Crazy Cat Lady Cannabis is presenting a series of intimate portraits of the citizens who make up the local cannabis industry to help build an active and diverse community. We begin this series with Jennifer Gaskin, Owner & Co-Founder of Empress & Bandit Greenery, Founder of Decipher Cannabis, and Community Outreach Specialist at Elevate NE. To contact Jennifer Gaskin, email her at Jennifer@ebgreenery.com.
1) How did you become involved in the cannabis industry?
I became involved in the cannabis industry pretty much by accident. After my diagnosis of MS and my medicinal use of cannabis, my son became a pretty good cultivator just growing for me. We started researching and learning more and more about cannabis and its potential as a medicinal agent. My son began experimenting with different strains and cross-breeding. He got really good at it and then came to me to ask for my help with starting a company. I figured why not?! I am coming from the pharmaceutical industry that has many parallels to the cannabis industry and my son is a great grower. I think of the cannabis industry as a new industry starving for innovation and structure. I think I bring that to the table.
2) You’ve presented at several cannabis events in MA. What kind of things are most people who attend these events most interested in regarding the industry?
The number one question I get is: How do I get involved? For me, that is the question that I get at events and just in general. People want to learn more about cannabis and the industry that supports this plant. There is so much room for people to get involved. It is not just opening up a dispensary but there are so many ancillary businesses in this space. We all need accountants, marketing, packaging, etc that are not plant-touching businesses. People with established businesses in this space have an opportunity to expand their portfolio to the cannabis space.
3) What do you think the biggest obstacle is for women in the cannabis industry? What do you think the biggest obstacle is for minority women in the cannabis industry?
I think the obstacles for women and minority women are the same in cannabis as they are in any other space. We are the minority and if you are black, brown, etc you are a double minority. I had a conversation the other day where I was explaining to a caucasian counterpart that I am fully aware that as a black woman I need to be 10 times better than the next woman and 20 times better than a white man just to get to the same table. He was shocked by my statement which wasn’t surprising to me. Most people do not understand unless they walk in someone's shoes. It is typically not an outward thing but rather an innate or systemic response to women and men of color that creates the inequities. On top of that in cannabis, the same resources that are available in other industries are not available in cannabis. Small business associations, banks, and other key supporting resources for budding businesses are not available to support those who are trying to start up on their own. The economic factor is the other issue. For women and minority women where is the money coming from? White men are the heads of corporations and the heirs to money, not as many women and minority women even less have access to funding.
4) Name one person you would like to see named to the Cannabis Control Commission when our current commissioners' terms are up. Why?
I would love to see Beth Waterfall, Executive Director of Elevate NE nominated to the CCC. The composition of the CCC and the overall tone of their policies need to be changed. Beth has sat down with both members of the CCC and members of the community. She understands all sides and has a temperament that would assist the CCC in improving their perspective and oversight of this budding industry. Most importantly, she is pro-cannabis!
5) What are some of your favorite cannabis non-profits to be involved in?
Elevate NE and C3RN are my absolute favs! They both are all about education and empowering the legal cannabis industry. Plus they are my partners for Decipher Cannabis 2020. I couldn’t ask for better collaborators.