My family has strong women role models (men too!) and that backbone has carried through in how I lead the operations in this company," explains Vander Veer. “Plus, the sense that women can control their own destiny in a new industry is definitely an attractive opportunity."
It's true that cannabis is somewhat of a taboo word these days, since legalization laws make it a pretty controversial topic everyone seems to have an opinion on. However, it's also safe to say that the internet has definitely allowed the cannabis industry to boom, since there are tons of new startup businesses (we're talking beauty products and media platforms!) popping up all around the country like wildfire.
However, you probably didn't know about the effect women have on the industry, since there are a growing variety of new cannabis businesses, both created and run by women. To see exactly why women are entering themselves into this controversial industry, we spoke to seven different cannabis influencers on how they are revolutionizing how people see cannabis.
Name: Lisa Margulies
Business Name: Burn TV (CFO)
Business Description: Cannabis multimedia entertainment platform aimed at educating viewers about the cannabis industry.
As the CFO of a newly formed cannabis multimedia entertainment company, Lisa Margulies is committed to creating an engaging platform that will educate viewers on both the light and dark sides of the industry, leading them to make the most informed choices, free of stigma. However, before she actually dove head-first into a cannabis-related business, Lisa was a mom of a struggling child who needed medical marijuana to survive.
Living through her own son's personal success story and acknowledging the crippling costs of healthcare and pharmaceutical drugs, Margulies wants viewers to know through Burn TV that medical marijuana can be more than beneficial to human health.
“There are so many other mothers who believe that pharmaceuticals are their only option," says Margulies. “I have helped many others who are struggling with cancer and other medical conditions with possibly choosing to see if medical marijuana could help them. I have had so many express gratitude for the relief that it brings as they overcome the stigma and understand its benefits."
And while there still are regulations and limitations on the industry due to political policies, Margulies is optimistic about the future of cannabis, since she sees the industry as a frontrunner in leading economic renewal.
“I believe that the states who have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana will lead the way in showing the actual impact to their bottom lines," adds Margulies. “In the next five to ten years, we will come to realize how impactful opening up this plant to industrial development really is."
Women, Margulies believes, play a key part in this, since she sees the newfound women's empowerment moment as a catalyst to propelling the cannabis industry forward. “I think women have become empowered to speak and create over the years," suggests Margulies. “The opportunity is equally open for women, and I am so happy to see them creating a voice and wealth here."
Name: Sally Vander Veer
Business Name: Medicine Man Dispensary (President)
Business Description: Colorado-based marijuana dispensary that carries a large variety of medical and recreational cannabis products.
Since recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, it was fairly easy for Medicine Man Dispensary president Sally Vander Veer and her family to grow a large cannabis-related business. However, while cannabis' influence is definitely growing in today's society, she feels that the industry is still very young and is constantly evolving. However, being an innovative cannabis pioneer has been a very rewarding experience for Vander Veer, since she sees each day filled with new opportunities and challenges.
“I think what attracts people to the industry is that you are doing something that has never been done before, and will never be repeated," says Vander Veer. “Being a pioneer takes its toll on all of us in the industry, but in the best way possible. I wake up every day energized by the new challenges that I know will face me once I get to my office."
Like Lisa Margulies, Vander Veer notes that there are still negative stigmas surrounding the cannabis industry. However, thanks to the influential female role models in her life, she feels that women definitely have made an positive impact on the industry.
As the cannabis industry continues to boom, Vander Veer sees it as the beginning of something big. If and when federal legalization ever comes to play, she expects the cannabis movement to continue to grow even bigger than before.
“We believe as a family that the cannabis industry is unique because we are still at the very beginning of a big industry," states Vander Veer. “The market will continue to professionalize, and likely we will see larger businesses grow and come in as we hopefully move towards federal legalization."
Name: Shauntel Ludwig
Business Name: DaVinci Vaporizers (Director of Sales & Marketing)
Business Description: Top portable vaporizer company that produces vape units which vaporizes both herbs and oils.
As a former sales executive for a Fortune 100 company, Shauntel Ludwig entered the cannabis industry looking to leave the nine to five grind behind.
Now, as the Director of Sales and Marketing for DaVinci Vaporizers, she can finally say she's doing something special, since she enjoys the groundbreaking opportunity to build an industry from the ground up.
“It's definitely opportunistic," says Ludwig. “You are seeing everything from marketing, event and law firms to ancillary devices and cultivators popping up left and right. It's not very often that a new industry is born and everyone wants their piece."
But like her fellow female leaders, Ludwig credits women to being the backbone of the cannabis industry, especially since she notes that 36 percent of cannabis businesses are currently being run by female executives.
“With women making up more than 50 percent of the voting population in the United States, and the marijuana movement being heavily tied to legislation, cannabis legalization isn't possible without the support of women," adds Ludwig. “With 36 percent of ancillary cannabis businesses reportedly being run by female executives, you're definitely seeing a more diverse workforce for sure."
However, at the end of the day, Ludwig says cannabis is all about helping people, since she says that's the best aspect of the business.
“Some of my best experiences are when I meet a customer who tells me how one of our products has changed their life for the better by allowing them to medicate on-the-go, or by providing pain relief without heavy pharmaceuticals," she says. “That's why I do this job."
Name: Lisa Harun
Business Name: Vapium (Founder)
Business Description: Vaporizer company that uses reliable technology to create smart design products that work in any condition, temperature, or climate.
Like Shauntel Ludwig, Lisa Harun traded in the journalism playing field for a brand new career in cannabis, since she always had the desire to help others. She also notes that the industry definitely has staying power, making it an exciting field to step foot in.
“There are two things about this industry that excites me," says Harun. “It has staying power, and it helps people. I did not have the stomach for medicine, but I have the heart to help people. We will continue to innovate and work with people who share a common vision – global validation of cannabis as both efficacious and safe."
A main part of Lisa's vision also means getting cannabis away from the image of solely being an intoxicant, since lack of education is a huge part of why people see marijuana in such a negative light.
“We seek to support cannabis as a wellness product and not about simply getting high," says Harun. “Marijuana is wellknown as an intoxicant, but only now is its vast medical potential coming to light."
It's true that the cannabis industry isn't expected to slow down anytime soon, and Harun notes that the female influence on the industry is something to watch in the future. She argues that women have a specific prevalence in Washington, making them the ones who will definitely have a major impact on political policy.
“Female support of Washington's marijuana reform Initiative 502 climbed to 53 percent in the last few days before the vote, swaying the vote," suggests Harun. “Women's conservative nature allows leaders to bootstrap, build communities, and identify solutions — all reasons we must not stand aside. Women must make their mark while the industry is growing in order to create an equitable space."
Name: Genifer Murray
Business Name: GENIFER M (Co-Founder)
Business Description: Produces handcrafted cannabis-inspired jewelry.
Genifer Murray has definitely seen the medicinal benefits of cannabis first hand, as her cannabis career started in 2010 when she co-founded one of the first cannabis testing labs (CannLabs) in the United States. Through her constant lobbying and work inside the industry, Murray realized she wanted to help better represent the industry, and make a statement that illustrated cannabis in both a non-threatening and elegant way.
“My mission with CannLabs was to provide safe and quality medicine to cannabis patients, which resulted in a bigger mission: to help others and the larger community that need this medicine through lobbying for its legalization," says Murray.
To make that bold statement, Murray decided to launch cannabis-inspired jewelry company GENIFER M, with the help of her father, as he designed her a unique 2.5 carat diamond pave indica leaf lapel to wear when she was lobbying with the NCIA, and the Govenor's Task Force for Amendment 64. Through wearing this special and handcrafted pin, Genifer hoped she could start a conversation about how people view cannabis.
“The pin created a movement, creating a non-threatening space for educating consumers about cannabis and its benefits," adds Murray. “GENIFER M is an extension of that conversation, and was launched to change the way people perceive, interact, and experience cannabis through luxe style and handcrafted quality jewelry." From earrings to bracelets, each GENIFER M piece is shaped like a marijuana leaf, and is handcrafted and made with gold, silver, and diamonds. And as the cannabis movement continues to grow, Gennifer notes that her business too is expanding, as she will soon be launching wholesale products that will be available at cannabis dispensaries and retail boutiques nationally.
“GENIFER M will continue to expand as the movement and conversation about cannabis grows, including the launch of new product lines such as The Healing Collection and a Gentleman's Collection, with unisex and male-orientated products," says Murray. “GENIFER M will also be launching wholesale products, selling jewelry in cannabis dispensaries and retail boutiques nationally."
Although she notes that there still is a lot of work to be done in the industry, Murray is more than optimistic about the cannabis movement's future, since she says it's a great opportunity for female entrepreneurs to thrive.
“In this industry 36 percent of women are in executive and leadership positions as opposed to six percent in tech and nine percent in the Fortune 500," states Murray. “This means that it could be the first time in history when women could run a billion trillion dollar industry. I think any woman would be excited about that."
Name: Megan Stone
Business Name: The High Road Design Studio (Owner and Founder)
Business Description: An award-winning interior design, branding and consulting studio in the cannabis retail community.
Like Gennifer Murray, Megan Stone launched The High Road Design Studio to change the way people think, perceive, and experience cannabis. And although this isn't Stone's first experience with cannabis, this millennial business owner is taking the concept of running a cannabis businesses to the next level, especially since her design, branding, and consulting studio is the only interior design company in the United States specializing and focusing on cannabis retail design.
“I am a Midwestern-grown-West-Coast-processed female millennial business owner who is passionate about elevating the cannabis industry," says Stone. “From a cannabis patient to working in an Orange County dispensary as a budtender and general manager, to a design school student who was switching careers in the midst of my 20's during The Great Recession, I now design cannabis retail spaces across the United States. I launched my design company, The High Road Design Studio, as a result of my first-hand experience with cannabis, love for good design, and desire to help reframe people's perceptions of a plant that saves lives."
Working with cannabis-focused businesses in more than thirteen states, it's safe to say that The High Road Design Studio is definitely making an impact. However, despite female-advancements in the industry, Stone feels that the industry itself still needs a makeover, as decades of sales being regulated to the black market have caused cannabis users to be labeled as criminals.
“Cannabis is now a mainstay in society, and people everywhere are trying to make sense of this new retail experience," adds Stone. “Its retail stores are the public face of the industry and are where the vast majority of interactions with the cannabis industry happen. Design and design-thinking applied to the cannabis retail experience are the keys that will unlock the new world of legal cannabis and provide the solutions and creativity needed to attract, educate and satisfy 21st century cannabis users."
Name: Beth Stavola
Business Name: CBD For Life (founder)
Business Description: Line of cannabidiol-infused pain management and beauty products.
As a former executive on Wall Street, Beth Stavola started her cannabis journey by purchasing a legal medical marijuana dispensary in Arizona. Although she had no experience with marijuana whatsoever, Stavola was up for a challenge. Now, Stavola (alongside her sister Julie) takes her journey into cannabis a step further, since she now creates her own line of cannabidiol-infused pain managment and beauty products.
“My sister, Julie Winter, and I founded and launched CBD For Life after I learned about the wonderful healing properties of CBD," says Stavola. “After months of extensive research, Julie and I met with a chemist to create the luxurious formulations, and two years later CBD For Life was born! Our personal story and connection to our products are what set us apart from the competition. We are truly invested in and believe in the powers of CBD."
Offering everything from cannabidiol-infused eye serums to pain relief spray, Stavola notes that CBD For Life is definitely expanding. However, she notes that overcoming the stigma is still a hurdle the industry faces, since many consumers assume that CBD is psychotropic.
“CBD is the major non-psychotropic cannabinoid found in hemp, contrasted to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high," states Stavola. “CBD For Life works to educate consumers on the difference between CBD and THC, making it clear that we only use the healing properties of CBD in our products."
As the industry continues to thrive, Stavola is increasingly excited about cannabis' place in society. And as a female business owner herself, she hopes to see other women continue to influence the industry.
“I think women are gravitating towards the cannabis movement because it provides great opportunity to become a leader in a booming industry," claims Stavola. “The industry is still new and highly innovative, with cannabis being used in ways no one had ever imagined. We expect the cannabis industry to expand greatly in the years to come."
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.