Article by Lisa Campbell, NOW Toronto
While women occupying the highest echelons of the cannabis industry have been making headlines Stateside, up here in the Great White North it’s dudes in suits with Bay Street connections who dominate.
A mere five per cent of board members of publicly traded weed companies in Canada are female. That’s lower than even the most male-dominated blue chip companies on the TSX. Case in point: Seattle-based female led brand Van Der Pop, which launched in Canada early last year after being acquired by Tokyo Smoke, the “high design” cannabis retail chain owned by Doja, which has an all-male board of directors.
When it comes to racial diversity the numbers are even more shocking. Almost all of the country’s 80-plus licensed producers (LPs) are run by white dudes. The reality is that licensed producers push diversity as a marketing tool, but don’t walk the walk.
But there’s a new crop of movers and shakers trying to revolutionize the industry as we know it. They make up a growing number of the industry’s most diverse – and disruptive – players.
WHO Steve Naraine (pictured above), founder and chief science officer at CannaVida SAS, a Colombia-based manufacturer of cannabis oil extracts
THE DOPE Holding a masters in molecular science from Ryerson University, Naraine is one of the original employees at Tweed and has worked as a consultant for various governments as they draw up cannabis regulations, including on issues of exportation and cultivation.
BUD BONA FIDES Naraine hopes to create more affordable products for medical marijuana patients. While Canadian licensed producers’ stocks are flying high, few are able to keep up with demand and maintain affordability given the costs of growing in a northern climate and a highly regulated market. Naraine says the promise of imported oil is the solution for Canada’s supply gap and will help licensed producers create cheaper products for patients.
“I’m proud to participate in a nascent industry that has the potential to reflect the diversity that is Toronto in 2018.”
WHO Tyler James, director of community outreach, Eden Medicinal Society; co-founder of the Ontario Cannabis Consumer & Retail Alliance
THE DOPE A voice of reason in a sea of constant change.
BUD BONA FIDES In California, Oakland has the Equity Permit Program to give victims of the war on drugs a leg-up in the legal weed industry. Manitoba’s retail cannabis plan is offering incentives to organizations working alongside Indigenous communities in developing weed business opportunities. But there still remains little in the way of helping minority communities in other provinces. James is aiming to change that. Eden has recently been forced to close in Toronto in the face of ongoing police raids, but James remains committed to helping minority communities participate in pot by working alongside best practices dispensaries to launch the Sensible Ontario campaign for private cannabis storefronts and lounges in the run up to the provincial election.
WORD UP “For decades, those more likely to be arrested for cannabis offences are people of colour, which has been a hindrance to us being willing and able to participate in the legal cannabis sector.”
WHO Ashley Athill, cannabis entrepreneur and educator, owner of Sensii Cannabis
THE DOPE Grow guru. A graduate of Oakland-based Oaksterdam University, the world’s first college specializing in cannabis; a background in agriculture and cultivation.
BUD BONA FIDES Currently offering classes on how to grow your own at Hotbox Cafe in Kensington Market every Tuesday – and helping to mentor fellow growers to achieve trees in 2018 now that the feds will allow every Canadian household up to four plants (more if you have a medical licence) and have removed the height limit.
WORD UP “The origins of this industry are slowly being reflected in its growing legitimacy.”
WHO Virginia Vidal, founder of Mary’s Wellness edibles
THE DOPE Long-time cannabis activist whose company sells cannabis-infused teas and drinks. She discovered cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals while pregnant with her triplets.
BUD BONA FIDES While edibles remain illegal, Mary’s Wellness has bravely been providing access in lieu of regulation to medical cannabis patients who need it the most.
WORD UP “2018 offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build an industry that focuses on equality and accessibility.”