“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” ― Jack London (American Writer, 1876-1916)
The uprising of the medical cannabis community really began in hospice with the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco in the late 1970s, as friends and loved ones cared for each other in lieu of family or even health insurance to cover the covert, misunderstood, and highly prejudiced ailment. If you didn’t go home to die, you were cared for by sympathetic hospice caregivers, savvy to using cannabis for myriad symptoms from the disease – namely waste-away syndrome and chronic nausea.
Within the cannabis community there is often an urgency to help each other with this plant, for once enlightened to its healing properties, many are compelled to share the knowledge. That’s charity. That’s giving at its finest. The failed War on Drugs has now actually brought many together for the greater good, with the plant helping many through terminal illness in the face of persecution.
Charity was originally brought to America from England. What we call “thrift shops” were referred to as “charity shops” across the pond. The London Charity Organization Society (COS) filled a need in industrialized England, where poverty was high in metropolitan areas and no different at the turn of the century in America. Charities were said to be specifically created to help bring back a sense of community to workers who were often miles from home in modernized and impersonal cities.
America is a generous country. Its people gave $358.38 billion to more than 1,521,052 charitable organizations and 86,192 foundations in 2014, with a 7.1 percent increase from the year prior, according to the National Philanthropic Trust (NPT).
Corporations, often frowned upon for skirting taxes via loopholes, actually gave a record 17.77 billion to charity in 2014 – a 13.7 percent increase over 2013’s tally. That said, corporations pale in comparison to the single individual American, who forks over the most cash to charity, at 258.51 billion given during the 2014.
The NPT also reports 64.5 million adults volunteered a total of 7.9 billion hours of service, with a value of $175 billion, with the top four activities listed as selling items to raise money; food collection and distribution; general labor transportation; and tutoring or teaching. The top four volunteering communities were in religion, education, social services, and health.
Women Helping Women
Women are the surprising victors in the new and emerging cannabis industry, and are no strangers to charity and giving. Mainstream magazine covers like Newsweek declare the female faction dominating an entire market for the first time in history. Time Magazine boldly declared there is no “grass ceiling” for women in the industry, while the Chicago Tribune reports 36 percent of executive roles in the legal market are now held by women (per data collected by industry rag, Marijuana Business Daily).
Women and apothecary historically go hand-in-hand, so it’s only natural the ladies are stepping up in this nurturing market. Keeping their aprons on and balancing good business practices in high heels, they are ignoring the “good-old boys” clubs altogether while creating their own places of power.
Women Grow was founded one year ago by Jazmin Hupp and Jane West in an effort to help women come together in an industry traditionally dominated by men. The old adage, “if you build it, they will come” was never truer than within this networking mecca, inspiring chapters to form in more than 35 cities in the U.S. and two in Canada via Toronto and Vancouver.
Co-founder and CEO Hupp share that in order to allow more women to travel and attend its “Signature Networking Events,” Women Grow has committed five percent of all ticket sales toward scholarships since its inception, as well as working closely with industry event partners to allow more to attend major conferences and events.
“When I first became interested in cannabis I started researching the industry and quickly realized the knowledge I needed was not available locally,” Hupp shares. As an adult with good credit, Hupp says she was able to put thousands of dollars of travel and conference costs towards having an informed strategic understanding of the industry – but adds many people do not have that edge available to them. “We wanted to find a way to make important on-the-ground experience accessible to individuals who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend. Often that one leg up makes all the difference between entering a new field and staying out.”
Many of Women Grow’s scholarship recipients agree, stating they would never have been able to be a part of this industry without the help.
Up Close & Personal
Jamie Goswick is owner of Canna Media Works, a Michigan-based marketing and advertisement agency specific to the cannabis industry. An email prompted her to apply for a scholarship to the “Cannabis World Congress Business Expo” (CWCB) Los Angeles this past summer. An additional gift of $250 from Michigan NORML helped with lodgings and transportation, allowing her to attend.
“My experience was amazing and I will be forever grateful,” Goswick shares. “I made a ton of new connections with both clients and partnerships, including discussing starting up a second chapter in Michigan. When I returned I got to work, and our first signature networking event is January 7. West Michigan is about to see a side of cannabis they didn’t know existed!”
A total of 200 women received scholarships to the CWCB Expo in Los Angles, and Linsey Pecikonis of Refined Bud, a marketing agency specializing in the cannabis industry, is another grateful recipient.
“Gifts of this nature rarely happen in other industries,” Pecikonis says of the scholarships. “I’m incredibly grateful to the Women Grow team for recognizing the importance of supporting women entrepreneurs. They’ve given me, and so many others, the chance to grow and thrive in this industry — an industry that very few women dare enter a decade ago.”
Women Grow member Christa Schadt is founder and owner of “Bliss,” a Canadian-based company that produces a THC infused lubricant said to increase and enhance female sexual pleasure. She had been making it for herself for about a year when she decided to share it with friends. After attending Vancouver’s first Women Grow chapter meeting, she says it changed her life and gave her a career.
“I have always felt intimidated by the male-dominated cannabis industry here in Canada and was very happy that I finally met like-minded women who were also trying hard to get ahead in this sector,” she shared. “I’ve been able to make quite a few new friends in a short amount of time. The connections empowered me to continue to market my product and certainly made me feel a lot more self-confident.”
A scholarship to the CWCB Expo in Los Angeles proved invaluable, reinforcing Hupp’s vision of making a difference by bringing women to top markets.
“I spent a lot of energy preparing a business plan, sample packaging, and business cards,” Schadt recalls. “I was nervous, going someplace on my own not knowing anyone, but I’m so glad I went. I learned a great deal about the industry in the states and met a lot of new and interesting people who I am still in contact with.”
One of the more heartwarming scholarship recipients from last year’s highly successful Women Grow Leadership Summit up in the mountains above Denver was Hazel Bagwell Tyler, who had just been hired by Clean Green Certified as marketing director and crop inspector for the Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Trinity & Mendocino counties).
The milestone was two-fold; firstly Humboldt County has been traditionally one of the more covert regions for its cash crop, so venturing out in real time was huge in itself to Tyler. The fact she joined social media the same weekend spoke volumes. “The experience was life changing, as I received the scholarship and was hired as inspector in the same month. Our chapter chair couldn’t make it, so I represented Humboldt County. Networking is huge, and a lot of information is still shared by word of mouth in this industry. Being able to meet people face to face creates a priceless relationship, and to show my gratitude I’ll be sponsoring someone for next year’s summit.”
Finding a Place
For a child who literally grew up traveling on the road via a motor home, raised by hippie parents, Jazmin Hupp says she believes now that her parents were on to something. “All of those ideals turned out to be what we needed to be sustainable as a society,” she surmises. “I grew up in an environment that valued cannabis as medicine, organic food, and renewable energy. It turns out the hippies were right. I chose cannabis at 16, at a time when my compatriots were choosing alcohol.”
Hupp says when she was in college she read advice for businesswomen that advised others to act like men: wear a power suit, lower your voice, and learn golf. She says she was preparing to follow the advice that would place her with wealthy people in her cohort. “Then I met a woman CEO who led as a woman, instead of a woman imitating a man. She was clearly a woman, leading, and it was the first time I had ever seen that.”
Hupp acknowledges through this woman she discovered a way of leading that’s authentically feminine. “She showed me that I could use my strengths as a woman to my advantage, instead of treating those strengths as detriments. I realized [women’s] abilities to collaborate and listen were an advantage – something mainstream culture has only finally begun to accept and value.”
Bringing the nurturing side of women to the board room is a trend that promises to become the norm, as women lead in this new and emerging industry. Women Grow is proving to be the leading, and nurturing mother figure, giving women that “leg-up” and hopefully inspiring our male counterparts to follow-suit – so to speak.