With marijuana legalization becoming a near inevitability, many organizations are gearing up to prepare the next generation of leaders for the cannabis industry.
Women Grow, located in the Front Street Emporium offices in Nelson, is a collective of industry trailblazers looking to “connect, educate, inspire and empower the next generation of cannabis industry leaders by creating programs, community and events for aspiring and current business executives.”
The organization, which began in Colorado following the legalization of cannabis, currently has 36 chapters with Canadian outlets in both Toronto and Vancouver.
The group will be kicking off their opening of a Kootenay Chapter in January, and promises to be an “educational evening featuring presentations by distinguished individuals in the cannabis industry, including advocates, C.E.O.’s, dispensary directors”.
The Nelson Daily got to speak with one of the women spearheading the Kootenay Chapter to find out what the event is all about and what Women Grow hopes to accomplish in the coming years as Canada moves towards legalization of cannabis.
Kaleigh Herald, who came to Nelson from Vancouver, is the chapter chair for the Kootenay element of Women Grow.
"The office Tanya (Shelestynski) and I work out of on Front Street is actually the Medicine Tree dispensary," said Herald. "It just so happens that is is the same location in which many of our ideas for Women Grow and cannabis releated topics are born."
Herald’s passion for promoting her organization is evident when she speaks, and she explained her reasoning for getting involved with the group and what she hopes to accomplish.
“As the prohibition is ending on a national level we’re seeing different industries and cannabis businesses popping up all over Canada and this is a great chance for people to connect and professionalize the industry,” she said.
As to why her group is focusing on women in particular, Herald gave several reasons including her belief that because this is a new industry, it won’t be held back by an entrenched system that would prevent women from attaining important roles.
“The whole feminist thing is really coming out now, and I think it goes hand in hand that we have a new age look on women and their roles in any professional industry, and we have this new industry that’s totally being born so it’s definitely been really cool to see the amount of women that are taking charge,” she said.
Herald also cites the maternal instinct and nurturing nature of women as something that the cannabis business needs if it’s going to remain a compassionate and care focused industry.
“There’s also the sense that women are naturally maternal and nurturing. We’re very helpful with the patients . . . it’s also the women that are commonly making healthy decisions for their families, so if they have a child with epilepsy it’s quite common the mother that will come forward and turn to cannabis,” Herald said.
“I don’t mean to put down any of the men in this industry because I’ve met plenty that are absolutely fantastic educators and cannabis consultants. But I think it’s natural for women to care for individuals in a medicinal way. There’s a huge place in this industry for women.”
Dana Larsen of the cannabis advocacy group Sensible BC said that groups like Women Grow are important because the stigma against people who use cannabis tends to be unfairly slanted towards women.
“I think it’s good that women are getting together to eliminate the stigma of cannabis for women and put these ideas forward," Larsen said.
"I think it’s a very good group to have and I think women using cannabis and not being ashamed of it or hiding it is going to help our movement forward in very positive ways."
As to why Nelson was chosen as the location for the new chapter, Herald clarified that while the town definitely has a reputation for cannabis use and manufacturing, the decades of forced secrecy due to prohibition has cultivated a hostility and reluctance to sharing knowledge and information.
Women Grow is aiming to open the doors and show people that it’s a good thing to speak with each other and share information.
“So many people in the Kootenays are used to staying underground and not sharing their info, so they really keep it quiet and keep to themselves. But there’s so much opportunity here because there’s so many people here that grow, use and manufacture cannabis.”
“We saw this as an opportunity to help break down those walls and those barriers and to get people talking and sharing info more,” Herald said.
The Women Grow event takes place on Thursday, January 7th in the “Hume Room” of the Hume Hotel at 7 p.m. Early bird tickets are available for $25, and can also be purchased online at eventbrite.ca, or at the door for $30.