Article by Cy Williams, High! Canada
High! Canada had the absolute pleasure recently to sit down and chat with one of Canada’s most brilliant woman in weed – Irie Selkirk.
So Irie, will you tell us about how you got into the cannabis industry?
Absolutely, so I have had positive cannabis experiences my whole life. I spent my first years in Negril, Jamaica. So I grew up in a cannabis friendly culture with no stigma and I was raised by a very liberal family. When we moved back to Toronto we had a small family business here that was a retail storefront. I have always been interested in having relationship based conversations, in sales and communications. My journey in medical marijuana started when my daughter’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He was diagnosed very early on at the age of 36 and at that point we started the MMAR process. We’ve been navigating the legal cannabis landscape for about 10 years now and part of that has been having conversations with the people around us to make it normal. Currently I work as the medical outreach and education lead for Emblem cannabis and I have a lot of conversations with my patient advocacy background.
Something that I really enjoy about working with Emblem is that we have a very strong female led team. We have three women that run our HR, QA, and VP of marketing and communications. They are all very strong women so that really spoke to me and my background. As well as there are a lot of passionate people who work for Emblem. I know the team from many different cannabis friendly spaces and I was really happy to join in their messaging of cannabis as a tool in the toolbox of wellness and looking at adding to a patient’s quality of life.
I think it’s really important at this point in the genesis of the industry that we recognize who our allies are. There should be no conflict between anyone who is cannabis positive at this point, it just weakens our voice. I know that there are a lot of very difficult conversations that are taking place between the existing cannabis community and those with financial interests. Something that is very important to me is diffusing conflict and speaking to different representatives of perceived camps in the industry and making sure that everyone who is in this for real legalization has a very clear understanding that we are not each other’s enemies. Who we need to unite our voices against is the regulators and insurance companies.
Individuals who want to promote cannabis as a legal commodity that will be beneficial for our society in any shape or form be it medical, therapeutic or adult use should be looking at this and saying we have the same goals and our voices are stronger united than they are fighting internally.
We hear stories all the time from women facing adversity within the industry or having challenges to overcome to feel successful towards making headway, have you experienced anything like that during your time in the industry?
The Canadian cannabis business landscape differs from the American landscape in a few ways. I think it’s crucial that we establish an industry with strong female leaders. We have upwards of 30% of cannabis companies with women CEO’s in the states where in Canada, we have 4 women sitting on Licensed Producer boards across the entire country. That is definitely a major challenge. That’s one of my passions, to focus is on making sure women have a voice. I want to ensure that what I do gives women the power and the voice to speak strongly and confidently about this industry and movement.
As a parent, it’s a challenge to juggle kids and a fast-paced schedule in the busy world of cannabis, luckily I’m surrounded by amazing like-minded people and a whole lot of weed.
Based on your life long experience in the cannabis community and industry do you have any advice to give to women who are thinking of entering the cannabis industry as a career choice?
My advice would be to start with what you know and educate yourself where you need it. To know that you have a good skill set so that your cannabis experience, and what has led you to this place now will be supported by your skills. Know what you can offer an employer in the industry, be confident and prepared. Find out who came before you, where you it in and what you want legalization to look like. Also establishing allies, I think it’s really important to identify and establish allies in this industry. At this point there are so many opportunities, so look at what you specialize in, see what you can offer, identify your allies and prepare yourself to enter a very fast paced industry.
Lastly, can you tell us about the Elle collective?
Elle is a collective of women leading the cannabis industry with a strategically curated number of brands and organizations. Each one of our partners believe that creative collaboration brings new solutions to the world. In the ways we communicate, our business strategies, and how we approach social change. There are many different companies entering the industry and looking into tapping into the female market and we offer ground zero for innovation and diversity. Having a very powerful group of women who are coming together as a collective, bringing all of their resources together is going to be an amazing space. We are really excited for our launch on May 26th at the Lift Expo.