The Hume room of the Hume Hotel in Nelson was packed with cannabis activists Thursday as Women Grow officially kicked off their Kootenay chapter.
The event was hosted by Kaleigh Herald and Tanya Shelestynski of the Kootenays Medicine Tree, and featured talks by industry leaders Jim Leslie, Brynn Jones, Darrin Fiddler and Jennifer Peel.
Women Grow is a collective of industry trailblazers looking to “connect, educate, inspire and empower the next generation of cannabis industry leaders by creating programs, community and events for aspiring and current business executives.
Herald opened the talks by welcoming guests and explaining just what Women Grow is about and what they hope to accomplish.
“Women grow started in Denver, Colorado, in October of 2014,” Herald said.
"They are a for-profit organization that serves as a catalyst for women to influence and succeed in the cannabis industry by hosting meetings, seminars and events such as this one."
This will be the third Canadian chapter of Women Grow, following Toronto and Vancouver, and will soon include Vancouver Island as well. Herald cited the explosive growth of the cannabis industry in the US following legalization in Colorado and Washington, and that analysts predict a similar and even more financially viable market in Canada should Trudeau follow up on his promises of legalization.
“In Canada it is predicted that the cannabis industry is worth $80-100 million…after legalization that number is supposed to increase to $5 billion, according to Aaron Salz of the Dundee Capital Market,” she said.
Jim Leslie, the director of the Kootenays Medicine Tree, took to the stage next. Leslie told some entertaining and heartfelt stories of his rise in the medical marijuana industry and the trials and tribulations that he and other activists have been forced to endure over the years.
Leslie finished his speech with his reasons for supporting Women Grow and his hopes for the future of the industry.
“I look forward to industry that I think has a lot of women in it currently, and will expand to include more…we need to make this a Canadian market and safeguard it, not only for the big cities but particularly the rural areas. Let’s make this an equitable, across the board industry that we can profit from here in the Kootenays as well.”
After a short break the evening continued with talks from Brynn Jones and Darrin Fiddler of J/W Mariceuticals and Okanagan Green Hemp products. Jones and Fiddler both spoke with sharp passion and conviction about the endless number of applications for hemp products, including everything from CBD oil for sufferers of cancer to plastics and textiles.
Jones is clearly frustrated by the current stifling of knowledge in the hemp industry, and expressed his hopes for the future as we move towards legalization.
“We should be able to talk freely, we should be able to ask questions. The nurses who want to know things should be able to come to us, the people who will take care for you when you’re older, and you should be able to ask the questions for your children,” Jones said in an impassioned close to his talk.
The final speaker was Jennifer Peel, the Senior Person in Charge/Co-Founder of Plan C BioPharm, located in Salmo, BC.
Peel is currently embroiled in an arduous and seemingly endless application to become a Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR)Licensed Producer, a process that has taken its toll on her family both emotionally and financially.
Peel also mentioned that while the situation in the US is a step in the right direction, it is a different country, with different laws and regulations, and that we have a lot of work to do in Canada to ensure a solid future for the cannabis industry.
“It started in the States, so it doesn’t pertain to our Federal regulations, it doesn’t pertain to our Federal legalities, a lot of their system doesn’t correlate to ours, so we have to set the trend up here,” Peel said.
The evening wrapped up with some prizes for attendees, including some hemp products and trip to Denver to attend the Women Grow mega-event on February 3 in in Colorado.