Editors Note: This article was reprinted with the approval of the writer Mai Perkins.
It was late spring 2018 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, not far from Biggie’s old stomping ground, when Emmanuel Baptist church hosted a free financial empowerment workshop called Exodus: Exiting Egypt. The all-day seminar was well attended by members of the congregation and featured panels on general topics like debt relief and estate planning.
What would set this event apart from others likely to be held at churches around the country with a vested interest in their community base were two unexpected workshops: Understanding Bitcoin, and The Business of Cannabis.
Being a member of EBC, I was amazed to discover that I could explore both topics of interest at my home church in a completely judgment-free zone, and decided to attend. I understood that these just were not your average subjects among Black churchgoers, and particularly not discussed at the house of the Lord. Or so I thought!
I’ll be honest. Part of my motivation was to attend just to see who else would be in the room. And considering the handful of people who sat around the table listening to Gia Morón, Executive Vice President of Women Grow, it didn’t really dawn on me that eight months later her organization would collaborate with Emmanuel to create the first ever church-hosted Business of Cannabis Conference.
So how did all of this come about, anyway? Ten minutes into that first low-key workshop, Reverend Anthony L. Trufant, better known as Rev., sauntered into the room to all of our amazement, and sat down to join the discussion. With great joy, he and Gia recounted a chance meeting, one that both believed was orchestrated by the hand of God.
Months earlier, they both had arrived at Penn Station on the same train and decided to share an Uber back to Brooklyn. During that divine appointment, Rev. asked Ms. Morón what she’d been up to, completely unaware that her answer would lead to a destined partnership between his church and Women Grow.
“$105 million: The estimated annual sales tax revenue generated by medical marijuana dispensaries in California, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports legalization.”
Her countenance lit up as Gia explained her current role with the nationwide advocacy organization that supports women with connections to help them own and lead cannabis related businesses. Admittedly, she was a little apprehensive, sharing the details of a perceived controversial, if not taboo, choice of profession.
But Gia’s conviction for and commitment to dismantling what she felt were distorted, negative imaging and factually inaccurate beliefs related to cannabis, across the board, led her to share her testimony with Reverend Trufant.
It was the passion in her words, her keen fact-based knowledge, and her personal experience that convinced Rev. that Emmanuel would not only benefit from, but welcome her message as a cannabis evangelist. Taking a risk, to Gia’s surprise, he invited her to speak at the financial empowerment workshop months later.
From that chance meeting, and two small breakout sessions up on the second floor of the church, the vision for The Business of Cannabis Conference was established. And what has come to fruition nearly a year later is a cannabis event of great proportion, never before seen within the confines of a religious institution.
Certainly not the Black Baptist church. But unlike the meeting in June, this event emerged as a hot ticket item, selling out weeks in advance to attendees with varying levels of interest in cannabis from across the country.
“$134.6 million: The amount of estimated tax revenue Maryland would earn every year if it legalized and regulated marijuana, according to a 2014 estimate from the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.”
Very little was announced beforehand of what to expect beyond the workshop titles to register for during the week leading into the conference. The panels included: Acquiring Cultivation or Dispensary Licenses; Ancillary Businesses/Careers in Cannabis; Integrative Cannabinoid Medicine by the Knox Family; Medical Benefits of Cannabis and Hemp; The Need for Equity Programs; Cannabis 101; Social Justice and Policy Reform; Destigmatizing Cannabis; Parenting and Cannabis: Learning Together; Healing with Hemp, CBD and Cannabis: topicals, vapes, edibles, and more; Types of Businesses in Cannabis; and, Networks and Industry Conferences in Cannabis.
In addition to these twelve breakouts, there were five Q&A rooms where attendees could pop in and speak with professionals from the industry, which included: What is Unaccredited Investing?, How to Enter the Cannabis Industry, Questions About Legalization of Cannabis, Ask the Medical and Science Professionals, and, Opportunities for Women in Cannabis.
Each panel included POC and women entrepreneurs, attorneys and advocates, dispensary owners and growers, medical doctors and researchers, business analysts, public relations professionals, and content creators. Several cannabis advocacy and media groups from coast to coast contributed to panels including Estrohaze, Cannaclusive, MJM Strategies, Cannagather, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association.
A common thread among the speakers was that each one managed to take their prior work experiences and parlay that expertise into the cannabis industry. Moving throughout the day you could truly feel the essence of the mantra: Whatever YOU do, do it in cannabis!
As if the outpouring and overwhelming amount of information were not enough, the conference also welcomed a riveting keynote address from the CEO of Women Grow, Dr. Chanda Macias on dispelling the myths of cannabis. Dr. Macias, who earned her Ph.D. from Howard University with a concentration in Cell Biology, evoked the passion of civil rights leaders as she beseeched the packed audience with her searing words. She implored us to take our rightful ownership in this fight for equityfor people of color within the cannabis industry as legalization, from the state to the federal level, continues to take shape.
An overarching theme of the conference was the Social Justice component that points to why it has become an imperative to demand Equity Day One in cannabis legislation as the end of marijuana prohibition nears. Social Equity simply means reinvesting a portion of the newly generated capital from the legalized cannabis industry directly into Black and Latino communities.
These are the neighborhoods that were impacted by unprecedented marijuana arrests and convictions due to Nixon’s damaging War on Drugs campaign. Research studies and anecdotal knowledge have starkly proven how the War on Drugs targeted communities of color, grossly contributing to the United States having the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Because of this, advocates in the multibillion dollar industry are demanding that these very people are poised to stake their claim now that the same marijuana plant that locked up scores of men and women is being sold in their neighborhoods primarily by white-owned cannabis companies. “Do not miss this boat…,” Dr. Macias charged the audience, who responded in agreement.
Adding to the progressive conversation were remarks by New York State Attorney General, Letitia James; Congressman Hakeem Jeffries; Assistant Counsel to Governor Cuomo, Jason Starr; Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo; Senator Velmanette Montgomery; and, Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez.
Each representative acknowledged the need for deliberate goals and strategic policy planning on the part of advocates, lobbyists, constituents and elected officials to be on the right side of history by creating legislation with day one social equity as New York State approaches legalized recreational cannabis in 2019.
Lobbyists also distributed form letters urging attendees to be a part of the political process by contacting their Senators and Representatives in Albany so that they are fully aware of the demand for Equity Day One.
As the reverend, Anthony Trufant, thanked Gia Morón’s and his own staff for working so tirelessly around the clock to pull off this crowning achievement, particularly during Black History Month, you couldn’t help but feel how monumental and historic this day was.
Revolutionary in his own right, Trufant is a Morehouse College educated faith-based visionary with a commitment to moral and social justice, which is why he was entrusted with this mission to help bridge the gap between the cannabis community and the church, despite initial pushback from some of EBC’s established members.
When both he and Dr. Chanda prayed from the pulpit, there was a sincere and humbled thanksgiving each expressed to God for the many health and wellness benefits of the cannabis plant. “We thank you for reminding us that You have already placed on the planet resources that can help us to ease pain, resources that will enable us to move forward as a community, and to provide economic opportunities.
We pray, oh God, that you will enable us in the justice work, to join our Brooklyn DA and our Attorney General for the State of New York, as well as our legislature and governor as they deal with legislation that is pending. May we, the citizens, give them the support and the backing that they need to take this courageous step. And finally, God, we pray for men and women, boys and girls who are in great pain today.
We pray that they will experience some degree of relief, that they will have an opportunity to be able to partake of that which you’ve planted so that the pain will be eased for them. Oh God, as we go our respective ways, be with us. We ask this in the name of our God. Amen.”
– Contributed by Mai Perkins
Mai Perkins is Cali girl in a Bed Stuy world, with several blogs under her belt including Uberlicious.nyc and MaiOnTheMove.com. She is a contributing writer for the music publication Pop-Mag.com, and has written for Relevant and Bust Magazine.
With an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MA in International Affairs from The New School, she reps her beloved alma mater, Howard University, every chance she gets. As a poet and a non-fiction writer, she has just published her first manuscript, The Walking Nerve-Ending, available now on Amazon & Kindle.
Fashion met cannabis this past weekend as Project Runway Allstar, Korto Momolu, partnered with Women Grow, the largest network of women in the cannabis and hemp industries for a runway show spectacular. The combination of high fashion and activewear emblazoned with the Women’s Grow logo was well-received by an enthusiastic audience.
Models sashayed down the runway with some proudly taking hits on vapes as they meshed glamorous high fashion and cannabis consumption. The show embraced the idea that women can be seen in flowing beautiful gowns and also consumer cannabis whether it be CBD or THC.
Momolu debuted a runway collection of women’s ready to wear that embodied the power, influence, and strength of female leadership. The fabrics chosen for the outfits were from many sustainable materials including hemp fabric, linen, jute, and cork. The activewear from the Women’s Grow line promoted the idea of a healthy lifestyle with the element of cannabis thrown in. The show was notable for its inclusivity with models of different sizes and ages. Yes, a model with grey hair came strutting down the catwalk. No ageism was allowed at this show.
“While the intersection of fashion and cannabis industries may not seem obvious at first, the collaboration was created to amplify the message of Women Grow – Empowerment, Inspiration, and Education,” states Chanda Macias, CEO of Women Grow. “Through Korto’s innovative and elegant collection, our goal is to break through the stigma of cannabis culture and bring to light the health benefits of the plant, and the value of women leaders in the industry.” Macias noted that Women Grow’s mission is not to cultivate cannabis but to intentionally cultivate female leadership within the cannabis industry as well.
As the beauty industry has embraced CBD with seemingly every product now claiming some sort of Cannabidiol inclusion, fashion has been slow to join in. Hemp was used for textiles for hundreds of years, but its characteristics of strength make it a difficult and expensive product to process for clothing. However, as more apparel manufacturers begin to work with hemp once again, the processing should begin to improve and become less costly.
“Women Grow has a great handle on an industry that is about to truly explode – and this offers a HUGE opportunity for women to make their mark. They’re all about empowering women, and that’s what resonated with me most,” commented designer, Korto Momolu. “We’re looking to normalize cannabis – we’re showing vapes on the runway and an assortment of hemp-based fabrics.”
Korto Momolu auditioned for, and earned a spot on the 5th season of Bravo TV’s hit show, Project Runway – earning her the prize of “fan favorite.” She was highlighted in the ‘Top 5 Designers to Watch’ at her debut season at New York fashion week SS09.
HollyWeed North Cannabis Inc. signed a letter of intent on September 10, 2018, to acquire Women Grow, LLC for an undisclosed amount. Women Grow was founded in 2014 in Denver, CO and provides connections, education, and empowerment for aspiring and current cannabis entrepreneurs and business executives.
Renee Gagnon, Founder, and CEO of HollyWeed North said, “For almost four years, it has been my pleasure to share in the phenomenon that is Women Grow. Women are the cornerstone of the cannabis industry and it is HollyWeed North’s goal to ensure that women succeed and thrive in this exciting emerging industry.”
Women Grow has had over 50,000 individuals across the U.S and Canada attend its monthly Signature Networking Events and annual Leadership Summit, with an overall reach of over a half of million followers. Currently, Women Grow operates in seventeen (17) markets and continues to expand.
HollyWeed North is a private Canadian company incorporated in British Columbia and it was established in 2016, with operating subsidiaries specializing in the growth, manufacturing, licensing and production of cannabis and other pharma grade products. HollyWeed North’s subsidiaries include HollyWeed Manufacturing and Extracts Inc., a federally dealers’ licensed company incorporated in British Columbia specializing in cannabis extraction and product manufacturing.
HollyWeed has several subsidiaries including HollyWeed Grow Inc., a late-stage federal ACMPR Applicant, also a private company incorporated in British Columbia specializing in the growth of medical cannabis and cannabis products, HollyWeed Retail Inc., a retail strategies provider and supply chain management company incorporated in British Columbia, Hollyweed Bakery Inc., a developer and manufacturer of unique cannabis baked goods and edibles incorporated in British Columbia, and Terracube International Inc., a manufacturer and developer of proprietary scalable, sanitary grow facilities incorporated in British Columbia.
“This is an amazing opportunity for Women Grow and its community. We are pleased to enter into this next phase with HollyWeed North and Renee Gagnon, a highly respected and notable business leader in the cannabis industry. We have enjoyed a long relationship with Renee and look forward to exploring potential expansion opportunities,” said Kristina Garcia, CEO of Women Grow.
Chairwoman of Women Grow’s Board of Managers, Dr. Chanda Macias, said, “This is a monumental and thrilling time for Women Grow. Renee Gagnon has been an integral part of Woman Grow from the beginning. She understands and supports our community.”
Part 1 of 8 2018 Cannabis Trends: Female leadership on the rise.
They say the future is female, and there are few places where that is more apparent than in the cannabis industry. Once thought of as a male-dominated industry, women have quickly claimed their place as leaders in this burgeoning industry.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, women make up approximately 27% of C-Suite level positions in the cannabis industry, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that the national average is only 23%. What is unsettling, is that in 2015 women held 36% of executive control. That is almost a 10% loss of leadership positioning in less than 3 years.
As the market matures, and continues to begin attracting more institutional capital, female entrepreneurs will have to work at keeping the industry a level playing field. And collectively, that is what the trends reveal that they are doing.
For women in cannabis, it has become a badge of honor to know that within their new burgeoning industry ready to take the globe by storm, they hold the largest percentage of ownership, management and control of any industry in the world for their gender. Therefore upon recognition of the possibility of losing that title, the women have begun to band together and work toward the goal of making cannabis the first industry in the world to achieve 50% female control.
When you drill down into specific segments of the cannabis industry, you start to see even more women in leadership positions.
For example, among cannabis dispensaries, women make up approximately 35% C-Suite level positions. That number rises even higher for ancillary cannabis brands, of which women comprise approximately 42% of executive level positions. Canadian medical cannabis company Tilray has the first female majority board of directors in the industry.
But the board room is not the only place in the cannabis industry where women are shining. Over the last few years, there has been a groundswell in the number of cannabis industry organizations made for and by women.
Perhaps the most well-known industry group for women in the cannabis industry is Women Grow. Founded in 2014 by cannabis personality Jane West, the group’s original goal was to help make the cannabis industry the first women-led billion dollar industry.
When initially launched,Women Grow was massively successful and soon dozens of chapters began sprouting up all across the country. But in recent years the organization has run into trouble; chapters have been closing and key leaders have left. Women Grow is currently in a transitional period. Hopes for a healthy, strong future have become possible for the organization with a new leadership team in place. However, the obstacles that Women Grow have faced has not stopped others from stepping in and helping to fill the void.
There are credible organizations that were created to help women in the cannabis industry in a general capacity, such asEllementa, andIndustry Power Women (IPW), that specifically bridge the gap between female entrepreneurs and the resources they require to succeed in business. Other organizations have been created to specifically help women of color, likeSupernova Women andWomen Abuv Ground.
In addition, women have come together and organized their efforts, creating groups that promote support, collaboration and solidarity. These networks are being forged through platforms like Facebook. The most popular one,Women Entrepreneurs in Cannabis, spearheaded byKadin Academy and the creator ofCannabiz Connection, provides an exclusive environment for industry-specific discussions. Members of the network are approved for inclusion based on a set of criteria intended to keep the group focused and beneficial to women in cannabis business.
Conferences and events geared specifically towards connecting and advancing a sense of camaraderie among women in the cannabis industry have increased significantly since the beginning of 2018. Workshops such as those conducted by theCannabis Women’s Empowerment Society are frequently conducted to help women navigate operation of all aspects in running a cannabis business.
On the consumer side of the cannabis industry, women are also starting to take center stage. One survey by theCannabis Consumers Coalition found that 53% of respondents were women, compared to 42% for men. Although the survey did not provide a complete snapshot of cannabis, it nonetheless underscores the growing importance of women as cannabis consumers.
Not only are there a growing number of women-oriented cannabis brands, there’s also a huge uptick in the number of investment opportunities for women. Since its founding in 2011,Pipeline Angels has helped more than 50 female-owned companies raise more than $5 million. Other services, likeEllevest, help provide the tools and assistance for women to become the investors themselves.
Recognizing the increased power of women investors, some sites have even taken to aggregating women-centered investing resources; such as37 Angels andCrunchbase.
According toForbes, fewer than 6% of decision-makers at venture capital firms in the United States are women. In 2016, while male entrepreneurs received more than $58 billion in funding, female entrepreneurs received 1.46 billion, approximately 2.5% of what men received.
In the short-term, expect to see women take charge and become drivers in the cannabis industry. This is a trend that you can see in almost every aspect of the economy, but its presence is felt most in the cannabis space where there are fewer entrenched interests than in other industries. The long-term projection for women in the cannabis industry is more or less the same as the short term. Women will continue to grow their power and influence in the cannabis industry and will most likely achieve greater equality than in other sectors of the economy.
The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis