Imagine the opportunity to assemble the entire cannabis industry on the foundations of inclusion and diversity. That’s the reality that Women Grow is trying to nurture.
“Diversity is a big, big issue that needs to be addressed, and Women Grow is working to address that,” said Leah Heise, CEO of the for-profit entity.
The Delaware-based organization initially set its focus on women, but that has since expanded. “What we have found is that it has become the place for the discussion of inclusion across the board,” she said.
As Heise sees it, the birth of the U.S. cannabis industry offers a rare opportunity. “I think this is one of the few times in the history of the country that we have the ability to create an industry and do it correctly,” she said.
It’s not solely about profitability, she added. It’s also about fairness and making sure everyone has a seat at the table.
In addition, Women Grow is designed to help industry leaders adapt to change and maintain a high standard of quality. Part of its mission is to “make sure that this industry is getting out ahead of the regulations that eventually will come, and making sure that we’re compliant,” she said. The organization is also committed to “making sure that we’re putting forth the best product we can possibly put forth,” ensuring those products are tested and safe.
To bring everyone together, Women Grow will host its Annual Leadership Summit next week (Feb. 1-3) in downtown Denver. Anyone can attend the summit, including those who don’t work in the industry but would like to learn more about cannabis, Heise said. “I welcome anyone to come…It’s just a great place to meet other people and really learn.”
Events on Feb. 1 are reserved for Women Grow market leaders or those who are currently running the organization’s meetings, she said.
On the second day, the main event is the summit’s Lightning Talks. The topics reflect the group’s expanded vision, including topics like “Demanding Diversity: Creating a More Inclusive Workplace,” “Marketing Yourself Authentically” and “The Rainbow Connection: How Weed, Gay Rights, Healthcare and Drug Culture Intersect.”
These talks are modeled after the popular “TED Talks” series and feature eight-minute presentations from about 30 speakers. These represent “the highlight of the conference,” Heise said.
On the last day, attendees can learn more about marketing, leadership, cultivation and other topics during breakout sessions.
A $249 pass covers the Lightning Talks series and a networking event that follows. General admission passes are $750 and cover events on Feb. 2-3.
In addition to its summit, Women Grow hosts monthly networking events around the U.S. for new and developing industry leaders. These educational events feature speakers addressing issues dictated by the local market. These events tend to attract people who are looking to enter the industry, particularly in states where cannabis has just been legalized, Heise said.
In a new cannabis market, the events focus on basic issues, such as how to obtain a license. In states with mature markets, the topics are directed toward more advanced issues, such as how to get a bank account.
Currently, networking events are scheduled in these states (as well as the District of Columbia): Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas. Another event is slated for Toronto.
“For example, Maryland is coming on board with a new medicinal market, and last month there were almost 200 people at our event,” she added.
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