I entered the cannabis industry in 2011. By all standards, this makes me a cannabis veteran. I always joke that there should be a cannabis year convertor similar to what we do with dogs because these past 8 years have aged me! They’ve been filled with obstacles and challenges. But the rewards have been astounding including my personal satisfaction of knowing we have built an 80+ employee company and a culture of wellness that improves the quality of life of tens of thousands of people.
During that time, I have witnessed cannabis becoming more of a mainstream topic, one that you can casually approach with friends, family and acquaintances. Looking back to 2011, that was definitely not the case. Landlords would hang up on me when we were seeking places for our business. Folks would practically run away from me during networking events once I dropped the word “cannabis”. In recent years, cannabis is all over the media and in our common everyday conversations. Factual information about the benefits of cannabis are now being reported: Traditional media are not shying away from cannabis. Now folks call me daily and ask “How can I get in?” or “What could it do for me?”.
The conversation has started and its vibrant and factual.
I now realize my vision of progress was slightly distorted living in the cannabis “bubble”. I recently auditioned for a TedX event outside my home state and was dismayed by the reaction outside our industry’s vision. The theme of the event was “The Point of No Return”. That theme resonated with me: I felt that our family story of immigration and cannabis entrepreneurship was a perfect fit.
My husband and I prepared for the audition and the brief 5 minute audition on the topic. We garnered promising nods and smiles along the way and figured this would be an obvious win. To much of our surprise, the only comment we received was “This is a great story, but do you have to mention cannabis?”. After a slight pause, we launched into our description of why cannabis mattered and how we felt it was essential to our storyline of “Point of No Return”. We had lived 8+ years building a company in an industry full of obstacles and rejections. There was no turning back. But now, we believe, we’ve emerged from the other side wiser and stronger.
The only answer we received was “I see”. The group nodded and thanked us for coming.
What surprised me most is the fact that this particular TedX, the offshoot of TedTalk, an institution of limitless thinking and known for pushing boundaries and inspiring change, was giving us such a conservative cold shoulder. To a certain degree I felt let down and confused.
How can we make come cannabis an idea worth spreading? We cannot remain complacent; we still have much work ahead of us. Always keep in the forefront of our minds that we are innovators and leaders during a major shift in society and that it will take some time. One person at the time, we need to remain focused on informed conversations and, slowly but surely, perceptions will shift more permanently in our society.