What is the Future of Cannabis Leadership in Canada?

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Women Grow’s Canadian leadership challenges spark new initiatives

What is the future of cannabis leadership in Canada? That’s the question a group of industry leaders are considering after an announcement late last year that Women Grow’s Canadian chapters would be closing. Here, we look at the history behind the announcement, and the leadership movement it’s inspired, including at least one new group and a potentially revitalized Women Grow.

Jenna Valleriani is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto, where she studies the medical cannabis market. Valleriani, a frequent Lift contributor, was also vice-chair of Women Grow’s inaugural Toronto chapter, which kicked off in September 2015. Valleriani describes the early days with the organization as an exciting time.

“At that time Jane West and Jazmin Hupp, the founders of Women Grow, were kind of everywhere,” she says. “The movement around inclusion, and the inclusion of women in the evolving industry, was really taking hold. People saw this new industry that was slowly developing in North America as an opportunity for more women’s involvement.”

Natasha Raey is the co-founder of SheTalks, a women’s empowerment movement, and was on the original team of co-chairs for Canada’s first Women Grow chapter, which started in Vancouver in the summer of 2015. Like Valleriani, she had already stepped down from her position before the recent leadership resignation, and agrees that Women Grow in Canada represented an unparalleled opportunity. “I can’t remember who said this, but this is one of the first times in history when women are able to enter an industry at the exact same time as men,” says Raey. “That’s never happened before.”

It wasn’t just strong women making Women Grow great, says Valleriani, it was the variety of strong women—and men—who attended, from patients to researchers to physicians, to licensed producers to activists to grey market artisans, and even a drug strategist from Shoppers Drug Mart popped in. “The Toronto chapter had such a cool network of diverse people that came together,” she says, “and I think we did it really well.”

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