the world. Her formation in the arts, photography, press and publishing industries is truly impressive. In the nineties she has worked on photography editorials and illustration for Raygun magazine, one of the most important american alternative rock and roll magazines of the time. After her experience in Raygun, she went on to working as a Creative Director for numerous publishing houses, festivals and advertising agencies. Lately she has worked as Art Director of the Magazine of the American Society of picture professionals, and currently teaches the Marketing and self-promotion for the Artist course at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In january 2015 while she was washing her hair, as she recalls, Chong wondered to herself whether anyone had thought to establish a cannabis-specific stock-photo agency. When a quick Internet search came up empty, she checked the major photo agencies and noticed that their related images consisted of pot leaves and lame stoner stereotypes. "I thought: This is not right." So she went and founded the first cannabis only stock image bank. "In the last year since launching Stock Pot Images, we have grown to more than 100 contributors. My goal is to present the real faces and communities of cannabis, because through images we can educate and de-stigmatize people's view on cannabis, which is most often distorted. Most Stock Pot's contributors are embedded in, and trusted by the communities. Because they so involved in the cannabis world, they are able to create images that are truly authentic. Images range from a two-year-old to 90-year-old grandmothers, military vets to people post-bust, from farm to grow house, from tabletop to medicinal. My one and only rule is "don't objectify women". Early this year, Stock Pot Images reached over seven thousand licensed images, photographed by over 100 contributors worldwide. Leafly, the all-cannabis resources giant, has also listed Chong among the ten most influential women in the cannabis world, for her consistent commitment in breaking the visual stereotypes that have been holding this industry back.
Sophie Isabella Ryan was born October 3, 2012, perfectly healthy weighing in at 8 pounds, 7.4 ounces, from a perfect pregnancy and a zero complications birth. On June 20, 2013, Sophie had her first MRI scan after a shaking of the eyeball presented in her left eye. On June 23rd, at 8 ½ months old, Sophie was diagnosed with a low-grade, optic pathway Glioma brain tumor. The family was originally told that their only option would be a 13-month protocol of chemo with the hope of stopping the development of the tumor, and that even a minimal shrinkage it would be considered a huge success. After succumbing to an emotionally devastating situation, and inspired by a documentary about how cannabis oils kill cancer in pediatric patients, Tracy and her husband decided to treat their daughter Sophie with THC and CBD oil from Marijuana. Consequent to 13 months of chemo and high doses of cannabis oil, Sophie’s brain tumor was about 85 to 90 percent gone, and her vision was saved. Motivated by her own story, Tracy started putting together a social media group where families of loved ones affected by different diseases could find resources and research to help with their treatments and Facebook pages where parents found support, advice, and comforting words to help them through difficult times, ultimately creating the Foundation that carries her daughter's name. Building on the network and resources that she found, Tracy consequently decided to start an online resource platform and co-operative, called CannaKids. As well as helping families learn everything they need to know about treating cancer holistically using diet and homeopathic approaches, CannaKids produces and distributes high THC and CBD concentrates and tinctures. The co-operative, which employees a team of nurses that are trained both in western medicine and in cannabinoid therapy, works predominantly with pediatric patients that suffer from cancer, but also treats children with epilepsy, autism and neurovegetative disorders. So far, CannaKids has helped over 40 families, including raising money for parents who cannot afford cannabis oil for their child's treatments.
Bonni Goldstein, is one of the most prominent doctors advocating for medical cannabis and promoting education around the endocannabinoid system. In 1988, a group of scientists in California decided to radioactive-label THC compounds, or cannabinoids, in order to follow them in a rat's brain. It did not take long before they realized that the compounds went, every time, to one specific receptor, whose purpose, unlike other receptors, was still unknown to the medical world. The receptor, originally called "orphan receptor" was consequently renamed cannabinoid receptor. This discovery brought enormous medical consequences, as, even though still today a debated topic, some smart scientists of the time knew that a receptor only exists in a body to link with a compound that is naturally present in that same body. Only many years of research after, these compounds naturally present in our body, and triggered by cannabinoids, would be found: the endocannabinoids, fat based molecules that link to the cannabinoid receptors, forming the so called endocannabinoid System, or ECS. The cannabinoid receptor, which has been completely mapped out over the last twenty years, is the most widespread receptor of the human body, although sadly, most doctors still today don't know it exists. The main function of the cannabinoid receptors is that to maintain balance within the cells of the human brain and body, a process also known as cellular homeostasis. In other words the cannabinoid receptors send signals between cells to balance neurotransmission, and, for such role, the system that they form in the body is the key endosystem for the correct functioning of our brain cognition and our body's immune and autonomic nervous systems. Only in recent years, some doctors around the world have begun to ask themselves what happens when there is a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system, on the same level in which, for instance, people affected by hypothiroidism don't make thiroid hormone, causing therefore a clinical endothiroid system deficiency. The most recent medical evidence has shown that a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, or disfunction, is the main cause behind medical conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Schizophrenia, IBS, Parkinson's disease, Fybromyalgia, epilepsy and states of anxiety or depression. Bonni Goldstein began to seriously study cannabis from a medical point of view when, during a stress-related leave of absence she took from hospital, a friend of her's developed breast cancer and her husband told Bonni that, as she was suffering from the treatments, they wanted to look into getting medical cannabis. Ashamed that she, as a doctor, knew nothing on the topic, she seriously started studying it. And she's never stopped since. Over the past ten years, she has helped numerous patients, both adults and children, including some very difficult cases like the one of little Gianna, who is affected by a genetic syndrome with intractable epilepsy and development delay. "Cannabis has been able to control the seizures and therefore allow her brain to develop on a more regular path, without the negative side effects caused by the chemical compounds present in other seizure control synthesized drugs."
"The main function of the cannabinoid receptors is that to maintain balance within the cells of the human brain and body, a process also known as cellular homeostasis."