The Vault on Queen Street West was a veritable treasure trove of industry talent Thursday, April 6, when Women Grow took over for their first networking signature event. Lawyers Arlene Mack, Sasha Toten and Alice Tseng drew a sizeable crowd that audienced a candid but balanced discussion on cannabis industry legalities. With legislation in the works, the time to be up to speed was yesterday.
The oft-repeated assertion was that seeking legal counsel at the outset of one’s entrepreneurial endeavours is vastly preferable to going at it alone. While lawyers may be scapegoated as the bearers of bad news, their guidance pays off in dividends. Setting out on an illegal enterprise will only prolong the need to drop money on a lawyer and possibly result in dashed dreams and wasted time. Seeking legal aid as a preliminary step to creating a business plan, however, will lay a solid foundation that one can feel comfortable and confident going forward with.
Melissa Rolston guided the discussion with questions that highlighted the particular challenges women face in any sort of enterprise. The speakers, three accomplished female lawyers, had distinct styles and varied in their responses to the questions but arrived at common points throughout the discourse. One subject raised the question of leadership style as a female, which brought about an encouraging and impassioned response from Arlene who proposed that leadership style should be specific to the individual. In other words, don’t try and be someone you’re not just because you think it’s more boardroom appropriate. Successful leadership is delivered in a variety of ways by a variety of people. No one style is right, nor is it wrong. Developing one’s personal leadership style is essential in blazing one’s own trail and achieving success in their field.
Leadership qualities, such as assertiveness and pragmatism, tend to be associated with masculinity. Bering in mind that passivity and politeness are more commonly aligned with femininity, the speakers encouraged women to spin that stereotype on it’s head and ask for their due worth. Maternity leave, for instance, often leaves women feeling excluded from company decisions and information with the justification that the soon-to-be mother won’t be pertinent. The woman might be perfectly capable and more than interested in remaining incorporated in the workplace culture, which she should be able to vocalize and have validated.
Questions from the audience dealt more with the legalities of local cannabis businesses-are events that promote themselves as 420 friendly legal? Are cannabis tours legal? Here the conversation came to a sticky point, as many attendees were in business ventures that may consider themselves semi-legal, but the actual government does not. In these instances the speakers disclaimed that they could not give legal advice in such a setting and encouraged all business participants to reach out and receive tailored feedback.
The speakers made emphasis of the fact that legal fees need not be exorbitant. For a small business in its infancy, the cost of a lawyer crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s might in fact be minimal. A large corporation that needs perfect documentation and water-tight protection would rack up many more billed hours, but a little guy in TO? Not so much. For the headache down the road that could be averted (not to mention the legal nightmare should one find themselves in a bad situation, in which case a lawyer would most certainly be required), hiring a lawyer to begin with only makes sense.
With an inspiring dialogue hosted by the charismatic and infectious Women Grow chairs, the networking buzz afterwards was in turn cranked up a notch. Armed with information, conversations arose amongst the attendees that reinforced the sense of community even in a more corporate environment. Still on everyone’s lips-“We’ll see”. Since legislation is still to this point a mystery, no one could make any definitive assertions about the best way to legally proceed.
The event achieved its purpose, however, in bringing together cannabis professionals and enthusiasts and leaving a resonant message with all to proceed with caution-with the help of a lawyer who understands the cannabis space. Through this, everyone has a better shot at success in an industry that ignites passion in many. A wakeup call to some, old news to others, but a message that bears repeating as we near the end stages of prohibition.