The future of cannabis is female! December is DOPE Magazine’s Women’s Issue, and we wanted to continue to highlight women across the industry on all of our platforms. We sent a questionnaire to outstanding women in cannabis—some familiar to us, some new—and will be showcasing their answers in individual blogs this month. Today’s story highlights Today’s story highlights Kate Dalgleish, director of legal affairs and government relations at HollyWeed North Cannabis.
DOPE Magazine: Tell our readers a bit about what you do at HollyWeed North Cannabis.
Kate Dalgleish: I’m the Director of Legal Affairs and Government Relations at HollyWeed North Cannabis, Inc. We’re a Canadian cannabis company, licensed by Health Canada, based on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I originally started out in law as a commercial litigator, then shifted into a government relations practice lobbying the Canadian government on the legalization of cannabis. As of this past October, cannabis is as legal as alcohol across all of Canada, and now I’m in-house with HollyWeed. We have the honour of being one of the few licensed companies in Canada with a female CEO, Renee Gagnon, and are a proudly women-led and an LGBT-inclusive organization.
What’s your go-to self-care routine?
Hiking! I’m lucky to live on the west coast of Canada, so there’s endless stunning wilderness around here to explore. Plus, it’s the one part of Canada where it doesn’t normally snow, so I can be out hiking year-round. Getting out into nature has always been the best way to clear my head, and a physical challenge like heading up a mountain helps focus my mind and body.
Where do you see your career/business headed in five years? Twenty?
I’ve had several people ask me, “Kate, now that cannabis is legal, what are you going to lobby about?” as if I just packed up my bags on October 17th and walked off Parliament Hill into the sunset. That always makes me laugh, since cannabis being legal means that there are more issues to work on, not less. The rollout of legalization in Canada was decidedly messy; fixing supply and distribution channels with the federal and provincial governments is the most pressing task. There are also issues about advertising rules, the granting of licenses, creating proper rules for edibles, and bringing federal, provincial, and municipal governments onto the same page. However, in twenty years, I see Canadian cannabis being a much more mature industry in the same vein as alcohol, with a lot of the kinks worked out – it’s just that we need to put in the effort to get ourselves there!
How do you feel about the industry-wide assertion that cannabis is a female-friendly space?
There are so many wonderful women in this industry, especially in terms of being a creative force and with small producers and growers; in that regard cannabis is definitely a female-friendly space. However, in Canada, we saw in the lead-up to legalization and afterwards as the cannabis industry became more and more legitimized and corporate-focused, and as the capital costs of entering the legal market increased, it shifted back into the very male-dominated boardrooms that you see in many industries. Part of what we’ve been trying to do with HollyWeed is to use a female-led company to give women a place in the new legal cannabis market. We need to make sure that women in the United States and Canada keep on creating and growing and innovating and that the new titans of the cannabis industry have plenty of women in leadership roles and on their boards.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Either a paleontologist or Captain Janeway from Star Trek. Still no dinosaurs or a spaceship, but I do drink my coffee black.
If you could talk to yourself five years ago, what advice would you give?
Don’t be afraid to change careers, you’re not set on one path forever. I came from a family full of lawyers, and I just assumed I too would become one – and I did. I graduated from the best law school in Canada, articled and practiced at a national law firm, but I wasn’t happy – it wasn’t the career for me and I only realized it when I was already a full practicing lawyer. Shifting into both government relations and the cannabis industry has felt like the pieces falling in place. The pride I felt sitting in the House of Commons gallery watching Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould introduce the bill to legalize cannabis or months later watching that same bill pass through the Senate and into law drove home that this is the career for me.
What advice do you have for other women looking to get into the cannabis space?
Build your connections and create networks – both with other women and with men in the industry. Build connections outside of cannabis too – business, politics, science, technology – there are so many opportunities for interesting collaborations. Find a niche that hasn’t been served and make it your own. Get out to networking events and industry events, make sure everyone has your card, find a mentor, and don’t be afraid to ask someone for coffee, no matter how important they seem. The hustle pays off.
What do you think needs to happen before we achieve federal legalization of cannabis.
Speaking from my experience in Canada, I think the United States needs to have a sympathetic administration that’s willing to embrace legalization. In Canada, medical cannabis had been legal (albeit tightly controlled) since 2001, but it wasn’t until 2015, when Justin Trudeau was elected with a specific campaign promise to legalize cannabis that there was the political momentum to make it happen. The United States has the advantage that legalization in some form is a reality in a majority of states, and these state governments have found that it is both profitable and politically beneficial. Eventually this will hit a critical mass where either a court ruling or a change in administration will make it a federal reality (like it did with same-sex marriage). So my best advice is to get politically engaged, keep lobbying your government, make political allies and support them with time and money, and turn federal legalization into a mainstream campaign promise.