Article by Cy Williams, High! Canada
High! Canada Magazine got to sit down recently with one our favourite internationally acclaimed cannabis advocates. Jamie Shaw has an extremely strong voice in the Canadian cannabis professional landscape and we are pleased to have her in the pages of our humble magazine.
Jamie is the Government Relations Director for MMJ Canada, a Director of the BC Independent Cannabis Association, and an advisor to NICHE Canada. She has served as communications for the BC Compassion Club Society, and President of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries. She is also a coauthor of the Lift Retail Cannabis Training Course, a writer of articles for various cannabis news sites, and a speaker at cannabis conferences around the world.
What led you into a career within the Canadian cannabis industry?
There were quite a few things, research for a documentary in the late nineties, an interest in social justice and all things that are ‘next’, seeing the amazing healing properties of the plant first-hand, but probably the biggest single thing was Harpers reelection in 2011.
Tell us about how you got involved in the cannabis industry?
It’s an issue I followed in Canada and the US for awhile, and a doctor had referred me to the BC Compassion Club in 2002. In 2004 there was a bit of a leadership crises, and I served a term on its board of directors, but was too busy to really give it my all as I was also working to support my family. When my circumstances changed I was looking for something more in-line with my personal values and beliefs, and when Harper won re-election, I applied to work at the BCCCS.
What is your particular cannabis industry entry point origin story?
I was a budtender starting in 2012, then just started taking on more and more responsibility. I was brought on to the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, within a few months, a few months later I was Vice-President, and a few months after that, I became its President. I actually never stopped budtending that whole time. That connection with patients was really important to me, and I think it’s easy for people in this space to forget the power of those interactions, and many in this space now have never had that. Many people find it exhausting doing that kind of front-line work, but I found it inspiring and invigorating.
Did you encounter any challenges or adversity to adopting a full time role in the expanding Canadian cannabis market and if so what did you do to overcome them and successfully move forward?
I really didn’t, but there have definitely been challenges since. As a woman in this space it can be frustrating to deal with sexist attitudes, many that seem genuinely subconscious. From men explaining my own successes to me as though they weren’t my accomplishments to constantly arguing my facts with their opinions. There was also a lot of really ego-driven people constantly trying to sabotage and co-opt progress but I’ve also been blessed to work with some really amazing people. I want to list them but it’s becoming a longer list all the time. Ultimately, I just stay focused on the work, and I find if you do that the good people end up gravitating towards you, and the not so good people tend to fall away in time.
What are you working on now? Can you run us through an average day for you?
One of the best things about what I do is that there are no average days! It’s a lot of emails, phone calls, meetings, a lot of reading and keeping up-to-date, and a lot of processing information used to educate others. I’m kind of a Swiss Army knife, so I love being able to use as many of my tools as possible, and in this space, I’m lucky enough to usually need most of them every day.
Plans for the future – personally and professionally
Oh man, I have no idea! The goal is to just keep putting myself in places where I think I can do the most good.
Last question – what are three things that you think everyone should be doing?
Wow. Um, I hate to tell anyone else what to do or how to live but, I’ve found following my heart has been pretty important. I think we innately know when something is right for us and when it isn’t, it’s just that it can be difficult sometimes for that signal to get through noise.
I think comfort and security are synonyms for entropy, so I tend to push myself to new places, new challenges.
I also think right now is a really important time to be reaching out to your local representatives. There is a lot of complaining about how out of touch the government is on Cannabis, and it’s easy to get discouraged, but that’s partly our own fault. Every single person should be writing to their counsellors, their MP’s, their MPP’s and letting them know what their opinions are. Don’t let me and handful of other people be your voice, even if you like what we are saying, actually, especially if you like what we are saying. If everyone who used cannabis shared their experiences and thoughts with their elected officials, I think we would see laws and regulations that more accurately reflect reality.