It took me a while to feel the need to "come out the closet" but I'm talking about a different kind of closet. I decided from the beginning that I would keep my secret hidden from my family and the public. At times I felt as if I lived a double life like I was a secret agent. My family had no idea I was in the cannabis industry. And not only was I deep in it I quit my 9-5 job at the time to further pursue it.
I knew where to obtain the most potent cannabis in California and it put me in a good position business wise. I could be in a meeting with a blue-collar corporation owner and my next meeting could be with a master grower. It's all business and it was exciting but when asked I told my family I was working out of town on business projects because I didn't want them to judge me, especially my grandmother. I honestly felt empowered in those moments when I knew more about cannabis then the most successful person in the room but I never knew at the time it would one day change my life.
I was introduced to the cannabis industry by one of my best friends. His name is Twompson P also know as Cali Crop Doc who now is the Founder of RX Canna Care. To describe him in words he is a very creative artist, a math pro, visionary and scientist. He has extensive knowledge and is pretty much a genius when it comes to cannabis. Over time by working closely around him I obtained my own knowledge. I can now tell you the difference between different strains, hybrids, indoor OG's, sativas, indicas, wax and more. Ultimately, he realized just how much CBD oil was beneficial health wise so he created organic premium CBD infused skin care lines. I watched him researching, testing and mixing organic scrubs, lotions, and creams. Soon after RX Canna Care came along Relax Organics and then Canna Cosmetics. When he finally created the perfect formulas and was ready to introduce them to the market I felt like this was something really big!
It was wonderful to try the products and experience the positive outcome. I felt focused and the anxiety and stress I fought with from time to time were relieved. I believed in CBD so much on my days off I would drive up to spend time to support him with developing the early business aspects of his company. I was eager since I graduated from the ELEF (Emerging Latina Entrepreneur Fellowship) Program. It was sponsored by the National Latina Business Women's Association and was a special entrepreneur program in business development. I was given the tools I needed along with educational support from mentors, lawyers, local leaders, and professors. After graduating I founded HBM Talent & Management. I wanted to test my skills. It was just my side business at the time, I still had to work full time. I felt like a lioness, hungry and ready to go on the hunt for success.
One day I received an unexpected text from my buddy Twompson. "I got funded! We need to talk, come over." It seemed unreal at first but soon I realized it wasn't a joke. I could feel the excitement and happiness in his voice as he told me the good news. It was Amazing! I felt a rush of intense emotions ranging from shock to joy. He requested I think about quitting my job to really pursue our dreams of running our own companies. He could make it happen. It wasn't hard to make a decision. Next, I had to face my fears of the unknown and overcome them immediately. I knew this was a situation where I was given a rare opportunity.
I didn't know what the future would hold but I did know I had faith. I had faith in my business partner, I had faith in my entrepreneur skills and I had faith in our dreams. I asked him to become CEO of my company HBM and he asked me to be the Spokeswoman for his company RX Canna Care.
We were officially ready for the challenge that the Universe gave us. I felt like a lioness who was let out the cage she was being held in. I was now on the hunt for success and it was fuck*n game time.
We started off big. We didn't want to play like amateurs we took strategic risks and we went all in. We sponsored the biggest cannabis, wellness and cosmetics events in the country. We were premier sponsors of High Times Cannabis Cup, Hemp Con music festivals, and the (IECSC) International Esthetics, Cosmetics, and Spa Conference. We traveled and educated the public on the health benefits of CBD oil. The stigma of the lazy, unlawful stoner was slowly disappearing. I saw Twompson at the worlds largest conferences educating spa owners, estheticians, cosmetologists, massage therapists, medical estheticians, and doctors. He would explain to them "One of the most important things about CBD, especially for people who are new to marijuana, is that they don't need to get high to benefit from cannabis".
At IECSC in Las Vegas, I met Meghan Koziel who survived breast cancer. She used our CBD products throughout her 16 rounds of chemotherapy. She informed us she didn't receive burns where our lotion was applied. She is a real-life advocate on how effectively the CBD products helped with her recovery. That was the first time I met her in person and she looked completely different from the photos I saw of her two years before while in chemo. I looked at her bright blue eyes gleaming and she looked so beautiful and full of life. Her hair that had fallen out had grown back shiny and full. I remember when the customers left she explained to us how passionate she really was because CBD saved her. I felt inspired by her. We hugged and at that moment I realized this is something so very special. This wasn't really about the money or the hunt for success, this was truly about changing lives!
One sunny afternoon I went to visit my Nana Jenny, my sweet grandmother. She helped raise me when I was little and I highly respect her. I noticed right away she had her right ankle up on her sofa. She had a bruise that looked painful. "I tripped and fell and I hurt my ankle". She gave a mini laugh. I immediately grabbed the RX Canna Care pain rub and coffee scrub out my purse. I rubbed it on her and let it soak in and she watched me curiously intrigued. She asked me "Oh what is this? It smells really good? What's in it?" Something inside my heart said: Time to come out the closet. I mean if my Nana Jenny approved then my whole family most likely would and this was the perfect timing! I would rather have her hear it from me so I told her "It's our organic CBD infused coffee scrub. We extract the CBD directly out the THC so you get all the good benefits of cannabis." She asked, "Will this make me feel high?" I said "No Nana... It's legal because there's no THC in it, you won't get high". She looked at the scrub as if she found a box of hidden treasure and rubbed even more on her leg. In the most loving voice, she said: "Thank you". She asked if this was the reason I was traveling so much. I explained to her it's important to me because we are helping people. I shared with her some of my stories of our adventures. At the end of our visit, she said: "I believe in the medical benefits of marijuana". I shook my head in agreement as I smiled with relief.
A few months later I called up my grandma. "Hey Nana, save the date. I would like you to be my special guest at an award ceremony. I'm getting recognized as a California Hero by State Senate for my charity work and you need to go with me!" She replied, "Should I wear a dress or suit?"
I requested a dress for our photo together. When the day came to receive my award I was surprised to see she was wearing heels. I looked at her ankle and it was healed. She noticed I was checking out her leg and she asked me if I could give her more coffee scrub. I said, "Yes Nana, I'll make sure you get more". Then I heard my name and she tapped my shoulder. I walked up and shook the Senators hand to accept my award. I felt so strong, beautiful and grateful that I ended the year as a California Hero. I thought about everything that happened, all the people I help and felt like I could accomplish anything. I kept the faith and it was a big success, heck yeah I did it!
As of January 2018, marijuana has become legal in California for not only medical use but also recreational use. For female entrepreneurs, the cannabis industry and market is a huge opportunity. However, you must be very smart. This industry isn't for the weak-hearted and you must be on top of your game. I advise doing research to ensure you are in compliance with the laws and regulations. A reliable resource I highly recommend is DCN.
Today I no longer feel as if I am living a double life after coming out the closet. Many others have reached out to me. I received a message from Weed For Warriors Project. They asked if I could support and meet their military veterans in San Diego to share medical marijuana and CBD oil options with them. I'm honored to be asked to meet with our veterans. I feel sharing the healthy benefits of cannabis is a responsibility and I intend to continue to educate others. Especially for anyone suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression, pain or health issues. I want them to know they have options and cannabis can really be used to heal our communities, country, and world.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.